Sunday, March 30, 2014

Hypothetical mixtape: April 2013

Consumer advisory: this month's playlist has been written under the influence of the cold that has been cutting a swath through large parts of the Canberra public service in recent times. So it is without the wit and sharp observations that I usually bring to the … Wait … What's that? … I don't? … Oh. Well then, you will hardly notice the difference. On with the, uh, show.

"Pinball", by Brian Protheroe. Mostly with these playlists I am leaning towards music that I either have never heard before or haven't heard for an unfeasibly large number of years. This song is a bit different, in that I have long been partial to a "rework" of it by Ashley Beedle. But now, having been acquainted with this, the original, I am inclined to think that any reworking was, really, unnecessary: it isn't a song that requires added echo or squelchy synths, or an extended "mood-setting" opening minute or so (not that any of those things are necessarily bad); it can stand on its own two feet.

"Os Grilos", by Marcos Valle. There are so many Marcos Valle albums called "Marcos Valle" that it's impossible to know which you know and which you don't know. This one is from 1970. There is an English version of this song, translated as "Crickets Sing For Anamaria", which appears on an earlier Marcos Valle album, but which is vastly different in tone. It is a song that has also been done by Emma Bunton. And she even got away with it. Imagine that!

"She's A Lover", by The Pretty Things. It's always about The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Yardbirds, Pink Floyd, The Who, The Animals, The Small Faces. (I could go on.) But it isn't often that The Pretty Things enter into the discourse. (When do they get their Mojo cover?) Which is a shame, because you couldn't really describe them as of lesser worth than the others. Their trajectory appears to have been similar: from blues rock to psychedelia to more straight-ahead "rock". "SF Sorrow" and the "Defecting Grey" EP may have been their high-water mark, but the following album, "Parachute", contained no signs of tailing off. Take this song, for example: it wouldn't have sounded that out of place on any of the later Beatles albums, for example, would it?

"The Skies Above", by The Equals. Astounding. Performs the seemingly impossible feat of being both heavy and effervescent. As the album title says, "Sensational". What I wrote above about The Pretty Things could probably also be said about The Equals, although they had the added hurdle, in those pre-enlightened times, of being of, uh, "mixed race". 

"Satori (Enlightenment)", by The Flower Travelling Band. Tripped-out guitar-and-wailing goodness from Japan, circa 1971. You could perhaps be inclined to refer to it as the Japanese "Pictures of Matchstick Men". But then again, maybe not.

"Dear Prudence", by Katfish. The Beatles song, done in a curious early seventies Laurel Canyon style, with added psychedelic touches. Charming, actually, and the download link still seems to work. Lucky you.

"Be Thankful (For What You Got)", by Winston Curtis. You can't have too many versions of this gem of a song. William DeVaughn both times? Check. Massive Attack? Check. This one is done in a reggae style(e). It is smooth as silk. The business happens at 4:15, but the journey is the thing.

"Bourgie', Bourgie'", by Gladys Knight and the Pips. "Disco euphoria" personified. Prepare to be uplifted at the 55-second mark.

"Foxy Pup", by Nirosta Steel. There was a time when every week (or so it seemed) a new Arthur Russell track would rise to the surface, adding to the already complex web of discography attaching to this elusive, unpindownable musician. Those days are long gone, now, but bits and pieces do occasionally appear, such as this track, and a few others by Nirosta Steel, which were released a year or two back. It doesn't add much to what we already know, but it's Arthur Russell; it's all good. You might say "This is just 'Let's Go Swimming' with different lyrics". You wouldn't be that far wrong, but you would also be totally missing the point.

"Anne Cherchait L'Amour", by Jacno. This is an icy, haunting piece of French synth-pop, from 1979. Given how hard I fell for "I'm In Love With A German Film Star", I shudder to think what this would have done to me had I heard it back then.

"Her Needs", by Sandra Plays Electronics. This song has razor-sharp edges and harsh surfaces. You wouldn't want to touch it with bare hands. Uncovered and released by Veronica Vasicka's Minimal Wave label. Hasn't she done some sterling detective work over the last couple of years?

"Mali Koori", by Bassekou Kouyate & Ngouni Ba. This is as dry and windswept as the Malian desert. I could use an album of this.

"Requiem Solution (feat. Loreen) (Prins Thomas Remix)", by Kleerup. It's hard to listen to this and not think of the first Air album. It may be just the bass; it may be more than that. It's a minor chord happening.

"Painted Faces", by Jacques Greene + Tinashe. Tinashe: "American singer-songwriter, record producer, actress, dancer, and former model." Yes, but can she make a decent cup of tea? Jacques Greene, well, he is a Canadian, and that's okay.

"Selfish", by The Other Two. The other two being Gillian Gilbert and the other one, um, Stephen Morris (sorry). Did anyone remember that they put together this New Order side project? Presumably it was in pointed response to Bernard Sumner's Electronic. And then Hooky went rogue …

 "Even When The Water's Cold", by !!!. Now how in the heck are you supposed to pronounce that? (Well apparently it's "chk chk chk", but in my own mind Philip Brophy cornered the market on that pronunciation with this Australian late-70s art-punk project.) The first time I heard this song I immediately thought I recognised something in the vocal mannerisms. I realised I was thinking of Spoon. Curiously, I then discovered that that band's Jim Eno (who is not the singer) produced the song. He also added piano, such as you hear on Spoon records. The song also grows on you in that particular way Spoon songs do. (Not that I have any intention of overdoing the comparison.) It's on Warp, although it could just as easily have slipped out under the DFA banner.

 "Horizon Unfolding", by Fantastikoi Hxoi. Six minutes of understated but insistent Krautrock take us out for the month. Nationality and time period are a mystery that is not solved merely by studying the title of the song and the name of the band. (1970s? Albania? Wrong. Greece. 2012. But each possibility would be as strange as the other.)