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Thread: artifacts / fog of war

  1. #1
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    Default artifacts / fog of war

    by which i mean phenomena like distortion, saturation, tape hiss, static, background noise, various forms of feedback, etc. just any "imperfections" in the recording that obfuscate the tunes.

    (a few threads that could be relevant: 1 2)

    this stuff is interesting to me because even when unintended it can become one of, or even THE most vivid aspect of the music. for example when i gave patty this song to write about in the "listen to something now" thread, here was his response:



    Quote Originally Posted by pattycakes_ View Post
    Time and age are the very first things you're greeted with here. The crackle of those old field recordings. Unmistakable. The high frequencies smothered by a David Lynch like sheen of violence, fuzz and filth. In their place, the ghostly, hyperactive excitations of an old 78. Dust dancing on the surface, like a never ending downpour of microscopic particles on a thin sheet of worn out perspex. The occasional pop like a loose thread from the ragged overalls of the groundskeeper catching a splinter as he walks down the hallway of the big old wooden house. Candlelight. The highs tucked away, the guitar a muted chord machine. Articulations barely distinguishable. Just a rhythm and the sound of a thousand humid nights and handmade plectrums working away at the guts. Strings that once had texture, but through all the dirt and grease have become smoothened and dulled like rain carving stone over millenia. Take a sip. Time, wood, skin oils and heat. The root of the oak tree. Unguarded, no filter. Croaking vocals treading well worn boards. Palpable decay. Well built. Built to last. Weather the storm. Vocals croaking their plight. Clawing their way out of the larynx, scarred and scratched. Lips dry, liquor near by. Jazz fag and rolling tobacco, whipping up a nocturnal cloud of purple plumes and cricket calls. Its all living and breathing. Decay, decay. It's tradition.
    basically the majority of the post is dealing with the character of the recording itself, because it conveys so much to us now; it changes and adds to the musical experience.

    so assuming we agree that these dull on paper qualities can actually have a magical effect, what does that teach us? what lessons can we apply in the future? generally speaking recordings are getting cleaner--so maybe these aesthetics are on the way out unless we can extrapolate new creative possibilities from them.

    any favorite examples? alternatively, reasons you're not really into this topic?

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    seems to me that there are three ways of looking at "fog of war":

    1. signifying oldness. this is probably the most obvious, potentially gimmicky use. but it can also be executed very interestingly. i think a better way to put it might be: signifying distance.

    2. signifying decay. similar to the first perspective, but i think it's worth distinguishing. thinking about oldness/ wornness as a dynamic process rather that as a pre-existing state. (but if the distinction doesn't make sense, forget about this one. it's not the thought im personally the most interested in.)

    3. as diegetic sound. i.e. hearing these qualities as musical, as part of the recording's internal world. this is probably the view that's most creative and likely to be fruitful in the future. it suggests that the aforementioned magic of "fog of war" is completely separable from its associations with the past, and can be harnessed to make something new.

    (and no, i don't expect the term to catch on.)

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    Default what changed in the past few years?

    as the default cleanness of audio recording improved, these obfuscating qualities have been utilized more and more deliberately by musicians--reflecting our increased sensitivity to "fog of war" as listeners.

    this is apparent in how efforts to evoke the music of the past have changed. at first artists only imitated the sonic signifiers of previous eras that were intentional: the particular guitar tones, reverb, etc. (e.g. john lennon in the late 60s wanting the same reverb that was used on his favorite 50s hits.) but then by the time of chillwave in the late 2000s, imitating and exaggerating the "fog of war" of old music had became the central aesthetic goal.

    BUT the mystery is that at some point in the 2010s this tendency dropped off. other life and i have talked a bit about how vaporwave went from being like this to becoming polished, hi-fi electronica. i'm sure there are still certain artists on pan, etc. that are experimenting, but for now "fog of war" in its most obvious form seems to have been cancelled. i wonder why?

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    That Leo Kottke clip you posted the other day was a great example of this. Another I like is this grainy clip of Enya performing 'Boadicea' in the studio.


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    Damage is authenticity. We like things which degrade like we do, we know they're real.

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    Although equally that could be why people also like the undamaged, it's an ideal we strive for. People don't want to die and listening to things which show no signs of doing so is a form of escapism.

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    William Basinski must deserve a mention in this thread? In his making the unpredictable deterioration of the sound the key factor about the music itself.

    Listening to reggae records comes to mind. If you get into vinyl or listening to rips, the fucked quality, that patina, becomes part of the listening. CD quality would seem horrible. A friend of mine has a valve amp that he plays his 45s through - he says that because the amp was made at the same time as the recordings it gives him a richer, more authentic sound.

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    Perhaps we could position the uptick of interest in field recordings as some kind of strategy or resistance to overly clean sound? I'm sure the people involved in this world already do this. Tethering sound back to reality.

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    It ties in with what barty (?) was saying about the future being frictionless too. It's a method of inserting friction and resistance where there is none, "denying the future".

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    Quote Originally Posted by DannyL View Post
    William Basinski must deserve a mention in this thread? In his making the unpredictable deterioration of the sound the key factor about the music itself.
    for sure, he was who i had in mind with "wornness as a dynamic process" above. never actually listened to more than 10 seconds of his music though lol.

    Quote Originally Posted by version View Post
    Damage is authenticity. We like things which degrade like we do, we know they're real.
    the idea of damage conveying presence in the real world is interesting. you mentioned that in the artifacts thread too. i guess it follows that if music can gradually decay like a living thing, that reminds you that it will eventually vanish entirely. so maybe one reason old, badly damaged records are so treasured is that you feel as if you've caught something that's flickering out of physical world existence. the caretaker would be another relevant artist there of course. "A Last Glimpse Of The Land Being Lost Forever".
    Last edited by mvuent; 29-11-2019 at 08:48 PM.

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    but again, i'm also interested in how thinking about this stuff doesn't necessarily have to be backward-looking, and can inspire new deliberate artistic possibilities.

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    Quote Originally Posted by DannyL View Post
    Perhaps we could position the uptick of interest in field recordings as some kind of strategy or resistance to overly clean sound? I'm sure the people involved in this world already do this. Tethering sound back to reality.
    didn't know there was such an uptick. anything interesting come of it?

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    I find it interesting when this stuff ends up sounding more artificial, like pre-ripped jeans. Burial's later stuff has that feel for me, I mentioned it in the Moscow Lightwork thread.

    Quote Originally Posted by version View Post
    Burial does this thing in his later material where he takes traditionally lo-fi sounds like radio static and renders them very cleanly, lots of EQ/filter sweeps and stuff and there's something about it that really gets me, like when the spoon goes through chocolate mousse and leaves a very clean, yet imperfect, bubbled texture.

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