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Re: New Topic - Labeling music [Was Re: lawson's missive]

>>I've tried on occasion describing some of the stuff I've done with the
instructions "imagine the Cocteau Twins recording for ECM". It generally
didn't work mostly because people usually only knew one or the other
reference and if you have to explain the shorthand it isn't short any 

Which raises an interesting question - is your (or my) intention to 
accurately describe your music (both in technical and
'musical' terms) in a way that makes sense to you, or gives credit where 
it's due, or places your music in relation to music
that the questioner is familar with, or to unsettle the questioner, or to 
provoke them to seek further/convince them to buy
your CD/put them off all together/sound like a badass who drops the right 

All of these will illicit different answers...

for example.

fellow looper - 'what kind of stuff do you do?'
me - 'well, it's sort of influenced Michael Manring's JamMan looping, but 
with a fair dose of Bill Frisell in there - I also
tend to use my DL4 for some mad texural stuff, using the backwards and 
speed shift functions in loop mode. I also never sync
my loops up - I've got a JamMan, DL4 and MPX-G2 -  so it all shifts in 
relation to itself fairly regularly. Harmonically, I
tend towards diatonic stuff, but the layers over the top and random noise 
stuff can take it anywhere - lots of room for
random acts of noise production... I'm getting more and more into 
spontaneous 'remixing' of sounds as I go along - getting
the loops going and them messing with them, dropping them in and out, but 
I've not really settled on a structured way of
doing that yet...'

my aunt at a christmas party - 'so, Steve, what's your band like?'
me - 'well, it's just me, but it sort of sounds like documentary 
soundtrack stuff - lots of whale noises and nice tunes.
there's a bit of jazz in there as well and I use lots of electronic 
gadgets that allow me to record one part as I play it and
them play over the top. It's all great fun, and I don't really mind if 
people fall asleep, get up and walk around or laugh at
what I do, or just listen in a polite english audience kind of way...'

dance producer bloke who goes to the same church as me - 'what sounds are 
you makin' at the moment?'
me - 'ambient mellow stuff - chill out room music, mainly, a bit dubby in 
places I guess... I've been trying to get a gig at
the big chill, but no good contacts there yet, you don't know anyone do 

three very different answers, with different intentions and different 
images conjured up.

But writing this has made me think that I've not really tried to label 
what I do in a way that makes sense to me - it just
'is' - I know the process, and I'm aware of my favourite harmonic areas, 
but taken as a whole, I've not really thought about
a box. I guess I'm too into the minutae of what I'm doing to worry about 
the big picture... the only time I'm really aware of
style in what I do is when I'm playing support to a particular artist, or 
in a particular context where some of what I do
would be seen as wholly inappropriate - then I have to decide whether as a 
childish acts of annoyance I go ahead and try to
turn a few heads, or play it safe... and to be honest, I have to admit it 
often depends on what I'm getting paid for the gig,
which is a rather tragic admission... :o) Anyway, some people seem to have 
definite boxes in which to place things, in order
to feel safe, and others are happier with ambiguity. Jeff Berlin thinks 
that all fretless bassists are essentially ripping
off Jaco - that's all he can hear in the basic sound of the fretless bass. 
Others are able to hear and enjoy the myriad
different possibilities inherent in fretless bass, and are therefor free 
to explore and listen without subscribing to Jeff's
rather narrow parameters. It all seems to be about boxes.

...I also have qualitative problems with comparing myself to other 
artists, in that even those I'm influenced by are bound to
be perceived as either 'better' or 'worse' than me, and therefor it can be 
seen as an act of self-aggrandisement to say
'yeah, I'm influenced by Bill Frisell' (or the ECM Cocteau's, or 
Frippertronics or whatever) - how many times have you been
to see a mates band which he says are 'sort of a cross between the 
Beatles, The Cure and Radiohead, with a bit of early Floyd
thrown in' and the nearest comparison you could honestly make is with some 
naive music students faffing about with guitars
trying desparately to sound like their heros... So I'm obviously reluctant 
to sound like I'm dropping myself in that
category, for fear that people may think that I'm doing precises the same 
thing as 'mate's band 1.1'

So, what to do? I'd sound like a bit of a twat if I went through that 
whole list of options and criteria for assessment
whenever anyone asked me what I sound like, so I guess I'll settle with 
'solo bass - no, nothing like Level 42. Why not have
a listen to the sound clips on my website?' and if they can't be arsed to 
do that, f*** 'em... :o)