Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Congos - Heart of the Congos

Seminal reggae vocal group The Congos have been around since the early 70's. They are best known for their masterwork 'Heart of the Congos', which was produced by none other than the legendary Lee 'Scratch' Perry.

Completely indispensable and genre defining work here, Lee Scratch Perry's production and use of space adds layer upon layer of intertwining material. Also, these are some of the best reggae tunes ever, these vocal harmonies were forged in the heavens I'm sure. The falsetto and tenor are in perfect harmony, the 'backup' singers constitute names such as The Heptones, Gregory Isaacs and the Meditations to name a few. Hymns for the uninitiated, songs of longing and praise for the wary, and uplifting beyond measure for anyone with functioning ears.

row, fisherman row

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Big Star - Third/Sister Lovers

Big Star, not much to be said about Alex Chilton's Big Star. One of the most influential bands of all time, Big Star served as the prime vehicle for Alex Chilton's music, combining british invasion and american sensibilities and adding a dark, nihilistic sense of despondency to create a very singular brand of pop music, one that predicted oncoming alternative culture by at least a decade or so. Whether it was big, shiny choruses or dirge like balladry, Alex Chilton was a master of it all. This is my favourite album of theirs, Third/Sister Lovers.

A band on the brink of disintegration after commercial failure. A genius and troubled songwriter bares his soul for the world to see. This is the sound of fragility, as honestly as was humanly possible from a pop record in 1974, though it wasn't released for another 4 years due to internal issues. Watch in wonder as the world cracks and falls apart at your feet.

this sounds a bit like goodbye
in a way it is, i guess
as i leave your side
i've taken the air, 
take care, please
take care

you're a wasted face, you're a sad-eyed lie

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Chico Buarque - Construção

Chico Buarque is a legend amongst men. He was born in 1944 in Brazil and was a leading figure in the MPB (musica popular brasileira, or brazilian popular music) movement and wrote a lot of stuff in opposition to the authoritarian regime that was present in Brazil at the time - he was jailed and subsequently exiled from Brazil in 1970, only returning after this album was made. His music features many influences, from western popular music to samba, choro, bossa nova, beat poetry and singer songwriter flourishes. He also worked as a playwright, a screenwriter, a novelist and a poet amongst other things. 

Let me take some time off and write to you guys, the grand total of 10 or 11 people that read this blog. It usually isn't easy writing objective reviews for records you like. What the heck does that even mean anyway? When you listen to something, it affects you subjectively. Trying to objectify said feeling as a stimulus/response situation calls upon describing things from an almost outsider point of view, and then I usually sound jumbled and incoherent, and at worst, scramble for the nearest thesaurus so I'm not repeating the same 4 adjectives in my arsenal over and over again.

So what does a good piece of art in the form of an album mean to me? I don't know. I can't quantify it. It captures certain moments in time and crystallises them as memories and feverish daydreams in my head. There are so many moments in music where for a couple of seconds or so, time just fucking stops. Music at this point transcends the limitations of its definition and goes on to more wonderful things. Let's call it magic.

Kind of an odd example that an album should be both immediately accessible yet at the same time distant, and a huge grower. I attribute most of the distance in this record to my incredibly poor understanding of Portuguese. What is he singing about? I'm not sure I can tell after a couple of listens. Does it matter? I'll get to explaining this in a bit. *

The album is hard because it offers us no hooks, no discernible standout choruses, no instrument that is so ahead of everything else in the mix that it can be separated and dissected. It only offers you a glimpse, which for an idealist like me, is drinking from the chalice of life itself. A world where everything coalesces, where unison of sound is more important than the distinction of it, and a moment where beauty steers your helm to wherever you wish to drive it. And it is an eerie, almost spectral kind of beauty hanging over the bookends of the songs like the best of your memories. They evoke the summery lit of bossa nova, the mellowness and lightheaded feeling of tropicalia, the giddiness of samba, the poetry of a man who has everything to lose and everything to live for, the feeling of a breeze, warm summer air, wine, food, literature, dancing all night. There is something inherently cool with Construcao, how it is arranged, how it's performed. These sounds, they're bustling with excitement and grandeur and yet diffusing within themselves, like a quiet withdrawal and an invoked memory that takes you away for a couple of moments. Frienship, solitude, panic, euphoria, love, despair. These are things we deal with daily, these are things that make us human. This is what Construcao attempts to signify, in my opinion. The human condition, the beauty of it.

So I suppose the grand sensation I am trying to elicit is pleasure. Good music gives us pleasure. Well, Construcao transcends that by just a little bit, it also gives you a peace of mind, when it finally settles in. And whilst the search for pleasure is endless and knows no bounds, I take great comfort in knowing that in my endless search for music that sounds good to my ears, I can always come home. It would not be a stretch to call this the greatest album of the 70's.

*I am not usually a lyrics person, in the sense that where good lyrics usually elevate a song and make it more relevant or visceral (and that's always a good thing); a song with bad lyrics don't necessarily detract from its quality, where I'm concerned. (After all, a lot of good music has really bad lyrics, but whatever, right?). But if you stumble upon this post and happen to be enjoying this album, I implore you to seek out the lyrics and their translations on google. To call Chico a poet is an understatement, the way he plays with words, the way he enunciates, just brilliance on every level imaginable.

deus lhe pague

Sunday, November 20, 2011

New Order - Substance

New Order formed in 1980 after Ian Curtis' suicide which effectively ended Joy Division. Over the years, they would solidify themselves as one of the most successful and influential bands of all time, marrying their post punk beginnings with the upcoming synthpop and alternative dance cultures. This is their singles collection titled Substance; probably the best singles collection I have in my near exhaustive library.

Life affirming euphoric pop music. Just timeless by all means, has about 5 of the best songs of the 80's here.

it's never enough until your HEART STOPS BEATING

Friday, November 11, 2011

Agoria - Balance 016

Influenced by jazz and Detroit techno, Sébastien Devaud aka Agoria is one in a long line of artists to emerge from the French electronic scene. This is his mix, for the brilliant Balance series. 

Honey oozing out of my speakers in 4/4. Worth its weight in megabytes and then some. This is one of the very best mixes I have ever heard 

just as the sun went down