Showing posts with label broken ipod blues. Show all posts
Showing posts with label broken ipod blues. Show all posts

Sunday, 9 November 2014

XTC - 'In Loving Memory of a Name' (1983) (Lest We Forget)

   I freely admit to being the type that ranks Mummer rather highly in the XTC canon. And since I'm no longer an adolescent, I won't mind much that this is purportedly among the more combustible opinions one can share over the combined works of Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding, Swindon's very own Lennon and McCartney (if such a thing is indeed comprehendible. It's Swindon

   Should one wish to stereotype the band's leaders in the ultra bland sense, Moulding was always the more contemplative one - I'd try "sensitive," but Moulding wasn't the one singing screeds about his ex-wife and the denouncement of God. His best moments make gliding melodies of mournful wistfulness and this, rather than composition or clever lines, is exactly what 'In Loving Memory of a Name' exemplifies. Partridge provides my favourite emotive moments on Mummer - no surprise, given his larger rate of songwriting output - but '... Name' is the tune that brings me closest to its narrator's state of mind, where impressionistic imagery, getting lost in the moment, an ambiguous aside at Christianity  and a respect for England's fallen fighters give direction to the motoring rhythm and perhaps what feels like every rockist musical flourish Britain has produced between the 15th century and 1983. The sweet sort of sincerity, in essence

   And aptly, one for Remembrance Day. "England can never repay you," indeed

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Handsomeboy Technique - Adelie Land (2005)

I hear the drummer strike the sky. I hear the drummer strike the sky!

   ... So naturally, as a consequence of becoming enraptured by Shibuya-kei and J-Pop over ten years ago, I thought it prudent to see what had become of Japan's alternative hip hop produce since everyone's favourite abstruse-trivia-wielding-and-limited-edition-promotional-toys-branding, abstract instrumental hip hop label Mo' Wax first enticed me with it in 1997. Finding the very moment where Japanese hip hop very much became something worth taking seriously (and to much surprise, that moment actually occurred before the end of the 1980s),  James Lavelle's infamous concern issued a beautifully sturdy and artfully rendered boxset of over 40 songs released by Major Force, an exuberant imprint with a fine niche in broken English rap, deeply technical sensibilities, sample-seeking nous to rival their American counterparts and a particular attention to composition that broadened the compilation's appeal amongst demographics that could not easily stomach mangled hip hop slang in slightly off-putting vocal timbres

   8 years following my first experience with "Dope up cyber-rap from Tokyo" brought time wasted with DJs like Halfby and wee papa girl rappers like Halcali - a mainstream-breaking duo not much unlike their Major Force XX chromosome MC forebears The Orchids - but for all their talent, none were as adept at the indelibly memorable, 1970s-impelled party record as the one they called Handsomeboy Technique. Probably a disco biscuits-thing

   Adelie Land comfortably rests in the cut-and-paste party music canon that bursts with luminaries such as Steinski, The Dust Brothers, Coldcut and other DJ-producers for whom the 1980s was a testing ground for musical domination, though the beatific sequences, jaunty 1970s radio polish and heady psychedelic thread that distinguish the record are more in thrall to the itinerant beauty and density of The Avalanches' Since I Left You. Be that as it may, Yoshitaka Morino's debut LP is light on complexity and motors along on repetition, but it also simply gorges on effusiveness and what some particularly enthusiastic dancers and afficionados like to refer to as "the funk." And had this album a wider reach beyond its native Japan, many a breakdancing competition sequence could have been choreographed to the likes of the 'Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground)'-sampling 'Miami Radio Flash' or the cheery, vintage rap of 'Season of Young Mouss,' whose childish go-go delights also mark Handsomeboy Technique as a potent contemporary of that more ramshackle and less rewarding concern, The Go! Team

