Saturday, February 27, 2016

Unexpected song of the day

"Girls On The Avenue", by Richard Clapton.

You have Adrienne to thank for this one.

I'm not sure whether this was always a good song but I was just too dull to notice; or whether it has taken the intervening 40 years for it to become a good song; or whether I am allowing the thick fog of nostalgia to cloud my judgment.

Actually, I think I might be about to shed a tear. Nurse!

Hypothetical mixtape: April 2015

This month's playlist starts and ends with Todd Terje, but otherwise contains no Todd Terje whatsoever.

"I Get Lifted (Todd Terje Tangoterje Edit)", by KC And The Sunshine Band. I never had a problem with KC and the Sunshine Band. (Well, except for misguidedly assuming, based on lack of information/knowledge/intelligence, that KC must have also been the host of "American Top 40".) But if I had ever had a problem with KC and the Sunshine Band? Problem solved!

 "Warm Leatherette", by Suzi Quatro. It's very difficult to accept that this even exists. If it were possible for Suzi Quatro to go up in my estimation (hint: it is not), this remarkable cover version would do it. Leather Tuscadero vs Grace Jones: be very afraid.

(Bonus: album cover of the month. Obviously.)
"Murmur Earth", by Stealing Sheep. I know you must get sick of me saying this, but here is another (excellent) song that springs from deep within Raincoats territory. Outstanding.

"Tund (Ricardo Villalobos Remix)", by Ambiq. The resident 16-year-old is presently learning about minimalism as part of Year 11 music. (At last, something he is studying that I am not completely rubbish at!) In a vain, and not necessarily welcome, attempt at helping, I have been throwing him records by Terry Riley, Philip Glass and Steve Reich, of course, but it strikes me that he should also be checking out the alchemical workings of Aphex Twin and Ricardo Villalobos, to the extent that minimalism aligns itself with music that makes incrementally small changes over a long period of time. This cryptic remix could be Exhibit A.

"Launch Ramp To Tha Sky", by Levon Vincent. Never has there been a better use of the word "tha". Respect. 

"Bird Matrix", by Actress. Actress has been playing a long game, at least insofar as his last album, "Ghettoville", from 2014, has taken until surprisingly recently to worm its way into my central nervous system. (I picked it up when it first came out and have listened to it quite a bit; it's as if thin layers of onion-skin have slowly been peeling themselves away, month after month, until, finally, the complete project has been revealed). Notwithstanding his somewhat ambiguous "retirement" announcement after "Ghettoville" came out, new fragments of music have continued to seep out; this one, all 13 glacial minutes of it, came out as part of a fascinating but difficult DJ-Kicks mix. It is not cheerful music. In fact, it might be the end of music.

"Dubwise Shower", by Ray I. If Actress's sparse inversions of dub reggae leave you wanting to listen to anything at all, it would probably be a blast of authentic seventies dub. Fortunately, we have some just here. (This YouTube clip appends a customarily insane "Instrumental Version". Lucky you.)

"Reunion Sicodelica", by Los Holy's. (With a big "sic" on that apostrophe. It physically hurt me to type it, yes, but Word hasn't even come up with an admonitory red line. Boo hiss.) This song is also known as "Cissy Strut". You know it. Observe closely how the drummer tries his darnedest to keep up, and almost succeeds. The winner, though, as always, is the organ. (The A side to this record would appear to be a version of "Hawaii Five-0". Be still my beating heart.)

"Boil The Kettle, Mother", by The Id. Almost, but not quite, as disturbing as the title-and-band-name combination would suggest. Actually, yes it is. Honestly, you couldn't make some of this stuff up.

"Storm Warning", by Mac Rebennack. More punky swampy shenanigans, this time from Mac Rebennack. You may know him as Dr John. This track pre-dates the previous two by eight years. And the eight years between 1959 and 1967, musically speaking (at least), might as well have been an eternity. Prescient.

"Leda", by Safe Home. From the complete opposite end of the music spectrum from Dr John's primal swamp-rock boogie, Safe Home conjure all the goodness that can come from a bit of well-placed introspection.

"Nature", by Valet. I suppose you could listen to this and say, with faint but discernible levels of snark (perhaps combined with the subtlest of eye rolls), "Ah, the inevitable return of shoegaze". You could also just sit back, relax, and enjoy the song. Yeah, do that.

"Oban (Todd Terje Remix)", by Jaga Jazzist. So here comes Uncle Todd again, this time lulling us all into a kind of semi-conscious reverie as the sun sinks behind the dunes. I'm getting hints of "La Ritournelle". Or something. I don't know anymore.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Song of the day

"Twenty One", by The Apartments.

"No Song No Spell No Madrigal" was launched into the world without fanfare in early 2015. Its absence from practically all year-end lists was striking. But for those who fell under the spell of Peter Milton Walsh at some point over the past, what is it now, 35 years, it will have been the only record of the year that really mattered.

"Twenty One" is a song born out of grief. The finely balanced melancholy of "Things You'll Keep" has been, of necessity, replaced by abject sadness. (The story behind it can be found here.) And yet it is also extraordinarily beautiful. There are days when I almost can't bear to listen to it, but at the same time I cannot look away. We should be grateful that Milton Walsh had the courage to write and record it, and to expose it to the public gaze.

