Weird at My School: Dear Diary, Week 2

Great Mimes

Great Mimes of Rock: Ultravox's 'Passing Strangers'

by DJ El Toro

Tuesday, March 31:
“I didn’t get to digest as much music as I’d have liked yesterday. (Plus I have a wad of Britney Spears’ “If U Seek Amy” rotting in my colon, refusing to pass -- just the chorus, repeating ad nauseam, making its tenacity known with such aggression that I find myself wishing Britney and her producers bodily harm.) E_ sent me a new compilation on Honest Jon’s, Open Strings: 1920′s Middle Eastern Records/New Responses. The latter disc of the 2-CD set includes performances by Six Organs of Admittance and Sir Richard Bishop, “in the style of” the archival material on CD1. Why Middle Eastern music? I’m just forever trying to fertilize* my ears and brain with new sounds, to keep my neurons firing, and hopefully inspired some unusual connections.”

* “Funny word choice, because so much of what makes it into my ear holes if I don’t strive for variety in my musical diet is ‘fertilizer,’ i.e. over-processed shit.”

Wednesday, April 1
“I’ve been listening to the new G-Spots collection of library music from Trunk Records pretty much non-stop for the last 2 days. I’m fascinated by the idea of original music composed to complement a variety of potential scenarios, rather than communicate clear-cut sentiments or emotions. These pieces have no agenda. They’re so much easier to appreciate on a purely sonic level -- this is weird, this is pleasing -- rather than making judgment calls about how successful it is at tapping into my feelings. And it fires my imagination. There is one piece for drum machine and vibrato-heavy guitar (“Moon Nightclub”) that I swear sounds like a Durutti Column demo.

Thursday, April 2
“I am grateful to John Wesley Harding for so many thing in life, but right now I’m especially thankful because a bit from one of his new songs, “A Very Sorry Saint,” has wedged itself on to the receptor where Britney had been gyrating non-stop for days, and driven the little tart out! Bye! I’m not especially thrilled to have the couplet ‘This isn’t even blood/It’s strawberry jam’ circling around in there over and over, but it is a far better tenant than the previous occupant, to be sure.”

Friday, April 3
“Yesterday, during my workout, [my trainer] remarked that he’d been listening to ‘The Morning Show’ on KEXP on the way to work, and heard three or four songs he didn’t recognize and really enjoyed. That got him thinking about the library of music the KEXP deejays have at their disposal, and how expansive our knowledge has to be to draw on that resource effectively. He then expressed a vague wish to have that kind of extensive knowledge at his disposal.

Yet [my trainer] was a football quarterback, and is about to start coaching again soon. And in that role, he has to memorize thousands (I think it’s thousands -- I’m the furthest possible thing from an expert on football) of plays, specific to whatever team he’s on. And then he has to take into account a million variables as he executes any single play in real time, during a game. His goal is to combine that knowledge with the ability to make judgments and react quickly, so as to rack up the maximum number of touchdowns and field goals, for an overall winning score. Just like a KEXP DJ is trying to connect individual songs into compelling sets, which ultimately adds up to -- hopefully -- a satisfying show.

Definitely the first time I’ve ever been able to draw a parallel between my work/art, and football. Damn you, Jonah Lehrer!”

Saturday, April 4
“I just don’t dig Tuvan throat singing as much as I’d like to. I was listening to the Dust-to-Digital Melodii Tuva anthology -- which might be too robust for first thing on a Saturday morning -- and... well... it kind of annoyed me. There’s a congested quality to throat singing that I find off-putting. (Because of my allergies? My Western classical vocal training?) I don’t think I want to listen to this again, not like I do the D2D Black Mirror: Reflections in Global Musics disc.

Yet part of my brain, the pack rat part, envisions some weird scenario where I’ll need a CD of Tuvan throat singing RIGHT NOW! I admire that part of my brain for its imagination. But it has zero idea how cluttered this damn house gets.”

Sunday, April 5
“I had an idea yesterday for a story on ‘Great Mimes of Rock.’ That would’ve been a swell April Fool’s pitch -- even though the idea is sincere. I could look at the influence of Lindsay Kemp on David Bowie and Kate Bush, and all the new wave/New Romantic mimes: Shock, Tik & Tok, that guy who performed with Howard Jones (Jed Hoile). There were mimes in the videos for Landscape’s “Einstein A Go Go” and Ultravox’s “Passing Strangers.” Shields and Yarnell did a lot of stiff and deliberate robotic movements, which is very Kraftwerk. And, of course, the requisite joke about the very real Marcel Marceau album -- which is basically just the John Cage piece 4’33″.”

Monday, April 6
“I just had a scathingly brilliant idea: I want to start an intensively heavy band, a la Torche or Mastodon, and call it... Koala.”

DJ El Toro is the host of the overnight show In Between Sleep & Reason, Wednesday mornings from 1 AM to 6 AM on KEXP 90.3 FM Seattle and kexp.org. His column, Weird At My School, appears every Monday on the KEXP Blog.

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