   But in taking cues from his forebears to craft a wider scope, Morino successfully taps not only into the celebratory, but the wistful sides of nostalgia that can make it a more compelling aural aesthetic. The soulful 'Quiet Place' is one contemplative mood shy of a megrim, with bursts of strings and keys that apparate like primary colours in a paintball contest. This is also felt in the lone piano opening of 'Adelie Coast Waltz' (practically a direct reference to the exceedingly similar 'Two Hearts in 3/4 Time' of Since I Left You) through to the sweep of its twee disco romanticism that sounds much like the end of a beautiful "something" should, whilst my favourite cut, ''8000 Laurels,' combines the exuberant patter of a motoring hip hop break and a beatbox with a hooky tempest of turntable swerves, minor key choral vocals and orchestral grandeur gone pop, thanks to a particularly indelible keyboard line. With such a percolating emotional reach, it is no wonder that the closing 'Your Blessings' emphasises - thought not overwhelmingly so - the celebratory approach to end the proceedings, but cannily, it chooses the joy-in-living sonics and sentiments of Freda Payne's 'Cherish What is Dear To You' or the Motown sound (or rather a sample of The Cake's Spector-esque 'Baby That's Me') over simple, hedonistic joy. And that, to me, is always a tune worth stepping out to


Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Utrecht - Phantom of Indie Boyz (2006)

   It's Tokyo time again:

"Do you know there are discos in hell, too?
Six people died at the party when we played there"

   Obscure enough to only allow me one YouTube link, there's still a lost mass appeal to this trio's output. Utrecht is something of a Neo Shibuya-Kei supergroup, with the genius-level sample manipulator Tomonori Hayashibe of whimsical, super-speed pop exemplars Plus-Tech Squeeze Box joining the more Francophiliac stop-start dance purveyors Gikyo Nakamura, a DJ better known as The Pegasuss, and Ukai, leader of COPTER4016882 and a labelmate of electro disco svengali Yasutaka Nakata, a one-time upstart in Shibuya-Kei traditions whose work ethic and guidance of the successful trio Perfume and his band Capsule have seen him obtain cottage industry prestige and Asia crossover success

   The trio's first record, New Beach, bore a label recommending them to followers of Mylo, The United States of Electronica and other such groups they are a touch more interesting than even if they paddle in the same pool. In common with the upbeat  inclinations of their previous turnout, that production was their Digital Disco of Love album; this is the synthetic, yearning, warehouse rocking-derived follow-through, suitable for a long cruise through a Mirror Universe Miami twenty five years ago. And this casual drive still faces occasional interruptions from the lightning strikes of the rock gods

   That squelch of music that one would hear at the slow push of a pause button on a tape deck impels the album as '1980' rolls around; an unspooling soundscape of synths and what is either woodwind or backwards strings proceeds in a fashion that suggest the song has ensued in reverse. This effect lasts around 30 seconds before plucked guitar notes and a mildly plaintive melody elicit two reactions - "Don Henley" and "Mature Sophomore Recording." Whilst this is built on with the unison, wistful harmonics of the trio's singing - it should be noted here that as a result of singing in broken English, Utrecht provides little intelligibility to their vocals - snares that may have been devised by turntable cutting and a fast pace, there is still enough downbeat atmosphere to ease one into the record gently
"It's not so bad to start from a wasteland
I'm the chosen

I can imagine vividly
Scenery seen far away
I can get everything
Luxurious dinners and a precious girlfriend"
   If Phantom of Indie Boyz bore a similar sticker to its predecessor, the reference points would most likely be the skinny jeans, indie dance heroes of five years ago it slots alongside - Justice, LCD Soundsystem and my personal favourite, Cut Copy - with the odd lashings of M83. Apparently, the scowling electro-rock song 'turntable still burning' is constructed from references to various genre tracks from that year, whilst the preceding 'morning haze' contains dream pop-like textures comparable to M83's synthesised swoons. But it is pop music that buoys Utrecht's best work, as it did on their previous record, and this is clear from the ones I love best: the eponymous and snappy neon night ride, 'phantom of indie boyz;' the aptly named second track 'stay gold,' a yearningly romantic, excellently produced and composed dance-pop number in the St. Etienne-with-low-end mould; and 'kiss me, kiss me,' a softly funky, minimal electro-disco piece that is referential to other music in a different manner to the aforementioned 'turntable...', bringing the melody and lyrics of the first album's 'first kiss' into a new setting of indelicate lyrics and very dégagé, very Japanese rapping - cut-and-paste to the core

