Saturday, May 19, 2018

Mix of the day

"DJ-Kicks", by Forest Swords.

Speculation: if Forest Swords did a mixtape, it might sound like this.

Actualisation: he has; and it does.

The DJ-Kicks series has been one hit after another, from Kruder & Dorfmeister to Actress to The Juan Maclean to Moodymann. It's no surprise that they would pick up Forest Swords. It should also be no surprise that the choices herein are an impressive, and also useful, deconstruction of all the things that go into the Forest Swords sound, a sound which, though it is, on its face, sui generis, I have only ever been able to hear through the prism of dub reggae, but which carries a lot of other influences that, it turns out, are equally familiar to me. (I just hadn't been able to pick them out until he did it for me.)

Put it this way: when an actual Forest Swords track appears towards the middle of this mix it fits, to use an old Fish Creek saying, like a cock in a sock. (Disclaimer: though I probably used that saying myself, I didn't know what that meant then, and I don't want to know now.)

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Hypothetical mixtape 2.07

To these ears, 2018 is off to a relatively quiet start. Okay, the Khruangbin and Nils Frahm albums are definitely keepers, the new Yo La Tengo is just what I didn't know I was waiting for (although it's probably not the best entry point for neophytes), and I am intrigued by the just-released album by Minami Deutch. (Also: "Selectors 5", by Lena Willikens. Yes, that.)

So for the time being we might just plod along with these random roundups of stuff pulled off the internet.

"Could Heaven Ever Be Like This", by Idris Muhammad. As sampled on the Jamie xx album. Except that this in its original form could hardly be improved on. It's got everything you need.

"You", by Chayns. Spelling aside (at least they got the "You"), Chayns got enough right to ensure that "You" sounds as minty fresh as it did on release, fifty years ago. Originally released on (presumably) their own Chayn-Reaction Productions label. Excavated last year, not entirely surprisingly, by a Numero Group sublabel. You can't keep quality buried forever.

"Susan", by The Mauroks. Three seconds in and I'm already hooked. Further details of the interesting story of The Mauroks can be found here.

Bonus: record cover of the month. The guy in the middle front of the picture might be Dave Graney before the fact. Shirt included.

"Paradise", by AMOR. They seem to like the capital letters. They also like to hit a groove and run it out for 14 minutes. I can dig. What may not be self-evident is the involvement of the usually relatively non-linear Richard Youngs.

"Vanishing Twin Syndrome", by Vanishing Twin. First song on the first and (so far) only album by Vanishing Twin. I never find it a problem to hear new music that harks back to the ghostly beauty of Broadcast. (In this case, right down to the cover art.) Of course, Broadcast (and Stereolab, for that matter, who might as well get a mention here) themselves leant heavily on the sounds of the past, so any similarity might be purely coincidental. (But I doubt it, given that the band's bio credits "Phil MFU (Man From Uranus, Broadcast)" -- although I can find no such person connected with Broadcast, unless Phil MFU equals Phil Jenkins, listed on Wiki as drummer in 2003. Who knows? If 2018 has told us anything, it is that facts are slippery critters.)

"Rum Pum Pum Pum", by f(x).  K-pop, innit.

"Aeroplane City", by Sensorama. I would have put money on this being from Japan. I can't really say why. Maybe I was thinking of Cornelius. I was wrong. Germany. Late nineties. No matter. Some of the tastiest electric piano here.

"Coast Ghost", by The Kramford Look. Two guys who have worked for quite a lot of other people forge their own path. Could be a risky move. Seems to work. Conveys something of an aura of Air circa "Moon Safari", which can't be bad.

"Melo De Melo", by Ricardo Villalobos. Twenty minutes of unyielding minimalism from a guy who clearly has an unhealthy obsession with the minutiae of sound. What could possibly go wrong?

"I Will Make Room For You (Four Tet Remix)", by Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith. Four Tet remixes Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith in such a way that it doesn't really sound a whole lot like either. Well, okay, it does sound a bit like Four Tet. But how he could conjure this out of the source material is beyond me (nb not a diss of the original song).

Saturday, March 24, 2018

History lesson

The United States of America, as well as coming up with what must be, in retrospect, one of the least Google-able band names ever, are probably best known today for their self-titled debut album, which was clearly a building block for the Broadcast sound.

Of some marginal interest, then, both to Broadcast fans and to historians of the late sixties (and in particular the narrow, sometimes one-raised-eyebrow quizzical and sometimes (not always intentionally) comedic intersection between the New Yorker magazine and the long-hairs) is this extract from the issue dated 30 March 1968, where one of the mainstays of the magazine, Lillian Ross, writes about going to see The United States of America, an "Electronic Rock Band", perform at Judson Hall.

You're welcome.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Hypothetical mixtape 2.06

Let's just.

