Showing posts with label music. Show all posts
Showing posts with label music. 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


Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Cathal Smyth - A Comfortable Man, Live, October 2014



   To Wilton's Music Hall in East London last night, on the invitation of my old friend, artist Andrew Hancock, where I produced a set of photographs of the man we still call Chas Smash of Madness, resplendent amongst a sonorous orchestra, a songbird in black and the work of 50 contemporary artists directly inspired by Smyth himself. Nice work, if you can get it

   What bodes well for this album launch, which has two further nights at Wilton's to go, and indeed, the album itself is that the roguishly avuncular Smyth (who made your author, at least, feel as if in the company of the favourite uncle who casually turns the air blue and quickly moves along before the matriarch tweaks his ear) somehow managed to start out strongly and end on an even better finish. I suspect the builder's tea that he periodically topped up from with the appetite of Popeye


   Madness is one of this country's most resonant (and entertaining, lest we forget) bands. So, for anyone who may be in attendance tonight or tomorrow, or plans to be, I can assure you that rarely do you get a safer pair of hands to guide you through his new and warmly folkish material. Anticipate big choruses, assiduous charm, precision timing, band crushes and one big, open heart

   For you'll need every ounce of that goodwill whenever you try to get served at the Mahogany Bar




Friday, 20 April 2012

Was (Not Was) - '(Return to the Valley of) Out Come The Freaks' (1983)


For a time, this seemed to be the only song my parents would play during our long drives up and down the M1 every weekend; a most elegant and spirited couple making it easy on themselves by wielding the most efficient tool to pacify their unruly spawn in the backseat:

The pop world's most indelibly gorgeous piano line

It's good to be a Freak




Friday, 17 February 2012

Bronze Age Fox - 'Books' (2003)





A pensive song for the winding down of a working Friday. The wistful attitude permeating the melodies feels apposite for a band that lost the dream when a major label sought to steer their career

But then, these things happen

Saturday, 10 September 2011

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

Friday, 26 August 2011

FRAPBOIS 2011-2012 AW Collection "EL Quijote" feat. Plus-Tech Squeeze Box


   Ahead of the next brace of Fashion Weeks, an engaging presentation from Japanese streetwear label FRAPBOIS. Since I have been making noises here and there about wanting to explore a different personal aesthetic one day, some of this might prove inspirational in time, although I draw the line at drop crotch trousers

   This is also a good reason to finally post music from the Japanese duo Plus-Tech Squeeze Box, who have produced a considerable amount of my favourite records, remixes and one-offs over the past 10 years. Paradoxically accessible yet provocatively an acquired taste, they have only given the world two albums, yet pack fifty times that amount into every piece they make. All hail the sampler:




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

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, 16 May 2011

Spike Jonze Presents: Lil Buck and Yo-Yo Ma (2011)



   It's not often that collaborations turn my head like a topspin, though judging by 2009's fling with Uniqlo, I reckon that the rather good Opening Ceremony have a facility for a damn fine get-together


   This number was presented by Jonze for OC's blog

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


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