July 20, 2011

‘Lucky Shiner’ – About a Modern Day Classic…

Posted in Features tagged , at 6:56 pm by essentiallyeclectic

In the small hours of the morning, sometime during the early weeks of last year, an online trawl for new music led to the discovery of a track reminiscent of Holonic-era DJ Krush, or Pete Rock at his most instrumentally languid, or maybe it was Bonobo’s ‘Animal Magic’ album? Either way, its distant, rolling piano loop, punctuating guitar notes and driving breakbeat also contained a freshness and level of intrigue that meant an immediate sourcing of its creator’s back catalogue had to be undertaken. The track was ‘Lonely Owl’, and, as it turned out, came from the singular EP release (entitled ‘Before’) a few months earlier from a producer called Gold Panda (real name Derwin Panda).

As introductions to new artists go, this one was an intense love-at-first-sight affair, and ‘Before’ remained on repeat for the next couple of months until the inevitable end of the honeymoon period. As tracks such as ‘Heaps’ and ‘Triangle Cloud’ fell from the playlist, replaced by a fresh batch of chillwave electronica over the summer, the affair was over. However, as September rolled around, a hotly tipped and justifiably hyped album of organic-sounding, melodic electronica honed into view like an old flame that still burned, starting the love affair all over again.

‘Lucky Shiner’, Gold Panda’s devastatingly accomplished full length debut, is a tour de force of modern bass music, as measured in its approach to composition and arrangement as in its desire to move your feet (or at least, your head). The fact that its creator was responsible for a slew of progressively impressive EPs and remix/production credits in the run up to its release, ‘Before’ EP among them, helps explain the self-assured nature of the resulting long-player.

Intimate found sounds and field recordings sit happily alongside the digitally manipulated rhythms – an incorporated use of musique concrete favoured by those directly within Gold Panda’s ancestral and contemporary pool (the likes of Amon Tobin and early Bibio spring to mind). And it’s with these elemental sounds that the producer communicates ‘Lucky Shiner’s relationship with its influences; namely friends, family, place and experience, as opposed to any specific section of his record collection (the album title itself is taken from the name of Panda’s grandmother).

The twin tracks of ‘Before We Talked’ and ‘After We Talked’ were both forged from an old, unwanted Yamaha organ (including a characteristically creative use of the machines crackle-filled sonic qualities as improvised percussion sounds), and are thematically concerned with a recently passed away friend, while the acoustic guitar interlude of ‘Parents’ features the spoken tones of Lucky Shiner herself, as her and the prodigal grandson potter around the garden. The track listing is bookended by two cuts christened with the same single-word personal pronoun name (‘You’ and, err, ‘You’), and even Daisy, the dog Panda was charged with looking after during the making of the album at his aunt’s house in rural Essex, gets in on the action with bonus track ‘Casio Daisy’.

With recent powerhouse releases from moody dubstep titans SBTRKT, Zomby, and Mount Kimbie, now appears to be the perfect time to revisit Lucky Shiner armed with contemporary comparisons to help contextualise its place within the modern electronica pantheon. The most recent of these, Zomby’s ‘Dedication’, is a toned-down and introspective version of the secretive producer’s usual electro-assault on the senses. Its pensive and often melancholic qualities could be down to it being a tribute to his recently-passed father, an area of inspiration also explored on Lucky Shiner. Although ‘Dedication’ explores its themes through bit-crunched synths and cold electro beats as opposed to Lucky Shiner’s deployment of samples and organic instrumentation, its emotional connection to Gold Panda’s debut connects it to this ever-emerging group of releases fusing human sentiment with 1s and 0s production.

Schooled in the ways of the crate-digging hip-hop producers of yesteryear, Gold Panda can be considered among a small and under-celebrated group of producers that are not only aware of the creative possibilities available within a four-to-the-floor beat structure, but are able to utilise it to produce challenging and emotionally-driven music without ever alienating the form, effortlessly and enviably. Even the most club-orientated moments on ‘Lucky Shiner’ display personality and feeling, and in much the same way that Four Tet drew on his residency at London’s Plastic People to infuse his provocative brand of folktronica with more rigid dance music, tracks such as lead single ‘Snow & Taxis’ and the opulent ‘India Lately’ cram far more melodic and harmonic ideas into their pounding bars than 99.9% of “conventionally” written songs.

