Sunday, May 22, 2016

YouTube of the day

"Alfonso Muskedunder", played live by Todd Terje & the Olsens.

Some weeks ago I said words to the effect that it is difficult to make something in 7/4 time sound funky. Difficult it may be, but not impossible, and another example was right there under my nose: "Alfonso Muskedunder", a song so frenetically funky that I had never even twigged to it being in an obscure time signature.

So witness how Todd Terje and his band of merry Swedes-with-beards tear the roof off the place at the P4K music festival. Be careful trying to dance to it, though; you will do yourself an injury. Take it from one who has tried.

(Also, once again we say: Give the drummer some.)

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Song of the day

"New Speedway Boogie", by Courtney Barnett.

I was speculating, the other day, how Courtney Barnett would handle the transition from painting on a small canvas to playing on a big stage. Seamlessly, as it turns out. This song, one of the 59 (count 'em) Grateful Dead covers on "Day of the Dead", is perfectly suited to her droll delivery style, while musically it carries its considerable weight effortlessly. There are some big-name players on this massive project, and Courtney, happily, sounds right at home.

Saturday, May 07, 2016

Record cover of the day

I hope I don't end up deciding that the cover art for James Blake's "The Colour In Anything" is better than the music. But ... IT'S QUENTIN BLAKE!!

Sunday, May 01, 2016

Hypothetical mixtape: July 2015

Another day, another mixtape ...

"Medicine Map", by Chuck Johnson. You may say that latter-day finger pickers who have drunk at the well of John Fahey are a dime a dozen. Maybe so, but I won't be getting sick of listening to their magical and mesmerising tones any time soon.

"Just Seventeen", by Raiders. The lyrical content may be on the nose (and of its time) but this track by Raiders (wither Paul Revere?) kicks hard and bounces high in a 1973 kind of way, although it is actually the product of 1970 and therefore, perhaps, ahead of its time. Nice use of brass, too.

"Can't Find My Way Home", by Blind Faith. This proto-Led Zeppelin IV number is from the only album by Blind Faith, aka Eric Clapton, Ginger Baker, Steve Winwood and, uh, the other guy. It features a record cover that, if you came up with it today, you would be in jail, my friend.

"She Said, She Said", by Lone Star. One of the reasons I persist with this meaningless trawl through the endless morass of other people's musical recommendations is to find the occasional moment (there is usually one just around the corner, or the corner after that, or ...) of WTF-ness. Here comes one now: The Beatles torn to shreds by way of the kind of overblown overstatement that could only have come from 1976. Enjoy.

(Editor's note: the following is a BBC session, rather than the album version. It is 30 seconds shy of the album version, and perhaps lacks a bit of the latter's variation in dynamics, but heck, on the one hand it's entirely off the planet, on the other hand it's yet another example of "why punk had to happen": bloody (Welsh) hippies.)

"Soul Coaxing", by Orchestral Academy of Los Angeles. It may not even have any words, but this is such an emotional rollercoaster of a song that I cry every time I hear it. Seriously. You can come to my house some time and watch me. I might charge admission.

"Pictures (Quiet Village Remix)", by Grandadbob. I really miss Quiet Village. This helps.

"High", by Ellen Allien. It's been a couple of years since we had anything from Ellen Allien. You know how you sometimes feel like there's an absence in your life but you can't quite place what it is? Now I remember. There's only one word for this track: perky.

"Lucia (John Talabot's Sunset Edit)", by Ishinohana. What this is is a tweak of some 1980s mellow guitar noodling. Although it actually sounds way better than you would imagine. Trust me.

"Breezin'", by Masayoshi Takanaka and Kazumi Watanabe. Did somebody just mention 1980s mellow guitar noodling? I think I've got some more around here somewhere. Ah, yes, here it is. Featuring Yukihiro Takahashi on the drums. (Bonus: album cover of the month. Not just for the "historical" World Trade Centre photo, but for the majesty of the font in which the album title is styled. But look closely: "Fantasic"?)

(Note: this seems not to be readily findable on ye olde internet, so for the time being you can hit the dropbox.)

