Musicophilia Daily

[Audio] – Camberwell Now – “Working Nights” (1986)

Posted in Audio by Soundslike on September 24, 2009

Camberwell Now – “Working Nights” (1986)

This Heat casts a long shadow, and rightfully so–their blend of the edge and energy of punk with longer-brewing strains of art-rock tradition created one of the most lasting archetypes of post-punk. But an unfortunate side effect is that their brief years of existence can obscure the fact that drummer and mastermind Charles Hayward has continued to make riveting, artful, and often beautiful work for nearly thirty years since This Heat disbanded. His compositions have tended to stretch out a bit from the punch of This Heat circa ‘Deceit,’ favoring the atmosphere of the bands earlier work and the rhythms of something like “Health & Efficiency,” but virtually none of the judiciousness and visceral impact was lost regardless of minor production shifts over the years. “Working Nights” represents one of the (numerous) high-water marks in Hayward’s oeuvre, This Heat included, reaching musical and emotional crescendos rarely matched in rock music. It’s a political work, I think, about the worker and industry; but it also explores more mysterious ground, the emotional level of someone who feels trapped in a machine that has no regard for its components, and the clattering, ghostly world in which the night-shift worker can live.  The track also happens to presage, perhaps moreso than any of This Heat’s work, the cyclical, instruments-as-loops groove of the best of 1990s “post-rock” like Disco Inferno, Stereolab, Tortoise, or the various Thrill Jockey proponents–all from the unfashionable year of 1986.  [Charles Hawyard and This Heat are featured in numerous mixes at Musicophilia that seek to expand upon their unique sounds.]

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[Audio] – David Axelrod – “The Human Abstract” (1969)

Posted in Audio by Soundslike on September 1, 2009

David Axelrod – “The Human Abstract” (1969)

Following up the recent post of two brilliant Electric Prunes-in-name-only tracks, here is another utterly unclassifiable, stunningly beautiful piece by David Axelrod.  This is one of those guaranteed-goosebumps tracks, for me–the very definition of timelessness, masterfully combining stunning orchestral arrangement with an electrifying and effortlessly funky bass and drum combo.  Gainbourg’s strings man Jean-Claude Vennier would’ve killed to compose this track.  Axelrod is a master of the understated theme, repeating a three or four note pattern in such a way as to produce incredible emotional tension and, eventually, maximum release.  There’s just not enough music like this, but I doubt there ever could’ve been.  If you generally dig what Musicophilia and Musicophilia Daily are about, run and buy any Axelrod album from ’68 through ’75 and be prepared to be lifted to ecstasy.

[Audio] – Kraftwerk – “Antenna” (1975)

Posted in Audio by Soundslike on August 31, 2009

Kraftwerk – “Antenna” (1975)

I mostly try to share things at least some of you might not have heard.  But sometimes, hearing a track that’s become embedded in our mutant musical DNA without setting out to do so can be just as amazing.  That’s the feeling I’ve just had, hearing “Antenna” at complete random, not having put on ‘Radio-Activity’ in at least a year.  Maybe there’s nothing left to be said about music upon which multiple genres are founded–this is as much the bedrock of modern music as James Brown, and hip-hop MCs in the late 2000s are declared geniuses when they have the insight to borrow heavily from the grandchildren of the disciples of Kraftwerk.  The Knife, probably my favorite modern group to get started this decade, live and breath in the radiowaves of this album.  Even my beloved OMD, themselves now well and duly canonised, were but a minor homage (however wonderful) when they aped the album outright eight years later to make ‘Dazzle Ships’.  But there’s no need to say anything really, when thirty five years on, the music still sounds like the future.  Simply resplendent (the track, the whole album), and worth being reminded of now and again.

