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

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

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Lou Reed - 'Sad Song' (1973)

I'm gonna stop wastin' my time
Somebody else would have broken both of her arms

   Sadness for the weekend? Perhaps this inappropriate, ever moving threnody is on my mind due to the tsunami tragedy of Japan that has occupied hearts and columns of late. Elizabeth Avedon is currently promoting a charitable auction of photographic works for the cause. Mayhap others will follow

  Funny what other interrelated trivia comes to mind - 'Sad Song' was sampled by the plagiaristic yet innovative Japanese under-to-overground pop stars Flipper's Guitar (the training ground for my favourite recording artist, Cornelius) as part of their psychedelic song cycle, 'The World Tower,' produced by Salon Music's Zin Yoshida

   Spent energy, bitterness, ruing, catharsis; bitter pills don't come much sweeter than this

Monday, 28 February 2011

Dance For Imaginative Miss Potter

   I have had Tales of Beatrix Potter on my mind of late. Perhaps it's the delightful music that accompanies the fleet of feet in its performance. Perhaps it's the surreality of ballet, the kinetic interpretive expression of passion, composure and the vagaries of life, executed by professionals garbed in outsize 'human animal' costumes. Perhaps it's Oscars Night and I am musing over whether Black Swan's chances would increase had Natalie Portman danced in an outfit representing an anthropomorphic cygnus in a bonnet

   If the talking animal genre has elements of parody in its whimsical little heart, then this might be its apogee: humans dressed as animals that behave as humans, yet lacking any discernibly natural behaviours beyond the motions of the dancers, wearing eyes that remain utterly unmoving and mouths that never part, making no sounds to complement their hybrid disposition. Like The Nutcracker, such a fever dream of the stage requires a child or a childlike mind to see such things as they should be; playthings brought to life and their absurdities then rendered through a slightly off-kilter (in its own right) yet resolutely elegant medium. It is also a testament to the varied methods for telling a well loved story

   Besides, this sort of fun is the perfect gateway drug for ballet if one wishes to start them young. For this arrested developer, it's very much perfect

Friday, 25 February 2011

Mile High Confidential

Maestro? Some travelling music, please:

When they banned smoking and stopped opening the bar seconds after lift off it changed it for me. Drinks were free and it was expected that you needed a buzz ASAP if you were flying. A shorter flight, like SF-Seattle, they would come by 2-3 three times with drinks

There was glamour in taking people to the airport and seeing them off. Or waiting at their gate for them to arrive

The better airlines had a full roast beef on board that they carved for you to order. They used to pass out free playing cards and mini packs of smokes

TWA used to have an open bar and buffet on the SFO to St Louis route. You didn't really mind if the flight was delayed. They would just open the bar and let you eat and drink yourself silly

I recall sitting on the runway at JFK in route to St Louis in the late '70's. A electrical storm hit, so we just stayed on the runway for an hour and a half and had a frigging party in the back of the plane before taking off
-- PSG, 27/05/2010, The Forvm

Monday, 14 February 2011

Flight of the Conchords - 'If You're Into It' (2007)

   It says much about my state of mind that my thoughts on modern romance must be articulated by two comedians from New Zealand. Though possibly not

   In summary: Happy V D

Monday, 15 November 2010

Bubba Sparxxx - Deliverance (2003)

 I left off of mama's with my thumb in the wind
The leaves on the ground, winter's comin' again
Solid on the surface as I crumble within
But legends are made out of vulnerable men
So on the brink of death I still manage livin' life
'Cause so rarely in this world are these chances given twice
I indeed sold my soul, without glancing at the price
No instructions when I was handed this device
But with what I did get, I was more than generous
Put others over self on several instances
But I'm back on my feet without a hint of bitterness
And one way or another I shall have deliverance
So I say

   Another review that I wrote six years ago focused on the widely underappreciated sophomore cut from Southern boy and Timbaland alum, Bubba Sparxxx

