UPDATE: I’ve created a mix in response to the new Lips album called ‘Zygotic,’ exploring some of sonic spheres that gave birth to ‘Embryonic’. Download it at Musicophilia.
You may already know, thanks to a now-defunct preview stream (at the Colbert Report’s website, of all places) or you may not–but the Flaming Lips are about to release what is arguably their best work ever–in their twenty-sixth year as a band. I admit, I’ve never even heard their last album, and came to find the once-cute “Do You Realize?”-style bunny-costume and confetti and balloons and smiles shtick more than a little tiresome. But ‘Embryonic’ is truly a new game for these “fearless freaks“. Gone are the grins, and gone are the singalongs. It’s not that this is “serious” music, as even at its darkest you wouldn’t call it glum–it’s just more artful and visceral than we’d come to expect. It is svelte, carefully messy, taut and yet clearly created with greater abandon than anything the band has done since the parking garage/boombox/’Zaireeka’ days, and very definitely earns its “double album” length of 71 minutes–at least to ears that appreciate what Musicophilia is on about. So it made me happy to read this little “interview,” which reads more like a one-sided narrative recollection on process and letting go, from Wayne Coyne:
It is kind of like waking up in the morning with blood on your hands and wondering . . . “What did we do last night?” Had we become some sort of werewolves and killed some innocent bystanders? I fear we have. But maybe the bystanders were our former selves . . . Our more crafty or calculated selves. Our less brave selves . . . Our less spontaneous selves. If those are the ones who have been mutilated maybe they got what they deserved . . .
Here’s hoping we can all experience, in whatever endeavors we undertake (including living), that sort of ability to become free–especially if we can do it in middle age, when we’re expected to be safe, pleasant and predictable.
[UPDATE: The Flaming Lips documentary ‘The Fearless Freaks’ is available to view free online here. It’s worth your time, though obviously it doesn’t cover this new, exciting revival of the band’s artistic fortunes.]
Posted in Audio, Link by Soundslike on May 21, 2009
Osamu Kitajima – “Benzaiten, God Of Music” (1974)
This one is thanks to Mutant Sounds. If Roy Budd or Marvin Gaye or Barry White had been making soundtracks for Japansploitation films instead of heist movies and American bad mothers, the results might’ve sounded like this. A heady and supremely deft blend of traditional Japanese instrumentation and form (flute, vocals, percussion) with transatlantic Motown/Eurofunk sounds (the rhythm-style clavichord, the judicious wah-guitar flourishes, a thumping bassline), this is a too-rare beast. I would never have believed this particular fusion could work so well, so if you’re skeptical, give it a shot. I’d wager you find yourself heading over to the Mutant to download the album in full.
Posted in Audio, Link by Soundslike on April 6, 2009
Jacques Siroul – “Orly” and “Gratte-Ciel” (1975)
Jacques Siroul and the ‘Midway‘ album is one of my favorite discoveries of recent months, courtesy of the invaluable Library Hunt blog. I like it so much, I have to share two tracks–and I’ll be featuring another in an upcoming revival of the ‘Le Tour du Monde‘ series at Musicophilia. Apparently Belgian, this music combines seemingly everything I love about French and Italian sound library recordings: that high-lonesome spaghetti-Western harmonica, Euro-funk break beats and bass lines, haunting melodies, fuzzy Perrey-like synths. But the coup de grace is the totally unique and captivating. . . wooziness of it all–the ghostly droning organs and synths, the wobbly effects–the nearest thing I can think to it is a feeling OMD would use circa ‘Dazzle Ships’ about a decade later. It has a wonderful warmth that reminds me of Sven Libaek’s timeless, joyful ‘Inner Space’ soundtrack or the gracefulness of Karl Heinz Schäfer’s ‘Les Gants Blanc du Diable’. So give these two representative tracks a listen–and then head over to The Library Hunt and grab the whole album while you can–it’s magnificent!
