As I sit here watching Karate Kid for umpteenth time, I like to fondly recall some of the records I've purchased this year. It's been a weird one; I worked in a record store for the first part of the year, and got to listen to a lot of new records. And I also had to listen to the Red Hot Chili Peppers thanks to my ridiculous boss. Ugh.
What I found in all this new music is the same old thing. About five years ago, I fell out of love with contemporary independent music. This fall out also included quasi-indie bands like Modest Mouse, Wilco, I dunno, I just didn't fall in love with any records from 2007. Re-issues were fantastic as usual, and I just built my collection with rarer and rarer discs.
Josef K - Entemology
As most writers will tell you, Josef K were one of the greatest Scottish bands not named Orange Juice. This record got me through slow nights at the record store, and it still gets me going. Some classic post-punk chock full of manic-to-the-point-of-falling-apart drums, tumbling and sometimes slinky bass, absolutely squalling anti-lead guitar scratching, and a guy yelling and speak-singing his way through various bouts of paranoia and hyper glee.
Favorite Song: All are pretty great (if not Interpol inspiring), but "Chance Meeting" gets me every time, only because it sounds so different from the rest of the record. The song has a great build of layered guitars and stilted rhythms. The closest thing Josef K has to a pop song, they manage to make a straight up 4/4 beat sound shakey and nervous, as the guitars build on a giant hook that ends each verse. Also, it contains a great example of how to use a solo trumpet tastefully (Cake, please fucking take note).
Harmonia - Muski von Harmonia/Deluxe
Upon these records being re-released I promptly sprayed urine into my underwear. I love Krautrock, and have been digging into Can, Faust, Cluster, Neu!, Amon Duul II and Kraftwerk for about 10 years now. The first time I got drunk (in 7th grade) my friend put on Autobahn as we drank his father's warm Bass Ales.
These two records came about when Cluster (of the dreamy cosmic music) and Michel Rother of Neu! (the masters of the motorik pulse) collided and decided to create the Blind Faith of Krautrock, a fucking supergroup. Full of synth wash environments, drum machines, spindly patterns and hypnotic guitar drones, these three guys and Conny Plank (the George Martin of this era) made some of my favorite music of the 1970's.
Song- "Veterano" fom Musik von Harmonia is the definition of motorik, taking everything Kraftwerk did with a electro drum kit and morphing it into a pulverising and delayed bomp and swish that is propelled by the fluttering keyboard and guitar syncopations.
"Monza (Rauf Und Runter)" is my personal focal point of Deluxe, a forboding wall of stretched out guitar leads that pulls a thick gauze over the proceedings until a single distorted snarl kicks the song into high gear. Resembling a castoff from Neu 75, Michael Rother's guitars splinter and crash, as the band burbles along. The vocals surge along in a spirited chant, and goddamn it this song needs to last forever! It of course ends eventually. Whatever, it's the shit.
Soft Machine - Soft Machine Volumes 1-3
A psychedelic band so musically adept they essentially moved past the scene in less than a year. Led by the unhinged but steady as a rock foundation of Robert Wyatt on drums and vocals, the Machine played some of the most inspired art-rock of the late sixties. Full of outrageously tight rhythm work-outs, spiraling tape loops, solemn organs and clattering pianos, these guys were the anti-Pink Floyd, superior musicians and truly deranged composers willing to take risks that reward the listener far more than any of their paisley-covered contemporaries.
All of the music on these records is essential if you're a fan of psychedelic and generally experimental music. Volume 3 is more jazz-oriented than the previous entries, but the weirdness remains. Wyatt's side-long composition "Moon in June" is a fucking impossibly dense well of ideas. Vocal melodies and bits of narrative fly by and disappear as soon as they pop up, as a vocal/drums/organ trio gives way to a full-blown quartet sound, which is then overtaken by a creeping organ drone being ripped apart by a jagged violin tape loop. Volumes 1 and 2 are steeped in the pop sound, although still jazz-informed. If you can, find the vinyl versions of these albums, as the CD transfers are pretty horrible.
Robert Wyatt - Rock Bottom
I've spoken enough about Robert Wyatt on this website. By now you should know that I like his music, and I am not a fan of cynics who decry that his music is too "whimsical" or "silly." He has one of the most heart-breaking voices in music, and on this recording he gathers his friends and creates a triumphant tapestry of harsh organs, muted guitars, swirling percussion and child-like sea imagery to re-imagine his musical life as it led up to that point. Better production values could've helped (why one would enlist Pink Floyd's DRUMMER to produce a record is beyond me), but I still can't hate it.
This Heat - This Heat/Deceit
These two records alone have changed everything for me. I had close to a religious experience when I turned on "Deceit." I can't describe the music, I've tried very hard. There are elements of prog, avant-garde, jazz, eastern modal music, noise, hardcore, punk, garage rock, psyche, musique concrete, 60's folk, the list goes on.
Please, track down these two albums. They will change everything; band's you thought created sounds and movements are pretenders. These guys were true visionaries.
More later, I'ved gotta listen to some new records I got yesterday. A quick list (even though I'm anti-list):
Neil Young - Zuma
Motorhead - Ace of Spades
Magazine - The Correct Use of Soap
Chrome - Alien Soundtracks/Half Machine Lip Moves
Gong - Camambert Electrique
Time to get my listening on.