Sunday, February 18, 2007

Where It's At

A friend writes to advise that she is about to undergo a kind of voluntary sonic colonic (solonic?) irrigation, flushing out all of the old music in her head to make way for new sounds. Or unheard or forgotten old sounds. What, she asks, should she be looking out for in 2007?

Well, I have given this some thought, and here is what I would be cramming my head with, if it were me.

First off, I find that a lot of what I am listening to at present is being made either by waif-like females (at least, they sound as if they should be waifs; some I cannot vouch for the way they look, as they remain little more than spectral digital presences): “Ys”, obviously, but she already knows about that; but also Marissa Nadler; Emily Haines and the Soft Skeleton’s “Knives Don’t Have Your Back” and Neko Case’s “Fox Confessor Brings The Flood” (both being members of Broken Social Scene, perhaps suggesting that half the Canadian youth population are Scenesters, which may in fact be true) and, not so much waif as tough, Joan As Policewoman’s self-titled album; and, from an older school, records by Karen Dalton and Vashti Bunyan; or by what Mojo magazine, the home of dad rock, would be calling beardo folk, or New Weird America, or folktronica, or back to the Appalachians: by which I mean, I just can’t get enough of “Espers II”, “Brightblack Morning Light”, Six Organs of Admittance’s “The Sun Awakens”, Tunng’s “Mother’s Daughter and Other Songs”, and “To Find Me Gone” by Vetiver. To enter these records is to enter a world where time has stood more or less still, where new sounds are being made in the old ways, and old sounds are being made in the new ways.

Otherwise, I find myself at the moment skittering between shortlived “phases”. First there was my Led Zeppelin phase, inspired by watching Disc 1 of the “Led Zeppelin” DVD on a big TV on New Year’s Eve. This needs to be watched, not just for the music, but also for their youthful good looks, immaculate dress sense and superior hair care. Next, and still happening, is my Crosby Stills and Nash phase, brought on by accidentally hearing a couple of songs of theirs, “Dark Star” and “Wooden Ships”, on the download. Interestingly (to me), both of these were pockets of music I have looked down upon since I turned 15 and discovered 2JJ and New Musical Express. Which is perhaps my bad, although I wonder where I would be now if I had continued down the path that had me listening almost exclusively to Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, Status Quo, Jethro Tull, Pink Floyd and so on. It probably wouldn’t be pretty.

In fact, I am feeling another phase coming along, and appropriately enough it is a Steve Reich phase (many of his earlier pieces had the word “Phase” in the title). Steve Reich would be very suitable for listening to if you were, say, working on a D Phil thesis and needed at once to concentrate and to have some music in your life. If you ask me, I would say start with “Music for 18 Musicians” (any version; I like the Nonesuch one from a couple of years back, but then that’s the one I have) and “Tehillim” and, maybe, the Deutsche Gramophon two-CD set that has “Drumming” as its centrepiece. The Necks can serve a similar purpose, buy you already know them.

I also think it is always a good time to revisit Tim Buckley. Right now, I would say that the time is right to dig back into “Dream Letter”, a double live CD (I have it on vinyl only, which leaves out a couple of songs from the concert) which I would like to think is still available, although now that you mention it I haven’t seen it around for a while.

Which is probably enough for now. Except to say that on a personal level, I am looking forward to new albums by Air, Au Revoire Simone, LCD Soundsystem, The Bird and The Bee, and Electrelane. But especially the new David Kilgour. It is always a good year when you have a new David Kilgour.