Well, that slid right in and out of my brain with zero traction. It’s like sparkling seltzer water for the mind. This kind of bubbly ambient pop has become its own very lucrative market, since companies discovered it makes great background music for showcasing shiny lifestyles. That’s probably not Brian Eno had in mind when he conceptualized ‘music you don’t have to pay attention to’. In his case it was some kind of an elevated artistic statement. Nowadays it’s big money. The Norwegian duo Royksopp are leaders in the ambient pop field today, because evidently there’s something in the air up there that makes people want to compose frosty electronic soundscapes.
The Scandinavians are good at a few things: knitting warm socks, salted fish, liberal democracy, and electronic dance music. (Other things too, probably.) There must be something about all those long dark nights in the numbing cold that makes people want to trance dance. Admittedly, my understanding of the culture comes from two sources: children’s literature and Stieg Larsson novels. So I imagine that life in Scandinavia is filled with magic, Moomins and murder. You won’t get much of a better idea of what Sweden – for example – is like listening to ambient electronic music like Royksopp, but in a place where the nights hardly ever end, the nightclubbing must be good.
Nobody in the electropop realm has creepier visions than Ladytron. Chalk it up to too much education or the natural morbidity of Eastern Europe. But as much as their melodies are beautiful, their lyrics are about witchcraft and alienation. Even their love songs are creepy. It’s that atmosphere of the faintly twisted that’s kept them at the top of their game for so long, being among the most acclaimed electronic music group of their time.
So, have you heard about Moby? Apparently he’s a sad schmuck loser who consistently strikes out with women who are far out of his league and then lies about it. Like when he wrote in his memoir that he dated Natalie Portman and she was all like “wut, lol, no I was 18 you creep” and he was like “but we’ve been photographed together, please pleeese tell them we dated” and she was like “hard no!” and then he was so humiliated he canceled his book tour. Which is hardly terrible or earth-shaking as far as celebrity gossip goes, but it does put me once again in the exhausting position of evaluating my fandom of a person who got caught soiling their pedestal. Which, in this case, is hardly a scandal. Moby’s pedestal was never that high, and he didn’t even do anything particularly wrong besides being an average delusional sad dude who thinks that a few hang-out sessions and/or misguided hook-up add up to a ‘relationship’, and being a self-deprecating sad schmuck who gets rejected by women has kind of always been his ‘brand’, so. I mean, I was just evaluating my fanhood of Michael Jackson, and although I decided that I was perfectly okay with not being his fan anymore, I still spent the rest of the day singing “Annie are you OK?” in my head, so… this is child’s play, really. The only thing that gets me is that, unlike full-blown pedophiles, delusional sad schmucks with creepy intentions are fucking everywhere, they’re an everyday part of every woman’s life, and though they may be thinner on the ground once you’ve aged out of being potentially dumb enough to fall for them, they don’t ever entirely go away, and the fact that Natalie Portman still has to waste her time clarifying that she did not in fact ‘date’ a creepy sad older man who imagined himself dating her because they hung out a few times, well, just…. eww, squick. Moby not canceled, but unfortunately revealed to be a mediocre human being, flawed in a very conventional, boring, and pathetic way.
Moby is here with a simple lesson about cherishing your loved ones, and it’s possible that this may press some sentimental buttons for a few people. Those of you who get misty-eyed about the magic of family, for example. Family is the web of ties that makes us who we are, and if we don’t have that, then who even are we. Some people have shitty families, of course, and don’t find images of granddads twirling babies idyllic. Nonetheless, the message should still find a button to push. The people in our lives, whether chosen or born to, will slip away when we least expect them to, leaving nothing but memories and the vague nagging sensation of their absence. That’s life, inexorably. But you can at least try to appreciate your here and now before it becomes the sepia-filtered past. And, yes, appreciate your folks, appreciate your memories of them, appreciate that web that made you. There’s nothing wrong with getting a little sentimental about your friends and family, it’s just our human nature, even for those of us who’ve chosen to become the end of the family line.
One of my favorite contemporary trends is remixes of old-timey music. Yes, bring all that old jazz into the modern age. It sounds so good. There’s new jazz being made by living people, in this day and age, of course, but it’s not the art form swaying popular consciousness anymore. As for swing of the kind Anita O’Day used to make, that’s not what the kids are dancing to. Remixes help me pretend that it still is. On the other hand, though, hearing how dynamic the original is, one wonders why exactly we stopped dancing to swing music in the first place.
I’ll never not love songs that provide pure escapism. I want dancing and glamour and feather boas. Goldfrapp provides that in amplitude. Not all of her records are direct rockets back to the days of disco and glam rock, but the best ones are. The remix album We Are Glitter pretty much makes it a mission statement. It’s music for dancing at the club, but more than that it’s music for dancing alone in your bathroom while you’re putting on your lipstick. That’s a very specific mindframe that often goes underserved, as much as it’s a cliche of teen movie makeover montage sequences.