Sunday, June 26, 2016

Song of the day

"Bad Politics", by The Dead C.

(Who, by the way, would appear to be recording and touring again.)

First, we have the longest-ever Australian federal election campaign, which comes to an end next Saturday. It has been about as enlightening and inspiring as I expected (i.e. not even). The prime minister has demonstrated that whatever he might bring to the office he presently holds (which either is not a lot, or has been kept from view until now, for reasons best known to himself), he is not much chop as an oppositionist. (Which perhaps makes him the reverse of the person he replaced, except that we all know what he was like as prime minister.) Given that this country has not been effectively governed since 2007 (with the exception of Julia Gillard's prime ministership, which, against all odds, managed to push some important and/or worthwhile things through a minority parliament, some of which have even survived), and given the turbulent international waters that we find ourselves in, it is dispiriting (to say the least) how uninspiring our leaders and aspirants have continued to be. We are not those others over there / we are better than those others over there would appear to be an end in itself. (At least the Labor Party has made some attempt at policy development, but from where I sit (on my side of the bed, the cat curled up in the sun at my feet) it isn't getting much traction, and anyway the slogan "100 Positive Policies" is about as likely to engage the electorate as John Hewson's "Incentivation" (remember that?).)

Secondly, Brexit, in which it would appear, from this distance, that what may have happened is that enough people registered a perhaps well-meaning protest vote (although against what they were all protesting against may have been neither clear nor uniform) to bring about a result that either nobody wanted or, at least, nobody had really thought through the consequences of. Am I the only person who is beginning to think that there might be such a thing as too much democracy?

Thirdly, the bizarre (and increasingly alarming) prospect of a President Trump. See previous sentence.

Bad politics, baby.




Saturday, June 18, 2016

Hypothetical mixtape: August 2015

There are things I really ought to be getting on with. This is not one of them.

"White Clouds (Day's Rhodes More Travelled Edit)", by Hiroshi Fukumura.  So good.


"Dreams", by Beck. A one-off single by the Beckster. It sounds like a reaction against "Morning Phase". A lot of Beck's records sound like a reaction against the record before. (See also: The Go-Betweens.)


"Spiral", by XTC. If you were seeking evidence to back up the seemingly outlandish claim that XTC had pop songs literally dripping off the ends of their fingers, consider this song. Most bands would commit criminal acts to be able to write a song as poptastic as this. XTC couldn't find a way to fit it onto either of their "Apple Venus" albums, for which it seems to have been recorded.


"Is It Her?", by Smashing Time. This song sits somewhere on the straight line that connects The Zombies' "She's Not There" with "Nice Day", by Persephone's Bees. Which, if you are chasing pop perfection, is not a bad place to sit. Warning: contains a flute player running rampant. (Not that there's anything wrong with that.) This would appear not to have been released at all, other than on the compilation whose cover adorns the YT clip.


"Mississippi Mud", by Smithstonian. The song title, combined with the neat pun in the band's name, tells you where you are going with this. Nowhere. Slowly. Deliciously. (Also released under the name of Black Blood and the Chocolate Pickles, with added vocals and with the piano replaced by a Rhodes. Now that's quality.)


"Mar de la Tranquilidad", by Azul y Negro. I have died a thousand times listening to the ache on the guitar. Why oh why did the eighties have to end? (Bonus: album cover of the month.)
 

"Hopeless", by Against All Logic. It's always worth keeping an ear out for what Nicolas Jaar is releasing on his Other People label. This is why. It has that same ever-so-slightly woozy loping gait that Jaar's own work tends towards. Plus, the recurring motif that starts off the record wouldn't sound out of place on a Four Tet record.


"Digital Arpeggios", by Percussion. Did somebody mention Four Tet? This be he, under a sneaky pseudonym. This track is rather gorgeous; it has the clean lines you expect from the best Kraftwerk tunes. If it's a homage, it's a mighty impressive homage. When the beat kicks in, at the five-minute mark, it momentarily feels like it's in the way; but only momentarily.


