ILMiXor

ILM's 2005 collaborative mix project hoonja-doonja!

March 30, 2005

Spanky & Our Gang, "Leopard Skin Phones"



Wikipedia on Maximalism:

"...Maximalism as a genre in the plastic arts emphasises work-intensive practices and concentrates on the process of creation itself..."

Now neither vinyl nor aluminum are exactly plastic, but both are hard substances that are cheap enough to manufacture en masse without requiring government grants (yet), and there is no greater example of a song that describes its own creation than that of the relatively obscure maxi-group from the late 60s called Spanky & Our Gang.

"Leopard Skin Phones", from the group's third album Anything You Choose b/w Without Rhyme Or Reason from 1968, is a fast-paced groovy multi-part musical that takes you a stereophonic recording journey -- quite literally. The lyrics talk directly about the process of listening, recording, and how one can manipulate stereo, in the middle of a sudden plot involving someone that is ready to dismantle the entire experience.

Listen for yourself. The syllabus is right there in the song, so you're good to go.

[NOTE: I digitized this from a somewhat scratchy copy of the album. If anyone can provide a CD quality Mp3, by all means, let me know, and I can replace this with a better sounding file.]

March 29, 2005

USA-European Connection, "Come Into My Heart (extended album version)"



Pioneering dance music producer/arranger Boris Midney was among the principal architects of the Eurodisco sound. One of the first to exploit the full potential of 48-track recording, his trademark blend of strings, horn and percussion created a sound as deep and lush as any heard during the disco era. Born in Russia, Midney was a classically-trained composer who started out writing film scores; turning to disco, however, he discovered his true calling. Working under a number of guises he produced an enormously prolific body of work from his New York City studio ERAS. He first came to American prominence with USA-European Connection. The concept was simple, take lush female vocals and arrangements (done USA style) and place them over swirling strings, and incessant synthesized beats (Euro style) and you have a hit.
--from DiscoMuseum.com's USA-European Connection page

This sort of maximalism seems like it was tailor-made for me and me alone: the string and voice arrangements that could only come from the crinkled, sweaty brow of an overzealous conservatory crank; the ambitious, proggy build, striving madly upward into a ceilingless sky; the shameful devaluation by its branding as "disco," dissociating it from less frivolous musics while it makes no secret about its gleeful acceptance of an ever-renewing subscription to pop purgatory, where repetition is a social experiment rather than an end in itself, an invitation to action rather than a series of measured tones or Danish chairs or whathaveyou. Steely Dan would disapprove (oh, they were reluctantly pro-disco and even stole a few ideas when they remembered to have their ears cocked), but towards the end of "Come Into My Heart," when the dancing has been done and we start prepping the long fadeout with jammy rock solos, there are a coupla turns by whichever out-of-work pianist and guitarist were on hand, and it's like I've stumbled into the dark and muggy Aja comedown room cuz I'd swear it was Victor Feldman and Larry Carlton bringing a little class to the class. I'd like to think of it as Midney's gift to trainspotter maximalists like me, who've stayed the course and continued to dance alone to an empty room (whether a bedroom or a club long after all comers have gone).

March 27, 2005

Fred Frith, "The Entire Works Of Henry Cow"

Eurgh, maximalism. Let's just say that this isn't an aesthetic with which I have ever formed much of a personal connection. As my partner always says, with a withering curl of the lip: too many notes. So if I must be maximalist, then please at least allow me to be minimalist with my maximalism.

In 1980, former Mott The Hoople keyboardist Morgan Fisher invited a wide range of performers to contribute pieces to an album project called Miniatures: A Sequence Of 51 Tiny Masterpieces. His only firm stipulation: that each piece should last no longer than one minute. The general idea was that contributors should aim to encapsulate a larger idea in a miniature format. In several cases, this entailed producing a miniaturised version of a larger work.

