24 February, 2009

Mise en abyme

I have been struggling for words to describe Beirut's newly released song "My Night With the Prostitute from Marseille", from the double EP March of the Zapotec & Realpeople - Holland, and for a few days now I have been stumped. There is this overwhelming sensation that first slips into my periphery while I am listening. It is like the shadows of tree-limbs on the falling snow. The song grows and stretches and I realize that this feeling is not retreating, it encompasses my eardrums and slides into the pit of my stomach. It is almost like a sickness: I feel a little washed out, a little unreal. I feel like I have just stepped into someone else's daydream. I am encapsulated in a perfect snowflake. This is the "dream within a dream," the mise en abyme.

I am not claiming by any stretch of the imagination that this song is perfect, but only that it is the perfect soundtrack to this frozen moment in my own life. "My Night With the Prostitute from Marseille" carries all of the airy melancholy that is evident in the best scenes of Sofia Coppolla's Marie Antoinette without the sheen and the glitter. It is carnivalesque, but far from multi-colored, far from bright. It feels to me as if the song had been recorded within a vacuum, which is often a description applied to challenge the merit of a musical piece. In this instance, I use vacuum as a positive signifier. Often I listen to songs and feel as if something is missing, but I have no certain method for understanding and apprehending that "something." In this song everything is missing. There is no natural noise behind the recording. At the same time, I feel like this is completely natural, like maybe nothing was there that could be missing.

I could compare the instrumentals and lyric work to New Order or the Magnetic Fields (or even Sufjan), but I think it is pointless to compare. There is intangibility woven into the fabric of the song, and I am completely fascinated with my own fascination.

My Night with the Prostitute from Marseille by Beirut

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