September 17, 2009
Eclectic Mixup 4: Old Sounds for New Times
Those that are followers of this blog will know that I generally post an Eclectic Mixup when I am short of substantial subject matter to discuss. However, this Mixup 4 comes at the start of a new time in my life, a change of city, and a change of daily routine. The selection below are (some of) the tunes I have chosen to soundtrack this change.
A fine composer of cynical yet acutely observational rock, Warren Zevon released his most succesful album to date, ‘Excitable Boy’, in 1978. He selected this musical call to arms to open the LP, an intelligent choice with its driving verse rhythm and infectious use of the title line.
Continuing with the theme of great American songwriters, ‘The Rhythm of the Saints’, Simon’s 1990 followup to ‘Graceland’, extended the artists previous African meanderings by incorporating Latin-American influences. ‘Can’t Run But’, perhaps the best song ever written about Chernobyl, begins with a beautiful bit of harmonic interplay between three mallet instruments and the bass. The song is simultaneously frantic and relaxing, with Simon’s harrowing vocal winding in and out of licks from guitarist J.J.Cale (I think…)
Malian couple Amadou & Mariam had been working away on the West African music scene for a while before they were approached by esteemed World/Latin music star Manu Chao, who produced their 2004 album ‘Dimance a Bamako’. The album made little impact in the English speaking world outside of the exposure it received from Chao’s loyal following. However, success in France and West Africa led to a ‘World Music Best Album Award 2006’ from the BBC. It is an album full of simple and poignant songwriting, delivered beautifully by the pleasing vocal mix of the couple (as well as contributions from Chao himself) and uncluttered production. Amongst the more upbeat tracks lies ‘La Fete Au Village’, a slow and soporific song with a harrowing high melody sung between verses. Village sounds are present in the background to add context.
It is hard to believe that ‘Brand New Second Hand’, the trailblazing debut from the supreme talent that is Roots Manuva is now 10 years old. I have included two tracks from the album that for me have always gone hand in hand, both in terms of mood and content. Both tell stories in the artist’s irresistable prose, and further justify the critical acclaim the leftfield UK emcee has received throughout his career.
A haunting, wordless piece from Brazilian singer/guitarist Milton Nascimento. Melodies are wrapped around a hypnotic 5/4 rhythm played out by a band including contemporary Lô Borges.
British electronic duo ISAN take their affection for analogue synthesisers and produce some great stuff. Still.blue is one of many tracks I could have chosen.