June 24, 2008

Summer Jamz ’08 #2: State of the Union, Jack

Two former Stylus Magazine compatriots, Exeter UK’s Nick Southall (also of The Guardian and Paper Thin Walls) and Oakland’s Mike Orme (also of Pitchfork Media), celebrate the summer by splitting halves of a mix CD, each trying to fill their side with songs the other writer would put on a summer mix. In the process, they hope to reconcile musical tastes separated by the sides of a record, not to mention the Atlantic Ocean. While they’re at it, they might get around to revisiting the whole the 49th parallel issue and whether “chuffed” is a positive or a negative.

Each Summer Jam is proudly co-hosted with Screw Rock N’ Roll and What Was it Anyway.

Side One: Mike orme’s summer dance bum-out!!!
(As chosen by mister nick Southall, esquire)
01. Guillemots – she’s evil
02. The field – a paw in my face
03. Four tet – ribbons
04. Von südenfed – the rhinohead
05. Vitalic – la rock 01
06. Studio / kylie – 2 hearts
07. Lcd soundsystem – Hippie priest bum-out
08. Young gods – strangel
09. Akufen – jeep sex

Why the hell did I suggest picking tracks in the manner of each other? I’ve never really spoken to Mister Orme and he’s a) not been around the Stylus ragtag band for all that long, and b) tastefully eclectic enough not to be able to be pigeonholed into easy mimicry. Potentially hoist by my own potato, I decide to go with a theme; many of Mister Orme’s favourites from the last two years show a fondness for supremely stylish, textured dance music with an alternative bent… and so the SUMMER DANCE BUM-OUT is born…

Things start out kind of weird with an odd number drawn from the semi-rare Guillemots “Of The Night EP”, wherein the finest purveyors of indie-jazz-pop suddenly go all LCD Soundsystem on us and get freaky with the fuzz-bass and 4/4 beats – it’s something to do with the guitarist, I think. I doubt Mike has this track, but I expect he’d like it.

Then we take a turn for the familiar with The Field’s exquisite “A Paw In My Face”, one of Mister Orme’s favourite tracks from last year, and one of mine too; it’s doubly apposite at the moment, because my kitten is mental. And I’m getting another soon. WHY?!
Now for a foray into the uber-new, with the second track off Kieron Hebdon’s latest EP, “Ringer”, which sees him largely ditching the folktronica tag of his previous work and going all 90s techno on us, sort of. What Mike’s digging right now I’m not sure, but this should certainly be involved somewhere.

Mark E Smith and Mouse On Mars, in their guise as Von Südenfed, step up next, with the exquisite Motown-gone-big-beat dancepop of “The Rhinohead”; I’ve not seen Mike mention this collaboration anywhere, but it surely MUST be up his street?
Next to my favourite house / dance / wtf tune of a few years ago, and Vitalic’s exquisite “La Rock 01”; released before Mike was on-staff here, I can’t imagine he’d be anything less than into this.

Likewise this Kylie remix by Studio from Yearbook 2; I know Mike was chuffed with Yearbook 1 last year, and Studio continue to wow with their Balearic postpunk disco. Or something.

Next the title track for this side of our collaborative mixtape, which I picked up on the CD release of 45:33. Minimal by Murphy’s standards, this is nonetheless classy, just like Mike’s dapper pink slacks on his Facebook profile picture.

And finally we get the insane “Strangel” by Young Gods. Does Mike like deranged Scandinavian sampledelic dance-metal? Fuck knows, but that’s an awesome riff and beat…

[MO note: In true music nerd fashion, Nick added a track to the end of his mix after he sent me his side and his write-up. The ninth track on “Mike Orme’s summer dance bum-out!!!” is “Jeep Sex” by Akufen, a Montreal based microhouse-ish artist who is known as Marc Leclair by day. This lovely track utilizes a number of punchy samples to drive the beat, with strings, an R&B crooner, pianos, and funk guitar each from separate samples, seemingly contributing one note apiece to the groove’s melody. I always love this kind of sampling wherein the cuts between samples provide as much percussion as the beat itself. Nice work, Sick Mouthy!]

Side Two: Nick Southall’s June Evenings

(As chosen by Mike “Freedom Fries” Orme)

10. Battles – Race In

11. Patrick Wolf – Accident & Emergency
12. The Chap – Surgery
13. Air France – June Evenings
14. Fennesz Feat. David Sylvian – Transit
15. Brian Eno – Another Green World
16. My Bloody Valentine – You Made Me Realise
17. M83 – Dark Moves of Love
18. Phoenix – Definitive Breaks

I’ve always respected Nick Southall’s writing and his uniquely acerbic take on music and listening. In his Stylus articles, Nick always attempted to elucidate the struggle between the intangible pleasures of pop music and the corporeal concerns of actually listening to it. Nick is an audiophile and his Stylus Magazine writings, including the Da Capo-honored Imperfect Sound Forever, chronicle his quest to save the world one pure audio signal at a time.

