One of my favourite podcasts, Sound Opinions, put out a repeat of their ‘Grand Slam’ episode this week that got me thinking. Apparently, a grand slam in baseball is when there are people on all three bases and the batsman hits a home run, meaning that a maximum four points is scored (I’m sure that that description sounds like an American explaining LBW!).
So, the challenge is to think of an artist/band that made FOUR great albums in a row. Sound Opinions went for Stevie Wonder, Led Zeppelin, Sleater-Kinney, Blur, XTC, Husher Du and the Velvet Underground.
It’s more difficult than it sounds, but I think I’ll choose Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy and Smog. Two similar artists who were both on an amazing creative roll at around the same time.
For BPB, from 1999’s “I See a Darkness” debut through to 2006’s “The Letting Go” (with a load of collaborations and aliases in between) is four albums of near perfection, peaking with “Master and Everyone” in the middle.
Smog took a bit longer to warm up and had already released several albums/mini-albums before his first masterpiece “Knock Knock” in 1999 through to “Supper” in 2003, again peaking in the middle with “Dongs of Sevotion”.
Well, that’s my pick (for now!), any other Grand Slam suggestions?
When I was young we were a struggling single-parent, four-child family and every Easter and summer we had foreign students staying at the house to give my Mum a bit of extra money.
One year, when I was about twelve or thirteen we had a German student (they were usually German) that claimed he was a famous musician in his native Germany. I have a very vague memory of him bringing a tape downstairs and playing it in the living room for everyone and I remember that it sounded really electronic and a bit weird and had the repeated line in English “Time operator, I operate the time”.
I’ve carried this refrain in my head for the last 25 or 26 years without discussing it with anyone, giving it a second thought or properly knowing where it came from or whether it was a real song at all. I was sitting at my desk today searching for creative inspiration when the line popped back into my head, “Time operator, I operate the time”. So, I Googled the line on impulse and there it was: 1998, Germany, band called OFF (Organisation For Fun) featuring the godfather of 90s Teutonic techno, Sven Väth and two producers (Luca Anzilotti & Michael Münzing) who went on to revolutionise UK dance music by producing SNAP!
Wow! Had we unwittingly hosted the future of European dance music in our overcrowded suburban enclave? I immediately e-mailed my Mum to see if she remembers any German students called Sven, Luca or Michael. She was online and came back with an instant……….”Definitely no Sven or Luca, maybe a Michael, but I don’t think so”.
Oh, well…..perhaps our guest had an overactive imagination or was just trying to impress an impressionable 12 year-old English boy just beginning to become obsessed with music. But, I still like to think there’s a small chance that that summer we may have played host to the future!
Noise fans rejoice! After a long hiatus, Lightning Bolt are back with a new album. Personally I’m super excited about this – apparently it’s the first time in their 20-year history that they recorded at a proper studio.
As you can hear, this has resulted in a crystal clear, delicate sound!
Last week I had a research paper/book chapter thing to write, so I took the week off work, set up a desk by the window in the warmest room in the house overlooking the garden, and settled down to work. For someone like me who spends most of the day out of the house, has a young family and a partner not terribly au fait with the concept of compromise (not to mention taste in music on the slightly noisy side) this opportunity to be by myself and listen to whatever the hell I wanted to all day for a week was a very rare and precious thing indeed.
Over the course of the week I listened to about 50 of my own records and despite the mental taxations of the task in hand had one of the most enjoyable weeks in a long long time.
Finding even more time to myself to put it all together to make a podcast was pretty impossible, so I enlisted Panthercub as my official selector and made a fun game of it on a rainy afternoon. It ended up completely different to what I had in mind (I was thinking more noise and less electronica), but there you go, it was out of my hands!
ALL NEW PODCAST – Enjoy!
Henry Plotnik – Blue Fourteen
Thirteen is a funny age. For me it was a kind of limbo. The childhood indulgences that had pre-occupied me all the way back when I was 12, such as whose scientific calculator was the most scientific or whose waterproof watch was the most waterproof were long gone and the heady days of smoking fags, listening to music and hanging out with girls that came when I was 14 still seemed a world away. I’m not sure what I was doing when I was 13, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t crafting exquisitely textured experimental minimalist soundscapes and releasing them on cool, underground DIY cassette labels. Henry Plotnick is only 13, but is already on his second album and his music is just amazing. As far as I know, he just uses a keyboard with a loop pedal, but the result is a whole album of beautiful, dense, textured minimalist genius that unfolds in waves of perfectly composed sound.
Now for a small confession: I only heard this album for the first time yesterday (hence the joint number 2s)! I may well regret making it my Album of the Year in a few weeks time, but right at this very second it sounds to me like the most amazing record I’ve heard all year and isn’t that what being a music (or football, or whatever) fan is all about? Just being so bowled over by something that it distorts your judgement and causes well-educated, grown adults to make wild unsubstantiated proclamations about things at a drop of a hat?
Merry Christmas Spillers – I’m off to drink some hot sake and listen to Blue Fourteen for the fifth time in almost as many hours!
Aphex Twin – Syro
I have to admit that I bought into the hype and got pretty excited about the prospect of a new Aphex Twin record. I dismissesd the negative reviews whose only criticism seemed to be that it sounded like Aphex Twin and used up some of my very very limited record budget for the year. And I was not disappointed. I love everything about this record, from the stylish itemised bill of the cover art (Mmmm…triple viny) to the ridiculous elbow-leaning-on-the-computer-keyboard track titles, to the playfulnesss and variety of the music on it. Yes, it does sound like Aphex Twin – magnificently so. It’s one album that I can come back to again and again and find something new. An instant classic in my book.
Scott Walker & Sunn O))) – Soused
First off, I should say that I know nothing at all about Scott Walker. I’ve never heard any of those old highly-revered albums or any of his more recent avant-garde stuff, I don’t think i’ve ever knowingly heard him at all. I don’t know if this is what he usually sounds like, but his voice, a deep, operatic, mournful wail on this record, took a bit of getting used at first. But, with Sunn O)))’s familiar resonant bass tones and slightly rockier-than-usual backing these epic, dark, often unsettling tracks soon burrowed themselves into my consciousness and stayed there for days on end. A late-night dark night of the soul contemplation record for those with particularly dark souls.
Run the Jewels – Run the Jewels 2
This years’ ridiculously good free hip-hop album (Chance the Rapper’s “AcidRap” was 2013’s) is the perfect combination of Killer Mike’s aggressive socially aware, in-your-face rapid fire raps and El-P’s innovative beats. I only got this a month or so ago after hearing one track from it on a podcast, but have been listening to it pretty constantly since.
Here’s one track to sample or get the whole thing for free HERE