Saturday, November 21, 2015

Song of the day

"Full Moon", by Woods.

Chances are that you have been wondering why it is that I have had nothing to say about the 2014 Woods album, "With Light And With Love". (And if you have been wondering that, then all I can say is, Get A Life.)

Let's just say that if I had written about it 18 months ago, what I would have had to say would not have been positive. My feelings were mixed: one the one hand there was a real sense that I had heard it all before. On the other hand, it seemed that the high-fidelity stereo sounds, something Woods had never offered us before, didn't sit at all well with their trademark scuzzy-George-Harrisonisms. 

But, you know what? Fuck that. This is an awesome album. It sounds great. The songs are great. The title track is a no-holds-barred freakout rollercoaster ride, drugs not required. It stops suddenly, on, as they say, a dime, because how could it possibly end otherwise? (It works okay live, too.) But the gems on this album, really, are end-to-end.

I think, deep down, I knew this at the time, and that it would just take a while for my initial misgivings to fade into irrelevance; and that this is why I stayed my hand. (Or perhaps I was just lazy.)

Speaking of George Harrison, listen to "Full Moon". Homage never sounded so fresh.

This Goes With This

I'm not sure what is more problematic: the fact that you can sing along to Queen's "Another One Bites The Dust" when listening to "Days Burn Blue", the last song on the new (and excellent) Darkstar album, "Foam Island", or the fact that I noticed that you can.

It goes to show: what you listen to in Year 11 never really leaves you.

(Note: in the video, which differs from the album version, what I'm referring to starts at the three-minute mark. But don't fast forward.)

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Song of the day

"Falling", by Julee Cruise.

Every year for as long as I can remember, I have put together a mix CD for Adrienne's birthday (which is today). Usually it is culled from a mixed bag of random off-cuts, thrown together with little or no regard for playability or continuity, good to break the monotony on long car trips but perhaps for little else. This year I attempted something a bit more scientific. (Only a bit more.) I had two songs that I wanted to use, and I decided to try to build a mix from the ground up, centred around those two songs, to see if I could do it. It was hard. I probably failed. It is also a little on the short side, 53 minutes inclusive of the closing 10-minute full-eighties 12-inch (comprising in itself, though, two songs, and no it isn't "Tainted Love / Where Did Our Love Go?"). Will she like it? I honestly don't know, and it would be in her nature to be too polite to say if she doesn't. The exercise has been fun. I probably won't do it this way again, though.

There were a few songs that came into my head as fitting perfectly, but which for various reasons I couldn't get to work. Chief amongst those was "Falling". There was simply no place for it, lest its delicate petals be crushed by the songs around it. It may be a song that can only exist in a vacuum of its own, to be followed by, and only by, an extended silence, so as to allow its many resonances to slowly fade. (If it was a primary-school child, its report card might read "Does not play well with others".)

Thus, I must present it here, on its own. Adrienne, this one's for you.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Song of the day

"Parliament of Birds", by William Tyler.

(Parliament of Byrds, more like, given the twang that Tyler sets up at various points throughout this monster.)

A couple of months ago, as you know, Wilco gave away their new album, "Star Wars", to anyone that wanted it. The catch came a few days later, when they put up a blog post suggesting records that you might want to buy in lieu of payment for the Wilco album. One of those records was "Deseret Canyon", the reissued first solo record by William Tyler, originally released to precisely no fanfare or acclaim in 2008. Tyler has gone on to bigger and unexpected things since then (you should hear his version of Michael Rother's "Karussell"). I already have a couple of his more recent albums. He is at the centre of the recent wave of reinterest in what has been called American Primitivism (although there's not too much that's "primitive" in Tyler's playing). Tyler, like the others lumped under this dubious rubric, shows a clear debt to the playing of John Fahey (not to mention the song titling: exhibit 1, "Waltz of the Circassian Beauties").

Anyway, heeding Wilco's advice, and seeking to assuage my guilt at having procured free music over the Internet (perish the thought), I bought a copy of "Deseret Canyon". (You're welcome.) For a first album, there is certainly nothing tentative or, uh, juvenile about it. "Parliament of Birds", the second song, maybe sets up a template for Tyler's future trajectory. It is the kind of free-flowing, long-form piece of music that could go anywhere, and in its execution on the album does manage quite a few unexpected turns, all of them tasty.

Bonus beats: those of you who consider yourself "heads", or anyone interested in further research and/or curious to see how it is done, might like to watch this audience footage from Germany of Tyler doing this very same song, albeit with six more years of water under the bridge. Around the six-minute mark he builds it up into the kind of chugga-chugga that is guaranteed to have you dancing around the living room. How that much sound can come out of one guitar? Beats me.

(By the way, the Wilco record isn't bad, either, even by their lofty standards. Its sudden appearance, and relative brevity, might convey the suggestion that it was put together rather quickly, but that's not always a criticism, and isn't in this case. Tweedy is known for wanting to keep Wilco fresh. Put it this way. If I had paid money for it I wouldn't be complaining.)

Monday, October 19, 2015

Hypothetical mixtape: December 2014

Backdated monthly playlists: the nightmare continues ...

"Empire Mines", by Plankton Wat. Some months/years back I likened a piece of African music to The Laughing Clowns, so why, on that flimsy basis, shouldn't I spuriously claim that a song out of Canada reminds me of solo Ed Kuepper? Come on, tell me you don't hear it. The guitar playing, the chord structures, the, uh, vibe. This wouldn't be at all out of place on one of his three instrumental (as anything) albums from the 1990s.

