L picked out a DVD that contains the stems for this EP, or possibly for the previous one, so I put it on on my phone. I've always been particularly happy with how Iota runs into Theta – on this EP, but particularly when we played them live, where the looped feedback build-up would make space for us to swap instruments. Like almost everybody I've asked, L enjoyed Theta the best out of those two tracks.
Hard to believe it's been 6½ years since we recorded these tunes. I regret that we never got nice packaging made! We enjoyed making friends with Effie the Whippet in between takes.
My favourite track on this album is the third, Hearth Shell, but we only got as far as the opening track, Gload. Ambient prog might not be the ideal genre for a three-year-old attention span! L described this track as “spooky”.
The CD packaging has really nice artwork, including stylised photographs of the four band members. So stylised that L didn't recognise one of them as “auntie Blue”, my cousin, with whom she spent a happy evening tootling on recorders and eating cheese 18 months ago. Either her mind was blown at the idea that CDs could contain the voices of people we know, or she didn't think it was remarkable in the slightest. It's hard to tell.
I first saw MONO at The Garage back in 2005. I vividly remember talking to an enthusiastic Frenchman who explained to me and Martin that Godspeed You! Black Emperor are the greatest musicians on this earth (stretches a horizontal palm as high as he can reach), but MONO are a close second (elevates his other palm to abut the first one).
(The other notable thing about that gig, for me, was the opening band. 65daysofstatic had just put out their first full-length album, The Fall of Math. I'd never seen a performance like theirs, with the combination of live band and intense, glitchy laptops. Incredible. But that's one for another post.)
I felt a sinking feeling when L picked this album. It's an hour-long post-rock instrumental, split across just six tracks. How could it possibly keep her attention?
At first glance, it didn't keep her attention: after a few minutes thumbing through the (beautiful) liner notes, L went over to the table and started doing some drawing. We listened to almost half of it before she remarked on it again. Apparently it's a great soundtrack for pre-school scribble-art!
While we're talking about folktronica, here's a live performance of a track from múm's 2013 album Smilewound. múm got steadily less -tronica over time, and arguably less folk- too. I didn't really get into this album back then, but this track holds up well.
We'd been making some soup, and I asked L if she would like to listen to some music. She would! What would she like to hear a song about? “Soup!” Well, the only song I know which relates to soup comes from Good Arrows, by folktronica pioneers Tunng. When they perform this live, they announce this as being “inspired by Icelandic prog rock, plus a bit of Megadeth”.
L wasn't really sure what to make of it. She reported, “I don't like it very much, but I like it a little bit.” Then the first song from Tunng's 2018 album Songs You Make At Night (with the original line-up for the first time since Good Arrows!) and she asked, “Is this song about soup?” (No.) “No! I want the soup song again!” So I'm rounding this up to #dadrockmydaughterlikes.
(Does having “Soup!” as the only lyric strictly make this a song about soup? Is it even really a song?)
The opening track, Part Cardiac, is honestly a bit heavy and sludgy even for me, but L liked it. Next up were SuperImposer and Build Us A Rocket Then…, which are in a variety of weird time signatures. At one point (which at the time I remember being in 11/8 but I can't find it now, so maybe it was “only” 7/8) she asked me to show her the actions for the song, which felt like a savage burn of my taste in music.
This was the first album where I felt uncomfortable about exposing a three-year-old to the artwork:
The first two CDs L plucked from the box were Mogwai's Happy Songs for Happy People and Caribou's Swim. Neither lasted more than a minute before she bashed the ⏏ button on the PS3.
Happy Songs for Happy People is a bit of a slow-burner, so I'm not too surprised it couldn't hold her interest. Swim was a bit more surprising: it's got great artwork, and gets straight to the point.
But then we turned to Give Up. A classic! And three-year-old minds agree. We made it three tracks into this one, which I'm calling a success.
When she was small and upset, I used to sing her songs from this album, though for some reason it was usually This Place is a Prison which I've always wanted to cover. We didn't get far enough into the album to find out if she remembers it.
This weekend, my three-year-old found my CD collection.
I haven't bought CDs for a long time, and a few years ago I culled my collection down to 60 or so that I couldn't bear to part with: albums I still love, with some sentimental value, or with particularly nice packaging. So, it's a nice snapshot of what I was into 5-15 years ago, with some of the rough edges filed away. And “music from a decade before I had children” is, by definition, dad rock.
I don't actually play them, of course, but I did save our PlayStation 3 from last year's cull, so at least I still have something that can read optical media.
And so, when my daughter found three mysterious boxes lurking at the back of a shelf while we were tidying up, she wanted to hear what was on them. Whenever I've tried actively listening to music I like with her before, she's always lost interest within a minute and demanded that Alexa play something different. But she's older now; we don't have The Wheels on the Bus on a CD; and a friend happened to have sent me the lovely video below a few weeks ago; so, we gave it a go! More on what she rated in a future instalment.
My older daughter has a copy of Midnight Feasts, a poetry anthology curated by A.F. Harrold. We gave a copy to one of her friends for their birthday, too. I didn't only buy it because it contains This Is Just to Say but it may have been a factor.
One of the poems that has stuck with me is Trouble Came to the Turnip by Caroline Bird. It begins:
When trouble came to the village
I put my love in the cabbage-cart
and we rode, wrapped in cabbage
to the capital.
Each stanza has the same form, with trouble coming to the place they fled to in the previous stanza, and the narrator and their love escaping in increasingly abstract or absurdist fashions. For example:
When trouble came to the nunnery,
I put my love inside a prayer book
and we repented, wrapped in prayer
to the prison.
Honestly, it's a bit abstract for a three-year-old! But it makes this thirty-four-year-old want to build an homage using some word embedding toolkit to generate new parameters. Will I have time during NaNoGenMo 2020?