"Hold On To It (Jonny Nash Remix)", by B.J. Smith. "Jonny Nash". "B.J. Smith". You expect to be in country-twang territory, or perhaps in the presence of a master of the pedal steel. But no. (Guitar shimmer does appear throughout, albeit through what sounds like an opiate haze.) B.J. Smith was fifty percent of Smith & Mudd, whom you might remember. Another track, as it turns out, for those pining for Quiet Village.

"The Rhythm Divine", by Yello. Ah, those crazy Swiss. Enlist Shirley Bassey to sing her not insubstantial heart out. Drop in some backing vocals by the one and only Billy Mackenzie. (One: why would you pull one of the sainted voices of modern music into your orbit and then bury it in the mix? Two: why would he have agreed to it? (Presumably that's easy to answer: it's Shirley Bassey. (Also: he co-wrote the song.)) Three: do you notice how, when she sings "in my heaaaaaaaart", she does sound like Mackenzie? It's actually kind of a neat trick. The word "meta" comes to mind, although there is clearly nothing meta about the result. It kills.)

"No Justice", by Astronauts, etc. The first 12 seconds will determine whether you need this song in your life or not. I bit.

"Chant For You", by Prequel. Here things get a bit murky. It sounds like bits of old records stuck together in such a way as to create a brand new song, one that is both "exotic", and funky as heck. Which is exactly what it is. If you remember the WTF moment you (read: "I") had when you first heard DJ Shadow, or Four Tet's "Rounds", you will go for this. (Also: Australian content. Well done, son.)

And finally, Mr Sakamoto tinkles the ivories. You remember this. But when you first (and probably last) heard it you hadn't yet immersed yourself in the world of Studio Ghibli. So now you wonder if this piece of music, long buried in the far recesses of your brain, is one of the reasons those movies have always felt so strangely familiar, so comforting. Or maybe that's just the genius of Hayao Miyazaki.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Song of the day

"Kodama", by Kikagaku Moyo.

Kikagaku Moyo came to me in a dream. Not true. They came to me via a review of their forthcoming fourth record in this month's "Uncut" magazine, followed by some extensive Apple Music revision. I like what I hear. Yes, they have released a split record with Moon Duo, and one can certainly hear the connection. But this song makes me think of Can jamming with Stereolab in relaxed mode. As they say in the classics, what's not to like?

Monday, April 25, 2016

Sometimes It Snows In April

This may be a somewhat heretical statement, but Prince, whom we lost this week, in what is turning out to be a train-wreck of a year, was not my Bowie. I have made several attempts, starting in the late eighties, to absorb the work that lies beyond the hits, but each time I have found myself starting to gaze absentmindedly out the window. I kept telling myself I would come back to it. I still can, but it's not quite the same when the artist (or in this case, "The Artist ...") is no longer with us.

Thus, and this is highly unusual for me, my favourite Prince album is the fairly ubiquitous "The Very Best Of Prince". As greatest-hits albums go, it is a humdinger. Because, let's face it, when Prince was good, he was very, very, very, very, very good. The best, perhaps, that ever there was. Think "Raspberry Beret". Think "Kiss". More recently, at a time when I think you had to be quite tenacious to continue to give Prince your everlasting support, think "Black Sweat" (you can imagine him just tossing that one off in an idle moment, like Picasso whipping up some sketch on a restaurant napkin and making a better sketch than anyone else would ever be able to do no matter how hard they tried).

What I have found very interesting, over the past few days, is the strength of the emotional outpouring from America. Was Prince America's Bowie? I didn't see that coming. Heck, even the New Yorker has a Prince-themed cover this week. (I didn't see that coming, either.) I don't know. It's just a thought. (There are clear similarities between Prince and Bowie. You don't need me to list them. Suffice to say, they both, numerous times, pushed the listening public in directions the listening public wouldn't otherwise have gone in, and in so doing pushed music into new places; places that music didn't know it needed to go and wouldn't necessarily otherwise have gone.)

Another thing Prince could do better than just about anybody was play the guitar. The following video has been doing the rounds quite a bit this week, and with good reason. If you are going to show off (because, in a sense, this is what Prince is doing here), you had better be good if you choose to do it in a room full of seriously good musicians while they are tackling one of The Beatles' finest moments. Keep your eye on the little guy with the red hat.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Hypothetical mixtape: June 2015

Pretty happy with the music this month. It may not hang together thematically or musically or in fact in any way at all, but there's no need to pretend that's a problem. I mean, you don't actually listen to any of this, do you?

