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).

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Voices Inside My Head

Boys and girls, you are about to enter a frightening world: the corner of my brain that injects fragments of lost songs into the centre of my thoughts, and thus drives me to distraction figuring out just what exactly the hell That Song Is.

Today's sample:

1. "Because I Love You", by Master's Apprentices.

Apostrophe horror: the album cover whence this song springs says "Master's Apprentices", so that's what we're going with. Discogs has them as The Master's Apprentices. Their own web site (although who knows who's behind it?) has Masters Apprentices, as does Wikipedia (as of today, anyway), although with a "The" at the front. It's such a worry. (As is the appearance of "It's" at the start of the song title according to the credits produced for the "Rage" clip, embedded above. It, too, doesn't seem to actually be in the name of the song.)

Anyhow the words "Do what you wanna do, be what you wanna be, yeah" have been swimming around in my head. I almost can't believe (except I can, because Stupid happens to be my middle name)  that I struggled to place them in this, probably one of the great Australian rock songs. I figured it was probably The Hollies. (They should take that as a compliment, obviously.)

2. "Rollin' Dany", by The Fall.

In which The Fall do Rockabilly, taking a Gene Vincent song and absolutely killing it. Happy for this to get stuck in my head for days (while "Cruiser's Creek" takes a well-deserved break).

3. "Yon Yonson", by The Dave Howard Singers.

I have absolutely no idea. Wouldn't have heard it in 25 years. God, in 1987 I was on a solid diet of The Cannanes and Beat Happening. Wait, no, that was 1988. 1987 was Sonic Youth, Husker Du, Swans, Neubauten. But certainly not this: Herbie Hancock's "Rockit" (now there's a tune) coupled with a nonsense rhyme that the internet attributes to Kurt Vonnegut. The 12-inch version goes for eight minutes. Eight. Go figure.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Songs of the day - new releases edition

1. "Io", by Dawn of Midi.

So, I was hepped to Dawn of Midi by Sasha Frere-Jones. As usual, he is right on the money.

If you were to draw a straight line which had The Necks at one end and Battles at the other, you would be able to locate Dawn of Midi fairly precisely at the mid-point of that line. For myself, that is a good line to be on: Battles I am rather fond of, and I have a possibly unhealthy obsession with The Necks (who have a new album out in a matter of days, be still my beating heart). The piano / bass / drums lineup and essence, if not actuality, of improv connects this trio to The Necks, while there is a kinetic intensity to the music that is traceable to Battles.

And yet, while Dawn of Midi, like those bands, use organic instrumentation, the sounds they make are, in their own way, entirely modern; you could also come at this from an appreciation of the kind of music you would expect to emanate from Kompakt, say, or even (see below) Hyperdub.

Of course, they are their own band, and the whole is more than the sum of those (estimable) parts.

Their new album, "Dysnomia", while divided into nine tracks, is clearly designed to be listened to in one sitting (hey kids! old skool!). Here is the first track, because (a) I'm lazy and (b) they start as they mean to go on, so why not?

2. "Kathy Lee", by Jessy Lanza.

Speaking of Hyperdub, Jessy Lanza seems to be their latest finding, and sees them moving not exactly further away, but in different directions, from the dubstep ballpark they started operating in. I first heard her (without knowing it) on Ikonika's excellent "Beach Mode (Keep It Simple)". But what sent me in the direction of her new (and first) album, "Pull My Hair Back", were the words "co-written and co-produced by Jeremy Greenspan". Greenspan, as if you didn't know, is the driving force behind Junior Boys, if push came to shove maybe my favourite exponent of, uh, modern music. And, while this album doesn't exactly sound like Junior Boys with a Chick on Vocals, the similarities are not exactly hidden. The surprise is that it sounds, more than anything, like the very first Junior Boys album, made at a time when they were a very different proposition. (Not better or worse, just different.)

This song was dribbled out as what passes for a "single" in the early years of the 21st century, ie a video clip on YouTube with accompanying write-up on Pitchfork etc: where, typically, I missed it entirely. But it's never too late to get to the party.

The video is worth watching for its own sake. Evidently filmed in Hamilton, Ontario, it shows buildings and shopfronts that might as well have been lifted intact from the pages of one of Seth's comic books.

Friday, September 06, 2013

Song of the day

"Pier No. 5", by Not Drowning, Waving.

Again, not so much a song as an audio fragment. It features the guitar atmospherics of John Phillips, and is from an EP called "The Sing Sing".

The significance of this particular track, which wouldn't have been evident when it was recorded -- wow -- 27 years ago (say it slowly), is that it documents for posterity the Melbourne commuter's call to arms, "Herald final extra!"

Mind you, if the Herald were alive today it would undoubtedly be falling into line with the Murdoch-press diktat to run screaming headlines along the (UK) Sun-like line of "Kick These Bastards Out". But that's a story for another day. Don't forget to vote tomorrow, with whatever vestige of an open mind you can muster. If Abbott wins, which seems inevitable, the world won't end. But remember, "Stop the boats" is not a policy, it's an aspiration -- and, in my opinion, a sadly misguided aspiration, although I would be (and perhaps am!) the first to acknowledge (though such an acknowledgement would seem to be unfashionable today) that reasonable people might argue otherwise. When I start my own political party it will be called the Militant Moderates Party. I think there's room for one of those. (If nobody minds.) End of sermon.

Oh, the song doesn't seem to exist on the internet, but you can listen to it here. (It segues nicely into Bowie's "Sense of Doubt", by the way. I love it when Shuffle does that.)