Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Not One, Not Two but THREE New Mix CDs
That's right. You heard. This is the good news you've been waiting for, to take your mind off the horrible fact that the "person" who "directed" 300 is "adapting" Watchmen (and they're filming it here in Vancouver, natch).

As regular readers know, I usually make a pair of mix CDs for each season of the year - one general, one genre. Didn't get 'round to making any for summer 07, so I decided to go all out for the autumn and make three mixes - one general, two genre. In addition to this comes the unconventional decision to provide partial annotation for said mixes on this here blog.

If you want a copy of one or all of these CDs, just drop me a line and I'll make it happen. If you're an artist who is offended by having one of your songs included on one of these CDs, just drop me a line and I'll make it disappear.

Now, without further ado, let's take a look at some track-listings.

Sam's Mix CD for Autumn 2007
Not too too much to say about this one. It's just a collection of more-or-less-recent, more-or-less-catchy tracks that I've been particularly enjoying in recent months.

The Fall
"Insult Song"
Von Sudenfed
"The Rhinohead"
Shackleton "Hamas Rule"
Roll Deep
"When I'm Here (Chopped and Screwed)"
Trim "They Gave Him An Inch"
Architecture in Helsinki "Heart It Races (DJ Rupture Remix)"
Noriko Tujiko "Gift"
Alog "Son of King"
Ultra Milkmaids "My Personal TV System"
Sonic Youth "Do You Believe in Rapture?"
Sunn0))) and Boris "The Sinking Belle (Blue Sheep)"
Islaja "Suru Li"
Fennesz Sakamoto "Glow"

Hard Rocks if Getting Weirder: Rap in the 90s, Volume Two
The original inspiration for this mix was Simon Reynold's latest collection, Bring the Noise. The book claims to be concerned with "Hip-Hop and Hip-Rock", so I was a little disappointed (though not at all surprised) that it all-but passed over rap music's early-to-mid 90s heyday.

In this context, I found it quite hard to deal with Simon's articles on recent rap music. To be honest, I couldn't even bring myself to finish most of them - and I'm a pretty major Reynolds fan. For me, mainstream rap music simply ended with Jay-Z's "Ain't No Nigga", which seemed to boil 90s hip-hop down to an easy-to-swallow formula, devoid of everything that had made the music challenging and exciting.

I don't even like to say "hip-hop" any more. If yuppie gyms in Vancouver can give exercise classes in "hip-hop dance", then the term is meaningless as a sign of sub-cultural identification. At least the term "rap" is genuinely descriptive. The MCs on this mix can really rap and the hip-hop artists of today really can't.

So, I can't agree with Chris when wheels out the old argument about hip-hop being a cultural entity separate from and superior to mere "rap". Having said that, I totally concur with his statement that mainstream rap is the hair metal of today. Ha!

It's good to laugh. Everything was getting a little negative there. I really should be talking about the fun I had digging up all of these insanely infectious, stridently avant garde gems. See, the other main inspiration for making this mix was my quest to use Solarseek in order to re-aquire all those old rap hits that I used to have on dubbed cassettes.

One thing that struck me was how many of the MP3s I found were ripped from people's 12"s, rather than from CDs. Even many of those that were from CDs came from DJ mixes, hence the supplementary scratches and shout-outs on some of the tracks featured here.

The other thing that struck me was how truly unpleasant this stuff is. Violence, misogyny, homophobia, Social Darwinism... it's all here. Unfortunately, I've always found it impossible to separate the bleak hateful aspects of this music from its ability to be thrilling and life-affirming. I can't explain or justify it but the former seems to feed the latter. I know Simon could explain it for me.

Perhaps my ambivalence about this music is best summed up by the fact that my favourite line on the whole mix is essentially a very clever joke, leading up to a stoopid homophobic punchline. I'll quote it here, in the hope that it provides some insight into the way the things that make this music morally reprehensible are often the same things that make it dazzlingly brilliant.

The line comes from "Contents Under Pressure" by the Alkaholiks and it runs something like: "You Range-Roving, Tommy Hilling, Busting Glocks/While I'm in the studio, busting lyrics in my socks/And the AC is broken, no joking/We've got the rum without the coke in/The fucking DAT machine is smoking/The pizza still ain't here, we outta beer/And I think this muthafuckin' engineer is a queer!" To which, I can only add a shame-faced "Oh dear".

Here's the full track listing...

Ol' Dirty Bastard
"Brooklyn Zoo"
"Investigative Reports"
Capleton and Method Man "Wings of the Morning (Remix)"
Redman and Method Man "How High (LP Version)"
Keith Murray
"Get Lifted"
Busta Rhymes "Woo-Ha!! Got You All in Check"
Smif-N-Wessun "Bucktown"
Black Moon "Reality"
Craig Mack "Flava in Ya Ear"
Blahzay Blahzay "Danger"
Smooth da Hustler "Murdafest"
Nine "Any Emcee"
Brand Nubian
"Word is Bond"
Lost Boyz "Lifestyles of the Rich and Shameless"
Channel Live
"Mad Izm (Original Remix)"
Tha Alkaholiks "Contents Under Pressure"

Time to Find Me: UK Post-Rock Volume Three
Disco Inferno - "The Last Dance"
Of course, I love Disco Inferno's albums and really appreciate the work of those record companies that have kept said album's in print, in spite of massive public indifference. It's a shame, though, that nobody has seen fit to issue a comprehensive singles-and-B-sides compilation because much of DI's best work actually appeared in the form of now-hard-to-find singles and EPs.

