Tuesday, January 02, 2018

Hypothetical Mixtape 2.04

To start this one off, we are jumping back in time to the second half of the 1990s, when Grumpy Warren's Record Paradise was the shopping destination of choice, a place where you might just, if Bruce Milne didn't get there before you, pick up some lovely vinyl specimens from the lounge and library music era. (You also learned that not every Martin Denny record was what you were expecting. So be it.) Those were good times.

"Alcoholic", by The Black Fire. "Cream" was one of a number of Italian library music albums released on, I believe, Flirt Records. The covers of these records (see below) contained some of the best font design this side of a Stereolab record. (It was also released by another Italian label at around the same time with a different cover, striking in its own way but with much more dodgy lettering. See the embedded Bandcamp player.) Whichever cover you prefer, I can't see anybody not fully embracing the sounds within. "Alcoholic", apparently, was used as the opening music for the kung fu film "Operation Cobra". Sounds about right.

"Time", by Ju-Par Universal Orchestra. "Time", as in, "Now is the time for love". How seventies is that? If you were wanting to soundtrack your next fondue party, you need go no further. No extra charge for the tastiest electric piano.

"Melting Pot", by Booker T And The MGs. Not as obscure as the previous two songs, and not exactly coming from the same place, but (a) it's not "Green Onions" and (b) you can surely dig it. "Melting Pot" also existed as a single, but I can't see why anyone wouldn't take the full eight minutes, seeing as how it's on offer. It has quality oozing out of every orifice. Sorry.

"Fly Away", by Hashish. And, to prove that the whole lounge/library flame is still burning to this day -- at least in Sweden -- we have this. 

"Play With Fire", by Takkhalha. What else we like is cover versions of Rolling Stones songs from unlikely locations. Such as Iran. Taken, in this case, from a 2010 Spanish compilation. We are very grateful for their efforts, although you should be aware, as Discogs points out, that "All releases are unofficial".

"Blind Man Can See It (Extended Version)", by James Brown. This is taken from the 2003 reissue of "In The Jungle Groove", itself a compilation of earlier James Brown tracks, put together in 1986 to capitalise, it says here, on JB's status amongst the students of the hip-hop groove. The original "Blind Man" appeared on the "Black Caesar" soundtrack, in 1973. However, at 2 minutes and a bit, it was never going to be enough. Now it is. Also note: the cover of "In The Jungle Groove" was, uh, borrowed for a compilation called "In The Christmas Groove". And with beats this thick it might be Christmas all year round.

"They Came For Us", by Zig Zags. Being a repetitive groove of a very different kind. If you have never found yourself thinking, I wish it was still 1974, then you can probably move to the next track. As for the rest of you: sweet dreams!

"I Only Bought It For The Bottle", by The Orielles. Hey, kids! Punk rock! It looks like a seven-inch single but it is actually a digital file. That's progress, I guess. But wouldn't you want to hold it in your hand, and watch it spinning around on your turntable? A word of warning, though: the chorus is so big it could actually kill you. And don't even get me started on the sound of the guitar. Song of the year? Whoops, too late.

"Desert Raven", by Jonathan Wilson. I guess it must have been around this point that the drugs kicked in. It won't surprise you to learn that Wilson is based in Laurel Canyon. I feel like we've been here before.

"アイレ可愛や", by Mari Hamada. From 1997. With musical accompaniment by Autechre. Yes, I'm as surprised as you are.

"Relax Your Body (Ricardo Villalobos Remix)", by DFX. To my ears, the original of "Relax Your Body", from 1989, sounds largely like something that The KLF did much better. Twenty-seven years later, it fell into the hands of Ricardo Villalobos, who worked his usual dark magic on it, so that, voice-over aside, it bears little or no resemblance to the original track (or to anything else, for that matter). What maintains one's (or, at least, my) interest across its 19 and a half minutes is the recurring, deathly slow sequence of piano notes, which threaten, but never quite manage, to coalesce into an actual melody. If the kind of creepy interior scenes done so well by Urasawa had a soundtrack, it could be that piano.

Monday, January 01, 2018

Song of the day

"California Dreaming", by Denial.

Enough time as passed since the "minimal/synth wave" revival that Veronica Vasicka can now make a dignified re-entry into the world of archival compilation. This she does, early in the new year, with "The Bedroom Tapes". "California Dreaming", by Denial, is the first offering from this new record to be released into the wild.

One thing I can never have enough of is cover versions of "California Dreaming". Still, I have never heard one quite like this. It's like an aural approximation of "The Day The Earth Stood Still", from someone who had never seen the movie but liked the title. Notably, it was originally released in 1982 on Sydney's M Squared label. But I can't say I was ever even aware of its existence. Until now.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Hypothetical Mixtape 2.03

And a one and a two and a one two three four. Yes, it's another random collection of songs found on the internet at one time or another.