Thus it was that Roger McGough delivered a breakneck recitation of Longfellow's 22-stanza poem The Wreck Of The Hesperus, The Residents offered up a medley of the Ramones' We're A Happy Family and Bali Ha'i (from South Pacific), David Bedford compressed Wagner's Ring into one minute...

...and the experimental art/prog guitarist Fred Frith produced a one-minute sound collage comprised entirely of fragments taken from every track ever released by his former band Henry Cow, using a strict mathematical progression of his own devising.

In the album's sleeve notes, Morgan Fisher accurately identifies this as the "densest" track on the album - and you'd better believe that there was some stiff competition. It's perhaps also worth remembering that, in the absence of any available digital/sampling technology, assembling the track would have necessitated a painstakingly intricate process of manual editing and splicing. Minimal in duration; maximal in content, effort and effect; and hey, how many classic Cow tracks can you spot?

March 24, 2005

Fletcher Henderson, "Oh Baby"



What is more maximalist than the active inventing of big band jazz? This is what Don Redman was doing when he hooked up with Fletcher Henderson in 1923 and got to work arranging piles of songbooks. Borrowing from New Orleans collective improv and Jelly Roll Morton's brand of stride, Redman worked at seperating out an ever-growing coterie of instruments into something whole and multi-faceted. His mechanisms are still a part of popular music; he invented, or at least popularized, the "false start," and, due to the relative closeness in pitch and timbre of jazz-associated instruments, harmonically layered the horns and wrote in full-band pauses to make way for a single instrumental passage. These tricks equaled more sonicly interesting music, added tension and complicated the fairly basic source material. Redman blazed a trail for Duke Ellington to set up the ultimate big band blind date, where popularity rendez-vous'd with musical sophistication at an intensity unmatched before or since.

March 23, 2005

Shiina Ringo, "Ringo Catalog"

I can’t be sure because I certainly haven’t heard everything, but Shiina Ringo seems to be one of the first successful signs of Japanese underground music beginning to cross over into the mainstream. I spend a lot of time listening to experimental music that stresses form and sound, but Shiina’s ‘Karuki Zamen Kuri No Hana’ is a pop album, 11 songs symmetrically arranged around the central 6th song and single ‘Stem’ with corresponding, mirroring song titles, and I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve listened to it in the last eight months. Unlike most Jpop which carefully refines the essence of American & European pop styles, her music is a strange fusion of cabaret pop and jazz that simultaneously connects traditional Asian instruments (kotos, shamisens, chinese opera percussion) with the best of the current Japanese underground: striking, constantly morphing, densely edited instrumental arrangements that occasionally turn corners into unbelievable fields of noise that wouldn't be out of place on an Otomo Yoshihide record: The choruses on this album get loud in a way that American rock music hasn’t figured out how to yet. I hear the distinctly Japanese zeitgeist at work in the use of noise here, which is mirrored by the use of traditional instrumentation (something that is largely just not done in J-Pop, outside of the occasional anomaly like Kihohiko Senba’s brilliant Haniwa All-Stars project) -- but here they all are somehow, seamlessly fused in a rock context, ancient modern strange.


In 2003 she decided not to follow up with another solo album, but instead formed the hyper-commercial band Tokyo Jihen. This mp3 is the last song from her ‘final’ single Ringo No Uta, a new song stitched together from samples taken from every single song of her solo career, a 4:45 long piece of self-plundering plexure pop. Even the lyrics are assembled from cut-up fragments. This might not be the most representative introduction, but it’s certainly the maximal one.

March 22, 2005

Osymyso, "Intro-Introspection"

What better way to start than with some intros, eh? Over 100 of them.

Trawling the web for something interesting to say about this - something that isn't pefectly self evident on hearing it - I noticed several people, including Tom Ewing, saying that this is a great track to play in a club. It did come out on 12" after all.

So - in salute to MAXIMALIST dancing!

