Saturday, July 20, 2013

Hypothetical mixtape: August 2012

On the other hand, some months seem like Christmas: trying to narrow the choices down to those that would fit on one CD feels like a form of cruel and unusual punishment. (Shed a tear for the ones that got away.)

"She", by Charles Kynard. Kynard is a lesser-known exponent of the Hammond B-3 in a jazz setting. You would probably call this Acid Jazz today, but it wasn't called that in 1971. The back cover photo has him grinning in a manner that reminds us of that other Hero of the Hammond, Barry Morgan

"The Soul of Patrick Lee", by John Cale. In his long solo career, John Cale has produced many records, great swathes of which are, to be diplomatic, "not to my taste". Anyway it just goes to show that you have to keep listening, because there are always gems to be discovered. You might have expected to find this song on "Paris, 1919" (one of his two solo masterpieces, if you ask me) but instead it is buried on the "Church of Anthrax" album, made in collaboration with the original minimalist, Terry Riley, an album which is otherwise largely experimental in outlook. Evidently that is not Cale singing. You could have fooled me.

"Cherokee (Nicolas Jaar Remix)", by Cat Power. I was rather taken by the previous couple of Cat Power albums, but "Sun", from last year, left me largely unexcited. (For which I feel like I should apologise. Um, "sorry".) This Nicolas Jaar remix, however, is another story entirely. It pitches Marshall's voice against a droning, almost ambient bed of sounds, both organic and electronic, formed into a contextually perfect descending chord sequence. I think it is marvellous.

"Elephant (Todd Rundgren Remix)", by Tame Impala. It's nice to see pop all-rounder Todd Rundgren making a second (or fifth?) career as a remixer. He did a number on a Lindstrom track a while back, and now we have him taking whatever it is that makes Tame Impala sound so timeless and tweaking it ever so gently in order to tease out the pop possibilities of the song (no mean feat, given that the original song itself is pretty darned catchy). It may even sound like a seventies idea of a 21st century dancefloor smash, but, if anything, that works in its favour. I particularly like that he picks up the line "here he comes", which appears fleetingly in the middle of the original, and places it front and centre of the remix, as if slyly welcoming himself aboard.

"Satisfaction", by Mountain. Sludge guitars extracted forcibly from the foul-smelling bowels of 1974, and employed in service of this Rolling Stones cover. (The sound of these guitars is not a million miles away from Tame Impala.) On the same album they also cover "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On". I'd like to hear that. Although there's no way it's going to beat Lee Hazlewood.

"We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together (Country Mix)", by Taylor Swift. So sue me. A great pop song is a great pop song. And that never goes out of style. Or fashion. Or your head. Co-written, it won't surprise you, by Max Martin, who seems to know what he is doing.

"Prove To Me", by Seapony. Speaking of never going out of fashion: chiming, jangly guitars paired with dreamy female vocals. There are days when I wouldn't want to listen to anything else.

"Gas on F", by White Denim. In which the rambling -- and prolific -- Texans channel, in their own way, Uncle Neil's "Down By The River". At least, it starts off that way, before morphing into its own gently psychedelic sound field. (That would be a field with contented cows.)

"Ooh-Ah-Ee", by Vern Blair Debate. There is, in fact, no debate whatsoever, Vern. Supremely funky guitars, straight out of Haircut 100, are the order of the day here. Instrumental as anything!

"Hot, Funky and Sweaty", by The Soul Lifters. What it says.

"Take It From A Friend", by Janey and Dennis. Remember songs like "Seabird", by The Alessi Brothers? You will after you have listened to this. Hipsters have given this kind of song the label "sunshine pop", but there is the slightest air of melancholy sitting just underneath the surface to add some substance to the sweetness and light. I imagine it is possible to trace a line from this song, via The Carpenters and, if you're from Australia, The Moir Sisters, to "Trees and Flowers", by Strawberry Switchblade, and thence, heading backwards again in time, to The Roches' "Hammond Song", and maybe even "You Make The Sunshine", by The Temprees.

"Silversong", by Mellow Candle. Oops, I almost wrote, "by Espers". Both parties should take that as a compliment. This is the kind of song that Espers do better than anyone else in recent memory; here's how it was done in 1972.

"I'm A Man", by Cisneros and Garza Group. Actual, certifiably authentic Texas sixties garage rock; and a cover of the Spencer Davis Group classic. What could possibly go wrong? Okay, the flute solo, for one thing ...

"Magic Mirror", by Aphrodite's Child. So you thought Vangelis was responsible for nothing more than the "Blade Runner" soundtrack and windy new age mumbo jumbo assisted by the helium-voiced dude from Yes? That Demis Roussos was nothing more than a facilitator of wet handkerchiefs? Think again.

"Kyenkyen Bi Adi M'awu", by Alhaji K. Frimpong. Music for your back porch on a summer evening. If your back porch was in Africa.

"Still I Love You", by Isaac Tichauer. Australian content alert! Dude has clearly been listening to Dan Snaith (especially in his Daphni guise), Nicolas Jaar, Andy Stott and the like, but has managed to come up with his own sound. And I like it. There's a particularly nice "Tubular Bells" kind of thing that surfaces every now and then.

"Mauve Mood (Gavin Russom remix)", by Alice Cohen. As best as I can figure out, this is the same Alice Cohen that Wikipedia describes as a New York­-based musician and visual artist, active since the late seventies. I'm surprised I haven't run across her before; this is exactly the type of analog synth-based tunesmithery (think, for example, early Nite Jewel) that I fall heavily for every time I hear it. Actually, the analog nature of the remix, not surprisingly, is Russom's own work; the original song is carried along on a 1980s digital synth-pop sheen.

"Sandsings (remixed by Boards of Canada)", by Mira Calix. At the time when we were trawling through the internet in search of the songs that would ultimately form the basis of this hypothetical mixtape, a new Boards of Canada album seemed impossible to even imagine. Thus we were inclined to leap on anything bearing the Boards of Canada name with a haste that perhaps no longer seems entirely dignified.