Underworld – Thing In A Book [with a strange fan video]

Languishing for two decades in the rare original Dark & Long single, Underworld’s Thing In A Book is finally seeing the light of modern day this month. Courtesy of the 20th Anniversary Super Deluxe edition of legendary dance album, Dubnobasswithmyheadman, the wider world can appreciate what has been one of my favorite hidden gems for years now. It’s a 20 minute minimal techno monster, an otherworldly take on Dark &Long that jettisons our solar system, hitting light speed on the way to stars beyond.

There’s a methodical build to the spare insistent percussion, slowly accumulating layers of analog synth and interstellar static. Bits of guitar and monosyllabic snippets whisper by. The sound floats closer to Philip Glass and the pop ambient of Kompakt than Underworld ever dared before or after. I’m warmly reminded of legendary Detroit techno project Deepchord presents Echospace, an act assembled over a decade past this song. My headphones access a maglev train, pinging sonar over glowing dot-matrix mountainsides. My brain locks directly into its groove on a primal level. Simply put: it’s a perfect long-form chillout techno piece.

This is the best youtube version of the song. We’ve got a high quality stream of the music itself combined with a strangely hypnotic fan created video. The footage moves like a weirdly banal camcorder take on the time lapse photography of Godfrey Reggio, the subway tracking, sidewalk rushing connective tissue of Koyaanisqatsi. Watch it, or leave it in the background and enjoy the song purely on its own terms. Despite its minimalist nature, the song still packs a number of Underworld’s more populist traits. More than anything, this one feels as refined as a Swiss watch, cranking up the tension through its lengthy run. There’s a certain appeal to something so unabashedly epic, yet restrained and introverted, that tears into my heart. If you haven’t heard this, you may be surprised.

U_UnderEmers

The band seen in 1994 (supposedly).

I should mention the 20th anniversary reissue of Dubnobasswithmyheadman. This is a rare example of an album from the burgeoning CD era being remastered with care and delicacy. Subtle details I’d never noticed in my nearly two decades of listening were revealed. The drums are punchier, basslines snappier. Yet the loudness war remains in distant lands, allowing the full dynamic range to stand intact. The two disc edition contains some essential early singles, but the five disc edition (seriously) holds nearly everything produced in that era, including Thing In A Book. If you don’t have the money or patience for that massive slab of music, the whole set is streaming free on Spotify.

Just give it a listen. I’ll be looping this for a while at work tomorrow.

Destroyer – The Laziest River

When I purchased the 2lp edition of Destroyer‘s 2011 pop masterpiece Kaputt, I had no idea that the bonus track promised on side C would slowly become the languid circulatory system of the entire album.  It swims in an embryonic well from which the other tracks drink, all held breath and deep plunge.  It’s patient and fragile, and just may comprise twenty of my favorite minutes.

If you have only heard the standard tracklisting, press play now.  It’s rare when something labelled “bonus” actually elevates the experience of listening to a great album.  The Laziest River feels absolutely essential at this point, and while I sympathize with the probable intention of encouraging vinyl purchases, it seems unfair to leave everyone else with an unfinished story.  So buy it if you can, but this song can be downloaded and amended to your playlist for a quick fix.

Oneohtrix Point Never – Sand Partina [lost track 1]

In preparation for last week’s Flying Lotus show, a friend and I were having a youtube-off.  Exhausting the major albums and creeping toward the dusty corners of his recorded output, we were constantly surprised at b-sides, remixes and otherwise lost tracks which only one of us (a pair of somewhat huge fans) was aware of.  There’s a sublime comfort in peeling up the tiles of artists we know and love, only to find worthy treasure below.  I’m trying to replicate that experience with those who will be completely on the same page when I share a given artist.

This is an older piece from a split tape with Caboladies, one which I’d heard years ago when first discovering Oneohtrix Point Never yet never fully appreciated until this autumn.  The gelid synth oscillations build toward  softly hissing dunes; the song itself imagines low level flight over this alien landscape.  It’s a dream of a half remembered childhood science fiction story.  Although that description could be shoehorned onto nearly anything OPN has created, it’s especially pointed in this case.  I could drift off with this on repeat for hours.

The Durutti Column – Trust The Art Not The Artist

A few months ago I really wanted to share this incredible song with you and found, to little surprise, that it was streaming exactly nowhere on the internet.  So I got my copy on youtube because everyone deserves to experience this distilled observation of profound humane love.

Buried near the end of The Durutti Column‘s third odds & singles collection, Sporadic Three, Trust The Art Not The Artist is an uncommonly straightforward expression of Vini Reilly’s spirituality filigreed with a crystalline spiderweb of a guitar solo.  The final pair of lyrics sets a lump in my throat as the solo takes off in delicate flight to end the song in a skyward gaze:

There is no god I can believe in
I just believe in ourselves
And all the goodness in people
That’s the only real wealth

The sentiment is not a particularly deep or unique because bedrock inner truths do not need to be.  The simple, direct, and humble statement is profound if you allow it.  There’s really nothing more to this; it’s a portrait of social trust set to song like haiku on a paper crane.

[full set of lyrics – as transcribed by me – are in the description on the youtube page]

Found A Job

First: sorry I’ve been sort of quiet for a few weeks.

Second:  this.

