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Archive for November, 2014

Saying goodbye: A review of Pink Floyd’s “The Endless River”

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Pink Floyd. What more do you really need to say other than that? This is the band that re-invented the way that we view music as an artform and a statement of the imagination. Pink Floyd challenged musicians to say more than they already were and audiences to open their hearts and minds to something totally beyond words. You can talk on and on about the landmark albums, the band infighting (i.e. the battle between David Gilmour and Roger Waters), the brilliance, and the tragedy…

But this would only scratch the surface.

So here we are…the final album. The Endless River is not what people expected to hear I think, at least based on the reviews. Consider the following:

“After listening on Spotify, I wanted my time, if not the pennies destined for the band’s coffers, back.”-The Los Angeles Times

“It would take a Barrett-load of drugs to make this sound remotely interesting, though I wouldn’t advise that.”-The Telegraph

“Too often “familiar” curdles into “lazy.”-Pitchfork Media

Ouch, I mean, OUCH. I wonder what album these reviewers were listening to that caused them to come up with such harsh words? The reality is The Endless River is an echo of the past, an introspective look into the musical world Pink Floyd created. It is entirely instrumental with the exception of some spoken word and choral effects, as well as the last track “Louder than Words” which hearkens back very much to the sounds and vocals we so dearly loved on Dark Side of the Moon. People expecting anthems like “Time,” “Shine on You Crazy Diamond,” or “Brain Damage/Eclipse” should erase their pre-conceptions. This is an exploration, not an album made for top 20 hits on the Billboard charts. Simply put, this record is intended as a goodbye, in many ways as well as a dedication to late keyboardist Richard Wright.

thDavid Gilmour himself explained that The Endless River was a “swan song” for Wright, which should explain to the confused listener expecting anthems why none exist here. This record is not FOR us, it is for the band. They are saying goodbye to their bandmate, are closing the book on an astonishing career, and allowing us a glimpse inside. The songs are bits and pieces collected from the various epochs (especially the 1993 and 1994 Division Bell sessions), and twist and turn to the cries of Gilmour’s guitar (easily some of his most expressive playing), the echoes of Wright’s keys (from recordings made before his death), the ambient tones of a plethora of classical, electronic, and jazz instruments and so much more.

This record takes you on a journey that allows your spirit to soar, weep, dream, believe, and think. David Gilmour himself stated that “Unapologetically, this is for the generation that wants to put its headphones on, lie in a beanbag, or whatever, and get off on a piece of music for an extended period of time. You could say it’s not for the iTunes, downloading-individual-tracks generation.” You are brought to so many different levels of emotion and thought; you just have to embrace it.

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It is perhaps easier for me to embrace this record for what it is as I create ambient/experimental instrumental music that features all sorts of sounds (often with my guitar wailing in the background). This is in many ways the album that I, as a guitarist and composer so heavily influenced by Pink Floyd and David Gilmour, always wanted from this band. The record feels like the epilogue of an epic novel, and in many ways that is what it is. There is nothing left to be said, Pink Floyd has changed and created music in such a way that it will ripple through the fabric of time long after we all leave this earth. I don’t always have a spiritual feeling with music, but sometimes music can grab my soul and envelop it in something mysterious. The Endless River does this for me.

You don’t have to agree with me, but just give this album a chance if you have not already. The record is truly an exploration into what we perceive an album to be, and fittingly closes the end of the story. Pink Floyd can now, after all the love and tears, say goodbye. I will conclude this review with the lyrics from “Louder than Words,” because as it ends The Endless River, it just makes sense to do the same with my thoughts on the record. The message in these words is very much what this record stands for symbolically:

It’s louder than words
This thing that we do
Louder than words
The way it unfurls
It’s louder than words
The sum of our parts
The beat of our hearts
Is louder than words
Louder than words

Louder than words
This thing they call soul
Is there with a pulse
Louder than words
Louder than words

Goodbye friends, goodbye indeed.

pink-floyd-press-shot-1---photo-credit-albert-watson

 

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I Don’t Want a Masterpiece

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I have been delving into my debut album Stochastic quite a bit lately. Additionally, the reviews for my album have been (honestly to my surprise since I am way out of the mainstream) extremely positive. I feel great about the success I’m having with this, but it has me thinking, what if somewhere down the line I create an album that is declared my “defining” work? You know the kind of work that everybody says is the “pinnacle” of an artist’s portfolio/discography etc.?

This happens all the time, and has happened to many artists (in numerous mediums) that I love. Pink Floyd has Dark Side of the Moon, Miles Davis has Kind of Blue, Steve Vai has Passion and Warfare and so on. I don’t think people realize that by anointing works as a “magnum opus” or a “true masterpiece” that they are indirectly putting the artist into a panic. The artists I mentioned previously went on to create earth-shattering works after the works mentioned (Pink Floyd created Wish You Were Here, Miles Davis did Bitches Brew and On the Corner, and Steve Vai has Fire Garden and Real Illusions: Reflections). In spite of these facts, no matter what the artist does that is new or fresh, their work will always be compared against the past. One of my favorite authors, the late David Foster Wallace, always struggled to create a book that would live up to the high expectations that critical praise of Infinite Jest created.

I’m not saying critics shouldn’t give positive reviews (well…unless it is Iggy Azalea or f*ck knows who else is destroying music), but maybe there should be some sort of delineation of calling something a “masterpiece.” You can just put an “a” in front of the word “masterpiece,” and it will show that the artist can still have the door wide open for their creative pursuits. I do not want to ever create my defining work. I don’t want a masterpiece. I simply want to write music that makes sense for the situation, for my creative sensibilities or whatever is necessary. I always want the ability to push my boundaries, regress to my previous efforts, or whatever I need to do to create the music I want to create. I do not want to peak in my career, although if I ever do have monetary success I suppose this will be inevitable.

I don’t want to sound like a pretentious twat with this post, I just simply want to point out that, as an artist, I need this creative thing to be forever (or…as long as my natural life allows). I think all creative people feel the same. We want works that we are proud of, but don’t want to be restricted to the comparisons that others set for us. I suppose that, in the end, it is all mental and depends on you taking the words of people in stride.

Really in the end, as an artist, your opinion is the most valuable one.


REVIEW: Derek Kortepeter – Stochastic (2014)

Glowing review of my album by the awesome blogger Mike Ladano. 4/5 stars!

mikeladano.com

stochasticDEREK KORTEPETER – Stochastic (2014)

A short while ago, I reviewed the debut EPCompilation Vol. 1 by UCLA musician Derek Kortepeter. Since then Derek has put the finishing touches on his first full-length album Stochastic, an even more experimental collection.

Music like this is difficult for me to review as it’s pretty far out from the mainstream. Take the opening track, “Veritas”. The first 45 seconds are the sounds of guitar scrapes and echos, before the grand chords commence. As an opening track, this is both a welcome and a warning: It says, “If you find me intriguing, dive in! But if this is not much more than noise to you, farewell!” Not everybody is going to get music like this.

“Veritas” flows seamlessly into “Burning Embers” which uses backwards guitar as a melodic hook. Heavy, noisy guitars and drums soon flood the speakers. It’s difficult to…

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