I’ve figured out my top 5 albums of 2016, after much deliberation, probably too much, what were yours? There’s a poll thingy down below.
22/12/2016 – 30/12/2016
P.I.L – Live In Tokyo
Craig Armstrong – It’s Nearly Tomorrow
Adelbert Von Deyen – Atmosphere
Glitterbug – Dust
Max Richter – Sleep Remixes
Can – Ege Bamyasi
Deacon Blue – Fellow Hoodlums
Funkstörung – Funkstörung
To Rococo Rot – The Amateur View
Milan W. – Intact
The Cult – Sonic Temple
Björk – The Music From Matthew Barney’s Drawing Restraint 9
Kyle Dixon & Michael Stein – Stranger Things Volume 1
Four Tet – Pause
Gala Drop – II
I was just looking at an album on Bandcamp and remembered I had a login for the site, so I did just that and up popped an album I put there in 2006, I’d completely forgotten it was on there. The album was recorded with a single Fender Telecaster and consists of very short instrumental pieces, which is why it’s called ‘Miniatures’. It was quite well received at the time by the few who listened to it.
Here are the release notes written by Robert Nunnally:
“Miniatures is both a concept and a recording format for this album. The album is the attempt to capture those moments of childhood existing only in memory which, when recalled, cause a slight tightening of the chest at the realisation of things lost, and to capture the beauty of those moments in sound. These small moments, pristine in their imperfection, give rise to a reverie this album seeks, in a small way, to capture.
These tracks were recorded very quickly, with dead notes and interference left in for the most part. Each piece is by design a miniature in the way of childhood–with the good and the imperfect all part of the memory.
Each first successful take was kept and used, regardless of whether the central heating boiler or the washing machine decided to take the exact wrong moment to start up and cause clicks to the audio recording. This working process involved the use of only one instrument, in this case an old Fender Telecaster that has been damaged over the years. Some parts have been replaced, others repaired so that the way it plays appeals. The joy of creation lies in part, in the idea of the restriction. No other instrument was used.
Miniatures seeks to open again the doorway into the pristine imperfection of childish things. We hope you enjoy this reverie”.
I also have an album called ‘Massive’ somewhere, I’ll have to dig it out.
I’ve been thinking recently about doing some more recording, just for my own enjoyment, but taking into account the many different musical influences that I’ve absorbed in the last 10 years, less guitar, more keyboard, in the Electronic/Ambient field I suppose. If I get around to it I’ll put it up here for free listening, probably.
Edit: I just found this from Massive:
I received a joint present from my Wife and Son this year, which they bought on Christmas Eve. This is a bonus for me as when they leave it stupidly late I tend to get something better than if they had time to think about it and to buy in advance. So I was asked to stay at home on Christmas Eve as they had to go out and get something, which I dutifully did, counteracting my disappointment and not having to trek amongst the thousands descending upon the shops by playing records and drinking coffee, it was tough but I managed it.
On Christmas morning I was delighted to receive a load of Record Vouchers, always good as I can then buy the records I want and not the records people think I want, which would usually be wrong. I also received a pair of headphones, which I had wanted as the ones I had been using were struggling, the slightest movement and one ear would cut out. These were not just any headphones though, they were exactly the Headphones I would have chosen has I had the opportunity. The Bose Quiet Comfort 35, what a set of headphones these are.
These headphones are outstanding, well, compared to any I’ve owned before they are magical. They are bluetooth and automatically connect with my phone when I switch them on, a nice lady also tells me how much battery life I have left at this point as well. The battery lasts for up to 20 hours and so far, with a lot of listening, I’ve only charged them once, when it was down to 30%. They are super comfortable to wear as they cover the entire ear and are pretty light weight. The noise cancelling aspect is surprising, to me at least, as you can switch them on and immediately hear the difference as the outside world becomes distant, which is rather disconcerting at first but I quickly acclimatised to it. The noise cancellation works by continuously measuring, comparing and reacting to outside noise, then cancels it with the opposite signal.When you press play you are engulfed in the music with little or no outside noise distractions, depending on where you are, they can’t remove everything but it does make a huge difference to the listening experience.
One thing I was glad to see was that they will still work even if the battery has no charge, a lead is provided for this, and the noise cancellation won’t work, but at least you can still use them.
The sound quality is wonderful and I’m hearing things in the music that I’m listening to that I didn’t know was there until now. A top Chef has a palette that can taste things that I can’t and there are producers and suchlike that can hear things that I can’t, but with these headphones I feel I’m getting close. What has also been a surprise is the range, I left my phone in the kitchen and went upstairs at the other side of the house and there was no noticeable difference in the reception. The other massive bonus is that I am no longer catching the lead, like that of my old headphones, on just about everything, door handles chairs, anything and everything seemed to be trying to yank them out of my ears.
There are volume controls on the right ear piece which also double as pause and skip and, though I haven’t tried it yet, you can take calls while wearing these as they have a built in microphone.
I am well aware that I’m gushing praise somewhat but theses things have really enhanced my listening experience and I love them! Yes, they are expensive, that’s for sure, but as I was lucky enough to not have to pay for them (not directly anyway) I can’t worry about that. I don’t know exactly how much this pair were but I would expect them to be somewhere around £290.
Here is a review, I haven’t listened to it but I will, and these are the grey pair (I prefer the black):
A couple of weeks ago I was rooting around in the smallest vinyl section in my local store, ‘Classical’, when I saw this front cover:
This was intriguing as it seemed rather out of place. I was feeling quite adventurous and so, without researching it or listening to any of it, I bought it. The first thing to say about it is that it doesn’t belong in the Classical section at all, at least I don’t think so, it’s more Ambient Electronic I would think but I suppose I can see why they put it there, there isn’t an ambient section of any kind and the Electronic section is Dance/Electronic, so it doesn’t go there. No matter, it’s not there anymore, it’s on my turntable.