Posted in Audio, Link by Soundslike on March 20, 2009
Tuxedomoon – “Litebulb Overkill” (1978)
In honor of the interview linked below, here is an early track from San Francisco’s Tuxedomoon (who incongruously appear in the wonderful NYC film/document ‘Downtown ’81’). It’s not necessarily representative of their work, which tends more toward a Eurocentric, American take on a Deutsche Neue Welle-esque noir-synth-pop. But it is a lovely little piece, somehow blending a violin melody that reminds me a little of Laurie Anderson with the little “starburst noise” one often hears in electro-disco. [Tuxedomoon are featured on the ‘Computer‘ mix from the ‘1981’ box set at Musicophilia.]
Interview with Steven Brown (Tuxedomoon) by Simon Reynolds
Another interview from Simon Reynolds‘ research for his post-punk tome ‘Rip It Up,’ a “runner up” excised from the recently issued (and thoroughly enjoyable–perhaps a review coming soon) collection of interviews and short-form articles ‘Totally Wired: Post-Punk Interviews & Overviews‘ (UK only for now, but quite affordable and worthwhile as an import). This one delves into the enviably fecund art-music-theatre-noir fusion that was San Francisco in the punk/post-punk years.
Posted in Audio, Link by Soundslike on March 18, 2009
François Bayle – “Solitude” (1969)
Please don’t pass this post by. One, for the track at hand: it will turn your brain inside out, to be sure. But also for the links and the general information this post will contain next. First, the track: in a similar style to Parmegiani’s “Pop’eclectic,” Bayle’s “Solitude” is a fantastic melange of student politics energy, psychedelic rock, musique concrète, and early electronics. It makes a great gateway drug to the latter styles, chugging along with Krautrock-esque beats and guitars, run through the more sophisticated, less bleepy-bloopy-space-musik end of concrète/electronic music. It is proof that while the avant-garde weren’t often trying to make pop inroads (Henry’s “Psyche Rock” and BBC Radiophonic Workshop aside), they weren’t hiding away in ivory towers by the late 60s, and the visceral impact of this music makes it inarguable. If it hits you, you’ll hear the 2nd half of the 20th Century all flowing in and out of the mix. So listen, please listen, with open ears:
But that’s just the hook. What I really want you to do is start treading in deep sound, if you’re not already. And if you haven’t jumped in–there’s really no place better to start than at the top. Which is, for me (some of Parmegiani’s albums aside) the simply inconceivably amazing 4LP set, ‘Electronic Panorama: Paris, Tokyo, Utrecht, Warzsawa‘ released in 1970 and drawing on music from the late 1950s through 1970 from leading figures of those four cities’ avant-garde (Paris is unsurprisingly tops; Utrecht, for me, comes in next). If you’re obsessed with sound, if you ever get excited about the way sound literally feels in your ears and how it moves through your body, if you ever listen to the sounds around you in the world as though they were music: you’re ready for this. You need this. I’ll let my hero of deep listening Woebot give you the verbiage. And I’ll tell you that these records cost hundreds of dollars, if not more: so yeah, I don’t own a copy myself. But, this is one of those examples where I say fuck all the doubters, the internet is a beautiful thing: you can download these amazing records in very high quality here and here at the absolutely life-changing Avant Garde Project. Along with UbuWeb, Mutant Sounds, and the Wax Cylinder Preservation Project, I don’t really know any more wonderful archive for sound on the internet.
This is not pop music, and I’m not pretending it’s for everyone. But if you’re at the right place in your life, if your ears are shaped (metaphorically) anything like mine–well all I can say is that for me, whereas I’d been a skeptic about musique concrète and early electronics, thinking it was all bubbly bleeps and bloops; after I heard these records along with a few key bits from Stockhausen, Henry, Parmegiani, Schaeffer, Ferrari (those last four all found here), Raymond Scott, and Dockstader: I am a devotee. I don’t try to push this stuff very often at Musicophilia, but finding these people the last few years has been as important as finding Can or “Piano Phase” or hearing my first fusion-era Miles Davis was for shaping my musical love affair.
