Some time ago I wrote about how my attending Roadburn 2016 was a magical venture into a land of pure musical bliss (even if some of that bliss was extremely loud and abrassive :-) )
But, what also happened in that magical atmosphere, was that thought-processes and decisions I had been stressing about for some time, about the very nature of this site and which direction to take it both in the short run and the long one, started to take a life of their own, started to simply unravel, crystalize and resolve themselves. I will not say I “received” a full plan and strategy during those fantastic days in Tilburg, But it seemed simply being there, helped purify my thoughts and helped steer them towards a more focused approach to thinking these matters through.
Of course, everything concerning the site had been haphazard up till this day, from the way I simply threw it out there in the first place – structure, looks and content but a fraction of an idea in my mind – to the way I threw myself at a (hopeless, everybody probably thought) project of presenting as many of the Roadburn-bands as possible. It’s been an interesting few months, an interesting process, and a great learning experience. Even my failure at accomplishing what I had set out to do gave me some great insights – and I really can’t truthfully say, that had my health not intervened those weeks before Tilburg, I would of course have reached my goal. I sincerely doubt so, in hindsight. So it goes.
Even so, thus far, whenever I’ve thought about which direction the content on SBL should have, I’ve tried to discover some kind of acceptable balance between the objective and the subjective, in part because I’m more or less fed up with the regular way of seeing reporting and reviewing as an exercise in objectivity. Bah, humbug! More often than not, the claim of objectivity is simply a matter of elevating the author/reviewer to a different level, as some kind of self-proclaimed expert or authority-figure. As a staunch anti-authoritarian this is of course counter-intuitive to me – but it also forces me to think in different ways regarding the way I want to frame whatever I’m writing on this site. Because the greatest peril for an anti-authoritarian is of course to end in a situation where he’s considered an authority – the call of pure objectivity is thus out of the question.
Which leaves the question – how to balance the two things – and the answer which came to me in a Dutch town was quite simple: No balancing at all, but clean and simple subjectivity all the way through. Every damn thing posted on this site embodies the personal view(s) of the person cited as the author. Everything! So, you might agree or you might beg to differ (actually – no begging required!), but nothing should be taken as even remotely an authoritative, absolute truth. “I’m not telling you, I’m asking you” as Jello Biafra wrote (and sung) back in the 80’s.
Which is also why there’ll never be ratings on reviews on SBL. You know, those pesky little numbers accompanying reviews of everything, telling you at a glance whether you should like the damn thing or ridicule it below the floorboards. We’re not having it. It reinforces the whole “the reviewer as an authority thing” and even demotes music into something that can easily, mathematically be put into some kind of formula, to gather whether it’s worth our while or not – John Keating already dismissed that one, so let’s hear the ripping of those ratings…
In fact, there will not be reviews as such on SBL – in as far as the core of the review is more or less to communicate whether a given release is good or bad. I’m much more interested in what a given album (or video, or poem etc.) awakens in me, what it does for me emotionally, and which parts really speaks to me etc. So, to not confuse things, I’ll simply call these posts Views, a term which is – at least to me – intuitively pointing at what it is, and where the difference lies.
This brings me to the way I work with these things – in order to write a View, I’ll probably have to listen to an album at least 5-6 times, work somewhat with the lyrics, do some reading about the band etc. So, being a one-man operation for now, at least, there will not be a huge amounts of Views, which has brought me to introduce a sort of Short Views which will for now be labelled On Second Listen – which is both a hint at my working-process (I mostly listen through a full album once before deciding if and what to do with it, with regards to SBL), and a jab at certain reviewers, who doesn’t seem to know the concept of second thoughts, and who actually feel comfortable to write a review after a single listen (for instance, a number of people have confessed to having formed a consistent written opinion about the Metallica/Lou Reed album Lulu after listening only once – and I once encountered an eyewitness to a journalist who wrote a – mostly negative – review of a Pink Floyd concert, after spending the entire evening backstage at the bar – I guess they didn’t have his preferred brand of liquor, hence the negative review). Well, that’s not for me – I find the second listen is where an album starts to consolidate itself, and get a life of its own, for good or bad. (And – depending on the album in question – it might take a third listen for this opinion to get as much structure and form for me to be able to put it into written words).
The final big “problem” I had been wrestling with concerning content, was a matter of how to limit the things with a view to genres and such. Well, after Roadburn that’s a pretty easy thing to settle – after enjoying for instance the beautiful experimental impro-set by Yodok III, along with crustpunks and Neurosis-fans, and standing next to a guy in a regular metal-vest (complete with Iron Maiden patch) at one point during Steve Von Till’s solo set, and seeing him equally touched emotionally by the whole thing – one recognition burned itself firmly into my mind… other real music fans than myself see genres and subgenres as just a way to catalog too – they’re not a way of life in itself. So, terribly sorry, but you’ll find no simple dummies guide to what gets covered on SBL. What touches me, what sets me off, what puts me in a state of emotional turmoil, you name it, gets covered. And when the time comes to expand and invite other people to participate, this will be the one true, fixed prerequisite for them too: write what you feel, and only about what you feel for.
I would really love for this humble site to be one, where people turn up simply to get an experience they hadn’t expected, from some artist they wouldn’t have come across on their own… off the beaten track, in a sense. Which of course puts more pressure on me. Will I be able to live up to this? I hope so – probably not all the time, but from time to time… would be nice… I’ll do my very best!
I’ve rambled on for long enough now, I think – so the rest of this will have to wait until another post. Suffice to say, Roadburn has started me on a journey, both with regards to my life in general, and specifically concerning SBL. So, a lot more about new layout, categories, ideas and stuff later. That’s not a threat – it’s a promise!