[Audio] – Henri Texier – “Le Piroguier” (1976)

Posted in Audio by Soundslike on August 25, 2009

Henri Texier – “Le Piroguier” (1976)

This is music that can only be called genre-free–spare, pure, feeling equal parts experimental and folk-made, calling to mind only other iconoclasts like Brigitte Fontaine & Areski or Emmanuelle Parrenin in its spooky stillness-through-rhythm.  Consisting solely of acoustic and organic sounds–handclaps, wordless vocals, single-note bowed strings, and upright bass played in a whirling fashion–it feels vaguely Turkish or Moroccan.  It’s elemental and at the same time futuristic, small and yet suggesting wide-open space.   Simply beautiful–and inexplicably out of print, so grab it at the ever-essential Mutant Sounds.

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[Audio] – Electric Prunes (David Axelrod) – “Holy Are You” and “Our Father, Our King” (1968)

Posted in Audio by Soundslike on July 20, 2009

Electric Prunes (David Axelrod) – “Holy Are You” and “Our Father, Our King” (1968)

Some might mourn the loss of the band that “had too much to dream last night,” but a “proper band” couldn’t become a product front with a result less like the faux-Velvet Underground debacle  than what David Axelrod did with the Electric Prunes moniker.  It’s hard to figure it was really worth the trouble of keeping the discarded name alive, financially–especially if what you plan on doing with it is realising albums of quotes from a Mass and from the Torah, however hip.  But the whole album from which these tracks come–all 25 minutes of it–is bliss approaching the sublime, with beats that can only be described as “dope,” vibes and organ and soaring strings, fuzzed out guitars and funky basslines, all spinning ever higher in exultation of the text.  Not hard to imagine this one dropped the jaws of Monseurs Vannier & Gainsbourg.

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[Audio] – Jonathan Richman & The Modern Lovers – “Affection” (1979)

Posted in Audio by Soundslike on June 21, 2009

Jonathan Richman & The Modern Lovers – “Affection” (1979)

In honor of Fathers’ Day, today I’m sharing one of my Dad’s favorite songs (at least of those I’ve shared with him over the years).  It’s one my faves, too.  I’ve known Dad to play this song several times in a row–and it deserves it.  Jonathan Richman is one of the few people I’ve ever seen who seems genuinely imbued with real, unadulterated kindness and an openness to the goodness of the people around him; and in that way he’s a lot like my Dad, one of the world’s true idealists, who makes it his business create the good he knows we’re all capable of achieving.  “Affection” is sweet, silly, and as a bonus it has that musical spookiness and energy we all love from the early Modern Lovers.  Happy Fathers’ Day, Dad!

[Audio] – Phantom Band – “You Inspired Me” (1980)

Posted in Audio by Soundslike on June 17, 2009

Phantom Band (Jaki Liebezeit with Rosko Gee) – “You Inspired Me” (1980)

Phantom Band, Jaki Liebezeit’s post-Can band and the most sustained project of any Can member, morphed considerably over four years and three albums (see this post for a track from their next album) but maintained a very high quality throughout.  The second and third LPs have a distinct arty post-punk feel to them.  But their self-titled LP from 1980 picks up largely where Can’s ‘Saw Delight’ and ‘Out of Reach’ left off, bringing in strong elements of African pop music and polyrhythmic percussion (as well as the underrated Can vocalist Rosko Gee).  But in my opinion, it improves on these albums with greater focus and musical clarity, stripping things down a bit, and bathing everything in a gentle warmth combined with a feeling of mystery that reminds me of the best of Hamilton Bohannon‘s late 70s work (the echoed guitar at 3:20 is a virtual homage) and a touch of fusion-era Miles Davis.  “You Inspired Me” is especially Bonannon-esque, combining major-chord joy (matched by Gee’s lyrics) and minor-chord ambiguity (in the instrumental sections) deftly. [For more Can and post-Can music like this, be sure to check out two recent Can-centric mixes at Musicophilia.]