Here it is, from Bandcamp where it appears the vinyl is sold out but CD’s are still available:
Having never heard of Matthew Bourne I did a bit of digging around and ended up back at the Bandcamp page as Graham Massey of 808 State says pretty much everything I could have said but better:
“Moog is a regal breed of synthesisers that are slightly untamable, which is why we (musicians) love them. Always on the edge of boiling over; taming one’s Minimoog was like riding a wild mustang, and bringing it to heel. When the polyphonic Moog Memorymoog first appeared in 1982, it was like having a team of six mustangs pulling a stage coach, its power was thrilling, and everybody had better get off the road to let it through…
“Its name was derived from the Apollo-era, onboard computer memory needed to save patches – once one had laboured with its 18 oscillators, modulation possibilities, and the gorgeous ‘Mooginess’ that lives within its filter circuits. The sheer amount of electronics under the hood of a Memorymoog made it literally pump out hot air; making her prone to pit stops and custom updates as the years went by.
“I first met Matthew Bourne, a prodigious improvising pianist, who was fascinating to watch as he took that conventional instrument ‘off road’ in an emotional sweat. Post-gig, and still wild-eyed, he made a beeline for me, having heard that I also owned a Memorymoog. Matt was keen to compare notes, and to discuss the fact that he was having the Lintronics Advanced Memorymoog (LAMM) conversion done to his (this is the Memorymoog equivalent of open heart surgery, which replaces 1,300 components over eight weeks of bench time, costing as much as a new machine). I immediately thought that Matt was insane. Some years later, moogmemory is Matt’s paean to this living, breathing machine. No other instruments are used on the album, and its capabilities are drawn out by this extremely empathetic musician: beautiful, brooding landscapes of thick impasto to translucent sunbursts; Dr. Bob would be proud!”
I’ve listened to the album several times now and the more I listen the more I like it and will probably have to take a look at another piece of his that I read about which is a celebration of Radio-Activity by Kraftwerk, which is all I read about it but it sounds worth investigating.
Vinyl Tracklist (There are a couple more tracks on the CD)
|A1||Somewhere I Have Never Travelled (For Coral Evans)|
|A3||Horn & Vellum|
11/12/2016 – 21/12/2016
Milan W. – Intact
Antonio Carlos Jobim – Wave
William Basinski – 92982
Gala Drop – II
Naytronix – Mister Divine
Matthew Bourne – Moogmemory
Anstam – Names
Swans – The Glowing Man
Baumann / Koek – Baumann / Koek
Nick Drake – Five Leaves Left
Harmonia & Eno 76 – Tracks and Traces
The Beatles – Rubber Soul
The Cult – Dreamtime
The Cult – Love
The Cult – Electric
Svjatoslav Richter – Rachmaninoff, Klavierkonzert Nr. 2 In C-moll · Piano-Concerto No. 2 In C Minor – 6 Preludes
Roots Manuva – Slime & Reason
The Police – Outlandos D’amour
Sufjan Stevens – Illinoise
The first time I ever heard anything by William Basinski was back somewhere around the turn of the century when my then new friend Andy told me about ‘The Disintegration Loops’.
Even further back, in the 1980s, Basinski constructed a series of tape loops consisting of processed snatches of music captured from an easy listening station. Jumping back to 2001 he was going through his archives and decided to digitise the old tape loops to preserve them. As he did this he realised that the tape was slowly decaying as it played. The magnetised metal coating was disappearing, and the music was decaying slightly with each pass.
The September 11th attacks occurred not long after he had digitised the loops and from the roof of his space in Brooklyn, he put a video camera on a tripod and captured the final hour of daylight on that day, pointing the camera at a smouldering lower Manhattan. The next day he played one of his newly digitised loops and listened to it while watching the footage and so ‘The Disintegration Loops’ were born. I would love a vinyl copy but it is prohibitively expensive for the 9 LP box set at around £260, if you can find one. You never know though, one of these days I may manage to get one.
‘92982’ was recorded in 1982 and eventually released in 2009 on CD via Basinski’s own 2062 label and in August of this year became available on vinyl for the first time. The album has been remastered from the original master tapes, pressed onto audiophile-quality 100% virgin black vinyl, and packaged in a die-cut sleeve. Everywhere I’ve seen this album, and on a sticker on the album itself, it says ‘featuring previously unpublished artwork and photographs from 1982’, well, no. There are no photographs in my sleeve anywhere, there’s artwork, which has been photographs for the purposes of turning it into an inner sleeve, but that doesn’t mean there is Artwork and Photographs. Perhaps something was missing from my copy.
I’ve been listening to this album through headphones via Apple Music on my phone for the last couple of days and I really liked it, however, tonight was the first opportunity since it arrived yesterday that I’ve had to put the vinyl on the turntable and listen properly. What a difference! MP3 compression does not serve this album well at all. Listening to it this evening was such a richer experience, every pop, wrinkle and crackle was audible, and it was a much fuller sound.
‘92982’ is constructed in a similar way to the aforementioned ‘The Disintegration Loops’, with only two instruments noted on the sleeve, Tape Loops and Piano. The album is named for the date it was created, in US format, which is wrong (no, really, it is), and I’m tempted to call it 29982 for the sake of correctness. If you were looking for a good entry point into the work of Basinski’s back catalogue, and who knows, you might be, then this is a good one. Where many of his releases have tracks that are an hour long these are each one side of a vinyl LP which makes them a little more accessible. It sits very much in the ‘Ambient’ category and, whilst repetitive in the extreme, when something new happens it is so much more noticeable and it is, in some ways, the replacement for what a listener would expect to hear in a normally structured song (whatever that is), such as in the second track, 92982.2 where we hear sirens and helicopters, it adds a point of interest to this 23 minute track, an urban sensibility amongst the melancholy.
What is, for me, most interesting about this album from tonight’s listening is twofold, the first is that as I drift of somewhere I find myself disappointed when the needle hits the run out and I have to turn the record over, even though I’ve been sat here for ages doing absolutely nothing but stare into space. The second is that at that point, I realise that for the majority of that time my mind has calmed and that wherever it has journeyed to, it was happy there.
This album would have been in my best of 2016 if I’d heard it before I wrote the list, I may well go back and slip it in there when nobody is looking.The whole thing is available to listen to below but it really is better on vinyl:
Every now and again extremely cheap albums appear in the Dance and Electronic section of one of my local music shops. There were three today, well, 5 really, but I wasn’t interested in two of them. I’ll get to the other two another time as I’ve only had chance to listen to this one by ‘Naytronix’, which seems a terrible name for a group to be honest, and the album name isn’t much better, ‘Mister Divine’. While in the shop I streamed just a few seconds of a couple of tracks and decided it was worth buying, and it’s a coloured vinyl of course, which I will say for the 100th time, I’m a sucker for.
