one faint deluded smile

Monday, December 27, 2004

Jimmy's Nostalgia

'Jimmy Little' has a wonderfull picture of Tactics at his blog Tight Sainthood. I think I remember this one from a mag or something in the late 70s but I could be easily mistaken this close to post-xmas. It's a pretty typical 70s Darlo back yard, cracked concrete, dilapidated brickwork and bits of metal propping up other bits of metal.

One thing I must say - I never noticed at the time how handsome most of them were (except maybe Studdert with the permanent scowl).

Saturday, December 25, 2004

The Usual Suspects

Here's my list of favourite albums from 2004 (with an * near the ones I like best):

Ambarchi, Oren - Grapes From The Estate
Tori Amos - Tales Of A Librarian
Animal Collective - Sung Tongs *
Annie - Anniemal *
Arm - Open Reminder *
Devendra Banhart - Rejoicing The Hands
Beta Band - Heroes To Zeros
J.J. Cale - To Tulsa and Back *
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds - Abattoir Blues / Lyre of Orpheus
Cooder Galban - Cooder Galban
David Crosby / Graham Nash - Crosby - Nash *
Deerhoof - Milkman *
Eagles of Death Metal - Peace Love Death Metal
Electrelane - The Power Out
Espers - Espers
Fennesz - Venice
Fiery Furnaces - Blueberry Boat * * * * * *
Franz Ferdinand - Franz Ferdinand
Fripp and Eno - The Equatorial Stars * * * * *
Ellen Fullman - Staggered Stasis
Ellen Fullman and Konrad Sprenger - Ort *
Futureheads - The Futureheads
Goldfrapp - Black Cherry * *
David Grubbs - A Guess At The Riddle
Juliana Hatfield - In Exile Deo
Kings Of Leon - Aha Shake Heartbreak
Klang - No Sound Is Heard *
Ben Kweller - On My Way *
Lilys - The Lilys
Loop Orchestra - Not Overtly Orchestral * *
Loretta Lynn - Van Lear Rose
Juana Molina - Tres Cosas * *
The Necks - Mosquito / See Through * * * * *
Neulander - Smoke & Fire
Joanna Newsom - The Milk-Eyed Mender * * *
Okapi Guitars - Radio Free Zimbabwe
Zeena Parkins / Iku Mori - Phantom Orchard
Paulusma, Polly - Scissors in my Pocket * *
Phoenix - Alphabetical * * * * *
Tom Recchion - I Love My Organ
Siewert, Martin - No Need To Be Lonesome
Solex - The Laughing Stock Of Indie Rock *
Spektrum - Enter The Spektrum *
Stereolab - Margerine Eclipse *
Sufjan Stevens - Seven Swans
Streets - A Grand Don't Come For Free
David Thomas and Two Pale Boys - 18 Monkeys On A Dead Man's Chest
Kevin Tihista's Red Terror - Wake Up Captain * *
To Rococo Rot - Hotel Morgen
TV On the Radio - Desperate Youth, Bloodthirsty Babes
Vetiver - Vetiver
Laura Viers - Carbon Glacier
Rufus Wainwright - Want Two * * * * *
Wilco - A Ghost Is Born *
Brian Wilson - Smile

And here's my favourite tracks in bite-size cd shapes:

an electro beat machine

[this doesn't really work that well although the single tracks are all great]