   In 2003, Timbaland was perceived to have begun a decline in his creative and commercial prowess that would last until his recruitment of Nate 'Danja' Hills and their highly populist and propulsive creations for Nelly Furtado and Justin Timberlake in 2006. In truth, Timothy Moseley was as restlessly inventive as in previous years - when not mixing the clip-clops of horses with flamenco and updating  doo wop swing for an almost perfect r&b record that went unreleased - Simple Girl by Kiley Dean - he was interpolating and sampling recent hits into a country-slanted hip hop album that was as offbeat and contemplative as any Lee Hazlewood number 

   His MC friend wasn't half bad either:

    In which the best known of Timbaland's roster of underrated protégés hits back against the haters, the shamers and those who'd rather forget he ever existed. The essence of the album is Bubba's on-record character, more roundly developed and emotionally invested in than the previous record, with music and beats to match from Tim (with a little bit of Organized Noize to garnish). Importantly, Bubba's way with a rhyme and a microphone carry equal weight with Tim's surprising yet totally sensible bluegrass funk, country crunk, chase scene torch songs and ever excellent ass-shakers (Tim's diminished presence on the second half prevents this from being 2003's perfect hip hop album, but when on point, he's ever the hard act to follow - how the hell is 'Warrant' so confidently funky, mysterious and addictive when it's got barely no beats to speak of?)
   He's got a convincingly guilty conscience on 'She Tried', acts the good time party boy fool on 'Hootenanny' and the ultra-catchy top 10 single that never was, 'Comin' Round' (fiddles! synths! squealing tyres!), and he is straight up convincing about the New South signifier. I believe in Bubba when he's evoking a hard past that may or may not have been on 'Nowhere', because he's mastered the art of convincing soul-bearing on record. And when 'Nowhere', with it's last line of 'If I'm nowhere/let that nowhere/be nowhere near a worry' and the equally underrated Kiley Dean leading a lovely chorus of 'Cry Me A River' (what's done is done, eh, Bubba?), concludes its 5 mins plus of pure symphonic hip hop beauty, Bubba tells us there's nothing he can't Overcome and I hope he's right. Sooner or later, he deserves to have his Deliverance
Recommended tracks: Comin' Round, Nowhere, Warrant

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Basement Jaxx - Kish Kash (2003)

   Speaking of my past self, I am invoking him today to review my favourite record by the Brixton-based dance pioneers. This is my writing style of six years ago; a funny collection of tics, to be sure:
   Kish Kash didn't take much deliberation to make my number one [best album from 2000 - 2004], for it is everything Basement Jaxx is; everything that makes them compelling, surprising, frenetic, starry-eyed, intuitive and above all, just themselves. This is particularly apparent when you've come to terms with the consistency in the album's running order and the way it bursts not only with sounds but with life.
   Like Cornelius['s Point] and The Avalanches[' Since I Left You] (my no's 3 and 2, respectively), there's so much going on that if you don't take time to listen around, you might miss it (but thank God for the RWD button). Not only the sounds of the 3-parties-in-one that are 'Right Here's The Spot', 'Plug It In', 'Cish Cash' and 'Lucky Star' and the Jaxx's all-out Voltron-assembly of pop songs, Prince-outs and mismatched but purposeful sonic chaos, but the things they do to their special guests. In-between spitting catchphrases on every verse, Dizzee Rascal sounds like the electrodes attached to his secret places are working overtime, Me'shell flirts with a gender identity crisis that she can't conceal her enjoyment over, Totlyn deploys a winning bid for Queen (or King) Scatter of 2003, JC further hints at his growing case of Schizophrenia, his emergent tender sleaziness and his desire to be the most Purple teen idol ever, and erotic pleasure belies Siouxsie's dominatrix cries of "YOU'RE INSATIABLLLLLLLLLLLEEEEEEE!" And I'll be damned if I'm not. I don't want to miss a thing.
Recommended tracks: Good Luck, Plug It In, Lucky Star, Cish Cash

