ILM's 2005 collaborative mix project hoonja-doonja!

August 30, 2005

Huun Huur-Tu - Aa Shuu De Kei-oo (live)

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.

August 29, 2005

Kishore Kumar, Lata Mangeshkar - "Disco '82"

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!

August 25, 2005

t.A.T.u - All About Us

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.

August 24, 2005

Leila - 'A Vital Resolution'

A good old-fashioned bootleg, just like Momma used to bake in 2001. Audaciously, it mix-and-matches two of the most stunning pieces of music ever committed to disc: the spectral passion of Aaliyah's 'We Need A Resolution' vocal and Vitalic's so-clean-it-hurts nosebleed techno tour de force 'Poney Part 1'. Odd choices, given how un-malleable both originals sound, and indeed the mix starts off awkward, almost like it's a mistake. There's genius at work here though. It rapidly coheres, the two songs sliding into place alongside each other like vast tectonic plates, and propels itself with the force of an earthquake to a climax which will fuck with your head: a cacophony of Aaliyahs poltergeisting desperately over empty space, bruised and battered by the pound pound pound of all those questions - "where were you last night?" "what was in your head?" "am I supposed to change?" and the monstrous, unrelenting Vitalic force.

Originally I thought I'd have to justify this with the most tenuous of links to the theme. Vitalic was born in rural Ukraine, according to his online bio, which is kinda east of Israel if you have a really bad sense of direction. (Never mind that this all turned out to be a filthy LIE which the sly Frenchman designed to fool gullible journalists like yours truly.) And, um, the original 'We Need A Resolution' sounded kinda Eastern. But that was before I realised who the Leila responsible for this was. The treatment of the voice rang a faint bell, the way as the track builds it increasingly resembles an instrument being manipulated and distorted rather than a human singing, while at the same time having its most emotive vocal qualities magnified. And then I found Leila's website, whence this was originally jacked, and lo and behold it was that Leila, the one who used to be Björk's keyboardist, who did a couple of fantastic electronic soul albums (Like Weather and Courtesy Of Choice) a few years back which made liberal use of that vocal trick, who is originally from Iran. Quelle coincidence!

(PS this also makes me realise that further mixes of Ciara's 'Oh' and Ginuwine's 'Pony' over 'Poney' are needed post fucking haste.)

August 23, 2005

Jacob Hoffman with Kandel's Orchestra - Doina and Hora (Hebrew Dance)

We've slipped a tiny bit to the West with this one, but Ned forced my hand by posting Marc Almond brooding over melancholy Russian folk music.

More Klezmer music should feature blazing xylophone solos played over blurry violin drones. In fact, the mixture of drones plus mad soloing recalls Coltrane's "India", at least in my mind. Naturally, I've always felt that jazz should feature more solos played over drones as well.

In truth, the age (1923) and fidelity of the recording smears the line between droning and lo-fi fuzz, but no matter. After a tension-filled intro, the piano finally leads the tune into the proper "dance" portion, which sounds like mild elation after what preceded it even though it's not much more than a series of drunken lurches. But soloist Hoffman is the clear superstar here with his dextrous, delicate xylophone work. It kind of makes me wonder how he would have fared as a swordfighter ...

Marc Almond -- "Always and Everywhere (I Will Follow You)"

Partially suggested by Tantrum's observation of the melancholy in Prezioso's song, partially also by the (very) low-key electronics at the heart of my chosen tune, ultimately my choice here is simply due to my remembering one of the more inspired moments in Marc Almond's wide-ranging work. Almond's been huge in Russia for a number of years, and starting with a solo tour in the early nineties he has since returned many times, to the point where he maintains an apartment there, but the idea to do an album concentrating on nothing but Russian songs from throughout the twentieth century (and before) came from a fan and fellow musician, Misha Kucherenko, who felt that Almond (to use Marc's words in describing it) "would have a feel for those torch songs that express the Russian soul." Almond was surprised but eventually persuaded to participate in a wide-ranging project released as Heart On Snow, one of his best albums.

According to the liner notes, this song was one of the standards in the repetoire of Vadim Kozin, a musical superstar in WWII-era Russia who fell foul of Stalin partially due to his refusal to perform for him in 1945, partially due to his homosexuality, which though criminalized in the Soviet era he openly flaunted. Though he survived through the mid-nineties, Kozin never regained his fame, living quietly with a lover near the Arctic Circle gulag he suffered in for five years.

It's little wonder that Almond, a student not only of song but personality, would have found Kozin's story of interest, and the song as translated is notable for being a love song -- again like Prezioso's -- that specifies no gender in the object of desire. The delivery and arrangement is elegant, sad, shrouded in nighttime shadow, the melodrama in the lyric perfectly apt for Almond while suggesting the potential emotional depths of Russian poetry and music both. It is perhaps a bit formal as well -- Almond has had more gripping vocal performances over the years -- but it's an exercise that still works, an exploration into, for non-Russian musicians and listeners both, unknown waters.