But perhaps what’s most enduringly impressive about Lucky Shiner is the chameleonic nature of its production. At times Brainfeeder jerk beats (‘You’), at others a bleak, rippling mood reminiscent of the Matmos production work on Bjork’s Vespertine (‘Peaky Caps’). There are strong elements of ISAN’s brand of bubbling downtempo ambience (‘Casio Daisy’, ‘I’m With You But I’m Lonely’), and even euphoric minimal house like a modern day version of The Orb (‘Marriage’). Nicolas Jaar’s experimental ‘Space is Only Noise’, the ambient techno of John Roberts’ outstanding ‘Glass Eights’ and Mount Kimbie’s full length masterpiece ‘Crooks and Lovers’ are all natural cousins, overlapping sonically and sharing creative similarities, but Lucky Shiner stands alone as a yardstick for all of its contemporaries to aim for; a modern day electronica classic.

See this post in context over at HYPONIK

February 11, 2011

The First Noise You Hear Will Be…

Posted in Features tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 8:36 pm by essentiallyeclectic

What does the future hold for the endangered ‘opening track’…?

Back when Starburst were still Opal Fruits, and Prince was yet to become The-Artist-Formerly-Known-As-Prince (and then Prince again), LP track listing mattered, and no more so than the selection of track one. Where once even LPs that didn’t fall into the category of (shudder) ‘concept albums’ were a carefully thought-out sequence of songs, they now exist as a collection of tunes geared towards mp3 player shuffle functions. Does this mean the impact of the opening track is of more importance than ever?

 

Whether as a statement of musical intent, or a gradual pacesetter for the album to come, track one has an important job. Some jump straight in, outlaying the theme and direction of the album; some are snippets of loosely relevant sound or dialogue (usually entitled ‘Intro’ or similar).

It could be hypothesised that the dawn of the iPod generation has seen a shift towards ‘immediate impact’ track listings: every song must be strong enough to stand up on its own, outside the context of its album, or it will be skipped. The ability to purchase individual tracks, even if they have not been released in single format, has seen a decline in album releases that contain what previously might have been termed “album tracks”: songs that may have not been hits but filled in gaps in the overall narrative. Maybe this is further testament to the futuristic attributes of Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’: the album had seven of its nine tracks released as singles (all charting in the US top ten) long before iTunes began weeding out the padding with single song downloads.

 

In most cases, the opening track has been granted no immunity from the draconian laws of modern day album production. Take ‘Boyfriend’, the opener to Best Coast’s debut Crazy for you, for example. An indie blog favourite from last year, the track fully implements the Best Coast ethos within the first five seconds: sun-bleached guitars and catchy surf pop songs all coated in Bethany Cosentino’s reveries for her man, her weed, and her cat. Everything you need to know about the album can be found within that first track: an audible blueprint. This technique is common among contemporary bands: push across a concise manifesto before the listener’s finger can reach the skip button.

Following this template, six string-toting Aussies Tame Impala began their 2010 debut release with ‘It Is Not Meant To Be’, possibly the most psychedelic rocker in an album full of psychedelic-rockers, while Gold Panda’s first forays into the world of the long player, ‘You’ from the much lauded Lucky Shiner, is the audio equivalent of a business card for Londoner’s forward-thinking production style.

 

However, some bands remain stubborn and decide to take a different route. LA Indie sensations ‘Warpaint’, the darlings of the music press last year and this, decided to kick off their introductory set The Fool with the five minutes-plus stoner grind of ‘Set Your Arms Down’, a noticeably contrasting track to the preview single ‘Undertow’ that had wowed the critics so. Speaking to Interview Magazine shortly after the album’s release, bass player Jenny Lee Lindberg explained the simple reasoning behind the decision: “It’s stoner order. We made this album to listen to stoned.” With this knowledge, the positioning of ‘Set Your Arms Down’ makes perfect sense.

