photo & text by nacrowe
since childhood ive always been partial to LED ZEPPELIN's fifth album HOUSES OF THE HOLY (ATLANTIC, 1973). written and recorded in comfort at the band's two home studios in the wake of their landmark LED ZEPPELIN IV (ATLANTIC, 1971) release, its contents are a bit more EXPANSIVE and EXPERIMENTAL than their previous material and marked a turning point in their sound.
not that i knew that as a kid. i remember going to my father's stereo system and plugging in his SONY MDR7506 studio headphones and completely get lost in the MAJESTY of epic tracks like "THE RAIN SONG," "OVER THE HILLS AND FAR AWAY," "THE SONG REMAINS THE SAME" and especially "NO QUARTER." i recognized that these songs had a sonic narrative arc to them, as if through the music alone an EMOTIONAL EXPERIENCE had been expressed evocatively in VIVID TECHNICOLOR. for me that DOWNTEMPO and ATMOSPHERIC side of LED ZEPPELIN's material always stood out, even amongst the ROCK N ROLL numbers they are renowned for. the CINEMATIC peaks of HOUSES OF THE HOLY hold up and are still RELEVANT today and one needs to look no further than ALL-EMBRACING bands like TORCHE, BARONESS, JANE'S ADDICTION, ISIS, TOOL, MASTODON, HIGH ON FIRE and INTRONAUT, all of whom touch on this same HAZY DYNAMIC in their sound.
strangely, this is also the record where LED ZEPPELIN seemingly found their GROOVE, like literally. tracks like the downright FUNKY "THE CRUNGE," the START-AND-STOPE-ON-A-DIME riffage of "THE OCEAN" as well as the REGGAE-inspired "D'YER MAK'ER" found the band playing around with UNCONVENTIONAL TEMPOS and SONIC TEXTURES hitherto unexplored. some find this record unfocused relative to their previous discography, but in my mind i liken it to THE BEATLES' WHITE ALBUM (APPLE, 1968) in that they were taking advantage of the opportunity their stature in the industry afforded them and really went about exploring the STUDIO AS AN INSTRUMENT in and of itself. the only song ive never been crazy about is "DANCING DAYS," which the ALTERNATIVE ROCK band STONE TEMPLE PILOTS famously did a STANDOUT cover of in the 1990s. for me that song stuck out as something more down the middle and a retread of past ideas, not that there is anything wrong with that.
for me this is an all-time CLASSIC album of the first order. its part of my early childhood and my personal narrative of getting into music, so im completely prejudiced, much like i also am when discussing THE SMITHS, THE STRANGLERS, THE BEATLES or THE ANIMALS as well. regardless, HOUSES OF THE HOLY is absolutely worth checking out and exploring again and again and again.
photo manipulation & text by nacrowe
ever since discovering PREMIER GUITARS' HOOKED series I have been totally enamored with it. the series, mostly shot at home during the pandemic, follows prominent guitarists talking about the song that got them interested in GUITAR-BASED MUSIC as a kid. its a great concept as it lends itself to juxtaposing CLASSIC ARTISTS with MODERN PLAYERS that you normally wouldnt associate with one another (such as JADE PUGET of AFI and his DIRE STRAITS choice). just goes to prove that music in universal.
the series also inevitably makes one self-assess what their choice would have been given the opportunity to participate. in my case the most memorable childhood memory i have of being swept up by a guitar sound was ANDY SUMMERS echoing and reverb-drenched opening guitar riff in "WALKING ON THE MOON." likewise the song that made me want to pick up a guitar in first grade was R.E.M.'s "SHINY HAPPY PEOPLE," which ironically was a mandolin being played by PETER BUCK i believe. at the time he was apparently over guitars in general.
regardless, this is a great concept and such a gift for musicians and fans of GUITAR-BASED MUSIC. i look forward to watching more of them as they are published online.
photo manipulation by nacrowe
italian director MICHELANGELO ANTONIONI has made several canonical films throughout his career, my favorite being L'AVENTURA (CINO DEL DUCA,1960), but his first english-speaking film BLOW-UP (Bridge Films, 1966) created at the height of the mi-60s BRITISH INVASION is a remarkable film on several levels.
as mentioned before it is a document of an all-too brief moment when there was a liberating sense of artistic, cultural and sexual possibility. at times it is hard for americans to understand british class politics as it is a bit foreign to our culture which is more underpinned by nefarious forces like structural racism and conservative, puritanical, often binary inherited constructions of sexual preference and gender identity. in england markers of identity such as clothing and regional accents gave you away as being of this or that class, which was often a permanent strike against an individual despite their success thereafter. once lower class you are always lower class. in america we may make fun of a unique accent (i'm looking at you LOUISIANA, BROOKYLN and the SAN FERNANDO VALLEY), but we won't let that stop someone from running a company or holding political office. for this reason i think american BLUES, R&B and ROCKABILLY provided british youth a foreign cloak to don and transcend whatever their class prescriptions were in england's rigid, almost caste-like social hierarchy.
this freedom can be viewed in a legendary scene where THE YARDBIRDS oerform. this scene is notable as it was shot during the brief moment that JEFF BECK and JIMMY PAGE where both sharing guitar duties (BECK would amicably depart shortly thereafter).
beyond the era that this film depicts and its influence on modern culture, this film also dives deep into the nature of reality as scene through technology. the film itself showcases a photographer who notices in his darkroom while processing film from a recent photoshoot in a park that he remarkably has evidence of a murder after magnifying, or blowing up, his film several magnitudes.
i think now ideas of HYPERREALITY in the digital age are common place as concepts such as DIGITAL DATA COLLECTION, VIDEO SURVEILLANCE, PAPARAZZI/TABLOID CULTURE and DEEP FAKES have provided means of both documenting and manipulating our belief that what our eyes relay to our brain cannot be relied upon. our reality can be dissected and cross-examined by a seemingly endless myriad of perspectives to the point now that TRUTH seems like a relative ideal, not based in actual fact.
science fiction has long toyed with this idea of authenticity and the limits of empricism (as seen in the the work of ISAAC ASIMOV, ARTHUR C. CLARKE), as have minds dating back to antiquity (SHIP OF THESEUS PARADOX, PLATO's ALLEGORY OF THE CAVE). i think were this film excels is that it asks us at what point do we stop trusting our senses and totally bow to the high reality brought on by technology. i think right now we are still dealing with this question as DIGITAL MARKETING and RESEARCH TECHNOLOGIES of such corporations like FACEBOOK and GOOGLE have already made us subservient to algorithms. its already happening.
this is a classic film that deserves to be watched repeatedly and i highly recommend it. also, it is worth paring this film with the later FRANCIS FORD COPPOLA effort THE CONVERSATION (PARAMOUNT PICTURES, 1974) as it is a similar premise, except this time dives into audio manipulation. in a world accustomed to AUTO-TUNE and the wizardry of PRO TOOLS, this film may also strike a chord, pun intended.