Musicophilia Daily

[Audio] – Electronic System – “Time Trip” (1977)

Posted in Audio by Soundslike on August 31, 2009

Electronic System – “Time Trip” (1977)

Speaking of usually sharing things a few of you might not have heard–let’s follow up Kraftwerk with one of their very first disciples you might not know.   No, this isn’t an pseudonymous outtake from Moroder–this is the sound of the influence of Kraftwerk spreading just west to Belgium, rather than south to Italy, and merging similarly with the spread of disco.  It’s by Dan Lacksman, who should be just as well-known and revered as Moroder, at least for his work with his partners as part of Telex.  Amazingly, the album from which “Time Trip” comes is easily found on reissued CD, while Telex’ admittedly more brilliant work is completely out of print–probably the most glaringly crazy O.O.P. I can think of at present.  The album is not perfect–Lacksman was only a couple of years removed from pretty cheesy but promising sound library-esque synth-jingle-pop work–but it’s a lot of fun and sure to go down easy at your personal discotheque.  [Electronic System are beatmatched at Musicophilia with the other disciples and children of Kraftwerk, and Kraftwerk themselves, on the “four LP set” ‘Le Meilleur de Les Rythmes du Monde‘.]

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[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] – 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] – Kode9 & The Spaceape – “Quantum” (2006)

Posted in Audio by Soundslike on June 5, 2009

Kode9 & The Spaceape – “Quantum” (2006)

To the casual follower of the Hyperdub label, Burial’s work looms large.  However, Kode9 & The Spaceape’s album ‘Memories of the Future’ is almost equally appealing.  Existing in a less hazy/rain-drenched landscape of sharper shapes amidst the cavernous dub, propelled as much by The Spaceape’s vocal contributions as Kode9’s beats, this music lives up to the album’s name.  It sounds like a future that knows the past, a futurism that isn’t about pretending to exist ex nihilo.  [Kode9 & The Spaceape are featured in an appropriately spooky, rich mix, ‘Tall Stories of Evil Gris-Gris,’ at Musicophilia.]

[Audio] – George Harrison – “Under the Mersey Wall” (1968)

Posted in Audio by Soundslike on May 6, 2009

George Harrison – “Under the Mersey Wall” (1968)

Yes–this is the George Harrison.  But don’t hold your breath for any gently weeping guitars, or even any sitars.  I can imagine this might have caused about as many pissed-off teeny-boppers as ‘Metal Machine Music’ caused pissed-off proto-punkers.  This is outre, experimental, long-form early electronic music, along the lines of Morton Subotnik with touches of the kosmiche of early Tangerine Dream or Cluster.  Once you let go of any Beatles-based expectations, this is actually pretty compelling stuff, abstract but visceral; if Harrison was dabbling, it’s more convincing than his ersatz-ragga stylings.  Who knows–for all the people this record probably angered, it probably set a few down mind-expanding paths beyond anything even “Revolution #9” could have done.  [If you can roll with this track on its own, you’ll probably enjoy ‘The Somnambulist,’ an experimental mix into which Harrison’s electronic work is embedded.]

[Audio] – Fever Ray – “Dry and Dusty” (2009)

Posted in Audio by Soundslike on May 4, 2009

Fever Ray – “Dry and Dusty” (2009)

I have Jon at Portland’s Anthem Records to thank for The Knife.  In curmudgeon mode, I’d written them off, guilt-by-association with that farming implement-entitled nexus of hipster ephemera–to my loss.  Jon got me to listen to ‘Deep Cuts,’ and I was instantly won over–the warmth, the electronic buzzing, the wonderful melodies, the taste of experimentalism: who could resist.  ‘Silent Shout‘ was released the next year, and while I missed the pop sensibilities at first, the album now strikes me as a classic of the genre.  Fever Ray is the Knife in all but name, with little appreciable fall-off from the main body of work despite being the work of 1/2 its personnel–it’s no singer-songwriter side-project or noodley indulgence.  That multiple-personality-disorder vocal approach is as haunting as ever.

