Should It Stay or Should It Go?

Sunday, March 19, 2006

To the Tropics

Ambitious Lovers
Originally uploaded by bsglaser.
Artist: Ambitious Lovers; Arto Lindsay
Albums: Lust; Prize
Source: Bought used (Lust); Promo (Prize)

(Boring Technical Note: It’s rapidly dawning on me that, at this pace, I will get through the entire Beast sometime during President Chelsea Clinton’s 2nd term in office. As a result, anywhere I can speed things up a notch – like by putting both of these Arto-led bands in a single entry – I think I will.)

Lee’s girlfriend Jenn is part of a Mix-CD Club, by which members put together mixed discs for all the other members, one a month, for the sheer geeky fun of it. One thing she’s noticed is that, especially with the more hardcore Music Nerds involved, they tend to make mixes that follow what she calls “that intentionally-multigenre'd structure you probably know all too well from music aficionados.” In other words, everyone makes sure to show off the breadth of their eclecticism, even if truth be told, half of their favorite songs are by the Rolling Stones.

I am, to an extent, as guilty as the next geek – I’ve got a few things in the collection that are mostly just genre-specific investigations that I may not have fallen for entirely, but I am somewhat loathe to get rid of since I figure I “should” get it. In other words, for everyone who faithfully buys all of the Ethiopiques discs at Other Music, I bet there are more people who display them than listen to them.

One of the genres the aficionados never seems to miss is the Brazilian/Tropicalia that is all the rage amongst those in the know. Arto Lindsay, who came up in the extreme-noise wing of NYC’s No Wave scene (he bashed his guitar strings in DNA and the first version of the Lounge Lizards – Oh, the things I know!) went on to embrace his roots in Brazilian music in various ways. Both as a member of the Ambitious Lovers and under his own name, Arto makes Brazilian music that also has some Noo Yawk skronk and funk to it, making it just so.

Truth be told, I like both of these albums quite a bit: they’re rhythmically enticing in a way that, say Paul Simon’s ethnomusicological experiments rarely quite are, and the songs & melodies are generally pretty captivating. I’ve seen Arto do this stuff live, and it’s gently but decidedly enthralling.

And yet…(there was clearly an “And yet” coming, right?), how often do I find myself thinking, “What I could really go for now is some South American music, but filtered through a downtown experimentalist sensibility”? Not too often, I confess. But I think I want that to change – whenever I pull out records like these, or some of the scant Afrobeat I’ve got scattered here and there, it makes me really happy, and it feels like something I could grow (read: mature) into. Jenn’s looking to start a new mix-CD club that avoids the intentionally-multigenre'd structure, but maybe it’s a good thing to get a dose of those other genres more than I do.

SISOSIG? I have to admit that going in, I assumed these would be on the Go pile. But giving them a fresh listen and a good think, I think I’d be better served holding onto them. There may be a day when I’m not reaching for noisy pop quite as often (heaven forbid!), and records like these should do the trick nicely.


  • It should stay.

    So far, of your collection, Arto and Neko Case are the only things I have in common.

    Also, everyone needs a bit of Arto in their collection, especially the non-Brazillian stuff.

    By Anonymous Elwyn, at 10:32 PM  

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