"Music Round-up" is a new column. At the end of each month I'll do a quick round-up of the new (and old) music I've been listening to in the previous month or so.
Radiohead - In Rainbows
I think I'll start with this one, as it's such hot property at the moment.
As a download-only album (until December 2007 anyway when it will become available in the shops as a much larger boxed package with additional extras) it was a pleasant surprise to hear about it's release. And as fan of guitar-based music who gradually started to appreciate electronic music I find that I share a certain something with Radiohead whose own music has developed a more electronic bent in recent years. So I was quite surprised to to find In Rainbows entriely guitar-based.
Listening to Mark Ronson on the radio last week I found myself nodding in agreement when he said that he thought in 2007 every song has already been written; all we're getting these days is someone's take on a song that already exists in some form elsewhere. In Rainbows is a testament to this belief: every song on the album has been written before... but the album still works very well. So what makes this album work so well? It's the combination of Thom Yorke's sweet vocals and the general depth of knowledge the group share when it comes to writing music.
The album is best listened to in a oner and is helped by it's total playing length, which is a ideal for a guitar-based / song-based album: under 45 minutes. Because every song is so well produced it's very difficult to pick out highlights; however I'll try anyway. I'd say that the three songs, track 6 to 8, Faust Arp, Reckoner and House of Cards work very well together. And further, Reckoner, so beautifully executed in it's structure, I could probably be persuaded to declare it my favourite. In particular the section from 2:25 when the beat stops, gives way to gorgeous Beatle-esque vocal harmonies and strings before returning at 3:18 with Yorke's painful-sounding moan... oh, it just melts me! Quality album.
26 listens | 10/10
Kompakt Total 8
Kompakt have to be my favourite record label at the moment, they're producing so much quality music it's hard to keep up and also quite tough on the wallet. Total 8 as a compilation represents where Kompakt are in 2007. And coincidentally, like Radiohead, quite a few label artists are introducing guitars back into their music, with great results. Not just manipulating guitars, like the last Boards of Canada album (The Campfire Headphase), but actually using these instruments live in the studio! It's this combination of live instrumentation with the electronic music sensibility that makes for such compelling music.
Of the 22 artists over this double CD it's difficult to know where to start, so I'll cut to the chase and list a few highlights:
- Burger Voigt - man lebt nur zweimal
- Jurgen Paape & Boy Schaufler - we love
- Superpitcher - rainy nights in georgia
- Partial Arts - trauermusik
- Rex The Dog - every day (reminds me of The Dandy Warhols but much cooler)
Hang on here.. in case you didn't realise, I've just started listing the first five tracks of CD1, at this rate I'll just end up giving you the full track list. Of course this makes perfect sense and doesn't suprise me in the slightest. It is a kind of 'best of' compilation, so of course there's no duds in there. Absolutely top notch compliation.
11 listens | 10/10
Cobblestone Jazz - 23 Seconds
Another double CD and another one with live instrumentation. The package comprises a studio-based album and a 'live' album.
The basic idea behind Cobblestone Jazz is that Mathew Jonson, Danuel Tate and Tyger Dhula produce electronic-based music from a Jazz-based perspective. This approach apparently works well 'live' which is why it's a double CD package.
The sound is very gentle and easy-listening (which is perfect for those late nights working at the computer) made up of soft percussive noises and repetitive (but not irritating) grooves. There's no clear vocals which makes most of the music wash over you without much incident. And although both CD's share some tracks the 'live' album versions are different enough (though not sure if they're better or not) with one track in particular called Untitled Live Improvisation giving you an idea of what they would sound like performing live. Pretty good stuff.
8 listens | 7/10
The Black Dog - Temple of Transparent Balls
Oh wow, what a treat Soma have been giving us recently. They've been re-releasing the back catalogue of The Black Dog, which so far includes this album Temple of Transparent Balls, Book Of Dogma, single The Cost, Techno Playtime and Virtual EP (among others probably) (and future releases include The Flood). It was originally released in 1993 which seems like an age in terms of electronic music, but it still stands the test of time. They really were pioneers when it comes to electronic music. Check out the underlying streaks of synth on 4.7.8. which Anthony Rother must have heard at the time. And the Plaid sound is clearly heard in The Actor And Audience. It definitely needs a few more listens to fully appreciate it's finer qualities but so far, so good.
5 listens | 6/10
Modeselektor - Happy Birthday
Modeselektor comprises Berliners Gernot Bronsert and Sebastian Szary. Their second album, hot on the trail of their Boogybytes Vol3 compilation for Bpitch Control is packed full of strong tracks, not to mention great guest vocalists. It's main strength is that it's never delivers what you might expect, and even after 14 listens the strange track sequencing still manages to suprise with it's balance between vocal-led and wonky instrumental numbers.
Powerful opener Godspeed is ideal as the first track in so many ways: it's an instrumental, it surges and it could easily have been lifted from their first album, so it's comforting too. Then there's the subtle dubby groove to third track, Happy Birthday, which builds up to a mild frenzy before making way for Let Your Love Grow, sung by Paul St. Hillaire, a true pop song! EM Ocean sounds like Joris Voorn and The First Rebirth reminds me of Boards of Canada yet both these tracks manage to retain their distinctive Modeselektor sound.
Stand-out tracks include the melodic Sucker Pin, Black Block (especially that belting bassline) and the gentle melancholy of Edgar. And there's no getting away from the head-nodding pleasure of Hyper Hyper (feat. Otto Von Schirach) and the fragile beauty of Thom Yorke's vocals on ultimate album stand-out track The White Flash. Almost a work of genius... it's just missing a tiny something which I can't quite put my finger on. Maybe more listens will help?
14 listens | 9/10
Other stuff I can't stop listening to
DJ Dixon - Body Language Vol. 4. I can't quite work out why I can't stop listening to Dixon's 'Body Language' mix but I can suggest one reason might be down to how it starts so gently with the Timo Mass and Chromatics numbers and gradually builds on that soothing groove with the likes of Thom Yorke and Larry Heard. I'm such a sucker for this type of smooth electronic mix.
Joris Voorn - From a Deep Place. What a fantastic album this is, I absolutely love it! It's been on constant rotation for weeks now. I'm so into this really deep house music, with it's great swashes of ambience mixed with cool Detroit-y techno. And like the Radiohead album above it's not easy to pick out individual tracks to recommend because the album demands to be listened to as a whole. If you're into any type of electronic music though I'd say it should be a compulsory purchase. Joris Voorn website.
M.I.A. - Kala. This second album from M.I.A. is a considerable step forward from her debut (Arular) in terms of song-writing quality. Production-wise compared to Arular it's got a much more polished sound that suggests some money has been invested by XL Recordings, even though it's in the same safe hands of producer Switch. So, where we once had grime we've now got gleam. And there's no shortage of melody from the childen rapping on MangoPickleDownRiver (with The Wilcannia Mob) to the fantastic Asian-disco of (new single) Jimmy. I love it.
Roland Klinkenberg - Mexico Can Wait. Well produced, easy-listening album of instrumental pop songs with an ambient / trance feel. There's some gorgeous touches reminiscent of Boards of Canada (Way To Go) and Michael Mayer (Groove Manoeuvres) and even some distorted guitar (Filament Glow) all of which combine to form a perfect listening experience.
Marcus Intalex - FabricLive35. As with so many of the Fabric compilations, the quality of mixing, the range of artists doing the mixing and those actually being mixed is usually so high I wouldn't hesitate to say that these mixes are the best of any series out there, ever. And of the recent ones I always find myself going back to this Marcus Intalex stonker.