Monday, September 30, 2013

Hypothetical mixtape: October 2012

Oh that's right, there's some music I'm supposed to be writing about.

1. "Resigned", by Blur. I don't spend much time thinking about Britpop because, as you know, the nineties was the decade in which I "retired" from listening to music (because, like, I figured by my late 20s I was too old for Young People's Music; unlike, heh heh, now). I could probably pick an Oasis song in a line-up, and I have always had a soft spot for "Bittersweet Symphony" on account of how they were, uh, "punished" by the corporates for taking a Stones off-cut and turning it into a fine song. But beyond that if I have ever taken to anything it would have to be Pulp. Having said that, I do quite like this (although that may only be because it reminds me of Wire's "Blessed State").
2. "Nagoya Marimba (Hnny Edit)", by Steve Reich. Usually I take my Steve Reich straight (no chaser). I suppose what this does is make concrete the sense of propulsion that is always implied in Reich's work: ie gives at a shot of the actual doof doof. It puts a spring in this piece's step. And if the opening few bars also serve to remind the listener of "Uncertain Smile", by The The, well, that can't be so bad, can it?

3. "Hey Music Lover (The Glass Cut)", by S'Xpress. From one king of minimal to another. There must have been a time, long forgotten now, when Philip Glass's star was well in the ascendant, so much so that he could be invited into the mixing room to have his way with a mere pop song. We might assume that money did some of the talking: money that you can't imagine being there for him (or anybody) now. This is a pretty extraordinary piece of music.  It does, kind of, sound like Philip Glass. (It also, with the voice snippets and fragmentary repetition, can't help but remind one of Steve Reich (see above).) Could it ever have been a hit on the dance floor? I probably could have danced to it (in a particularly dorky kind of way) but would also most likely have been strongly advised not to.

4. "What'd I Say?", by Medeski, Martin & Wood. There are two Atlantic single-disc compilations from a few years back, one that covers the fifties and the other the sixties. "What'd I Say?", by Ray Charles, sits at the end of the first set. And, so situated, it really does signal the gateway from one era of music to the next. As with "Anarchy In The UK", you could hear history being written. This extended, relaxed cover by the now venerable New York jazz trio doesn't work any such ground-breaking tricks, but it is a fine version of an essential piece of music.  Available here.
5. "Hunt For The Wolf", by The Blue Guitars. Here's a tip: if it says "Melodiya" on the label, it's probably worth a listen. From the land that brought you Mr Trololo. On this occasion: Soviet-era jazz. With a big drum solo. What could possibly go wrong?

6. "Parks", by The Paul Bley Synthesiser Show. Play this immediately after the Blue Guitars track and ask yourself: who was less in sync with what was happening in The Western World?

7. "Light My Fire", by Ananda Shankar. From the ridiculously sublime to the sublimely ridiculous. Or is it the other way round? We love ourselves a good Doors cover. This is a good Doors cover. Hence we love this. (Hey, kids! Syllogisms!)

8. "Do It Again", by Deep Heat. Same again, but substituting "Steely Dan" for "Doors". Reissued by Numero Group, so you know it's good.

9. "Hot Coffee", by Tortoise. Proof, if proof were needed, that Tortoise's one-off single-sided seven-inches are better than most groups' regular seven-inches. What we're really saying here is, in our eyes Tortoise can do no wrong, even this long distance into their stellar career.

10. "Workshop", by Freelove Fenner. From a limited-release cassette called "Pineapple Hair". Apparently. Does everything a two-minute pop song should do. I really dig what they do with those guitars.

11. "At The Dark", by Group Rhoda. This carries all sorts of echoes (literally in places) of the spacier end of what you think of as krautrock, enhanced at one point by some early Pink Floyd keyboard sounds. It also reminds me, somehow, of solo Kendra Smith. (Whom I have been thinking about recently, in the wake of the new and unexpected Mazzy Star album.) So, yes, I am hearing a lot of other things in this song, but on the other hand I'm not sure I have quite heard a song exactly like this. (Does that make sense?)

12. "Remember", by Michael Rother. Did somebody mention krautrock? Michael Rother, as you know, was one third of Neu!. From which you may not have expected him to be making music as gorgeous as this in the 21st century. The musical framework of this song suggests that the influence of Eno on all of these guys cannot be underestimated. (And vice versa, self-evidently.) I could easily listen to more of this.

13. "Einzelganger", by Einzelganger. In other words, Giorgio by Moroder. (See what I did there?)

14. "Axus", by Space Art. (Note: may also be called "Axius".) And a little bit more early synthesiser madness, just because we can. Stop complaining.

15. "Dreams", by Streetmark. This is from an album called "Eileen", released on Sky Records, in 1977. It features Wolfgang Riechmann (who was also in a band with Michael Rother in the early days, and who was shot and killed in the street by drunken louts in 1978; think upon that next time you plan to go out on a shooting rampage).