Yes, I know I’m more than ten years late, but last night I participated in my first ever Zaireeka listening party. Organized by the Substation’s associate artist Song-Ming Ang as part of his two-week long Sonic Visions series, this event involved the simultaneous playing of multiple copies of Zaireeka, itself an ambitious 4-cd album intended for concurrent playback for a quadrophonic aural experience, an album I always wished I owned.
Zaireeka was birthed from the Flaming Lips‘ parking lot experiments, a synchronized playing of cassettes on multiple car stereos. In his adoption of Wayne Coyne’s role in those sessions as orchestral conductor, Song-Ming sought to create a similarlly communal listening experience by inviting participants to bring their own CD-playing equipment and speakers, and subsequently work together in synching the playback of almost twenty CDs.
What fun we all had, and such satisfaction gleaned from getting as close as we could to coordinating our small but important finger-pressing tasks. Yet, to focus on perfection in execution would be missing the point of it all, which was so much more to do with embracing uncertainty and learning to relate to music in its spatial dimension. Song-Ming gamely let us toy with different arrangements too, encouraging us to walk around for some songs and sit down for the later ones while dimming the lights, and indulging our pleas for a spontaneous random-track encore finale.
Halfway through, I remembered how I used to dream, long ago, of having a room with walls made of speakers, to be quite literally surrounded by sound. Last night, I think I realized at least a part of that dream by partaking in a mindblowing experience that will never be recreated in the same way again. In the midst of the bombast, though, I think I’ve come to appreciate also the parts that make the whole, and it’s one part of Zaireeka that I dug up from my old Race for the Prize single that’s all I have to leave you with now. – Dan.
mp3: The Flaming Lips – Thirty-Five Thousand Feet Of Despair (Disc 1)
Sonic Visions is a series of events organized by Song-Ming Ang at the Substation in conjunction with his first solo exhibition in Singapore, You and I (14 Jan – 9 Feb 2011 at the Substation Random Room).
i was busy compiling a flaming lips playlist for b when i suddenly remembered an old cd i loved very much. back in the 90s, i used to buy this uk magazine called select, which of course kept me updated on whether blur or oasis was winning the war, and what jarvis cocker really felt about michael jackson (ok, that was really nme and melody maker – select was usually better). the issues i looked forward to most were those packed with complimentary albums and my favorite was the xfm live sessions cd, one of the last few compilations bundled a year before the magazine’s inevitable demise along with britpop’s in the year 2000 (when we’re all fully grown).
and how sneaky of them to squeeze in a couple of american bands: guided by voices, sebadoh, and of course the flaming lips, whose contribution was “waiting for a superman”, the heart wrenching ballad from their then-newly released album the soft bulletin. their most memorable songs of this era often thrived on grand narratives of human battle (“fight test”) and progress (“race for the prize”), which fit best with the triumphant experience their live shows clearly aimed at creating. all this, however, would have been too sweeping, too overwhelming without the empathetic “waitin’ for a superman”, a song that strips away all pretense to wrestle sincerely with both hope and despair.
on the xfm live sessions version, the lips strip down the song even further by doing away with the distracting drums and leaving behind with greatest clarity the bare piano keys and every breath wayne coyne takes before he delivers each line. we’ve all been there before and we know he has too, and it’s the comforting knowledge of one more person knowing exactly how you feel that makes it that little bit easier to “hold on, the best you can“. – dan.
mp3: the flaming lips – waitin’ for a superman (live on xfm, 1999)
the flaming lips play in singapore for the first time at marina bay sands, together with the raveonettes. tickets go on sale 7 october on sistic. don’t miss it!
i first heard this song when it was performed live on the colbert report, following a hilarious interview with wayne coyne. in that short segment, coyne responded ever so respectfully to colbert’s faux right-wing worries about his music, assuming the role of visionary in speaking of his band’s ability to create hopeful, uplifting music. ironically, he proceeded to play this opener for their latest album embryonic, a song that i realized sounded even darker in its studio version. a far cry from the rousing and celebratory anthems the lips have come to be associated with, “convinced of the hex” is an ominous serving of voodoo garage funk, mixed in a muddled stew of psychedelic frenzy. what’s most surprising, however, isn’t how dark the material is, but how utterly catchy and even danceable it is in spite of its darkness. it’s something only the lips are capable of pulling off, this time with a bit more swagger with a thinly-veiled boast in the mantra-like refrain: that’s the difference between us. -dan.
mp3: the flaming lips – convinced of the hex
pop down to the official flaming lips page to get your copy of embryonic