Mutant Sounds opened my ears to the possibilities of music blogging, and I doubt I’m alone. Sure, they’re not much for graphic design (see their signature header above), editorial consistency, proper tagging, or original commentary; and the sources for their stuff are sometimes a little unclear. But there is no denying that if Mutant Sounds were a record shop, it would be in every music freak’s top 10–especially if, like the website, everything were free! At this point, it’s become a major archive of the sort of outre that gets the heart pumping: scuzzy cassette-only post-punk and RIO; forgotten Krautrock and DNW; the good sorts of prog and psych and neo-folk from every country imaginable; Sound Library and mutant-funk and proto-punk goodness; and innumerable oddities that are likely to go down well with any Musicophiliac.
Not everything is a direct hit–with literally thousands of records posted, that’s not surprising–but I wouldn’t deny that they’re tapping into the mainline of musical weirdness, and that at least a dozen albums I’ve first heard there have changed my musical life. They focus on the (irrevocably, often unjustly) obscure via mostly out-of-print music, sometimes featuring records or cassettes of which there were probably a hundred copies in the first place, decades ago. Sometimes, though, they feature things that are in print or at least are relatively attainable; and in those instances I’m happy to go and buy it, because it’s surely the sort of stuff that won’t last long from whatever tiny reissue label in Belgium or Greece is issuing it. If ever there were an excuse for ponying up for a damned Rapidshare account, ‘Mutant Sounds’ is it. If you don’t already know Mutant Sounds, you’re about to have a great musical month or three.
Posted in Link, Video by Soundslike on March 6, 2009
Kutiman – ‘ThruYOU’ (2009) [Video EP]
Often one hears about how it took, say, John Cage weeks to create the tape splices for “Williams Mix” in 1952, but how it would take some random kid fucking around on his iMac ten minutes to create it now with a few clicks of a mouse. Well, I’d say this “technology today makes it all so easy” thing is at least a little half-baked: any sort of musician who ultimately prides himself more on how long his music takes to make, rather than how good it is, is no musician I trust. But regardless of the effect–good, bad, or indifferent–on the quality of “sample-based music” of streamlined/accessible technology, I think the same basic impulse is there and the same search for resonance is at play now as in 1952. Technology–primitive or advanced–only takes things so far. Still–if we concede it’s gotten any “easier” to undertake, this guy, “Israeli Afrobeat artist” Kutiman, seems to have decided to make it just about as difficult and time-consuming as it was for those early tape-spicers.
The funny thing, though, is that instead of creating avant-garde abstraction via laborious technique, ‘ThruYOU‘ encapsulates the full-circle from experiment to pop: countless hours of disparate-sound-seeking and (digital) splicing have come together to create songs, songs that “could have been made the old-fashioned way” (at least as old-fashioned as circa 1976 or so). Some might say, then, “why bother”. For me, I think it’s pretty masterful: through the video medium, this guy is laying bare a lot of technical factors most people probably don’t think about, and getting them to ooh and ahh (or maybe boo and hiss) just like the crowd at the first performance of “Williams Mix,” and making a nice little joyous statement for combined creativity being greater than the sum of its parts. But the impressive thing is, even if people didn’t know the technique–and it is impressive, it is laborious, it is some sort of “YouTube finally came to something” social/cultural moment–it really wouldn’t matter. For the most part, these are good songs, as well as good avant-garde application of tech. For me, that just does it–I love best where these supposedly oppositional forces meet up seamlessly.
The idea here has been done before, even as a 15-minutes-of-fame viral YouTube sensation (the one with the training videos spliced together). But this takes it to another level. The basics: the guy waded through surely thousands of YouTube videos by totally unrelated video makers, spent who knows how many hours cutting and editing and mixing them, and came out with lovely funk/Afrobeat/dub/hip-hop/R&B/dance fusions. Perhaps this process of splicing and sampling eventually becoming normal elements of pop music, just another instrument, was inevitable. Things start out a little cute, but like a good Matthew Herbert concept or an Eno/Byrne deconstruction, these tracks take on (through the seven songs in the playlist) increasing emotional resonance, transcending their theory-exercise origin. And thanks to a few lovely borrowed melodies and catchy beats and hooks, they honestly have some pop potential. I just love synergy, those serendipitous moments when sounds just fit, so I imagine Kutiman must’ve been grinning ear to ear.
