Saturday, June 23, 2012

Hypothetical mixtape: January 2012

Every month I find, thanks to my many internet friends, an unfeasibly large number of songs that I think might be worth listening to. These songs have, for some time now, been going into an ever-expanding pile, never to be seen again. At the start of this year I decided to conduct an experiment: could I dump the songs I found each month into discrete little piles, and distil each month's offerings into an 80-minute mix tape, just enough to fit onto one (hypothetical) CD? The hell I could. It's now June, and I have struggled to pare January's hopefuls down to 160 minutes of fun. Okay, so that could be labelled a two-disc set, or a "Deluxe Edition" or "Legacy Edition" (?) with bonus disc. That's not the real problem. The real problem is that, at this rate, the songs I am finding now won't get called for consideration until, on a quick calculation, around 2016. At which point if there are any "new" artists floating around in amongst it all, they will have already gone stratospheric, developed bad personal habits, and/or crashed and burned.

All of that is a problem for another day (or year). For now, I give to you the January A-list. (No links provided, or I wouldn't be putting this up for another month. Anything you want to hear, I'm sure you can find.)

"Moon Jocks N Prog Rocks", by Mungolian Jet Set. Just like the old days, this hypothetical mixtape starts off with an epic space disco anthem. It's not by our old pal Lindstrom, but heck, it might as well be. It tells a kind of shaggy dog story, features some tasty Vocoderised vocals, drops in a circa Chariots of the Gods synth solo and generally motors along at a cracking pace for its ten and a half minutes.

"Gypsy Woman", by Kiki Hitomi. I was giving this one two thumbs up before I even knew what it was I was listening to. It's not either of the songs called "Gypsy Woman" that I know. This one was apparently a "club hit" in 1991. Like I would know. Kiki Hitomi sings with King Midas Sound. That's the first thumbs up. The backing music, which I should have recognised but didn't, is a Ricardo Villalobos track. I thought it sounded like Kraftwerk's "Computer World" fed through every kind of filter. That's two thumbs up.

"Whole Sex Lotta Machine (the Drumloop, the Guitar Riff & the Super Bad)", by Fissunix. In other words, a mashup, the content of which should be discernible from the name alone. If you could insert Jimmy Page's classic riff into James Brown's rampant funkisms, you would, wouldn't you? The drum loop? It sounds like it might be the one from "Walk This Way". Although presumably those dudes copped it from somewhere else.

"Pinball (Ashley Beedle Edit)", by Brian Protheroe. The words "lost psychedelic classic" sit with the song, but not really with the year: 1974. And anyway this is an "edit", meaning some boffin has taken the original track and made it "better". I can't comment on that, but in this iteration it is certainly a "trip", uh, "man".

"Underwater Light Reflections", by Gate Way. I listened to a lot of music in 1975 but I don't think I ever heard anything like this. I don't even know what you would classify it as. "Soundtrack music" might fit, if that even meant anything. If you listen closely you can hear things that, many years later, would go to make up the classic Broadcast sound. Research reveals that Gate Way is actually "Laurence Vanay", who is actually the wife of one of the guys from Magma. Which probably makes as much sense as anything I've written today.

"Just The Two Of Us", by Grover Washington Jr. In my mind, Grover Washington Jr is a saxophone-playing Sesame Street character. Featuring the unmistakeable voice of Bill Withers. You would have thought this song was from 1971 rather than 1981. Which perhaps makes it a bit "old fashioned" when viewed from when it came out (but that didn't stop it being a huge hit) but viewed from today it is just a "timeless classic". Which just goes to show, uh, something.

"Isle de Joie", by Mandre. This invariably makes me think of "Quasimodo's Dream" and "Beautiful", my two favourite albums by Dubbo's finest, The Reels. Go figure.

"Aybatti", by Fikret Kizilok and Tehlikeli Madde. Turkish psychedelic Hammond organ freakout. C'mon, guys. C'mon.

"Yokpo Wa Non Kpo Hami", by Assa Cica et L'Orchestre Poly Rythmo de Cotonou. The backing band on this track has been subjected to the archival treatment in the last couple of years. It all sounds wonderful, but there's something singularly remarkable about this song. You are probably not going to believe this, but the horns on this song sound so much like The Laughing Clowns, it's actually uncanny.

"Kelen Ati Len", by Orchestre du Bawobab. Originally released in 1975 in Senegal, and excavated and released as a seven-inch single on Soundway in 2005. And it's great. It crossed my mind that "Orchestre du Bawobab" might be the same as the still-going combo Orchestra Baobab. Turns out it is. There is so much great 1970s African music being unearthed and reissued. I should tell you about it some time.

"Mademoiselle Marie", by Coeur Magique. More archival footage here. French prog rockers circa 1971, rediscovered by the estimable Finders Keepers label. In here for the sound of the guitars, really. As if that ever wasn't enough.

"Eighth Avenue", by Hospitality. And here is proof that absolutely no thought has gone into the sequencing of this mix. Suddenly, like waking up from a prog dream into a pop new morning, we have briskly strummed acoustic guitars and breathy, underplayed female vocals. A certain indefinable "something". As long as people keep making songs that sound like this, I will keep listening. 

"Nice Age", by Hatsune Miku Orchestra. The best thing about this song is that Hatsune Miku doesn't exist. She is a "singing synthesiser application with a female persona". How William Gibson is that? Here "she" is "performing" one of my favourite Yellow Magic Orchestra songs. Ah, what a world we live in.

"Have A Cigar", by John Foxx and The Maths. Foxx's voice here is distorted to within an inch of its life and Benge's synths do a remarkable impression of Foxx-era Ultravox! as they tackle, with gusto, the Pink Floyd song. If there are no second acts, as F Scott Fitgerald is supposed to have said, then nobody told John Foxx. Oh, wait, Fitzgerald limited that rule to American lives, didn't he?

"You'll Improve Me (Caribou Remix)", by Junior Boys. If there's anybody I have been digging in the last few years as much as Junior Boys it's Caribou. Hence at this point my critical faculties switched themselves off.

"Hymn of the Big Wheel (Egyptrixx Remix)", by Massive Attack. It's as if someone said, I wonder what "Hymn of the Big Wheel" would have sounded like if Massive Attack were starting out in 2011. I think this nails it.

"I Close My Eyes", by The Bee Gees. Sadly, The Bee Gees now are like the punchline from the old Dave Allen story about the wide-mouthed frog: "Don't see many of them around these days, do you?" (I say this as a mark of respect, not a cheap joke, but admittedly it could be difficult to tell.) But their songs will live on. It is the disco-era Bee Gees that still command the most column inches, but I believe that their earlier records are the ones that warrant the most latter-day reconsideration. This song is but one case in point. It would be hard to argue that anyone was as good as The Beatles, but crikey, The Bee Gees gave it a shot. My school friend Mark Eddy, who made a lot of unlikely claims, once told me that his uncle had been the drummer for The Bee Gees in their Australian days. A surprising number of Mark's claims turned out to be true, and anyway, why would you make something like that up?

"Tropical", by Nino Nardini and Roger Roger. Groovy. Tropical. The end.