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Mon, Mar. 19th, 2007, 10:46 pm
1970: Miles Davis - Live-Evil



Clearly when I wrote last night that I'd be updating later that night, I lied. Not maliciously, but the callousness of fate led me away from this blog and into an early evening slumber. Too much Indian food weighed heavily upon me, and I needed to close my eyes for only a few minutes - just to relax my head. Yet no sooner had my face hit my delicate pillow then my soul suspended over my body - kabbalists say that sleep is 1/80 of death - and thus I slept. Which is to say, in simpler language, I didn't come back to the blog, I didn't write about Miles Davis's evocative Live-Evil.

"Live-Evil." Without the dash, it would be a declarative - a command. "Live, Evil!" he might be demanding, and from the tone of some of the songs ("Little Church," "Selim.") I'm not entirely sure that isn't what is happening. He's rousing something from sleep. I'm not sure it's evil, though. It may just be the surreal, or mystical forces and cosmic vibrations (last week was the tenth anniversary of Allen Ginsberg's death) that Davis is rousing forward. Certainly, he is evoking something, bringing forth something, calling attention to some other-worldly or non-human force. This isn't music that human beings make! It's haunting, snippets of humanity slipping in through breaks in the narrative - touches of flesh in a fog of smoke. This is music best described through imagery, not through description!

Look at that cover alone - the swollen (pregnant?) belly. The lady pyramid in the lower left side - is that a river of a headdress spilling off her head? Or the woman/snake/wave/cloth waving throughout the right-hand side. The bizarre symbols in the background. Is this album witchcraft? Is it meant to confound or lure the listener?

Obviously, the album is not called "Live, Evil." It's called "Live-Evil" and that's because it's a double-album. Yet for all my listening, I can't point out whether that changes the perfect match of the two albums. They seem to compliment each other beautifully. And when they don't, it's not because of the albums, but because the songs themselves are disjointed. Case in point: "Little Church" which starts out with a whistling sound - piercing loudly while what sounds like random piano keys are played dimly behind it. Yet fifteen seconds in, a hideous, horrible, angry screech diverts the listener's attention. It holds your attention for a few seconds and then starts to dim... into the whistling sound you heard in the beginning. Even this is a brilliant feat though. Because you are used to the first sound, when the interruption comes, you're obviously biased against the interrupted. But when the interruption is illuminated to be the one and same sound you first identified with, it completely manipulates your listening. You don't know what to trust anymore, or whether any sound you're hearing deserves prejudice over another. Something similar happens a minute and a half in, but instead of horrifying you, like the first sound, you're already accustomed to this trick. And so a sound that would normally startle you (like if it happened in the first seconds) seems rote and normal.

That's the story of "Live-Evil." It tricks you into accepted the otherworldly and the obscure and the rare and surreal. It doesn't make you think those things are normal - it merely blends them into the normal so that you dare not question them. After all, the interruptions are still audible - you just don't bother to respond. Are those chickens in the beginning of "Medley: Gemini / Double Image" or merely the approximation of chickens? I'd rather not ask. I feel like it'd break the spell.

Tue, Feb. 5th, 2008 06:46 am (UTC)
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