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SoundGround >> Guitar god Nels Cline


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6/5/11 1:54 PM
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hugomma
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I posted this on the OG, but didn't get any response. Anyone here listen to Nels Cline? I know he plays with Wilco. I'm not really familiar with Wilco, although they seem good at what they do. Cline is one of those guys with 50,000 projects going on at once. Here he doing a killer rendition of Funkadelic's "Maggot Brain" with Banyon. Banyon also includes Stephen Perkins of Jane's Addiction and Mike Watt of The Minutemen & Firehose. This guy may be the most exciting, innovative guitarist I've heard in 15 years. He has it all: chops, phrasing, advanced harmonic sensibilities, and unusual sonic textures. I wish I would have found out about him sooner.
6/5/11 1:55 PM
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hugomma
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Nels Cline with trumpeter Mark Isham on the Miles Davis tribute, "Silent Way Project".
6/5/11 1:56 PM
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hugomma
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 Here is Nels showcasing some beautiful chord melody playing.
7/5/11 10:29 AM
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Ali
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I see that his early records have been re-released after being impossible to find forever. First I was really aware of him was Silencer, a long time ago. And then with Vinny Golia, earlier. Used to get to see him with some regularity in L.A., before he got the Wilco gig. I think he's a real genius. His twin brother, Alex, is a super groovy drummer, too.
7/5/11 10:30 PM
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hugomma
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Ali - I see that his early records have been re-released after being impossible to find forever. First I was really aware of him was Silencer, a long time ago. And then with Vinny Golia, earlier. Used to get to see him with some regularity in L.A., before he got the Wilco gig. I think he's a real genius. His twin brother, Alex, is a super groovy drummer, too.



Ali, how've you been? It's been a while, hope you're well. Glad to see you here.

I just discovered Nels Cline and am wondering where he's been all my life. I've honestly never heard anyone quite like him. I'm fascinated by his sound and style.

Check out this 20 minute set of the Nels Cline singers on NPR, I think you'll like it.
7/7/11 4:58 AM
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Ali
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Is that the artist formerly known as hugojkd? Hey man!

I've been good, recently. Taanks for the NPR link, I'll get to that after work. I've seen the singers live, though (at the Troubadour). I've also seen Cline play a show on casios only next to a guy in a giant rabbit suit. So there is that side of his work...

Some years ago, I saw one of those "before and after" tests featuring John Abercrombie. I don't remember if he first identified someone as "west coast" or was told. I think he jay have picked it out (which is astounding) and t hen said... "The only West Coast guy who is good enough to do that would be Nels Cline". Wha? I had no idea an ECM guy would even know... but obviously he knew and respected really huge!
7/7/11 5:18 PM
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hugomma
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Ali - Is that the artist formerly known as hugojkd? Hey man!

I've been good, recently. Taanks for the NPR link, I'll get to that after work. I've seen the singers live, though (at the Troubadour). I've also seen Cline play a show on casios only next to a guy in a giant rabbit suit. So there is that side of his work...

Some years ago, I saw one of those "before and after" tests featuring John Abercrombie. I don't remember if he first identified someone as "west coast" or was told. I think he jay have picked it out (which is astounding) and t hen said... "The only West Coast guy who is good enough to do that would be Nels Cline". Wha? I had no idea an ECM guy would even know... but obviously he knew and respected really huge!



Yes sir, it's me. I had to change my user name, goddamn cyberstalkers...

Glad you're doing well. I figured if anyone here was familiar with Nels Cline, it'd be you.

What's up with Nels playing with a guy in a rabbit suit, LOL? I don't know about that side of his work at all.

When I get a chance, I'll post some other Cline stuff I found that's pretty interesting.
7/7/11 9:16 PM
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Ali
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There was a thread here YEARS ago about this, actually. About the rabbit suit guy.

Booked as "Nels Cline's Casiotone Conspiracy", he was opening for Carla Bozulich (and played in her band, as well -- they were married, or at least close enough to have a house together). So I figured, COOL, I get to see Nels in two different contexts.