[Audio] – Steve Reich – “Piano Phase” (1967)

Posted in Audio by Soundslike on June 9, 2009

Steve Reich – “Piano Phase” (1967)

Don’t miss this one. “Piano Phase” is as much an experience as a piece of music, and as an experience it profoundly affected the way I heard music, how I decided what was music.  It gave me permission, as it were, to follow an impulse that was already growing in me when I first heard it age 20: to admit I loved sound first and foremost; if sound took a song form, great, but if not, that ruled nothing out.  What mattered was the effect it had on my ears themselves, in my mind, in my heart–and a repeating shape could have as much of an effect as painterly ballad.

I still tend to perceive Reich’s music (especially the phase-based work) as shapes, visually as much as sonically, and I think this is because its constituent elements are so simple and laid bare at the very outset.  “Piano Phase,” a simple duet run of twelve notes, played in a staccato, unsentimental fashion: clear, precise, perhaps slightly mechanical.  And then these simple elements, with very few changes internally over the course of 20 minutes, are ever so slightly shifted: and instantly an ever-changing set of new, far more complex shapes begin to emerge, as the basic parts continue to slide past one another.  And these evolving shapes are anything but mechanical, producing emotional reactions in me that are subtle in their nature, but wholly visceral.

It moves me as no other Modern artform can, because music is never primarily functional; more than any medium, a “functional” conceit no matter how austere must take temporal and emotional form, and beauty need not be rejected or destroyed.  I find it fascinating that every time I hear the piece, the shapes are different than previous times, based on the volume listened at, the quality of the speakers, with headphones on a loud bus or in a forest–this is music that technically but more importantly musically is reborn each time it’s heard. [Reich is heard in several of my very favorite mixes at Musicophilia, which attempt to mirror Reich’s work in creating near-physical reality from sound.]

[Audio] – Songs:Ohia – “Being In Love” (2000)

Posted in Audio by Soundslike on June 5, 2009

Songs:Ohia – “Being In Love” (2000)

“Being In Love” takes the teenage romanticism (or dramatism, if you prefer) of love best exemplified by The Cure’s ‘Disintegration,’ and transports it to a simple guitar, organ, melodica and Casio-solid electronic rhythm section singer-songwriter presentation.  I know that might not sound like a recipe for sure-fire success; but this is romanticism that feels honest, the plaintive earnestness earned, and it has the good fortune of being well-matched musically.  I’m not the same love-lorn fellow I was at age 20 when I mix-taped this track for a girl (or two), but it overcomes my tendency toward emotional demystification of my own past, and still hits home.

[Audio] – Fela Kuti – “Unknown Soldier” (1979)

Posted in Audio by Soundslike on June 3, 2009

Fela Kuti – “Unknown Soldier” (1979)

Make the time for this track, I promise you won’t regret it. “The personal is political/the political is personal” doesn’t even come close to getting it for Fela Kuti.  This track has everything that’s great about Fela’s music and Afrobeat–all participants serving the groove in the best JB’s-like way, some playing a repeating, individually tiny sound figure repeatedly for the duration of this 30-minute track in order to create something much larger than the individual, something hypnotic and transcendent.

But this is one instance where I’d insist on paying attention to the lyrics, too:  the story Fela tells here is astonishing, and the way he tells it keeps my hair standing on end for the duration.  I can think of few moments in music more wrenching, heart-breaking, and astonishing than Fela’s description of the murder of his mother peaking at the pure sound of loss at 22:55-23:05.  But the whole thing is the most effective contrast of humanity versus the dehumanising effect of military-minded “order” I’ve ever known, in any medium.  This is one of the high achievements of popular music.

[Audio] – Bhutan Tibetan Buddhist Monks – “Entreaty to the Three Buddha-Bodies” (1971)

Posted in Audio by Soundslike on June 1, 2009

Bhutan Tibetan Buddhist Monks – “Entreaty to the Three Buddha-Bodies” (1971)

This highly dynamic piece of religious music created by Tibetan Buddhist Monks in the Kingdom of Bhutan (field recorded in 1971) captures many of the prevalent musical elements of the Tibetan Buddhist music I’ve heard, absent vocal chants.  Deep booming horns, higher droning reed-like horns, percussive bells and drums, and semi-melodic percussive instruments create a sound that is definitively “other” to Western ears.  And yet while the denotative meaning of the music is elusive, the austerity and beauty it creates is wholly evident, and intimates a concept of time and scale that is beyond most Western work.