I also can't help thinking how hard it would be, right now, for Nick Cave to listen to this song.

Saturday, February 06, 2016

Song of the day

"Over It", by Junior Boys.

Five years later, Junior Boys return. It certainly doesn't feel like that long. The curious thing about Junior Boys has always been that they somehow never seem to raise expectations about their next record. Maybe that's because they are Canadian. Maybe it's because each record so far has been self-contained (and each, by the way, has also been pretty wonderful). The sense I get from all of them, including the brand-new one, "Big Black Coat", is that they don't put expectations on themselves: an album comes along when it's good and ready. Now's, as they say, the time.

What strikes me already about this new album is how much, and how successfully, it draws on the 1980s. A number of times over its duration I think to myself, if Human League made "Dare" in 2016 it would sound like this.  (I'm sure others will wax lyrical about how they have added elements of this or that up-to-the-second dance music micro-sub-genre to the mix. Glued to the past, me.)

What also strikes me is the inclusion, in a couple of crucial places (e.g. the 2:18 mark on "Over It"), of guitar (and even, I swear, a one-off appearance of an authentic electric-bass "doink", a la Kraftwerk's "Tour de France" single, and just as surprising). 

The other thing about this particular song? The boom-chuck-boom-chuck drum pattern. Two seconds of this song and you are transported straight into the black heart of "Dancing In The Dark", or "Flashdance" (or even the Oils' "Power And The Passion"), or any number of other hits from the early-to-mid-'80s. In some hands that would spell an early death. Junior Boys, as is their wont, get away with it. 

Hypothetical mixtape: March 2015

This month's playlist starts with Nicolas Jaar and ends with Nicolas Jaar, but otherwise contains no Nicolas Jaar whatsoever.

"What Kind Of Man (Nicolas Jaar Remix)", by Florence + The Machine. Everything I know about Florence + The Machine could be written on the head of a pin. I'm not not a fan, it's just one of my many blind spots. (I accept full responsibility.) So I come to this 12-minute epic entirely from the perspective of what Nicolas Jaar might bring to it. Dude is clearly some kind of maverick boffin: even in the three minutes it takes the song to really get going, he introduces and then discards more ideas than you might have thought possible. And then he just keeps on doing it. Headphones recommended.

"Boys Latin (Andy Stott Remix)", by Panda Bear. As with the previous track: Panda Bear? Got nothin'. Andy Stott? Lemme at it. You may even find some actual music in here if you listen closely enough.

"Falling Free (The Aphex Twin Remix)", by Curve. And the same thing again. (As an aside: Aphex Twin is clearly insane. I mean that in the nicest possible way.)

"Love Is Stronger Than Pride (Mad Professor Remix)", by Sade. Whereas Sade I do know something about. 1984 found me listening (with, I have to say, some degree of post-adolescent angst given its absolute smoothness) on repeat to "Diamond Life". A remix by Mad Professor makes more sense than you might think: remember "No Protection"? Don't expect any Black Ark-style shenanigans here, though: that would be disrespectful. And nobody disrespects Sade.

"Entropy", by Bleachers x Grimes. Pure pop for now people. I'm not even sure this was ever released. How thoroughly modern is that?

"Subcoiscient Lamentation (feat Tigerlight)", by Payfone. Released in 2014, this song either missed the boat first time around or is the vanguard for the next wave of acts that sound precisely like Studio and A Mountain Of One. I'm waiting.

"By The Time I Get To Venus", by The Juan Maclean. I have been, as you know, a huge Juan Maclean fan for many years, but this one, from the early days of DFA, seems to have passed me by. Happy to make amends. (The video is super cool, albeit it does get a bit weird.)

"Time Moves On", by Strutt. We haven't busted any classy disco moves around here for a while. Time to make amends.

(Bonus: album cover of the month.)


"Canto De Ossanha", by Dorothy Ashby. Reinventing the place of the harp in popular music. No, it's not Joanna Newsom, it's Dorothy Ashby circa 1969, bringing something special to the Brazilian groove of this song. Warning: contains flute.

"I Am Waiting", by Jennifer. Known to you (and me) as Jennifer Warnes. She appears to have gained the surname after she became popular, contrary to the usual nomenclatural trajectory. Possibly still available for download here.

"The North Wind Blew South", by Philamore Lincoln. Trivia note: according to Wikipedia Philamore Lincoln played drums with The Who for one gig in 1967 while Keith Moon was injured. Now you know as much as I do.

"Monticello", by Monty Alexander. In which Monty Alexander gets in touch with his inner (city) Marvin Gaye.

"Baby Batter", by Harvey Mandel. In some countries that is probably not even legal.

"Canon", by Michel Colombier. Close your eyes, and imagine a Serge Gainsbourg album (say, "Histoire de Melody Nelson") orchestrated by George Martin. And relax.

"Carrefour", by Luis Bacalov. What is Italian for "blacksploitation soundtrack"?

"Encore", by Nicolas Jaar. This was snuck out, digitally, as a free gift not long after the release of "Space Is Only Noise". And I'm sorry to say that I missed it. It is some distance removed from the opening track on this hypothetical mixtape, which only serves to demonstrate the wide fields in which Jaar is able to work his particular kind of magic.