"Lord It Over", by Dylan Golden Aycock. You are thinking you could be listening to a Ryley Walker track here. You would be wrong, but not that wrong.

Bonus: here it is, unaccompanied. And at greater length. Whatever works, I suppose.

"High Tide", by Mythic Sunship. More sun-drenched psych-tinged guitar playing here, although on this occasion it might be argued they have drenched themselves in more than just the sun. Oh look, they are from Copenhagen. Perhaps slightly less of the sun, then.

"Working Nights", by The Camberwell Now. From the mid-eighties. Formed by This Heat's drummer. Who knew?

"Born Into The Sunset (Lindstrom & Prins Thomas Remix)", by Temples. I had no idea that L&PT were still working together. Here is the proof. Do they still have that Lindstrom & Prins Thomas magic? They do.

"Hey Benji (Prins Thomas Remix)", by Hatchets. I don't know what Prins Thomas was taking in 2017, but we could all benefit from a work rate like his. Two albums; a "version" of a Dungen album; a bunch of singles; a bunch of remixes. Hey, slow down; you're making us all look bad. There are actually enough really cool ideas on this one remix for anyone else to sit back and think to themselves, not bad, I think I'll take the next decade off. But Prins Thomas is not anyone else.

"Maskindans", by Todd Terje feat Det Gylne Triangel. A kinda sorta cover of an early-eighties semi-industrial electronic pop song a la, I suppose, Depeche Mode. The plot twist here is that Todd Terje has enlisted the original artist to do a new vocal track. This was released in the middle of last year; it was supposed to be from a "forthcoming" LP. We're still waiting.

"Inkjet", by Beatrice Dillon and Call Super. I know nothing whatsoever about this. I was attracted to the seemingly infinite depths of sound. Curiously, though, Beatrice Dillon appeared on a 2013 album with, inter alia, Charles Hayward, from The Camberwell Now (see above). Spooky.

"The Beekeeper (Atella's Sand In Shoe Mix)", by Horixon feat Birsen. Everything sounds better with arpeggiated bass synth.

"Love (Is Gonna Be On Your Side)", by Firefly. If, in 1981, you had hit me up with some contemporary funk action, I would have said get outta here punk. (Actually that's not entirely true: Kid Creole And The Coconuts. Also "The Lexicon Of Love", which this track sounds not unlike at some points.) But 37 years later, this, I would be the first to admit, is precisely as fresh as.

"Come Back Clean (Kaskade's Radio Edit)", by The Crystal Method feat Emily Haines. Everything sounds better when it's sung by Emily Haines. FACT!

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Song of the day

"My Trade In Sun Tears", by James Elkington.

It has been weighing on me that I was unable to find a place in my 2017 year-end list for James Elkington's "Wintres Woma". If only a top-10 list could go up to 11, like Nigel Tufnel's guitar amp in "Spinal Tap".

Oh well. Life tends not to be like the movies.

Anyway, just because "Wintres Woma" didn't make the list doesn't mean I can't give it a boost. (To the extent, tending towards the non-existent, that this blog is capable of giving anything a boost.) Admittedly it's a record that looks more backward than forward; but the things to which it looks back are things that are all worth hanging onto. Admittedly, too, there is a particular kind of 3/4-time song that I don't have a lot of time for, of which there are a couple of examples on the album. But the rest of it more than makes up for any slight deficiencies on that score, and anyway I seem to be in the minority here (maybe I was damaged as a small child): Aimee Mann, whom I generally admire, but who I suspect will never again hit quite as hard as she did on "Bachelor No 2", just made an entire album of such songs to fairly universal acclaim.

Maybe, too, his guitar playing at this stage is a couple of steps ahead of his songwriting. But these are early days; and anyway, his guitar playing is at least a couple of steps ahead of many, many things.

The penultimate track on the album, "My Trade In Sun Tears", is a good demonstration of his talents. Which are considerable.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Hypothetical mixtape 2.05

"I'm back in the saddle again ... I'm baaaaaaack ..." -- from a song by Aerosmith.

"Gonzo", by James Booker. Back in the very dim and very distant past, I did a one-hour radio show of a Wednesday night on a country community FM station. It was copious amounts of fun, subjecting the farmers and other unsuspecting locals to sixty minutes of largely post-punk and other anti-social musics. But as an introduction to the show each week, I tried to find something of an instrumental nature, which caused me to range a bit wider than my usual suspects. (You could, of course, cheat, because you were the one setting the rules: "L.A.", by The Fall, for example, is perhaps not strictly instrumental.) The point being, if I were to, by some miracle, find myself in charge of the airwaves again, this would be a no-brainer candidate for starting off my first show.