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[Audio] – Toumani Diabate with Ballake Sissoko – “Bafoulabe” (1999)

Posted in Audio by Soundslike on May 27, 2009

Toumani Diabate with Ballake Sissoko – “Bafoulabe” (1999)

Hearing the kora for the first time was a revelation; that I first heard the instrument in person, live, only made it more breathtaking: a single instrument to the eye, but the sound was that of a harp, an upright bass, the Indonesian kepaci, and a flamenco guitar together.   This recording of the most well-known Malian kora musician Toumani Diabate captures the range of the instrument beautifully, without any of the cheesier “world music” fusion-trappings that diminish many a contemporary recording.  The shifts in tempo here create a dreamlike feeling.

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[Audio] – Brian Eno – “French Catalogues (Variations on Pachelbel’s Canon in D Maj., II)” (1975)

Posted in Audio by Soundslike on May 21, 2009

Brian Eno – “French Catalogues (Variations on Pachelbel’s Canon in D Maj., II)” (1975)

It’s the second, non-titular side of Eno’s ‘Discreet Music’ that has always affected me more deeply, and fascinated me most.  Taking a classical work the beauty of which can sometimes be forgotten because of over- and misuse, Eno applies ostensibly cerebral experimentation, altering component elements of the score via mathematical formula.  But the results, while perhaps momentarily disorientating, and intellectually engaging, are remarkably visceral; perhaps by breaking down our overfamiliar expectations the “experiment” create a heightened awareness of the existing beauty, while adding new beauty.  That’s always been the trick of Eno, blurring the lines between the brain and the body, a “non-musician” getting in there and going at it without being in the least bit “punk” about it.  But his variations on Pachelbel’s Canon in D are underrated pieces in his well-earned reputation.  [The many sides of Eno are explored through similarly varied mixes at Musicophilia.]

[Audio] – Pharoah Sanders – “Astral Traveling” (1971)

Posted in Audio by Soundslike on May 19, 2009

Pharoah Sanders – “Astral Traveling” (1971)

This is jazz that escapes the entrenched dichotomy one might associate with 1971.  It’s neither “traditional” nor “fusion” or “experimental” per se.  It has a compositional feeling and an exploratory vibe that feels “astral” indeed, but it’s not necessarily head music, and there’s no funk or rock foundation.  It is contemplative in a way that feels like a classic jazz ballad, but there’s no piano here, and the instrumentation is small-group but not strictly standard.  It’s simply rich, beautiful, spiritually resonant music, effortlessly both accessible and experimental.  [Sanders is featured in a Sensory Replication Series mix at Musicophilia.]

[Audio] – Rachel’s – “Forgiveness” (1999)

Posted in Audio by Soundslike on May 14, 2009

Rachel’s – “Forgiveness” (1999)

Rachel’s probably were the group that were most lazily tagged “post-rock” in the late 90s and early 2000s, and one of the examples that best illustrates the meaninglessness of the term–post-rock only makes sense if your musical frame of reference begins with Nirvana.  They were simply making modern chamber music, carrying on a tradition of accessibly experimental and unabashedly beautiful work that calls to mind Penguin Cafe Orchestra, some of Franco Battiato’s late 70s work, or perhaps that of Luciano Cilio.  I generally prefer the somewhat more traditional trio sound of ‘Music for Egon Schiele,’ but ‘Selenography‘ is often successful with its slightly larger and more ambitious palatte.  [If you enjoy Rachel’s, you’ll like these mixes at Musicophilia on which they’re found.]