Here is the title track that you can have a listen to should the fancy take you:
It’s actually an album by ‘tUnE-yArDS’ bassist Nate Brenner. The album has experimental multi-rhythms, several genres are crossed and it’s really rather good I think. I like the oddness of some of the background sounds that are, at times, somewhat in conflict with everything else that is going on but manage to fit regardless. There is a laid-back and carefree feel to the music, the vocals are often tranquil even, but little flourishes pop and spark and make it a really interesting listen.
I’ve only heard it all the way through once but so far so good, and what was the princely sum I paid for it? well, £3.00, that’s right, £3.00, at that price it’s a bargain.
|A4||Back In Time||4:23|
|B1||I Don’t Remember||3:43|
|B3||Living in a Magazine||4:15|
4 videos of tracks from the album:
Slime & Reason is the sixth studio album of original material by Roots Manuva. It was released on 1 September 2008 on the Big Dada label. Hip Hop Connection magazine named it Album Of The Year 2008. I picked up a copy at a record fair in Leamington Spa in the summer, which had a slightly damaged cover on the rear, although I didn’t notice it at the time, it’s one of those where the printed section has come away from the card beneath but inside a plastic cover it was barely noticeable, outside the plastic cover it looks a bit crap. The good news is that the vinyl itself is pretty nice and I didn’t pay too much for it.
I have no idea when I started listening to Roots, or why, but I do know that I like the Britishness of it, which is evident from the opening track. ‘Again & Again’ reminds me so much of what was happening in the Midlands back in the late 70’s with the Ska revival, it’s dancehall, reggae and an MC with a British voice and I think that link to the past, that sound, that feeling, is what drew me to it.
Again and again and again, we come fi improve ya
(Oh hear we, oh hear we!)
Again and again and again, we bust a big groove Manuva
A lot of people don’t know about Smith
How I came to the scene, and came to uplift!
Eradicatory sanctions of righteousness
Pentecostal son, coming from the heartlands
With every breath and every noun
We dare not stop burning Babylon down
With every penny, every pound
Reflective of the rebel heart and the rebel sound
Dedication to dem life and dem causes
I did dem tours and settled those scores now
I’m back at the drawing board
And I’m sketching out two plans with two crystal balls
I see the future and the culture looks corroded
Lose that chap, man. But them dudes are just posers
I don’t know where to show this
So I’m about to bring that back
Whether we chant, rap or sing that back
Anytime we chant that ting, you know we rap that ting!
We just might clap that ting, but
We ain’t on some boasting about
We gotta make moves, no loafing about!
He ain’t got no clout, she ain’t got no clout
Still they wanna come here, come run up their mouth!
They wanna know what Manuva’s about:
Check my catalogue, you’ll see with no doubt!
We don’t sell out, but we sell a tune or two
Beaten by a wooden spoon or two
But the pain that break me is the pain that make me
And the pain that take me is the pain that help me maintain
Life ting in the frame you know
We’re straight kicking the bin – it go
I don’t know where the soul is
So I’m about to bring that back
Whether we chant, rap or sing that back
And clothes? Well
His style? Well
His skin? well
His shoes? well
Manuv’s? And well
Well, baby, yeah baby
Oh yes, Roots Manuva, the talk of the town
So watch all the people ?sending come fi yuh the run?
Fi anywhere we go, we have the man and control
Roots Manuva is the star of the show
I don’t often include lyrics, but I felt like it today. For me, that’s got hit single written all over it, but I don’t get to decide these things, unfortunately. If I were in charge I would have replaced any of the tracks in the below 2008 chart with ‘Let The Spirit’ from this album, I think it’s a better track than all of them. That’s one of the problems with singles charts in particular, it is not a gauge of quality but of how generically appealing something can be.
Here is ‘Let The Spirit’, Am I right?
There are a lot of styles across the tracks on this album, popping up here and there, and there are a lot of catchy numbers, top among them for me being ‘Let the Spirit’ which was a single but didn’t trouble the charts much, in fact, side A & B are chock-a-block with them. C & D are a little darker perhaps, but still really good tracks,
Hip Hop Connection magazine named it Album Of The Year 2008, and they know better than me.
A1 Again & Again
A3 Let The Spirit
B1 Do Nah Bodda Mi
B2 Kick Up Ya Foot
B3 A Man’s Talk
B4 Buff Nuff
C1 2 Much 2 Soon
C2 Do 4 Self
C3 The Show Must Go On
D1 It’s Me Oh Lord
D2 I’m A New Man
D3 Well Alright
D4 The Struggle
If you liked either of the tracks above then do seek out more, Roots Manuva is brilliant at what he does.
I really never do this sort of thing, at least not that I remember, but I thought I would for once. The list is only based on what I’ve heard so there are quite probably some amazing albums out there but as I haven’t listened to them I can’t include them. I’d be quite happy to be pointed towards anything that is a ‘Must Listen’ from this year though. Oh, and there may be some debate around which year some of these were actually released, but they are near enough.
I really can’t rank them so they are alphabetical by artist.
Arca – Mutant
Writing for Exclaim!, Daryl Keating said Mutant“is an album that is eventually rewarding, but only to those who are determined to follow its scattered pathway to the satisfying, aggregate end.”
Be – One
ONE is the soundtrack to artist Wolfgang Buttress’ multiple award winning UK Pavilion at the 2015 Milan Expo – an installation that highlighted the plight of the honeybee, focusing on the importance of pollination. The music on the record is a constantly changing and evolving symphony – the sound of a dialogue between bee and human.
Björk – Vulnicura Live
A live version of Björk’s highly-acclaimed, Grammy nominated, eighth studio album, ‘Vulnicura‘. I was unsure of it at first, but grew to love it, the original, and the Strings version.
