Friday, 31 December 2010

Soundway Records & The Sound Of Siam

I used to work with a record producer called Tommy (D). He was a member of the Rough Trade record club (this subscription service where you get sent 5 new-release CDs every month or something) and when a new batch arrived at his studio, I would always have a good root through the pile. One day I chanced upon the original Nigeria Special compilation on Soundway records, and that moment CHANGED MY LIFE*

The subtitle to the CD says it all really. The quality is very consistent throughout, and it's spawned a whole host of further comps, like, err, the disco one and the rock one (which I actually haven't heard yet). My sister's got a bunch of them which I will be stealing very soon.

Since then, i've seen Soundway comps turn up in so many other people's collections too, they seem to be pwning the entire coffee-table afrobeat market (well, that's what it is, isn't it?)... and good for them, their label is awesome.

Anyway, it was with MUCH interest that I listened to their latest, and first Eastern-Hemisphere compilation; The Sound Of Siam, Leftfield Luk Thing, Jazz & Malam in Thailand 1964-1975 (Xmas present- thanks Doreen!). Who would really know what to expect of such a thing? As I put needle to the groove I literally didn't know what was going to come out of the speakers. Well, this did, and it's great:

I love hearing people sing in Thai/Mandarin/Arabic and the like, the microtonality sounds so exotic, and to hear it over the top of western rhythms and rock-band instrumentation is so so, erm, COOL?

I should also briefly mention another comp that I am currently digging, Pomegranates; Persian Pop, Funk and Psych of the 60s and 70s, recently released on Finders Keepers Records (I think that's something to do with über record-nerd Andy Votel). It's a similar thing, funk/jazz backings but this time with Iranian singers doing their thing on top.

Ch-ch-ch-check it out people
* Not strictly true

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Stuff That Was Proper Good This Year Like

In no particular order, here are my favourite musical things of the past year. I'm sure i've forgotten loads. I have linked to the albums (when available) on spotify for those who have accounts. S'funny, some of my choices seem to match up a lot with the general top tens out there. Are there that few good albums out there? Hmmm, I obviously must try harder to be MORE OBSCURE and therefore more HIP...


Connan Mockasin
Please Turn Me Into The Snat (Phantasy)

A super talent quite unlike anyone out there. This is what happens when really technical musicians employ good taste. For those that like Deerhoof

Tory Y Moi
Causers Of This (Carpark)

One of the best beatmakers in the world today, no doubt. Romantic, cosmic, synth-flavoured bangers. Like a much-better version of Flying Lotus

Jamie Lidell
Compass (Warp)

Patchy for sure, but always interesting. Phenomenal production throughout and 'She Needs Me' is one of the best modern soul songs EVER, tongue-in-cheek though it certainly is

Vampire Weekend
Contra (XL Recordings)

Took me a while to warm to this, what with the zeitgeist-y sounds and auto-tune, and liberal use of animal collective type bleeps, but the songs are just way too catchy to ignore

Kanye West
My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (Roc-A-Fella)

An astounding pop record. Takes 20 listens to even scratch the surface. He's a modern day Wagner (not the X Factor one)! And quite obviously a complete c-unit 

Black Keys
Brothers (Nonesuch)

Sonically awesome, by some way their best album. Great songs, huge beats, and some of the very very finest guitar sounds committed to tape this year

Janelle Monae
The Archandroid (Wonderland Arts Society/Bad Boy)

I literally HATED this when it first came out. Six months later the penny drops. A few songs could/should have been cut, but there are more ideas here than most artists have in an entire career

Joanna Newsom
Have One On Me (Drag City)

Astonishingly good. Amazing songs, beautiful Arrangements. The woman is a jay-nius, there's not really much to even say. Like Jimi, Joni, Nick Drake, this is simply untouchable

Sleigh Bells
Treats (N.E.E.T/Columbia)

A sonic assault, an album as much felt as listened to. Some surprisingly tender moments though. Incredibly contrived, but who cares?

