Saturday, October 12, 2013

Song of the day

"Love Is Lost (Hello Steve Reich Mix by James Murphy)", by David Bowie.

As someone who hasn't listened to a new David Bowie album from start to finish since "Let's Dance", in 1983, I didn't view the unexpected appearance of "The Next Day" earlier this year as a return to past glories so much as just business as usual. I don't think we know how James Murphy viewed it, but we do know, if only from the references that are dotted throughout his own records and influences (they being largely the same thing in Murphy's case), that he has been a deep listener to Bowie's seventies work.

This remix, then, can and should be viewed with some excitement. Not only does it marry together two musical visionaries (yes, I hate that word, but in this case it seems to fit better than anything else I could come up with) with a lot to offer each other, but it also marks the first significant appearance by Murphy on record since he bravely scuttled LCD Soundsystem. Its ten-minute span is typical of Murphy, gradually shifting and tweaking the sound, and the dynamic, so that what you have is not so much a song as a musical journey; meanwhile, Bowie's voice lends it the emotional weight that Murphy himself was, unexpectedly, able to impart in the middle section of "Sound of Silver". In short: this sounds like an LCD Soundsystem track fronted by David Bowie. And if that dampens your trousers, well, I'm not surprised.

There is a nice Kraftwerk reference early on (Bowie and Kraftwerk, of course, had a mutual-appreciation thing going: Kraftwerk name-checked Bowie on "Trans-Europe Express", while Bowie was undoubtedly influenced by their music (see "Low", "'Heroes'" and "Lodger")). Several minutes in, Murphy manages, somehow, to replicate the wonky piano sound from "Ashes to Ashes". (Show-off.) The Steve Reich sample/reference (from "Clapping Music", I think) is something of an inspired musical non-sequitur to start off the show, as you think that what you are listening to is scattered applause, until it coalesces into a rhythmic pattern. I'm sure there are other references that I am not twigging to, but that's why he's James Murphy and I'm Joe Schmoe.

I just can't stop listening to this.