[Audio] – Miles Davis – “He Loved Him Madly” (1974)

Posted in Audio by Soundslike on May 13, 2009

Miles Davis – “He Loved Him Madly” (1974)

Don’t miss this one. This is deep, intense listening, and it won’t grab you if you don’t have the attention (and about half an hour) to devote.  But I promise, it rewards the effort.  This is beyond the cosmic-exploration of the Germans we love; this is an exploration of the infinite spirit, the depths of mourning, the heights of love.  It is minimal, subtle, undulating, meditative, careful, above all beautiful.  Anyone who questioned Davis’ motives for “abandoning jazz” and going fusion couldn’t have maintained that incredulity if their ears were open to the sheer expressiveness of this music.  This wasn’t booty-funk, this wasn’t stoner-rock, though its elements are guitar, flute, drum kit, keyboards, electric bass, and echo effects: this is simply, utterly human music.  Give it the time, give it your ears, and it will build itself slowly through you.  [The glory of “Judas” Miles Davis is featured here, here and here at Musicophilia.]

[Audio] – Alan Parker & John Cammeron – “Ice Breaker” & “”Sahara Sunrise” (1973)

Posted in Audio by Soundslike on May 12, 2009

Alan Parker & John Cammeron – “Ice Breaker” & “”Sahara Sunrise” (1973)

Sometimes it seems like the “sound library” world is a dream–this other world, this alternate history of popular music, kept like a secret until just the right time in a person’s music-geek-journey when it seems like there just wasn’t enough funk-with-strings, enough breakbeats-and-rhodes-and-percussion made in the real world.  It’s really Blaxploitation soundtracks one step over, Serge Gainsbourg on a budget, Tamla-on-the-Thames, with a good dose of musique concrete and space-age-Moog thrown in for good measure, but for whatever nutty reason almost never commercially released at the time.  These are two cuts from two of this alternate reality’s Big Names (who played with Serge and the Shadows et al in “real life”) from one of the most consistently great Library records (consistency is perhaps their one downfall, usually) and one of far too few that can be bought today, if you can find it.

[Audio] – Robert Schumann – String Quartet A Major, O41 N03 “Adagio Motto” (1842)

Posted in Audio by Soundslike on May 8, 2009

Robert Schumann – String Quartet A Major, O41 N03 “Adagio Motto” (1842)

I’ve heard Schumann described as “weepy,” and I guess this piece wouldn’t dissuade anyone who saw that as a pejorative.  But I find the interplay of this chamber orchestra considerably more emotionally diverse than mere maudlin.  On the whole, melancholy is central; but there are moments of elevation, joy, expectation, perhaps hints of anger, and the piece shifts subtly and nimbly between them in a way that rings true and avoids sentimentalism.

[Audio] – Janko Nilovic – “Roses and Revolvers” (1970)

Posted in Audio by Soundslike on May 8, 2009

Janko Nilovic – “Roses and Revolvers” (1970)

It’s incredible to think that this music was made as an aural hired-gun for advertisements or cheap television shows or films.  If there were ever a track to get you excited about the of alternate universe of pop that is the realm of “sound library” LPs (which were almost never made available commercially), this is it.  Fuzzed out guitar soars around twirling harpsichord and Rhodes over one mother-of-funk beat that is hip-hop ready, breaking things down and building up with incredible grace and care.  But the coup de grace is the bassline, which has to be one of the best I’ve ever heard, remaining funky while carrying the core melodic duties of the track.  I bet money you won’t be able to listen just once.  This is the pinaccle, but if you dig it, it’s time to start digging those sound library blogs linked over at Musicophilia[Nilovic is featured on several Musique du Monde mixes at Musicophilia, which you’ll definitely dig if you like this one.] (UPDATE: The wrong song was previously linked; it’s been corrected.)

