Thursday, March 01, 2007

iPod rundown - 03/01/07

1. Paul Bley - "Ida Lupino": I've talked about Bley before. This track is gorgeous, one of my favorite jazz recordings of all time, from the classic Open, To Love. I have two other Bley cds that also feature versions of this Carla Bley composition: Closer, released on ESP, and Ramblin', on BYG Actuel. Both of those versions are shorter and faster than this one. Here, you can almost hear Bley thinking as he improvises.

2. Pere Ubu - "A Day Such as This": Song of the Bailing Man was Pere Ubu's fifth album, the last of the original run (the "historical" era, as David Thomas puts it). Gone are the Chuck Berry riffs of guitarist Tom Herman, replaced by the more angular work of the Red Krayola's Mayo Thompson. And for this album only, Anton Fier appears on drums and other percussion. At more than 7 minutes, this song is unusually long for Ubu. It's a mid-tempo track, with a repeating percussion cycle for most of the song, and marimba. Halfway through, it speeds up, almost rocks, but not quite, before returning to the pattern set by the beginning.

3. Matmos - "Rag for William Burroughs": The longest track (13+ minutes) from my favorite album of last year and Matmos' best. It opens with some pleasant, melodic piano (backed by interesting electronics), interrupted at 1:55 by the sound of a gunshot, followed by keys opening a door, and the sound of a typewriter (backed by an insistent buzzing), then two typewriters. The typewriters devolve into a clicking rhythm. Then at the 4:15 (or so) mark begins 7 minutes of a very entertaining electronic rag. Very cool.

4. Charalambides - "I Don't Know What To Sing": This track is just over a minute long, and there's not much I can say about it. Some fuzzy guitar, voice. In general, I like Charalambides' brand of Texas psychedelic music, but this song wouldn't tell you much about what they do. It's more of sketch, really. From the reissue of Our Bed Is Green.

5. Pere Ubu - "Big Ed's Used Farms": Oddly, this is also from Song of the Bailing Man. It's a faster song, and half as long. David Thomas' frenetic vocals are more in evidence here.

6. Van Der Graaf Generator - "My Room (Waiting for Wonderland)": It was Simon Reynolds' book, Rip It Up and Start Again, that led me to Van Der Graaf Generator (John Lydon was apparently a big fan), a group that had previously only been on the periphery of my awareness. I have so far picked up one album, Still Life. Peter Hammill's dramatic vocals take a little getting used to, and I'm still getting used to them (sort of like Scott Walker, for me, in this respect). This particular song is lovely and mellow (and also more than 7 minutes long). Mostly keyboards, with a beautiful sax throughout.

7. Bob Dylan - "Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts": Blood on the Tracks is one of my favorite Dylan albums (we're always going out on a limb here at The Existence Machine), but for years I took little notice of this song. Lately I've come to like it, too, even if I couldn't say with confidence what it's about. Some nice local images though.

8. The Go-Betweens - "The House That Jack Kerouac Built": Years ago I bought two Go-Betweens albums (Spring Hill Fair and Tallulah) after reading about them in one of those music guide books, but I didn't give them fair listens until recently, partly inspired by this Parlando post. I'm still absorbing the albums, but I like them. Catchy, literate, guitar pop.

9. Uncle Dave Macon - "Wreck of the Tennessee Gravy Train": Perhaps like a lot of people, I bought the cd reissue of the famous Anthology of American Folk Music, assembled by Harry Smith, expecting it to be interesting more for historical purposes than for listening pleasure. I was very pleasantly surprised by how much I like a lot of the music for its own sake. The original set contained three volumes, but Smith had apparently intended for there to be a fourth, and even had a songlist ready for one. John Fahey's Revenant label finally released it a few years ago as Harry Smith's Anthology of American Folk Music, Vol. 4. It includes this Uncle Dave Macon song. Macon is one of my favorite artists on these anthologies (along with the Carter Family and Dock Boggs, among others). A lot of the songs featured touched on topics of the day (the Titanic, the Mississippi flood of 1927, definitely life in the Great Depression, etc.) but some, such as Macon's, are more explicitly political. A sample lyric: "some lay it all on parties, some lay it on others you see, but now that you can plainly see what happened to Tennessee/for the engineer pulled the throttle, conductor rang the bell, the brakeman hollered 'all aboard' and the banks all went to hell". I wouldn't mind finding a collection of Macon's music.

10. Fiona Apple - "Please Please Please": A fine song from Extraordinary Machine, an excellent pop album.

11. June of 44 - "Take it with a Grain of Salt": June of 44 was already more or less dead by the time I found them (one day I'll write about how I ended up sifting through the wreckage of various kinds of already-happened music), and I guess the indie kids have moved on from this kind of thing, but I like it. Ascetically recorded post-Slint math-rock (wheeee!), complete with dramatic yet barely decipherable spoken vocals. I described them earlier as a "music of possibility". I think I meant that they seemed transitional, like they and their ilk were on their way to some future kind of rock, but which never quite happened. Which sounds semi-dismissive, like I don't get actual pleasure from listening to them. But I do. This song is on their first album, Engine Takes to Water.

