Bran Van 3000's album "Discosis" captivated me from the first moment I heard it, in a record store in Kyoto as Steph and I awaited our train back to Tokyo. I had no notion of BV3G as anything other than the one-hit wonder of "Drinking In LA", a tune I'd liked well enough back in the day but never really gave another thought to after its moment (it's really the "Life In A Northern Town" of 2000).
It remains one of my favourite albums, as much for its confusing jumble of themes and styles and genres (not to mention languages) as for the crisp muscianship and imaginative production. Sounds and voices come in and out, sudden and sharp or soft and gently announcing themselves. The whole album gives off an impenetrable aura of dreaminess, and I think that dreams and mystery are at the heart of this light-hearted but serious offering.
"It's so predictable to want to be so beautiful..."
What kind of music is this: electric beats and wistful acoustic guitars, overwrought diva vocals alongside freestyle rapping, spoken word tales that rewind and wrap around themselves, revealing a core of nothing but nonsense crafted from self-reference and wordplay.
But there's a running vein of ore under all the strangeness, a constant cautious exploration of dreams. Kermit the Frog flips off angry drivers while daydreaming of turning a traffic jam into a block party. A suburban girl's dreams of rock and roll trigger a cultural overload. A cultured fellow sends a message to a luscious actress which becomes a strange reversal of roles.
"I really can't recall who I was meant to be that day,
I'm an actress; I play so many roles.
But the script required Miss G,
that's who I was meant to be,
and I was just about to pick out the clothes
(when my crumpled paper ball
hit the floor beside you, it made no sense at all)"
Dreams of speed, of sex, of love, of transcendence. Transcending one's own identity, as the actress does (and ultimately her customer).
"Who do you want me to be?
Who do I want to be?
Who do you want me to be?
The title, Discosis, suggests a play on psychological terminology, so maybe I'm not so far off here. Maybe the constant shifts and eruptions in the music reflect the constant stir and boil of our minds, where memories collide and come bubbling unexpected to the surface.
"One day God walked on old Mount Royal, just to dream of the human form,
through stones and cans and comic books in a kettle,
then you came out like a shining goddess of heavy metal.
It's too bad some hearts just don't settle,
and the pipes are leaking and you feel like leaving,
Yeah we've heard this one before.
Dear God, buddy, now don't you meddle,
cause I got my own twisted ways of showing you
that I do, yes I do, I love you in my own twisted way."
Strange stories like this litter the album, drifting along without seeming to resolve properly, transforming themselves from one tale to another. The way the songs reinvent themselves as they go on reflects the constant expressions of change, of the need for change and the desire through self-change to effect self-assertion.
"Do what you want to make the fuckers pay, don't waste your time and sleep your life away; I always meant to tell you I don't like you anyway..."