[Audio] – Bill Evans Trio – “Jade Visions” (1961)

Posted in Audio by Soundslike on May 7, 2009

Bill Evans Trio – “Jade Visions” (1961)

Hopefully you know the Bill Evans Trio‘s four albums from 1961, but if you don’t this is a fine introduction.  This track, written by the ill-fated bassist Scot LaFaro (who would die tragically mere days after this gig), embodies everything that is wonderful about the records: Motian’s drums, LaFaro’s bass and Evans’ piano are all “lead” instruments, but not in the free-jazz sort of way; they dance with one another perfectly, always balanced, always careful, but full of understated passion.  “Jade Visions” in particular still gives me goosebumps, after literally hundreds of listens.  The only downside is that you may spend years searching the jazz aisles and find few other sessions that reach this sort of sublime stillness.  (If you don’t own ‘Sunday at the Village Vanguard’ and ‘Waltz for Debby,’ I recommend you go ahead and purchase ‘The Complete Village Vanguard Recordings‘.)

[Audio] – Pascal Comelade & Robert Wyatt – “September Song” (2000)

Posted in Audio by Soundslike on May 5, 2009

Pascal Comelade & Robert Wyatt – “September Song” (2000)

Pascal Comelade has made a lovely career of making smart music with toy instruments, and this collaboration with Robert Wyatt brings out the sweetest warmth from both.  Nostalgic, whimsical, and simple, this song is the sound “golden days” captured perfectly. [Robert Wyatt is featured in varied contexts in several mixes at Musicophilia.]

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[Audio] – Nina Simone – “Black Is the Color Of My True Love’s Hair” (1966)

Posted in Audio by Soundslike on April 24, 2009

Nina Simone – “Black Is the Color Of My True Love’s Hair” (1966)

Of all the Queens of vocal jazz, when she’s at her best (and with the most sympathetic production) nobody tops Nina Simone, for me.  Her voice isn’t the unbelievably singular instrument of Lady Day, nor does she have the stylishness of Sarah Vaughan; but the tremble, shake, just-controlled fire and depth of her voice makes the emotional impact of her ballads greater than anyone else.  Hers is the voice of wisdom, hard-won, of grace amidst the day-to-day.  This is one of those tracks that makes my hair quite literally stand on end every time, and brings a lump to my throat, imbuing a traditional tune with immense heartbreak and a sense of meaningfulness (in political context) that is astonishing.  The use of space in the mix is absolutely mastered here.

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[Audio] – L.S. Gelik – “Bajing Luncat” [“Jumping Squirrel”] (1996)

Posted in Audio by Soundslike on April 15, 2009

L.S. Gelik – “Bajing Luncat” [“Jumping Squirrel”] (1996)

I picked up this album (as a Japanese import with much more appealing cover art than I can find online) from an Indonesian-import wood furniture shop owner, and can find next to no information about it.  It is an example of a Sundanese form of Indonesian music called “kecapi suling,” created largely using different kecapi, a “zither-like” instrument.  To my ears the music sounds something like a cross between Ivory Coast kora and the slower, plaintive varieties of Indonesian gamelan (bell orchestra) music.  It’s meditative, hypnotising work, with repeating cycles of sparkling string tones and woodwind notes turning in the wind above.  Beautiful and haunting.

[Video] – Arthur Russell – “Terrace of Unintelligibility” [Part 2] (1985)

Posted in Video by Soundslike on April 10, 2009

Arthur Russell – “Terrace of Unintelligibility” [Part 2] (1985)

This is an excerpt from the short film that was included with the first copies of Audika Records’ reissue of ‘World of Echo,’ featuring live performances of tracks from that album (especially “Answers Me”).  The meditative fullness that Russell could achieve breaks my heart every single time, hundreds and hundreds of listens on, after so many years.  I can’t begin to fathom how he could do so much with so little, but I’ve heard nothing truly like it.  This film nicely reflects the intimacy one feels when hearing ‘World of Echo’ in the dark through headphones.  [Find previously featured incarnations of Mr. Russell at Musicophilia Daily here, and mixes which incorporate his music at Musicophilia here.]