Warpaint

But there was a time when bands or artists weren’t overly concerned with the importance of track one’s impact; when a clear line existed between the 12” LP and the short, three minute blast of the 7” single. Singles were there for the radio-friendly fix of chart busting pop, while albums were to be mulled over and carefully considered (plus skipping the track on vinyl could be a right hassle). With this in mind, bands were free to use their openers as tasters for the tracks that followed, or to ease the listener in gently; the musical equivalent of entering a hot bath. Dark Side of the Moon’sSpeak To Me’, with its heartbeat, demented laughter and slow build into ‘Breathe‘ (with a gap so non-existent it caused havoc when producing a CD version of the album) is a perfect sampler for Pink Floyd’s eerie classic, while Led Zeppelin’s elongated ‘Song Remains the Same’ from 1973’s Houses of the Holy has a full 1”33 of explosive, overblown instrumental before Robert Plant shuffles up to the microphone. Mac Rebbenack introduced his voodoo medicine man alter-ego Dr John to the world with the brilliant ‘Gris Gris Gumbo Yaya’, yet the track is so soporifically relaxed it’s often in danger of drifting off to sleep and rolling back into the same New Orleans swamp from which it emerged.

Whether it was folk-rock opuses in three parts (CSNY’s ‘Carry On’), slow-grinding funk workouts (Funkadelic’s ‘Mommy, What’s a Funkadelic?’), or just a honey-toned Frenchman murmuring over a menacingly sexy groove while a Gauloises hangs listlessly from the side of his mouth (Serge Gainsbourg’s ‘Melody’), the musicians of yesteryear paid no heed to worries concerning the length, impact or characterisation of their opening tracks.

 

However, with retrospect, some have perhaps been slightly misplaced in their positioning. ‘Gimme Shelter’, the blockbuster opener to The Rolling Stones’ 1969 album Let it Bleed, is so intensely mind-blowing in its delivery (who could forget the crack of Merry Clayton’s voice as she shrieks the word “murder” over the song’s vamp out?) that the listener is left musically spent by the end and has to go and have a lie down during ‘Love in Vain’. A similar fate befalls the listener of James Brown and The JBs’ Doing it to Death, the opening title track of which is a pounding 10 minute celebration of everything right with music set to a 12/8 groove so funky it hurts – a tough track to follow.

Neil Young began his solo career away from Buffalo Springfield with the folly of ‘The Emperor of Wyoming’, a jaunty country instrumental that had many reaching to grab the needle from record long before its sublime follow up, ‘The Loner’. (Young did rectify this mistake on second album Everybody Knows This is Nowhere, introducing the world to his ability to rock with the best of ‘em on the stomping opening gambit of ‘Cinnamon Girl’).

Neil Young

Yet sometimes an opening track comes along that so clearly defines not only the sound of a particular artist, but also that of a whole subgenre. Wu-Tang Clan’s 1993 classic Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) fully implements the group’s grimy, kung-fu-sampling gutter rap from the first bars of ‘Bring da Ruckus’, a song so fantastically abrasive that hip-hop was never quite the same after it dropped. The album also resisted a fashion developing in hip-hop (and across other forms of electronic-based music) at the time for assembling some relevant snippets of dialogue or music into a track entitled ‘Intro’ or similar. Countless examples exist from between the early ‘90s and the present day – some of the era’s classic albums among them. DJ Shadow’s Endtroducing opens with a scratched up fragment of dialogue thanking “Bob Wood/national program director of the Chum group” for his contribution to some unknown project – one entirely unconnected with the album to follow – but the track and its enigmatic vocalist became synonymous with the birth of a whole new generation of beat-makers and producers. Perhaps the introduction of the CD allowed artists space to establish their particular feelings regarding the album at hand through the intro track, where once it may have taken up valuable vinyl space? Either way, it’s a method widely practiced throughout all contemporary genres. Last year’s Mercury Music Prize winners, The XX, opened their self-titled debut with a track bearing the ‘Intro’ moniker, although here the cut is one of the album’s highlights.

