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Wednesday, February 02, 2005
Surfing on a Rocket
Electronica is great night music. It's good for seduction, it's good for altered states, it's good for dancing, and it's even good for studying. It can be avant garde or easy listening. It has occasional kinship with Space Rock, yesterday's focus.
No long preamble today, we'll just get to the random playlist.
Genre tags set to 'electronica'. Randomly generated playlist from 152 titles, Jam Tags, 1-5 stars follow:
1. Air: Mike Mills *****
Breathtakingly beautiful instrumental from Air, who hail from France (you may know their "Surfing on a Rocket" from a car ad, I forget which one). Titled after R.E.M.'s bassist, one of the most melodic bassists in history. True to its namesake, this is a glorious melody, in delicious minor keys. Warm and inviting, anyone who thinks they could never like something as cold as electronic music owes it to themself to listen to this elegiac beauty.
2. Massive Attack: Bumper Ball Dub [Karmacoma] ****
Very slow dub, and electronic King Tubby type feel to it. Great audio-hallucinatory echo effects. Drums 'n' bass, that's what lies at the heart of Massive Attack. With sprinkled in washes that dissolve into particles dusted on top. You can definately get hot and heavy if this is on in the background.
3. Moby: Porcelein *****
Moby became a sensation in America unlike a lot of his contemporaries because his music always manages to convey just the right amount of warmth, without getting overly technocratic, and knowing a good melody when he samples one. And good sources; the old 78's he mines for just a note here, a note there have things to say melodically and ambiently. Porcelein is a gorgeous ripple of music.
4. The Postal Service: Give Up ***
This has a sound vaguely reminiscent of the gentler New Romantics, a demerit, but the sparse production and some tasteful guitar that reminds me a little of Dream Academy save it. The drum machine is pretty chilly. I've heard these guys -a supergroup of sorts of indie and electronica names- are good, but this is all I've heard so far. I've got more; I'll let you know next time they come up in a playlist.
5. Zero 7: Speed Dial No. 2 ***
More unobtrusive ambient make out music that rewards closer listening. Zero 7 have better tracks than this one, but this has their main ingredients; sinewy bass, real-sounding drums over inventive layers of melodic and atmospheric electronics. Enchanting Sia Furler on wistful vocal.
6. Death In Vegas: Death Threat *****
This opens with a high frequency tone manipulated to sound like a police siren. Aggressive staccato bass and drums kick in, and some crunchy, distorted guitar wallops join them. Then the vocals, which sound like they're recorded through a megaphone. start ordering "Destroy Command Systems" Then they get into a groove, with disembodied female backing vocals buried and altered low in the mix. And it just keeps getting better. Death In Vegas are on my A list. Scary shit, and should appeal to rock fans into sonics and dance fans into nightmare ambience.
7. Bjork: All Neon Like ***
Little did anyone know when Bjork's old band the Sugarcubes had a minor hit in America quite how big she'd become in the electronica world. That said; she's an acquired taste. Part of it has to do with the alien Icelandic sound, which grows more compelling the deeper you listen. The other part are her blurty, exclamatory, minor-key singing which takes some getting used to, too. Not easy listening, but woth the challenge. Interesting tempo shifts.
8. Death In Vegas: Scorpio Rising (Polyphonic Spree Remix) *****
Random play picked Death In Vegas twice, although the auteurs of this version is Polyphonic Spree, who give the original a complete stripping down, removing all instrumentation and leaving only Liam Gallagher's vocal. They then rebuild the whole thing as a lush, baroque piece of dream pop with synthesized orchestra and sunshine-pop background vocals, setting into contrasting relief the snarling vocal. As lovely as an ice-cream castle, but ugly-pretty, too. The cover art for the CD single from which this is taken is rare; I had to hunt for it.
9. Fatboy Slim: Sunset (Bird of Prey) ****
Jim Morrison sampled into snippits and run through echo and reconstructed over a mounting techno dance beat. Then the beats per second rev up in and ecstacy rush and we break into a good almost Eurodisco groove, with shifting sonic texture. Works best on a dancefloor, but it got me tapping my feet and bobbing my head at my desk.
10. The Orb: Little Fluffy Clouds [The Dance Mk 2 Mix] ****
This opens with a mundane voice snippet telling a story about clouds which morphs magically into the rhythm track itself. We get a good mid 90's techno groove going, and the voice snippet is layered back in differing contexts, but still providing the essential rhythm. Head music for dancers; what ecstasy was designed for.
All That You Can't Leave Behind
You'll get a twofer from Freeway Jam tonight; a playlist will come later (probably around midnight California).
But first, in the news:
U2's Edge is fighting an Irish newspaper in court over its report of a relative's serious illness that forced the Irish rock band to delay the start of their Vertigo tour.
The tour was scheduled to begin in Miami on March 1, but has been moved back to March 28 in San Diego.
No sense sticking our nose into the Edge's personal business here at Freeway Jam. Just keeping track of rock stars in poor health is a full-time profession, let alone their relatives.
But it did remind me of a question I haven't been able to answer (and if you can answer it, post the answer!)
Is there any active band who has had their lineup remain intact longer than U2? U2's first release, Boy, came out in 1980, with Bono, the Edge, Larry Mullen, and Andrew Clayton, still in their teens, on it.
25 years later they're still out there, same band in blood, if not sound.
25 years is a long time for young men with egos to grow into rich middle-aged men with egos. Few bands have such loyalty or fortitude or whatever it takes.
Is there a band that has remained working regularly without lineup changes since 1979 or earlier?
It can't be a band that reunites after 20 years of inactivity like the Sex Pistols.
A band that had lineup changes prior to 1980, but remained stable after that would be OK. Closest I could think of is Uriah Heep, who had something like 20 members in its first 15 years, but has had the same lineup since '86. Still, U2 beats them.
We're talking rock here, so jazz doesn't count. Sorry; we'll get to jazz soon.
A band like Cheap Trick, who changed lineups in the early 80's, but went back to the original lineup after a couple of years and spent more years together than U2 doesn't count, because they aren't consecutive.
If nobody does beat U2, it is a helluva credit to them, deserving of respect.
Jam Tag (1-5 stars)
U2: Vertigo ****