Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Hypothetical mixtape: October 2013

October, 2013. Here are a few of the songs I found on the Internet. Filtered for your listening pleasure.

"Vibration (Parts 1 and 2)", by Joe Brown and the Soul Eldorados. When I was a kid, listening to ABC radio sport on a Saturday afternoon, every half an hour or so they would cut to a horse race, which would inevitably be called by Joe Brown. He was a Melbourne horse racing legend. This is not that Joe Brown. 

"Hey Joe", by Johnny Hallyday. Like The Beatles in England, Johnny Hallyday was so big in France that he didn't have to put his name on his record covers. Just the word "Johnny" and a photograph would suffice to project his records into the stratosphere. On the one hand, this is just another cover version of what must be one of the most covered songs in the history of the world. On the other hand, it's in French, which sets it apart and gives it just a hint of the exotic.

"No Fun", by Doctor Mix. So anyway, I don't profess to know everything there is to know about the UK music scene in the post-punk era, but I am nevertheless surprised when something comes up that I would have expected to have at least heard of, or read about. Especially if it was released as a Rough Trade seven-inch. And especially if it was a cover of a song by The Stooges. So here we go: Doctor Mix. Never heard of them. "No Fun", by Doctor Mix. On Rough Trade. Never heard of it. I wonder what else is out there, lurking in the historical shadows. (Also, the picture sleeve looks like the cover of a Stereolab record 20 years before the fact.)

"Screaming in the Darkness", by Pauline Murray and the Invisible Girls. It must be something like 35 years since I last heard this song. The Invisible Girls were the banged-together studio band of producer Martin Hannett, who also provided the musical accompaniment for John Cooper Clarke's northern poetry. This song positively reeks of Manchester circa 1980. The credits disavow the idea that it is Barry Adamson on bass but, come on, nobody else plays the bass like that.

"Sportsman", by Haruomi Hosono. Electronic pop music from Japan, from the dawn of the 1980s. It is, I think, just far enough to the left of cheese to be embraceable by you, me, and everybody else.

"Curtains", by Yukihiro Takahashi. As above, except without so much of the cheese. Yuki was the pure-pop voice of YMO, I think, Hosono the larrikin experimentalist/comedian (YMO's Holger Czukay, perhaps) and Ryuichi Sakamoto the lush emotional heart. Together they were unbeatable, but individually each was strong enough to stand on his own two feet.

"Blowout", by Jah Wobble. Earlier, we mentioned Barry Adamson. Wobble was the other notable bass player of the era (well, we can't really not mention Peter Hook), responsible for the concrete-floor-crushing bottom end of Public Image Ltd. He went on to have a prolific, if largely unheralded, solo career (which continues). This twelve-inch from 1985 picks up where the "Snake Charmer" EP, from a year or so earlier, left off.

"I'm In Love With a German Film Star (Original Radio Edit)", by Sam Taylor-Wood produced by Pet Shop Boys. This is where it gets difficult. The original of this song, by The Passions, is so deeply embedded in the core of my, uh, being, that if the song itself somehow ceased to exist, I suspect that I would, too. So I am reluctant to delve too deeply into the reason for my connection with it, for fear that to do so would only end up destroying the bond. Fortunately, I don't have to: this version, essentially a tastefully Kompaktified take on the song, has all the charm and ineffable mystery of the original, and I can enjoy it guilt-free and without having to undergo therapy. Phew.

"International Smark", by Payfone. Where the hell has this come from? It seems to be, at fleeting moments, bursting straight out of the Propaganda playbook, but with clean lines that bring it up to date sonically, and with a delicate hint of, of all things, "yacht rock" guitar. Well, that's what I'm hearing. Any way you cut it, though, it is irresistible.

"Up and Down (Beep) (Special Disco Version)", by Moxie. AKA (allegedly, anyway) a James Murphy/Pat Mahoney "re-edit" from 2008 of an obscure late-seventies banger that might conveniently (if possibly misguidedly) be labelled italo/space disco. Listen to what it does around the 2.45 mark. And then what it does around the 3.45 mark. And at the 5.30 mark. Then there's what happens at 8.50. In fact, you might as well just sit back and enjoy the whole shebang. Warning: contains cowbells. Surprise!

"Down South", by Museum of Love. And speaking of Pat Mahoney, this is a recent project involving him. On DFA, naturally. If you ask me, it has a bit of an old-school John Foxx feel to it. Which is fine by me.

"Dancing With the Mentally Ill", by Club 8. I wouldn't be surprised to find out that these folk had been listening to the third Raincoats album before making this record. File under "tribal pop". (Note: YouTube clip below has gratuitous four minutes of silence at the end of the song. Enjoy!)

"Garden's Heart", by Natasha Khan and Jon Hopkins. You could take the high road with this one and say that it puts you in mind of Cocteau Twins. Or you could take the low road and say that it puts you in mind of Enya. Me, I'll take the high road, but the evidence might not be all one way.

"Living for Love", by Realities. File under "dream pop". I really don't know what else I can say.

"Gillie Amma, I Love You", by Four Tet. This drifts on a bed of benign synths, in a way that Four Tet's more recent releases haven't done. Pillowy voices float in and out of, and around, the music. It's a bit mysterious, and slightly unsettling (or ominous). It's like you spend most of its length waiting for the point, until eventually you realise that the absence of point is its point. And a point well made.

"Tahoultine", by Mdou Moctar. You heard Peter Frampton sing "I want you / To show me the way". So you tried to show him the way; but you gave him bad directions, and he ended up in the African desert. While there, he lost his "talking box". A wandering Tuareg found it, and decided to make a record. This is that record.

"Time", by Lambert & Nuttycombe. No, I've never heard of them either. But from the darkened corners of Herb Alpert's A&M Records they sprang forth with this small acoustic gem, in the style of, let's say, Phil Ochs' "Changes", which, in an alternative 1970, could have been huge.