[Audio] – Pauline Oliveros – “Bye Bye Butterfly” (1965)

Posted in Audio by Soundslike on April 22, 2009

Pauline Oliveros – “Bye Bye Butterfly” (1965)

Oliveros seems like one of the least po-faced and self-serious of the early electronic/minimalist/musique concrete pioneers.  It’s not that she didn’t take her work seriously–it’s just that she possesses an eclecticism and verve that doesn’t call to mind tweed jackets and wooden pipes (she writes books with titles like.  Rather than seeing music as the purview of the ivory tower (although she was a moving force in the study of experimental sound), she promotes the idea of music being everywhere–requiring attention, perhaps effort to discover, but not “education” or “correctness”.   She seems to think a great deal about the relationship between spaces and sound, something I find greatly appealing–although my career is in preservation architecture, it is the sound of St. Pauls which strikes me most fully, for example.  This early piece creates a cavernous soundscape, constituted of echoing sheets of modulating sine-waves and pastiched orchestral and operatic samples, creating a web of sound that is definitely not pop music, but which I find quite viscerally appealing.  Like a sensitive AM radio, you sort of have to tune to the right wavelength, but once you’re there I think you’ll find it rewarding.  [Pauline Oliveros is featured in the complex web of sound found in the Somnambulist mix at Musicophilia.]

[Audio] – Anja Garbarek – “Stay Tuned” (2001)

Posted in Audio by Soundslike on April 17, 2009

Anja Garbarek – “Stay Tuned” (2001)

You’ve got to be doing something right if you make a sufficient impression to draw both Robert Wyatt (known for working his Midas’ touch) and the sadly elusive Mark Hollis (Talk Talk) to work on your album.  Neither appears on this track, but the Spirit of Hollis is evident; and Wyatt payed the further compliment of covering this track brilliantly on his last album.  She seems to be regularly compared to Stina Nordenstam and Bjork, but I’d hardly take that as an insult.  This track begins a nicely spooky build of organ, nearly-spoken vocals and electronic-interference noises, but the clincher is the ecstatic release into its lush, seductive chorus (of sorts).  [Anja Garbarek appears on the Musicophilia mix ‘Tall Stories of Evil Gris-Gris‘.]

[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] – Pinch – “Brighter Day” (Instrumental) (2006)

Posted in Audio by Soundslike on April 10, 2009

Pinch – “Brighter Day” (Instrumental) [AKA “Qawwali”] (2006)

I’m not well versed in British electronic music between the early 90s and the present day, so when I hear “dubstep” I hear the dub more than the step.  This spare, spacious cavern of a track fits right in with its dub roots; or the work of Pole or Deadbeat and their insectoid, deconstructed dub; some imaginary reduced-fat Timbaland; or even something like post-punkers Grey or Shriekback or early Front 242.  I love well-used space in a mix, and this instrumental version uses it deftly, and achieves a stillness-through-motion that echoes the Qawwali music from which it ostensibly draws inspiration.

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[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!

[Audio] – Jean-Jacques Perrey – E.V.A. (1970)

Posted in Audio by Soundslike on March 31, 2009

Jean-Jacques Perrey – E.V.A. (1970)

I love Pierre Henry, but I prefer his “serious” work to his most famous track, “Psyche Rock”.  “E.V.A.” is sort of an alternative to “Psyche,” blending similar early sci-fi pop electronics with a funky backbeat and even the large bell accompaniment–but I’d have to say, I like Perrey’s take better, since this sort of electronics-popularising was his main thing.  Sampled regularly and with good reason, “E.V.A.” is as cool today as forty years ago.

[Audio] – Les Attaques – “Deth” (2005)

Posted in Audio by Soundslike on March 25, 2009

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Les Attaques – “Deth” (2005)

Since 2000, Les Attaques have been drawing from the scuzzier side of the well from which Portland/NYC’s Italians Do It Better collective draw today, and with equal success.  They pull together ice-queen vocals, DNW/Italo synths, Factory Records bass, earlier motorik German sensibilities, and bones-exposed disco-house beats with aplomb, crafting something that is definitely homage, not facsimile, imbued with a ghost of the past but not aping it.  This track is the definition of a slow burn, sonically strip-teasing you with one slowly revealed element after another, achieving a dirty-beautiful ecstasy.