   Sound samples are available here; lyrics are found there

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

"I'm glad I got my suit dry-cleaned before the riots started"

Beck - 'Broken Train' (1999)

Bonus photography by Garry Winogrand, Nan Golding, Paul Strand and Philip-Lorca diCorcia, all friends of, or inspired by, Diane Arbus. Beck is pictured as a guest of Charlotte Gainsbourg
'Cause there's only rehashed faces
On the bread line tonight
Soon you'll be a figment
Of some infamous life
We're out of control
No one knows how low we'll go

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Favourites From the Recently Departed

   With Amy Winehouse (1983 - 2011), I freely admit that I had as much time for her music in life as I do now in death, but that is not to deny that the woman went very far where her talent was concerned

And she does lead two songs that I will always play from start to end: a remix of one of her early singles, 'Fuck Me Pumps', by the resolutely average electro Scot, Mylo, and one of the few pleasing examples of one-time ubiquity on this earth: her cover of The Zutons' 'Valerie,' as helmed by her collaborator and quiff fan, Mark Ronson:

Monday, 27 June 2011

Lest We Forget

It's been a shade over two years since the death of the King of Pop. Fortunately, Michael Jackson's regal leadership of popular culture, fashion and kinetic grace will be in bed with posterity for lifetimes

And there's still all that indelible music:

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Young Marble Giants - 'N.I.T.A.' (1980)

   I was originally content to post one song today, but that suddenly seems foolish:

   Although I've always had more than a mild weakness for new wave and post punk, Young Marble Giants spent a little too long below my radar. I am certainly on the road to rectifying that, these days. And this is certain to become one of my Summer Beauties; a pretty, peaceful piece with its heart on its sleeve and nothing to say other than the barest and yet most expressive things possible, in both music and rhyme

It's nice to hear you're having a good time
But it still hurts 'cos you used to be mine
This doesn't mean that I possessed you
You're haunting me because I let you

Shape up your body "Let's be a tree"
Visual dynamics for you to see
Nature intended the abstract
for you and me

No rain outside but tears in my eyes
Out on the rooftop for a surprise
Call you at teatime
In off the street
Sit down at table, Mummy is neat

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Kings of Convenience - 'Winning a Battle, Losing the War' (Andy Votel Remix, 2001)

   Ever been led towards a beauty by a newsletter? I have. Ten years ago, the newsletter from my then-local record shop told me that I should buy this and so I did. It seems silly to admit that, but then a cursory look at my dress sense would suggest a tolerance for public embarrassment, wouldn't it? And all in all, I do think it a colourless life to be one who lacks the capacity for any sort of romance

   The years I spent in a Northern town involved too much whimsical melancholia to count my days as interesting ones, and I sometimes conjured up beatific interludes to pass the time between pretentious conversations with stoners and eventful carousings to meet girls and favourite musicians. I liked running into the bearded psychedelic and freak beat aficionado Andy Votel; he ran a highly interesting record label that was named after a creepy little film called Twisted Nerve (I always think of its theme music as the sound of someone entering another's room and touching all their stuff), made subtly sinister alt-r'n'b covers of Black Sabbath and his idiosyncratic nous for art direction was a masterclass in stitched together aesthetics, inventive 1960s/1970s'-updated typefaces and photography and graphics that were ramshackle, bold, austere and plaintive in measures - how very Northern of him

   Now, I never thought the majority of Votel's solo output took flight - usually, it sounded too controlled, careful and studied, unlike many of the rather tohu bohu and spirited records he enjoys and dices up into collector friendly collections of abstruse European rock that was recorded in cold sheds 100 miles from Warsaw in 1968. I rather think remixing is one of his other fortes; true, he is not the sort to remake songs from the ground up and could remain reverent to the structures of the originals, but on occasion, his approach could deliver some of the most accomplished things in the world just by adding his Votelian twists to that which was already familiar

