I have a theory about what I like in music. A simple statement, you may think; but somehow time has left me with a pretty varied taste in it and I often struggle to work out what links it all. Individual songs, sure, I can explain the nuances of my affection in minute detail; but the second I try and find common ground between Chris Thile, Cardiacs and Charlotte Gainsbourg then it all falls apart. Of course, I shouldn’t really care too much, the important thing that I enjoy music and you don’t really need to know why. That said, by realising the reasons why music melts into you will help on the search for all things new. Possibly, maybe. Anyways, it came to me while I was watching a friend’s band the other day. They’re moderately successful and had some equally moderately successful support playing a mix of post-Mumford acoustic rock. It was dull. It was so dull. I don’t want to be mean but nothing grabbed me; not the lyrics, not the melodies, not even the incredibly happy drummer. There simply was no danger in what they were doing. No vulnerability and by extension no bravery. Everything fitting in a tidy little box of low expectations. Not that saying that every band should see it as their duty to be mad experimental, quite the contrary. Music that is ‘experimental’ purely for the sake of it is often as safe as acoustic-rock, equally suffering as a result. Take the experimental nature of Everything Everything, it’s interesting, sure, but for me it just doesn’t add any magic because it is what we expect of them. They are writing within the large boundaries allotted to them. So there I was, smug in my discovery when I was introduced to a song that threw the whole thing out of whack; Kesäkaverit by PMMP. Typisk.
Much like Pow Pow, this song is both a throwback to the golden age of 8-bit electro and high NRG computer soundtracks. The kind of tune hardcore Dance Dance Revolution fans would break their ankles too. Much like those soundtracks it is a song that flirts with forgettability; the intense sensual overload of bleeps and drums and speed hitting hard like caffeine before the inevitable crash. It’s all very, very cool. Yet cool is never enough, and of all the songs heard during my music circle I didn’t expect this one to stick. But something niggled at me. I wanted to hear it again, actually listen to it properly without the veil of novelty dampening it all. This song, for all it’s pomp and coaxing energy and kitchen sink production had a coy vulnerability after all. Not a vulnerability as weakness, I mean as a reflective strength. If you become vulnerable to something then you’ll think around the problem to further protect yourself. An acknowledgement of weakness that laminates your strength, giving the truest sense of freedom.
So where is it here? For me, it is riven in the percussive nature of the Finnish lyrics which drive the song and the matter-of-fact manner in which they are sung. The irregular division of consonants to vowels dictates a melodic flow unheard of in English, and the fact that I can only listen to it in relation to my native tongue provides the wound which nurses my appreciation. Ooh wow, that was a pretentious sentence. Sorry about that. But when talking about music, little things like this are important. It’s all a great big cultural meeting hall and by seeing how forms you are familiar with (such as high NRG computer music) are used by other cultures (such as pop-orientated Finns) you can further understand how we as people collectively think. It’s why I love music. This constant flow of ideas being assimilated and redrawn by others. But it has to be redrawn, it can’t just tread water and be content with the safety of the known. It can’t have a preconceived purpose. Just throw everything you know into the pot and see what happens. Right or wrong, at least you’re trying and not trudging the same weathered path with diminishing returns. So with that in mind, I’m going to go and rethink my opinion on K-Pop. Until next week.