Carl Matthews – Mirage – Tape – Years
Sent to me as part of my subscription to ‘That Special Record’, information was sparse, to the point that I had to create the Discogs entry for it myself. As I wrote after first listening to it : I played the album as soon as I arrived home with it, and my expectations were entirely wrong, it is absolutely brilliant and having listened twice now I cannot fathom why this isn’t massive, I like it that much. Imagine for a moment that Kraftwerk and Tangerine Dream were asked to get together and produce a soundtrack to a movie of a Philip K. Dick novel whose main theme is how our increasing reliance on technology is eroding our humanity. That, to me, is this album. It has the sweeping vistas of Tangerine Dream but also the intricacies of Kraftwerk and the repetitiveness of both (Note to reader: I love repetitiveness).
David Bowie – ★ (Blackstar)
My first press vinyl copy is mint, still in the wrapper, I can’t bring myself to open it, though I have listened to it on other formats a lot this year. Losing Bowie was a shock, but the songs on this album somehow help to deal with that loss. I have found myself liking his later work much more than the earlier albums perhaps because they are not as familiar, but since ‘Earthling’ I really loved what he was doing.
De LA Soul – And The Anonymous Nobody
I had the chance to see them, I did, at the Assembly in Leamington Spa, a small venue, but I couldn’t go on that day, then this came out and by god I regret not going. In my head it was going to be all ‘Me, Myself & I’ but this is another thing altogether. Why it isn’t appearing in everybodys 2016 list is a mystery to me.
Eluvium – False Readings On
A worj of stunning beauty. Do you ever not play albums too much because you don’t want to get so familiar with it that it stops making you feel the way you did when you first heard it? I do, with this album. I’ve heard it a dozen times since I bought it but could easily have listened to it much more than that, but I ration it, because it makes me e
Explosions In The Sky – The Wilderness
‘The Earth Is Not A Cold Dead Place’ is one of my faviourite albums, and I’ve liked almost all the output of Explosions In The Sky, which makes me somewhat biased as I know this album did not get rave reviews from all quarters, though it duid get an 80 at Metacritic, which is pretty good. I have the Deluxe edition, red vinyl, transparent vinyl with one side etched, fold out cover and poster, it’s a lovely thing and the music is brilliant.
FP-Oner – 6
Another from ‘That Special Record’, one that I really wasn’t sure about at first but over time I have certainly grown to love it and not that much time either. I often wonder how profesional critics can make a judgement so quickly on some records, as there are many that a couple of plays is not enough to make an accurate judgement. In case you are wondering the genre is Deep House, though I don’t really know what that is.
Future Sound Of London – Environments Six & 6.5
Technically two albums, but released at the same time and I have the rest of the series that are availablae on vinyl (annoyingly, one of them isn’t). I have loved FSOL since Elizabeth Frasier sanf on the Lifeforms 12″, they create music that always interests me in some way. It’s full of textures and odditiues and it just somehow works, it so often fits right in with what I want to listen to.
Ian William Craig – Centres
Pitchfork said: Ian William Craig’s Centres is a swirling and alchemical blend of drone, keyboards, and manipulated vocals. The more time you spend with it, the further you will want to get lost in it. – I agree
Ital Tek — Hollowed
There’s a cohesiveness here hard to miss, an emotionally-charged aura and elegantly precise feel that runs from Hollowed’s surging opening notes to its final, poignant fade. – Somebody else wrote that, but I agree. I’ve only recently been listening to this but even so, its good enough to go straight into my albums of the year.
Jherek Bischoff – Cistern
This is Neo-Classical, again, no idea exactly what that means but I saw it in store and picked it up without having heard a single note. Well, limited edition of 500 on Gold Vinyl with a die cut inner sleeve is quite the bait for me. I looked it up – Neoclassicism in music was a twentieth-century trend, particularly current in the period between the two World Wars, in which composers sought to return to aesthetic precepts associated with the broadly defined concept of “classicism”, namely order, balance, clarity, economy, and emotional restraint. I don’t think it matters to be honest, I like it, that’s what matters.
Kyle Dixon & Michael Stein – Stranger Things – Volume One & Two
I don’t think I’ve made any secret of my love for ‘Stranger Things’ and it was an easy step to move from watching the TV series to picking up the soundtracks, which are so evocative of the time the show is set, recalling Tangerine Dream in particular but alos John Carpenter and others.
Mark Pritchard – Under the Sun
I don’t have this album on vinyl, I do have the 12″ that Thom Yorke sings on though and I’ve streamed this album a lot. The music is deeply atmospheric and richly impressionistic. It includes vocal performances from the aforementioned Thom Yorke as well as Linda Perhacs, Bibio,
Mogwai – Atomic
This is technically a soundtrack, made up of reworked music from contributions to the BBC 4 documentary Storyville – Atomic: Living in Dread and Promise, which was a chronological history of nuclear disaster from Hiroshima onward. it is music of life and death, hope and fear, war and peace, atomic and organic. Stand out track for me is the opener, Ether, but I do love Mogwai and there’s little of theirs, if anything, that I dislike.
Nicolas Jaar – Sirens
Housed in a ridiculous scratch card cover, complete with 5 cent piece, this is the seond of Jaars albums I’ve really liked (The other being ‘Space Is Only Noise’). I say ridiculous only becasue it is almost guaranteed to be ruined, which is how I look t it, just by the coin moving about inside the plastic sleeve, perhaps that’s the point.The music is electronic, both odd and familiar at the same time, and has a political message running through it.
Poliça – United Crushers
This is not considered to be their best effort by many reviewers, and it is overtly political, but I liked it a lot. It has tunes, catchy ones despite the sometimes awkward/difficult subject matter, and plenty of hooks. Sometimes I just want to listen to songs and this gives me that.
Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool
It’s Radiohead, it’s brilliant, I love it.
Roger Goula – Overview Effect
The ‘overview effect\ of the album title is a cognitive shift in awareness reported by some astronauts during spaceflight, often while viewing the Earth from orbit or from the lunar surface, referring to the experience of seeing the reality of the Earth in space. There before them is this tiny planet, filled with life that is only protected by a fragile and thin atmosphere. When viewed from space there are no national boundaries, no politics, no conflicts, there is just this “pale blue dot” that gives us life and we must do everything we can to protect it. This album is a beautiful creation.
