Sunday, January 30, 2005

the art and science of the mixed tape cd.

i've been spending all evening practising the art and science of the mixed tape.
truth be told, i'm not mixing a tape, but a cd. but the same rules apply, don't they?

this one is for niklas, a guy about whom i know nothing at all. all i know is that he lives in berlin and likes niels frevert. he's the guy who so graciously provided that bootleg. so in return, i'm mixing a cd for him.

it's a little hard, that cd making, when you don't really have a goal concerning the recipient.
usually, mix-tapes/cds are driven by their purpose. like impressing someone you like. like preserving the feelings you have for someone at a certain point in your relationship. or very simply: like getting into someone's pants.

now this time, it's just about some good music.
ideally music he hasn't heard before.

it's tricky, this.
i know from experience that if you get a tape that's totally free of any familiarity, you listen to it once, and that's it. you need something that's catchy on first listen. so as great as they are, you can't just throw those super-exotic elaborate radiohead b-sides at someone who might not even like radiohead.

so i'm aiming for new, but not scary. new, but not boring. new, and a little diverse.
i'm aiming for serious guitar-ing with a little bit of electronic fun in the background. i'm aiming for acoustics without plain-ness.

it's so sweet this cd-mixing in this age of the itunes.
it's so lovely! so controllable!
now that i have all my music on the computer, it's perfect.

well, technically, it's not all of my music: i still own about 240 tapes. - and i still listen to some of them , too.
i'm a kassettenmädchen, you know?
one of those chicks who got tapes from boys in her teens. the kind of tapes with self-designed covers. i often had great music offered to me by males, and i always loved discovering new things. the way to my heart was through my shitty aiwa tape deck.
so i always had a great tape collection.

when i first read that little story by benjamin von stuckrad-barre on kassettenmädchen, it was instant-self-recognition.

but i made tapes myself, too, preferrably for guys. still do, btw.
it was an elaborate work, that, true labor of love. leap into the void (for frank) or möwenmix (for totte) took days of planning, organising of tapes and records, ffwd-ing and rew-ing and re-doing and control-listening. those days are long gone.
i know some people who whine because mix-medium-music supposedly isn't as much a labor of love anymore in these days of the itunes and the burnage. i have to concur, however. nothing has changed. nothing at all:
it all depends on your attitude.

if you were the kind of person who did sloppy tapes then of course things are easier these days. throw a cd into the burner, select 20 titles, burn, off you go.

if you were the kind of person who made tapes with a mission, itunes is your friend, your partner on the way to perfection. finally it's all in your command. you can extend the pleasurable pain of creating that perfect mix-medium ad nauseam. you can fiddle with song selection and order until your eyes go blind from your the bright lights of your monitor. you can bite off your nails wondering whether to put that blur song in front off or behind wilco.
when you were forced to eventually make a decision while making a tape, itunes enables you to waver in your decision making for hours.

it has not made the art and science of creating a mixed-medium easier. at least not for perfectionists. and real kassetten-people are perfectionists. - even though they do everything to avoid looking like one.

"here, i made a little mix for you," is all you tell that person you hand your creation to. "nah, it didn't take long at all.", you assure them, when all you've done that past weekend was live and breathe that song selection.

in preparing this cd for niklas, the first selection of songs, going by my favourites, and that "quite-likely-new,-but-not-scary" rule, resulted in a playlist of *cough* 67 songs.

applying the central rule of any good tape, the "one-song-per-artist" rule, has been a struggle.
as usual, the only exception are solo vs. band songs. so it would be okay to have a song by tex perkins and one by "the cruel sea" on the same mix-medium.
it's a little hard to decide which one song should represent a band like something for kate. i still haven't decided that one, even though i'm down to three songs to choose from now. i tend to let my personal connection to a song lead me here, and that's not exactly a smart thing to do when trying to make someone like your fave band. right now, my fave song by sfk is "ashes to ahses", an acoustic cover of david bowie's 2nd song about major tom (from the "changes" album). it's an almost perfect song. - but not really a good representation of paul dempseys vocal skills.
i really like all those acoustic live versions that are on phantom limbs, but they're probably more suitable for an advanced sfk disciple. tricky.
at this stage of the cd-mixage, something for kate remain an issue.

another rule i'm applying on this cd is the "no never-ending songs"-rule. which eliminates kristofer astrom's beautiful "you don't know how good you are", one of my favourite songs of all times. i hadn't listened to this song for memory inducing reasons for ages until last week, but those ghosts seem to be tamed. but for this compilation, kristofer astrom will have to provide something more easy listening, more guitarry. and significantly shorter. at 11 minutes, it's a little hefty on a 70min cd. he.

