I’m still listening through Scaruffi’s rock history, building my rock snob playlist as I go. A few observations so far:
- Relative to last time I listened through Scaruffi’s rock history (>8 years ago IIRC), my tastes have evolved quite a lot. I notice I’m more quickly bored by most forms of pop, punk, and heavy metal than I used to be. The genre I now seem to most reliably enjoy is the experimental end of prog-rock (e.g. avant-prog, zeuhl). I also enjoy jazz-influenced rock a lot more this time, presumably in part because I listened through Scaruffi’s jazz history (and made this guide) a couple years ago.
- I am more convinced than ever that tons of great musical ideas, even just within the “rock” paradigm, have never been explored. I’m constantly noticing things like “Oh, you know what’d be awesome? If somebody mixed the rhythm section of A with the suite structure of B and the production approach of C.” And because my listen through rock history has been so thorough this time (including thousands of artists not included in Scaruffi’s history), I’m more confident than ever that those ideas simply have never been attempted. It’s been a similar experience to studying a wide variety of scientific fields: the more topics and subtopics you study, the more you realize that the “surface area” between current scientific knowledge and what is currently unknown is even larger than you could have seen before.
- I still usually dislike “death growl” singing, traditional opera singing, and most rapping. I wish there were more “instrumental only” releases for these genres so I could have a shot at enjoying them.
- Spotify’s catalogue is very choppy. E.g. Spotify seems to have most of the albums from chapter 4.12 of Scaruffi’s history, and very few albums from chapter 4.13. (I assume this is also true for iTunes and other streaming providers.)
It’s a shame you’re not into harsh vocals as that largely rules out bands like Darkspace, Ruins of Beverast, Agalloch, Esoteric, Moonsorrow, Blut Aus Nord, even Opeth… All of them excellent and innovative and pushing boundaries. What helped me learn to love growled/screamed lyrics was a combination of listening to poppier gateway bands (Wintersun, Lamb of God, even Children of Bodom), and also letting go of the vocals as “vocals” per se; try thinking of them more as another form of percussion, maybe. I suppose it all depends on how much you want to get into metal (at least that vast amount of it with no clean singing) – I promise it’s worth it, but if you don’t get there, oh well, there’s a lot of other stuff out there, as you clearly know! 🙂
For me, I’m now at the point where clean vocals sound weird to me. I also much, much prefer black metal and funeral doom to other metal subgenres – there’s about five death metal bands I’ll listen to, and, say, thrash leaves me more or less completely cold.
Let me know if you’d like recommendations for where to start with any of the bands I listed above. I really think you’d love them all, once your ear adjusts to the screaming 🙂
Some artists not listed on Scaruffi site making significant contributions at the bottom if you don’t care to read all of this: I feel like the avant greats started projects that were never looked into after that, they were just remembered as figures who charted the farthest territories when in reality all they did was take a single step in a direction so unexplored that an extremely stark contrast could be made with the other work of the time to establish their individuality , and even then most of those artists turned back after they got their particular achievement of experimentation. When I started reading Scaruffi I always thought he was being dramatic, that even with the few great albums on his site, even if they were truly the only good ones that existed, there was tons to be discovered for new listeners, and there kind of was, just only in direct relativity to other rock albums. Then I realized he was right about rock music, at least according to the terms he sets, it never went anywhere, because the farthest points out become less intense the more you search. Even on Trout Mask, it just winds up being another album you’re looking for someone to have “outdone” after a certain playthrough.
Some artists that make important music today that Scaruffi has yet to rate:
Brobdingnagian – Collage and noise rock, these antics are unique, its a very painstaking piece similar to listening to a Borbetomagus rendition of Impossible Nothing’s compositions, or Fugs in black metal stylings, modern electronics and noise experiments, also similar to Billy Bao.
To Live And Shave in L.A. – for The Wigmaker, which is the most intricate noise concept in rock music ever attempted and the album itself is a Trout Mask/Twin Infinitives of contemporary gothic noise and vocal experiments.
Chell/Oracle Turret – anxious miasmas over a DIY free folk jamming, it’s a carefully crafted passing of elements as if it were classical music turned into rock jamming, the research of the idea is proved by both the albums. The 24minute ep US Crack Open is the only potential 9/10 I’ve heard.
Kolkhoze Printanium – Brilliant mixture of jazz and science-fiction inspired rock, the whole thing evokes the progrock of the seventies as well as the noir jazz operations of the time, this could easily score an 8/10 in the jazz section of the yearly reviews.
Drose – basically black metal like Swans but there isn’t a pulse, no droning noise or guitar, the howls come from random scrapes of industrial noise and silence. Very stately, similar to Cohen for black metal.
The Armed – Only Love
Green Milk From The Planet Orange (only if you’re one of the people who has to hear all the long jams, otherwise they’re just okay, but they have a 40 minute piece on City Calls Revolution that is decent.)
Excellent, thanks for the recs!
Could you please link me to what you’re referring to with “Chell/Oracle Turret” and “PCS”? I’m not sure I’m finding the right things. I found the others.
I’ve found the “Chell/Oracle Turret” he mentioned https://chellofficial.bandcamp.com/ They are surprisingly hard to find, not even on discog or rym. Still have no clue about “PCS” though
Actually nevermind, those PCS guys might be this https://pcsoh.bandcamp.com/releases
For those curious, I actually bothered to go through most of these today and – excluding the artists that Scaruffi has already listened to – can recommend The Armed and Brobdingnagain. Screature, Drose and PCS are alright at best, Doomsday Student is for Arab on Radar fans, and Chell/Oracle Turret is the poster shilling his own project – the ep in particular I remember being posted as part of a different album in some scaruffi-related rym shoutbox or whatever a long time ago.
Gustavo Necochea says
Thank you! Your playlist is awesome and has introduced me to a lot of music. What do you mean by listened through “Scaruffi’s Rock History”? I don’t see a list in the website version of the book. Do you mean you listened through his “All Time Play List” or through every album of every year on his “The Best Rock Albums” page? Same goes for your “beginnger’s guide to modern art jazz”: did you listen through every album in his “best jazz albums” list? That’s a lot! It’s over 1000 albums I think.
No I mean I listened through every album that looked promising in every profile linked from every chapter of the long version of his rock and jazz histories. Plus a lot more albums not in Scaruffi’s histories. So way more than 1000 albums.
Actually just did a quick check of my listening log. Apparently I listened to approximately 5250 unique albums from Q2 2019 through Q2 2020. But, I don’t always listen all the way through albums I’m not enjoying; I’ll often skip around throughout the tracks just to check that I “basically know what the album is like.” I haven’t been tracking what fraction of albums I listen to >85% of. Maybe 1/4th?
Gustavo Necochea says
Wow, that’s insane! You were listening to new music for much or most of your waking hours.