Saåad – Verdaillon
Another from ‘That Special Record’, upon listening to this I wrote the following: through my own imagination or by design, I am transported to catacombs, to a room in the back of a church where there is water being scooped from a font, to the end of a service where a full house lays their bibles down on the pews in unison. Workmen repair something broken in an out of the way apse, monks, hoods up with faces hidden in shadow chant as an old but magnificent church organ sustains long chord changes. And then there is the ambience. It sounds almost ridiculous to me as I write it but much of this music is constructed around a church organ, an instrument I never thought would dominate any album I would ever own, but the sound of it, in it’s original setting with giant reverberations make it a powerful, dark, brooding thing at times, but at others it invokes all those memories of church services attended as a boy where everything was so very serious, and mysterious, to the child dressed up in his Sunday best and not knowing what was going on, only that it must be very important. At other times the organ is uplifting, spiritual even, bringing light to the dull lives of the listening congregation.
SKEPTA – Konnichiwa
An album that takes no prisoners. In his own words: “They tried to steal my vision/This ain’t a culture/This is my religion”. ‘Shutdown’ is brilliant, in fact the whole thing is. I don’t know much abut grime, but I know when I hear something exceptional.
Swans – The Glowing Man
This is supposed to be the final album for this iteration of Swans and it is both delicate and diamond hard in equal measure. Swans have in their time drawn from no wave, art-rock, industrial, sludge, drone, folk, and many more while disregarding genre boundaries. It’s a glorious piece of work spread over six sides of vinyl.
Tricky Featuring Dj Milo* & Luke Harris – Skilled Mechanics
Here we are with Tricky, who I find it difficult to be objective about having pretty much been into everything he’s ever released, even those albums that were somewhat panned by critics, like Vulnerable which includes covers of The Cure’s “Love Cats” and XTC’s “Dear God.” Both of which I liked. Everything he does is always compared to Maxinquaye, which really was a masterpiece, but we have to look beyond that and this is an album of great tracks.
Xiu Xiu – Plays The Music Of Twin Peaks
The Angelo Badalamenti score for Twin Peaks is pretty much perfect and this years re-release in damned fine coffee coloured vinyl was a wonderful thing, so this album that covers the whole score by Californian band Xiu Xiu had a lot to live up to, and it does a great job, It’s a different perspective and already well known pieces that, while not exactly breathing new life into the music, offers a different perspective on it. It was released for Record Store Day, and then re-released afterwards, presumably because it sold well.
Thee majority of albums that appear in all the Best Of 2016 lists that are popping up all over the place about now aren’t here. Metacritic collects most of these lists and combines them into one big list, this is what they have:
|Rank||Points/Album / Artist|
|1||87 Blackstar by David Bowie|
|2||92 Lemonade by Beyoncé|
|3||87 Blonde by Frank Ocean|
|4||89 A Seat at the Table by Solange|
|5||88 A Moon Shaped Pool by Radiohead|
|6||90 Coloring Book by Chance the Rapper|
|7||95 Skeleton Tree by Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds|
|8||75 The Life of Pablo by Kanye West|
|9||89 We Got It from Here… Thank You 4 Your Service by A Tribe Called Quest|
|10||87 My Woman by Angel Olsen|
|11||87 22, A Million by Bon Iver|
|85 Malibu by Anderson .Paak|
|13||83 Hopelessness by Anohni|
|86 Teens of Denial by Car Seat Headrest|
|15||92 You Want It Darker by Leonard Cohen|
|16||87 Puberty 2 by Mitski|
|17||73 Anti by Rihanna|
|79 Post Pop Depression by Iggy Pop|
|19||75 I Like It When You Sleep For You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware Of It by The 1975|
|20||73 Hardwired… To Self-Destruct by Metallica|
|Hero by Maren Morris|
I only have two from the above list, wich i see as a good thing actually. Of those there I’ve listened to ‘Puberty 2’ by Mitsky, didn’t like it much, “We Got It from Here… Thank You 4 Your Service” by A Tribe Called Quest which I did like but I haven’t listened to it enough, and that’s it. Over the chrismas period I’ll try and listen to the others to see what, if anything, all the fuss is about.
Was music better when I was a teenager? Probably not to be honest as it’s all subjective. While I see the charts now as being diluted rehashes of other songs, it’s not all about singles, there are many amazing albums out there that never become super popular but are still quite brilliant. I think the difference between my day and now is how important the singles charts were to so many of us.
Sunday evenings were so important, I had to listen to the Top 40, with finger hovered over the pause button of the tape recorder to stop the song at just the right time before the DJ spoke, sometimes rewinding and re-cueing just in time before the next song started. Happiness was hearing that the song you liked had gone up the charts, and annoyance was a song you hated climbing more places than your favourite. My home taping wasn’t killing music as I wouldn’t have bought the records anyway, I had no money for that and nobody was going to buy them for me so it was the only way to get music. Things became a little better when we got a twin cassette deck, which allowed me to record the whole of the charts and then remove what I didn’t want by recording tape to tape.
Why was I even thinking about all this? Well, I was looking at the charts today for no real reason and decided to see what was happening at roughly the same time in 1979, when I was 12, and I liked a lot of what I found, there was a lot I didn’t though and my memories of these charts full of amazing singles is seen through rose tinted spectacles it appears. There are plenty of them, really great singles, but there are rather more that I really disliked than I remember. Here are some examples of the tracks that I would have definitely left off my chart cassette:
DONNA SUMMER AND BARBRA STREISAND – NO MORE TEARS (ENOUGH IS ENOUGH)
GIBSON BROTHERS – QUE SERA MI VIDA
DR. HOOK – WHEN YOU’RE IN LOVE WITH A BEAUTIFUL WOMAN
THE THREE DEGREES – MY SIMPLE HEART
PAUL MCCARTNEY – WONDERFUL CHRISTMASTIME
FIDDLER’S DRAM – DAY TRIP TO BANGOR
LENA MARTELL – ONE DAY AT A TIME
DOLLAR – I WANNA HOLD YOUR HAND
BILLY PRESTON AND SYREETA – WITH YOU I’M BORN AGAIN
SUZI QUATRO – SHE’S IN LOVE WITH YOU
THE COMMODORES – STILL
ABBA – I HAVE A DREAM
THE BARRON KNIGHTS – FOOD FOR THOUGHT
If you listened to any of the above it’s your own fault. I’m not knocking them as such, but my 12 year old self hated them.
