Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Tellier/Oizo/Sebastian - Steak (2007)


Steak is an experimental mainstream feature film that has sprung from the deranged mind of Quentin Dupieux (aka Mr Oizo) and is co-produced by French celebrities Eric & Ramzy. The soundtrack consists of 21 iconoclastic pieces influenced by classic French soundtracks (Francois de Roubaix, Hubert Rostaing, Vladimir Cosma, and Raymond Lefevre for "La Soupe Aux Choux"), a few epiphanies typical of the new French electro scene, and some totally assumed cravings for pop.

21 mini-scenes, between 40’ and 2’30 long (only ‘Expoités’ lasts over 3 minutes) that regenerate the world of soundtracks in a colorful, springy and quirky way.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Deadly Death: Little Deaths

One essential song for your ear holes each and every day. Forever.

Monday, February 23, 2009

The Andrew Oldham Orchestra - The Rolling Stones Songbook (1966)


At the time, Andrew Loog Oldham must have looked the right part for releasing this record. It was such a nod to the square culture that the Rolling Stones were attempting to wipe away that you had to figure it for a joke. Sure, there were symphonic Beatles records, but somehow that was to be expected from them. Not the Stones -- no, they were rebels. Oldham was brought up on middle-of-the-road sounds and orchestral soundtracks as a kid, though, and making this album was a dream come true for him -- one that the huge success of his charges could make happen. He was also in love with the huge sound of Phil Spector and was directly inspired by the sound of Jack Nitzche's instrumental album, The Lonely Surfer. With the help of arranger David Whitaker, Oldham made a record that paid homage to all of those influences, and 40 years later it sounds quite good. It even rocks surprisingly hard at times, thanks to the wise move of having crack session men like Nicky Hopkins, John Paul Jones, Big Jim Sullivan, and John McLaughlin provide the underpinnings.

Their grit gives the MOR orchestral strings and vocal choruses something rough to rub up against on uptempo tracks like "Satisfaction," the dramatic love songs like "Tell Me," and the moody ballads like "Play with Fire," "You Better Move On," and a very tough and powerful "Heart of Stone." Indeed, apart from a couple of breezy lounge-ready tracks like an Esquivel-ian "Time Is on My Side" and the Oldham original "Theme for a Rolling Stone" (which really should have been called "Love Theme for a Rolling Stone"), Whitaker and Oldham were actually playing for keeps, creating emotionally powerful and musically far-reaching works that sound a little corny at times but more often sock you right in the gut. And when you aren't expecting it, those are the punches that leave the most impression. Nowhere is that more evident than on "The Last Time," the song that the Verve sampled for "Bittersweet Symphony" in 1997. The Andrew Oldham Orchestra's original has all the grandeur and passion of the Verve's track, minus the trip-hop beats and trite lyrics. It's quite a surprise to modern ears that it outshines the remake, and it's an equally shocking surprise that this album is more than just a curiosity. Instead, it is a vital artifact that Stones fans and devotees of '60s pop should hear at least once. It might even become a mainstay of your hidden-treasures list. - AMG

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Pink Floyd - Interstellar Overdrive (1966-1968)


As an exploration of Pink Floyd's early history, this 17-song bootleg has virtually no peer -- beginning with "Lucy Leave," a crunchy two-chord Syd Barrett-authored rocker dating from the group's first session in October 1966, it just grabs listeners and never lets them go. The group's version of "I'm a King Bee" shows more inventive guitar work than, say, the Rolling Stones' rendition of two and a half year earlier. And from those two jewels out of the group's pre-history, the disc roars into the alternate takes from their more familiar earlier psychedelic period -- the January 1967 long version of "Interstellar Overdrive," the A- and B-sides of the early singles (including a remastering of "Candy and a Currant Bun" that sounds like the guitars are in the room with you); alternate (and delightfully strange) mono mixes of "Flamingo" (with delightfully upfront phasing of the guitars, drums, and voices), "Scarecrow," and "Interstellar Overdrive"; plus stereo mixes of "Apples and Oranges" and "Paintbox"; and odd Syd Barrett outtakes from the period of his exit out of the band and his early solo work.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Satyajit Ray - Charulata (1964)


Charulata (released in the English-speaking world as The Lonely Wife), when pressed, Ray would choose as his best ever. The film tells the story of a lonely housewife, known as Charu, who lives a wealthy, secluded and idle life in 1870's Calcutta. Her husband, Bhupati, runs a newspaper, The Sentinel, and spends more time at work than with his wife. However, he notices that Charu is lonely, and asks his cousin, Amal, to keep her company. Amal is a writer and is asked to help Charu with her own writing. However, after some time, Charu and Amal's feelings for each other move beyond those of a mentoring relationship. Scandalous!

Five songs totaling not even eight minutes in length, the musical score of this movie was composed entirely by the director himself, Satyajit Ray. Worth a listen for Charu's theme alone - a song made popular in 2007's The Darjeeling Limited.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Gavouna - Stings & Dum Machines (2005)


I really feel like more people should be aware of this fine album, and Gavouna in general. It's a fantastic record and if you like it please go out and support the artist.

Gavouna is the alias of Athens-born, London based Athanasios Argianas, who studied under a pupil of Xenakis and Berio. Here he gives us his utterly charming (if r-phobically titled) Stings & Dum Machines. While short at 37 minutes, the ten instrumentals on Argianas's debut enter with sinuous melodies and timbral arrangements of strings, electronics, mallet percussion, and, yes, drum machines. The album's distinctive sound is attributable to Argianas's rather retrograde sound sources (i.e., antiquated electronics) and, as a result, Gavouna's music sounds 'hand-made,' even if that's not literally the case.