He came out in a green velveteen suit, flashed a nipple (seriously, no shirt under the jacket) and proceeded to crouch on the floor with a casio keyboard and some sort of touch-plate tone generator thing that he rubbed. Then a guy in a big rabbit suit came out and crouched next to him in a similar set-up. They made a lot of noise for 30 minutes or so, then that was it.

I really don't know what to say beyond that. One of the forum bros., whose name is on the tip of my tongue but I can't quite remember well enough to type, is a big fan, more expert than I, and told me about a few other projects Cline was doing at the time (I believe Blue Glove Ensemble, or some such?). This was before he joined Wilco.

But seeing him with Bozulich, seeing him with his own band (Singers), and also with Bozulich/Kihlstedt (if you don't know Carla Kihlstedt, you might want to -- it's hard to tell, but if you like her you'll love her)... was a treat. Seeing his brother Alex a couple of times, too... Alex is a student of Peter Erskine, I think, primarily. And he's much like Erskine in that he can create a pulse almost silently and can be the grooviest thing you ever wanted to hear and on occasion will erupt into a freaking tsunami.

Alex and Nels practiced a lot together, but have done very little together, professionally.

But the whole Casiotone Conspiracy project... well, I guess it was just one of his experimental outlets. The dude is a real "avant gardist" for lack of a better term. Of course he can rock like crazy, too. He had (has?) a blog on his website that was one of the most interesting reads into a musician's world I've ever run across. Like, he felt like he might be disappointing fans of his more edgy work by accepting the invitation to join Wilco... really tortured himself over that decision (and yes, had a mortgage he needed to make payments on). He said it was Bill Frisell telling him it "sounded like a perfect fit" that was the final push.

What else? ... um... I'm a big fan of his "Coward" record, among others. When I saw him with Carla & Carla, one of his moves was to use a super-flexible egg-whisk as a slide. Some seriously amazing sounds came from that little move.

He used to tour and rent an amp at whatever venue, rather than carry one, and review on his webiste the "amp du jour". That was really interesting and fun. He gave all sorts of advice about setting up your rig, and amps... and ended with "if I were smart I'd just drop all this and advise you to just play an acoustic".

A character, in his quiet way, in other words!
7/8/11 12:12 AM
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Ali
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OK, now just got to the vids -- good stuff!

Nels plays on a Scott Amendola CD I have somewhere, too. It's been misplaced... I need to find that again! With Bozulich singing a cover of Dylan's "Masters of War". And Nels creating a scary storm throughout. (That's Amendola on drums in the NPR vid).

I don't have a link (or know of any video anyway), but if you find a way to track down Mike Watt's first solo record, "Ball-hog or Tugboat?", give a listen to that version of Maggot Brain. It's not Nels, it's J Mascis (of Dinosaur Jr. fame). (That is Mike Watt on bass in the first video, too -- which you probably knew).
7/8/11 12:12 AM
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hugomma
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Ali,

I'd love to hear the Casiotone Conspiracy band. Too bad there isn't anything on YouTube. I find a lot of avant garde stuff to be noisy and pretentious, but Cline is always interesting and palatable, no matter out there he gets.

I've seen Nels' site, there some great stuff on there. His Pedal Board Spiel is mouth-watering guitar geek heaven. I read the "Amp Du Jour" post, where he ends up with a bunch of harsh sounding solid state amps. He's also not a fan of Matchless amps.

Speaking of Bill Frisell, here is a beautiful piece him & Nels did at Big Sur.
7/8/11 12:26 AM
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Ali
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I love Nels Cline... but I have to say my one exposure to the Casiotone Conspiracy was very disappointing. Maybe I just was attached to hearing him play a set of guitar music... but ... nah. He crouched on the floor in green velvet suit and played toy keyboards with a giant rabbit. I don't know about "always" palatable... (I say that with great love, of course!)

I'm more obsessive about Frisell than most anybody (alive, at least). I know they did festivals in Europe, haven't been able to hear one of those sets in full, though. I'm still hoping one turns up. Love those guys.

I overheard Mike Keneally talking to a fan about how he'd "love to play with Nels Cline"... but again, this was before Wilco took him out of the L.A. circuit. (Not that it did completely, but... if he's playing here with anything like the frequency he did before, he's doing it way more underground).