"Holding", by Grouper. Imagine Harold Budd and Brian Eno's "The Pearl" with vocals. Not what I expected from Grouper, but stunning. (Also a fine companion piece to Colleen's fine album "Captain of None".)

"Nobody Knows", by Pastor TL Barrett & The Youth For Christ Choir. Seriously. Like Bob's "You Gotta Serve Somebody", you don't need to have religion in order to totally feel it.

"Acid Tracks", by Phuture. From the sublime to the, well, not exactly ridiculous, but not exactly not ridiculous. Twelve minutes of squiggles that may or may not have invented acid house. Working backwards from Aphex's mighty "Syro", this is one of the places you might end up.

"Hideous Racket (Thee Four Horsemen Mix)", by Allez-Allez. All I know for sure is that this is not the Belgian new wave band of the same name (sans hyphen) who were responsible for "African Queen". Aside from that, you're on your own.

(There appears to still be a working download link here.)

"Lovin' You Ain't Easy", by Pagliaro. Proto-power-pop of the highest order. From 1971. Pagliaro here is swimming in the well from which Matthew Sweet continues to slake his thirst. There is a certain Sports song that makes its way to the surface around the 35-second mark, too. See if you can spot it. (Bonus: album cover of the month.)

"Seasons (Waiting On You)", by Future Islands. At first, you think you are about to hear a cover of Underworld's "Born Slippy". But it quickly morphs into a kind of High Eighties homage, of the type that I have recently and unexpectedly been smitten by. (See also: The War On Drugs.) It's like being able to listen to the best of Bruce Springsteen without whatever it is about Bruce that I find off-putting.

"Asleep", by Makthaverskan. In which a contemporary Swedish pop band busts some seriously eighties moves, to enticing effect (even if the singer does perhaps sound a little too much like a shouty 12-year-old).

"The Chauffeur", by Duran Duran. You don't see much mention of Duran Duran in these pages. But I know people of taste and distinction who hold a very high opinion of them, so, y'know, "respect". This song, one in which they don't particularly try to go pop, is perhaps telling of a greater ambition. But by then the cocaine had left its mark. Allegedly.

"Breakdown", by Carol. First-rate, seemingly steam-powered electronic post-punk from 1981. Don't know anything about Carol, but the name puts me in mind of a joke told at an assembly at our boys' primary school by one of the younger children involving Christmas and some ladies' underwear (and some very nervous parents). (Punch line: "They're Carol's.")

"Giudecca (Gabe Gurnsey / Factory Floor Remix)", by Ghost Culture. This month's Factory Floor-related product: pop music that sounds like it was stranded on another planet in 1980 and keeps sending transmissions back to earth in the forlorn hope that someone will hear. Well, we're listening.

"Beautiful (Rustie Edit)", by A G Cook. Listening to too much PC Music in one go is a bit like overdosing on sugar and coffee simultaneously. (Hey, we've all been there.) This Rustie edit of one of their signature tunes manages to take enough of the edge off it that mere humans can survive exposure to it, while retaining enough of the hyperintense sweetness of the original that you would certainly know it if it hit you. Nevertheless, approach with caution.

"Telephone and Rubber Band", by Penguin Cafe Orchestra. Hypnotic, breathtakingly simple, and you may have heard it in the fine Australian film "Malcolm".

"Music Box", by Don Muro. Home-made musical gorgeousness from the 1970s. Enjoy.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

RIP John Murphy

I didn't know John Murphy personally, but I know people who did. The words that have been written about him since his death are eloquent of a warm and generous man. (This notwithstanding an outward appearance that you might think would send small children running crying across the road to the other side if they saw him headed in their direction.) But I will have to leave personal eulogies to others.

His music, it's probably fair to say, ranged far and wide, and frequently in directions that many listeners would choose not to follow. But he was true to his own vision, and it can never be said that he did not at all times maintain his integrity as a musician.

One of the many records that Murphy appears on, and one which forms a large part of my own DNA, is the self-titled EP by Whirlywirld, which was one of the first seven-inch records I bought upon graduating from children's records. I don't know now what possessed me. (Maybe it was the jetsetting glamour portrayed on the front cover.) It has, though, stayed with me, like Old Faithful, protecting the back end of my shoebox of (alphabetical) seven-inches ever since, getting dusted off every so often for a rewarding spin. "Window To The World" is the A side.

Bonus beats: if you only know one thing about Whirlywirld it will probably be "Win/Lose", which was a staple of 3RRR in the Good Old Days.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Song of the day

"Icecream Meltin' Mellow", by Pizzicato Five.

Recently I have been on a major Pizzicato Five kick. Probably this is not unrelated to the fact that the fifteen-year-old has spent the last two weeks in Japan, sending back infrequent and cryptic messages along the lines of "I bought this thing, I don't know what it is, I don't know what it's made of, but it's REALLY COOL". (I suspect he has, right there, summed up Japan for the non-Japanese in one easy sentence.)

But anyway it is always nice to revisit Pizzicato Five. There are always hidden surprises. Like this song. Its title, "Icecream Meltin' Mellow", almost perfectly encapsulates the sense of bitter-sweet melancholy that lies within its grooves. That's a pretty neat trick, given that English is not their native language. Plus, the song has everything over its six-and-a-half minutes: reggae grooves; scratching; rapping; and a full-on disco string section. What could possibly go wrong?

Bonus beats: Marin Mixes 1 and 2.