Saturday, April 15, 2017

Song of the day

"Open Soul", by Tomorrow's People.

Floating Points is probably the most significant musical discovery I have made over the past 18 months. I don't know precisely what it is, but everything he turns out sounds to me like some sort of perfection. But not satisfied with making his own particular musical magic, Mr Points has seen fit to reissue what would appear to be a pretty obscure 1976 soul-disco album from some otherwise-unknown Chicago band of (literally) brothers.

I can't speak for side one of said album, but this song, which comprises the entirety of side two, is twenty minutes of the best kind of seventies insanity. Nothing stays in the one place for long except the rhythm, which is relentless. Give that bass player a medal. And the drummer. And the rhythm guitarist. Oh, and let's not forget whoever provided the vamping electric piano, which is all over everything. And everything, as Radiohead once sung, is in its right place. I don't know if Floating Points established his own label solely to be able to release this monster jam, but I couldn't blame him if that turned out to be the case.

It's a four-day weekend, so you have time to listen to this.

Saturday, April 08, 2017

Song of the day

"Sunspots", by Julian Cope.

In those long lost days of 1984, following the dissolution of his band The Teardrop Explodes, but before he became something of a latter-day druid, world expert on all things Krautrock and Japrock, creator of heavily psychotropic- and/or magick(sic)-influenced multi-disc concept records, published author, archaeologist, and possibly much else besides, Julian Cope released two brilliant and still, I think, criminally overlooked albums of finely crafted, inventive yet earworm-heavy psychedelia-tinged pop songs, "World Shut Your Mouth" and "Fried". Cope, I think, had the idea that he wanted to be a star, and after these two albums failed he took a bit of time off, returned with a larger budget and with songs containing bigger (and louder) hooks, but stardom yet eluded him. In the traditional narrative of the damaged rock musician, that would be the point at which he fell off the edge of the world as most people know it, but looking at the series of photos adorning "Fried", with a seemingly naked Cope looking fairly comfortable and relaxed under a tortoise shell, one suspects that by 1984 he was, just possibly, already occupying a space slightly out of phase with that occupied by the rest of us. Looking at the vastness of his body of work, it doesn't seem to have held him back. And "Sunspots", which popped, unbidden, into my head this morning, and which I am, as a human being, ashamed to say climbed no higher than number 76 on the UK singles chart, is about as good as it gets.

Saturday, April 01, 2017

Song of the day

"Two Arrows", by Real Estate.

This song starts off like some kind of Paisley Underground throwback (not a criticism). It breathes a lot more than a Real Estate song usually does. (It is also in the direction of twice the length of a typical Real Estate song.) Around four minutes in, something locks into place. You know those songs that go round in a seemingly endless circle, looping back on themselves so often that, no matter how often you have heard the song, you have no idea when it is going to end? "I Want You (She's So Heavy)", from "Abbey Road", might be the ur-text for this type of song. It can be an almost stressful listen, in its own way, as you know the song is going to abruptly cut out but you can never be quite sure when. "Two Arrows" does exactly the same thing. (One assumes this isn't coincidental.)

(You kind of wish The Velvets' "What Goes On" did the same thing, instead of fading out; although there is an argument that fading the song out, rather than cutting it out abruptly, leaves a stronger suggestion that the song does, in fact, go on forever. (It's nice to think that somewhere "What Goes On" is continuing to motor its way ever onwards.))

Bonus beats: here they are performing the same song live in the middle of last year, when it was a "new song", and where it heads off in a slightly different, but also very satisfying, direction.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Hypothetical mixtape: April 2016

And then disaster struck. Well, not actual disaster. Nobody died. The computer on which all the random music I have internet-trawled resided (note the past tense), neatly parcelled into monthly playlists awaiting my delayed attention, had to be rebuilt, the result of which is that I haven't lost any music, but everything has been lumped together into an undifferentiated, congealed mass. Here, then, endeth the monthly hypothetical mixtape (which was never really monthly, or hypothetical; or a mixtape). I will try to find a way to keep doing these, in some form, as it has been an enjoyable exercise and a way of discovering the occasional wtf musical moment, and those, of course, are what it is all about. In the meantime, there is this.