March 21, 2005

Ramases, "Journey to the Inside"



Ramases has a secret. Or rather, he uncovered a secret, the secret to the universe. One night he got ahold of some really good shit and figured it all out. It turned out that he was the reincarnation of the Egyptian god. Not only that, he'd been brought back to set all of us puny earthlings straight about one important thing -- the structure of molecules mimics the structure of solar systems. Far out! Wait, does ontology recapitulate phylogeny or is the other way around? I can never remember. Anyway, it was 1971 when Ramases recorded his first album Space Hymns for the infamous Vertigo label. It was a song cycle which presented his wonderfully bent vision and sported a Roger Dean cover that folded out, the whole nine yards. There are a few loony people out there -- possibly even crazier than Ramases himself -- who go to great lengths to collect all 89 of the records that Vertigo released between 1969 and 1973. Not that I would know anything about that. If you google 'vertigo' and 'spiral' together, you can get some sense of the insanity. Thank god most of the music on the label is actually pretty good!

The Ramases album was recorded "with the help" of the folks who would become 10cc -- Lol Creme, Kevin Godley, Eric Stewart and Graham Gouldman. Graham Gouldman is someone we all really can't thank enough. If he wouldn't have pissed off Eric Clapton so much by writing "For Your Love" for the Yardbirds, old EC probably never would have left the band. And then Jeff Beck would never have had a chance to leave and be replaced by Jimmy Page. And Pagey wouldn't have had to scrap together a makeshift band to complete those European tour obligations and we never would have had Led Zeppelin! Thank you Graham! On Space Hymns, Stewart and Creme are credited with Moog synthesizers, and boy do they ever unleash them on this, the album's final track.

This album is dedicated to the earth people who are unusual because they have begun to pause, look back, and wonder where they have come from and why, and where they are going to!

The earth is a living thing just as we are and has a soul as we do. You look at the heavens through a telescope. Reverse the telescope and you have a microscope through which (if powerful enough), you would see almost the same sight. (Electrons in orbit around their stars.) "In my father's house there are many mansions" (The Bible).

We are most probably existing on a molecule inside the material of, perhaps, a living thing in the next size up.

The rocket ship shape of churches probably dates back to Moses' visit to speak to God on the mountain and what he saw there.


Bartender, I'll have what he's having! While conventional wisdom says that by 1971 the age of aquarius was over and the dream had died, the secret history proves that there was indeed a persistent multitude of outliers and freaks gobbling substances and dreaming of a better world and god bless them all. May their flag wave forever high.

-disc 3 ends here-

March 18, 2005

KMFDM, "Naïve (edit)"





KMFDM are mostly known as that "industrial rock" band that so succinctly polished and whipped their aggressive rock/disco sound into an easily digestible ground paste -- one that would be thoroughly enjoyed by their fans, many of whom bought almost all of their mostly-five-letter titled albums throughout the 90s. KMFDM are also a bit underrated in that they are nearly as influential to popular 90s hard rock bands like White Zombie, Rammstein, and a slew of yesteryear hair metal bands desperate to "update", as Alice In Chains are still influential to popular hard rock (i.e. "nu-metal") bands from the year 2000 to today.

However, KMFDM are most underrated for what should have been their break into pop music -- namely, the song "Naïve", from the 1990 album of the same name. Where most KMFDM songs would begin with big clanking percussive noises, metal guitar samples, or gutteral vocals by forming members Sascha Konietzko or En Esch, "Naïve" begins with a very commercial and catchy female sung chorus!

"That's the way of the world. What'ch you waitin' for? She has to be loved. Everybody needs somebody!"

..and then the song just loudly thumps into this brilliant disco pop song with a pumping crunchy beat, heavy guitar riffs, and the relatively buried ogre-like timbres of Konietzko and Esch. Surely the latter element would have clearly prevented this from being a certified pop hit; and, knowing the lack of compromise KMFDM were ever willing to give, there was no chance. But in a year where Trent Reznor became a household face of new pop culture, I thought the dream of a charting "Naïve" was possible in 1990. Anyway...

