Friday, June 28, 2013

Hypothetical mixtape: July 2012

There are months where you just can't find what you're looking for. Or maybe you were just in a cranky mood when playing back the stuff you were able to find. Or maybe, even, you just had the winter blues. We are talking here about what I was able to find, on my regular internet trawls, in July of last year. Which is not to say that everything that follows is a stinky dud; just that the culling process wasn't as agonising as it often is. First world problems. On with the show.

"The Shadow Of Your Smile", by Jack McDuff. The stereo separation on this is so extreme that your brain will tell you the Hammond is coming from one corner of the room and the guitar from the opposite corner, some way from where your speakers are actually parked. Hammond jazz as a genre, done well, I find irresistible. This is done well.

"128 Harps (Anthony Naples Remix)", by Four Tet. I have a mental list of people whose work I will jump on when it comes out, reviews be damned. It isn't a huge list, but nor is it made up exclusively of old fogeys. Kieren Hebden is on that list. Here is a track from his last album, "Pink", something of a tentative, explorative step towards the dancefloor (at least that's one way of reading it), remixed. We went through that last time.

"Comenius Garden", by The Field. Free music! On the internet! (Last year!) Man, I love this place.

"House of Jealous Lovers", by The Rapture. It's interesting to listen to this after the wave has subsided. This really, in many senses, was where DFA records came in. The opening bass line is straight off "Metal Box", the guitars are pure No Wave distortion. Cowbells and disco cymbals are obviously of importance. The bass changes up to New Wave propulsion (am I thinking Liquid Liquid here? I'm not quite sure) and the guitars that come in are within a lawsuit's distance of Gang of Four's "Entertainment".

"Is Your Love Big Enough?", by Lianne La Havas. Okay, so this is more or less standard 21st century soul singing (you can hear elements of both Amy Winehouse and Lily Allen, should you choose to do so) but the song itself is way catchy, and the guitar carries with it the faintest scent of African sands. Do African sands have a scent? What does that even mean?

"Fineshrine", by Purity Ring. This rather sounds like R'n'B with its insides pulled out. I can't say I entirely understand its musical language, but I like it. Maybe you will, too. (I have no idea what is going on in this video. I will probably have bad dreams now.)

"Only In My Dreams", by Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti. I had an idea that Ariel Pink was some kind of postmodern pop-music faker, or, uh, "artiste". I don't know where I got that from. If I have ever heard a more perfect pop song that this IN MY ENTIRE LIFE I don't know what it would be. As that ad says, it's got everything you could possibly want. And a little bit more.

"Oh! Tengo Suerte", by Masayoshi Takanaka. Spellbinding. Kind of as if Manuel Gottsching got stranded on a Pacific Island with only his guitars and a box of effects pedals, and something to crack open the coconuts. Bonus: album cover of the month.

"Robots In Heat", by Lem. There is, or at least there used to be, a blog of that name that posted rare and/or unusual tracks at a rate of one per day: perfect source material for someone like me. I take this opportunity to thank them. This is early '80s angsty-and-angular, herky-jerky electronic pop (you know the one) of the highest order. Oh. It's actually from 1977. It all gets a bit hazy from this distance (and at this age!) but that seems surprisingly early to me. Well done them. Brief pause: this actually reminds me, a little bit, of Tiga. Weird.

"Choreography", by Modern Eon. Similarly, this 1979 business sounds like it could have come from a couple of years later. (Although on the other hand it would have fit in quite well with "A Forest"; and also with "Vienna" and "Fade To Grey" (both 1981 -- I get so confused!).) Check it; it's a lovely song.

"Space", by Magic Wands. This on the other hand, although it is a 2012 production, might as well be a lost chart hit from 1981. Is it just "A Forest" with different vocals? Would it even matter if it was? Listen to it and try to stop your arms from pinwheeling.

"Brolene", by Welcome Stranger". Being a re-edit of, of all things, "Jolene", by Olivia Newton-John. When your old dad sits you down and says, "What's a re-edit, son?", you say, "Well, dad, that's when some tech-head with musical instincts pulls apart an existing recording and puts it back together leaving intact just the punctum (not a word your old dad would have used) and none of the padding. It either works or it doesn't, depending on the coincidence of your own taste and the taste of the dude doing the re-editing". And he will probably just nod his head and smile. Or you could just play him this, at which he will say something like, "I remember this song, but I don't remember it being anywhere near this good; or, really, any good at all". Which, in a nutshell, is the mark of a successful re-edit.

"Dancer", by KZA. Another re-edit. Same principle; different source material. Solid result.

"Inaccessible Mystery", by Jack White. Proof, if proof were needed, that Jack White's B-sides are better than your A-sides.

"Smoke Rings", by David Wiffen. Seems like we come to this point near the end of every damn playlist: a lost country-tinged gem that either sounds like it came from LA in the early seventies or, in fact, did. This one came from Canada in 1973. Which is close enough. Will have you crying in your maple syrup.

"Crystals", by Thom Janusz. Funky electric-piano-based "jazz" number from 1975. From an album called "Ronn Forella ... Moves". Who is Ronn Forella, and why does he "move", will have to be left for another day.  

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Japanese commercials of the day

First we watched this one:

And then we watched this one:

At which point we were in danger of culture-shock overload. So we stopped.

(Links courtesy of our in-house student of Japanese. I have a sneaking suspicion this is what they "study" at school.)

Song of the day

"Reach for the Dead", by Boards of Canada.

When they are good, they are very, very, very good.

And they have always been, and continue to be, good.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Daft Punk is playing at my house

Sasha Frere-Jones writes at length about "Random Access Memories", while veering into various sub-topics of a broader cultural nature, on the New Yorker blogs. He casts some doubts on the negative portrayal of the effect of album leakage on record sales. He echoes what I wrote on these very pages about "Get Lucky" not so long ago. (Him: you can play it eight billion times without tiring of it. Me: even when you have heard it so many times that you never want to hear it again, you want to hear it again. Personally, I think I like mine better; but then I would say that. I wrote it.)

He also owns up to writing his New Yorker column on the album after having listened to it one time. I'm not sure how I feel about that. One expects New Yorker criticism to be actual reasoned criticism, not first impressions. (Is the magazine so caught up in the endless, blog-driven new-release rollercoaster? I wouldn't have thought so, and I certainly hope not.) Nevertheless, it is also surprising how well he dealt with it after such brief exposure, and how closely his conclusions, doubts, and confusions, mirror my own.

Also worth noting is how well the old dear (the New Yorker, that is) has, after a shaky start, come to grips with the new world of the Internet and how it might be used to enhance, rather than cannibalise, the paper-and-ink magazine. Apparently this is being reflected in overall subscription numbers (especially international; makes me proud), which is pleasing to those of us with a recurring wake-in-fright nightmare that any issue could be the last. Sasha's blog post, which largely explains, builds upon and to some extent questions what is cast in stone in the magazine itself, is a good example.

Well, kids, I think it's time to listen to "Get Lucky" for the eight-billion-and-first time. (Contains some of the smoothest moves you will ever see.)