01 Britney Spears - Toxic 03:18
02 Estelle - 1980 03:51
03 Annie - Chewing Gum 03:52
04 LCD Soundysystem - Yeah (Crass Version) 05:38
05 Spektrum - Kinda New 05:13
06 !!! - Shitscheissemerde (Part 1) 04:27
07 Etienne de Crecy - Morpheus 04:36
08 Futon - Gay Boy 02:01
09 Beyonce - Naughty Girl 03:19
10 Mia - Sunshowers 03:13
11 Girls Aloud - Love Machine 03:18
12 Gwen Stefani - What You Waiting For 03:15
13 Goldfrapp - Strict Machine 03:29
14 Alan Braxe & Fred Falke - Rubicon 03:53
15 Janet Jackson - All Nite (Don't Stop) 03:25
16 Kelis - Milkshake 02:56
17 Rachel Stevens - Some Girls 03:26
18 Solex - Yadda Yadda No 1 01:55
19 Diplo - Sarah 03:42
20 Mania - Money In My Pocket 04:15
21 Annie - Heartbeat 03:01
22 Girls Aloud - The Show 03:32

rockin' 4 on the floor

[quite a nice little collection - better than i first thought]

01 Franz Ferdinand - Take Me Out 03:51
02 Ben Kweller - The Rules 02:35
03 Eagles of Death Metal - Speaking in Tongues 02:38
04 Kings of Leon - King of the Rodeo 02:19
05 Art Brut - Formed A Band 02:47
06 The Go! Team - The Power Is On 03:08
07 Graham Coxon - Freakin Out 03:38
08 Klang - No Thing 03:12
09 Electrelane - On Parade 02:30
10 Lambchop - The Producer 03:08
11 Deerhoof - Milkman 04:20
12 Fiery Furnaces - Single Again 03:53
13 Stereolab - Margerine Rock 02:52
14 Ben Folds - Rent a Cop 04:34
15 Belle and Sebastian - Your Covers Blown 05:48
16 Juliana Hatfield - Get In Line 03:31
17 Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds - There She Goes, My Beautiful World 05:13
18 The Arcade Fire - Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels) 04:42
19 Campag Velocet - Motown Clic 04:55
20 Todd Rundgren - Stood Up 04:36
21 Rufus Wainwright - The One You Love 03:44


soft as a baby's etcetera

[absolutely 100% the best eva mix]

01 Polly Paulusma - I Was Made To Love You 04:06
02 Isobel Campbell - The Breeze Whispered Your Name 04:36
03 Kings Of Convenience - Misread 03:03
04 Air - Universal Traveller 04:19
05 Crosby & Nash - Luck Dragon 04:37
06 Rufus Waingwright - Peach Trees 05:45
07 Sufjan Stevens - Sister 05:54
08 Josephine Foster - Little Life 03:39
09 Devendra Banhart - Insect Eyes 04:56
10 Joanna Newsom - Sprout and the Bean 04:23
11 White Magic - One Note 03:07
12 Elliott Smith - Let's Get Lost 02:21
13 Stina Nordenstam - Winter Killing 03:56
14 New Buffalo - Recovery 03:24
15 Juana Molina - El Perro 05:57
16 Tin Hat Trio - Same Shirt Different Day 01:50
17 David Grubbs - Pangolin 01:47
18 Pinback - Fortress 04:04
19 Phoenix - Run Run Run 03:49


things against stuff

[all the rest that i couldn't fit in nicely]

01 Buffalo Daughter - Cyclic (edit) 06:49
02 Animal Collective - Leaf House 02:37
03 TV on the Radio - King Eternal 04:14
04 Arm - Vitamin 02:56
05 David Thomas & Two Pale Boys - Nebraska Alcohol Abuse 06:15
06 Fennesz - Ch√Ęteau Rouge 06:22
07 Fripp and Eno - Altair 04:48
08 Radian - Rapid Eye Movement 03:54
09 Beta Band - Space 03:51
10 To Rococo Rot - Dahlem 04:08
11 Ellen Fullman and Konrad Sprenger - Empty Building 06:30
12 Liars - They Don't Want Your Corn They Want Your Kids 02:31
13 Brother Danielson - Things Against Stuff 02:45
14 Fiery Furnaces - Straight Street 04:58
15 Kevin Tihista's Red Terror - Family Curse 04:26
16 The Lilys - Will My Lord Be Gardening 03:15
17 Wilco - Hell Is Chrome 04:30
18 Tom Recchion - I Love My Organ 02:54

Friday, December 24, 2004

By The Scruff Of Their Necks

The Necks Live

Without a doubt The Necks are my favourite non-mainstream band. I always find something very calming in their long, meditative pieces even though the emotional impact can vary from darkly oppressive to studiously serious. I think the comfort I get is linked back to the apparently simplistic repetition that is so basic to the best of their music. It's completely mesmerising.