As for secrets, they play heavily into the theme and verse lyrics of "Naïve". In fact, given KMFDM's knack for *ahem* subtlety, secrets serve no other purpose in the song than -- you guessed it -- foreplay!

"Tell me secrets. Tell me sweet secrets. What do you know, what do you know, what do you know about me? Take me to the other side. Walk The line"

Combine that with the chorus, and you can (possibly) understand, in this context, to what "naïvity" refers.

[Note: I did a custom edit of this song, in order to barely meet the song length requirements for this mix. But also, I feel the original song wasn't edited enough anyway... you know, so it could be commercial radio "friendly"... so, here you go! "Naïve (Edit)"!]

The Free Association, "Shanghai"

Every day when my roommate gets to work her co-worker asks her to tell a secret. They share childhood stories, work gossip, thoughts on time and place (2005, Seattle).

I'm waiting for the day I show up at their work and get asked. I'll probably have to admit it: "Come closer. This is a good one. Are you ready? Okay. The more a band rips off My Bloody Valentine, the more I like them. I know, I know, 99% of the time this kind of derivitiveness should not be applauded but, I don't know, I miss My Bloody Valentine so much, I miss that sound. And if a bunch of L.A. studio guys, soundtrack makers, is the closest approximation that we have in this time and this place, then I'll take it. The secret's out."

March 15, 2005

This Ascension, "August Rain"

Okay, admittedly, after Kylie and Tone Loc this isn't exactly a slam dunk. But I don't listen to ecstatic dance-pop and '80s pop-rap sensations. I listen to ethereal goth-rock bands on Projekt. Bands like This Ascension. But that's no secret. The secret is in the blurred perception of the lyrics, tangentially linked quatrains that alternate between musings on a broken relationship and spectral imagery, spilling and melting into one another so that you can't tell the difference; it's in the second verse, in how the bassist wanders detachedly while the layered vocals pile on top of one another, ghostly whispers gathering until crashing into the mournful chorus.

Of course I talk about this song all the time on ILM and nobody else does, so maybe the song itself just seems like a secret to me. Whatever. It's beautiful; listen to it.

Tone Loc, "Funky Cold Medina"

Between his run as a Crip and his appearances as an actor in roughly a dozen straight-to-video children's flicks, Tone Loc enjoyed a brief moment as America's favorite gravelly-voiced nymphomaniac novelty rapper. His album Loc-ed After Dark actually topped the pop charts, thanks mostly to the strength of "Wild Thing" and this track, which plays like an episode of "Taxicab Confessions" set to a late-'80s Dust Brothers beat.

The basic theme of this song is that Tone needs the sex and if it takes a roofies-like substance to get it, well, that's the price he has to pay. There's a reason why this remains a frat party anthem.

What's puzzling is that the first thing he does when he gets the Funky Cold Medina (or Love Potion No. 9 or whatever) is give it to his dog. Not being able to pick up a partner at a club is one thing, but you'd think you wouldn't need drugs to convince your own housepets to give it up. Besides, wouldn't peanut butter be cheaper? Poor Alex from Stroh's.

Then there's the incident where he "accidentally" gives a little Funky Cold Medina to a transvestite named Sheena. Loc's definitely got some secrets.

He doesn't decide using the Medina's a bad idea until it makes a straight woman want to marry him. Wasn't there a chaperone on the Love Connection dates, anyway? Was the chaperone cool with Tone Loc drugging his date?

So, according to Tone Loc, drugging your dates is cool, so long as they don't start nagging you about relationships. Or have secret penises. Also, defiling beer spokesdogs is A-OK. Cheers, Tone!

March 13, 2005

Kylie Minogue, "Rhythm Of Love"



Subjugated and/or oppressed by the Stock, Aitken & Waterman popheadlock, by 1990 it was common knowledge that Kylie hankered after a co-write credit and a tiny pause after the chorus where she could draw breath; maybe also a little less legobrick and a little more cowbell, a little less Miriam Stockley and a little more Flyte Tyme. Rhythm Of Love was the fourth album (and third Kylie album) I ever owned; the fact that it diverged wildly from all that was familiar and comfortable by having eleven tracks instead of ten blew my nine-year-old mind somewhat, as did the fact that four of them weren’t SAW compositions/production jobs at all! Also: Rhythm, of love! Bloody hell!

