A brief explanation:

I want to be more organized about listening to music -- both new and old. I also have this fantasy that if I publicly document the music I’m interested in at the moment, and write notes about my plans for listening to new music, strangers will appear with interesting comments that might introduce me to new music, or at least change how I think about music. At the very least, anytime I do something that I know others will see, I approach it in a more deliberate and rigorous way, often coming across ideas I wouldn’t otherwise, so even if no one reads these notes on music, I imagine there will still be some value. This kind of writing — shorter stuff (sometimes only a sentence) about many different concrete subjects might also serve as an antidote to the other kind of non-fiction writing I do — long, abstract disorganized essays where half the time I don’t even know what I’m writing about until I’m finished.

I’m not exactly sure what the best way to structure this diary is, so I’ll start with the simplest format I can think of: everyday I feel like updating this I’ll do a link dump of everything (new to me) I listened to that day, along with optional comments. As time goes on I’ll maybe think of other more convoluted ways to document all of this involving copious cross references.

What I've been listening to:

Dec 24, 2023:

As these things go, I started looking into Limited Express (has gone?) more after writing about them last time. Their Discogs page mentioned John Zorn, which is name I’ve heard from time to time. I’ve never really dived all the way into his music, but I’ve also associated him with guys in their 40s who started listening to weirdo Japanese music in the 90s. In fact, it was thanks to one particular guy in his 40s that I found out about the album Zorn did with Yamataka Eye (the Boredoms' frontman), in which he took on the made-up Japanese name Dekoboko Hajime.

Of course, if I had simply opened up Discogs and looked up Yamataka (aka Yamatsuka), the first album I’d see would have been Nani Nani — though that would have required me to consider Yamataka in isolation from Boredoms, the only context I knew him from. I knew Yoshimi P-We, the drummer, had her own band OOIOO, which I listened to a lot — but, in my mental catalogue of music, I’d simply indexed OOIOO as a Boredoms spinoff band — which I think was critical mistake.

It’s very hard for me to think of musicians as discrete human lives, rather than as members of bands. This is perhaps because, from my earliest contemplations about music, the Beatles served as the prototypical rock band in my mind. Even decades after breaking up, the 4 members of the band continued to have the role of “Beatles” in popular culture. It took me years to realize that, for instance, John Lennon’s solo career speaks to me far more than the Beatles albums.

To return to John Zorn, I finally took some time to understand who he is and to read about his label Tzadik. It turns out his connection with Japanese music is far more fundamental than a few collaborations in the 90s that middle aged Americans recommend to anti-social kids in their 20s. The New Japan imprint was responsible for making a lot the avant-garde and experimental music coming from Japan accessible to weirdos in the United States. A quick glance through their catalogue revealed the name of just about every Japanese experimental musician that I’d previously learned about through reading conversations online, looking through Soulseek libraries and clicking on links in the Youtube recommended sidebar. When I first started listening to Boredoms and related bands, I thought of it as weird stuff coming from Japan — though that’s not at all accurate. This is music made through international cooperation for an international audience.

Whenever I find out about some previously hidden-to-me force that has influenced something as personal-seeming as the long journey of musical exploration I’ve gone on over the course of my life, I instinctually suspect something sinister is going on. This has more to do with my personality than any basis in reality.

The truth is that I’m just very ignorant about how music (and especially underground experimental music) gets marketed, distributed and popularized — and perhaps more important to my particular interests, how music from a country like Japan in the 90s gets brought over to certain circles in the United States.

As a weird introvert, I have very little direct experience with any “artistic community” — yet I have a lot of experience soaking in the products of those communities, isolated from the original context that created them. Finding out about music by downloading it off of Soulseek isn’t as personal as it seemed to me when I first started using Soulseek in 2017, amazed at how powerful a tool this ancient-to-me piece of software is. I never see the faces of the people who make this music or the people who share it to me. Even more, they never see my face.

Anyway, I’ve been listening through some of the names on New Japan that I didn’t already know about. One that sticks out to me is Ikue Mori, who I believe brings out some of the contradictions with the idea of an American imprint like New Japan with the description “Breathtaking, genre-busting music from the new Japanese underground” on Discogs. I’ve listened to One Hundred Aspects of the Moon over and over — it’s what prompted me to start writing this particular diary entry. Mori has lived in New York since the 70s — yet for a time her music was released on an imprint dedicated to the Japanese avant-garde.

Just like I spend too much time thinking of musicians in terms of the bands they belong to, I spend too much time questioning the meaning of nationality. Perhaps this is a natural concept for me question. I’m living in a country different from my birth, and have never been comfortable with thinking of myself as an American, yet the only other feasible thing for me to become is Chinese, and who knows what process one has to go through for that to succeed. It’d be a lie to say I don’t want to be a part of any nation. I feel very ambivalent about the matter. As such, I’m very sensitive to the tentacles of America reaching out and pulling people of other nations into its orbit. I’m curious what happens to them, ten, twenty or thirty years later, just as I’m curious what will happen to myself, after being squeezed out of an American orifice into the void, yet still covered in America’s goo.

Dec 08, 2023:

It's been a long time since I've done an official music update, though my insomnia post in the sentiment-zone from a little over a week ago was perhaps done in a similar spirit. I haven't been listening to much new music lately. When writing about New Pants, I unsurprisingly found myself listening to them over and over. The main new discovery in the past month that I've gotten any enjoyment out of is Limited Express (Has Gone?). I found them around the same time I found Doddodo. LE(HG?) is a rock band and Doddodo is one of those people who makes songs out of a thousand layers of samples, but they did an album together once (with the quite boring title Limited Express (Has Gone?) x Doddodo), and Doddodo's done at least one remix of a LE(HG?) song (Mophin' Fellet on 生け贄のJesus Child). They go well together. I've been sad about all sorts of stuff lately, and this is the music for me to listen to (metaphorically) alone in the dark while. Of course, I don't get many chances for alone-in-the-dark music listening anymore. Usually when I listen to music, I'm at the library, or at my girlfriend's desk early in the morning, before anyone else has woken up.

Up until now, I've only experienced Limited Express (Has Gone?) aurally, direct-from-MP3. I've decided that immediately after I've finished these words I'm typing right now, I'll type their names into Google and watch whatever music videos or live performances they have on there. There's a certain intimacy that one only finds in music like this. When I'm not listening to them, I forget what any of their songs sound like. I only feel a warm residual sensation that this music left abandoned inside of my body the last time it passed through. I know I can go back to their albums when I need them (which has been quite often these last few weeks), and forget them once more. There's no catchy tunes to get stuck in my head, and yet the loudness of the guitars isn't enough to get etched in my brain either. What is there in this music? I can't really say without listening to it again, which I'm not going to do. I can respect the quite specific form of forgettability Limited Express (Has Gone?) takes. Few other artists make music that trusts me to come back without brainwashing me by injecting melodies and chord-progressions into my brain.


September - October 2023

August 2023