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Most difficult to listen to albums?

Discussion in 'music' started by JTC, Aug 13, 2003.

  1. JTC

    JTC PFM Villager...

    (on the basis of music contained - not necessarily quality of music - some difficult music is very good, but not easy to get into or enjoy on a casual, common-or-garden basis).

    My vote goes to:

    Shut up and play your guitar - Frank Zappa - highly statistically dense, complicated time signatures and polyrhthmic constructs (e.g. quintuplets (i.e. five notes equally spaced in a beat, septuplets (7), and true polymetric phrasing - things like 13 notes equally spaced over five conventional 'beats of the bar' - 13:5 (as opposed to 13 time, e.g. 13/8, which is a completely different thing and only marginally easier). Even following the score (available seperately) it's tough, even with years' sight-reading experience...

    What's your most 'difficult' and 'unlistenable' (but not crap in the qualitative idiom)???

  2. Paul A B

    Paul A B Member

    I once bought an LP by a group called Whitehouse at a boot sale for a £1. Sold it on to a specialist record shop for £40 ish though as I found out it was quite rare. Why anybody would want this -just noise!!!!. Scared the shit out of me - made Kraftwerk sound like Dollar.
  3. joel

    joel Painter of Dragons, Maker of Mirrors

    I have a double CD of 10th century Egyptian Epic poetry "the Hillali Epic" sung in archaic "peasant" Arabic by a very old man accompanying himself on a single string "viola". This one can be a little hard to get into sometimes.
    The Korean Shamanistic "Sinawi" trance is also a bit of an acquired taste I reckon.
  4. horus99

    horus99 pfm Member

    Recently bought St Anger, Metalica. I was hoping for big things in the Load, Reload vein.
    Oh dear am I getting really old or is this just too sophisticated for me.
    Played it once. Will probably never play again.
  5. Kit Taylor

    Kit Taylor Well-Known Member

    I have that FZ guitar album. The thing is that it's all build and tension with no rhthmic or melodic pay off, so you justy can't sink yer teeth into it. When Zappa did do harmonically gratifying improvisations though he could be awesome. There's a sublime version of (I think) Zoot Allures on the live The Best Band You Never Heard in Your Life that's testament to this.

    It's a lot of fun when heavy going music finally clicks though. I've always liked the instrumental aspect of extreme metal, but could never stand the Cookie Monster vocals. Nowaday though I couldn't imagine the best examples of the genre working any other way.
  6. sideshowbob

    sideshowbob 47 Lab Rat

    No question. John Zorn's "Kristallnacht", especially track 2, "Never Again", made up largely of layered samples of the noise of glass shattering.

    Back in the 80s, the various Come Organisation groups (Come, Whitehouse, Sutcliffe Jugend and the like) made some violently extreme electronic albums. A mixture of high-pitched monosynth wails and psychotic vocals.

    Whitehouse are still around, but I haven't heard much of the recent stuff. For a taste of how ear-bashing they could be, check out the sound files at http://www.susanlawly.com/ (they *must* be played exceedingly loud)

    -- Ian
  7. P

    P Banned

    Pavlovs Dog

    Both of 'em

  8. smegger68

    smegger68 Mango Enthusiast

    Beefheart's 'Trout Mask Replica', Tangerine Dream's 'Zeit' and Magma's 'Kohntarkosz'. A lot of stuff by Einsturzende Neubauten, Test Department and Throbbing Gristle requires you to be in just the right mood as well :D
  9. space cadet

    space cadet dronefed and floating

    Jazzkammer's Pancakes is quite hard-going in that you can hardly hear it. It's a noise record which after an initial 30sec blast goes virtually quiet. You really have to turn it up to hear the scrapes and wooshes swirling...
    I saw it, that which before I could only sense by Fushitsusha is completely opposite in that it is ferociously intense and loud power trio improv rock. The title track grabs you by the balls and doesn't let go for 85 mins.
    Brian Lavelle and Richard Youngs' Radios Series can be challenging too...
    All of the above are interesting and/or great records though, I'd find it much harder to sit through a Cheeky Girls cd!
  10. JTC

    JTC PFM Villager...

    I completely forgot about this. It's gotta be the most famous 'difficult' album - or at least one of them.

    "A squid eating dough in a polyethylene bag is fast and bulbous..." Indeed.

    There's also some Grateful Dead that can be pretty tricky as well. "Aoxomoxa" (I think it's called, but then I do forget) was a bit of a challenge. Also, a fair amount of Allan Holdsworth can be tricky to get into unless you're a muso (or ex-muso like me).

    What else? Oooooh, let's see. Plenty modern classical - but then I'm deliberately excluding such people as Stockhausen, Cage, Nancarrow and even Stravinsky on the basis of the fact that their music is difficult by the very nature of its genre and idiom. If that makes any sense.

    Am I having an early 'senior moment' in finding most modern contemporary chart music impenetrable? Not because it's complex (it rarely is) but because it lacks the magic ingredient (music)...???

  11. MarkW

    MarkW Full Speed & Pagan

    Anything by Roland Keating. Two bars and I'm off to the garage for the anglegrinder.
  12. TomF

    TomF pfm Member

    "Sticks and stones may break my bones..." by No-Neck Blues Band. Would dearly love to have the time to get into this as there seem to be moments of magic. It is, I fear, one of those albums which requires complete concentration for its length.