Posted in Audio, Link by Soundslike on March 4, 2009
Laurie Anderson – “It’s Not the Bullet That Kills You, It’s the Hole” (1976)
Very early Laurie Anderson in a very “accessible” mode, pulling together a reggae-zydeco-pop thing that foreshadows the Raincoats, Animals & Men, the Pretenders, maybe even Scritti Politti. Available for free download along with a number of other early/rare Anderson tracks at the always-compelling Ubuweb. [Laurie Anderson is featured here and here in mixes at Musicophilia]
Posted in Audio, Link by Soundslike on March 4, 2009
The Feed-Back – “Kumalo” (1970)
Apparently an alter-ego for Gruppo Improvvisazione Nuova Consonanza, the abstract-experimental Italian supergroup that included Ennio Morricone, The Feed-Back tend only to hint at the free-sound tendencies of Il Gruppo. The biggest difference: The Feed-Back love beats. And “Kumalo,” though it starts a little slow, is mindblowing: it’s a one-stop supermarket of some of the coolest breakbeats to emerge from the golden age of beats. Thanks go again to Mutant Sounds for unleashing this rarity from its tragic obscurity. This should be near the top of any list of “albums that MUST be reissued”. [The Feed-Back are featured here in a mix at Musicophilia] UPDATE: Continuing to have some difficulties with streaming–let me know if a track doesn’t work for you.
Posted in Audio, Link by Soundslike on March 4, 2009
Chrisma – “C-Rock” (1977)
A pre-Italo Disco take on Neu’s motorik, this track rockets down the space highway on its one-note bassline (my guess is “C”), skittery beat, spoken male/female vocals and helicopter-synth oscillations, fueled by pure coolness. The fantastic Egg City Radio is sharing the full album. [Chrisma are featured here in an ice-hot guest mix at Musicophilia.] UPDATE: Continuing to have some difficulties with streaming–let me know if a track doesn’t work for you.
Posted in Audio, Link by Soundslike on March 3, 2009
Wapassou – “Chatiment” (1974)
If the Raincoats (circa ‘Odyshape’) had been French, and had invented trip-hop. . . it would’ve sounded something like this. Spooky organ drones, slightly shaky breakbeat, violin and flute accompaniment, whisper-sung French female vocals–you can’t lose. Out of print except on seemingly dodgy “Asian import” CD, your best bet to find this album is via the invaluable Mutant Sounds. UPDATE: Continuing to have some difficulties with streaming–let me know if a track doesn’t work for you.
An outtake from Reynolds’ new book of post-punk interviews, ‘Totally Wired’ (UK/import only for now), this interview provides a nice overview of This Heat’s trajectory and Hayward’s pre-post-punk perspective on the late 70’s and early 80’s. [Charles Hayward is featured here and here in mixes at Musicophilia.]
“And it’s important to me that music which goes ‘outside’ still has some sort of semi-folk basis in society. It belongs to a place and comes from a place. Which is something I always hear in Sun Ra. They were part of a community in Philadelphia and Washington, even though their music doesn’t overtly describe the situation they lived in. Everyone nowadays is basing their morality and ethics on gadgets, as if a sense of place doesn’t exist anymore. People feel dislocated when they haven’t got that.”
Welcome to Musicophilia’s more impulsive little brother, Musicophilia Daily. My ultimate goal when I started blogging was to help people hear great music, and hopefully get inspired to support the featured artists and independent music shops. I love mixes, and I think they can have value in and of themselves; but they take a lot of time (for mixers and listeners) and energy, and have their own inherent limitations in terms of variety and spontaneity. So to further Musicophilia’s goal, I’d like to have the flexibility to move beyond the mix-only format, to share individual tracks, links to recommended posts at other blogs, videos, reviews, out-of-print albums, previews of upcoming mixes, questions, and ideas; all sharing the spirit and sounds of Musicophilia. However, I would like to do so without cluttering up Musicophilia–which will continue to focus on carefully crafted mixes–or forcing more content on its subscribers than they bargained for. To that end, I’d like to present Musicophilia Daily. I encourage you to subscribe in order to automatically receive new updates. Further details after “more…”. Thanks for listening!