“Eruption” (Van Halen)

The solo that launched a thousand (hair) bands, it’s also a mythologized piece used to legitimize rock guitar playing more generally. But even nine-year olds are getting in on the act, and kids can play this trax with startling proficiency. Maybe all of this this is a human version of Moore’s Law dealing with human performance. The trax is mainly about technique, with the whammy-bar dives and two-handed tapping coalescing in what’s supposed to be a new form. We shouldn’t forget Steve Hackett’s tapping from Genesis or Eddie Cochran’s tremolo strategies, though. Discussions of Eddie Van Halen’s early classical training occludes this indebtedness, and popular texts instead redirect toward the trax’s strategic allusions in order to elevate the sonic repurposing. Also important are the effects used, including echo and phaser. Even so, this prosthetic humanness is a helpful lesson. Innovation as a recursive structure, and newness as a function of articulation (not a progressive temporality). All the rest, including Moore’s Law: profit motive.



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“Igneous” (AMM)

Ongoing attempt to rewrite the rules of improv.  Unlike, say, jazz improvisation, it’s difficult here to discern much in the way of traditional themes and variations, call and response, etc.  Under the rubric, The Nameless Uncarved Block, the goal of the project is to avoid form, and to focus instead on the matter itself, enacting a kind of Marxian materialism.  With patience, one can recognize the guitar, the piano, and the like, as the instruments’ physical possibilities are patiently explored and potentially exploded.  But the problem with the materialist orientation brings one to a classic différance: as soon as matter becomes coherent (is read as “igneous,” for example), one already has given up on that which is “nameless” and has invoked an implicit form.


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“Constant in Opal” (The Church)

Similar to their other trax riffing on exploration (“Columbus,” “Destination,” and even a cover of Neil Young’s “Cortez the Killer”), here The Church turns inward toward the form(al)-bound. Perhaps centering on Australia (a prolific “producer” of opal) or Afghanistan (ultramarine/lapus lazuli), location is only part of the problem. “Swarming like carrion birds,” “puzzled travelers” and their “words” find nothing for all their digging despite the promise of finding “yourself” in the related search for luxurious goods (after the requisite narrative cuts and polishing). Following the initial rhymes in each verse, there’s a funny word association: wealth—melt; words—birds; flowers—showers; and the third verse shifts the initial rhyming term from the second to first line while seemingly moving the analogical toward a reversed causal. Geological identity as another historiographical exercise, while our lives are lived in a “shaft”—groping for ourselves and stratabound.

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