At the time the title track seemed like the epitome of SLINK and needless to say I didn’t care about it at all: it wasn’t as primarycoloured/fun as the customary SAW numbahs ("What Do I Have To Do"! fuck yeah!), it was obviously never ever going to be a single ("What Do I Have To Do"! it sounds like a spaceship!), she says “syncopated” which seemed a bit showy and unnecessary (she says “bed” on "What Do I Have To Do"! therefore she has already used up her new-Kylie-words quota on this album, possibly), it was track eleven on an eleven track album and I wasn’t used to having to listen for this long. Whereas now it doesn’t sound boringly adult and undisciplined so much as it does clattery and frantic and looose; the chorus is barked unseductively in crisp phonetic blocks (“ta give yur luv ta mi – an ah give ma luv ta yoo”); there is a Sax (sex) Bit and a French (sex!) Bit that she stumbles over slightly (“d’amour” to rhyme with “skewer”).

And suddenly credhungry po-facery is glorious fun, and an infinitely more successful break from the customary (invariably ace) boxy SAW chunks than the vast majority of her much heralded eponymous 1994 First Actual Proper Grownup Album (singles aside, the most extraordinarily blank thing she has ever done, a big empty zero of a record, way more ‘insubstantial’/'impersonal' than the albums that came before it) if only because really it barely breaks from the boxy SAW-format at all. If "Rhythm Of Love" was Kylie tentatively toeing the waters of artistic emancipation and eventual commercial doom, it doesn’t really show; she was firmly back in the SAW straightjacket on album number four, by this point seemingly more interested in subverting from within with highly contentious album sleeves on which she Isn’t Smiling and is accompanied by some Men.

Kylie is no stranger to "Secret" tracks (she has them on albums 1, 2, 3, and also 9) but "Rhythm Of Love" is the most crucial of those early flings; lost down the back of her Stock/Aitken/Waterman years and mourned by too few.

March 12, 2005

Shape & Sizes, "Rain On My Face"

I don't know anything about Shape & Sizes. That's not the secret, though I guess it could be. There must be something about them in the sleevenotes to Decca's The Girls' Scene, the compilation on which this 1966 single can be found. It's in a cardboard box somewhere under my bed. One-miss wonders, I think. All I remember the notes saying was that the singer seems to prefigure the style of Sarah Cracknell. I guess that's right.

So, the secret is her tears, anyway. While he's there, she keeps the secret and says it's just the rain making her cheeks wet.

Then he's gone for good and she can tell him in absentia that it's not just the rain, not really. We kind of knew that already, and I'm sure he did too. And I suspect she knew we knew. Open secrets: the best sort of all.

March 09, 2005

The Raunchy Young Lepers, "I Opened The Package"

Secrets involving the Raunchy Young Lepers:

1) Lyrically: The location of the field is unknown, the kind of grass unclear. The woman herself is a mystery figure, as is her job. What is in the package is completely unknowable until revealed. The final line was probably unthought of by all involved until it was uttered.

2) Creatively: The Raunchy Young Lepers, who you can find quite a bit more about, should you dare, recorded most of their work either in a garage or, in the case of this song and those off its album -- if one can call an unreleased tape that, but it was 1991 and anything went -- in a bedroom, away from the prying eyes and ears of concerned parents and friends. Said parents and friends still don't know the details, which is perhaps for the best. Last year I got to visit the garage and the bedroom in question -- it was like a holy pilgrimage for me, my own personal music hajj.