[Audio] – Faust – “The Lurcher/Krautrock/Do So” (Live, BBC) (1973)

Posted in Audio by Soundslike on April 8, 2009

Faust – “The Lurcher/Krautrock/Do So” (Live, BBC) (1973)

Don’t miss this one. This twenty-minute medley expresses a wide swath of Faust’s power and prescience.  The first section, “The Lurcher,” is a drunken Germanic breakbeat-funk with treated saxophone and ethereal guitar that must have seemed to be coming from the future to whoever actually heard this performance in March of 1973.  The second section, “Krautrock,” must have sent plenty running, if they hadn’t already; but those who remained in the center of this maelstrom-meditation may have experienced a religious conversion (even though Faust may have been having a pisstake at a nonsensical genre they never really fit, their humor was often sublime).  And after all the build up, humor comes to the fore, as Faust reminds everyone not to take it all too seriously with “Do So,” a bent little pop ditty that is subtly as cyclical as their longer works disguised in song-form.  If you haven’t heard this performance before–or especially if somehow you haven’t heard Faust before–I envy you the experience.   For me, in contrast with Can, Faust took years to fully seep in, but once they did there was no going back–these sounds can reshape your ears.  [For more Faust, check Musicophilia for a number of mixes.]

[Audio+Link] – Jacques Siroul – “Orly” and “Gratte-Ciel” (1975)

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!

[Video] – Joni Mitchell – “California” (Live, BBC, 1970)

Posted in Video by Soundslike on March 26, 2009

Joni Mitchell – “California” (Live, BBC, 1970)

Singer-songwriter is for me like prog, metal, ska-revival, punk: a whole lot of utter detritus, pierced by moments of absolute brilliance.  For me, Joni Mitchell is the absolute pinnacle–‘Blue’ was one of the first albums I ever identified as a “favorite” as a small child (my mother would sing us Joni songs and play her guitar, her hippie youth waning but still vibrant, as lullabies).  And it remains a top-10 album, a quarter-century later.  Her voice aged well, in my opinion, and at this point I find later albums more “interesting,” and beautiful in their own ways–but ‘Blue’ is a solitary achievement, and it still makes my heart ache in a wonderful way however many hundreds of listens on.  Plus, I just love that dulcimer sound.

[Audio] – Matthew Herbert – “Rendezvous” (2006)

Posted in Audio by Soundslike on March 20, 2009

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Matthew Herbert – “Rendezvous” (2006)

Matthew Herbert can get a little polemical with his conceptualizations of his art; but fortunately for the listener (though he might disagree) whatever meta-concepts Herbert carries with his art, very little of it encumbers the music.  He can sample a McDonald’s wrapper and call it an observation on food politics; but it just sounds good to me, all technical innovation and political conceits aside.  That’s why this track seems to me to be what Reich is trying to achieve with his choral-sampling work, but never really has: where Reich can’t escape his ideas and isn’t the master of contemporary sampling methodology (much as he contributed to its infancy), Herbert isn’t afraid of beauty as an inherent good, and he has the chops to match his techniques to his ambitions.  This certainly isn’t house music (even by Herbert’s stretched definitions); but neither is it a severe, cold choral abstraction like Ussachevsky.  “Rendezvous” brings electronic dance music’s warmth to choral music’s structural nuances and creates an immensely listenable, immediate sort of high art in this score for a ballet.  [Herbert is featured here in a sultry Bill Evans-like idiom in a mix at Musicophilia.]

[Audio+Link] – François Bayle – “Solitude” (1969)

Posted in Audio, Link by Soundslike on March 18, 2009

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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.

[UPDATE: Check out this nice article from Simon Reynolds on the sleeve design for the series from which ‘Electronic Panorama’ comes–truly objects of beauty, and an inspiration for anyone attempting phony label-series artwork and for any graphic designer.]

[Video] – Billie Holiday – “Fine & Mellow” (1957)

Posted in Video by Soundslike on March 18, 2009

Billie Holiday with Lester Young, Gerry Mulligan – “Fine & Mellow” (1957)

Despite being visibly emaciated and quite possibly stoned in this very late performance (from CBS’ ambitious ‘The Sound of Jazz‘) all the musical strength and grace is there.  The one good thing that came of Ken Burns’ horribly skewed ‘Jazz’ documentary for me was seeing the context to this performance, and realising just how emotional a moment it must have been for Holiday and Young, estranged for so long, performing together one last time.  It’s all there in the music, and in her eyes.