[Audio] – Franco Battiato – “Meccanica” (1972)

Posted in Audio by Soundslike on March 24, 2009

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Franco Battiato – “Meccanica” (1972)

‘Fetus’ was undoubtedly a horizon-expanding discovery for me, adding another layer to my understanding of the roots of synth-based music, outre, proto-punk, etc.  Battiato would go on to do much more abstract music, following a trajectory not that unlike Eno, until he entered the center of the Italian mainstream in the 80s.  This early stuff is a great headtrip of early electronics, off-kilter pop-rock songwriting, borrowed/sampled sources, and what I take to be sort of sci-fi lyrics (from what I can gather via Italian-English cognates).  [I’ve not used the album’s cover because some might find it disturbing; it does seem slightly shock-value unecessary to me and is not representative of the fun music contained within.  Franco Battiato is featured from this period here and in a later form here in mixes at Musicophilia.]

[Audio] – Big Black – “Steelworker” (1982)

Posted in Audio by Soundslike on March 24, 2009

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Big Black – “Steelworker” (1982)

Albini was already doing his dark weirdo shit in ’82, and while you’d say it’s post-punk in the big umbrella, he’s doing something that sounds pretty unique–rooted perhaps in Suicide’s bare-minimal synthetic beats, but with unabashed single-note distorted guitar (if not to say “soloing”) over it, and lyrics that are more brutal and less comic-book violence.  Not everyday listening, but compelling if you can get in touch with a little anger.

[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] – 1906 [Jean-Michel Jarre] – “Helza” (1973)

Posted in Audio by Soundslike on March 20, 2009

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1906 [Jean-Michel Jarre] – “Helza” (1973)

Early Jean-Michel Jarre is too hard to find, considering how crazy-good a lot of it is, like the insanely cool, spooky proto-synth featured in this mix at Musicophilia.  This one  is a sublime example of the sort of elegant but funky stuff the French/Italians/Germans were doing with instrumentation borrowed from Motown in the early 70s, bringing in choice touches of early electro.  A solid, close-miced rhythm section (bass, drums, clavichord) carries the weight of the track along with spare percussion and rhythm-flute a la early Kraftwerk, but what takes it to a magic level is a ghostly, reverbed piano line that floats over the top, and electronic bits floating around the periphery.  Magic stuff.

[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.]

[Audio] – Björk – “Domestica” (2001)

Posted in Audio by Soundslike on March 13, 2009

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Björk – “Domestica” (2001)

Björk has had innumerable boxes and re-packagings and CD2s, but she’s yet to do the most obvious and essential thing: a b-sides compendium.  Which is a shame, because she’s got at least one very strong album’s worth of non-remix b-sides.  This is a personal favorite, an ode to the “mundane,” simple things in life, unabashedly celebratory, with some of her warmest production for fans of fuzzy electronics. [Björk is featured here with a lullaby, here with an instrumental percussion piece mixed with Vivaldi, and here with Robert Wyatt in a duet with Indonesian Kecak at Musicophilia.]

[Video] – Massive Attack – “Protection” (1994)

Posted in Video by Soundslike on March 12, 2009

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Massive Attack – “Protection” (1994) [By Michel Gondry]

With its James Brown-based beat and Tracey Thorn (Everything But the Girl and post-punk tweesters Marine Girls) vocals, though it’s dated slightly, this track is still a winner.  For me, though, its impact is heightened greatly by this technically unbelievable single-shot, single-take Michel Gondry video, one of the first videos I ever remember finding simply enthralling.  Typical of Gondry when given emotionally meaningful material, his faux-lo-tech wizardry transcends the technical fascination and comes to reflect its subject matter in a way more honest and accurate than any more straightforward presentation ever could.  UPDATE: Argh, embedding disabled for whatever reason, so a link instead–worth your while.

[Audio] – Bernard Estardy – “Emeute À Tokyo” (1972)

Posted in Audio by Soundslike on March 10, 2009

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Bernard Estardy – “Emeute À Tokyo” (1972)

Top-notch early-70s sound library stuff here from a Frenchman who seems to be consistently strong, whether working in this “Psyche Rock”-ish electro-jam mode or in a Gainsbourg-like Chanson idiom.  This one is a nice funky breakbeat (with phasing no less!) and rollicking piano surrounded by diving, swirling synths, for a resulting high fun factor.  Check it the full album at the completely essential Library Hunt. [Bernard Estardy is featured here in a fairly different mode at Musicophilia.]

[Link] – Kutiman – ‘ThruYOU’ (2009)

Posted in Link, Video by Soundslike on March 6, 2009

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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.

Watch and listen here.