   And so it is with 'Winning a Battle, Losing the War', in which Votel realised that the poignancy of the Kings of Convenience's original could not be evinced through a minimal musical approach and a story of the desire to heal from heartbreak told through downcast singing alone. Thus, it is not so much a remix or an alternative reading as it is an embellishment of the song's character, melody and soothing, lullaby-esque mood. It's prettier, it's still somewhat touching and the subtle, 1960s flourishes that the ever reverent Votel and his friends brought to the instrumentation make it akin to Simon and Garfunkel writing for the soundtrack to The Thomas Crown Affair and then saving it for something more languorous, introspective and British instead. A Confessions film, perhaps

   I'll always be glad that I purchased this. My beatific interludes needed a soundtrack

Monday, 2 May 2011

Beastie Boys - 'Make Some Noise' (Cornelius Remix, 2011)

All I can say is, they have all made me a very happy man today. Given the influence the middle-period Beasties had on Cornelius's middle-period 69/96 album, this is a more natural pairing than one may initially be led to assume

Maestro? Some noise, please:

Friday, 29 April 2011

The Mayfair Set - 'Junked' (2009)

Visit The Mayfair Set at their own little slice of Myspace

   I know little about this act, but very much expect to get to know them better in time. I think that this engaging drone-like rock ditty makes for a nice little gateway into this caliginous collaboration between the band's principals, Dee Dee and Mike Sniper. Listen

Monday, 18 April 2011

Shiina Ringo - 'Supika' (2002)

   I've been intending to introduce the music of Shiina Ringo to Mode Parade through a review of her extensive body of work; the nous and attention required to do so has unfortunately eluded me over the past few years. Suffice to say, nothing is new there, oh semi-regular readers

   So, to impel myself into some form of action, I offer up one of my favourites from her salad days; a cover of a comparatively conventional ditty by fellow Japanese rockers Spitz. This makes for a rather nice gateway to her 'Ringo Catalogue;' present and correct are the slightly woozy production tics and offbeat use of low-end that she likes, her soft-to-aggressive-and-back-again delivery, a distinctly feminine maturity - which I stress because most other Japanese female pop singers I'm enamoured of trade in a particularly kittenish or innocently/knowingly kawaii sensibility - and her ability to create some rather pretty melodies out of what would otherwise be construed as blithe and abrasive sonic chaos

   Even though she is not the song's writer (fun fact: the title, which I prefer to spell as 'Supika,' but is also (more) acceptable as 'Spica,' refers to the 15th brightest star of the night sky) Ringo Shiina is one of those disgustingly Machiavellian Japanese musical types that can do any and everything her way, which resulted in her becoming one of her country's most successful popular stars despite trading for a time in music that grew increasingly dense, baroque, fractured and foreboding to the extent that her third album, whose title contains the word "semen," was considered a commercial failure for falling under the million sold barrier, unlike her previous output. One would not be too surprised to learn she has some obsessive tendencies; that same album is also notable for a rigorous symmetrical arrangement that determined the order of her lyrics, the number of letters in song titles and the running order of the album itself

   She's quite a talent, really

MP3 here

With this hill road soon to come to a peak, so too are the ridiculous lies about to vanish
When I picture my favorite season on its way
With a beautiful cord at just the right time, I’m about to reach staggering heights
Longing for us to touch each other beyond words, I’ll push my way on to you

These painful palpitations rush out like powder
Just for now, I’ll look right at you and won’t run away
On a random serious night, why is it that I’m about to cry
Even as happiness gets interrupted it’s continuing on

If even a stray monkey can be in a good mood, then even an unchanging tomorrow is laughable
When I turn to look back, it was in a kind-seeming era starved of kindness

The beginning of a dream still has a bit of a sweet taste
Shouldn’t you carry the broken pieces you have in your hands?
The ancient starlight illuminates us – there was nothing in the whole world except for that

If I were to entrust the scraps of my heart to the flowing clouds in the southbound wind, I would follow...

These painful palpitations rush out like powder
Just for now, I’ll look right at you and won’t run away
On a random serious night, why is it that I’m about to cry
Even as happiness gets interrupted it’s continuing on – it’s continuing on

Friday, 8 April 2011

MGMT - 'Brian Eno' (Cornelius Remix, 2010)

   An unexpected delight tonight was discovering that one of my dearest musical icons had taken on this "vampire punk rock song" by the well-known, noisily tuneful combo last year, for if there's one thing that Keigo Oyamada does peerlessly, it's recombinant mutant pop music that makes hipsters say "Oh!", bloggers say "Wow!" and cats say "Meow!"

