Category: Art Rock


Welcome to the first proper post of 2017. Some people reading the blog last year may have noticed that I tried to review more music by women, in fact I was trying to strike a 50-50 balance between the music I reviewed that was by men and music that I reviewed that was by women. I managed to get that balance. This year and beyond I want to try and achieve that balance in my own music collection. I know that I may never reach a 50-50 split as there are just less women making music but I feel like I manage to balance these things in the rest of my life (films, T.V. podcasts etc.) While the music industry seems uninterested in pushing women to the forefront of music (other than pop music). I personally love and respect women both in general and in terms of artistic expression especially in music but feel that my music collection doesn’t necessarily reflect it enough. So I want to tackle this lack of balance in my own collection and hope we can all spread this positive message far and wide.

I’ve come across lots of talented artists/bands/producers but I’ve decided to ask for some recommendations as female bands/artists/producers struggle to gain the same amount of attention as their male peers. To help with the recommendations process I have created a list of music that I own by/or featuring women. I hope that this list gives you an idea of my taste and avoids people recommending artists or releases that I already own. I’ve also included a list of priority purchases so you know what I’ve got in mind to buy in the future. I’d buy them all but my benefit won’t allow for that and I will still buy some music by men as this is about striking a balance rather than cutting something out completely. .

I’ve set up a new Twitter account, @HerSonicFiction, where I’ll share what female artists I’m listening to now. Feel free to Tweet your recommendations at me or put them in the comments below. If we can all use #HerSonicFiction then we can introduce each other to some great female artists and encourage even more people to listen to and buy music by women.

Albums I already own

Kate Bush – “Hounds of Love”

Elza Soares – “Woman at the End of the World”

Thao & the Get Down Stay Down – “Man Alive”

Lindstrom & Christabelle – “Real Life is no Cool”

Solange – “A Seat at the Table” & “True”

Aretha Franklin – “The Very Best Of”, “Amazing Grace” & “Lady Soul”

The Staple Singers – “Be Altitude: Respect Yourself”

The Slits – “Cut”

Erase Errata – “At Crystal Palace”

M.I.A – “Arular” & “Kala”

Julia Holter – “Ekstasis”, “Tragedy” & “Loud City Song”

Deerhoof – “Offend Maggie” & “Breakup Song”

Stereolab – “Emperor Tomato Ketchup” & “Mars Audiac Quartet”

Colleen – “Captain of None”

Bjork – “Post” & “Medulla”

Erykah Badu – “New Amerykah Part One: 4th World War”

Neneh Cherry & The Thing – “The Cherry Thing”

Junglepussy – “Pregnant with Succcess”

Suzanne Ciani – “Lixiviation 1969-1985”

Kelis – “Tasty” & “Kaleidoscope”

Ikara Colt – “Chat and Business”

Janelle Monae – “The Archandroid” & “The Electric Lady”

New Order – “Technique”

Pixies – “Come On Pilgrim”, “Surfer Rosa” & “Doolittle”

Thee Satisfaction – “Awe Naturale”, Transitions”, “THEESatisfaction Loves Erykah Badu”, “Snow Motion” & “EarthEE”

Sleigh Bells – “Treats”

Patti Smith – “Horses”

Solex “Solex vs Hitmeister”

The Raincoats – “The Raincoats”, “Odyshape” & “The Kitchen Tapes”

Talking Heads – “Talking Heads ’77”, “More Songs About Buildings & Food”, “Fear of Music” & “Remain in Light”

Tom Tom Club – “Tom Tom Club”

Tamikrest – “Chatma”

Tune-Yards – “Nikki Nack” & “Who Kill”

Yeah Yeah Yeah’s – “Fever to Tell”, “Show Your Bones”, “Its Blitz” & “Mosquito”

Jamila Woods – “Heavn”

NoName – “Telefone”

female-pressure – Various Artists – “Music- Awareness & Solidarity w- Rojava Revolution”

Priority purchases:

more Kate Bush – suggestions very welcome

Lauryn Hill – “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill”

Missy Elliott – “Miss E…So Addictive” & “Under Construction”

FKA Twigs – “LP1”

Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith – “EARS”

Dawn Richard – “Redemption”

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2nd September

Doctor Zygote – “Grupo Zygote” (Black Acre)

Doctor Zygote is a hip hop and instrumental beats based producer of music. Alongside DJ Jazz T he runs Boot Records, and also Zoot Records- a new sister label geared towards instrumental music. Alongside an unnamed rapper he is a member of STRANGE U.