   I also had the great pleasure of seeing them perform twice in support of this record in December 2003, where Felix Buxton, Simon Ratcliffe and their carnival-spirited live band dynamically impelled their music into more frenetic but ever compelling arrangements - a warehouse party for the world stage, to be sure. However, it cannot be denied that in spite of the spirited renditions by their fill-in live singers, each special guest on the album utterly made their songs their own. Not surprisingly, the Jaxx spent part of the time between this album and their fourth as jobbing music producers, creating or remixing some underrated, would-be chart burners for the likes of Chasez and Lady Sovereign

   It remains highly recommended, by the way

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Research Turtles - Research Turtles (2009)

   So Research Turtles decided to send me their album gratis. And when it finally surmounted its rivals on my To-Do List, I settled down to take in some studiously hewn, power pop-infused rock by four young fellows from Lake Charles, Louisiana, who could not be more pleased to be calling their own tune. Moreover, they also happen to be dab hands at playing it - this, along with the following they are conscientiously amassing on the stage and through the interweb, should make a sizeable bargaining chip for any future recording contract

   In the meantime, the band has a craft to hone

   Jud and Joe Norman, the mop top brothers, share vocals and commandeer the bass and guitar, respectively, in a well oiled machine that is also formed from the excellently named Logan Fontenot, lead guitarist, and Blake Thibodeaux on drums and percussion, with Wes Anderson's Bill Murray-led The Life Aquatic inspiring the group's sobriquet and detailed, intuitive and heavy production from Justin Tocket. With such telegenic qualities, the four-piece have covered much ground in their bid to live up to their self-assumed mantle of "America's Newest Hit Makers," although I might suggest developing an addiction or five in order to efficiently generate the salacious tabloid material that would come with the territory

   Five-star status is normally greatly difficult to effectuate with a debut record, and in the interests of disclosure, Research Turtles The Album is no different - it holds much promise and delivers on it across the vast majority of the songs, but now and again, one hears the sound of a band starting to coalesce into a combo of worth rather than arriving at that place already. This is normally the result of Jud Nelson's songwriting rather than any flaws in the group's performances; 'The Riff Song,' for example, is realised in an endearing fashion of confident musicianship - and also strongly resembles Rage Against The Machine's indelible 'Killing in the Name' - but ironically, the songwriting is somewhat subordinated to the Riff itself when they could, and should, work as an equal partnership. 'Break My Fall,' the only other song I felt to be lacking enough for nitpicking, also sounds a touch sluggish in spite of its on-paper successes of decent riffing and relatively uncomplicated songcraft, which seems to be down to the unattractive vocal delivery and a main hook that is a little too languid to be greatly compelling - the lively jamming that occurs within two minutes literally resuscitates the song into a form of enthusiastic life

   Nevertheless, I really like what the four are capable of, thus far. By working within the tried and true framework of classic rock, and threading together influences from the fields of New Wave, psychedelia, AM pop, surf harmonies and touches of British melody (that which I usually like to refer to as "Kinksian"), the formula they offer is bright, immediate, mostly upbeat and unabashedly built for lingering when the record has long ceased playing. It's also, as the band allude to themselves, staunchly American - deceptively simple, rooted in rock history, attuned to hooks in their purest form, and polished to a self-assured, radio friendly sheen

  The bands the album evoked in my mind vary from the obvious to the recondite to the slightly unfashionable, and whilst the likes of The Knack, middle-period rock Cornelius (himself a grab bag of classic rock inflections done his own way), Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath's riff mastery, The Sweet, Shonen Knife and The Ramones are easy associations, I was surprised to find a  contemplative moment such as 'Kiss Her Goodbye' to be somewhat redolent of Ben Folds Five, a band, I should state, that I have always categorised as a genuine pleasure; never a guilty one. Truthfully, one can link a number of the Research Turtles' songs to those of older bands; the one I found most unexpected was 'Into A Hole's sonic link to Weezer's 'Susanne,' though the notion that the two bands share anything in common is easily confirmed somewhere between the start of the subtly enticing, groovy opener 'Let's Get Carried Away' and the midway point of spirited, future teen movie soundtrack classic in its own right, 'Mission'