 

So the opening track appears to be heading towards redundancy from its job as an album’s entrance point, its role of gently guiding the listener in or blowing their proverbial socks off with a heavy impact introduction to a band’s sound greatly reduced by the move towards albums-as-collections-of-individual-tracks mode of record releases today. Perhaps the future lies in the model Beck introduced on release of his Guero album from 2005: an album that exists in several different forms – remix versions, extended deluxe editions, fan reworkings – and has no fixed track order. As the man himself put it in an interview in Wired back in 2009: “Artists can and should approach making an album as an opportunity to do a series of releases – one that’s visual, one that has alternate versions, and one that’s something the listener can participate in or arrange and change. It’s time for the album to embrace the technology.” Lovers of the opening track beware; Beck is suggesting you may be that most dreaded of creatures – the musical dinosaur…

December 20, 2010

Essentially Eclectic Top 40 of 2010

Posted in Songs of 2010 tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 7:11 pm by essentiallyeclectic

It’s list o’clock across Blogland at the moment. So, getting into the compiling spirit, here are the Essentially Eclectic top 40 tracks of 2010 (in alphabetical, rather than preferential, order…)

  1. Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti – Round and Round (from Before Today)
  2. Babe, Terror – Summertime Our League (Four Tet Rework) (from Summertime Our League EP)
  3. Beach House – 10 Mile Stereo (from Teen Dream)
  4. Best Coast – Boyfriend (from Crazy For You)
  5. James Blake – Klavierwerke (from Klavierwerke EP)
  6. Bonobo – We Could Forever (from Black Sands)
  7. Botany – Waterparker (from Feeling Today EP)
  8. Broken Bells – The High Road (from Broken Bells)
  9. Caribou – Sun (from Swim)
  10. The Concretes – Good Evening (from WYWH)
  11. Cults – Go Outside (from Cults 7″)
  12. Matthew Dear – Honey (from Black City)
  13. El Guincho – Bombay (from Pop Negro)
  14. Floating Action – Could You Save Me (from Floating Action)
  15. Flying Lotus – Mmmhmm (feat. Thundercat) (from Cosmogramma)
  16. Fool’s Gold – Nadine (Memory Tapes Remix) (Unreleased)
  17. Four Tet – Circling (from There Is Love In You)
  18. Gold Panda – Same Dream China (from Lucky Shiner)
  19. Ice Cream Shout – Tattooed Tears (from True Love Waste)
  20. Junip – Rope & Summit (from Fields)
  21. The Long Lost – Woebegone (Flying Lotus’ Luckiest Charm) (from Woebegone Flying Lotus Remix EP)
  22. Massive Attack – Saturday Come Slow (from Heligoland)
  23. Mount Kimbie – Adriatic (from Crooks and Lovers)
  24. Pantha Du Prince – The Splendour (from Black Noise)
  25. Phaeleh – Afterglow (ft. Soundmouse) (from Fallen Light)
  26. Benoit Pioulard – Shouting Distance (from Lasted)
  27. The Roots – Right On (Feat. Joanna Newsom & S.T.S) (from How I Got Over)
  28. George Stanford – Meet Me In LA (from Roll Away EP)
  29. Still Corners – Don’t Fall In Love (from Don’t Fall In Love/Wish 7″)
  30. Tame Impala – Alter Ego (from Innerspeaker)
  31. J. Tillman – Diamondback (from Singing Ax)
  32. Toro Y Moi – Blessa (from Causers of This)
  33. Twin Shadow – Savannah Howl (Hard Mix Remix) (Unreleased)
  34. Twin Sister – The Other Side of Your Face (from Color of Your Life EP)
  35. Warpaint – Undertow (from The Fool)
  36. Washed Out – You and I (feat. Caroline Polachek) (from Adult Swim Singles Project)
  37. Wu-Tang vs. The Beatles – Back in the Game (from Enter the Magical Mystery Chambers)
  38. Neil Young – Rumblin’ (from Le Noise)
  39. Young Galaxy – Peripheral Visionaries (from Shapeshifting)
  40. Young Magic – You With Air (from You With Air/Sparkly 7″)

Essentially Eclectic best albums 2010 coming soon………

November 16, 2010

Electronica Britannia

Posted in Essentially Electronica tagged , , , , , , , at 1:33 am by essentiallyeclectic

 

BBC Radiophonic Workshop's Delia Derbyshire, a pioneer of electronic music

This year has seen the standard of contemporary British electronic music rise even further with a string of fascinating and challenging releases from bedrooms and DIY studios up and down the country. With so many influences to draw from now (post-Burial ambient dubstep apparently being the favourite), the synthesists of modern music are constantly raising the bar, bleeping their blips and wobbling their wobulators (a term that was coined by, and died with, the great Delia Derbyshire, pictured above) to form new and exciting music. Here’s some i particularly like…