the real problems start now though. once all the neverending songs and those doubles and triples have been eliminated. once i've decided on one song by something for kate, the playlist will still stand at 29 songs.
that's where the real fighting will start.

twaii and tex will definitely be on this cd as chances are good that niklas -liking niels frevert- might like this alternative kinda german language music.
sepia will get a ticket to ride because i'm a good friend and ebcause they should have one person in berlin who's heard their tunes.
son, ambulance got a definite ticket to ride as well. their gospel needs to be spread.
same for tex perkins, the cruel sea and something for kate.

but what about david bowie's wonderful "everyone says 'hi'", blur's "out of time" or a song from beck's great "sea change" album? can these artists and songs offer familiarity for niklas?
what about that funny version of "(hit me) baby one more time" as performed by travis at glastonbury in 1999?
is "stehngeblieben" by echt too off for someone who likes niels frevert? it *is* a really decent german language song after all, it just never got as much airplay as it deserved because the latter day echt were totally misjudged as a leftover teenie band. hell, i liked them in some way. i went to one of their concerts, and it was fun; they even played a niels frevert song, which doubtlessly no one in the crowd but me knew.

hawskley workman has already been deleted from the playlist for not being exactly easy to listen to on first try. keith caputo had to go for that little bit too much grandiosity in "home".
benjamin biolay gets to stay for singing about his baby "who loves going down". julie delpy gets to stay, too, even though i am still not sure though whether it'll be with "mr.unhappy" or "lame love". they're both wonderful songs. - few things are cuter then french people singing in english.

it's fun though, all this.
otherwise, i wouldn't be doing it, right?
the best thing about itunes enables you to get totally overboard ocd with song order to create the perfect mood and flow. perfect for type a personalitites like me.

i reckon that flow is the hardest thing to create on a mix-medium.
on a perfect mix-medium you don't notice the flow. the flow is there, the mood changes easily and effortlessly. you only notice when it's disturbed, that flow, when it's interrupted.
"möwenmix" (created in july 1994) is a great tape, but it has an awful break of flow in the middle of side a, which forces you to fast-forward an unbearably bad song. it's so bad that song, that i can't even write which song it is. what i was thinking when putting it on there, i can't remember. it's outstandingly bad. i'm glad though that that song never made it on the möwenmix version that i gave totte. good lord, that song would have been über-awful.

"leap into the void" is much better; it's b-side starts with ton steine scherben's "komm schlaf bei mir", followed by pearl jam's "indifference" and fury in the slaughterhouse's "every generation got its own disease". a perfect trio, that. perfect for the beginning of a b-side, too. perfect because they carry a similar emotion while not being too similar in style. and they're all rather cold, empty songs, which makes them fit perfectly into the general scheme of "leap into the void", which was all about wanting to jump, and feeling lost and alone in making the final decision.

truth be told, instead of making this tape, i should have said the following: "frank, man, i've fallen in love with you. but this freaks me out. you're so much older than me. and there seem to be all these other women around. do you like them? do you like me? i'd really like to know. i want to jump into these feelings that i have for you, but i really don't know whether that's a good idea at all. what do you reckon? what do you feel? are you freaked out because of my age, too?"

might have been the smarter thing to do. but i was 16. so i mixed a tape and made a cover out of an yves klein picture.
it's okay that i didn't know better.

one thing i've started to like more and more over the past years is the idea of an intro and outro to open and close the cd and complete the circle. the intro should set the mood. the outro should be a slow, emotional, closing-type song to clean up. they perfect the flow.
this cd will have an intro by tab two (who are brilliant with those kinds of songs). the outro will be the quintessential outro: "consequence" by the notwist.

it's enjoyable this.
there's nothing on the telly tonight. i'm listening to my favourite songs, trying to listen to them as if i had never listened to them before, while reading my old opendiary-diary. i'm simultaneously amazed and ashamed by it. so much lying, so much truth, simultaneously. strange.
i'm feeling much better, than saturday morning, btw, in case you haven't noticed.

i'm having a good evening at home tonight. i think i'll try to finish the playlist today and then do a few run-throughs tomorrow before burnage. i can study at the same time, after all. and i very much hope that niklas will like this cd.

blessed be the the art and science of the mixed-tape.
once a kassettenmädchen, always a kassettenmädchen.