"She's In The Wall", by Hope Sandoval & The Warm Inventions. Let's start off by what seems to have become the monthly Hope Sandoval song. This time it's her own band, and a song that, because she has been on a total creative roll of late, she seemingly couldn't fit onto her latest album. If you were a musician that would probably make you cry.

"She Wants To Disappear", by Plates Of Cake. If you ever imagined what The Clientele might have sounded like if they were a part of the Postcard Records roster (I know I have), this song is for you.

"Golden Vanity", by The Hanging Stars. Because everything sounds better when it sounds like it was written and recorded in 1967.

"Dejenla En Paz", by Tonchos Pilatos. Remember, if you build a wall between Mexico and the United States you will also be keeping out good people like Tonchos Pilatos. Which would be just wrong. 

Next up: a mini-mix of three stray Stereolab-related tracks; either I was bored, or listening to Cavern Of Anti-Matter sent me into a dangerous spiral of nostalgia. Who can say?

"One Wild Moment (Stereolab Remix)", by The Pastels. There is probably a Pastels song buried in here somewhere, but all I can hear is what I regard as Mouse On Mars-era Stereolab (you know, the "Dots And Loops" sound), which was not a thing for anywhere near long enough if you ask me.

"Explosante Fixe", by Stereolab. The "A" side of a "Chemical Chords"-era tour single. This is part of what at the time I regarded as Stereolab's "long tail", although in retrospect this era still has its charms, albeit they may be taking a bit longer to reveal themselves.

"Calimero", by Stereolab & Brigitte Fontaine. Released in the same year as the above Pastels remix, this struck me instinctively as sounding more like something from what I would call the Jim O'Rourke ("Cobra And Phases Group") era of Stereolab, although in trying (without success) to find the precise analogue to the backing track, I have been forced to conclude that (a) it might also be related to "Sound-Dust" and (b) this might well be the most mind-bending three-album run by any group in the history of popular music.

"Rashomon", by Takeshi Terauchi & The Blue Jeans. My discovery of this track, right here, is why I do this blog. Whatever the first two and a half minutes (a remarkable piece of music in its own right) leads you to expect you are being set up for, I can almost guarantee that you will be wrong. Try it and see.

(Bonus: album cover of the month.)
"Underground In Blue", by The Underground Set. As interpolations of "Love Is Blue" go, nothing can quite reach the might and majesty of Paul Mauriat's own disco version, but this unstable pile of Italian nutso gives it a fair shake.

"Nucleo Antirapina", by Bixio, Frizzi & Tempera. This seems to have been originally rediscovered (if that's not a tautology) by the estimable nineties label Crippled Dick Hot Wax. So incredibly well recorded that listening to it could actually kill you. (But don't let that stop you.)

"Zota Yinne", by Alogte Oho Jonas. So, this is some classic African-tinged roots reggae. It sounds so amazing (I almost had an accident when the horns first kicked in) that it could only have been made in ... Germany. In 2013. In fact, the only thing that might connect it to the 21st century is the copyright information: otherwise it is so authentically seventies that you have to suspect a set-up.

"Ono No Imoko", by Siuyoubi No Campanella. Because Japanese pop music.

"El Groove De Tu Corazon (Matias Aguayo Version)", by Ana Helder. Matias Aguayo has a reputation for doing things that don't sound quite like other things. I don't entirely know what to make of this song, if it is even a song, but it certainly fits that description. Uh, "enjoy".

"Threatened", by Lives Of Angels. Purely electronic sounds from, I would say, the earlier end of the 1980s. Well, mostly electronic: note the (at the time) subversive use of Young Marble Giants-style electric guitar for "tonal colour".

"The Linear Way", by Linear Movement. This is not the first time I have heard Linear Movement. In another universe, they might have been the band that I went to see at The Tote with almost religious devotion. (They are also very stylish.) Notwithstanding the previous track, you certainly did not need guitars in order to make an impact. It would all be lost to history now, if we didn't have the internet. (On the other hand, if we didn't have the internet Donald Trump most likely wouldn't be president. Gosh, that's awkward.)

"Crossing", by Midori Takada. You would be ignoring the elephant in the room if you didn't at least mouth the words "Steve Reich" when listening to this. Which is not in any way to diminish what is a sufficiently compelling, and mesmerising, piece of music on its own terms. By an extraordinary coincidence, the album this comes from, "Through The Looking Glass", is being reissued this very week on WRWTFWW Records, which is a very satisfying acronym.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Song of the day

"French Press", by Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever.