   Who knows what invigorating effect a little MGMT has had on Cornelius, but this is his most offbeat remix in quite some time; the sort of à rebours slip into hummable oddity that was last embraced on his remake of Bloc Party's 'Banquet' (and interesting how this paean to the pioneer that has doubtlessly influenced Cornelius and MGMT sounds not entirely dissimilar to the (paid for) paean to Oyamada himself written by Japanophile sonic oddity Momus). In a funny way, this might almost sum up his career, for as a man of consummate kitsch and a connoisseur/player of practically every musical genre created, it is both old  and new for him to embrace that favoured instrument of Dracula's most entrenched pop cultural representation, the harpsichord. A cheeky reading of MGMT's bloodsucker intentions, perhaps, but whatever brings out Oyamada's intrinsic whimsy is good for us all, much like Emma Stone is. Were I angling for a role in music PR, I might describe its frenetically beatless qualities as akin to "skipping on air," but I am seeking to engage, not to scar my semi-regular readers for life; I can do that with my outfit photographs on any other day

   I was in need indeed of a new song with which to see in this season's sunsets; not only do I have that now, but it even doubles as a happy little ditty to imagine playing Transylvanian Families to. That Cornelius: always thoughtful, forever delivering

Monday, 4 April 2011

Leadbelly - 'Where Did You Sleep Last Night' (1944)

For the record, I'm unfamiliar with the Kurt Cobain-sung cover. I just had a rather bluesy weekend 

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Daft Punk - Tron: Legacy (2010)

   To be honest, they had me at the affectionately appropriated John Carpenter synths

   I had eagerly anticipated this latest curio from one of our era's most beloved and occasionally pilloried electronic acts, but the prospect of uniting them with the 85-piece London Orchestra and the guiding hands of orchestrator and arranger Joseph Trapanese certainly instilled promise. Never mind that at far as the cosmos is certain, no other concern is as fated to score a Tron sequel as Daft Punk, but the spectre of third album Human After All still casts a pesky shadow. I cannot recall the halcyon message board day the general approval of 'Robot Rock' dissipated into shards of broken hopes and dead disco dreams when some encyclopaedic wag unearthed its original incarnation as Breakwater's 'Release The Beast', providing both an appreciation of a superb sample source and an accusatory totem with which to beat our favourite French androids over the head, without smirking a little

   Nevertheless, Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Man de Homem-Christo have built up enough goodwill over the years to merit more than a little leeway when scoring a blockbuster movie, and if their remit was to produce a soundtrack that stands with the greats of our cinematic history, than the amount of time I've spent listening to this record since its December release suggests they came tantalisingly close to succeeding. For if the duo did not know their way around a hook - no matter how repetitive - their career would have been consigned to history faster than that of The Nolan Sisters

   Of course, such a sampladelic act know their way around the hooks other artists create, and aside from Carpenter and other old hands like Philip Glass, Vangelis (the well played homage 'Arrival') and Maurice Jarre (whose sweeping, bold romanticism and late period synth antics seem to guide the electronic and orchestral merges here as much as Tron's original composer Wendy Carlos. Wagner's here too, of course - who else could 'Rectifier's evil imperial bombast remind one of?), the soundtrack also takes in a very modern sampling of prolific scorers Hans Zimmer and John Powell, who are named in the album's thank you-notes, and whose respective trademarks of moody, minor key, minimalist strings (the recurring leitmotif for the film's sinister, near-unkillable antagonist Clu; 'ENCOM Parts I and II') and muscular tribal rhythms married to string-based melodies and flourishes ('Disc Wars'; 'ENCOM' again) give Tron: Legacy an almost self-consciously contemporary launchpad. Which is why it's so compelling when Daft Punk then proceed to add other twists to it. The repetitive build, swell and release that guides their studio records - utilised here as if to prove that the formula is mutable, not worthless, in a different setting - deftly complements the rushes of emotion, danger, odd austerity and digital battling that the film presents. Indeed, when the aforementioned Carpenter-like four note synth intruded like a warning alarm during Clu's first appearance, I could have punched the air with glee - a newly minted, iconic, modern leitmotif to match Jason Bourne's (the elegant, Bernard Hermann-like grasp of sinister undertones through strings and timpani offering the perfect creepy accompaniment, as does the hot vapor electro hiss when the stern, urgent strings of the final 'CLU' theme incarnation take hold - music for a last stand against a complete monster if I ever heard it. Digital Jeff Bridges is the new Childcatcher)