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[Audio] – Low + Dirty Three – “Down By The River” (2001)

Posted in Audio by Soundslike on March 11, 2009

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Low + Dirty Three – “Down By The River” (2001)

As low has subtley thawed their musical tendencies and expanded their emotional qualities over the last 15 years, one byproduct has been that they’ve become one of the most successful “cover bands” around, able to make a piece their own.  Here they stretch out Neil Young’s murder ballad into a itchy, dark burn for nearly seven minutes before purifying into their Carter Family-like emotional immediacy, making the song sound both experimental and like an Appalachian traditional.  I’m not so keen on Dirty Three normally, but Low gives them a solid center around with their loose style fits effectively, adding a great deal of atmosphere. [Low is mixed here, here, and here at Musicophilia.]

[Audio] – The Congos – “Solid Foundation” (1977)

Posted in Audio by Soundslike on March 9, 2009

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The Congos – “Solid Foundation” (1977)

Produced by Lee Perry, I admit I wish ‘Heart of the Congos’ had been produced in stereo, to let the dub and the elements breathe a little.  But the record contains some of the most beautiful melodies (and staggered harmonies) I’ve ever heard in pop music; they achieve a floating, haunting, convincingly religious quality.  The 2-disc CD reissue doesn’t add anything revalatory, but it’s good if you need just a little more (since the Congos don’t seem to have produced much); otherwise, you won’t do much better with your $13 than picking up a single-disc copy.

[Review] – Arthur Russell’s ‘World of Echo’

Posted in Audio, Review by Soundslike on March 6, 2009

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Review of Arthur Russell’s ‘World of Echo’ (1986, reissued 2004)

I can’t think of a record that changed the way I thought about sound and music–by being exactly what I’d always wanted to hear but never thought existed–more than ‘World of Echo,’ which I first heard around the summer of 2001.  The first album I heard was Phillip Glasses’ posthumous 1993 compilation ‘Another Thought,’ then the only thing in print, and that was love.  When I finally tracked down ‘World of Echo’–that was love forever.  And so it was a wonderful surprise and a joy when around 2004 many of his recordings began to be reissued (most by Steve Knutson at Audika Records) and more importantly, appreciated by many more people than ever heard his music in his lifetime.  Since then, a number of very good to revalatory reissues and compilations have been released, and I continue to be amazed as new facets of this sublime artist are revealed.  [Don’t miss, for example, the collaboration with Peter Zummo, “Song IV,” previously posted here at Musicophlia Daily.  And you can hear more Russell featured in mixes here, here, here, and here at Musicophilia.]

Here is a track not from ‘World of Echo,’ but appended on Audika’s 2004 reissue which seems to have been recently re-pressed–so please buy it!  This is one of the most heartbreaking, beautiful, true songs I’ve ever heard: “Our Last Night Together”

Beyond the “more…” link is a review I wrote for Localist Magazine around the 2004 reissue of the album.  I sent it to Audika’s Mr. Knutson, who passed it on to Arthur’s parents and partner; it was a moving moment when I heard back from Steve that they approved, and reportedly said I’d really gotten to the core of things.

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[Audio] – Antonio Vivaldi – “Double Concerto, Largo, G Minor” (1780s)

Posted in Audio by Soundslike on March 5, 2009

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Antonio Vivaldi – “Double Concerto, Largo, G Minor” (1780s)

I know fairly little about pre-20th Century Classical music–it seems to me the journey of a lifetime, so I’m not rushed.  I do know, though, that my ears gravitate toward chamber music, string-based sounds, the less bombastic and portentous, more melancholic and contemplative end of the spectrum.  And from that range, this is one of the most devastatingly beautiful pieces I know. [This Vivaldi is featured in a “duet” with an instrumental percussive piece by Bjork in this short mix at Musicophilia.]