Wednesday, 27 April 2011

101 "favourite" tracks - Nos 11-20

More accurately, 101 tracks by my favourite bands

11. Blonde Redhead, U.F.O.

I first came across Blonde Redhead via the website where they were listed as being similar to early Sonic Youth. This is true, or at least it was then, the band having adopted a far more melodic sound for the last three albums. And while it is true that they did sound virtually identical to early Sonic Youth, I don't see this as a bad thing. As always, I am very taken by the idea of Japanese female vocalists in rocks bands

U.F.O is from the album La Mia Vita Violenta and is one of the albums I got from Soon after, a new album, Misery is a Butterfly, saw a radical departure from the earlier sound. That said, I thought the track Melody was exceptional and I nearly picked that. I do quite like the new style of the band, but I really love the raw, older sound.

I saw Blonde Redhead in concert at the tiny club next door to the Astoria in London on their tour for the Misery album - and very good it was too. Recent bootleg recordings have also contained a track called (We are a real team) Harry and I which I don't think has been recorded and which features a long droning last few minutes which I really like

Alternates: Melody, (We are a real team) Harry and I

12. Boards of Canada, Amo Bishop Roden

I know relatively little about Boards of Canada, other than that they are Scottish duo and there were stories of them living on some sort of commune, or is that someone else.

I have most of their cds, but this is the one outstanding track for me, from their e.p In a beautiful place out in the country. It is a repeating electronic melody made from a really dense sound, coupled with a light rythmn track. No doubt it is the repetition that attracted me - 6:16 of the same repeating loops. Quite beautiful

Years ago, a female radio one DJ (Mary Ann Hobbs perhaps) played a track that she said was called Poppy fields by Boards of Canada. This was quite breathtaking, but I have never been able to find it as a recording. So maybe it wasn't them at all

Alternate: Poppy Fields (if it is by them)

13. Bongwater, Celebrity Compass

What is there to not like about Bongwater - postmodernism meets music. Their crowning glory is their last album before they broke up in acrimony. Strange stories from Ann Magnusson, weird music from Kramer, the overriding obsession with celebrity and fame. And a photo of Ann Magnusson's cleavage on the back of the cd which John Peel famously described as being ok because it was being done in an ironic way.

There are four or five other Bongwater CDs, all of which I have and which also have many fine moments, but none have the internal coherance of this entire cd. I was quite upset when they broke up feeling there was still something great to come from them.

And who can resist a track that starts "Someone gave me a celebrity compass / its just like a regular compass but instead of pointing north, it points the direction of the nearest celebrity / a friend and I used it to find the way to the Zeppelin party".

I saw them once in concert, at the Electric Ballroom in Camden. A very odd show I remember.

Alternates: The Big Sell Out, and perhaps two dozen others from their various albums

14. Boris, Feedbacker

Boris have been the band I have listened to most over the last few years. An amazing body of work, summarized in some sense by the way my ipod describes their tracks as either alternate, metal, drone, doom, ambient, noise, sludge, experimental, stoner rock, metal rock or psychedelic rock - that does just about sum them up I suppose.

Feedbacker has just about all of these in one glorious 35 minute long track. Part 2 is the crux of the piece, Wata's superb wah-wah guitar track getting more and more out of control as the volume is cranked up, but remaining a quite beautiful piece.

Part 4 is just feedback and I once read a comment on it that it was not needed, but without Part 4, Part 5 wouldn't make sense.

I have a DVD of them performing Feedbacker at a concert in New York. Stupendous.

The band I most want to see live

Alternates: Just abandoned, Untitled (from Smile)

15. Bulgarian Voices, Pilentze sings

Another Peel show find after 4AD release Le Mystere des Voix Bulgares. What an odd release that was - something you could not even imagine would exist. Of course you never really know what they are singing about and there is always the suspicion that it might be something really silly rather than the deep and profound spiritual truths that the sound seems to communicate. As Peel said, for all we know, it could be "I am yearning for you, dancing pool, my arms, my arms" But it probably isn't this

Alternates: The Wedding

16. Kate Bush, Get out of my House

From her "mad" cd, The Dreaming, comes this strange, wild and totally out of control track. A huge rythmn pounds away throughout (the joys of the Fairlight?), odd lyrics and an ending featuring donkey noises.

I have always considered this CD her best, though I once read that it only sold about 60,000 copies compared to the 1m+ of the previous albums. That is very possible. I have a vinyl copy signed "To Jonathan, Lots of love, Kate x x x" Why I have this is a secret!

Alternates: A Coral Room, Mrs Bartolozzi, Hello Earth, The Kick Inside, Symphony in Blue, The Infant Kiss, Breathing, The Sensual World, etc

17. Cabaret Voltaire, Three Mantras

I was never a great fan of Cabaret Voltaire, but this is exceptional in my view. A pounding electronic beat, fuzzy amped keyboards, a repeating main motive, indistinct vocals. I first heard it when my friend Jude played it to me at her house one summers day at extreme volume when her parents were out.

I did go and see them a few times in concert as I rather liked the backing films and light show. Best show was at the time of Just Fascination - a more commercial cd and not bad in my view.

18. Calexico, Gero Canelo

Another band I first heard on Peel. Though I have most of their CDs, I have tended to mostly listen to Calexico via live recordings, for which there are a lot in existence. Linda and me saw them at the Zodiac in Oxford a couple of years ago and there were everything I had hoped for.

I just love the Mariachi themes they have incorporated into their music. A few years ago they toured with a full Mariachi band (as per the video of them at the London Barbican).

There are loads of great version of this track live, in contrast to the rather low-key version of it on the Feast of Wire CD. My favourite is from a German radio show where they have several guests including some Maricahi musicians and an amazing female vocalist. It is the final track from the show and is just wonderful

Alternates: Minas de Cobre

19. Can, Oh Yeah

I also tend to listen to Can via live recordings, especially those featuring long improvisations. But Tago Mago, from which this track comes, is perhaps the most improvised of their albums. It is the sort of record that if I don't hear it for a while, I am really stunned by when I do hear it again.

I started listening to Can when I lived in Leytonstone and one of my friends nearby had half a dozen of their records - Steve Cleary had very good taste, also liking The Fall and John Cale's solo albums. But he wasn't keen on this record for some reason, instead prefering Soon over Babaluma, and it was some years later before I heard it.

My favourite live recordings of Can contain some tracks which are long improvisations based on tiny bits of other tracks. I remember one that was about 15 minutes long and based on just 10 or 15 seconds of the track Quantum Physics. Amazing virtuosity.

Alternates: Quantum Physics

20. Captain Beefheart, Big eyed beans from Venus

Another Peel favourite - the only artist who Peel has ever played an album of one track a night for several weeks (Trout Mask replica, of course). A track that often featured in Peel's all-time festive fifty (when he did them) and I always used to think that perhaps he cheated to include it each time, especially when it came 14th one time. But it is most remarkable track

I saw the Magic Band play in Oxford a few years ago - not bad I thought. Their version of this was extremely good (as their live cd showed). I shook Gary Lucas's hand at the end of the set as they finished this track. Never thought I'd ever do that.

Alternate: Moonlight on Vermont

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