August 22, 2005

Prezioso featuring Marvin - "Somebody"

Four-to-the-floor detour! This is a wonderfully melancholic slice of Italo-trance-pop. At first blush, it sounds like your standard-issue bleeps-vocoders-and-rainbows-everywhere gorgonzola, but then you catch bits of the lyrics:

Hey, what about today?
Is everything ok?
The world is in my hands
But I don't care
Something in my mind
If I could realize
The colours in my eyes are black and white

Don't believe it's true
If I blame it on U
I'm only trying to hide
I'm not right
Forgive me if U can
Sometimes I'm not a man
My body's here but it's without me

Lonely among a thousand people
This is how I feel...

Somebody please help me where is my soul
Somebody please help me where is my soul
Somebody please help me where is my soul
Somebody please help me where is my soul

This is the kind of thing you'll likely find on my iShufffle when I need to spend more than two hours on a plane, and am simultaneously sleepy, overcaffeinated, and in need of a shower & a hug.

P.S. Many thanks to Ms. Candicissima for the hosting space!

Dr Alban ft Leila K - "Hello Africa"

"Hello Africa, tell me how you're doing / Hello Motherland, tell me how you're doing." Born in Nigeria, living in Stockholm, qualified as a dentist, working as a pop star - this was Dr Alban's first hit and his style comes intact. The loping digital reggae rhythms, the gentle and polite flow, the slight, let's admit it, gaucheness. Alban is a long way from home, so is the music he plays: technically these beats and rhymes are a planet, not just a continent, distant from JA or NY, but that cut-off adds to the appeal. "Hello Africa" isn't unique among 90s Scandopop in its focus on the mother continent - the marvellous Stockholm Eritreans Midi, Maxi and Efti recorded a beautiful album later in the 1990s in which their heavy-handed Western teenpop styles are always in suspension with echoes of Africa, a translated, digitised, mediated Africa. I could have picked one of their songs but "Hello Africa" strikes as deep. Unlike many of the serious rock musicians who drew inspiration from Africa, Alban wants an answer to the conversation he's starting: he knows that transient pop hits are likelier to do well on the streets of Abuja and Lagos, his greetings are genuine.

August 18, 2005

T.P. Orchestre Poly-Rythmo De Contonou Dahomet - "Minsato Le, Mi Dayihome"

Go very slightly east, then south, then back in time. West Africa in the '70s: a musical polyglot, where the cultures of one country sashayed with another, resulting in some propitious musical strains. Fela's the prime example. The embodiment of flexible continental borders, French and English colonialism, intercontinental pollination from North America, Cuba, Jamaica, Europe; rock, funk, jazz, bossa nova, PSYCHEDELIC MUSIC, etc; places to play, people to make dance, the proliferation of cheapish recording studios and record pressing. Revolution!

The Republic of Benin's most outstanding '70s band (actually, the only band from Benin I've ever heard, but no mind), T.P. Orchestre Poly-Rythmo de Cotonou Dahomey, kicks off this year's fantastic Luaka Bop comp, World Psychedelic Classics 3: Love's a Real Thing, with the track "Minsato Le, Mi Dayihome". The tune is all fading sun, mosquitoes and after school fights, buoyed by the inherently supple rhythms of coastal living (does Benin even have a coast?). Fela Kuti and James brown are criterions of this kind of merciless A-to-B funk, yet neither possesses the well-ventilated touch or polyrhthymic variations of Poly-Rythmo. Alert but never manic (authentic JB screams aside), the song builds its psych cache atop a raw "Psychotic Reactions" intro. Aside from fundamentals, a singular sound, though for reference, it seems to have developed in parallel and half a world away from Os Mutantes, and is one of my personal favorite musical unearthings of the year. More where this came from on Soundway's immaculate T.P. Orchestre Poly-Rythmo compilation The Kings of Benin Urban Groove, 1972-1980.

Ornette Coleman and Prime Time - "Unlabeled Track 3"

This is from a concert recording I um...found...on a in a folder labelled "London 1987." The sound quality is not so great, theres a lot of tape hiss, but the band is pretty clear and very audible. I don't recognize the song, although it may be off "Virgin Beauty" given the date, but Prime Time is playing like crazy. Ornette doesn't hit the mic until about halfway through, when he blows through first on trumpet, then alto sax.

To you, MCD

edit - DAR! Listening to this again I don't know where I came up with that stuff about Ornette not showing up til halfway through. He's all over this track, from around 40 seconds in, switching back and forth from sax to trumpet and back.

Around the World in Eighty Minutes!

Alright, here we go! The theme of the mix is "Around the World In Eighty Minutes" and so to imitate the classic tale, we're going to start and finish in London, heading east the whole way.

We'll try to keep this moving pretty fast, with everyone given a full workday to post, and going in the order they signed up, and if they can't finish in time, whoever's behind them gets 'cuts' and the one who dropped the ball goes afterwards. Since I proposed the resurrection of the mix, that means I'll be starting things off.

Coming up after me, MCD, then Tom from Freaky Trigger, then Tantrum the Cat.

August 16, 2005

So, what do you say to another round, then?

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