What makes the album most captivating, however, is not just its unusual sound but the caliber of its compositions. The orchestral folk swing of “Three” is a prime example. Featuring animated vibes melodies and Konrad Köhler's multi-layered strings, the unusual yet engaging piece captures some flavour of Argianas's Athens, Greek heritage. A similar impression emerges in “One Four” when strings (violins, cellos) and horns (trumpets) etch dreamy Eastern melodies. In the emotionally arresting “Leo & Lydia,” the deep bowings of an aching cello introduce a veritable orchestra of see-sawing strings, with the composition further distinguished by a mournful warble that pierces the song's electronic haze. Similar theremin-like electronics dominate the becalmed setting “Ondespiece,” while a lush string- and horn-centered arrangement in the melancholy “Lament” (based on Isan's “Kittenplan A”) makes for a memorable outro. Given its almost cinematic aura, one could easily hear Stings and Dum Machines as the regrettably lost soundtrack to a 1970s Greek film.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Mulatu Astatke

Download Mulatu Astatke - Afro-Latin Soul Vol. 1 & 2 (1966)
Download Mulatu Astatke - Mulatu of Ethiopia (1972)
Download Mulatu Astatke - Ethiopiques Vol. 4 (1998)
Download Mulatu Astatke - Emnete EP (2005)

In the late 1990s the French label Buda Musique released Volume Four of it’s Ethiopiques series; a series that focused attention on the fertile but overlooked musical era of Ethiopian popular music (1968 to 1974), for which band-leader/composer/arranger/musician Mulatu Astatke was a pivotal figure. This volume was the first in the series to focus on an individual artist, as well as the first to be made up entirely of instrumentals.

What Mr. Astatke created during that era was a unique amalgamation of musical ideas — successfully integrating the melodies of Ethiopia with the jazz and Latin music he fell in love with while performing and studying abroad. His compositions, beautiful in their simplicity, have a smoky late-night vibe; while his arrangements combine percolating Latin percussion, choruses of swirling Middle Eastern horns, Hendrix style guitar sounds and his own liquid organ and vibe playing to form a dense and intoxicating groove. Essential.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Bullion - Pet Sound: In The Key Of Dee (2007)


London producer Bullion has taken his sample inspiration from two very different sources for this free remix album Pet Sounds: In the Key of Dee. Using samples from the great Pet Sounds and J Dilla’s repetoire, Bullion has created something wholly unique and refreshing. It’s not a mashup album as he at pains to point out, but it does mix samples from these two artists to great effect. The ultimate kudos must go to Bullion however, who spliced and diced these samples with his own superb production.

I fucking love it. Nightly.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Harmonia - Live (1974)


This archival live set catches Dieter Moebius, Roedelius, and Michael Rother at their most expansive and free form, pushing deeper into the territory they had begun exploring on Musik Von Harmonia before their work coalesced into De Luxe's more structured, glossier pieces. The emphasis here is on experimentation and process, rather than end product: guitar, keyboards, synths and machine-generated beats abandon rock's narrow narrative path in favor of hypno-minimalist soundscapes whose melodic and rhythmic patterns nod to the likes of Terry Riley.

Combining repetition and incremental change in seamless, kaleidoscopic configurations, these five previously unreleased tracks take listeners on proto-ambient trips into inner and outer space. Such mind-expanding excursions clearly suited the rapt audience members (gathered in a decomissioned German train station), who don't make a sound for the duration, save for the occasional cough (In fact, Michael Rother claims in the press release that the show was attended by a good 50 or so people, who were too stoned to even applaud, or who couldn't work out where the songs ended. That makes sense: the five lengthy tracks here stretch out to between nine and 17 minutes each, but have an enveloping momentum that makes them feel like they are - or at least should - go on forever.)

Like Harmonia's studio work, this live document underscores the trio's ability to paint in both intricate and broad strokes, generating engrossing detail as well as larger environments. Two tracks in particular dramatize this: living up to its title, the exquisite "Arabesque" belies its five-minute duration, spinning out an ornate sonic mandala that seems to extend infinitely; "Schaumberg" mesmerizes with precise, decorative keyboard arpeggios and oscillating rhythms as Rother layers fluid, wandering guitar textures. Even at its most epic, Harmonia's material is never less than spellbinding: the quarter-hour "Holta-Polta" chugs relentlessly through dark, disquieting industrial dub terrain, while the 17 minutes of "Veteranissimo" are an exhilarating Motorik ride from start to finish.

More than 30 years after Harmonia's original studio recordings, the rediscovery and release of this long-buried treasure reiterates quite emphatically how hard it is to overstate the band's pioneering influence: from Eno and Bowie -- as Another Green World, Low and Heroes attest -- through subsequent generations of artists charting the intersections of rock, pop, and electronic musics.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Birds - Say Those Magic Words (1997)


A personal fave' - The Birds included a very young Ronnie Wood on guitar, vocals and harmonica,Tony Munroe on guitar/vocals, Kim Gardner on bass, Ali McKenzie on vocals and Pete McDaniel on drums.

Their first single written by Wood came out on Decca in November 1964 and for the next two 45's they recorded a couple of Soul numbers but transformed them totally into powerful tunes with the inimitable Birds' aggression! The B-sides were great too, both written by Ronnie Wood.

By the end of 1965 they were changing label and manager and their fourth final single was released on Reaction in 1966 actually as the Birds Birds after a suggestion by their new manager Robert Stigwood following their failed legal battle over the band's name when The Byrds toured England the year before...

They also appeared on the film "The Deadly Bees" in 1966 with the great unreleased track "That's All I Need You For" and while they recorded few more songs nothing came out and eventually by 1967 it was all over. Both Kim Gardner and Ron Wood joined The Creation in 1968.