"Back2TheStart", by KH. "KH" being, as you have probably already guessed, Kieran Hebden. Does that man exist purely to make records?


"Ability To Gain Access (Pye Corner Audio Remix)", by Not Waving. Martin Jenkins is not a recently deceased cricket commentator. He is a musician who often goes by the name Pye Corner Audio. He tends to work in his own darkened corners, although in more recent times he has been brought out, blinking, into the sunlight under the tutelage of the estimable Ghost Box label. Here, he remixes a song.


"Loud Places (John Talabot's Loud Synths Reconstruction)", by Jamie xx. The first half of this remix / "reconstruction" is all about those three piano chords, which the other components exist merely to frame. Then, in the last two minutes, things get dank, via some very tasty high- and low-end arpeggiation. Now might be an opportunity for me to plug John Talabot's very excellent "fIN" album, from a couple of years back. Well, 2012. Time flies.


"Here In Iowa", by Korallreven. This month's Swedish pop goodness is brought to you by the (now defunct, it seems) Korallreven. I suppose this would go in the box marked "Balearic", but there is actually quite a lot of pan-globalism going on here. (Some parts of it remind me of Junior Boys. Shout out to the Canadians.) Possibly the best thing about this song, though, is that it is only physically available via a single-sided flexi-disc. Kids these days. (Also: nice video.) (STOP PRESS: listen to Peaking Lights take the original and turn it inside out.)


"Jump Out Of The Train (Road Chief Remix by Mark McGuire)", by CFCF. CFCF has been in the periphery of my vision for some years now. My Apple Music subscription has allowed me to rest my gaze more directly upon his works. I'm not sure I'm convinced yet, but I suspect there is something there I'm not getting. Mark McGuire, on the other hand, I have been absorbing like a sponge in the desert. (Does that even work?) When he puts on his "Road Chief" hat, that usually sends you in the direction of a yacht rock / high eighties sound. Such is the case here. Is nice.


"Hot Music (Jazz Mix)", by Soho. Imagine what a "jazz mix" of a song called "Hot Music" might sound like. Yep. I dare you to sit still. What was I listening to in 1990 when I should have been listening to this?


"Sundowner", by Zachary Cale. This has something of the feeling of enervated drift that you get from the best of Beach House (which I would classify as their first album, in case you were going to ask), though it is coming from a very different place. Cale has existed below the (or at least "my") radar for several years, but this album was released on No Quarter, a detail which, these days, makes me sit up and take notice.



Monday, June 13, 2016

Song of the day

"No Comprende", by Low.

It's curious how a song can come at you from different angles at different times. Six months ago I wrote about this very same song, at which point the opening bars were sending me off on a riff about inversions of the dub reggae template.

Today, what I am hearing when the song starts is something that sounds like a Spoon song. Okay, a slightly slower than usual Spoon song, but a Spoon song nonetheless. You can try it at home. Just pretend you don't know what you are about to hear. Then press play and wait. The starkness of the guitars and drums. The suggestion that something is about to happen. Of course, when that something does happen you know it's not Spoon. But that doesn't amount to disappointment. Far from it.

Perhaps the most remarkable thing about Low's "Ones and Sixes" is how a band that has been around, like, forever can conjure up something fresh and, yes, exciting, while at the same time sounding like nothing outside of themselves. But wait there just a second. You can say exactly the same thing about Spoon. What's that you say about the death of indie rock?



Saturday, June 11, 2016

2016 isn't 1966 -- or is it?

It might be just me, but this Volkswagen advertisement, from a 1966 issue of the New Yorker, says one thing, and one thing only:

Wes Anderson.

Given that he wasn't even born until three years later, it couldn't be his actual handiwork ...

Or could it?

[cue spooky music]




Friday, June 10, 2016

YouTube of the day

"Doledrums", by The Chills, at Primavera, 2016.