Thanks for all the clips!
7/8/11 12:28 AM
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hugomma
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Here's a cool Fender Vision video with Nels talking about his Jaguars, Jazzmasters, & plenty more. Towards the end, he talks about pedals.

Let me see if I can find the J Mascis/Mike Watt version of Maggot Brain...
7/8/11 12:36 AM
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hugomma
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Damn...
7/8/11 12:41 AM
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Ali
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I have no idea why it didn't even occur to me you could find that on youtube. Yeah... freakin' J Mascis.

I played that at a party for an old friend who was all like... WTF? Who is THAT? I had given the guy a bunch of Dinosaur Jr some years before, and he never got through much of it because the vocals just grated on his soul. So yeah... there's just the guitar.

Of course Mascis is much more a conventional Rock guy than Cline, so I'm not really making a comparison there, but I loved his Maggot Brain. (Cline is elsewhere on that album -- it's really Mike Watt and Friends, different line-ups on different tunes).
7/8/11 12:51 AM
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hugomma
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Maybe "always palatable" is a bit unrealistic for any avant garde musician, but Nels has a pretty damn good batting average.

Here are links to Nels Cline & Greg Bendian doing Interstellar Space (embedding was disabled):

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TcjAy3VtMVU

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AszbNtYlrBU

Your thoughts?

By the way, thanks for the heads up on the other killer version of Maggot Brain. That was something else. I remember when "Ball-hog or Tugboat?" came out, but I never heard the whole album.
7/8/11 1:02 AM
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hugomma
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Okay, I gotta get to bed, but check THIS out when you get a chance. I believe you when you say Casiotone Conspiracy was lame, but I have yet to hear anything Nels has done that hasn't grabbed me by the short & curlies.

Alright my fren, good night. Glad to see you here again.
7/8/11 1:08 AM
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Ali
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Edited: 07/08/11 1:28 AM
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I love the Bendian/Cline recording of Insterstellar Space... though what really happens is that it sends me back to the Coltrane.

And yes, I agree that Cline is as consistently interesting as you could hope for! Absolutely. I'm going to crash too. Right after I listen to this Cline/Bendian clip you posted. I'm glad to see you too, Hugo!

Edit -- ok, this clip isn't just the two of them. I get shivers seeing Kermit Driscoll on bass... he's no longer with us (R.I.P.) -- was a huge part of the Frisell bands in the 80s and early 90s. That live trio record (with Joey Baron on drums) is one of my favorite things.

I love this clip... the bass makes it quite different from the CD. And doing Monk makes it quite different, of course!
7/8/11 1:20 AM
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Ali
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Edited: 07/08/11 10:23 AM
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Did you run into this one in your travels? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ye3rM5eqH7c

Just audio. This is the quietest piece from a gloriously noisy record... but it's ALL this good.

And video, but unfortunately not the best fidelity -- here's Nels with Carla B (they called the duo record Scarnella, an anagram of their two names). This is an amazing Marianne Faithfull song (really -- hear Faithfull's version on the live "Blazing Away" too). They did this on an E.P., (not the Scarnella record, but a Carla Bozulich E.P.) called something very close to "I'm Going to Stop Killing". That has better sound quality, though also live. And has a somewhat better vocal performance, where the world just shatters on the "talking about you and me" line. Still, this is pretty damn great: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R3_anw4B4_Y&feature=related

NOW I'm going to crash. This has been fun, I'm sure there'll be more to come!
7/8/11 2:29 PM
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hugomma
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I figured you'd appreciate the Monk/vibes/stand up bass work.

I know what you mean about going back to the original Trane recordings, but man what a great way to be sent back. I wouldn't be surprised if Nels & Greg were hoping to get people to explore Trane's free jazz work when decided to do their version of "Interstellar Space".

I didn't know that was Kermit Discoll. I don't think I've ever seen his face before. I'm not that familiar with Frisell's work (I know, I know...), I just have the "Grace Under Pressure" album he did with Scofield in the Ninties. I liked it, but wasn't hooked for whatever reason. Next time you get on here, please recommend some stuff.