    See All Music Guide
  13. domfjbrown

    domfjbrown pfm Member

    THANK GOD! It's not just me then - my mate put this on at his birthday party, and I'm an uncultured heathen who doesn't "get" free form jazz or anything like that. I found it unlistenable, even though I was on, ahem, an enhanced plane at the time...

    Even my other mate who was there, who's a grade 8+ pianist and thus has bound to have been exposed to this kind of stuff during her learning, likened it to a cat in a bag being smacked against a badly tuned guitar whilst someone threw drums down the stairs - I couldn't have put it better myself.

    Maybe it'd have made more sense on acid (not E - you need a beat for that I feel!)
  14. JTC

    JTC PFM Villager...

    TMR is one heck of a strange album, of that there can be no doubt. Then again, the old Cap'n was/is* one heck of a strange fellow too.

    I had a friend (sadly gone now) who was also somewhat strange and had a complete Beefheart collection, more or less. He loaned some of them to me one summer and I think I struggled to make up a tape from six cds or so. I do rate the Cap'n, but that's not to say I find his music easy. And that's saying something, from someone who really likes music of 'high statistical density'.


    * I think he's still alive, but in another 'senior moment' my memory fails me. I think it's that impending birthday, you know the one with the 0 at the end of it... And no, not 100.
  15. Markus S

    Markus S 41 - 29

  16. joel

    joel Painter of Dragons, Maker of Mirrors

    Have you tried drum band music from West Africa?
    If not, I think you'd appreciate the very high statistical density, as well as the circularity and general vertical/horizontalness of the music :D
    Will dig out an amusing link later.
    Personally, I've never found Zappa's music difficult, just turgid. But I will give it another go for the polyrhythm and polymeter.
  17. JTC

    JTC PFM Villager...

    Nah, 110 would be pushing it somewhat, though I expect some of those 552 owners might need to live that long to pay the piper...


  18. JTC

    JTC PFM Villager...

    Ok, so that's a bit of a deep subject tag, but what the hey...

    Not really heard that much, other than the occasional bit that you encounter during the festival, and that I heard on a trip to Egypt a few years back. Would be very interested in any recommendations...

    It depends on which slice of his musical pie you have experienced. The man's body of work was immense, and covered huge tracts of ground, both musically, stylistically and qualitatively. The difficult stuff is the bits without the words, generally speaking. Zappa seemed to have a few different mindsets - to wit:

    Orchestrated Vocal Tracks (e.g. Apostrophe)
    Orchestrated Instrumental (e.g. lots of the non vocal stuff)
    Sprechgezang (sp.?) (e.g. The jazz discharge party hats)
    Jazz (e.g. Hot Rats)
    Rock (e.g. Sheik Yerbouti)
    Polyrhythmic (e.g. the Black Page, etc).

    That's a lot of musical ground. The orchestrated thing was mainly scored, and though arrangements would change, the MO was generally the same. The Jazz and Rock is more accessible, and the Sprechgezang is improvisational, polymetric (without being scored) and generally experimental. The Polyrhythmic stuff is the most difficult as it challenges the listener both on atonal or modal progression grounds, and also on rhythmical grounds (odd meter, resolution and dissolution, and the whole nature of extremely difficult-to-comprehend phrasing). In short, to the untrained or inexperienced ear, it sounds like cats and dogs fighting inside of a piano whilst primary two do music studies with tambourines and woodblocks.

    I digress. That's why I find the polyrhthmic stuff difficult, but fascinating at the same time (from a musical and an envelope-pusher perspective)

    jtc (who always wanted a shot of the cymbals)
  19. Markus S

    Markus S 41 - 29

    It's 'Sprechgesang', actually.

    FWIW, I've often thought of Zappa as quintessentially white in his approach to music, very brainy, as opposed to the black, body/soul oriented approach. Dangerous territory, here - I'm not being racist, if forced to choose, I would definitely go for the black approach. Zappa had a phase when he would employ young musicians fresh out out of school. They were given sheet music, and if they could play it straight away, they were hired. For the rhythm sections, he had weird stuff like 19/13s and the like.

    Too clever by half, for me. I tend to like music that's not the result of a mathematical construction.

    I have some tapes of lod Yemenite music which can be quite challenging, rhythmically, but which speaks to me more, emotionally (even though I con't understand the lyrics at all), than anything by Zappa.

    BTW, Bobby Brown was a radio hit in Germany and still gets air play occasionally - it seems the programmners don't get the lyrics, or surely it would be banned.
  20. JTC

    JTC PFM Villager...

    I'm not disagreeing with you on this point - I never really found Zappa's music to be emotionally engaging at all, in the same way that I don't find (say) the photography of Ansel Adams to be emotionally engaging. That's not to say I don't enjoy both - emotional response is only one slice of the entertainment pie, and it is possible to enjoy and appreciate art on many different levels.

    I'm a big fan of instrumental music, but for me much of that instrumental music I admire and appreciate (as one muso listening to others) rather than feel an emotional response. My other topic about the 'sparser' forms of music, without excessive instrumentation and layering, probably springs from the counterpoint kneejerk reaction to some of my more 'dense' music.

    I'm of the general opinion that it's easier to engage an emotional response to music if that music is sparser, more paired down. I think it's got a lot to do with having the space in the music to really lock into that emotional thing...

    Anyway, I'm fascinated by the way this topic is developing. Does anyone agree with me on the multiple levels thing, or am I just johnny-bizarre because of my eclectic leanings?


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