· 3 min read
Klang Mix 006: Worriedaboutsatan's Truth in Melody
Mixed and Written by Gavin Miller.
Life as a DIY musician can be brutal. I was sifting through some recent music I’d finished up the other day, and I caught myself thinking which labels might be interested in hearing it. “nah, it’s too melodic for them” I said to myself more often than not. It reminded me of an old tweet (or ‘X’? or whatever the fuck) by Josh Eustis from Telefon Tel Aviv:
“are you not making music with melodies because you can't, or are you just fearful of being viewed as cringe?
further, are you using "texture" as a way of putting distance between you and your listeners, or is it serving your work?”
are you not making music with melodies because you can't, or are you just fearful of being viewed as cringe?— Telefon Tel Aviv (@telefontelaviv) January 19, 2023
further, are you using "texture" as a way of putting distance between you and your listeners, or is it serving your work?
It was the first time I’d ever seen something articulated that I’d long thought about: are you scared of adding in a melody because you fear you won’t be taken seriously? And why is that? Do we all hate melody all of a sudden? Does everything have to sound like a deconstructed mess of ambient washes, or ferocious knife-edge sound design? No, of course not, but I guess maybe it’s nice to be reminded of that from time to time.
It’s funny, you hear something like Autechre’s ‘Slip’, or even Burial’s ‘Archangel’ and you wonder who would put those records out now. Without the context of their b(r)ands, would anyone take a punt on it? It’s ironic that a lot of the crossed-arms-brigade considers ‘serious’ music to be stuff like drugged out Kosmische and humourless computer noise, but if you look a little further back in time, the stalwarts of those scenes would employ the most basic, naive and silly sounding melodies - take a listen back to Slip, or load up some early Aphex stuff (especially that Mike & Rich album), or the first Boards of Canada records. Plaid, Orbital, Stereolab, Tortoise, hell even Squarepusher can pull a real melancholic heart tugger out the bag in amongst all his frenzied amen breaks. James Holden, for all his foggy new-age psychedelia, knows a hook. All Kraftwerk is basically just pure melody, just played through machines. My point is you don’t have to be so freaked out and try and drown yourself in ironic detachment - “ah yes, it’s melodic, but I’m being so hyper-clever about it!”
If you can find it, load up youtube and have a look at Can doing their sort-of hit ‘I Want More’ on BBC’s Top of the Pops in 1976. Can! On fucking Top of the Pops. I mean, if even they can take a break from all the experimental improvisation to whip out a pristine slice of funked-up cocaine disco, you can add a little colour to your mixes, trust me.
Post-rock’s a funny one isn’t it? People often try and distance themselves from it now, and in some cases, it’s hard to argue against people calling it cringy. I’ll be the first to admit though, I used to *love* this shit - you give me a band of 5 miserable looking Canadians tremolo picking an A minor triad for 17 minutes, and I was there. I spent countless hours trying to play Explosions in the Sky riffs, turning my delay pedal up to do that wig out thing, and generally taking myself a bit too seriously. But even now, it still undeniably hits that sweet spot - EITS, Mogwai, Sigur Rós, even GY!BE knew their way around a killer bit of melodic action, and there’s nowt wrong with that - it’s at the heart of the whole genre. Again, if even a band like the perennially naval gazing Godspeed/ Silver Mt Zion can cut through mountains of crackly found sound to give you something as perfect as ’13 Angels Standing Guard 'Round the Side of Your Bed’, the fabric of space/ time won’t be altered if you quite fancy tuning your synth once in a while.
Like Josh says in his original tweet: is it serving your work? No-one needs another 6 minutes of aimless textural tape hiss if all you’re gonna do is use it as an excuse to call yourself ‘ambient’ - just cut away that shit and be true to yourself, because if you’re not gonna believe in what you do (whatever it is you do), no-one else will either.
1. Can - I Want More
2. Telefon Tel Aviv - The Birds
3. Autechre - Slip
4. Boards of Canada - Roygbiv
5. Mogwai - Hunted By A Freak
6. Tangerine Dream - Network 23
7. Burial - Archangel
8. James Holden - Common Ground
9. Aphex Twin - Xtal
10. Explosions in the Sky - Day Six
11. Orbital - Halcyon + On + On
12. Sigur Ros - Untitled 3
13. Luke Abbott - Modern Driveway