Arrhythmia

Recently I was informed that “This is How We Walk on the Moon” by Geographer is actually a COVER of the original Arthur Russell song. Maybe this is Music Knowledge 101, but it was a very exciting discovery to me. I think Geographer is a great band and wonderful in concert, but this song wasn’t a personal favorite.

The original version is so much weirder though! I don’t understand time signatures well enough to get what’s happening with the beat… it seems almost arrhythmic to me … in a wonderful way that slides just beyond my comprehension.

Further Googling reveals that Jose Gonzalez also did a very nice cover version.

What else…. Spotify played “Add Ends” for me the other day… maybe slyly suggesting that Arthur Russell fans might also enjoy Danish band When Saints Go Machine. Well, they got it too close for comfort! Add Ends sounds almost as if Arthur Russell is singing, with the same off-beat strings.

Strings also feature in Kishi Bashi’s terrific version of “This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody)”. (This one sounds so much better listened to on nice speakers that I feel a bit bad posting a YouTube link.) Gorgeous! Listening today I heard the ‘born with a weak heart’ lyric… something I’ve never noticed before. Really, every stanza of that song is beautiful. The story of how it was written is super cool too.

The parenthetical title, “Naive Melody,” comes from the fact that the bandmates switched instruments when they composed it. Musically, it was one of the sparest arrangements they ever made. The song consists of a simple guitar-chord progression, a four-bar bass figure, and a fluty synthesizer part, repeated over and over again. The polyphony is African sounding, but also vaguely Baroque, creating an ambiance of innocence that’s augmented by the whimsical array of found-object percussion sounds (a wine bottle, scrap metal, ashtrays, a cocktail shaker, a candleholder, and a milk jug).

The topic of percussion reminds me of something interesting I just read – drummer Max Weinberg (you may remember him from old Conan O’Brien shows, and also the E Street Band) suffered from a ‘drumming slump’ in the 80’s that robbed him of his timing! What!? That can happen?! According to Wikipedia:

Weinberg suffered an acknowledged “drumming slump” around 1980, and his time-keeping skills were criticized by Springsteen. What could pass unnoticed in concert became apparent on record, and Weinberg practiced drumming components for months in order to regain a fine sense of timing.

Don’t worry, the story has a happy ending. Max Weinberg got his timing back!

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