   I particularly appreciate the foursome's refusal to maintain straight-ahead structures, as heard in highlights like the ska-kissed 'Tomorrow's Beatle-esque bridge and the micro rave-ups and gliding codas seeded within otherwise traditional power pop and radio-ready rock numbers like 'A Feeling' and the aforementioned 'Break My Fall.' Such jams go quite a ways to cementing Research Turtles' instrumental credibility. But never let it be said that these young men do not know how to enjoy themselves - my other favourites include their abandoned, amiably rocking party starters, 'Damn,' '925' and 'Cement Floor,' where the group's upbeat rock'n'roll tendencies are in perfect sync with their vigorous playing, simple singing and unfussy delivery

   I've never met them, but if fortune favours them, they might have the brightest futures of anyone else I've encountered this year. Good luck to them all


Research Turtles can be downloaded at no charge here. Their MySpace fiefdom is also present and correct

Friday, 17 September 2010

Roll It

Not bad for a man named Lewis

   Posthumously speaking, Brian Jones is my favourite Stone; the butterfly to Charlie Watts' beetle (and this also takes into account Keef's splendid purple suit); never a grown-up, always a child. Where Watts today is precise, sharp and structured in his appearance to the point that he may as well be armoured, Jones' flamboyance at its peak suggested that a mere brush with his chimerical finery would result in a psychotropic trip

   And those caught up in his personal whirlwind must have suspected the come downs would be as debilitating as they were scandalous

   Brian is perhaps the quintessential Rock Polymath of Doom, since, as it is sometimes seen, with great ability comes great disaster. He was charismatic, popular, sexually overactive and indulged in a great many interests; one could see the self-destructive predisposition a mile off. He was a rebel within a band of rebels and a quintessential outside-insider, a feeling to which I can sometimes relate

   He was also a Peacock sans pareil, with a mid-to-late 1960s wardrobe  practically custom built to outrage the sensibilities of the most conservative echelons of sartorialism and stir the loins of the girls and women who flocked to the itinerant father of five and his bandmates.  With finery to source from the likes of Mr. Fish, Hung On You, I Was Lord Kitchener's Valet, and Granny Takes A Trip, Brian had little difficulty in establishing himself as a leader of the psychedelic plumage set

   Bandmate Bill Wyman later summed him up as thus:
There were two Brians... one was introverted, shy, sensitive, deep-thinking... the other was a preening peacock, gregarious, artistic, desperately needing assurance from his peers... he pushed every friendship to the limit and way beyond
   Of course, even without the motivation of court appearances to moderate his excesses, he was perfectly capable of affecting a more reputable presentation when the occasion arose; indeed, the earlier days of The Rolling Stones - interesting enough to serve as a reference for Stefano Pilati's Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche collection in Fall 2008 - feature a more relatively sober Brian, with he and his bandmates more attuned to the calmer attire of the earlier 1960s. I like to think that he was good at that, also:

   But don't think that I cannot appreciate the contrast; the immediacy of Brian's psyched out latter period may attract more attention, but these different modes instantly resonate with me, used as I am to modifying my appearance when social engagements call for it. That, by the by, is a choice I make - it's rather an interesting exercise in adaptability where I'm concerned

   Nevertheless, the Dandy In The Sky look that Brian made his own has such a compelling F-U grace to it that it rarely fails to inspire.After all, peacocks rarely exist to be 100% replicated; it is their ideas that are to be admired or reviled, absorbed or discarded. For all the white men who can be found fretting about their suitability for a wider palette of clothing colours, there's Brian's blithe mixing and matching; a riotous visual patchwork of glee for dressing up that doesn't occur to most fellows even once in a lifetime. Where concerns persist over the use of odd striped trousers, Brian went to tour sporting a dark jacket and corresponding tie (3rd photograph from the top), confidently displaying the desaturated version of his own adventurous glamour. When I need an interesting guide or 5 to donning neckscarves and other silken accoutrements, I have over a dozen pictures of Brian to show me how it's done