Anyone familiar with my tastes, which sometimes run into the overdriven worlds of noisy, electronic fuzz, might think that Nick and I wouldn’t get along musically; however, Nick’s collection of favored records intersects with mine at some significant vectors. I’ve attempted to explicate those cross-references by mixing together a couple nice tracks Nick might select to accompany him on one of these serene June evenings.

We begin with “Race In” by New York math rock group Battles. I’ve always thought of this group (and this opener to their album Mirrored in particular) as a mutated synthesis of Discipline-era King Crimson and the choral German 60s pop chronicled on the In-Kraut series. Nick called Mirrored his tenth-favorite “postrock” album of all time in a Stylus Top Ten which explored the meaning of that nebulous genre, and I wholeheartedly agree that their progressive, meandering pixie jazz inhabits the post-rock style just as thoroughly as their more tranquil counterparts.If Nick suspected from the Battles selection that I’d be trotting out his obvious favorites, he’d be right!

Next is “Accident & Emergency” by Patrick Wolf, one of Nick’s favourite artists. (Note: I love that this Microsoft Word document, in which I am appending my humble liner notes to Nick’s descriptions, automagically added the “u” to my boorish American “favorite”) I’m always a sucker for cut-up vocals and wonky, sequencer-driven synthesizer counterpoints, but to be honest I didn’t really get into Patrick Wolf until last year’s The Magic Position, on which this cut appears.

I like to think that the London-based pop group the Chap has a bit in common with Wolf’s flamboyant and subversive personality, and soI’m veering away from Nick’s canon with “Surgery” from the Chap’s recent release Mega Breakfast. The track is a sedate anthem, recalling Skylarking-era XTC, but as with all Chap recordings, there’s a curious DIY aesthetic to their electronic production, like they got their drum machine at a liquor store for ten quid. I’m sure Nick would enjoy the Chap’s heavy-handed but marvellously fun lesson in popposition.Nick might be unfamiliar with the next cut, “June Evenings,” as well, but seeing as how we share a love for Swedish group Studio and the recent Balearic rock movement, I’m sure he would quickly glom onto this track off Air France’s recent EP No Way Down.

Air France also hail from Studio’s hometown of Gothenburg and also indulge in the beach-loving synthesis of disco beats, Krautrock’s motorik rhythms, and Manuel Göttsching’s funky techno guitar.As this evening mix progresses, the pace slows down considerably with “Transit” off prepared guitar technician Fennesz’s 2004 album Venice. This reflective cut features David Sylvian’s baritone and lyrics concerning the memory of European travels as a vehicle for explaining a sense of loss. This collaboration came on the heels of Sylvian’s 2003 starkly-composed solo album Blemish, recorded as his marriage was coming to an end, and put a coda to that brooding, experimental period in his career.

Nick and I may agree most heartily on the radiance of Brian Eno’s last two solo albums, Another Green World and Before and After Science, before the commonly accepted beginning of his “ambient” period. Next up is the title track from the former, a short, repeated guitar and organ figure that fades in and out in the space of little over ninety seconds. It’s one of my favourite transitions in the whole of popular music.

The pace picks up a bit with “You Made Me Realise” by My Bloody Valentine, an unexpected beloved of Southall. One of the group’s relatively early recordings, the track appears on their first Creation Records EP. This recorded version fails to capture the band’s crushing live performances of the song, in which MBV often extends the chaotic “bridge” (consisting of one pounded, noisy chord) for fifteen or twenty minutes before returning to the closing chorus.I may be accused of heavy-handedness by transitioning from My Bloody Valentine directly into M83, so I beg the forgiveness of both Nick and the readers.

“Dark Moves of Love” is a penultimate track (off their new album Saturdays=Youth), a sequencing position I hold dear to my heart. Although M83 mastermind Anthony Gonzales has nudged his project in an airy and nostalgic (though no less salient) direction, this track is classic Dead Cities M83. It’s basically a three-minute chorus of guitars and female vocals that repeats an abstract and insistent message of reconciliation across great times and distances, building to a climax marked by a simple five-second drum fill. Then, it all fades down into an oceanic synthesizer hum, which I’ve transitioned into…

“Definitive Breaks” by Parisian quartet Phoenix closes their 2000 debut United, an album whose blue-eyed synthpop has been praised by both Nick and myself. My relationship with the group began during a period living in Japan, during which time I would frequent a Kyoto club called “Metro” located in a subway station just off the Kamogawa river. The DJ at the Tuesday 80s night played United’s second track “Too Young” one fateful evening and that was it. Ill-advised Zima hangover be damned, I rushed to the Tower the next morning, picked up United, and never let go. I thought I was keying in on something elemental, something special. And then Sofia Friggin’ Coppola had to go and use the song to give Bob and Charlotte the same revelatory clubgoing context in Lost in Translation a year later.

More summer:

Summer Jamz ’08 #1: Compiled by Alfred Soto and Dan Weiss

We rely on your support to keep POW alive. Please take a second to donate on Patreon!