Late last year they released "Drive By" which seemed like a continuation of the best of their work without being as compelling - although it's grown on me much more since those first listens. This year they re-released their soundtrack to "The Boys" (although I'm not sure why - maybe they added some extra pieces to it or remastered it - but I'm very glad they did as it contains the best examples of their shorter works). And just in time for Christmas, their latest release is a double cd called "Mosquito / See Through" which has entirely revitalised my interest in their music yet again.

mp3: Mosquito (edit)

Mosquito seems like the most rigorously minimalist piece they've ever done. Built on yet another elegant, plaintive chord progression from Chris Abrahams (where does he find them?) with a ride cymbal, a single syncopated bass note, some tiny African percussion, atonal piano trills and some synthetic rumbling all fading in and out of the mix. The full 61 minutes are utterly breathtaking.

mp3: See Through (edit)

See Through has a similar feel to their previous release "Aether" where chords were struck and left to long natural fades. In this piece, sections of rumbling bass, washes of cymbal and piano runs are are started and finished with minutes of empty space intersecting them. The final impression is one of impending menace or unsatisfied resolution.

You must get their new album : for australia try via their own web site or ReR in Europe or ReR in the US (where you'll also find a terrific summary of their best work including this one).

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Warm Hearted Oscillation

The Fabulous Arp Odyssey
If you've read a few of my posts you may have noticed that I adore the analogue synthesiser. As we all said in 1979 - "get rid of those guitars, boys and girls, they are just so yesterday". I remember fondly that the future would be full of knobs and dials and the warm buzz of a heavily filtered VCO. In 1980 or 81, a friend - David Ayers - (now sadly lost to us) went to see The Human League live amidst their electro-pop hey-day and reported back disgustedly that "they didn't play a synth-bass! it was all plod, plod, plod on a Fender!" How dare they ruin our vision of space age bloops and bleeps (with a bouncy chorus) continuing on throughout space and time!

So it's about 25 years later and I suppose "the future" is now. I'd often fantasised about what exactly I'd be doing when the new millenium became reality but it surely didn't include the work I'm doing nor the blog I'm writing.

Ah well, in the lead up at least I had Kreidler to make me happy.

mp3: Good Morning City
mp3: Au-Pair

Both of these are from their 1998 album "Appearance and the Park" which I didn't actually hear until 1999 was underway. It became my touchstone album for the coming century as it mixed some lively synth sounds (probably digital but I didn't let that stop me liking them) with those pesky real instruments (mainly the slightly deadened but energetic drums). 'Au-Pair' utilises a blurpy electro bass whilst 'Good Morning' uses a proper one (it could be a Fender for all I know). You be the judge.

But this is post-rock after all so I easily became dissapointed with the lack of drive behind the songs even though you can tell Thomas Klein is whacking away at those snares and toms and kicks for all his worth. He may even have raised a sweat.

However, I doubt that Jeremy Dower would perspire:

mp3: Earnest Borg

This is from his delightfull 2000 album of ditties "Music For Retirement Villages, Circa 2050" (released on Chapter Music). It's a sort of faux-futuristic hallucination using analogue equiptment. Lots of quirky high pitched melodies and a walking bass line that Ya Ya Choral would have been proud of.

Back in the old world, The Reels dropped their guitars, kept their sweaty drummer and stuck with a 5 synth barrage of off kilter pop. Sort of like Kreidler would be but augmented with sweet, sweet harmonies.

mp3: Cancer
mp3: Quasimodo's_Dream

They kicked and screamed and yelled and fought with their record company and fans for years. At least they managed to release one great album and many memorable songs.