Everything Everything
Man Alive (Geffen)

A bit like eating haribo, listening to this is. Tasty as hell at first, but you do get a bit sick of it after a while. 'Schoolin' is awesome though. For fans of XTC and general British whimsy

Mountain Man
Made The Harbor (Bella Union)

This is a gorgeous album. Obviously recorded in a shed somewhere with a shit microphone but nevermind, just listen to those harmonies... swoon. I think I collectively fancy them all

Avi Buffalo
Avi Buffalo (Sub Pop)

Beautifully understated record, but completely self-assured and confident despite this. Reminds me of Fleetwood Mac (not the blues incarnation) in a weird way. Sexy-time music  

Maps & Atlases
Perch Patchwork (Fat Cat)

Slightly miffed that they raided Grizzly Bear's dressing-up box for this album but they get away with it. There's still a bit of the fret-tapping that I know and love

Erykah Badu
New Amerykah Part 2: Return Of The Ankh (Universal Motown)

Not as good as Part One, and sampling Sylvia Striplin's 'You Can't Turn Me Away' is definitely WACK, but it's still brilliant. It's a two-horse race with Monae for most funkadelic album cover of the year too


O.N.E (Mute Records)

I think I read somewhere that this was shit and sounded like The Thompson Twins. Fuck it, it's funkier than a mosquito's tweeter. Just the percussion alone makes my ass shake involuntarily. File with Womack & Womack's 'Teardrops' and Fleetwood Mac's 'Everywhere'


Dirty Projectors with Alarm Will Sound @ The Barbican

Enthralling from start to finish, firstly playing 'The Getty Address' in it's entirety and then stripping down (not literally) to play songs from 'Bitte Orca'. They've never sounded so good

Darwin Deez @ Green Man Festival

Hard to describe really. I'd never heard his music, so didn't know what to expect. So so so so so so much fun, his band are a complete bunch of hipsters but damn do they know how to do a good dance routine. I mean they did an interpretive one to 'Automatic' by The Pointer Sisters for fuck's sake. BRILLIANT

Mountain Man @ St. Giles In The Field Church

I felt like a schoolboy at this. See HERE

Joanna Newsom @ Royal Festival Hall

Flawless. Kind of weird actually to see something so perfect. Tasteful in a good way

Monday, 6 December 2010

François De Roubaix (Free Downloads)

After stumbling upon THIS quite frankly bewildering post on Paul Durango's blog (no me neither), I have become somewhat addicted to the music of French film-composer François De Roubaix.

I first became aware of him after hearing this track on the Dusty Fingers series of compilations:

'Les Dunes D'Ostende' (download in the soundcloud player)

Jeez how good is THAT!?? It's a crazy-rare song released only on 45, which was promoting the release of the 1971 film 'Les Levres Rouge' (or 'Daughters Of Darkness' according to IMDB). I've not seen the film but it sounds like some sort of crazy lesbian vampire type thing.

Wanting to find some more of his music I put  "François de Roubaix blogspot" into google (your surefire way of finding an album/artist available for ILLEGAL DOWNLOAD) and I came across Paul Durango's post, which contains basically everything the man did (he died tragically young at 36 but scored a hell of a lot of films).

In a nutshell his music is really beautiful and strangely modern in a weird retro lounge way. He often worked-in synthesizers and elements of music concrète (i.e sound effects, tape loops) into his classical compositions, alongside traditional french/folk instrumentation. As you hear on 'Les Dunes D'Ostende', he also sometimes would chuck in a fat hip-hop breakbeat too. What's not to like eh?

His work is truly worth investigating... I recommend initially checking out volumes 2 & 3 of the 'Les Plus Belles Musiques de...' series:

So here, courtesy of the amazing Paul Durango and his super blog:

Saturday, 4 December 2010

The Voice behind Soul-Glo

Watched 'Coming To America' for about the gazillionth time yesterday. Remember laughing as a kid to lines like 'Your royal penis is cleaned', but I had forgotten how there are also a lot of VERY funny moments if you're into classic r&b/soul music. I'm talking about pitch-perfect parodies, so good you almost don't realise they're parodies. The sensational Stevie Wonder impression that Eddie Murphy does (as Randy Watson, who goes down like a lead balloon at the 'Black Awareness Day') comes to mind, but really it's all about Soul-Glo.

The soundtrack to the film is by Nile Rodgers (of Chic if you're a disco rookie), and he is actually responsible for recording the Soul-Glo jingle. At the time of the film he was producing the debut album of an unknown singer signed to EMI called Christopher Max. He could obviously sing hella high, and Nile got him in to do the vocal for Soul-Glo. The rest is history

Check the re-appearance of Soul-Glo again, this time when Daryll arrives at McDowells. The MIDI saxophone is basically the greatest thing ever and I can't stop listening to it. Seriously, i'm on the 58th time in a row now.