   The fortunate thing with so many musical reference points is Bangalter and de Homem-Christo's determination to meld them in ways both subtle and overt, refracting this familiarity into their own aesthetic in the same manner that their synths and symphonies wind around each other like sinew, a trick excellently deployed early in the runtime during the first 5 seconds of the stirring, Zimmer-but-different 'Recognizer' alone. Indeed, this piece is demonstrable of the album's significant, intrinsic aspect: the total ease in wedding the orchestral to the machinery, giving both core elements a textural parity that is stunningly synergistic - in this way, and in the recurrence of its own science fiction main motif across the myriad pieces, the work I'm most reminded of is that of Basil Poledouris for RoboCop. Like Daft Punk, he successfully rendered a traditional, yet unconventional, film accompaniment that musically captured the man/machine tension driving the story; in both cases, it is a judicious sense of nuance that results in such textural success. Hence, unlike with Zimmer or even Jarre, one doesn't see "the synthy bit" and "the horny bit" telegraphed a mile off. And it is both this and their versatility that make future Daft scores a prospect worth putting up with the inevitable cash-in remixes* for

* Let us face it - Tron: Legacy Reconfigured would always have sucked most of the interesting elements dry from the bones of the originals

   Even though two years working with Trapanese cannot confer his particular skills upon them, the two minds at Daft Punk's centre are so attuned to the protean aspects of a film's scenes that the score may forever threaten to overshadow the visuals in the mind's memory. Cohesion carries the day - the stylistic, near synaesthetic similarities created through mood and minimal melodies (and of course a band so concerned with hooks would make a film score with a surface so simple), as well as the two's increasingly dynamic mode of production and mixing, are what allows purely symphonic  pieces like the beautiful 'Finale' to gaily coexist with the Springsteen-esque, neon night ride 'End of Line', requiring little glue from the more conceptually enticing in-betweeners like the moving storyteller that is 'Adagio For Tron' (and speaking of leitmotifs, what an excellent plot detail it is to include Rinzler's theme in this piece, furthering the curiosity over this warrior's origins. Other plot guided examples include the reworked refrain of 'Armory' in 'Outlands Part II'). And all of it sounds ridiculously gorgeous and clear as a bell - there's something alluringly crystalline about the pulsingly pretty highlight, 'Outlands', whose wild ride-soundtracking resembles Danny Elfman's 'Flight of the Batmobile' filtered through the breezy sensibilities of Daft Punk's own 'Revolution 909'. And even this gem is preceded by the album's critical consensus-favourite 'The Game Has Changed', where Daft Punk's production nous reflects the fragmentation of the dying Program characters and the sterile yet treacherous and twisting expanse of the Light Cycle grid and the match fought on it through bit crushed martial drums, a hypnotic synth melody and the old build, swell and release as represented by the prominent and then reticent style of the instrumentation

   In order for one to fully appraise the score, I particularly recommend it with the visuals attached. Given that the film was cut to the music, that is no idle witticism - in that sense, it is also the successor to Daft Punk's humourous, nostalgic and entertaining anime collaboration with Leiji Matsumoto, Interstella 5555, which simultaneously played out to their memorable sophomore, Discovery. Tron: Legacy may not have the duo's vision at the helm, but my, are they becoming increasingly adept at telling a story made by others


Tuesday, 15 March 2011

The Beta Band - 'To You Alone' (2000)

  I intend to review the albums of this dearly departed outfit in due course - say, between today and 2013. This non-album double-A single was released between their whimsical and psychedelic genre-bending debut, which I love and which The Beta Band themselves very publicly slated, and their somewhat Gregorian, moody folk/r'n'b-mating follow-up, as ably seeded in this moving, pulsing song

   It's music for evening people