The Mystery Mix of the Moment

Back when I useta produce a regular stream of mix tapes for my own and other people’s consumption, I often created “Mystery Mixes” . . . unlabeled tapes of all sorts of things that really didn’t have anything to do with anything else on the tape. Some of them were audio-trainwrecks, but others . . . they were sublime. Last night, I wanted to burn Earl’s “Stupid or Narcissistic” (see entry below on this date) onto a disc to take to Maine with me this weekend, so created a digital version of the mystery mix, pulling all sorts of unrelated oddities out of various nooks and crannies, then pressing the “scramble” button on the CD recorder and letting it put the stuff together the way it wanted to. And, good for the computer, the results were indeed sublime . . . I’ve been spinning the disc all day long, and I like it more and more each time I play it.

So . . . the soundtrack for a good chunk of the drive to Maine is likely to be the track list of this disc . . .

1. “Oh Yeah” by Can

2. “Harpsicode” by the Mathematicians

3. “A Huge Rare Cheese” by ST 37

4. “Dallas” by Steely Dan

5. “Moody Liz (Take 8)” by Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band

6. “Stupid or Narcissistic” by Earl Patrick

7. “Blind” by Michael Gira

8. “How Bad (Do You Want It?)” by Check Engine

9. “Pat-Trip Dispenser” by the Fall

10. “Virginia Plain” by Roxy Music

11. “War” by Henry Cow and Slapp Happy

12. “Dear Little Mother” by Savage Rose

13. “Joy” by Irmin Schmidt

14. “Hocus Pocus” by Focus

15. “The Body Breaks” by Devendra Banhart

16. “Yum Yab” by Jarboe

17. “It’s A Rainy Day, Sunshine Girl” by Faust

This one really shouldn’t work . . . it’s too far scattered all over the place by date of release and style, but somehow, it ends up being greater than the sum of its already great parts. Impulsive mix-making still rocks. I need to do more of it. (And I don’t know why I don’t, since it’s far less tedious and time-consuming to make mix CDs than it was to make mix tapes)(which, of course, is probably why it’s not as rewarding)(plus . . . I’m not trying to pick up members of the opposite sex anymore, the primary impetus for mix tape making for most of my years of ill repute).

One track on this tape merits special mention: “Dallas” by Steely Dan. It was their first official single, and it has never appeared on any official album, since MCA yanked it off the shelves pretty much as soon as it hit them because it sounded nothing like the rest of the forthcoming Can’t Buy A Thrill album. “Dallas” is sung by drummer Jim Hodder, so it doesn’t even have the trademark Donald Fagen twang/sneer . . . but it’s a fabulous, longing, wistful country-blues song, well worth hunting down if you like Steely Dan. Or, probably even more worth hunting down if you don’t like them, since you wouldn’t know it was them if no one told you.

Download of the Moment

Stupid or Narcissistic” by Earl Patrick. What a beautiful song . . . one of those melodies that got stuck in my head the first time I heard it, coupled with a fabulous arrangement and some sweet, sweet singing. Go! Listen!

At the Movies

Marcia and I went to see “Collateral” last weekend. A great story, great acting, great script, but the experience of the film was really marred by what I consider to one of the most unfortunate developments in contemporary film-making: the over-use of herky-jerky, in-your-face, hand-held camera work. This movie will look absolutely great on television when it comes out on DVD, but the experience of watching it on a large 70mm screen was literally nauseating. Sometimes, that’s just what you want to make a scene or sequence work well, but over two hours, it’s just too danged much.

Marcia noted that she really enjoyed the score of the film, and how Director Michael Mann used songs in styles that she didn’t normally like, but that worked perfectly and evocatively for her in setting. I think that’s one of Mann’s great strengths . . . so a couple of days later, we rented what I consider to be his greatest movie, “Manhunter,” (which Marcia had not seen). There is a sequence in the middle of the movie (the tiger, the romantic interlude between the villian and the blind photo-tech, the final psychological meltdown of the villian) that is almost completely wordless, with the music (by Shriekback, in this case) being almost indescribably powerful and evocative and overwhelming, somehow. Likewise, the movie’s final sequence, a long one set to the equally long Iron Butterfly chestnut “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida,” is equally wordless, with the weird, nonsense surrealist stomp of the music communicating more than the actors ever could. Perfect and exquisite film-making.

And I guess, while I’m praising the movie, I should also note that it’s a textbook case of how less can be more in script-writing: the movie is based on Thomas Harris’ Red Dragon, the same book (and series) that inspired “Silence of the Lambs” and its sequels, and marks the first on-screen appearance of Dr. Hannibal Lecter, in this case played with cool and truly frightening menance by Brian Cox, instead of the scenery-chewing Anthony Hopkins. The book is very, very busy: there are all sorts of subplots and details and noise (for lack of a better word), that Mann just completely eliminating in his screenplay (no full body tattoos for the Dragon, no subplot about molds of his mother’s teeth, no subplot about him destroying the Blake painting from which he takes his identity, etc.). The screenplay is lean and mean, and it makes for a much better movie experience for that. Parse and purge are good instincts in screenplay-writing, methingks, and this is a classic example of how an adaptation can capture the essence of a book without getting bogged down in its minutia.

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