3) Contextually: For a long time the bandmembers themselves tried to put this all behind them -- 'this' meaning a two year career with about fourteen albums and an insane amount of spinoffs -- and to this day prefer that discussion of their work be done with their chosen psuedonyms (that's B.S. you hear singing the song while 28086 has a brief vocal snippet at the start, to name two of the core four). But one thing led to another and demand (of a sort) rose to the point wherein part of my own secret work for the long dead band involved 'remastering' their work for the digital realm with the assistance of friend and fellow RYL fanatic Mackron. My All Music Guide entries for band and albums aren't as secret as such but you sorta need to know they're there in order to find them.

4) For Sanity and Morality's Sake: because you don't want to know about "No, No, No!" -- or do you?

Charlie Robison, "Magnolia"

Several secrets here, most obvious one in the song itself, haha it's a guy singing a girl's song, listen all the way through and see who's laughing

Bigger secret perhaps is that I had so many country songs to choose from, turns out country songs are all full of secrets, "El Paso" and "Stays in Mexico" and "Ballad of Billie Joe" and "Delta Dawn" and "Comin' From Where I'm From" which IS a country song no kidding, wonder what it is about this music that invites such trust and then occasionally dashes it to the ground, ooh I could have also gone with Joni Harms' "The Wind" where the secret is HE'S DEAD, YOU'RE SCREWED

Anyway decided to go with "Magnolia," not the only song on Good Times like this either, and no I'm not talking about the song where he compares his Dixie Chick wife and her assets to a big huge Texican meal, biggest secret of all is that Charlie Robison and his brother Bruce -- two rough and tumblers from Bandera and San Antonio Tejas -- are two of the five best songwriters in America, now what do you think about that

March 08, 2005

David Sylvian, "When Poets Dreamed of Angels"

Secrets of the Beehive, secret narratives of history and interpersonal relationships woven into one.

Bohren und der Club of Gore, "Midnight Black Earth"

     

In the back room at PartyLand the Hell-Metal band have just cranked it up a gear, The pulsating pink and black light, too slow to be a strobe, increases your disorientation. You need one more beer. You need to get out of here right now. A woman walks toward you, you can glimpse her in the flickering light. She grabs you by the hand and leads you to a secret door at the rear of the pink room and you pass through. Inside the smoke drenched room is completely black, lit by three or four low-watt bulbs. There’s a band in the corner in here: Black on black. They are playing doom laden dark jazz that chills as much as it soothes you... They are Bohren und Der Club of Gore.

March 07, 2005

Woob, "Gate"



A few months ago, the Em:t label made a phoenix-like resurrection, unexpectedly resurfacing after more than six years of dormancy. Mid-90's ambient freaks -- in between frantic searches on eBay for the label's out-of-print back catalogue -- breathed a sigh of relief and cracked a smile. "I suppose this means there's an outside chance that Paul Frankland will release something new under the Woob moniker", I thought. "But even if he did, I doubt it would sound too different from the Journeyman album he recorded a few years ago. That was a decent record, but I'm a little burned out on the whole tribal drums + field recordings thing".

I frowned. "That was the problem with Em:t" I thought, resting my chin in my hands and bowing my head. "When they were on, they were ON, meshing dark ambient and drones and field recordings and dub into epic, glacially-shifting soundscapes that made you shake your ass one minute and scared the shit out of you the next. When they weren't on, it was still good, but how many sequels to 'My Life in the Bush of Ghosts' does one person need?".

Gathering my thoughts, I sat up in my chair and folded my arms. "And even moreso, that's Woob in a nutshell", I sighed to myself. "But at least I'll always have that debut Woob album".

Well, let's revise that and include the first track on the second Woob album in his canon of perfection. After that track, he jumped the shark and it was tribal drum overload from then on in (with a few gorgeous ambient flashes). The first album moved through half-hour long dub pieces, fluffy bunny ambient, screaming, about a million other things, and finally left off in some sort of dungeon with nothing but a speaker-rattling grumble for company. The second album picked up from there, with "Gate", with a low rumble that brews and thickens and builds and the tension is finally broken by the sudden appearance of drums (darkness gives way to light, etc.) ... and cuts off.

