A very subjective selection this week. Rather than the "like nothing else on earth" tracks, I found myself gravitating towards those which subtly subverted expectations, or "freshened up" a genre with new impulses. As much as possible I've tried to feature new or under-represented artists here. Hard to believe that Kendrick Lamar wasn't in the Marconium. All A-list tracks were new to me besides the Hancock. Thanks to all for a fascinating weekend of listening.
Genre-Bending A-List Playlist:
Katzenjammer – Oh my God
Sparse rhythms, live instrumentation and a nice line in dissing keep the Katzen within scratching distance of rap, quirky folk indie and post-punk emo, but several graceful leaps away from standard issue, synth-heavy Scandi-pop.
Juana Molina – Un Dia
Folktronica legend Molina's "swirling sonic dreamlands" possess the power of incantatory chants married to jazz polyrhythms and a punk sensibility, underpinned by dark and strange lyrics.
Mitski – Washing Machine Heart
Dubbed "the 21st century's poet laureate of young adulthood" by NPR, Mitski convinces both through her sincerity and through her musical vision, which has seen her master a succession of instruments to ensure that each new album sounds completely different to its predecessor and to anything else in the charts.
The Durutti Column – Otis
Restrained, hypnotic percussion and the fragile beauty of Vini Reilly's guitar work coupled with sampled vocals made this track stand out from the crowd of late-eighties indie. Otis Redding the sampled singer in this case.
The Kaleidoscope – Egyptian Gardens
As @Shivsidecar notes there is a lot here, "from surf rock through to Turkish and North African influences". That first upwards swoop into ululating vocals after the intial verse is very unsettling but seamlessly managed.
Penguin Cafe Orchestra – Milk
Early PCO showcasing their unique style, with the discipline of minimalist avant-garde but the immediacy and hooks of folk and pop.
Roxy Music – Bitters End
A nicely louche ditty with multi-part crooning, saloon bar piano and some dirty late nite sax, short enough not to outstay its welcome.
The Last Poets – When the Revolution Comes
The inspiration for Gil Scott Heron's more famous "Revolution" song. Last Poets, next to Watts Prophets, were one of the first groups to blend simple beats and elements of jazz with politically charged, spoken word poetry. Still powerful today.
Kendrick Lamar – i
Hip-hop's most innovative artist mixes just about every imaginable genre into the first single from To Pimp a Butterfly and still finds room to end it with a bass solo from Thundercat.
Herbie Hancock – Watermelon Man
Hancock made his name with the original version of this soul jazz classic, but he deliberately took it apart in 1973 on Headhunters to underline how his music had developed over the intervening decade under the influence of Sly Stone and James Brown. The African percussion and electronics are worlds away from the hard bop "Blue Note" sound of the '62 original, though Paul Jackson's electric bass has an affinity with Butch Warren's acoustic playing.
Bohren & Der Club of Gore – Midnight Black Earth
Delicate and nuanced, floating ephemerally between ambient, and drone, with a hint of doom-fraught electronics. Then the saxophone cuts in to recall Bobby Wellins on Stan Tracey's classic Starless and Bible Black.
Ry Cooder & V.M. Bhatt – Ganges Delta Blues
A gorgeous meeting of strings on the improvised title-as-new-genre Ganges Delta Blues, Ry Cooder's first and perhaps his finest "world music" collaboration. V.M. Bhatt plays the "Mohan veena", an instrument of his own invention. Cooder Jr. (dumbek) and Sukhvinder Singh Namdhari (tabla) provide the percussion.
Shirley Collins and Davey Graham – Pretty Saro
North African flavours tinge this folk/blues classic.
The Real Tuesday Weld – Bathtime in Clerkenwell
Somewhere between 20s cabaret and tea drinking Ninja Tunes DJ Mr. Scruff.
Sudan Archives – Come Meh Way
Pop perfection from an Afro-American electro-folk stew.
Peter Blegvad & Andy Partridge – Galveston
Orpheus on the pull in a bowling alley. Droll, but out drolled by….
Ken Nordine – Lavender
Nordine's deep bass voice spins deeply silly nightmare nonsense.
Björk – Human Behaviour
One of Björk's early solo singles but prescient in the light of current concerns.
Moondog – "Theme"
Enigmatic self-taught street musician.
Portishead – Cowboys
The B-list's "whatever people say I am, that's what I'm not" band.
Primus – Wynona's Big Brown Beaver
An essential slice of US culture.
Scritti Politti – Skank Bloc Bologna
I've been to Bologna, but I somehow missed seeing the Skank Bloc.
My Bloody Valentine – Glider EP remixes (Andrew Weatherall)
Weatherall's monster remix of Soon underlined the dancefloor power of MBV.
Matthew Herbert – In The Kitchen
Something to listen to while you're pottering around the house. Herbert's found sounds simmer away nicely.
Guru’s Wildcard Picks:
Miles Davis – Rated X
A couple of Miles suggestions on the blog, this for me would be his least categorisable, an utterly WTF piece of music. No trumpet, as the prince of darkness is leaning on the organ all the way through.
Coldcut – Say Kids, What Time Is It?
"Symphonic punk country disco" from the Ninja Tunes duo.
These playlists were inspired by readers' song nominations from last week's topic: Out of this oeuvre? Songs and music that defy genre definition. The next topic will launch on Thursday at 1pm UK time.
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