Monday, February 09, 2009

Watch out for your covered ears

Too right that the headphone session is a central - and possibly the most fulfilling - listening experience de nos jours hypermodernes. The ‘kids’ know it at Silent Disco, whether it’s in tune to a central DJ or flash-style listening to their own shit. And we’re not necessarily talking about just the iPod, conventionally used on the train as immersion in the mePod in some Morleyesque poptimist eternal moment (aka get out of my face, strangers). How we harked on about the pernicious influences of the iPod, shipped in just after the Towers fell at the start of this high-velocity decade, and in some aspects such as the privileging of the person experience/retreat from the communal we were totally right. But whether it’s on your portable digital music player, mobile phone, music-phone, inserted chip in your head or even on the odd-school big cans into separates or decks, theses types of singularised listening experience clearly work.

Being the lucky recipient of an iPod shuffle last year (it was an enormous boon of a discarded free gift from my partner joining a gym) I occasionally vibe off a nu-walkman moment (in what is barely an upgrade from my previous sparse use of a minidisc player where I would usually pre-record the latest music purchases via a bad mix direct onto MD). It’s the 1GB model, costs around £20-30, and says it fits 250 songs but that comes right down once you put mixes or high-quality files on it. I load it up manually with whatever from my iTunes, as it would be pointless doing sync.

Certainly travel – walking or some such other transportation – deepens the ‘user sensation’. If I’m late for work or whatever I can’t do it though. I end up thinking about being late - ‘oh god my boss will look up from the tranks to kill me etc’. You have to be able to empty out and to take on these highly directional headphone blasts. So for me it comes with bouts of what I seem to have mawkishly call ‘free time’, as if I’m bound by school-like strictures and my wife and kids are my parents. What usually deepens the experience are the drinx and their illegal counterparts. In my current set-up, where I only have the standard-issue earphones to provide the cold white light and the deep red heat, this lets me feel each breakdown, lock in to a guitar scuzz, wrap vocalist/rappers’ words round my brain, get proper anal about each 12 bars of beats. Knowing a tune really well only adds to the pleasure, but listening to one just added trying to get to that state of ultra-appreciation also works. I won’t bore with you ‘with what’s on my iSpod’ but suffice to say the dance genres, happy funk, house or disco, some rock and indie, own sectionable-output and other not-fit-for-public consumption curios.

We all have our conventions. I’m like every chronic social awkward/sad-dad unable to stop governing myself by the theory that my body and brain should not be violated in this 10cm of invisible ectoplasm in this regard. To my mind you can have it way loud enough without irritating others. How high do the Silence Discothequers go? I don’t go via random, while there is no playlist functionality; best to always reprogramme my, er, iSet and know that each time my ‘mix’ will be different, not just because new rips from iTunes are going on and some are going off. Let you be your own Levan, not the digital other! Work backwards and occasionally go forward. Not get some deeply held belter to be followed by chance by a marginal favourite that messes the mood.

The other day coming back from a City game set and setting enjoined and I buzzed for a good few hours. The Blues won, after the players actually fought hard to hold on to the victory, and I got a quick drink/toke in before boarding a train which in my carriage was relatively empty (anal Joe here thus puts up the volume one or two). One of the few fast train networks provided further impetus and before you know it I was locked into an extended high without having to interact with anybody like at those old-style pesky raves or club nights! Personalise your hedonia, that’s the way these days right? Be warned though the listening period can be intense. I feel definitely satiated after ad hoc input transmissions like that and I don’t want to listen to anything on headphones for a good few days, if not weeks. Time to get the tinnitus checked too. That’s probably the bad cans.

So the solitary-but-public experience definitely has some legs- 12,000 at the L'pool Street flash mob silent disco after it was advertised on social bookmarking networks (find a better clip than i can)? That sounds like an event - Rave: the ciQuel? On that tip I would definitely recommend downloading then uploading this extremely reverent Zomby ‘92 hardcore mix from Dazed Digital to your porte musique. Then have a drink et al and get on a bus or train (the noise of the tubes usually encroaches too much for me) and feel the urban stimulus. At a remove.
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