Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Hypothetical Mixtape, June 2012 (yes, that's "2012")

At some point in the very near future I am going to be 12 months behind in my listening. That will be embarrassing. At that point I am going to give up. Or start again. Or something. Until then, as YMO once intoned, "Here we go again."

"Hung Up On My Baby", by Isaac Hayes. I could happily spend the rest of my life listening to a loop of the guitar line with which this song starts. It can't get better than this, one thinks to oneself. But it can. And it does. First, a gorgeous, watery wah-wah guitar kicks in, followed, shortly thereafter, by a third, deeper electric guitar. The groove settles in and breathes for a minute and a half. Then the horns come in. Then more horns come in. Then the fucking strings start up. You might know him only as the chef from "South Park", but Isaac Hayes was much, much more than that. On this track he doesn't even feel the need to sing. Actually, you know what? Listen to it for yourself. (You can make yourself woozy by staring at the record spinning for six and a half minutes if you like; or you can shut your eyes.)

"Brazil Express", by Liza. From the sublime to the faintly ridiculous, maybe, but I have always had a thing for records from the sixties/seventies featuring a swingin' Latin beat and a Hammond organ. Especially when they hail from Denmark! And when they round the song out with some blistering electric guitar.

"La Do Da Da", by The Blue Things. Kansas mid-sixties garage rockers. Has a slight minor-key lilt that is very affecting. It puts me in mind of the song "Matelot", by The Renegades, as featured in Aki Kaurismaki's film "Le Havre". Which, as you know, is high praise.

"Respect", by Kukumbas. The gap from Kansas garages to the garages of Lagos, Nigeria seems to have been a remarkably small one, when you imagine how hard it must have been in those days for news to travel from one to the other. Garage rock really is the universal language.

"It's A Dream", by Little Ed & The Soundmasters. I think this song contains the most subtly malevolent harmonica in all recorded music. The drumming is really something, too: not the least because the drummer was, according to the publicity surrounding this Numero Group reissue, eight years old.

"Almost Cut My Hair", by Ori Naftaly. Israeli cover of the David Crosby the-day-I-nearly-joined-The-Man reverie. Everything about this song is perfect. Hammond! David Gilmour circa "Dark Side Of The Moon" guitar histrionics! Harmonica! Bagels!

"Good Old Germany", by Einzelganger. Surprise! It's Giorgio Moroder, this time coming to you from the middle 1970s and constructing a highly listenable piece of music that will fit right in next time you mix together some Cluster / Harmonia / Eno-Roedelius-Moebius / Neu tracks for your friends.

"Oh Yeah", by Yello. As heard in "Ferris Bueller's Day Off". Did I mention I got a "Save Ferris" t-shirt for my birthday this year? "Oh yeah."

"Hong Kong Garden", by Siouxsie and the Banshees. My working knowledge of Siouxsie and the Banshees is far below what it should be. In fact, it almost starts and ends with this. I must try harder. This song is in my all-time top 50, regardless. Post-punk-era guitar never sounded better.

"Hidden", by Erika Spring. AKA Erika from Au Revoire Simone. They have been ominously quiet for the past couple of years so this was a nice surprise. You might say it sounds like the product of someone who has been listening to Beach House; but that should not be perceived as a problem. And it's a song that goes places Beach House haven't gone.

"Hidden (Jensen Sportag remix)", by Erika Spring. So, when your old dad pulls you up and asks "Son, what is a remix?", you could do worse than play the preceding track followed immediately by this one. Or you could take a longer route. Words change. A bootleg was once an unauthorised recording, generally outtakes or concerts, pressed onto vinyl and hunted down by obsessive fans. "Time's Up", by The Buzzcocks, perhaps, or the early recordings of Warsaw, or live Richard Thompson or Kraftwerk. At some point a bootleg became another kind of unauthorised release, this time featuring bits of a legitimate recording squashed in together with bits of another legitimate recording, hopefully creating a unique third thing, also known as the mash-up. You know about those. A remix, back in the 1980s, was a seven-inch single extended out to 12-inch length by way of, usually, adding length to the start, middle or end of the song, and beefing up the doof doof and the cymbals for added dancefloor pleasure. Nowadays a "remix" usually involves, as here, the original recording being broken apart and/or stripped down, by another artist (the "remixer"), who adds additional parts, of their own creation, to construct a (sometimes radically) different version of the song. No, it's not a cover version, dad. That's a different thing again. No more questions.

"Why? (extended version)", by Carly Simon. It might be more accurate to label this song "Chic, with Carly Simon singing". You need this in your life, even if, like me, the words "Carly Simon" make you break out in hives. Doctor Nile Rogers and crew provide a sure antidote. (See also a certain Daft Punk song from 2013.)

"There But For The Grace Of God Go I", by Machine. Ladies and gentlemen, Mister August Darnell!

"Girls Can't Do What The Guys Do", by Betty Wright. In which Betty Wright imparts some sound advice: girls, you can't do what the guys do and still be a lady. Ugh. Guys.

"The Ones You Love", by Jeremy Benson. Sometimes the best songs are the ones where it's just a guy with a resonant voice and an acoustic guitar, singing about how you would do well to look after yourself better than he has, and where a multitracked female voice sneaks in from somewhere that sounds a lot like Heaven to harmonise on the chorus. This is that song.

"Future Games", by Fleetwood Mac. You might say there were three Fleetwood Macs. The ones you know are the Peter Green-era British blues-rock upstarts ("Albatross", "Black Magic Woman"), which ended with Green's departure at the end of the sixties, and the LA coke-soaked mega-megastars ("Rumours"), which began with the recruitment of Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks around 1975. But there are also a bunch of Fleetwood Mac albums that you would only vaguely recognise, released in the first half of the 1970s, where they were neither one nor the other. That era coincides with Bob Welch's stint as guitarist. He died last year. This song, all eight minutes of it, is the title track of the first Welch-era album. He also wrote it. He plays a lot of guitar on it. You might as well say it's his song. (Although a lineup that included Mick Fleetwood and John and Christine McVie is hardly to be sneezed at.) I would say they were at this point, or at least in this song, trading in the blues influence for something that nods, ever so gently, in the direction of what Joe Boyd was bringing in to the British music scene at the start of the seventies. Also, with two electric guitarists working off each other over the length of the song (the other being Danny Kirwan), does it perhaps suggest a gentler West Coast progenitor of Television? (Probably not.)

"Expanded Dimension", by Lunar Miasma. There is a website called Dream Chimney, one corner of which, "Track of the Day", is devoted to drawing attention to individual songs. (As the name suggests.) Possibly the best part about this is the "categories" that are used. My favourite is "New age without shame". This lengthy synth instrumental, which floats on white puffy clouds made of something or other, squarely fits that description. New Age music was widely, and often for good reason, pilloried in the 1980s, but like anything that contains traces of something more substantial (in the case of New Age, that would boil down largely to Eno's landmark "ambient" releases), it was just waiting for the right time to get picked up by Brooklyn hipsters and reinvented. That time, people, is now. Enjoy the New Age Revival while it lasts, then pretend it never happened.