Tuesday, June 7, 2011


Song Title: "Baack in the Whelping Box" [I have been unable to determine whether that extra "a" in "Baack" is indeed part of the song title or whether it was a typo that has been perpetuated by file sharers the world 'round]
Artist: Hat City Intuitive
Search Term: "Whelping"

I realize the term "experimental" means something different in the musical world than it does in the scientific world, in the sense that music can be permissibly called experimental even if it's not necessarily some sort of audible test of a hypothesis or innovative notion. Works like Cornelius Cardew's Treatise (sheet music consisting of 193 pages' worth of nonspecific graphic notation which can be interpreted as the performer sees fit) or Yasunao Tone's Solo for Wounded CD (the piercing sounds of a CD player trying to decipher a disc that has been badly mutilated) obviously have the right to snuggle up beneath this umbrella, but in the world of music that's more accessible, I don't think most people put up a fuss if a recognizably pop-based but ambitious and unusual act like, say, Tortoise are described as experimental. I suspect this lowering of the bar is sort of a tacit agreement among music nerds like myself because we all wind up looking better as a result: Everyone wants to be able to say they're broad-minded enough to listen to experimental music, but who genuinely wants to sit through a ruckus like Solo for Wounded CD for pleasure?

However, it does get on my nerves when the adjective is applied to music (or noise) that seems to consist solely of what my dad evocatively refers to as "fiddlefarting around"; recordings that evince no inspiration whatsoever but are instead the sound of people listlessly jamming in the hope of falling into a brilliant idea that never arrives. Case in point: Hat City Intuitive classify themselves as "experimental" on MySpace, but "Baack in the Whelping Box" contains none of the intellectual motivation suggested by that description. It's an improvised writer's-block timekill. Worse still, the improvisation doesn't even come across as skilled; it's childish and aimless to the point that it's unclear from the evidence whether any of these guys has ever gotten within arm's length of a musical instrument in his life before the "record" button was pressed. Certainly none of them seems to be listening to what the other band members are doing in this unsorted heap of cymbals, skronkly guitar, and what may be someone trying to touch-type on a piano. It sounds like the inside of a band's ineptly-packed tour bus as it struggles down a gravel road, and even under an expanded definition of "experimental music" that lets folks like me pat ourselves on the back for listening to Bjork, "Baack in the Whelping Box" is too lazy to even feint at any sort of boundary pushing.

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