It is gratifying, from a distance of 19 years and 660 kilometres, to still be able to recognise a Melbourne band when you hear one. You know that this scene has continued to bubble under in the old town, because you have been keeping an eye on bands such as Twerps, Beaches and The Crayon Fields. But only from a distance. And nothing that you have heard has quite knocked you off your feet as this song does.

It is also gratifying to know that, as your body starts its inevitable descent into senescence, and your mind starts taking a little longer than it used to to recall concrete nouns (don't worry; we're not quite there yet), you are still able to feel the same adrenaline rush that you used to get in those long-lost days of, say, the late 1980s, and that you are still able to fulfil every parent's role of embarrassing your offspring by spinning around the room with your hands above your head, and/or going the full air guitar. (Hint: don't try both at the same time. You are not as young as you used to be.)

There is a moment about three and a half minutes in, where you would normally expect a song of this type to abruptly end, leaving you needing to immediately play it again, when instead it suggests, momentarily, that it might be about to take off into "Daydream Nation" territory, before it returns, by way of a 90-second guitar-driven coda that leaves the song, and you, with nothing left to give. And then you have a lie down.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Song of the day

"The Highest Flood", by Forest Swords.

Well, I wouldn't want you not to know that there is a new Forest Swords song out there. Hard to believe it's been three and a half years since "Engravings". It's still on high rotation in these parts. I'm trying to keep my expectations within reasonable limits regarding what might come next, but honestly, this is very good. I think I hear a tiny bit of This Mortal Coil in there, but that might just be me.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Song of the day

"Valve (Revisited)", by Visible Cloaks & dip in the pool.

Visible Cloaks work with the kind of hyper-digital soundscapes that can be found on the James Ferraro record "Far Side Virtual", which The Wire magazine named album of the year a couple of years back, or which would (at least in one's dreams) work perfectly on the soundtrack for the upgraded "Bladerunner" movie that is, I'm told, on its way.

It is -- or for me it is, anyway -- music that can be difficult to really "feel" (although maybe that is the/a point; I think I described the Ferraro album somewhere, or maybe I just imagined it, as the audio equivalent of a Jeff Koons painting). There is a barrier that one needs to break through in terms of, well, finding the human in the music. (Or even, I hear you say, finding the music in the music.) Yet I find myself drawn back to "Reassemblage", the new Visible Cloaks album, and their first for Rvng Intl, perhaps feeling the pull of its very faint but unmistakeable allusions to the sounds Japanese artists in the orbit of Yellow Magic Orchestra were making around the early 1980s (which, you will remember, is when MIDI first appeared).

The second song on the album is called "Valve". It's hardly right to describe it as a "song" at all. Above, I used the word "soundscape". Whatever that might mean, I think it fits here. Woodblocks and sounds from nature intermingle with some very digital sounds that could never exist in nature. Occasionally, something that the casual listener might recognise as "music" drifts by. (Also: is that a rubber duck?) A disembodied and disassembled Japanese voice helps you on your way, but then you are on your own.

Anyway, it turns out that "Valve" reappears on the CD and, ahem, digital versions of the album as a "bonus track", "Valve (Revisited)", where it is utterly transformed into a pop song of real human emotional warmth; the voice reveals itself to be that of Miyako Koda, one half of dip in the pool, a Japanese duo who have, it turns out, been making music since (surprise!) the early 1980s. Further digging reveals that dip in the pool actually released an album on Rough Trade in 1986. (There, that got you interested.) (Smiths and Woodentops aside, my gaze had largely been averted from Rough Trade by then, so dip in the pool passed me by at that time (and at all times since, up to approximately yesterday, to be honest). I am about to embark upon the work of making up for lost time.)

To the extent that "Reassemblage" reveals its secrets very, very gradually, the sudden appearance of "Valve (Revisited)" is a revelation. As its own song, it certainly cries out to be listened to, but it is also a useful exercise to do so on the back of everything that has gone before it on the album. If you can't do that, the following clip takes the first minute of "Valve" itself and then segues into "Valve (Revisited)". It approximates the effect of coming out of the album into the latter, but reduced to a three-and-a-half-minute exercise, which in today's time-strapped world is an admirable public service.