That's where the track ends. Up until that point, Frankland had done a masterful job at giving absolutely no hints as to where the song was headed. That's the secret. Of course, I already gave away this secret earlier in this post. Oh, what could have been. So now it's up to those who post after me to devise a better conclusion.

Samsimar, "Indang Pariaman"

Another instrumental track with no explicit secrets to tell. Maybe it does. Not in English. I don't know. It seems to have everything to me. Potential, mysticism, excitement, sadness, sex, heartbreak, hurt, everything. It's all in there. It's miserable, sort of. It's all wrapped up in this eminently repetitive, droning, whining folk-pop nugget from Sumatra. I guess in some way, the Sublime Frequencies releases are all steeped in secrecy, or at least purposeful imperfection and incomplete information. But I don't too much care about that. That's not why I picked this one. I hope you like it.

March 05, 2005

T99, "The Skydreamer (Dreamer's Requiem version)"




Secrecy as ambiguity with regard to the track's theme, as is common with instrumentals, electronic or otherwise. But Patrick De Meyer and Olivier Abbeloos offer another revelation with this track (actually two tracks combined into one culled and spliced from 1992's 'Children Of Chaos' album), it's presence highly conspicuous on an album otherwise dominated by clunky (excellent single 'Anasthasia' and it's follow-up 'Nocturne' excepted) uptempo fillers that seem somewhat facile and uninspiring compared to the majestic sweep of this Orbital-esque interlude…

Prog-rave! White gloves and a cape. The appeal of that will vary depending on your disposition but there's a rich, intrepid dynamism to this composition that startled and intrigued me as much as any Hartnolls or FSOL production from the same era. As the glazed guitar croons like a wolf at a full moon rising the metallic bleeps twitter in and out like a legion of cybernetic termites amidst the shadows cast by a crashed vessel long since abandoned to a strict, blighted earth. Broad Mode-esque pads stretching far out like dark skies blanketing fantasy planets. Also couldn’t help but imagine a shadowy collective of hooded MCs armed spitting lyrics over something like this, retooled with a prominent beat, drifting through the dystopian back-alleys of future favelas. A potential tangent of the current minimalist trends in grime and hip-hop to contemplate...

But while this kind of evocation is par for the course with so much “intelligent’ dance music”, it's a pleasant discovery from such a relatively unexpected quarter - being aware of the authors big hits since their release but only hearing this for the first time a few months ago – the tides having relented a precious stone to the shore just waiting for the day I’d decide to go back to that particular beach (made easier by the internet naturally), aware that I’d not caught every detail available the first time.

It’s also a reminder that whether commanding your attention to the full as you walk the streets alone late at night, earphones plugged tight, or floating in the background as you sit there at the terminal in a darkened room pouring out lines of text until the darkness turns again to light, the doorway to alternate dimensions is all too easily opened by musicians with machines (and drugs, I suppose) channelling that shared science-fiction tapestry without shame or concerns over pretension (as with me here, ahem), the grandiose tone of the piece even rivalling the ceremony indulged by the KLF, only eschewing the pop angle in favour of this more sinister yet admittedly somewhat corny progressive context (my own ‘high-concept prog-love’ secret among those worst kept over the years).

March 03, 2005

Smoosh, "It's Not Your Day To Shine"

The art of keeping a secret is an instinctual one. No one needs to be taught it. No one, when it comes down to it, is actually bad at concealing something they really don't want the rest of the world to know about. It's something we learn by ourselves at a very early age: I don't remember childhood as an age of innocence so much as one of secrets, both minor inconsequentialities which were thrilling to keep to oneself and larger, more significant feelings and thoughts.

Smoosh are two sisters: Asya, 12, who sings, writes songs, and plays the keyboard; and Chloe, 10, who bangs the drums and sings along sometimes. Their music is insouciant, lively, and possessed with a truly infectious joie de vivre; despite the title and sentiments of "It's Not Your Day To Shine", it's a song which can put a smile on anyone's face. Mostly because of that amazing piano riff, which is like the catchiest melody in the history of pop, and a TWELVE-YEAR-OLD wrote it! No fluke, either: each of the 14 songs on their debut album She Like Electric rivals this for hooky genius so simple that songwriters the world over must listen to these melodies and tear their hair out for not getting to these combinations of notes first.

