Throbbing Gristle's Twenty Jazz Funk Greats (33 1/3)

Throbbing Gristle's Twenty Jazz Funk Greats (33 1/3) by Drew Daniel Page B

Book: Throbbing Gristle's Twenty Jazz Funk Greats (33 1/3) by Drew Daniel Read Free Book Online
Authors: Drew Daniel
noise violates the relaxation imperative completely, constituting a kind of sonic jerk of tongue into cheek, and after this percussive climax the entire enterprise dissolves into the ether. An improvisatory water-color executed with a bare minimum of gestures, there’s very little there, and yet everything within the evanescent form of “Exotica” earns its place.
    Drew: Did you introduce the music of Martin Denny to the group? Had you heard this music as a kid?
    Gen: Yeah, of course. In cinemas. But it was Scott Armstrong in Los Angeles that actually introduced me to Martin Denny specifically on my first trip to California. Which would be . . . October 1976. Scott Armstrong had been one of my mail art friends; he said to me, “I have come across this amazing musician, you’re going to love it, they’re these really weird kitsch obscure albums.” He played me one that he’d found in a thrift store and the moment I heard the first track I just knew that it was the missing link somehow. Because it had this incredible anti-intellectual, almost chaotic element to it, even though it was done in full seriousness. It had this strange, staggering aesthetic. That’s the only way that I can put it. There was a kind of idiot-savant feeling. I started collecting the albums; I’ve still got twenty-nine albums downstairs by Martin Denny and some by Arthur Lyman. I’ve actually got one Martin Denny album signed by Martin Denny to me: “To Genesis from Martin Denny with love.” Boyd Rice went to see him play live in Hawaii and went up to him afterward and got him to sign a copy of the one that we based
Entertainment
Through Pain
on. I’ve still got it, framed, in my office. For inspiration.
    Drew: So did you write vibe parts or were they improvised?
    Gen: Well, we never wrote anything down. Sleazy, unbeknownst to any of us, took to the vibes like a duck to water. And now Sleazy plays keyboard parts.
    Drew: So which vibes parts are played by you and which are played by Sleazy? Sleazy can’t remember.
    Gen: Sleazy played the vibes on “Hot on the Heels of Love.”
    Drew: And “Exotica”?
    Gen: That’s me.
    Gen’s response to Martin Denny as “staggering” and “chaotic” completely inverts the received idea of Denny’s lush jungle concoction as a sedative sidecar best taken while unwinding with a few mai tais after a long day at the office. Showing up in an instantly recognizable—and thus essentially calming and conservative—format, lounge music isn’t supposed to stagger, but to soothe. Acknowledging the functional imperative of “light music” with disarming candor, Geoffrey Self describes this much maligned category through a structural opposition with the modernist exertions of “serious music”:
    When Alban Berg’s opera
Wozzeck
was first given in London, one respected critic described its effect on him as like losing a pint of blood.
Wozzeck
is clearly not light music. It is disturbing, disquieting, and carries a powerful electric charge. It is a major, serious work. Light music, in contrast, should divert rather than disturb; entertain rather than disquiet. If it does not, it fails in its purpose. (Self, p. 1)
    The first shall be last and the last shall be first. When heard with Gen’s ears, it is Martin Denny’s own light music that is “disturbing, disquieting, and carries a powerful electric charge” rather than the once radical, now stale compositional gestures of Viennese serialism. One need not comb the Denny back catalogue for very long before finding confirmation of Gen’s perverse reading of exotica as light music that means business; for every slow boat to “Quiet Village,” there are also scorchers, such as “Oro (God of Vengeance),” shot through with eruptions of full-throated screaming and jarring, abrupt tempo changes. “Light music” may not actually be all that comforting. Just mellow enough to hover in the background, but punctuated by pinpricks of unease, TG’s

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