By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
I once tried to write while listening to Lady Sovereign and wound up hospitalized for two weeks. Last month former Pitchfork-er Chris Ott admitted playing wallpaper-y fare such as Aphex Twin, Stars of the Lid and Brian Eno for his newborn daughter because "the long-form nature of ambient music and its recurring phrases strengthen recall and provide a comforting, auditory assurance of constancy." I'll have what she's having.
To replicate this track, buy $10,000 in MIDI equipment and pour maple syrup all over it. A 10-second, slow-footed piano arpeggio stretched over 10 minutes, it spirals idly downward and/or heavenward as glacial plates of electro-orchestra horns pile on and drive it forward—a bout of vertigo depicted in agonizingly gorgeous slo-mo, evoking either celestial choirs or what you'd hear if you pressed the "demo" button on any of the higher-end keyboards in Guitar Center. Stars of the Lid kick this guy's ass when it comes to ridiculous ambient song titles, but otherwise this is unparalleled in its absurdist grandeur. Just corny as hell. I love corn. Preferably drenched in butter.
Cheating already, as this is Eeyore-caliber mopey Britpop with Damon Albarn moaning about welfare and Armageddon for the first couple minutes. But the last 90 seconds are glorious—fingerpicked guitar and brittle piano chords wrestling with blippy electronics, operatic moans and a shellshocked dub rhythm from bassist Paul Simonon and drummer Tony Allen. It's the only moment on this bizarrely bewildering album that lives up to its supergroup pedigree. Like Public Image Ltd. in their death throes and at their most beautiful.
Thanks to the Moistworks MP3 blog for this, or maybe not. A breath cut off in mid-exhale, a ticking alarm clock, skittering needle-to-vinyl scratches, a high-pitched whine from a useless emergency broadcast system and a maudlin solo piano étude from the carnage-free but nonetheless hopeless interlude in a horror movie, the heroine trapped in the closet with ghouls much worse than the Rufus/Chuck/etc. looming nearby. Then a deeper breath and everything drops out but the piano, growing louder and faster and spryer, pushing her out of the house and onto the highway to apparent safety. The exhaling/ticking/skittering/whining barges back in at the last possible moment. Trick ending, triumphant and terrifying. After awhile I need a more comforting auditory assurance of constancy. Like Lady Sovereign's voice.