And then there was my stuff too:

mp3: philT - Slow
mp3: No Night Sweats - Dogs and Dogs

These obviously didn't set the world alight but I still think they sound pretty good. The solo track was 'released' on the 2-Tapes cassette "Aussies are Better Than Gerrys At This Sort Of Thing" with drumming by the redoubtable Mark Boswell. The NNS track never passed itself onto the world at large but, at least, it was made better by Polly from the Reels. He gave us valuable mixing advice to leave out one of the swirling synth tracks till the middle section and again right at the end. He was oh, so right - even if he had a fruit bat on his shoulder whilst berating us cruelly.

Friday, December 17, 2004

The Minor Key Kings Of '04

the Kings of Convenience smooch about

For those that care, I'll post my top of 2004 list sometime in January but for now I'll just go through some songs that made me feel excited about listening to music all over again...

Kings of Convenience : mp3 - Misread

Are KoC a parody band? It seems unlikely as the evidence of interviws points to a real need to play this kind of music. I still can't work out if their slavish re-creations of now ancient, soft folk styles is to be admired or to be reviled but I really am a sucker for close harmonies and jazzy chords. I've played this song so much that it's become like a little member of my family. Most other people I've played it to have ignored it after one scant listen - more fool them.

Pinback : mp3 - Fortress

I suppose Pinback are in a similar vein with their pristine vocals and perfect note placements but at least they sound like they're from, ya know, the last decade at least. Their latest album is made up of annoying re-iterations of their own, more enticing past but at least this one song has enough forward drive to make it memorable.

Phoenix : mp3 - Run Run Run

Yes, I know, it's becoming obvious that I adore well made, harmonically clever pop music. Phoenix fit this bill very well although I have a slight inkling that, maybe, just maybe, they're record industry whores of the first order. But anyone who can make a one note guitar riff sound so compelling needs to be heard by the millions.

Polly Paulusma : mp3 - I Was Made To Love You

This is treading very close to the unfortunate, wearisome territory of that piano playing daughter of Ravi Shankar (whose name is lost to me at this very moment in chardonnay haze). But there's some unique flavour in Paula's delivery that sits right on my heart and makes it flutter. When I first heard this track I had a quiet little cry. That's enough to make it great in my books.

Rufus Wainwright : mp3 - Peach Trees

Hooray, I've got tickets to see younger Wainwrights, their mum and aunt in Sydney early February. I may enjoy this more than their collective interpretations of fellow Canadian Cohen in January and, if Rufus can replicate the gorgeous sumptuousness of this song, then I'll be in a kind of melodic heaven.

White Magic : mp3 - One Note

A little less clean and clear than all the previous songs, built on a repeated off kilter piano riff that reminds me of the very best DIY post-punk from back in the days. And, once again, a great, great vocal line unexpectedly jumping into higher registers.

Tin Hat Trio : mp3 - Same Shirt...

A lithe instrumental interlude to remind us all that wonderfull musicians can create something vital instead of making us cringe with their self important wankery.

Klang : mp3 - No Thing

At last - a singer who can't really sing. Just a lot of rock'n'roll mumbles with a gritty riff. So that'll please those indie lovers out there. Truthfully this is better than all the Kills and White Stripes and so on lumped together.

Deerhoof : mp3 - Milkman

More less than perfect singing (and all the better for it) but, christ, that guitar playing is dazzling - classic rock mixed with Fred Frith and an arrangement that I wish I'd thought of.

Fiery Furnaces : mp3 - Straight Street

And speaking of arrangements, I'll end with a song that is almost all arangement and nothing much else at all. The section near the end where the verses return covered by drone organ and a sqealing violin is worth the price of entry alone. THE band of 2004.