"It's A Better Than Good Time (Walter Gibbons Mix)", by Gladys Knight & The Pips. Of course, on radio, if you ever needed a toilet break, you would have to find something of a suitable length to cover for you. I wasn't aware of Walter Gibbons back then, but he is, clearly, the right man for the job. Extended disco tracks (and Arthur Russell was perhaps the master of this; as, in a different context, nowadays, is Ricardo Villalobos) play this trick where, around the time a normal song would start fading out, you start to lose your focus, until you no longer even notice that the song is actually still going, until, however many minutes later, the song snaps back into your consciousness just in time for it to end. You can try it with this 12-minute gem.

"Do On My Feet (What I Did On The Street)", by Dewey Terry. From 1972. From an album called "Chief". That's all you need to know. Which is handy, because it's all I can tell you.

"Woman", by Jeff Liberman. At first glance, this sounds like standard mid-seventies blues-rock guitar wankery, but there is something profoundly weird -- if not downright disturbing -- going on that you can't quite put your finger on. (And possibly wouldn't want to.) Bonus: album cover of the month.

"Cajovna", by M. Efekt. A bunch of likely Czech lads hitting a groove circa 1987. We have the collapse of the Iron Curtain to thank for being able to listen to this. Yes, you should be grateful. And if I was still on the radio I would totally be opening the show with this one week. Bonus: seven-inch single cover of the month. Is that too many covers of the month? It is not.

"Mechanical Fair (Todd Terje Remix)", by Ola Kvernberg & The Trondheim Soloists. In which there is absolutely no hammer dancing to be seen. Or heard. (Monty Python humour. Ask your grandparents.)

"Stone In Focus", by Aphex Twin. Having been a disciple of Aphex's "Selected Ambient Works Volume 2" for some years now but not being of a particularly curious disposition, I was (to say the least) surprised to discover this extra track, available only on a couple of random iterations of the album but not (of course, I may be wrong about this) otherwise. That it is entirely gorgeous, albeit in a somewhat cold and harsh electronic way, only makes its absence from my CD that much harder to bear.

"33A1", by John Bender. On the subject of cold and harsh electronics, there is also this. (Relax. It gets warmer after a couple of minutes.) I understand the criticism of "minimal" techno; but I don't accept it. And, while this astounding piece of music predates minimal by, what, 15 or so years, it certainly bears many of its hallmarks, and it hits me in a similar way. Maybe it's just my grounding in seventies dub reggae, but with tracks like this, as with the best dub, it really does feel like less is more. (Hands up, too, if it reminds you of Penguin Cafe Orchestra.)

"Pressing Matters (Robag's Pinvoldex Sull NB)", by The Cyclist. More of those good ol' cold and harsh electronics on display here, but with a lightness of step that you might not have thought possible. This serves as the regular reminder that I seem to require that I need more Robag Wruhme in my life.

"Doctorin' The House", by Coldcut. Because why not. If you were a recording artist, film producer or television showrunner whose work was not sampled in this song, you must have wondered what you had done wrong. (I maintain, somewhat selfishly, and certainly not without reservations, that lawyers have taken a lot of the fun out of modern music. The days that you could pilfer the catalogue freely in order to create new and fresh art were good days.)

"Starry Eyes", by The Records. When oldies radio has songs like this on high rotation, I will be proud to call myself an oldie.

Sunday, February 04, 2018

Song of the day

“Turn Around”, by Dungen & Woods.
Dungen and Woods - Myths 003
Dungen are a band that, over time, have perhaps so perfected their own sound as to have become almost invisible. It seems that they may have recognised this, as their most recent releases have been drawn from some incidental music they did for a 1926 animated film, together with an album’s worth of remixes of same from Prins Thomas (admittedly this turns out to be much more Prins Thomas than Dungen).

Woods, on the other hand, are a band that have perhaps so perfected their own sound as to have become, not invisible, but predictable. Their songs tend to inhabit a clearly defined song structure that by now is so embedded in my brain that whenever a new Woods record comes out, it takes me a while to decide whether I like it (so far, so good) because each new song is, in its own way, the same as some other Woods song.

Neither of these things is intended as criticism. Both bands have much still to offer, and I will be more than happy to keep listening. However, possibly the best news so far to have come out of 2018 is that, in March, an EP is coming out that will showcase the results of a 2017 collaboration between members of Woods and Dungen which took place during Marfa Myths. We now have this taster. From the vocals alone, as well as the overall structure, it is easily identifiable as a Woods song, albeit a Woods song that happens to be backed by a particular Scandinavian melancholic psychedelia that, well, I can't really say “you could only get from Dungen”, but that is definitely the Dungen sound. (What is that sound? Imagine if someone spent a career trying to recreate The Zombies' "Odessey And Oracle", only with their own songs.)

I am, I have to say, pretty excited about this.