Our journey is complete.
ILM's 2005 collaborative mix project hoonja-doonja!
'I am the ghost captain.' (Lee Perry)
Cavernous, Dark Dubstep. The Product of Glasgow (Kode9, the producer) + Jamaica (the vox) + Coventry (the source) + India (samples) = The sound of (South) London. It couldn't have come out of anywhere else.
An Irish icon covering an Irish icon. Folk singer Luka Bloom released this song on his 2000 LP of cover songs called Keeper of the Flame. When selecting material to cover he was disappointed that he couldn't seem to find a song from another Irish icon, Van Morrison, that suited him but he suggests that this U2 song found him at a memorable time away from home:
"It was winter, 1988. Do the gig at the Red Lion in Greenwich Village and decide to take the night train back to D.C. I’m in Penn Station at one a.m. It’s a very sad and scary scene there -- many walking wounded, cold, huddled, mumbling casualties. By the time the train pulls in, I’m in a dark place inside. I sit on the train and take out my walkman. As the train pulls out of Penn, I stumble across a radio station, the opening notes of the Edge’s intro ease into my ears, and I instantly feel connected to something serene and beautiful. I leave the New York skyline to the sound of ‘Let it go, and so to fade away...’ Somehow, all was well in the world again. I was meant to hear this song, in this way, at this moment. And so it is one of my very favorite songs of all time. I could never have imagined that 12 years later I’d be singing it, celebrating it, passing it on."Hearing a familiar song while alone in a foreign land can have an incredible power. It is almost like enjoying the warmth and comfort of an old friend. Hurrah for music.
Vinicius Cantuária makes dream pop, 21st Century Nova Bossa Nova, fragile love songs coated in dubby sugar. He ought to be the biggest Pop Star in the world; maybe, somewhere, he is.
Speaking of fake authenticity, here, courtesy of producer Murcof (from Tijuana, Mexico), we have recontextualized Morton Feldman uneasily looping through rain-slicked yet impeccably focused Hitchcock streets. It is a bit of a crime to take a piece of what is such a well-conceived and well-regarded piece of musical DNA (the 2002 album Martes), but there you have it. This music excels not only on the level of dubbed-out horizontal micro-house, but as a first rate example of an inclusive reach backward to the original “classical avant-garde” whose techniques and ideas loom large over modern laptop techno sounds. That it is so engaging on a level outside such scholarly pusuits is another game altogether.
There was a time in 20th century American history when the Polynesian Chinese restaurant was all the rage. In stark contrast to today's no-nonsense, decorless noodle shops, the Polynesian Chinese restaurant was high tack, all lipstick-red carpeting and brass statues of fire-breathing dragons. Some restaurants had aquariums with exotic fish; some had pebble-strewn fountains adorning the dining area. The food never strayed particularly far from your parents' American-Chinese favorites, but there might have been a pineapple ring on the plate, to satisfy the "Polynesian" requirement.
As I was growing up, these places were dying out. 1980s restaurantgoers found the caricaturishness offensive, and they wanted their experience to be guilt-free (if not completely unassimilated).
The same was happening with the Disney brand around this time. And although Disney took at least another decade to become synonymous with baptism-by-Noxema, its science project EPCOT Center was chipping away at the spirit that made the eponymous Anaheim park so iconic: its warped sense of adventure, its passion for surrealist children's-fiction, and its thirdhand knowledge of the far-flung.
Hilary Duff's Tiki room isn't one of rumbling, soundstagey Arthur Lyman- like war drums, or menacing monolith monsters with wide eyes frozen open in stone. Hers is a fake authenticity that builds on the premise of an older fake authenticity, while removing the scary edges. And since her very young demographic doesn't come equipped with reference-knowledge of Easter Island and mid-century cod-kitsch and so on, the multiple levels of removal are meaningless to them.
But in a way, their cognitive tabula rasa puts them at an advantage over me; they're free to come up with a whole new arsenal of ridiculous constructs.
A new obsession of mine is dub. I stumbled headlong into the music through my best friend's band and found the love crystallized when I befriended some DJs heavily into dub, dancehall, and roots reggae. I have plenty of not-so-fond memories of the music. Growing up, my neighbors were notorious for their Saturday night parties where they would treat the block to their basement soundsystems, pissing off most of the houses around them.