Interestingly enough, Frisell's guitar teacher, Dale Burning, lives in Longmont, CO, about 20 minutes from where I live:

http://www.jazzlinkenterprises.com/bios/dalebruningbio.html

At work now, but I'll check out the clips you posted later - I'm looking forward to it. And yeah, plenty more to come...
7/9/11 2:46 AM
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Ali
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hugomma - 
I didn't know that was Kermit Discoll. I don't think I've ever seen his face before.


He definitely had the face of a Kermit. But what a beautiful musician.

I'm not that familiar with Frisell's work (I know, I know...), I just have the "Grace Under Pressure" album he did with Scofield in the Ninties. I liked it, but wasn't hooked for whatever reason. Next time you get on here, please recommend some stuff.


And that's a rabbit hole... sort of like Zappa. Where to start? What aspect of the galaxies of music to recommend? Only more so, because Frisell is on a hundred other people's records, and some of his most moving intense stuff is as an accompanist. Still I'll recommend... "Live". Or also called "Bill Frisell/Kermit Driscoll/Joey Baron LIVE". Because he's "the" melody instrument (insofar as Joey Baron's drums aren't!), and there's the range of quiet/pretty to avant-skronk and the whole thing flows as one piece with themes that return to link ideas together and the whole thing feels like one story. It's a great summary of what he was up to as a lead player and writer up to that point in his career. (He's since gotten a lot more pastoral and quiet, at least on record, which is not mostly where I'd start with him).

That's one. Also maybe "Blues Dream", because that's a sextet, and you hear again what a composer he is, and what a mindblowing arranger. And it's still pretty accessible and has plenty-enough guitar on it.

But still barely scratching the surface here... do you really want me to list 10 or 15 albums to check out? Becuase that's what it would take to get a rounded picture. I'm sorry, but that's true.

I'll throw out that some of my favorite work of his was in the 80s with Paul Motian.

More if you want it, but I think this is too much to start with already!


Interestingly enough, Frisell's guitar teacher, Dale Burning, lives in Longmont, CO, about 20 minutes from where I live:

http://www.jazzlinkenterprises.com/bios/dalebruningbio.html


His first guitar teacher, yeah! I haven't heard Bruning -- they did a record together, after Frisell got famous... and I still haven't heard it. I have probably a hundred discs with Frisell, for official recordings, and another 150 unofficial of various sorts (maybe exaggerating, but I'm not sure). So I always intended to hear that one.., but haven't gotten to it yet. I'm slower to pick up some of his later releases, though I get around to them eventually, because he's become more and more... quiet... or something, and that's sometimes stunning but sometimes not "enough" of the other things that got me into him in the first place.

At work now, but I'll check out the clips you posted later - I'm looking forward to it. And yeah, plenty more to come...


I look forward to hearing your thoughts on what was posted. I'm pretty sure you'll dig it... all Nels-stuff, and you already are on board with "whatever he does"! I also look forward on the more to come!

And I'm willing to post another thousand words or two on Frisell, but... I definitely don't want to keep going beyond the point I can justifiably say you asked for it!
7/9/11 12:07 PM
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hugomma
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Okay, just getting to this now.  Man, this Nels Cline just doesn't quit, does he?

Here's a review of the "Destroy All Nels Cline" album.  By the way, I still think you should consider writing reviews, I've always enjoyed your take on music:

http://www.allaboutjazz.com/php/article.php?id=7925

As far as Bill Frisell, goes, yeah, I'm asking for it. I support & condone you listing 10-15 albums, or 1K-2K works about the man, if you're up to it.

I have a pretty full weekend planed with the family, but as soon as I get a chance, I will post here again.

Thanks Ali,

Hugo
7/9/11 12:17 PM
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hugomma
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Skipping the Cline/Carla B/Scarnella for now (I'm already hooked) & going to this excellent live version of Blues Dream.

Although I didn't love "Grace Under Pressure", it's pretty easy to see why Frisell is so revered. His approach to harmony and composition are unique, to say the least.

BTW, since I keep bringing it up, what are your thoughts of the "Grace Under Pressure" album? I need to give it another listen. Sometimes certain types of music don't resonate at certain times of your life for whatever reason.
7/9/11 1:00 PM
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Ali
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Edited: 07/09/11 1:01 PM
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WOW Hugo... I suck at the internet. I had never seen that Frisell clip. I need you to point out all the cool chit I'm overlooking, clearly!