   Certainly, he looked like the sort of fellow one might proffer to a hippy at a Dead concert to lick, but I enjoy that. I draw the line at his blazer suit and the fondness for python skin boots he shared with Keith Richards (though I suppose that he had to share a few tastes at least with The Glimmer Twins), but with such a bombast, there's usually a line that must be drawn somewhere

   Let us put it this way - he is not the Lapo Elkann of the 1960s - for a start, Lapo's binges seem to have had a more all-encompassing deleterious effect on his own creativity than Brian's did his. At least Brian had the good grace to keep it consistent

   Mick Jagger, appropriately, wore one of Mr. Fish's shirt dresses when performing at The Rolling Stones' free concert in Hyde Park, two days after Brian joined The 27 Club upon his death on 3rd July 1969. Having dedicated the performances to the founder who eventually became isolated from his peers, the band's frontman took a moment to play orator in memory of his one-time friend:

   Brian, as it is famously known, was ultimately discovered dead at the bottom of his own swimming pool at his Cotchford Farm home in West Sussex. It bears noting that in later years, the tiles from the pool were individually sold for around $210 per 6-inch tiles, courtesy of his own Fan Club

   Such as it was, Brian earned a place in checkered history. And popular culture and rock 'n' roll were certainly the more interesting for having had him there to develop their milieus in a most uncommon manner

   Roll with it

Further reading:

And a pictorial to close out proceedings:

Matryoshka - 'Evening Gleam Between Clouds' (2007)

Matryoshka is a Tokyo, Japan based band consisting of the track maker Sen and the female vocalist Calu. During the days when they were playing in the band Parachute Coats, their material was released as a 7 inch vinyl by a fan in Netherlands and received good attention in the club scene there. Only a year after the band was formed, they had already received sponsorship offers from Yamaha and were digitally distributed on their download site.

Their music can be described as Modern Classical, IDM, and Experimental.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

The Cake - 'You Can Have Him' (1967)

   Decades before Sugababes achieved a mild flavour of notoriety for performing their debut single on Top of The Pops with an unsmiling archness, the world birthed this:

   My sentiments regarding The Cake's showmanship could only appear trite; this Manson-James Brown-Ronettes hybridising should only happen in the theatre. What's so delicious about this performance is that it did not

   For unconventional band mascot/ensemble dark horse-status, the impassive baby doll that was Jeanette Jacobs is right up there with ABC's homosexual, Kid Swifty Lazar-esque midget, David Yarritu

Monday, 9 August 2010

Sergei Rachmaninoff - 'Vocalise, Op. 34 No. 14' (1912)

   Whenever I'd like a feeling of equanimity, this sort of piece normally helps. It is particularly notable for containing no words other than "ah"

   This performance was conducted by Leopold Stokowski and sung by Anna Moffo

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Nancy Sinatra & Lee Hazlewood - 'Down From Dover' (1972)

   I never much took to The Go! Team, that irrepressible band of racket-making Brighton-hailing noiseniks who suggested a 21st century vision of Big Beat by removing all of the lager and amyl-fuelled white boy funk angst and replacing it with lo-fi, rarely refined, twee day-glo white boy funk angst instead. Never have I heard anyone so brazenly eject all nuance, charm and surprise from the careers of the Dust Brothers and the musicians behind the soundtracks of The Littlest Hobo, Highway to Heaven, The Waltons and Knight Rider, and get away with toddler-level raps and a desperate sheen of Americanisation that even Sasha Baron Cohen would find challenging to satirise. Actually, never have I heard a band more indebted to the quality of its source material

   The point of the above is that 'Ladyflash', one of the band's very few shining moments, was not responsible for introducing me to Sinatra and Hazlewood's duet-based Dolly Parton cover, though the tight, splendid musicianship of their version goes a way to explaining how those noiseniks could not screw it up

