Now that Christmas is over and the presents are all unwrapped, you have no excuse but to switch off the computer, get up, wrestle on a cardigan and a sweater vest, grab your smart phone, and hit the streets. Vacate. Go. Get out, and look at some Christmas lights. Because, look, your hood didn’t risk their necks and court the flu turning every available inch into an electrical fire hazard just so you could waste away December inside on Twitter, headbanging to Grimes and clipping your toenails. Christmas is awesome, hideously wasteful light outlays are awesome, and someday soon we’ll all be living in a Mad Max-ian world where we’ll miss having had a choice as to whether or not to spend the entirety of an evening goggling and bedazzled. So tour your local holiday lighting extravaganzas hard, dear reader, and often–and allow Sound of the City the pleasure of soundtracking your quest.
Deep Listening Band
On “Bell Dance” Pauline Oliveros and pals tweak and twist listeners’ sense of time with a gingerly revolving cornucopia of bells, strings, and horns. The natural impulse with display trolling is to stay mobile, to keep moving, but what if you decided not to do that? What if you parked yourself in front of one house or apartment building for the sublime entirety of “Bell Dance” as an experiment to track your shifting perspective on a particular set of decorations? Would the residents fear you? Would they approach you to make sure you were okay? Would they call the police?
Bent, rustling string plucks give way to a drone as lopsidedly swinging as it is sub-arctic. Remember, in December, it’s cold outside; real lighting-display killers roll with flasks.
Two minutes of muted, walk-in freezer funk that make electricity sound like the perfect drug. You may find it difficult to take “Lightworks” off of repeat, but you must, or you’ll wind up having a nightmare like the beginning of The Magician’s Nephew, only with this song echoing through the wreckage of a ruined world and no way to wake up.
Greg Davis is known for his muted electronic experimentation, painfully minimalist club gigs circa 2003-2005. He is not known for feeding a sleigh full of concaved bell tones through cheese graters and showering an audience with heaps of slivers, like he was Tinker-Bell anointing the Lost Boys or T-Pain making it rain in a strip club or Santa making it snow at the end of Ernest Saves Christmas. Yet here we are, and it’s a pretty cool place to be.
Have fake xylophones ever sounded more liquid or more resolutely car-commercial? It’s difficult to listen to “Nightwork” without thinking of a driving sleet or an endless field of white dots set against a black backdrop hopping and dipping in perfect formation according to some unknown rhythmic principle, for all eternity.
“Memo to the Man”
“Memo to the Man” always makes me think of the sonic equivalent of a raucous Chinese New Year celebration. In 2075. On Mars–very bright and fiery and red and visible from Alpha Centari, but only involving cyborgs. Very martial, very merciless. Which, of course, makes it pretty much perfect listening for wandering, lost and bugging out at long, uninterrupted stretches of lighted icicles, through gentrified sections of major American cities.
“Second Free Bird”
This minor triumph of a beat clinic somehow collates the single-mindedness of ping-pong and the pithiness of bongo finger solos into something slyly epic, and it will trick you into thinking your Christmas tree bulbs are pulsating when they totally aren’t.
“Zigaretten und Mädchen und Wein (Cigarettes, Women and Wine)”
Light display trolling in a large group–like you and your friends started out caroling and got bored with that–seems a little desperate, a little weird. Unless everyone’s blasted and somebody’s got a boombox with this song on a loop at top volume. Wassail!
“The Long Hair of Death”
An impeccable motorik-beat, a carefully curated series of burbling, unobtrusive effects, and vocal polyphony: what more could one want from a bulb trainspotting jam?
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on December 27, 2012