Had I been taping the charts yesterday night, but 37 years ago (really? That long!) then below is what I would have been pressing record for. In descending order down to that weeks number 1:
04/12/2016 – 10/12/2016
Vangelis – Albedo 0.39
Baumann / Koek – Baumann / Koek
Tangerine Dream – Phaedra
Massive Attack – Inertia Creeps (Dbl 12″ )
Tricky – Maxinquay
John Lydon – Sun (12″)
Four Tet – Pause
P.I.L – Creep (10″)
Massive Attack – Teardrop (12″)
Francesca Belmonte – Anima
Tricky – Black Steel (12″)
Massive Attack – Protection
Fort Romeau – Insides
The Future Sound of London – Far-Out Son Of Lung And The Ramblings Of A Madman
oh, and I almost forgot:
The Future Sound Of London – Papua New Guinea Translations
I made 8 attempts to buy tickets for Kraftwerk at the New Theater Oxford just now. This took 52 seconds, and then every ticket was sold.
There has to be a better way, 52 seconds, it’s ridiculous. The site allowed me to select the tickets I wanted, press ‘buy tickets’ and then it came back with a message that those tickets were not available, so I went for increasingly worse tickets and the same message each time.
So disappointing, but not unexpected.
I could go to a re-seller of course, but as the ID of the main ticket holder has to be shown I don’t know how this would actually work, and I’m not prepared to pay these sorts of prices:
This is, perhaps, why people miss out. There are people buying the maximum amount of tickets and then selling them on at a profit (if that is possible with these ones, I’m not so sure). Regardless, it’s annoying.
Yesterday I was at the market in Cambridge where there were two stalls selling vinyl. I only managed a cursory glance at one but at the other I was there a little longer and stumbled across a Future Sound Of London Double LP that I didn’t have. It was in the 12″ section and is called ‘Papua New Guinea Translations’. The album is essentially the same track repeated 8 times but evolving each time into something else. Track 1 is the closest to the original, which was a fairly big hit for FSOL when it was released, and each subsequent track moves further and further away from the original. Track 8 is very different indeed, even down to tempo.
Now I do love FSOL and this was a great surprise for me when I found it in the plastic crate and I bought it, of course, for the princely sum £4, which is an absolute bargain. I had a quick look on Discogs at what it sells for and it goes for between £14 and £35. Obviously this makes me happy.
Vocal samples on these tracks are taken from Dead Can Dance – The Host of Seraphim & Circuit – Shelter Me, the former of which I know but not the latter, so I’ll check that out at some point.
Though the video below contains trandom inages that are unrelated, you can listen to one of the tracks 9Track 2 on the album called “Translation 2: Papsico”, which is closest to the original, but still different enough.
Apart from the vinyl inside the sleeve, there was a piece of paper which asked for feedback on the tracks and ratings, so I guess this may be a promo copy, or pre-release or something like that. I’ll append it to the bottom of this post later for reference.
Sales of vinyl records have rocketed in the last few years, and last week the UK saw the vinyl revival break new ground. More money was spent on vinyl albums than LPs purchased digitally, that is according to The Entertainment Retailers Association (ERA), who represent multimedia retailers across the country.
Around £2.4 million was spent on vinyl records last week, presumably boosted by Christmas gift buyers, as opposed to £2.1 million that changed hands in regards to digital downloads. Compared to the same period last year, vinyl album sales have doubled.
Last week saw Kate Bush’s live album Before The Dawn top the Official Vinyl Albums Chart, with more fans choosing to pick up the collection on vinyl rather than on a digital format.
Big albums stocked in a variety of supermarkets such as Amy Winehouse’s Back to Black and Guardians of the Galaxy – Awesome Mix 1 also performed strongly to boost total sales for the market, while Busted fans picked up their new album Night Driver.
Snatched from: http://www.officialcharts.com/
Of the top 5, numbers 2,3 & 4 are available at Sainsbury’s supermarket, I’ve seen them, I even bought one from there (Curtis Mayfield – Super Fly – Orange vinyl exclusive to Sainsbury’s!) . It would seem that one of our biggest supermarkets is having a major impact on vinyl sales, however, never forget the store you got your vinyl from before the big guns stepped in, I won’t.
I’ve spoken before about being a member of a record club many years ago, this was for cassettes at first and then, later, CD’s. This model has been resurrected for vinyl lovers in various different flavours. I subscribe to just the one, ‘That Special Record‘ , which I have mentioned numerous times and will again shortly, but there are several out there, so let’s have a look at them.
Price: £26 a month
Wax & Stamp is a British subscription service that selects two records every month, one is an LP and one is a single and each week a guest selects one of them. These are selections that are outside the mainstream, as they say on their site: Wax & Stamp send out a wide range of genres, textures and styles. The only thing we shy away from is the mainstream. Every month is a surprise, as we don’t let anyone know what we’re sending out.Last month Wax & Stamp selected ALBERT / PERSON OF INTEREST -EDR002, the guest, Martin Fitzgerald (RamAlbumClub), selected THE PARROTS – LOS NIÑOS SIN MIEDO which is a Spanish Garage Rock album.
Here is a track from The Parrots album to give you an idea of what they sent out last time:
Price: £20 a month, £216 a year
Another British service, but this time for exclusive 7″ singles. Focused on the Indie band end of the music spectrum, these 5 singles arrived boxed and with a booklet, explaining what’s in the box. There are alos often prints and lyric sheets included and at least one of the 7″ singles will be on coloured vinyl.
The last box sent out (October 2016 according to the web site, at the time of writing) contained the following:
Jaws – Right In Front Of Me / What We Haven’t Got Yet (On purple vinyl)
Annie Bea/DA7 – Luxury Kills / Dopamine Fiend (On colourless vinyl)
The Bay Rays – New Home / Four Walls
Swimming Tapes – Set The Fire / Souvenirs
Alex Lahey – You Don’t Think You Like People Like Me / Let’s Go Out
Jaws got the coloured vinyl treatment so, as an example, let’s have a listen to that:
Price: From £21.90 a month, £180 a year
Trax & Wax appear to be for lovers of the 12″ single which they offer in 5 different box options, Trax & Wax, Disco, Old School, Nu Skool and Techno boxes. You have a choice of 2 or 4 12″ in a box which depends on how much you are willing to pay, the standard 2 is the £21.90 option. As far as I can see you can change which box you wish to receive month on month, oh, and they are also British. Below is a selection of tracks they’ve listed as being in the boxes recently.