Smoosh's music is also instinctual: throughout the album, it sounds as if everything's being improvised, nothing's been planned. And instinctively, even though Asya sounds as if she's pottering around her bedroom by herself, she knows about keeping secrets: note her untrained vocal technique of mumbling the lyrics so you can't hear exactly what she's talking about, her habit of eliding words with extended 'wo-oh-oh's, almost as if she's not quite ready to let us into her inner world just yet. It's not your day to shine: she might be wise beyond her years, but it's never a good idea to let the grown-ups know that.

(Unlikely cover stars of Plan B magazine, too, with a fabulous photo: http://www.planbmag.com/images2/planb4a.jpg)

March 01, 2005

Sinead Quinn, "What You Need Is..."



Some context might help. Sinéad was the runner-up in the first series of Fame Academy, where her talent was outshone by the charisma of David Sneddon. However, as was the case with all reality TV runners up back then, she got snapped up by a major label and an album got punted out. Ready To Run found itself littered with songs about not giving up and working hard to achieve this pinnacle of fame, seemingly a kneejerk defensive action against supposed ideas that reality TV popstars are yet another example of rip-off Britain’s political correctness going mad with their manufactured pap swamping our charts and killing off home taping. Or something. The story of Sinéad’s struggle and her bleatings that you don’t know how hard she’s worked for this etc. are not the secrets we’re dealing with here, though.

‘What You Need Is’ was Sinéad’s second single and is, by a distance, the pinnacle of her career. This is her stab at being a ‘rock chick’. Your opening couplet:

You’re a junkie for your lady’s (Lead? Lean? Dunno)
You’re so addicted that you can’t get clean


The chorus has her snarling “Well c’mon over here/It’s about time your ass was mine/Don’t you dare say no/Not until you’ve tried it.” The video alternated between her Rocking Out with a Proper Band of Proper Musicians whilst her hair got blown about by a wind machine and what I vaguely remember as her ‘writhing about’ ‘sexily’ dressed in a leather jacket and so on. It was embarrassing how hard she was trying, how desperately it superglued itself to convention, practically screaming “SMELL THE HOTNESS!!!” while desperately wafting the fumes from a stack of burning tyres (the video itself didn’t feature a stack of burning tyres, as that might have got the health and safety people a bit upset). This is a shame, because the song itself is quite fantastic – the lines are all clichés but she sells them like no-one’s business; her little yelps, growls, and in particular the snarl she drops in the middle are all terribly endearing. The helter-skelter synth riff the song’s built upon is marvellous, worthy of Girls Aloud or anyone else for that matter. It rocks, very much so.

And as for the secret? Well, Sinéad was desperately trying to act like this song was it, this being her unveiling of her wild side, her hottnesss. The rest of her album certainly wasn’t it, being mainly comprised of dud-laden ballads and stuff about how hard she’s worked etc. The video was so forced that you could just imagine the director bellowing “MORE SEXY!” at her. The big thing about Fame Academy was that it was showcasing Proper Musicians who Write Their Own Songs and Play Instruments and Are Real, Not Like That Pop Idol Mob. The secret here is that, despite all this, by the end of the whole cycle we only knew Sinéad Quinn as being a nice Irish lass who wrote her own songs about writing her own songs. ‘What You Need Is’ was meant to be the unveiling of Sinéad’s dark side, a dark side that, when we looked for it, just wasn’t there. And now she’s almost completely forgotten – her two fellow FA finalists (Sneddon & Lemar) stole the limelight while this single stalled at #19, her album failed to make the top 40, and she got dropped.

Her first single nearly knocked TATU off number one, y’know. Then again, it was shite.

   
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