9th September

Factory Floor – “Factory Floor” (DFA)

After two years of singles and build up it seems that the band will finally release their much anticipated début album in May 2013 on DFA records. The album will be preceded by the single ‘Fall Back’ eight and a half minutes of slow burning dance floor intensity.

Janelle Monae – “The Electric Lady” (Atlantic)

The follow-up to Monae’s debut album “The Archandroid” (2010) has been announced and is preceded by the single “Q.U.E.E.N.” featuring Erykah Badu.

Mum – “Smilewound” (Morr Music)

Morr Music press release:

You don’t need to be Freud to regard teeth as a delicate issue. They can make joy look joyous and pain look painful, and on the cover of the new múm album they do both at the same time. As “Yesterday Was Dramatic – Today Is Okay” (2001), “Finally We Are No One” (2002) and “Sing Along To Songs You Don’t Know” (2009) “Smilewound” is another example of the band’s art of juxtaposing two conflicting meanings and taking advantage of the energy created through the tension between both.

Sparser in sound than many of its predecessors, “Smilewound” is an airy, relaxed record. The múm-core-duo of Örvar and Gunni doesn’t make you laugh out loud (except maybe for the quirky vintage Arcade-sound-start of “When Girls Collide”), but it will make you smile often – despite the heavenly voices singing about violence in one form or another in most songs. Musically, múm’s capability to build playful electronic sound-ornaments around simple melodies is in full bloom. And these days they know that trimming the ornamentation can strengthen the melody. Take “The Colorful Stabwound”: an aguish drum’n’bass piece and”Smilewound” gets close to a straight pop-song. Even that isn’t very close, but it combines its rhythmic strength with a simple yet effective piano-line and the soothing lushness of a female voice to something compelling that follows you like the smell of a delicate eau de toilette. Or “Candlestick” which started out as a little ditty strummed on an acoustic guitar many years ago and has grown into this bouncy piece of synth-pop that changes its musical colours every couple of beats until you feel comfortably dizzy. Perfect pop in very fancy clothes. No wonder that antipodean pop-princess Kylie Minogue wanted to collaborate with múm on the “Whistle”, the main song in 2012-movie “Jack & Diane”.

Recorded in, among other places, the band’s practice-space, an old baltic farmhouse and on the kitchen-table after dinner, the album was produced by múm themselves. And being the revolving collective they are, it comes as no surprise that we see the return of former member Gyda. Defining satellites as part of the core fits nicely with the band’s penchant for ambivalence – in fact that’s part of the album’s charm.

Youngblood Brass Band – “Pax Volumi” (Tru Thoughts)

The latest is the band hope to complete the new album in autumn 2012 with a release planned for the the new year accompanied by an extensive world tour by this excellent live act!!!

 

This is a monthly feature where classic and cult albums are revisited and reassessed for the modern listener. The only rule is that it must be a critically acclaimed or cult record released before 2000.

Brian Eno and David Byrne – “My Life in the Bush of Ghosts” (Sire Records, 1981)

This month’s Classics Critiqued choice has direct links back to last month’s choice “Remain In Light” (1980) by Talking Heads. In fact, “My Life in the Bush of Ghosts” was recorded and intended for release before “Remain In Light” something left Brian Eno feeling bitter as he felt “Remain In Light” overshadowed his and Byrne’s collaborative effort. In this article I explore the concept behind the album, the recording process, the issues it bought to the music industry and the world’s attention and its legacy and influence on the musicians who were captivated by the album.