Price per month: $23 (month-to-month), $25 (3-month) or $27 (annual)
This is probably the best known service of all of them. Vinyl Me Please delivers a surprise album every month and are focused on the deluxe re-issue aspect of the market, providing a piece of art and a cocktail recipie with every album (Nope, I have no idea why anybody would want a cocktail recipie but I guess some do). It appears that they are now 47 records in, and there are some there I’d like for sure, but some I would have no interest in at all. I guess that’s to be expected though. The latest issue, No.47 is The Books – The Lemon Of Pink, originally released in 2003, and it is a very desirable looking thing:
Here is the track ‘Tokyo’ taken from this album:
Side note: they are actually on No.48 which is Nina Simone – Sings The Blues
Price per month: $39 (month-to-month), $37 (3-month) or $35 (annual)
The above prices may seem quite steep compared to the others but this service offers 3 LP’s a month for that price based on what you like. You select a #vibe, which I assume is then based on your pre-specified music tastes and you receive records that are broadly within that category. They also do their own branded turntable and have a physical store (it’s in Santa Barbara, California. For people outside the U.S.A you will have to pay postage.
Price per month: $30 (month-to-month), $29 (3-month), $28 (6 Month) or $27 (annual)
Vinyl Moon offers a rather different service by creating a compilation LP of 10 tracks every month. This is what they say is included as part of the package:
- A compilation/mixtape of ~10 songs by great new bands/musicians.
- Pressed on gorgeous colored vinyl.
- Ultra premium record jackets designed by amazing visual artists.
- A gatefold art sheet that features band info, lyrics, and single artwork for each track.
- A members-only note about the music, art, and that month’s experience.
- VIP access to the monthly record release party (Held in different cities)
Each monthly volume has a limited pressing, which must depend on the number of subscribers, so membership is, presumably, closely managed. The last volume to be shipped out contained the tracks below:
- Everything Is Green – “Drip Dry”
- Mallrat – “For Real”
- BF/C – “Temple”
- Pleasure Principle – “Let Me Hear It”
- PAIDEIA – “Restless Child”
- Arthur Wimble – “Hearts”
- Noble Oak – “All I Said”
- beGun – “NARI”
- Vimes – “Rudal”
Price: From £100 – £375
This is an interesting idea, which will be explained directly by the text from their website:
These records won’t be available in stores and they won’t be repressed. We’re not issuing them on CD and the only way you can buy them is by joining the club. And that club? It’s limited to just a thousand members.
For listeners of a certain age, the recent news that Columbia House was at last filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection was met with a mixture of amusement and sadness. Columbia House thrived in a now-vanished monoculture of limited choices, offering seven (or eight or twelve or twenty) albums for a penny and following up with poorly designed full color catalogs full of a few hits and a lot of misses. Once hooked, a game began in which the warehouse would dispatch a record or tape each month—a surprise, almost always something unwanted— forcing the “club” member to choose between paying up or sending the thing back. And as crazy as it seems now, if you were from Terre Haute, Indiana, or Billings, Montana, this is probably how you got your music.
The 21st century is defined in part by an overwhelming panorama of choices. Especially in the world of recorded music, of which the near-complete history is available in two or three clicks. Want to hear Carly Rae Jepson’s Emotion? Or Ray Charles’ complete Atlantic recordings? You can, and you should. But the question remains—how will you find out about Jimmy Carter & the Dallas County Green’s undeniable 1977 private country-rock masterpiece? And how will you experience it with something resembling the sense of excitement that accompanied those seven Columbia House selections for a penny, the ones you actually wanted? Isn’t the predictability of unlimited choice part of what’s turning us all into such jaded monsters? In a world of unlimited access, we’re exercising some small degree of restraint. Like some poor kid stuck in 1991, we want you waiting by your mailbox. We want you to love every record so much that you keep the custom box it came in.
It’s cheaper in the US and about 50% more for outside the US, so 12 albums would cost you $150 in the UK (or $375 (rather than $450)if you signed up for all three series)
Price: From €28 per month with discounts for 3 Months etc.
OK, so this is my faviourite, which is fairly obvious as it’s the one I subscribe to on the 1 LP a month plan. I did look at most of the other services but this just suited me more than the rest and I can’t fault the service I have received from them. Although I have had major concerns about the records I’ve received before actually listening to them, they’ve all always turned out to be something that I liked (Which is a surprise in itself as I’d never heard of any of them). Miguel does a great job over there in Portugal and sometimes offers a more personal touch with a handwritten note or even a free 12″ included. I’ve been a subscriber for 6 months now and at no point have I considered cancelling my subscription, the surprise element of what will be in that months package is really rather fun and I do look forward to it arriving every month. I’ve also recently bought some LP’s from the store as That Special Record is most aligned among all the subscription services with what I am looking for.
As Miguel says: “That Special Record is here to help you discover the best outsider electronic music that’s currently being released on vinyl. I’m a record collector…literally obsessed with weird, obscure, interesting, outsider electronic music so I won’t sell you any records I wouldn’t buy myself. Less is more, that’s why our selection is small but carefully curated.”
I also received an album by ‘Unearth Noise’ called ‘Prayer and Resonanace’ which has one of my faviourite cover images ever, so much so that it is in a frame on the wall above my turntable.
There is also:
Price per quarter: $60 for Platinum, $20 for Gold
Price: Between $68 and $300
Did I miss some? Let me know and I’ll add them
The other LP I picked up in the That Special Record black Friday sale was Brannten Schnüre – Sommer Im Pfirsichhain. Before I say anything more, I have to point out that all lyrics are in German, which I don’t understand, but don’t have a problem with. I was listening to Xmal Deutschland back in the late 80’s and had no idea what they were singing about either, but it didn’t really matter to me. I also had a great love for a track by Barbara Morgenstern, ‘Die Liebe (R. Lippok: Schneekristall Mix)’ which was on the album ‘Rough Trade – Electronic Volume 1’. So this Brannten Schnüre album being in German is absolutely fine with m, sometimes it’s better not to know.