Monday, December 13, 2004

smooth, smooth, smooth

The smoothest French Pop - Phoenix

The magnificent musical filtering agents at Fluxblog recently introduced me to the wonders of Phoenix. They produce an almost perfect modern pop - high gloss and soulful, full of lovely vocals and topped off by impeccable production. Hints of all those terrific Euro-pop writers stick out a mile but it's still sounds like a band (even if those drums would be impossible to play so metronomically for a human on their own).

mp3: Victim Of Crime

But they also lean into some slightly weird region sonically which will surely make them impossible to sell. So a niche market player they will probably remain.

Just like Lewis Taylor:

mp3: When Will I Ever Learn Part1

He's obviously more steeped in 'real' soul and the production is determinedly retro/analogue just to fit into this. But his commercial / independant split personality will always marginalise his music even though the he can write some of the most gorgeously smooth vocal lines I've heard in some time - better than all the melodies on Phoenix's new album.

One word of warning - don't listen to the words he sings. They travel the full spectrum of mediocrity - from the 'gonna love you all night, don't stop' style to the 'oh, baby, how could you treat me so bad' variety. At the very least, French lads Phoenix write obtuse, opaque lyrics that draw you in rather than hold you at bay.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Partched

The Glorious Bass Marimba

Of all the half-psychotic weirdos in 20th Century music, Harry Partch may be the most memorable. I wont even try to describe his life or the scope of his music or the singularity of his spirit or the fantastic instruments he designed and built. Instead you can spend 2 or 3 hours at Corporeal Meadows where all things Harry may be found.

I've always found it difficult to really lose myself in his music. Mainly it's the operatic slant on the vocals and text that turns me off. But then I also find the percussiveness of a lot of instruments to be slightly off-putting. Or maybe it's the number of notes in the scale he uses? Realisticaly, these are intrisic parts of his entire output so I shouldn't bother trying to enjoy his stuff at all, should I?

He did have some fabulous, funny word-play, though:

mp3: Mumbo Jumbo...

The way his voice sticks with intellectual anger over "itsy bitsy teeny weeny" is a simple joy.

On the other hand, many of his pieces have this modern composition singy-talky-shouty stuff in it:

mp3: We Really Love Each Other

Which is quite enjoyable in discreet bits but which tires me out over the long term.

The only other mock-operatic release I own is Escalator Over The Hill - the semi-famous 'chronotransduction' by Carla Bley and Paul Haines.

mp3: Escalator Over the Hill

This is more obviously "arranged" (although it most definitely isn't) but it misses out on the wild spirit that Partch managed to add to his music.

And don't ask me what that "c" word means because it still riles me up something fierce.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Miscellaneous Bits Of Old Gruesomes

Modelling the latest in Portable Listening 1984 - take THAT ipod

1983 - I'm closing up shop, winding down the Sydney life and ramping up the financials as I prepare to travel overseas. I lend my slightly broken Arp Odyssey to Patrick (it's destined never to feel my loving touch again), sell off my adored collection of the complete Samuel Beckett to Ian and my trusty TEAC 4 track recorder to Dermott (this one is fated to break down a few months after I leave - it was pining, no doubt) and give away the vast majority of my 2-300 LP record collection to whoever wants it, saving a musty sub-set of favourites.

One of the last things I do is make a compilation of tracks that will remind me of the records I've saved as well as the records I've lost. Here's the track list (if you can read it):

mog tracklist

There were other cassettes on the trip including more pleasant listening like Chaka Khan's "I Feel For You", dancey comps, pop comps and, ofcourse, things we'd pick up along the way to reminisce over later. But, after all these years, the single minded weirdness of the old gruesomes selection still manages to make me smile.

Ivor Cutler was always good for a laugh but I wanted to include one of the few tracks that have a musical backing:

mp3: Baby Sits

We saw him in London near the end of 1984 with David Thomas and Linsdsay Cooper and a lot of other old favourites on the same special event bill: He was a complete arsehole, actually.