My pick is in Japan, one of the major homes of reggae music. It's such a giant market that there are special dub plates made there that never make it to other sections of the world. I stumbled across Dry & Heavy trying to find some dub remixes. The drum and bass duo of Shigemoto Nanao aka Dry and Takeshi Akimoto aka Heavy make experimental roots reggae with help from friends. This song features the vocal stylings of Likkie Mai and the gentle waves that lull you to a comfortable zone. Music to think or smoke to. Music to comfort the soul.
Wiggling eastwards from Mumbai, and jiggling a little northwards, we now find ourselves nestling on the border between Mongolia and Siberia, deep in the heart of the Republic of Tuva (Тыва Республика). Maybe we're on the banks of one of the republic's 8000 rivers? Or maybe we're on horseback, thundering across the steppes? Since many Tuvan songs concern themselves directly with equestrian matters, then I guess it's probably the latter.
Think of Tuva, and naturally you'll think of Khoomei: the country's indigenous folk music, with its instantly recognisable brand of throat singing. Along with the altogether rockier Yat-Kha, Huun Huur-Tu - here recorded live, about three or four years ago - are the music's best known ambassadors. This track features Khoomei's most distinctive characteristic: that low, almost mechanical drone, with its multiple harmonics, as produced and sustained by a circular breathing technique which, notoriously, can shave several years off one's life expectancy.
I'm stranded in Russia, left for dead by a cackling Dan Perry and two well-known teen lesbians. (It is unclear if he is mocking my fate, or giggling due to being in the company of well-known teen lesbians.) It's freezing cold and all I have to get out of here is a magic iPod that will transport me to the country of origin of the song that I play. But the Leningrad Cowboys are actually Finnish or something, I know nothing of the music of the Middle-East, and the battery is too weak to carry me back the home turf that is Australia, the one place that I could offer any real insight. I thumb through the artists and find a familiar Sri Lankan name, but I waver. "Imagine if this was not the fantastic adventure it clearly is, but some kind of ...collaborative musical archiving project - do you really want to be the 82,495th person to post an M.I.A. song on an MP3 blog?" But the backlight is fading - time is running out! I chance upon a mysterious playlist entitled "Bollywood soundtrack disco" and press play. The landscape warps around me, then settles. I find myself now standing outside a nightclub in Mumbai. A DFA-ish disco rhythm is echoing from the door. Have I been cast into some sort of Indian hipster enclave?? Thankfully, the distinctive strings and Hindi-English singing comes in over the top, and it turns out that I am in fact on the set of 1982 Bollywood flick Khud-Daar. I eventually negotiate an uncredited walk-on role in the movie, exchange the appearance fee for a second-hand battery charger and zap home.
* thanks to Gaz Mullygrubber for the track - apparently there is much, much more where this came from!
Ironic indie's favorite pop duo since Daphne & Celeste roar back with a vengeance with this juggernaut of a song. I didn't understand why t.A.T.u. was the pop group it was okay for everyone to like (okay, that's a lie; if they hadn't spent so much of their onstage career tonguing each other down and tweaking nipples, many people wouldn't have looked twice at them) until I heard "Show Me Love", a roaring, stomping banshee wail of malevolent desire awash in more production tricks than Britney Spears' voice. When these girls are on, they are a menacing beast; throughout the pop sheen and fragile girly-girl vocals lurks a palpable sense of rage. You can taste the fury zooming out of their best efforts, the feral snarl of a couple of girls sworn to rock the world that hates yet covets them.
Given that foundation, it shouldn't have come as a surprise that "All About Us" starts out like a serial killer stalking a half-naked coed drenched in sweat through a fun house and then proceeds to smack the listener in the face with a sock filled with awesomeness. Shame on me, I guess; I'd written them off as a flash-in-the-pan encapsulation-of-one-moment act who wouldn't be heard from again. I certainly didn't expect them to swan back onto the scene with the most stirring, emotionally-charged song of their career. Every time I play this song, I want to stomp and smash things; it amps me up in a way I haven't felt since the first time I heard Big Black. Somehow they do this by remaining completely faithful to their initial sound palette and overlaying it with the creepiest ascending vocal line ever recorded. I can't adequately explain it; it's almost like watching Alaskan fishermen club Seal.
"If. They. Hurt. You. THEY. HURT. ME. TOO."
Me hear you, ladies. Me hear you.