5’50” of Pop – The Sound of Muzak

5'50'' of Pop

As an archivist of historically significant recordings, I thrive on sound that is experimental, that tests the limits of and challenges the very definition of what we call music.  I’m grateful that, for most hours of the day, I have the freedom to immerse myself in cerebral and inspiring sounds.

But once upon a time, not so very long ago, I worked a job where that sort of musical luxury was the stuff of pure fantasy.  For I, like so many of my young peers, spent each day in a world of retail Muzak.

Perhaps you’ve worked a similar job at one point of your life.  Perhaps you see no problem with Muzak as you can simply, “tune it out.”  Unfortunately, we are not all so lucky.

The Sound of Muzak

The Sound of Muzak

The soundtrack of my former workplace was a Muzak station comprising 100 pop songs repeated ad infinitum for the entirety of my retail servitude.   It was eight hours a day of Britney Spears, Taylor Swift, Justin Bieber, Shania Twain, Reba McEntire, Nickelback and Amy Grant… enough to drive any reasonable man insane.  But instead of succumbing to the madness, I made it a personal mission to transform my situation into something expressive and artful.

The result was 5’50” of Pop – a complex, atonal and aggressive short film effectively simulating the experience of living inside a forty-hour loop of teen pop-idols.  5’50” of Pop aims to transform formulaic, predictable, homogeneous pop music into something challenging, something arresting, and something dauntingly complex.

The film composites the music videos for every one of the songs I heard each day… played from start to finish… all at the same time.  The result is a cacophonous stream of abstract noise and an indiscernible collage of light and shadow, presenting the viewer with a visual and auditory experience completely unlike the content of which it was composed.

If you’ve never had the misfortune of working retail, please indulge me, for a mere 5’50” of Pop.

Embittered pretension aside, 5’50” is first a reactionary piece, but also serves as an honest criticism of the pop music status quo.  Contemporary pop is made to be instantly forgotten and shuffled through in a constant stream of predictability and irreverence.  More product than poetry, its cookie-cutter lyricism and melodic structure have abandoned all that made-great the genres it’s co-opted and mimicked in empty pantomime.

Thankfully, I’ve since freed myself from that terrible environment, and now spend my days soaking-in Frippertronic solos and tape music soundscapes.  So to any of my readers still-trapped in a similarly vapid and soulless work environ; take heart.  There are scores of beautiful music waiting for you.  Until then, keep tuning in.  The music will set you free.

[NOTE: Due to copyright claims from Warner Music and the Universal Music Group, this video is not available in Germany and may include advertisements.]

Poets, Collage Music and Masters of Downtempo

I found two Shel Silverstein LPs at the same antique shop today.  Freakin’ at the Freakers Ball was under Rock-S and A Boy Named Sue was on the floor in the dollar bin.

I searched the rest of the shop on the off-chance that I’d find his other albums.  I was specifically looking for his first LP – Hairy Jazz or the one simply titled Fuck ‘Em which features adult-themed tracks such as “Dope” and “I Love My Right Hand.”

Freakers Ball is similar to Fuck ‘Em with songs like,  “I Got Stoned and I Missed It,” “Polly in a Porny,” “Masochistic Baby,” and of course its famous title track.

Lyric:

All the fags and dykes they boogy’n together
Leather freaks dressed in all kinds of leather
The greatest of sadists and the masochists too
Screamin’ “please hit me and I’ll hit you”

(This ain’t The Giving Tree.)

Track 3, however will be recognized and loved by adults and children alike – it’s “Sahra Cynthia Sylvia Stout Would Not Take The Garbage Out.”

In 1999, the album was re-issued on CD with bonus tracks, including a fun tune called “26 Second Song”

All the DJs keep complainin’ tunes run much too long
So I’ve gone and wrote myself a 26 second song.
~The End~

While these next few albums are not new to my collection I definitely wanted to make mention of them as they’ve been in heavy rotation as of late.

Future Loop Foundation is an electronic artist that completely captured my attention but was soon lost in a pool of new arrivals.  I recently querried the members of the Lemon Jelly Forum who are well-versed in the world of blissful electronic music and I promptly received a response identifying the half-forgotten track that was tumbling around in my brian.

This song alone was enticing enough to make me hunt down 18 other discs from FLF’s catalog and to complete the puzzle game on the artist’s website to unlock additional tracks.  “Sunshine Philosophy,” along with the rest of The Fading Room album was constructed using interviews with the elder members of Mark Barrott’s family which had been committed to tape during his childhood.

And for a second helping of tasty ambience here is “The Sea and the Sky.”

This final track, titled “Another English Summer,” was specifically recommended by a member of the Forum for it’s particularly Jellyesque quality.

All three of the above songs were released as singles/EPs between 2008 and 2009.  If you’ve already got The Fading Room, I recommend the Scratch & Sniff EP as your next FLF disc.

Another similarly mellow track that has been stuck in my head ever since I acquired a promo copy of the album is “Sing,” the opener from  People Like Us’ 2011 album, Welcome Abroad.

I’ve been humming the Perry Como sample that comes in around 1:35 for several days.  Wonderfully addictive.

Sundae Club is another delightful duo I discovered through the Lemon Jelly forum.  Technostalgia, British Summer Time, and Sea-sides are well worth a listen.

Check out one of their most popular tracks – Angels in the Sky.

My last Jelly-friendly artist for this entry is The Found Sound Orchestera.

For their current project, titled 52 Weeks they post a new track to their website each week.  You can download them all at http://www.foundsoundorchestra.com.