Back when the Eurovision song contest wasn’t almost entirely sung in English I used to watch it just to put the subtitles on and see the translations of the lyrics, some of them were hilarious. Take the 2001 Bosnia & Herzegovina entry ‘ Hano’:
Even if the sun came out promptly at half past two
Even if from a clear sky thunderbolt struck me
You wouldn’t care, you wouldn’t wink
Much less when I call you, turn you head
Not picking on this song in particular, there are loads with terrible lyrics, it’s just the first one I found that I though mildly amusing. Here it is (I think) in all it’s glory ** WARNING – Catchy Chorus, you have been warned **
I’ve now wandered miles off track, so let’s get back on topic. The album was released in 2015 on Aguirre Records and is listed as Genre: Electronic, Folk, World, & Country – Style: Experimental, Drone, Folk. Can’t really argue with that, it does sometimes reminds me of a German Cocorosie. The album was a limited run of 300, which brings me to another topic, which is valuable albums of the future. There are a number of mail order vinyl companies in existence now that create album versions specific to them or supply the lions share of limited runs and it is these that are predicted to be the albums that will carry the most value in the future, but more on that another time, I’m drifting off again.
The record label, which you can find here, had this to say about the album and the group:
Brannten Schnüre is an experimental dark folk group out of Würzburg, Germany. Christian Schoppik composed and played all the music, Katie Rich whispers, recites and sings. Together they make astoundingly beautiful folk with a rich instrumentation leaning towards the atonal spectrum. Instrumental wanderings stand alongside Nico-esque poetry tales. Christian plays the accordion and in some songs guitar and flute. Inspired by hierophants like Nový Svět and David Jackman, solemn song fragments (a lot of old greek rembetiko-recordings) are modified and looped, with additional instruments and voices being integrated later on. His music has been described as “surreal folkcollage” and “german hauntology”.
With the emergence of Schoppik’s second project, a dada cabaret called Agnes Beil in 2010, Brannten Schnüre moved closer to the song structures of its frivolous sibling. The songs of Schoppik’s latest creation Sommer im Pfirsichhain are further accompanied by a female singing voice, lending the pieces the voluptuous quality of a stickily tense midsummer. Sommer Im Pfirsichhain (Summer In The Peachgrove) is the second part of a quartet of releases. The first being Aprilnacht which got released on Sic Sic Tapes last year. Part three Geträumt hab’ ich vom Martinszug and part four will follow later.
Reference points are bands like Winter Family and Twinsistermoon. Music etched on folkloric, ritual elements transferred into the 21th century. Also worth mentioning is the hand-drawn artwork which is made by artist Gwénola Carrère.
It does have a childlike quality at times, although more on the darker side of childhood, possibly because of the atonal German it is sung/recited in but also the music itself is sparse. It’s a strange mix at times, ambient, folky, electronic, drony and, as with ‘Lichter Am Wehiher’, looped, on this occasion a looped backwards vocal that merges into a monk like chant.
To give you some idea, below are three tracks from the album. I like it’s quirkiness, it’s strangeness. This music isn’t going to go shooting up any charts, it’s not going to be super popular, but, in some ways, that enhances its value as it exists far outside popular culture in a place where few wander, but it is very much worth the discovery.
|A1||Vom Baum Im Hof||02:23|
|A3||Urwald Auf Verkehrsinseln||03:58|
|A5||Lichter Am Weiher||03:32|
|A6||Auf Dem Hohen Meissner||02:21|
|B2||Die Verwunschene Quelle||02:25|
|B3||Mithra Im Jardin Botanique||05:37|
|B4||Brüderchen und Schwesterchen||03:01|
So, filing albums. I’ve put them in alphabetic order by artist (virtually, not actually) and it just doesn’t work for me. Below is a list up to the end of the A’s. Now I don’t necessarily like or listen to all these albums, I just happen to have them on the shelf, but Abba next to AC/DC seems wrong, as does A Silver Mt.Zion next to Abba, and Art Garfunkel sandwiched between Arca and Atoms For Peace. There’s also ‘Deutsche Grammophon’ in there as well, which are all classical and which I feel should all stay together. I think I am going to just have to devise my own special filing system that, perhaps, will only make sense to me. This is fine of course as I’m the only one it matters to.
It won’t solve all my issues, but I am considering Alphabetical by Decade.
|10cc||Live And Let Live|
|65daysofstatic||The Fall Of Math|
|A Minor Forest||Flemish Altruism (Constituent Parts 1993-1996) / Inindependence|
|A Silver Mt. Zion||He Has Left Us Alone But Shafts Of Light Sometimes Grace The Corner Of Our Roomsâ€¦|
|A Silver Mt. Zion||Horses In The Sky|
|A Silver Mt. Zion||Fuck Off Get Free We Pour Light On Everything|
|AC/DC||Who Made Who|
|AC/DC||If You Want Blood You’ve Got It|
|AC/DC||For Those About To Rock We Salute You|
|AC/DC||Highway To Hell|
|AC/DC||Back In Black|
|AC/DC||For Those About To Rock (We Salute You)|
|Adam And The Ants||Kings Of The Wild Frontier|
|Adam And The Ants||Dirk Wears White Sox|
|Al Green||Greatest Hits|
|Albert Ammons||Boogie Woogie Stomp / Boogie Woogie Blues|
|Alex Banks (2)||Illuminate|
|Andrew Lloyd Webber||Variations|
|Andrew Lloyd Webber||Cats|
|Angelo Badalamenti||Twin Peaks|
|AntonÃn DvoÅ™Ã¡k – The Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Carlo Maria Giulini||Symphonie Nr. 8|
|AntonÃn DvoÅ™Ã¡k, Berliner Philharmoniker * The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Rudolf Kempe||‘New World’ Symphony/Scherzo Capriccioso|
|Antonio Carlos Jobim||Wave|
|Aphex Twin||Selected Ambient Works 85-92|
|Aphex Twin||Cheetah EP|
|Aphex Twin||Come To Daddy|
|Aphex Twin||Richard D. James Album|
|Art Garfunkel||Scissors Cut|
|Art Garfunkel||Angel Clare|
|Art Garfunkel||Fate For Breakfast|
|Atoms For Peace (2)||Amok|