"The Last Dance" was a single released in the run-up to DI Go Pop and sees the band on top form. It's their most overtly New Order-influenced moment and one of their finest songs. When the snare drum kicks in three quarters of the way through, it's heart-stopping.

Transformer - "Outdoor Miner"
This Wire song was also covered by Flying Saucer Attack (a B-side from that single actually appeared on the last volume of my post-rock comps). Transformer were, apparently, the "other two" from Disco Inferno. Certainly, this recording is more sonically interesting than anything from DI singer Ian Crause's solo work but I can't vouch for Transformer's songwiting prowess as this is the only thing I've ever heard by them.

Adventures in Stereo - "There Was a Time"
The thing I particularly like about this UK post-rock mix is how un-US post-rock it all is. The original track-listing included a Rothko song that sounded a bit like Tortoise. Obviously, it had to go. The songs that made the cut tend towards either breezy avant-pop or gloomy industrial rock.

This one's from the breezy side, obviously. It's a lo-fi sampledelic confection that may have something to do with an ex-member of Primal Scream. The CD from which it was ripped came to me courtesy of Carl Impostume.

Stereolab - "
I've shied away from including any Stereolab on previous volumes of these post-rock mixes because... well... they're popular. In fact, until I read the Pitchfork article that inspired these mixes in the first place, I'd never really thought of The 'Lab as a post-rock act. I still have my doubts but what the hell - this is a great song.

Snowpony - "
Golden Carriage"
Snowpony have an unfair reputation for being rubbish, mostly based upon that bloke from Tortoise doing a crap production job on their debut album. The lyrics probably don't help, mind you.

Anyway, Snowpony featured ex-members of Stereolab and (gasp!) My Bloody Valentine, they sounded quite a lot like Moonshake and their first two singles were great. This track is a B-side from the first of those singles, "Easy Way Down".

Moonshake -
"Second Hand Clothes"
Speaking of Moonshake, here's the song that got me into post-rock in the first place. One week back in my adolescence, a friend who had satellite TV taped MTV Europe's "alternative" show for me because The Fall were on it. The show also featured the video for "Second Hand Clothes", a song which still sounds raw, unearthly and startlingly original.

"Remember How to Breathe"
A Seefeel spin-off group. Same singer at least, right? Talking of Seefeel...

Seefeel - "Time to Find Me"

As I already mentioned, one of the weird things I've noticed since I finally entered the world of peer-to-peer MP3 sharing is the amount of MP3s out there that have clearly been ripped from vinyl, rather than CDs. I've never heard this song in any other form, so I'm assuming that all the vinyl noise on this MP3 is intentional but who knows?

Anyway, great song from a band who really seem to be getting some respect with the reissue of their excellent debut album Quique. Interestingly, a vinyl copy of Quique recently sold for $90 on eBay.

The Third Eye Foundation - "
Universal Cooler"
Awesome, obscure, GZA-sampling 7" from the Bristol scene. Talking of which...

Movietone - "
We Rode On"
The Bristol post-rock scene (Flying Saucer Attack, Third Eye, AMP) seemed to gain more of a foothold in North America than the south-eastern scene did. The album from which this Movietone track is taken (The Sand and the Stars) even came out on Drag City. Perhaps the more modest agenda of the Bristol bands was easier for American indie-rockers to swallow than the strident futurism of Disco Inferno et al.

Papa Sprain - "
Flying to Vegas"
Papa Sprain were proteges of AR Kane and friends of Butterfly child. They were simply too willfully odd to survive and never got around to releasing a full-length album (allegedly they presented their understandably non-plussed label with a tape of someone reading Ullyses, backed by free-form guitar feedback). This EP title track sees the band in pop mode, sounding like a cross between Lloyd Cole and the Butthole Surfers. In a good way.

Spoonfed Hybrid - "
Naturally Occurring Anchors"
Talking of people who were too willfully odd to survive.
Ian Masters was the original front-person of superior shoe-gazing outfit Pale Saints. From what I can tell, he got ejected from his own band for being an awkward bastard. In his subsequent project, Spoonfed Hybrid, he was free to pursue his vision - a weird mixture of new-age balm and willful oddness.

Bark Psychosis - "
I Know"
You can't have a UK post-rock mix without any Bark Psychosis. Simple as that.

Scorn - "White Irises Blind"
The importance of Napalm Death to the UK post-rock scene is a source of endless puzzlement for me. Bark Psychosis, for instance, started out as a Napalm Death covers band!

Colossus, by Scorn - aka ex-ND drummer Mick Harris - is probably the most logical bridge between grindcore and post-rock. It's as doomy as it is groovy - sounding not unlike Skinny Puppy in dub - and while it isn't a patch on Harris' masterwork Evanescence, it certainly has its moments - as this track attests.

Terminal Cheesecake - "Oily Hot Knife"
Don't be put off by the ban name. These Kevin Martin-affiliated industrial types had something pretty interesting going on. Another Carl Impostume pick.

Main - "
There is Only Light"
I only just figured out that Robert Hampson didn't go straight from playing gothy trance-rock in Loop to producing spartan ambient drones in Main. In fact, the early Main records show a real continuity with the best of Loop's work and are utterly unique in their own right. "There is Only Light" is the lead track from the Hydra Calm EP but for the full experience, seek out the titanic three 12" set Motion Pool.

Hair and Skin Trading Company - "
These guys were the "other two" from Loop. "*" is goth-dub of the first order - kind of like a more organic Scorn.

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