 

James Blake – Klavierwerke

Perhaps the most considered production in this list, Klavierwerke appears on an EP of the same name, one of three released (so far) this year by classically trained producer James Blake. Blake’s skill lies in his ability to conjure atmospheric space into electronic music, demonstrated across his deeply Burial-influenced EPs. But it’s his versatility as a performer/producer that’s catching the ear of the critics. Soon-to-be-released single Limit To Your Love, a Feist cover, sees Blake introducing his not unpleasant vocal over more stripped-down production. An interesting listen (see the video HERE), but it’s the eerie minimalism of Klavierwerke that makes the Essentially Eclectic list.

 

Phaeleh – Afterglow (ft. Soundmouse)

IDM, atmospheric dubtronica, downbeat post-burial, neo-shoe-crocodile-anti-wave. Whatever you want to call it, that’s Bristolian Phaeleh’s sound. Any electronica artist from that particular part of the West Country existing after the mid ’90s is going to be given the Massive Attack comparison badge, but Phaeleh’s brand of post-rave, early hours downtemporia serves much the same purpose as Blue Lines and Mezzanine did. This slice from the 12″ of the same name features a nice turn from vocalist Soundmouse. I urge you to investigate further.

 

Mount Kimbie – Ode To Bear

Keen observers of this blog might recall I designated a whole post to Mount Kimbie a few months ago (see HERE) so I won’t bore you with anymore gushing praise. Just get hold of the album (Crooks and Lovers), if you haven’t already.

 

Gold Panda – Same Dream China

After a releasing a string of EPs and racking up a number of fairly high-profile production credits over the last few years, Peckham’s Gold Panda finally delivered his debut full length this month. Same Dream China has hints of early Four Tet in its use of Gamelan instrumentation, before breaking out into an off-kilter electro-beat du jour. For more Gold Panda, check out Back Home from a recent Essentially Eclectic Mixup HERE.

 

ISAN – Device

Regular Essentially Eclectic sounding board RM once told me of his misfortune when falling asleep to John Frusciante’s beautifully twisted Niandra Ladies And Usually Just A T-Shirt, only to wake up disoriented and terrified during the heroin-addled 8 minute horror show Untitled #8. I had a similar experience recently after falling asleep to some ISAN. While the soft pad synth work and gently scuttling beats initially seemed ideal for drifting off to, I ended up waking up with Device. A gloriously spooky cut from this year’s Glow In The Dark Safari Set, the track is yet another reminder of the mastery of Robin Saville and Antony Ryan, as if it was needed.

 

Bonobo – We Could Forever

Brighton’s Simon Green released 4th LP Black Sands earlier this year. Building on the work of its predecessor Days To Come, the album refines the already well-refined Bonobo sound further still; a mature work of an artist with plenty of experience under his belt. We Could Forever makes this list, but it’s unfair to cherry pick single tracks out of that now rarest of items – an album that plays as an album.

 

Four Tet – Sing

Not to be outdone, another (relative) veteran of British electronica released his 5th album in January, just making it eligible for this list. Continuing his forays into the four-to-the-floor rhythms of the dance floor (allegedly inspired by a residency at east London’s Plastic People), There Is Love In You shows Kieran Hebden’s willingness to experiment and instigate is still very much alive, without straying too far from the Four Tet magic.

 

Many more could have made this list, just as many non-British electronica artists have been lodged in my ears over the last twelve months (special mentions go to Caribou, Pantha Du Prince, Memory Tapes, Washed Out, Arovane, Matthew Dear, Fever Ray, Flying Lotus and Darkstar, who are British, but who’s debut North disappointed too much outside of a couple of tracks to make the list.)

Here’s some Delia Derbyshire to leave you with…

September 27, 2010

Recent Listening Mixup

Posted in Current Listenings/Reflective Mood, Eclectic Mixup tagged , , , , at 2:54 pm by essentiallyeclectic

Music can be at once cathartic and inspiring, a soundtrack to the changing of the seasons or to the changing of situations, an expression of love, hate, enthusiasm, nonchalance and everything in between. And also sometimes it’s just good to listen to………

Junip – Rope & Summit

José González’ long running band Junip finally got a release for their debut Fields earlier this month. The sweet-voiced Swede is still the main focus, with his expressive picking and vocal brilliantly underpinned by drums and vintage keys. Looking forward to catching these guys at XOYO in London next week.