Ever since I first head "Music In Fifths" I'd mostly loved the sound of the Philip Glass Ensemble. But his main LP tracks were far too long to fit easily onto a comp tape. Luckily he'd also released the soundtrack to "North Star" which contained some of his most concise pieces:

mp3: Ange de Oranges

I never saw Mr Glass in performance until much, much later but, even though he seemed quite nice, he's probably an arsehole too.

"Guitar Solos 2" was a dark little album (which fits in neatly with Fred Frith's slightly ominous improv style) but the very unusually harmonic pieces by Hans Reichel were always a little ray of sunshine amongst the gloom:

mp3: Donnerkuhle

For many, many years I'd referred to this track as "Vain Yookte" but it was in fact "Donnerkuhle" which is a shame becase I really love the way sound of that 1st title comes out of my mouth. I've never seen Mr Reichel play live, nor seen him in the street, but I hear he's slightly difficult at the very least.

mog cover

Friday, December 03, 2004

the last month in the year



Dominic at Spoilt Victorian Child has posted a version of the old gospel tune "When Was Jesus Born". It's quite a raw and bluesy adaptation but I much prefer the song with a touch of that old Mills Bros style smoothness. So here is the version by the fabulous Golden Gate Quartet:

mp3: GGQ-When Was Jesus Born

In 1983 this track was somewhat on the mind of my musical partner Patrick Gibson and so our band No Night Sweats did a cover version (unfortunately the only recordings we have of this song are live ones so please forgive the ambient sound quality from our last ever gig):

mp3: NNS-When Was Jesus Born

Not to be outdone, we wrote our own Christmas song and here it is:

mp3: NNS-A Sweaty Christmas

I'd transcribe the lyics but would be too embarrased.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Maaaaayt



Can you tell the nationality of a person just by listening to the vocal sounds they make whilst singing? When a person talks it's much, much easier but singing seems to bring about an internationalision, a flattening. I suppose Henry Higgins would have something erudite to say about it all but I don't sing with an Australian accent. At least I think I don't.

However, after hearing New Buffalo on Triple J recently I became aware of a definite Australian inflection hovering about, at least in female singer-sonwriters.

It's just a nasal vowel pronunciation, really, but it's pretty obvious once you hear it:

mp3: Recovery

Another recent artist to display this hidden Strine is the rather dull Sara Blasko:

mp3: Dont U Eva

But it started way, way back (if not before) with the gorgeous Angie Hart from Frente!:

mp3: Accidently Kelly Street

If you start to listen a little bit more carefully, you can hear it in lots of male singers as well including that annoying guy from Frenzal Rhomb.

Maybe this is the ever-elusive something that defines the Australian rock sound?? I certainly hope it isn't.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

:-)

:-(

My daily download limits have been reached quite quickly in the past couple of days. That God-damned Industrial music sure has a big following. Thanks to all for coming along. Please come back in a day or so if you can't get what you want. I'll be deleting the P16.D4. and RLW material after that.

NB - have taken these down now...

:-)

I saw Brian Wilson performing "Smile" last night at the always lovely Sydney Opera House. I'd been dissapointed by the CD - great songs held together by flimsy musical interludes - and so didn't have any great expectations about the show. But live it worked very well as a single entity - it clicked and really made sense in a kind of Gershwin cod-classical way. For me it's all about those gorgeous harmonies and so there were many moments where spine tingling vocal chords shimmered in the air.

The man himself was in fine form. I think all the touring and recording in the past couple of years has not only made his voice stronger again but has also increased his confidence levels dramatically. He was obviously enjoying himself, even if his strange, blank gaze sometimes still reminds me of the post-encephalitic patients from Oliver Sacks' "Awakenings".

Probyn Gregory - the guitarist, vocalist, (sort of) thereminist, cornet, bits andf bobs player was the easily best of the band. His obvious enjoyment of playing this material was infectious. And... his face is very reminiscent of someone from my past but I'll be buggered if I can remember who.