Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Something old/Something new/Something borrowed/Something blue

Being spring time, i thought it might be an appropriate occasion to forage through the mounting piles of records and scraps of paper which are slowly devouring my flat, and compile something resembling a shortlist of music to listen to over the coming months. I am not the biggest fan of digitalizing ones music collection (the inclination to skip through entire LPs in search of the familiar is a somewhat irritating temptation), but there are equally few things nicer than listening to records whilst outdoors, or on the way to places. Without realising it, i find myself making sub-concious associations between songs and specific places which often only dawn on me when i re-visit them sometime later on in the future.

James, my housemate of two years, recently decided it was time not only to move out to the countryside for some fresh air, but also time to sadly part with a significant proportion of his belongings as a means of funding his new, minimalist life style in the New forest. A large jumble sale ensued (in our living room) and much to my delight, i stumbled across a section of his record collection healthily devoted to the work of art and fashion-shaman Malcolm Mclaren (may he rest in peace).

Mclaren will of course first and foremost be remembered for leaving a skidmark on seventies pop music with the Sex pistols and the New York dolls. Fans of his will also be familiar with his 1983 LP Duck rock, credited by many as being one of the first records to introduce New York Hip Hop to the UK. But probably one of his far lesser known ventures was the music he composed in 1989 for the British Airways commercials, based on a classical piece called "the flower duet" from the french Lackme opera.
"Aria on air" sounds like something off a record Enya never got round to making with Giorgio Moroder, and holds a firm place in my childhood memories. Does anyone remember the first pure moods casette released on virgin records back in about 1995? It had stuff like this on it, as well as Eno's "Another green world" and Angelo Badalamenti's "Theme from Twin Peaks".
Fuck it, i can see a whole PURE MOODS post up here in the very near future.

Malcolm Mclaren, Aria on air

Talking of songs sub-conciously attatching themselves to memories and places, here's a good recent example.
"Excuses" is a beautiful, beautiful song by a band I know very little about, but discovered a couple of weeks ago whilst rambling about on the excellent Rough Trade blog. Much to my delight, my good friend Tom Henley put it on during breakfast whilst I was staying with him in Paris recently, and i can honestly say it barely came off for the duration of the week.
I guess the song falls somewhere in the ballpark between Grizzly bear and the Shins, but the lead singers's boundless enthusiasm makes we want to believe that any similarities are entirely coincidental. I also love the way the guy manages to single-handedly conduct the entire choir and ensemble whilst effortlessley pulling off a pretty awesome berkeley-law student get-up.

Morning benders, Excuses (live session)

I can't remember exactly when or precicely why i stopped Djing on a regular basis, although I'm almost 99% sure i had semi-decent reasons (i remember it being round the time that every new entry on the Hype machine sounded like either a re-working of Justice's "waters of Nazareth" or Switch's "champion sound" edit). But every now and then something like this surfaces. I get the itch again and before i know it, I'm burning off playlists with titles like "pre-watershed nostalgia-bombs" or "Gurn o'clock" or other equally disgustingly named things...

What I love about this song is how un-believably ahead of it's time it was. Either that or dance music hasn't really evolved much past 1979, which is a rather more curious notion. Listen to the nonchalance in the vocal delivery! listen to the filters on the drums! As a good friend of mine pointed out when he first played it to me, The singer sounds more like James Murphy than James Murphy does.
SO if your getting all sweaty about ordering the new LCD record, WAIT! Order the first Moebius LP (if you can find it?), you might find everything you're looking for...

Moebius - light my fire (Doors cover)

The legendary and beautiful story of Daniel Johnston isn't an unfamilar one thanks to the movie which came out a few years back, but something which strikes me poignantly is the fact that his tale has been told in his own lifetime, which too often isn't the case. I find it amazing to think about how far music production has come in the past 25 years or so, yet hearing a recording like this of a kid singing his heart out into his tape recorder somehow questions whether the evolution of technology hasn't just taken us in a sideways trajectory.

There is a great documentary called It might get loud in which Jack white and The Edge compare songwriting and guitar sounds much to the amusement of Jimmy page. For all his affectations, Jack holds up a convincing argument as to how effects and technology often serve in creating walls between the performer and his audience, which in several cases i can think of, isn't a million miles from the truth.
Disciples of monk-haired stand-up comedian Bill Bailey will be familiar with his sketch of a power failure at a U2 concert, revealing little more than a one finger riff beneath the epic layers of digital delay being triggered by a roadie somewhere behind a curtain at the back of the stage. You get the point.

And so to end, I'm going to leave you with the man himself, singing us out with "To go home" off of his self released cassette "The what of whom" from way back in 1982.

Daniel Johnston, To go home

x Blaine