"Mamshanyana", by Batsumi. This is labelled as South African jazz. The music was made in Soweto in the dark days of 1974, but (or should that be "because of which"?) it could hardly be more joyous. It also bears a striking similarity to "Astral Weeks", although that must surely be coincidental. And they have a very funky drummer. That often helps.

Bonus: album cover of the month.

"If I Could Tell You", by Nev Cottee. I don't know why this reminds me of "Dark Side of the Moon". But it does. From Nev Cottee's first album, from 2015. He put out another one this year. I really know nothing about him, beyond this song. If this was my day job, I would deserve to be fired.

"Hey Boy", by She-Devils. It's on Secretly Canadian. But they are actually Canadian. Why keep it a secret? This song reminds me of many things. All of them good.

"Shooting Star", by Harper Simon. It is unfathomable to me that this was made in 2009 and not smack in the middle of the 1970s. It is also unfathomable that this is the first song Harper Simon released. In the annals of great debut recordings, this at least deserves an honourable mention. Also: everything sounds better with pedal steel. (Oh, and a trigger warning: Harper is the son of Paul.)

"Spanish Sun", by Sunbirds. In which a German jazz drummer possibly invents (another trigger warning here) "fusion". I highly recommend that you allow yourself to be swallowed up by the wah-wah pedalling, and, of course, the obligatory electric piano. And whatever the heck else is going on here.

"Nite And Day", by Al B. Sure!. I know it's wrong, but I just can't help it. "Nite And Day": it's a little bit Barry White, a little bit Scritti Politti, and a whole lotta eighties. (And yet another trigger warning: the World Trade Centre appears in the video.)

"Psychic Driving", by Soft Metals. So it only took me six years to find this song, even though it presses every one of my buttons. C'mon guys, a little help here.

"Catallena", by Orange Caramel. Well, this is weird. Oh, it's K-Pop.

"Animaloid MV II: Tragic Comedie", by Apogee & Perigee. This, too, may be accurately classified as "weird". It's from Japan circa 1984. Apogee & Perigee would appear to have been Jun Togawa, a musician and performer who, along with the better-known (to me) Phew, provided vocals for an Otomo Yoshihide album, "Dreams", for John Zorn's Tzadik label in 2002. (There's not a lot of John Zorn in this track.) The proto-J-Pop vocals are provided by Miharu Koshi, which allows us, as we like to do, to provide a connection to the seemingly ubiquitous YMO, as she has worked with Haruomi Hosono, whose name also appears in the credits of this LP (which, it would appear, is a concept album about two robots who travel through space with their dog).

"Straight For The Sun", by Yorishiro. Yorishiro sounds like a Japanese name, but these days who can tell? Bandcamp says that he/she/they are from Madrid, Spain. You know what? It doesn't matter. Chill. Which is what these sounds would ask you to do.

"9 Elms Over River Eno (The Field Remix)", by The Orb. And speaking of chill. The Orb, latterly of Kompakt, continue to operate in their own, uh, sphere, seemingly untainted by the outside world. Here, an external influence sneaks in to mess with them, in the guise of The Field, who has been relatively quiet of late. The gorgeous little melody line, which is hinted at in the original but drawn to necessary prominence in this remix, might as well have, as the name suggests, been collected as it floated down the river Eno (albeit at a faster clip than Eno would have sent it off at).

"In The Air", by Michele Mercure. A 2017 reissue of an obscure 1986 album reveals much that possibly sounds better today than it did then. Has anyone ever considered why the rise of crystalline synth sounds, MIDI, and digital recording techniques, coincided with the drop-off in Brian Eno's solo work? Maybe, as with the more or less contemporaneous introduction of digital methodologies to dub reggae, he thought it had all become too easy, thus taking all the fun out of it and giving rise to dangerous "what's the point" kinds of thoughts. (Of course, Brian Eno has latterly been very much back in the game, with, in particular, "Lux" and "Reflection" (and, maybe his crowning achievement, the iPad edition of the latter, which allows Eno's unmistakable ambient sounds to continue literally forever, as one senses they were always designed to do).)

And we finish this mixed bag of goodies, as we sometimes like to do, with a trio of fine Jamaican dub reggae tracks from the latter half of the seventies. There's not much that can be said here; it's all good.

"Plantation Heights", by Dillinger.

"Don't Cut Off Your Dub", by King Tubby And The Aggrovators.

"No, No, No", by Augustus "Gussie" Clarke.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Song of the day

 "Maria Tambien", by Khruangbin.
If you are one of the (increasingly fewer) people who could afford to overindulge during the Christmas season, this song is presented to you as something of a palate cleanser. Enjoy. In moderation.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Of the year 2017

So I have been putting off doing this post, in part because I can't quite justify including "A Deeper Understanding", by The War On Drugs, and I keep thinking that if I listen to it one more time its mysteries will surely become clear to me.