"Puls", by Gunter Schickert. So why don't we start off, then, with 15 minutes of semi-abstract German noodling from 1979. No, I hadn't previously heard of this, notwithstanding that my ears usually prick up at the mention of the Sky Records label, home of some of my favourite late-seventies semi-abstract German noodling.

"Disco Computer", by Transvolta. Like the ad says, "I can't believe it's not Moroder." Actually, the person behind this song was also largely responsible for Telex, a band that could only do one thing, but did it so damn well, and it was manifestly such a great thing, that nobody would be so churlish as to raise it as a point of criticism.

"Lies (Theo Parrish re-edit)", by GQ. One of the many, many things that Theo Parrish can do is take a seemingly workaday disco number, distil the salient parts, and extend it out for so many minutes that at some point you stop wondering when it is going to end and start wishing that it never would.

"Poppy Seed (Boards of Canada Remix)", by Slag Boom Van Loon. There was a Van Loon who went to my high school. I don't think his first name was Slag Boom. That might have been fun! (Side note: this remix stands with the best of Boards of Canada, if you ask me. Always check what remixes your favourite artist has done. You never know.)

"Y.M.D. (Young Michael Douglas)", by Maya Vik. Classic pop song of the month. Produced by Lindstrom, whose hands, in the best possible way, are clearly all over it. Who else does ascending chords like this?

"Beach Mode (Keep It Simple)", by Ikonika. Vocals by Jessy Lanza. I could easily have missed this. Don't you make the same mistake.

"A Beautiful Woman", by Deradoorian. Yet another slice of classic pop, this time bearing the mark of sixties psychedelia as also purveyed by the likes of The Time And Space Machine and Jane Weaver. In other words, get hip to this, all you groovy cats and chicks.

"Strassen Kaempfert", by Visit Venus. If people were listening to the music of the sixties in the 2015s, they were also listening in the mid-nineties. But the sixties those nineties dudes were listening to wasn't the drug-infested morass of the end of the decade, but the clean-living, high-production-values sixties of your Bert Kaempferts and the like. Visit Venus capture the vibe pretty well, and with high production values of their own. Couldn't find a version on the world wide web, so here, as long as nobody minds, is a copy on the dropbox.

"Hangdog", by Small Wigs. In honour of Record Store Day, an actual, honest to god, seven-inch vinyl single, in a garage-rock / Gun Club vein. My scepticism about the whole vinyl revival is hereby temporarily suspended.

"Running Away (Long Version)", by Roy Ayers Ubiquity. By the mid-seventies, blacksploitation-soundtrack funk had to some degree morphed into a kind of funk-disco hybrid. At least, that's a plausible narrative to wrap around this song, given Roy Ayers' previous guise (or one of them) as blacksploitation-soundtrack auteur (e.g. "Coffy"). This sets up an undeniably smooth groove and runs (away) with it.

"Man Of Means", by Alan Hawkshaw. In which the famed British library-music composer catches (albeit somewhat late) the wave that Roy Ayers was surfing on the "Coffy" soundtrack, to surprisingly non-"cod" effect. Featuring bonus harpsichord (or synthetic equivalent). Bet you didn't see that coming.

"Music For Chameleons", by Gigi Masin. Masin's name has been coming up around here a bit lately, so I thought I would dig a bit deeper, but to little avail. It seems he is an Italian composer, who has been doing his thing since the late eighties. This track (nothing to do with Gary Numan's song of the same name) is taken from a seemingly wide-ranging double-disc compilation (available for a good price on Bandcamp). It carries with it definite resonances of David Sylvian's mid-eighties work; I am probably thinking of the second disc of "Gone To Earth", but then I always am.

"Usha (Daphni Edit)", by Usha Uthup vs Alex Israel. We finish off with a couple of one-off tracks by Dan Snaith's other alias, Daphni. Daphni tracks tend to be a slightly more rough-and-ready version of the work he does with Caribou. This first one Snaith claims to be a mash-up. Maybe, but heck, it sure bears the sonic palette of the Daphni album.

"Vikram", by Daphni. This is coming from a similar place, but with added beats. Can you have too much of a good thing? I think not.