Nacho Patrol – Africa Space Program

Very little information exists on Nacho Patrol as yet (well, not from googling them anyway), but what is known is that Danny Wolfers, Jimi Helinga and Marc Alberto lead the way in the relatively small field of ‘futuristic-psychedelic-afro-funk’ (TM Essentially Eclectic). This is the delightfully frantic opener to new EP Futuristic Abada. GET IT NOW!

B.B. King – All Over Again (live)

A dip in to music’s lost archives here (of course made possible by the extensive cataloguing of the internet) with a version of B.B King’s All Over Again live on Ralph Gleason’s Jazz Casual from 1968. Over some of the spookiest organ in blues, King strips away all hope with a raw, slow groove and defeated opening verse of

I’ve got a good mind to give up living
And go shopping instead
I say, I’ve got a good mind to give up living
And go shopping instead

To pick up me a tombstone
And be pronounced dead

Big thanks to RM for the heads up on this one…

Still Corners – Don’t Fall In Love

One big tick in the ‘pros’ column of the iPod/shuffle/blog generation is the ease in getting hold of single tracks by bands, the majority of whose output you aren’t a great fan. This is the case with London’s Still Corners, who’s Spector-esque, reverb-drenched productions are a little too much for me. However, Don’t Fall In Love gets it spot-on, and has been the soundtrack to my last couple of months.

Gold Panda – Back Home

A bit more of the great Gold Panda while I wait for his album to be released properly…

That’s your lot. Until next time………

August 21, 2010

Eclectic Mixup 5 – Moonlight Sonatas

Posted in Eclectic Mixup tagged , , , , , , , , , at 1:26 pm by essentiallyeclectic

Does music sound better at night? Yes. And also no. Sometimes. These tracks do…

Mercedes Sosa – Balderrama

A beautiful, much-covered standard from Argentinian folk singer and activist Mercedes Sosa. Also works well soundtracking a flashback following the death of Che Guevara (see Steven Soderbergh’s 2008 biopic Che: A Revolutionary Life).

Pantha du Prince – Im Bann

Slice of added ambience from already ambient techno producer Hendrik Weber, AKA Pantha du Prince. Now working on Rough Trade Records, this is taken from third album Black Noise.

Camille – Lumière

French artist Camille Dalmais (Camille) has an unusual approach to songwriting/recording, inserting her voice in to the rhythmic and harmonic elements of her tracks. like some horrifying cross between Bjork’s Medulla and Bobby Mcferrin. Sounds rubbish, I know. This track taken, from the UK edition of 2005’s Le Fil, tones all that fancy business down a bit.

Jack Peñate – Tonight’s Today (Mickey Moonlight Mix 2)

Multiple Flavour-Of-The-Month winner Jack Peñate has his addictive highlife guitar-led anthem beefed up a bit, de-vocalised, and improved. A bit more at the livelier end of things, but nighttime listening all the same.

Gold Panda – Lonely Owl

Highly eclectic producer Gold Panda has finally emerged from out of his ‘in demand remixer’ box and released some of his own tracks in the form a series of EPs. Lonely Owl is taken from 2009’s Before.

Dengue Fever – Seeing Hands

Another one for the End of the Road crowd here. LA’s Dengue Fever perform a unique mix of psychedelic rock and Cambodian pop, and do it well. This psychotic creeper is from 2008’s Venus on Earth.

The Mgababa Queens – Akulaiwa Esoweto

I know very little about Soweto’s Mgababa Queens, but came across this piece of liquid-gold harmony on a mix by Ted Jahng taken from the brilliant Soul Sides blog (see blog links.)

Washed Out (feat. Caroline Polachek) – You and I

The undisputed king of (washed out) dream pop/chillwave blesses us with more of the same. This time Chairlift’s Caroline Polachek is on hand to add vocals over the warped cassette production.

Little Feat – Two Trains

Lastly just a quick tribute to Little Feat drummer Richie Hayward, who passed away earlier this month. Not strictly nighttime listening, but RIP all the same.