Sure, it's audience footage; sure, the sound quality is some distance beneath high fidelity. But hey, it's The Chills, playing "Doledrums", in 2016.

That has to be worth watching, doesn't it?

Martin tosses out a couple of very nimble guitar curlicues as only he can, of course. But check that whippersnapper on the drums. Isn't he keen! He has the air of someone living out a childhood dream. Maybe he is! (Actually, if that's Todd Knudson, he has been The Chills' drummer since at least 2004. But it's been a very long road back onto the world stage for The Chills. Take a bow, son. You've earned it.)



Saturday, June 04, 2016

Song of the day

"Brighter Than The Sun", by ABC.

We may not even have realised it, but we have spent the last 34 years waiting for this.

The return of poptimism.

At precisely the right moment.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

A few words about "Flaga: The Book of Angels, Volume 27", an album by John Zorn

Some years ago, I had the crazy stupid idea of writing about every album John Zorn released, kinda sorta as they appeared. So, I got to the end of 2011 and there things stalled. Given that he has released something in the vicinity of 50 albums under his own name since then, I think it is fair to say that that idea has well and truly flown the coop. (I suspect that, had I actually attempted to get back into it, the main stumbling block would have been the recordings of his ongoing tour of the world's church organs: four albums (and counting) of solo organ recitals a la John Zorn is quite possibly four more than I could handle.)

Nevertheless, I have, you will not be surprised to learn, been keeping a close eye on the continually evolving (and multiplying) "Book of Angels" series of recordings, the sequel to the magnificent klezmer-jazz fandango that went under the name of "Masada". Having, or so it would seem, retired the classic Masada jazz quartet, which has been responsible for some of the most exciting, adrenaline-rush playing ever to have appeared under Zorn's name (others may differ in this estimation; but "Live at Tonic" is the rare example of a live recording where you can actually feel the audience pushing the band to greater things and the band responding in kind: it's a hoot), with the Book of Angels he has taken a different approach, hand-picking from a wide variety of players and ensembles to conjure many and varied interpretations of some of the three hundred-plus pieces that make up the Book.

Old fuddy-duddy that I am, my own excitement levels have tended to increase with the appearance of Masada favourites like Marc Ribot, the Masada String Trio and the Dreamers ensemble, but there has been much to like amongst the many other releases (even if the big drawcard, Volume 20, with Pat Metheny at the helm, was (says me) rather disappointing).

I want to draw particular attention, right now, to Volume 27, a piano-trio setting that came out a couple of months ago. Not being especially into the contemporary jazz scene, I can't really comment on how this record fits into the output of the players involved, or even if they have worked together before, but, in a word, "Wow". The playing has a certain propulsion to it, like, well, I don't know like what. Maybe like hurtling down a very steep and long hill on a pair of roller skates without a sense that you will be stopping any time soon, or how you might even do that, picking up speed all the while. You just have to close your eyes and hope for the best. The pianist, Craig Taborn, can be as lyrical as all get-out but is also prone to flights of abstract expressionism. The drummer, Tyshawn Sorey, might be the Keith Moon of jazz, playing everywhere but on the beat (and at ten thousand miles per hour). All of which frequently leaves Christian McBride (whom you have probably heard of), on the upright bass, as the glue that holds everything else together. I discovered that it is possible to lock onto what McBride is doing and let everything else kind of flow around that. It's not the only way of listening, but it is a way. However you do it, it's a rewarding listen.

I was going to conclude by noting the possibility that this would be a good place to end the Book of Angels, given that the very first entry, eleven years ago now, was also a piano trio (featuring Jamie Saft). But, of course, in the five minutes since this record came out there has been another volume (with John Medeski on board). And so we beat on, boats against the current etc etc.

Zorn doesn't abide the streaming thing, which means you are going to have to buy his records. Consider this a recommendation.

A taste: