Saturday, March 28, 2015

Song of the day

"Disco Dildaar Mera", by M. Ashraf and Noor Jehan.

Having spent most of my adult life hoovering up musical genre after musical genre, I never cease to be amazed that there are entire musical ecosystems out there the existence of which has never even crossed my mind. (Cue the voice of John Cleese in Monty Python's "fresh fruit" sketch: "You fink you know it all.")

Case in point: Pakistani disco. Yes, that is (or was) a thing. And now it has been documented by the exemplar crate-diggers' label Finders Keepers, on an album called "Disco Dildar". To the untrained ear (and, who knows, maybe even the trained ear) it hews fairly closely to the sounds of Bollywood soundtracks. That is probably to be expected, as the music was used to soundtrack Lollywood movies. (Yes that is/was also a thing.) The synthesiser sounds are both jaw-droppingly amazing and extremely cheap. The energy levels are off the scale.

Disco as you and I know it is obviously the template (see e.g. the -- well, it's not a sample, but it is clearly a reference, at the 40-second mark) but you have probably never heard it done quite like this before. Put on your dancing shoes and par-tay.

Disco dildar mera by swatiking

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Hypothetical mixtape: April 2014

April 2014. Let me see. I was about to turn 50. I should have been spending my time more productively than foraging for random music across the internet. And yet …

"Prophecy Theme", by Brian Eno, Daniel Lanois and Roger Eno. Gosh, this transports me straight back to 166 Nicholson Street, Fitzroy, listening to "Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks", the final genuinely great Eno album for quite some time. It would also fit nicely alongside, say, the "Sparrowfall" trilogy from "Music For Films". It is taken from the soundtrack to what is invariably referred to as the "ill-fated" David Lynch movie of "Dune", where it sits uncomfortably in the middle of a bunch of tracks by Toto. (RIP Michael Porcaro.) As far as I can tell, it has never appeared on any legit  Eno collection. (Of which I have quite a few.)

"Uneasy Peace", by Wooden Wand. By the most extraordinary coincidence, the opening bars of this song are a dead ringer for "Deep Blue Day", from the "Apollo" album. Wooden Wand has put out more records than I have had hot dinners. I really don't know anything at all about him (my bad?), but I do find this song hypnotically compelling. It strikes me as bearing a resemblance to the solo work of Mick Harvey, especially the last couple of albums. The double bass is a nice touch. 

"Tomorrow Is A Long Time", by Elvis Presley. Elvis does Bob. Strange bedfellows, you would think (there is a formalism to Presley's delivery that seems totally at odds with the frequent stuffed-in-a-shoebox looseness of Dylan's lyrics), and yet on this song they are a perfect fit. Really.

"No Matter What You Do", by Lesley Gore. R.I.P.

"Prie Atminimu Upes", by T. Makacinas. Back when we were living at Dalgety Street, St. Kilda, we discovered that a certain Mr. Jim Jenkin lived just across the road. Jim had something of a collection of obscure vinyl oddities, which it was our pleasure to look after for a while. The most mysterious of those records were the ones bearing the "Melodya" label. How they even got into this country is probably an interesting story, as would, surely, be the story of how a song like this could have emerged from the Soviet Union, and in particular how and by what means Soviet "youth" might have been exposed to Western music, without which this song couldn't exist. I don't recall this record being amongst Jim's collection, but it would have been right at home there. Call it prog disco. It's a remarkable thing: kind of like what those of us in the West would have been listening to in 1982 (actually, more likely about five years before that, which might be indicative of how long it took "culture" to filter through to the East), but also entirely not. Bonus: album cover of the month.

"Like An Eagle", by Nancy Whang and Audiojack. A cover of a song originally recorded by a porn star, sung by someone whose surname is "Whang". Honestly, you couldn't make this stuff up.

"You (Ha Ha Ha) (Lindstrom Remix)", by Charli XCX. Sometimes a remix works because of an obvious sympathy between artist and remixer. (Four Tet and Caribou.) Sometimes a remix works because is it from so far to the left of field that it should not even really exist. (Ewan Pearson's remix of Cortney Tidwell.) This is firmly in the latter camp. I cannot claim to have heard the original song, but, with those Lily Allen vocal stylings, one cannot imagine it sounding anything like this very Lindstrom remix. Special mention to the underwater-fart synth squelches.

"Subconscio", by Efestion & Harald Grosskopf. Grosskopf might not be one of the more instantly recognisable names associated with that dubiously monikered genre, Krautrock, but he seems never to have been far from the centre of the action, and his fine solo album "Synthesist" was in recent years adopted by the digital wing of the hipster cognoscenti. What is surprising (to me) is that he is still working, and not only that, but still capable of putting together an up-to-the-minute gem of electronic pop music. Like this one. (See also John Foxx.) Efestion? I got nothin'.

"Radar (Michael Mayer Remix)", by Hauschka. In which Hauschka, who, I think I'm right in saying, tends more towards a modern-classical (whatever that may be) bent, gets all gussied up by Kompakt co-owner and remix stalwart Michael Mayer. This may not be on Kompakt, but it certainly carries that label's mark of quality. Maybe they're softening Hauschka up for a "Pop Ambient" gig? That would work.

"Alla Kan Se Dig", by Fontan. How come the Swedes get all the good tunes? I really, uh, digged their "Winterhwila" album. This is from the one before that. (Which I didn't know existed.) Is that a theremin I hear before me?

"Digital Witness (DARKSIDE Remix)", by St. Vincent. Remiss of me, I know, what with her being pals with Mr David Byrne and all, but I haven't paid Ms Clark any attention whatsoever until now, and even then she is only in the door because of the appearance of (it says here) "DARKSIDE". Am I about to mend my ways? Probably not. (I'm too busy mourning the premature demise of DARKSIDE, a venture which may well have collapsed under the weight of all those capital letters.)

"Faith (The Field Remix)", by I Break Horses. Let's make one thing perfectly clear: it is not okay to break horses. And it is certainly not okay to boast about it. There.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

The Roussos Phenomenon

I am a bit slow on the uptake with this one, so a belated R.I.P. to Mr Demis Roussos, who for a few short years enjoyed stratospheric levels of success. As a boy, I couldn't get far enough away from his music fast enough. I was, thus, surprised to discover, in the early years of this century, that Roussos was not just "My Friend The Wind". (See the record cover above, where he would appear to be trying out for a spot in the Bad Seeds (or, more likely, Grinderman) circa 2007.)

He was a member of Aphrodite's Child, at the end of the sixties, with Vangelis (how's that for a before-the-fact supergroup?), notable in particular for the "666" album, released on Vertigo in 1972, a time when that label could, seemingly, do no wrong. But the song I want to highlight here, and which I am indebted, as ever, to the (we hope) temporarily dormant Art Decade for bringing to my notice, is "I Dig You", a Moog-tastic song from 1977, produced by Vangelis and, in fact, originally recorded (as "Who") by him under the alias Odyssey in 1974. ("Forever and Ever" it ain't.)

Bonus beats: "L.O.V.E. Got A Hold Of Me", a ten-minute disco epic that wouldn't at all have been out of place on disc two of the "Saturday Night Fever" soundtrack.

Saturday, March 07, 2015

Song of the day

"aisatsana [102]", by Aphex Twin.

I have these occasional dreams where I am a country town (it bears a nocturnal resemblance to Foster, as far as I can fathom). I find myself constantly walking into a newsagents looking for a particular issue of a magazine (these being dreams, the magazine may or may not bear any actual resemblance to any magazine known to man). In last night's dream, Aphex Twin was on the cover of what was clearly Rolling Stone. (It was less clearly, I could tell upon waking, a photo of Aphex Twin.)

This struck me, in the dream, as surprising, and it continued to strike me as surprising once I woke up. First because he's not their type. Second because Aphex is not someone to have really ever been uppermost in my waking thoughts, so why would his smiling mug take centre stage in a dream? (That's why people say "in your dreams", I suppose.) Like an embarrassingly high percentage of artists who came to notice in the 1990s, his work from that period was something that I was barely peripherally aware of, and I suppose I was also put off (which I am sure was his desired response) by the disturbing videos he came up with for songs like "Windowlicker".

Music's return to (my) focus in the new century happens to have largely coincided with Aphex's long dormancy. Thus, the only record of his that I owned was "Selected Ambient Works Volume II", and I am fully aware that it could hardly be described as "representative". Anyway the Aphex Twin drought has recently broken, and then some. (First "Syro" came out, then a 30-minute "EP" (it's not) of supposed outtakes, and most recently a hundred-odd tracks found their way onto Soundcloud, which demand to be sifted through for the undoubted gems that are lurking there. For example, he does something wonderful with Joni Mitchell's "Big Yellow Taxi".)

As it did with Brian Eno, Warp seems to have been conducive to Aphex reaching out to the public once more. (Both artists, it seems reasonable to assume, have continued to beaver away on their own projects, Salinger-like (or so we continue to hope), in public silence. (Although Eno never really goes away, does he, what with interviews, art projects, essays, production duties etc.))

Influenced, as I still am (even, it would seem, when I am asleep), by what is in the music magazines, I picked up "Syro" on the strength of The Wire voting it album of the year for 2014. Having missed so much of its back-story, I am hardly an ideal listener, but I hope I know quality when I hear it. "Syro" is a master class in practically every form of electronic music to have made any kind of headway over the last 20 years. It's as if he is saying, "Okay, I have let you all have your fun, but now listen, this is how it's done". Despite its considerable length, it keeps you (well, me) interested from beginning to end. Notwithstanding that it would be easy to write music like this off as "merely" academic, this album has a real, beating human heart to it, whether on account of the crystal-clear warmth of the sounds he uses, the fact that no five bars of the music are the same, or the joy of music-making that is front and centre throughout its every surprising step. Never is that human heart more evident, obviously, than in its final track, "aisatsana [102]", five minutes of unadorned solo piano. "Nice" is the first word that comes to mind, but I can't help suspecting a trap.