12. Pavement - "Summer Babe (Winter Version)": Now that I've finally listened to the Fall, I can hear why Pavement got compared to them, especially circa Slanted & Enchanted. This is the first song from that album, an album that continues to get better every time I hear it. Malkmus has always reminded me of Lou Reed on this song.

13. Radiohead - "Motion Picture Soundtrack": This is the quiet closing track on Kid A. By now, after some of the dust has settled, it seems clear to me that Kid A and especially Amnesiac are far and away the best of Radiohead's albums. OK Computer, which I played constantly for years, and loved, now sounds quaint to my ears, and I never got into The Bends. The debut Pablo Honey was always sort of crap, "Creep" aside, and I've had the hardest time giving a fig about their more recent Hail to the Thief.

14. Fleetwood Mac - "Not That Funny": A Lindsey Buckingham song from Tusk. Tusk was famously underrated at the time, but it has since become more recognized for what it is, an excellent and diverse collection of pop songs. Fleetwood Mac's White Album. Inspired, I guess, by the energy of punk, Lindsey's songs are all short and seemingly more minimal than his contributions to either Fleetwood Mac or Rumours.

15. Einsturzende Neubauten - "Schwindel": Haus der Lüge is the only Neubauten record I have; I like it, but haven't made the effort to track down any of their other numerous albums. This track is fairly typical of the album: lots of clanging metal, occasional German vocals.


Scraps said...

I am nearly alone, so far as I can tell, in Song of the Bailing Man being my favorite Pere Ubu album. For no reason I have seen given, the cd box reissue omits "Use of a Dog".

If I recall correctly, a version of "A Day Such as This" turns up on Winter Comes Home (the disowned Pedestrians-era album).

I meant to mention this when you mentioned Thomas's non-Ubu stuff: I loved all of it when it came out, and was distressed when I picked up the cd box and found that the albums had been drenched with new synth lines. I'm not a purist, and of course Thomas has the right to do what he wants with his music, but I loved the simplicity of the original albums, and wish they were available on cd as they were.

Richard said...

Yeah, you had mentioned the modified Thomas solo albums some time ago. I was thinking of this when I was listening to some of that stuff recently. When you say that "albums had been drenched with new synth lines" do you mean all of them have been so modified? I'm asking because I was unable to detect anything that sounded like it didn't belong; so if Thomas modified them years after the fact, he did a seamless job of it. Regardless, I'd be annoyed, too, if I'd been familiar with the original releases.

Anonymous said...

Tusk is a great album. Thought to put a fine point on the Mac, the first album is always referred to as the White Album, more so for its cover. Tusk has more in common with Lindsey's then New Wave/Punk sensibilities.

The live version of this particular sound is one of their best. Paired with Im So Afraid, the Mac - in concert, hardly comes off as softrock.

It is a shame that because of their mainstream success and popular hits, that Mac are not recognized along the rock fronts like they should be. Linsey is a brilliant guitar player.

Richard said...

I agree that Lindsey is a brilliant guitar player, and much overlooked as such. (And that live album is great!) And I also agree that his songs on Tusk don't actually have much in common with New Wave/Punk sensibilities, just that he was inspired by the energy.

I've never heard Fleetwood Mac referred to as the White Album, but I'll take your word for it. In saying that about Tusk, I was referring more to the "double-album full of stylistically diverse songs" aspect...

Scraps said...

It's been a long time since I owned the set, and I'm not sure I even got far enough through it to know if it had been done to all the albums. I know that Variations on a Theme and More Places Forever were particular favorites of mine on vinyl, so I strongly suspect those two albums were altered, at least.

Anonymous said...

don't know how else to say this... but i've been listening to can since 14 (24 now) and i finally made something i think is good enough. and i figured you might dig it.

it's here:

remixes of the streets, marvin gaye, mos def, b-52's, cocteau twins, more

hope you like it


The "Eardrums shall fail" blog said:

"Remixing is raised to art status when you give new life to music, any type of music. To see potential in a boring cut, to push the envelope all the way to different galaxies, to let your mind wander where the original intention left off - all this presumes passion and marquees lighting up over your head as opposed to a mere lightbulb. A writer, most of the time, is a passionate reader first and a remixer of words second. Tago-Mago does that with music. I may not like each and every track but that would be a strange and new feeling anyway. Rarely have I heard a reinvention of music I was, or thought I was, familiar with, in such unexpected ways. His major influence is Can, and the mixes are inspired by a variety of hip hop and electronica artists."

Scraps said...

For a guy who doesn't know how to say this, you managed to say it exactly the same way on my weblog, too.