   For all the megrims of 'Down From Dover's abandonment-and-miscarriage-based narrative, it is almost concerningly pleasurable to listen to. Counteracting its misery is an almost upbeat, almost bluegrass funk-like take on the original's campfire tale music, leavened with wistful-sad strings, a relaxed strum of country guitar and temperate horns that suggest an equanimous state of mind: "This may be a sad story, but in Life, as you know, sometimes tragedy will sandbag you. It's best to get on with it." This sentiment likely suits the late Mr. Hazlewood, who, when not letting the Chivas Regal flow, spent his days rejecting most notions of fame and  later perambulating like a vagabond across Europe and the United States, dodging the income tax where he could

   Lee's throaty, almost growling rumble easily projects a hint of his character's unreliability that telegraphs the unhappy ending before his first line has ended, but Nancy's tremulous delivery is the standout; keyed into the same desperate emotionalism that makes Dolly's performance so memorable, she twists it by building towards a dance around lachrymosity as the story reaches its climax. With Hazlewood's errant lover to respond to, her reading takes on an equally desperate, but less desolate and more resolved tone, clutching to a bruised brand of hope until the final moment of devastation and disappointment arrives

   And then the song quickly fades to silence. Another journey through another complicated life is complete, but the road, as evoked by the music's laidback essence, winds its way on

   We couldn't have it any other way

Friday, 25 June 2010

Doctorin' The Penzance - Colin Baker Sings Gilbert and Sullivan

As special as this ditty is, I still wonder if there exists a disclaimer apologising to Messrs G & S somewhere. I may come to like this as much as the Animaniacs parody

No other words are necessary. Except for these:

I-iiiiiiiii--am the very model of a Gallifreyan Buccaneer.
I've information on all things a Gallifreyan holds most dear.
I've linked into the Matrix through its exitonic circuitry,
I understand dimensional and relative chronometry.
I'm very well acquainted too with matters of the Capitol,
I'll give you verse and chapter on Panopticonian protocol,
I've been into the Death Zone and I've played the Game of Rassilon--
(Rassilon? Assilon, Bassilon-- ah ha!)
With pestilential monsters that I got a lot of hassle from!

[With pestilential monsters that he got a lot of hassle from!
With pestilential monsters that he got a lot of hassle from!!
With pestilential monsters that he got a lot of hassle-assle from!!!]

I understand each language and I speak every vernacular.
I'll conjugate each verb obscure, decline each line irregular.
In short in every matter that a Gallifreyan holds most dear,
I am the very model of a Gallifreyan Buccaneer.

[In short in every matter that a Gallifreyan holds most dear,
he is the very model of a Gallifreyan Buccaneer!]

I've tackled shady Castellans with devious behavior.
I've sparred with Time Lord chancellors like Thalia, Goth or Flavia.
In fact on some occasions I've held office Presidentally,
'though maybe I won't mention I was ousted out eventually.

I know just how it feels to be a wanted man and on the run,
but wouldn't leave the carefree buccaneering life for anyone.
Though sometimes my adventures seem absurdly operatical--
(Operatical? Hatical... patical-- ah ha!)
With ups and down and twists and turns and incidents fanatical.

[With ups and down and twists and turns and incidents fanatical!
With ups and down and twists and turns and incidents fanatical!!
With ups and down and twists and turns and incidents fanatical!!!]

I've sailed the seven seas of Earth and all the oceans of the Moon,
my trusty true Type-40 is my Gallifreyan picaroon.
But is this really what the average Gallifreyan holds most dear?
I wonder what they think about this Gallifreyan Buccaneer.

[But is this really what the average Gallifreyan holds most dear!
We wonder what they think about this Gallifreyan Buccaneer!]

I've defeated evil robots such as Daleks, Quarks, and Cybermen.
I've overthrown dictators from Tobias Vaughn to Mavic Chen.
I've rescued helpless maidens from the devestating Viking hordes.
Vanquished Autons.... Axons... Daemons... Krotons.... Monoids, Vampires, Voords.
I've liberated planets and delivered them from total war.
Saved Earth, Manussa, Dulkis, Skonnos, Earth, Tigella, Earth once more.
In short I know I am the truest Rassilonian legate
(Legate? Decate...Hecate...Hecate?? Mm. Not sure if that's canonical. Ah ha, I have it!)
And so to Time Lords all I say remember me to Gallifrey!

