|by Blair Fraipont|
|A Musical Epiphany
Music has always been about discovery for me. It produces an unalterable excitement that rises from my gut to my mouth, and on some occasions even causes a wave of chills like millions of fine needles prickling my skin, coating my body with a thrill that no illegal serotonin inducer can match. In some instances all time holds still and I can sense nothing but the sound entering my ears and being received by my brain. This year I was fortunate enough to experience this almost on a monthly basis. My ears have been poised and ready more so than ever in my life. Here are two examples of what I found to be exceptional examples of this act of discovery.
Judee Sill has been called a "kick-ass heroin addicted Joni Mitchell." Though she never was inclined to the successes of Joni in her heyday. Judee overdosed in 1979 and was swiftly forgotten only to remain in the hearts and minds of the obsessed few and the vaults of David Geffen's basement. "The Kiss" was the song I arbitrarily picked off of I-tunes this summer. Sounding more like a hybrid of Karen Carpenter and Janis Ian as recorded in a large metal box than Mitchell, this song galvanized me to the nth degree with its adagio piano and opening chorus:
"Love, rising from the mists, Promise me this and only this, Holy breath touchin' me Like a wind song, Sweet communion of a kiss"
As "The Kiss" progresses a celestial orchestra draws haunting circles around Sill's voice similar to Roy Halee's production of Simon and Garfunkel's "Bridge Over Trouble Water" and Laura Nyro's "New York Tendaberry" albums. The lyrics, which wrap angels, death, sunlight, and stars, and other seemingly 'hippie' imagery, transfix the listener more by their raw and meaningful sentimentality than just a junkie's dream scape. These emotions are real people! One day I'll purchase all three of her albums and plunge myself further into the depths into which this song has sent me. For now, I'm too busy licking the salty tears off my face.
A great resource for a musical epiphany as described above is WFMU broadcasting out of Jersey City and live on the web 24/7 from www.wfmu.org. True, you'll be searching rare music that only the smallest of cults fetishize, but then you'll stumble across recent proud moments in musical memory, i.e. The Thai Elephant Orchestra or The Fiery Furnaces. One day you'll be gagging through the 20 minute sax and lung explosions of Peter Brotzman and hear something like Machine's "There But For The Grace of God Go I."
For those of you who might not recall, at one point during the disco "paradox" that plagued and pleased the masses in the 70s and early 80s there was actually a social-political disco band called Machine. What! Disco and politics? You must be crazy. I can't be thinking about "real life" when I'm dancing like a schmuck and blowing my brain and week's pay away on mind-altering chemicals. This song threw me for a loop. It was love at first listen.
The story in this song goes like this: A family fears for the safety of their child and that the Bronx is no place to raise their child. They long for a place, "somewhere far away, with no blacks, no Jews and no gays."
So they move to Europe. Their child ends up a junkie and moves away with a man she meets on the street. So this may not be as angry as the resistance punk had established by the late 70s but for a disco band, it's certainly no "Ring My Bell." There is something caustic underneath the upbeat disco vibe of this song that gives one the chills. There is something both underhanded and blatant about Machine's attempt to reach the masses. Their admirable attempt to do so remains in the hearts and minds of those tired of taking their entertainment in large submissive doses. Aren't you fed up?
LETTERS From CAMP Rehoboth, Vol. 15, No. 15 November 23, 2005