First H.A.M-review!! Finally…
Since releasing the album “Heart Attack Money” earlier this year I’ve from time to time been scanning the internet for a review or two, but alas…to no avail.
So, today I finally found one…over at a page I actually often read, The Silent Ballet.
I worked really hard on this album and it has a lot of deep meaning to me, mainly the thing that I listened to Billie Holiday more than anything, over and over and over and over again, while I for 2 years travelled in my car almost daily between 3 different cities quite far apart in Sweden, and I’m really glad someone finally took the time to listen to it.
Here’s the review:
Tsukimono – Heart Attack Money
Billie Holiday’s 1941 hit, “Gloomy Sunday,” tells the tale of a person in mourning who is contemplating suicide. Due to numerous anecdotal stories of people listening to the song and launching themselves from rooftops, the BBC banned the tune, which eventually became known as “The Hungarian Suicide Song.” Gloomy is Sunday, with shadows I spend it all, my heart and I have decided to end it all. The song is beautiful, heartfelt, and golden. Upon hearing this tune sampled on Tsukimono’s track of the same name, I was transported to the land of wistful nostalgia – that is, until I realized that the sample was repeating, and would continue to repeat for five minutes of an eight-minute song, until all the resonance, all the majestic melancholia, had been bleached from its bones, leaving only a husk of what was once the most dangerous song in all existence. This killed the album for me, absolutely killed it – pun intended – because by the time the song was over I felt the urge to jump from the Empire State Building, to shoot myself in the head, to do anything to escape from this tedious, endless loop.
A successful album can’t have such a spiky annoyance protruding from its digital grooves. And so I looked for something else to salvage. “I Am Going” is the next track that juts out, due to a seemingly inexhaustible supply of high-pitched trills, rusty boat squeaks, and hospitalized ring tones. This is another experiment, one that might have worked better had there been an underlying blueprint, a sense of purpose, or even a promotion of the sub-melodies from the distant background to the fore. Alas, no – and this is the middle piece of an oddly conjugated trilogy (“I’ve Got to Go,” “I Am Going,” “I’m Gone”). You’re only as good as your best sample, and this one is piss-poor.
Once these tracks are removed (easy to do when one has a digital copy), the album begins to sound a bit better. But I have already started down the Bizarro road of reviews, choosing not the tracks to highlight, but those to excise. And that’s where things get a bit dicey. I enjoy the piano playing on a few cuts, but the distorted vocals keep popping up to ruin them, most notably on “My Heart Has An Ache, It’s as Heavy as Stone,” featuring a sample from the 1933 jazz standard, “I Cover the Waterfront.” Once again, I am confronted with an echo of something much, much greater, chopped up, tamed, reduced. Not even Moby would have mistreated a classic in such a way. I wanted to find my grandmother’s old Victrola, leaf through her 78’s, and immerse myself in authentic despair, rather than the manufactured and processed.
Sure, there are moments on this album that fail to offend: a couple lean tracks, glistening with the occasional keyboard note, time-stretched melodies whose silences are filled by tentative drones. And “Get Gone” gets the balance right, with just the right amount of rain falling into the cracks of the piano pavement, and a much quieter sung sample, a word, perhaps two, impossible for this reviewer to identify. This piece, as well as the pleasingly abrasive closer, “Hands Over a Key,” are the foundations upon which this Swedish composer is advised to build.
The overall problem – and yes, we have encountered this all too often – is the buckshot of Tsukimono releases, sixteen in the last four years alone. Take just one track from each of these releases, perhaps even leaving out a few, and the culling could reveal a choked beauty struggling to bloom. But the problem specific to this release is that there are some songs whose definitive renditions can never be topped, and these cuts respond poorly to half-hearted mastication. Many sound artists have plundered back catalogues in order to comment on prior pieces, or have integrated them with reverence or irony into larger compositions. Neither force is called into play here. Heart Attack Money is instead a reminder that greater music existed once, and while its distorted echo can still be heard, we’d rather have the real thing.
– Richard Allen
It’s actually not as bad as Richard here thinks, trust me. Everyone’s entitled to their opinions, but I must say that the Moby-comment was a bit harsh, ouch Richard!
Soon: “Gotta Sing, Gotta Dance” 7″ (finally!)
“Tell Each Other Ghost Stories” Split with Dwayne Sodahberk
Also some live-shows coming up in Stockholm and Gothenburg. More info soon!