Time to breathe
By Beppe Colli
Nov. 2, 2009

Strange but true, Clouds and Clocks is about to take a vacation. What kind of vacation? Well, at the moment of this writing the thing that to me appears to be the most similar to our current situation is the by now extremely well-known "extended hiatus" taken by Phish. But when compared to the peculiar events that had the Vermont quartet as the main character, this webzine travels less mysterious paths.

2009 was a year definitely not short on surprises for us, and I'd like to have the time to tell readers about one or two of them, they appear to be quite funny, after the fact. Plus, all the usual stuff. It looked like placid waters were in sight when, about a month ago, the apartment that's located just above the one where we live started undergoing a major renovation. And I mean major: floors were eliminated, walls came tumbling down, pipes were taken away, the heating system soon to be rebuilt... also, a cement fixer was put in place. All things considered, I'd say that when it comes to productivity, in the course of last month our webzine didn't fare too bad. But since it looks like this will go on for a couple of months or so, I thought it better to accept our present condition, and its potential disruptive consequences for the quality of the work done on Clouds and Clocks.

I'm really sorry for the stuff that's on my table (I had already started an interview that promised to be great, but which was truncated by health problems - nothing really serious, but problems nonetheless - on the part of the interviewee):

first item - just when I had lost all hope of ever seeing it published - is Volume II of Behind The Glass By Howard Massey (subtitle: Top Record Producers Tell How They Craft The Hits) (Miller Freeman Books 2009, $24.99, pp332); I've already read it twice, which is not enough to write a profound review, but more than enough to say that - just like Volume I - Massey's book will be for a long time an important source of information and debate (up to Volume III, if it'll ever appear - for reasons clearly explained in the course of many conversations featured in the book);

then there's the new CD by Nellie McKay, Normal As Blueberry Pie (subtitle: A Tribute To Doris Day), which I didn't find to my liking, though it can be said that (as it was to be expected) it's a nice product; since I've listened to it just a couple of times, I'd like it to be clear that the following opinion is a personal opinion, not a review; I think that here we don't have a "bringing the material to our present time" that was so successfully done by Shelby Lynne in Just A Little Lovin', her fine tribute to Dusty Springfield; maybe it's because I lack the cultural framework that's needed in order to get this, I have to say that - when listened to "as it is" - to this album sounds not much more than a divertissement mostly intended for those who like exotica and frou-frou items; which is not a tragedy by any means, but I'm not one of them; a strange "sideways step" for McKay, if you ask me (full disclosure: after listening to this CD for the first time I felt the impulse to listen to some music by Ani DiFranco);

there's also the new CD by Imogen Heap, Ellipse, which confirmed to me all my doubts about her previous work, Speak For Yourself (2005), which is better; sure, what compared to what's on the charts this could be classified as a good album, but this is not the way we argue at Clouds and Clocks;

then there's the re-release of Phonography by R. Stevie Moore, which I've never listened to but which I'm pretty sure I'll like, given the fact that I own and like some of the albums he released after this one (his first);

there's also (well, it's about to arrive) the recent re-release (featuring some unreleased tracks) of Thirty Seconds Over Winterland by Jefferson Airplane, with a remastering that I hope will sound decent;

... next week the new album by Mike Keneally, Scambot 1, which I pre-ordered, will be sent to me.

So it's "see you in about two months"? Well, I don't know, for many reasons I wrote on a tiny piece of paper in order to discuss them at length in the course of my article celebrating this webzine's seventh birthday (November, 26th). This is not the right moment to talk about them.

It goes without saying that a thing like Clouds and Clocks operates in the realm of the irrational, so it's not like the decision to end it necessitates some special conditions, motivations, and reasons. A disruptive event of an independent nature such as the renovation of the apartment above could be a good enough reason to tip the scale.

Just a couple of points, fast:

a) most of the albums that I happen to listen to nowadays are incredibly poor, and they greatly suffer when compared to "similar" albums from the past; of course, it's at this point that somebody (it's not really important here to determine if it's for financial reasons, or because he spent his life eating canned food, and now sees himself as a connoisseur when it comes to haute cuisine) starts talking about "past & nostalgia"; while I think it's better to consider things like budgets and career perspectives (the single page written by George Massenburg as an introduction to Massey's book works quite well as background to this topic);

whatever the reason, however, as long as Crescent by John Coltrane is in print listening to one hour of honking sax backed by two drum sets going boom boom crash doesn't look like the best way to spend one's time; and though I'm perfectly conscious of the importance of the factor called poverty I have to ask myself whether a musician can really ask for a listener to spend a slice of his life (which will be gone forever!) listening to such mediocre works that sometimes it's easy to see are released without much faith in their intrinsic value, (it's not for quality reasons that one is eventually offered to play some concerts - I could say more);

on a parallel note, I see no reason why buying the new psych-folk album of the week could be considered a priority as long as I Want To See The Bright Lights Tonight by Richard & Linda Thompson is available, at a price (just looked on the Web) below 6;

maybe because I was so (un)lucky to grow during a period when artists were the "avant-garde" (I believe it's really impossible nowadays to understand the importance of the words spoken by Dylan, or The Beatles) I'm frequently surprised by how often artists sound like they spend their time totally oblivious to what can be called "life"; I don't know if I got this right, so no names or quotes, but I read about a conference of some sort that dealt with the problem of innovation when it comes to Copyright in the case of materials "quoted" in a work of art (which reminded me of things discussed by people by John Oswald and Negativeland about... 25 years ago?); which is obviously fine, but that given the current situation when it comes to Copyrighted materials all over the world (meaning: while Web aggregators use materials produced by the "press" in order to sell ads, and radio programs fill air time reading from, and commenting on, articles from the press in order to fill the air at absolutely no cost while the press dies due to decreasing revenues, both in ads and sales) arguing about this sounds quite similar to talking about the way porcupines manage to have sex.

b) talking about the audience would take a long time, or maybe a little; by now fully investigated, the fact of dealing with "things" inside a pointillistic time, and so discarding things as the normal attitude, is nowadays a given.

Beppe Colli 2009

CloudsandClocks.net | Nov. 2, 2009