“My Life in the Bush of Ghosts” began life as part of three recordings sessions held in RPM and Blue Rock Studios in New York in August and September 1979. These recording sessions featured Bill Laswell (bass), David Byrne (guitar), Laraaji (zither/dulcimer) and a host of downtown buskers recruited by Eno, these musicians jammed together while Eno managed the mixing desk, recording the messy results. Between the sessions Eno would edit and mix the jams struggling to find something coherent. As the sessions progressed a direction slowly emerged blending together what Eno described as “disco-funk (fashionable in New York at the time), Arabic/North African music and black African music”. After making these recordings Eno busied himself collaborating with Jon Hassell on “Fourth World Vol.1: Possible Musics” (1980) before returning to the recordings with intention of recording a collaborative album with Hassell and Byrne that acted as “fake field recording of a non-existent tribe.” The trio would meet up in December 1979 after Byrne had returned from four months of touring Talking Heads “Fear of Music” (1979) they would listen to records released by the French label Ocara who released authentic music from around the world. Their concept for the album evolved as Byrne recalled into “… a field recording… of the future”.

Eno left New York on New Yea Eve 1979 to fly to the West Coast for a lecture tour in his luggage was the tape from the summer sessions which intended to continue developing while on the West Coast. He began work in earnest shaping what would become ‘Mea Culpa’ and adding to it one of ‘found vocals’ that would become one of main talking points around “My Life in the Bush of Ghosts”. In January 1980 Eno meet a satirical rock troupe called The Tubes who he played the demo of ‘Mea Culpa’, impressed by what he heard drummer Charles Lenprere ‘Prairie’ Prince offer his services to Eno. He was put to work in L.A.’s Eldorado studio not only to play conventional percussion instruments but also what Eno named the ‘banging board’ a drum kit from which drums were removed and replaced with cardboard boxes and pots and pans adding further texture to the already multifaceted sound. At this juncture Eno contacted Byrne and Hassell to join in L.A. to continue developing the now burgeoning project, Byrne who was still tired from touring and was suffering writers block jumped at the chance but Hassell a jobbing composer had to turn down the invitation and Byrne became the sole collaborator on the project.

By now Eno had established a rough method for creating tracks for the album. He slowly built up layers of sound before then stripping the track down and then beginning the process again. He’d become obsessed with the idea of ‘interlocking parts’ as he explained ‘Instead of having a few instruments playing complex pieces’ he explained, ‘you get lots of instruments all playing very simple parts that mesh together to create a complex track’. It was this approach that informed the “complex, ever-shifting webs of texture rhythm” that made up “My Life in the Bush of Ghosts”.

Early on in the process of conceptualizing and creating the album Eno and Byrne decided that neither of them wanted to sing on album. This was because they believed that people perceived that the person who was singing the song had written the song and they wanted to create music that would be perceived differently. However, both agreed that there should some sort of vocals present on the album. So they decided to use recording both from the Ocara records that they’d heard and radio broadcasts of phone-in callers, right-wing radio hosts and evangelical preachers. It was these vocals that were the most controversial sounds on “My Life in Bush of Ghosts” provoking negative critical reviews. Rolling Stone magazines Jon Pareles said the album asked “stubborn questions about context, manipulation and cultural imperialism’, he went on to accuse the duo of having “trivialized the event” when sampling an exorcism on ‘The Jezebel Spirit’. Pareles asked “Does this global village have two way traffic?” and L.A. Times critic Mikal Gilmore said the album had moment of “gimmickry”. These criticisms and the music press’ general perception of the album as an afterthought after its delayed release, due to Talking Heads having to deliver a new album to Sire and a number of sample clearing issues left Eno feeling bitter and that album deserved more praise.

In retrospect, “My Life in the Bush of Ghosts” critical opinion has generally been revised and the album is now seen as the innovative release it always was one that preceded sampling by several years and challenged ideas about authorship and audience perception of who wrote and/or performed a piece of music. It still sounds revelatory in a world where music fans accepted the person whose name on the cover as the writer of the music, while being able to recognise when sampled material has been used by the composer.

