Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Lou Reed chills out

Not sure why I'm on a classic rock kick at the moment. True, it's what I grew up on but after hearing it so much from classic rock stations that kept playing the same songs or from my own stereo as a teenager, I got kind of sick of it after a while and had to cleanse my palate with some post-punk, free jazz and modern classical music. Now that classical rock is pretty much dead on the radio unless you have a satellite radio subscription, I can safely return to it now and then.

Another interesting thing I find is that if the aging classic rockers try to stretch themselves a little and do something different, while it might be a little stupid and embarrassing (i.e. many of Neil Young's '80's guises), it's at least something worth noting.

Just like Pete Townshend, another classic rocker is trying his hand at electronics again. Lou Reed released Metal Machine Music as A) a way to piss of his label, B) a way to piss off his fans, C) a serious electronic music statement, D) all of the above. Take your pick.

Just like with MMM, he insists that this is no joke. Granted that it's not a high-profile release that you'll find in most stores but Hudson River Wind Meditations is something dear to him. Reed says that he was looking for music to relax and mediate too and evidently wasn't getting anything out of new age stuff he's been hearing otherwise. I'd recommend William Basinski for staters but it's intriguing to see an intense guy like Reed pine for solitude and look to create it for others.

HRWM is very different from MMM not just because it's decades after the fact but also Reed ain't who he used to be. Where MMM was a statement of many stripes, HRWM comes across as almost a small gift or communique. Instead of ear-piercing noise, Reed uses lulling gentle tones that resemble Brian Eno's Discreet Music. On "Move Your Heart," he starts out with a gentle synthesizer loop and later layers that with a slightly louder, more dominant one for a half-hour. Also around 30 minutes, "Find Your Note" (how's that for a spiritual direction?), has a low sounding buzz layered over with a high frequency tone that modulates slightly along with shorter spacey synth patterns - less relaxing and more for concentrated meditation and kind of like a low-key version of La Monte Young's tone generations. He finished off with a shorter, low-key white noise piece and then a coda of "Find Your Note."

Maybe you could consider HRWM a statement of sorts or just another chapter in the never-boring saga of Reed's career where what comes next is usually an off-beat surprise. Restless artist that he is, the guy's always interesting to follow at the very least.

Listen to samples at Sounds True website or listen to samples at Barnes and Noble



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