It still hasn't happened yet. Maybe just one more listen ...

It's weird. I fell head over heels for "Lost In The Dream" the first time I heard it. What's the difference? I don't know. Somehow this one feels more like the sum of its parts than the massive achievement that those parts seem to imply.

So "A Deeper Understanding" gets its own category. I don't know: Asterisk of the year?

Meanwhile it has been one of those years where the quantity (and quality) of essential new music is overwhelming. Certainly it is impossible to reduce it all down to ten albums. And yet that is what we are here to do.

Ten Albums Up On Top

"american dream", by LCD Soundsystem. But I already told you that.
"Unfold", by The Necks.
"Hot Thoughts", by Spoon.
"Reassemblage", by Visible Cloaks.
"50", by Michael Chapman.
"Kelly Lee Owens", by Kelly Lee Owens.
"Modern Kosmology", by Jane Weaver.
"Crack-Up", by Fleet Foxes.
"Compassion", by Forest Swords.
"Haxan (Versions By Prins Thomas)", by Dungen.

And then we also have ...

Revenge Of The Beloved Legacy Acts

"In Between", by The Feelies.
"Slowdive", by Slowdive.
"How Did I Find Myself Here?", by The Dream Syndicate.
"Silver / Lead", by Wire.
"Reflection", by Brian Eno.

Seven Songs

"Only Once Away My Son", by Brian Eno and Kevin Shields.
"Legend Of The Wild Horse", by Emily Haines And The Soft Skeleton.
"French Press", by Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever.
"Party", by Aldous Harding.
"Thirty", by The Weather Station.
"Hazefield", by Ikonika (with Jessy Lanza).
"Happiness (24 Inch Version)", by Crooked Man.

New Old Music

That would be "Hitchhiker", by Neil Young.

(Although I am also very much enjoying the greasy-hair-and-body-odour 1971 vibes emanating from the latest "Warfaring Strangers" compilation, "Acid Nightmares"; and I have put aside for Christmas, unheard as yet, the Light In The Attic compilation of late sixties / early seventies Japanese folk and rock music, "Even A Tree Can Shed Tears", which I have sufficiently high expectations for that I am confident they can never be met. (Why do I keep doing that?))


"Thor: Ragnarok".
"Logan Lucky".


Because I have found myself once more making slow (but enjoyable) progress through Neal Stephenson's "Baroque Trilogy" (the end is in sight!), I haven't read very much other than High Court judgments and page after page of the New Yorker this year. Nevertheless, two graphic novels stand out:

"Hostage", by Guy DeLisle.
"My Favourite Thing Is Monsters", by Emil Ferris.
Even (or maybe "especially") if you have been reluctant to pick up a "comic book for adults", I urge you to read both of these books. I don't think either of them could exist in any other form, and the stories they tell deserve to be read.

And with that, I bid you adieu.

For now.

Saturday, December 09, 2017

Songs of the day

“Memphis, Lancashire”, by Jack Cooper.
”Cremated (Blown Away)”, by The Proper Ornaments.
Hands up if you like your pop jangly. So, that’s all of you. As I thought.

A bit of history. In the shape of a fairy tale. Which is appropriate, given that every time I hear something new by these guys I have to pinch myself to check if it is real.

Once upon a time there was Veronica Falls. (“Beachy Head” I have written about here.) They released two albums. They also released, I was recently surprised to discover, two sets of cover versions, tracing many parts of the rock’n’roll map, from The Rolling Stones to The Verlaines, and putting their own distinctive stamp on all of them.

While touring, James Hoare from Veronica Falls met Jack Cooper from Mazes. The reverb fairy waved her magic wand, and they formed Ultimate Painting, a band whose sonic palette conveys more than a passing nod in the direction of The Velvet Underground, but given the way these two gents have with a melody, every song of theirs has thus far been both a surprise and a delight.

And so we arrive at the tumultuous year of 2017. We could probably all have done with a new Ultimate Painting album, but it was not to be. Instead, Jack and James cleaved themselves apart so that between them they could give us the healing balm of not one but two albums — “Sandgrown”, a Jack Cooper solo album, and “Foxhole”, by another of James Hoare’s many bands, The Proper Ornaments.

Neither of these albums is likely to appear on anybody’s 2017 best-of lists, but I defy you not to feel better about pretty much everything after listening to them. Maybe they should be available by prescription.

Bonus beats: Veronica Falls’ take on The West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band’s “Eighteen Is Over The Hill”.

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Song of the day

"Fallin' Rain", by Link Wray.

This would have been a fair pick for song of the day anyway, given the recent high levels of precipitation across the south east of the country. But it also, lyrically and perhaps also sonically, captures the mood of these strange times in which we find ourselves.