Over the last thirty one years “My Life in the Bush of Ghosts” has steadily gained a cult following among both music fans and music creators alike. The album preempted and was an influence on acts such as Big Audio Dynamite, the Chemical Brothers and El-P and his original hip-hop group Company Flow, whose abstract hip-hop was compared to the album. It also had an impact on the making of Public Enemy’s 1988 masterpiece “Fear of the Black Planet”, DJ Shadow’s sampling watershed moment “Entroducing” (1996) and early drum ‘n’ bass innovator A Guy Called Gerald’s classic album “Black Secret Technology” (1995). All-in-all its difficult to imagine the musical landscape of the last 30 years without “My Life in the Bush of Ghosts” even if the album is sometimes overlooked in this respect, the argument for its place in the lineage of electronic music still stands firm.

Let us know what you think of “My Life in the Bush of Ghosts” in the comments below or via our Twitter.

Listen to “My Life in the Bush of Ghosts” here.

This is a monthly feature where classic and cult albums are revisited and reassessed for the modern listener. The only rule is that it must be a critically acclaimed or cult record released before 2000.

Talking Heads – “Remain In Light” (Sire Records, 1980)

This month’s selection for Classics Critiqued has long been a personal favourite since my teenage years. It’s also an album that regular features in critics’ Greatest Albums lists, even making it to No.2 on Pitchfork’s Top 100 Albums of the ‘80s. That album is the avant funk masterpiece that is “Remain In Light” by Talking Heads. This seminal album was the band’s fourth and the third produced by English pop and rock music auteur Brian Eno. It was the band’s creative high water mark and signalled the end of their initial experimental phase before they became a poppier proposition for the remaining 12 years of their career.

Prior to the band getting together to create “Remain In Light”, David Byrne (vocals/lyrics/guitar) and Brian Eno  retreated to Los Angeles to create what would become their first collaborative album “My Life in the Bush of Ghosts” (1981). Although the concept behind “My Life in the Bush of Ghosts” continued to evolve during its creation the idea of creating a “fake ethnic record” seemed to run through the core of the result and provided inspiration for “Remain In Light”. Eno envisioned “Remain In Light” as creating a psychedelic vision of Africa. As Simon Reynolds observed in his book “Rip It Up and Start Again”: “Musically, “Bush of Ghosts” took the ideas of ‘Drugs’ and ‘I, Zimbra’ to the next level. Rampant texturology: Eno and Byrne drastically extended the sonic range of conventional instruments through processing and effects. And the technique of interlocking: each instrument played very simple parts, which they then meshed into complex, ever-shifting webs of texture rhythm”. Add all this together with Talking Heads own brand of New Wave rock music and you create an innovative album that almost completely blurs the lines between funk, Afro beat, traditional African music and American art rock.

In July 1980 Talking Heads reconvened with Eno at the Bahamas Compass Point recording studio, where Tina Weymouth (bass) and Chris Frantz (drums) had been holidaying together (they had become a couple shortly after Weymouth joined Talking Heads in 1975) to lay down the backing tracks for what would become “Remain In Light”. In a change from their usual writing/recording routine the band decided to jam ideas that were simultaneously recorded to then be edited, overdubbed and arranged in the second phase of recording, a highly unorthodox approach for a rock band in 1980. The band had decided on this course of action in order to move away from the conventional idea of lead singer and backing band and to craft songs in a more democratic way rather than relying solely on Byrne to write songs. This decision came about when Weymouth and Frantz had discussed leaving the band before all the members took a much needed break earlier in the year. After these recordings were made the band returned to New York’s Sigma Sound studio with the backing tracks more or less completed. Work continued at the New York studio where earlier in the year Jerry Harrison (guitar/keyboards) had produced an album for singer Nona Hendryx. She later provided backing vocals to “Remain In Light” that would enrich the rhythmic backing tracks. At this point the album entered phase two with Byrne struggling to write lyrics and vocal melodies to the backing track which featured only one or two chords. Meanwhile Eno, Harrison and engineer Dave Jerden edited the recordings into loops and overdubbed them with additional keyboard and guitar parts. Weymouth and Frantz rarely attended these session as one, their rhythm parts were already recorded and two, they felt pushed out by the close friendship of Eno and Byrne. Weymouth was particularly angry, describing their friendship as, “…they were dressing like one another…like two fourteen-year-old boys making an impression on each other”.