[A sentiment we all agree, remember him to Gallifrey!
A sentiment we all agree, remember him to Gallifrey!!
A sentiment we all agree, remember him to Galli-gallifrey!!]

I'm not content to just observe, I am a bold adventurer.
Though other Time Lords mock this Gallifreyan interventioner.
I know in every matter that a Time Lord really should hold dear
I am the very model of a Gallifreyan Buccaneer.

[We know in every matter that a Time Lord really should hold dear,
He is the very model of a Gallifreyan Buccaneer!]

Friday, 11 June 2010

Cornelius (コーネリアス) - 'Ball In-Kick Off' (1998, Live)

And it's a fair haired, slight balding Charlton to Kick Off, Ball In - Kick Off

   In recognition of what day it is, Let The Games Begin

   Five years ago, my ILM friends and I once cultivated our own themed compilations. I forget the reasons for it, but we sought to acquaint each other with the sound recordings that, to us, aligned with the premise of each collection

   Geeks make the best musical archivists, after all

   The title of the collection that I submitted this for might be obvious. You've perhaps seen the way that I dress - what other subject could I have a particular musical view on than Maximalism?

   My review drips with dork cachet, but then I was almost satirically effusive in my writing during those days, usually because my fellows were genuinely so in theirs

   Of course, this artist is one of my inspirations. With him, my effervescence tends to be warranted

Monday, 7 June 2010


These are dedicated to the drivers of Accra

Italy has nothing on you; here's to dicing with death for however long I can stand to share a road with you

Friday, 21 May 2010

Kahimi Karie - 'A Fantastic Moment' (1995)

   The charm of following a polymathic musician is in the phases they experience, always casting off their previous manifestations as definitive statements on their transitory fancies

   In 1995, Mari 'Kahimi Karie (カヒミ・カリィ)' Hiki and Keigo 'Cornelius (コーネリアス)' Oyamada were in something of a shared romantique nostalgia, or a relationship, to you and I. The Girlfriend was something of a sylph with a singing voice more incisively described as an airless, tranquil whisper, whose luminescent face, stoic demeanour and protean imagery that included Rococo opulence, French Mod Sex Kitten and Tokyo demureness made her a star; The Woman of a Thousand Fantasies, if you will

   The Boyfriend was running one of the trendiest yet most substantive record labels in the world - Trattoria Records - touring, remixing, producing and playing when he could and collaborating on portable record players, G-Shock models and other playthings that bore his brand. His latest incarnation at that time was an idiosyncratic bouillabaisse of 1960s psychedelia, 1970s heavy metal (he was a self-taught guitarist who developed through playing Kiss records), 1980s hip hop and 1990s electronic noise; at once the classic Japanese refiner of Western developments and the alien refractor of cultural traditions that he interacted with from afar

   Today's selection shows them in a very deliberate Gainsbourg and Birkin-like reverie; aside from their romantic status at the time, Karie can also speak French and English, and the 1960s and 1970s were rather a la mode in the Shibuya-Kei landscape of foreign musical history made modern day blended pop. Oyamada has long been an arbiter at home; his diverse musical knowledge threaded itself through every record he was involved in, no matter what year it was

   In either flavour, 'A Fantastic Moment' is probably one of the most beautiful pieces of music either has released. You barely even notice the Lou Reed sample

   A translation:

We run, cutting straight through the wind
Nothing can stop us as we head straight for hope
We might find it over on that hill maybe, I hope...

La la la when you gently take my hand
Everything around us changes to perfection
All of the world's sunlight shining just for me and you

...And the bugs, they laugh...
...Melting into the ground...

The two of us can do anything. Right?
See, we can even jump over that rainbow.

...And the time stands still...
...The flowers are waving...

The two of us are laughing high above the clouds
Our laughter leaking down as sun beams in the forest
Just now the rain of sadness is turning into a rainbow

Away with the gloom
The grass gently waves
And the birds peacefully fall to sleep

One day...everything...I hope...