If you have the patience to get through the first few minutes to see what he's building, and follow the story through about 5:50 or so and then how he sort-of-resolves that thing... well, I don't have to worry about you "getting" Frisell. That's more patience than a lot of people have. But that's what it takes. Dude's gonna build you a spaceship and take you outta here. You gotta wait a bit because it takes some time, y'know?

That is more an example of why I recommended "Live", btw, than Blues Dream, as an album. Different trio, but that sort of arc to the record as a whole (though it ends way more up/"fun" as live albums should do).

I was thinking the studio record Blues Dream as a contrast of sorts, because that's a bigger band, and lots of arranging for horns in the front line which weave in out of the music in really astounding ways.

But that brings us to another aspect of the guy. He does a tune, like say, "When We Go", that sounds radically different in the studio with a quartet, or live with a trio, or in a duo with Vernon Reid, or where he's accompanying a singer who wrote lyrics to it... there are a bunch of songs like that, or pieces like that, where he revisits them with different forces and arrangements and they're transformed into very different things, very different experiences, with the same melody.

Grace Under Pressure I haven't listened to a long while. It's one of those things I can put my hands on in 30 seconds, though, unlike the rest of my collection it's not scattered and disordered all over my living space, or in a box from when I moved 5 years ago.

That said, I remember liking it a lot -- I really like both of those guys -- but it was more a Scofield record with some Frisell on it, if I recall correctly, and it wasn't in my most favorite of what either of those guys did. Still, I remember liking it a lot. (Moods too -- it's really more conventional a post-bop record, I guess, or "modern mainstream", than anything else we've talked about on this thread).

A bit dated because of the use of synthesizers, but STILL... There's a very uneven record by Marc Johnson called "Bass Desires", with Sco and Frisell doing Coltrane's "Resolution". They both solo really unfettered, and they both accompany the other like they're twins of different mothers. Another one... I don't know if it's on youtube. But that's a better example of the two of those guys together than Grace Under Pressure. At least to my ear.

(I saw them both a month or two ago in Santa Barbara. Scofield trio set, one tune with both bands in full, then the Frisell trio set. I was in heaven except for a P.A. problem introducing some noisy glitch into the most ethereal moments).

Thanks for the Destroy All Nels review -- I like allaboutjazz.com, they do a pretty good job of letting you know what sort of listen you're in for.

I'm off the newly-opened Japanese Knife Imports. Where I'm trying to set up a lesson on sharpening on water-stones, and trying not to spend the money I set aside for late bills on a new knife I don't need.

BTW, TOTALLY you should listen to Grace Under Pressure again, because you said something hugely important to keepi n mind in your last sentence, "Sometimes certain types of music don't resonate at certain times of your life for whatever reason." I'd say even on certain days or certain hours of the same day within what I think of as a "certain time in my life". Seriously. Hell, I just figured out that really do love the Beatles after all. (OK, I'm exaggerating a little, but the details don't matter so much).

Enjoy the family-time! I'll be back after playing with knives.
7/10/11 1:45 PM
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hugomma
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Edited: 07/10/11 1:48 PM
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Hope you enjoy playing with your knives. 

Not much time, but here's another good one.

My 1st impression was to write it off as easy listening fuzak cheese, along the lines of Miles Davis' version of "Human Nature". But I couldn't stop listening, & I'm glad I kept going.

Your description of pieces building was spot on. Around 3:30 in, a gentle exploration begins as a slight shift from the melody. Then sometime around the 4:40 mark, subtle new harmonies & rhythms are introduced. The at like 4:48 Discrol starts with the 16th note grove, slows it down, then by around 6:15, they're off.  Then, before you know it, they're back to where they started.

It all happens so subtly, it's hard to even notice exactly how they got to where they ended up. .

I haven't listened to Grace Under Pressure again yet, but will ASAP.

* Edited cause I forgot to post the video.

See you soon,

Hugo  
7/10/11 1:56 PM
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hugomma
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Okay, one more. This starts off sounding like extraterrestrial retard funk, and then...well, if you don't already know this one, wait til you get to. 5:55.

Enjoy!
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