Eno, Byrne and Harrison all attended a Adrian Belew gig at the New York Plaza and were so blown away by his abstract guitar style that Eno asked if he could come down to Sigma Sound to contribute parts to the album (the pair had previously met when Belew played on David Bowie’s “Lodger” (1979). Belew turned up the next morning with his Roland GR30 guitar synth creating “the metallic distortions and wild spidery notes” heard on ‘The Great Curve’. This new addition “made the music radiate anew and provided an oddly companionable contrast” to the polyrhythmic African funk of the backing tracks. Jon Hassell, another one of Eno’s previous collaborators, played and arranged the stunning gauzy horns on ‘Houses In Motion’.

Their new approach to the writing and arranging of the music caused a problem for David Byrne who had to rethink his approach to writing lyrics and melodies as well as moving into new areas of subject matter. In an interview with Simon Reynolds, Byrne recalls “realizing that this music that was kind of groove-based implied a whole different social and psychological thing – much more ecstatic and trance-like. I realized I couldn’t think about the same things or at least not in the same way, if I was going to be true to what the music felt like. After “Fear of Music”, where I’d done a bit of recording the music first and putting words it later, I took a leap and said ‘Ok, I won’t go in with any lyrics at all.’ That meant I had to write words to fit the music. If I was in a neurotic or tense state of mind, it might not be suitable for the music because the music might not feel like that. I had to write in response to the music.” Reynolds also observed the following change in lyric tone and content. “If “Fear of Music” was about neurosis, “Remain In Light” reached for psychic wholeness, life newly reintegrated with nature and the body.” Talking Heads no longer dealt in white angst (with the exception of album closer ‘The Overload’). Instead it reached for the ecstatic both in terms of the lyrical content and delivery which took from Byrne’s love of soul, Eno’s of gospel and the band’s new found Afro beat influences. Even Eno’s usual restrained English delivery reached unexpected levels of passion when he sang backing vocals with Nona Hendryx who bought this out in him.

Byrne included a bibliography with the album’s press kit to illustrate the lyrics African inspirations; he cited Professor John Miller Cheroff’s “African Rhythm and African Sensibility” as the main influence. The book discussed the role of music in West African culture. The lyric that really stood out was “The world moves on a woman’s hips” from ‘The Great Curve’, which was inspired by “African Art in Motion” by Professor Robert Farris Thompson, though it could just as easily have come from a Fela Kuti song. The lyrics also dealt with identity with Byrne pondering “well, how did I get here” on ‘Once In A Lifetime’ to ‘Crosseyed and Painless’ on which he declares “lost my shape, trying to act casual/can’t stop, I might end up in the hospital”. So it appears he wasn’t able to fully exorcise his angst in the lyrics, though the delivery and backing tracks delivered plenty of ecstasy.

The legacy of “Remain In Light” is an interesting one. It’s difficult to pick out any bands/artists that have been directly influenced by the album and ‘Once In A Lifetime’ is the only song from the album that’s ever been covered. The song was also sampled by many rave and hip-hop acts who loved the song’s brilliant groove and easy conversion to an instrumental loop. It’s here we find the album’s key influence, the way the songs were put together preceded sampling and loop-based dance music. It’s in the DNA of these aforementioned tracks (and some more adventurous hip-hop tracks) that we find “Remain In Light”’s true decedents. “Remain In Light” is a truly unique album that stands up to even the toughest scrutiny even today, thirty two years on.

Let me know what you think of “Remain In Light” in the comments section or via our Twitter.

Listen to “Remain In Light” here.

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