It’s true.  This one pays far more than my prior occupation so it’s worth the being-busy-all-the-time aspect.  However I have not – cannot – neglect music and thus always have something worth sharing with the world.  Every commute, every bicycle ride, every nighttime book devouring session is accompanied by something new, expansive, exciting…  punctuated by old favorites I find myself doubled over with joy upon re-hearing.  So I’ve got something to say.

Unfortunately I worked my brains out today and must save the in-depth breathless praise and wild exhortations to purchase vinyl for the remainder of the weekend.  I will simply state that there are a few albums I’m quite taken with, continually listen to, and wish that more people would get familiar with.  These are a few of them:

United WatersYour First Ever River

Sensations’ FixFragments of Light

Robert FrippLet The Power Fall

Fleetwood MacTusk

Drive (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)

ThundercatGolden Age of the Apocalypse

and finally, with apologies to the artist herself:

Matana RobertsCoin Coin Chapter One: Gens De Colour Libres

Because this is, by some distance, one of the most powerful and heartfelt albums of 2011 and I really should have shared all about it when I got it months ago.  I promise – I swear – I will soon.  Keep an eye on this page, and stay ready for the deluge.

The Durutti Column – “Otis”

Another sleepless night for me…

My favorite guitarist of all time, Vini Reilly, was also a pioneer with regards to sampling in an ostensibly rock context.  His Factory label boss, mentor, and best friend Tony Wilson famously discouraged Vini’s use of vocals in Durutti Column recordings, feeling he was far better at literally every aspect of music creation than singing.  This obviously contributed to his daring and invigorating use of sampling (and later, frequent female guest vocalists), highlighted by this brilliant piece from the center of his eponymous Vini Reilly LP, released in 1989.  A rising arpeggio gives way to a typically gorgeous guitar ramble before the song slides into perfection with recontextualized phrases from Otis Redding‘s (also typically gorgeous) Pain In My Heart and Tracy Chapman‘s heartbreaking Behind The Wall (listen, seriousl) and cements its place in any hypothetical Top 10 Durutti Column countdown.

I must note that, indeed, a far more famous and recent use of a classic Redding sample exists, but Jay-Z and Kanye West‘s same-named Otis borrows far more liberally (and literally) from Try A Little Tenderness…  which I’ve always found quite affecting in a certain other context:

[you basically owe it to yourself and the perennially under-acknowledged Durutti Column to get the album at theDuruttiColumn.com.  Really, get any of his nearly 2 dozen albums.  Anywhere.]

Albums I Missed: 2010, part 2

Here’s another set of essential 2010 albums unfortunately left by the wayside.  Witness their excellence.

  • Mark Van Hoen – Where Is The Truth

Beauty.  Just, pure fragile beauty.  Floating like a spiderweb made of static, hung with fragments of shattered dreampop.  Van Hoen, who started out in Seefeel and ferried the shoegaze & idm Locust through the next decade, knows a thing or two about prismatic blissouts.  Being unfamiliar with his past solo work, I won’t remark on how this is a more personal statement or not; I will simply say that, as a *huge* fan of Seefeel, a longtime admirer of Locust (especially Truth Is Born of Arguments – an essential document), and an eternal seeker of alluring disintegration, this album hits the spot.

  • Solar Bears – She Was Coloured In

Being taken in by the line that their name is inspired by a certain Tarkovsky film and the fact that they employed old school synths in a more pop-friendly framework than Oneohtrix Point Never or Emeralds, I nevertheless held this one at arm’s length upon first listen.  The tones grabbed me, the melodies held me, the sheer variety kept my attention from wandering, but I was stopping short of truly absorbing it.  Second go-round, I realized it’s not made to dissect the individual tracks or feel around for a signature invention, something groundbreaking to hang its hat on.  This album is one to sit back (or walk or ride or whatever) and take in all at once.  Much like Teebs’ utopian fever dream Ardour, this 50 minute excursion is built carefully out of vignettes highlighting different facets of the sound until a wholly rounded picture is formed by the end.  I can hear Blade Runner and The Neverending Story and even the Terminator at times, but I can also sense the instructive warmth of Boards of Canada, fellow Scots with a penchant for playfully distracted, unpretentious psych explorations.  Where else would we find songs titled Head SupernovaPrimary Colours at the Back of my Mind, and Neon Colony?

  • Girls – Broken Dreams Club EP

Well this one snuck up on me.  I was never a fan of the debut LP, which swam in a torrent of praise in 2009.  Some songs caught my ear but the band simply didn’t hit those pleasure centers I need to truly enjoy an album.  Playing this lengthy EP on a blizzard bound morning while making pancakes turned out to be a shining revelation, and an arresting listen.  Moving beyond their Velvet Underground, jangly garage sound into the realm of earnest, intelligent, well written pop infused with more than a little  grit and gravitas, the band has officially released one of a literal handful of rock albums which I can admire, adore, and really sink my teeth into.  Biggest highlights are the title track, a stoned lament for the fractured state of our world today, and Caroline – a tune which steps out of any boundaries the band previously ruled, into pure psychedelic wanderlust.  It reveals itself slowly (at first echoing The Smashing Pumpkins‘ deep album cut Porcelina of the Vast Oceans), unwinding like a scarf caught on a fence, until it’s stretched to the point of abstraction and hanging in the air around you.  A cloud of a hazy rock dream, tugging upward.  A great way to end an album and point to an even brighter future for this duo.