One of the few downsides of loving Krautrock is the fact that there’s only a limited amount of it. Sure, there are bands on the fringes of the scene to be picked up once you’ve obsessed over all those albums by Can, Kraftwerk, Faust and the rest of the big names, but they tend either to be not all that good or only have a single LP to their name. So it’s great that labels like Polytechnic Youth continue to release modern music which so beautifully fills that painful void where new kosmische music should be.
With shades of early Neu! , Future Tense is an electronic trip into space, full of retro sounding keyboard hooks and floating Spiritualised style vocals but with enough of a voice of its own to make the sound fresh, even to my elderly ears.
And they’re Scottish too, for extra brownie points!
Nathan Hall claims to create music which ‘mixes psychedelia with baroque touches’ and that’s as good a description of this debut EP from the Soft Hearted Scientists front man’s other band as any.
Beginning with the pop psych of ‘Everybody’s Burning Effigies’, a wonderfully upbeat XTC-like slice of 60s tinged loveliness, the EP slides gracefully into the more musically mellow ‘Song for the Flowers’. ‘Like a Setting Sun’ adds some orchestration and has a bit of a Peter Gabriel feel to it, before the record comes to an end with ‘Catacombs of Camden Town’, back in XTC (and Genesis) territory.
It’s a short listen, but a rewarding one, and the ideal way to discover whether you like Hall’s work (or are wrong, and don’t!)
This is the kind of thing Bandcamp seems designed for to me. Mellow, laid back layers of Krautrock influenced improvisations by four Finns – plus a cover of a Guru Guru song!
Aïr apparently started life as a noise duo, but morphed into a quartet in the late 90s, and put out this collection of four tracks recorded in 1999 in early 2017.
There’s a bit of everything in here. Chilled freeform psych guitar lines meander up to noisy garage freakout on ‘Multiple Mirages of a Nomad’, someone plays digeridoo on the more experimental live track ‘Kula Ring’, the cover of Guru Guru’s ‘Next Time See You at the Dalai Lhama’ is solidly enjoyable and ‘Camel Hair’ is a proper extended guitar work out, ending in feedback and effects pedal antics.
Nothing massively original, then, but well worth seeking out and spending a few quid on…
I drive along a winding country road every weekday, going to and from work. Last December, I ended up stuck in traffic on that road in the dark, inching painfully slowly forward, with snow falling and thick flakes being caught in the headlights. ‘Under Blankets’ was playing. It was a perfect moment.
It’s a 40 minute long ambient piece of gentle swells and lulls, slow and soft, all rounded edges and muffled tones, and perfectly suited to a certain mood. Fraser McGowan, who is Caught in the Wake Forever (and also Small Town Boredom whose wonderful ‘Autumn Might Have Hope’ I have bought twice on vinyl)) is the finest crafter of melancholy (in its most positive sense) music working today. All of his releases are worth a listen, but this is a lovely, tranquil place to start.
A few years ago, this book came out, listing the best or most influential or something 1001 albums of all time. It’s almost certainly full of rubbish, misses out all sorts of left-field greatness and about as much objective use as a chocolate teapot, but even so – I thought I’d give them all one listen each, five at a time…
Obviously, if it gets too rubbish, I’ll give up and listen to something else – but I do love a list…
1001 – In The Wee Small Hours – Frank Sinatra (1955)
I’m not a Sinatra fan. Best to get that out of the way at the start. That big band, bloke dressed like a waiter strolling about the stage with a mic held loosely in his hands is – along with very violent shouty grime rap – about the only sort of music I’ve never been able to engage with, and so I’ve tended to give Ol’ Blue Eyes a body swerve.
Which goes to show what a grade one twat I can be.
Because this is fantastic. This isn’t an old bald guy belting out ‘New York, New York’, this is a proper torch singer, bleeding all over a chunk of vinyl. This is smoky bars and whisky, too many cigarettes and too many women walking out the door. This is a revelation!
‘Why can’t we be friends?’ Sinatra sings on the finest track on the album – oh, we can, Frank, we can now!
1000 – Elvis Presley – Elvis Presley (1956)
Perversely, I love Elvis, but I’ve never really cared for this, his début album.
Don’t get me wrong, the voice is there from day one, but the early days of rock and roll more than any other musical period I can think of suffer now from a lack of being there – it’s impossible to grasp the impact this sound had on contemporary ears. Take something like ‘One Sided Love Affair’; presumably it blew listeners away in 1956, but to me it’s a pretty dull and formulaic slab of pedestrian rock and roll, full of scatty sounding piano and exaggerated vocals, or ‘I Got a Woman’, which is allegedly a classic but which seems to be so because it’s a white guy doing Ray Charles. And Christ but I hate ‘Tutti Frutti’.
I’m doing this a disservice, though, I know. Historical importance aside, even to my 21st century ears, there’s some gold on here – the best ever version of ‘Blue Moon’, the proto-Elvis balladry of ‘I Love You Because’, which has some great guitar work holding it up, and, most of all, ‘I’m Trying to Get to You’, which – slowed down, admittedly – Sinatra could have covered without shame on ‘In the Wee Small Hours’.
For me, Elvis achieved greatness in the sixties, after returning from the Army, but there are moments, even as early as this, when I can hear the brilliance to come. Just not all the time.
Tragic Songs of Life – The Louvin Brothers (1956)
Sure, they sound like the Everley Brothers (not the worst thing ever, to be clear, but not exactly dangerous), but don’t be fooled – if Nick Cave had been recording in 1956, this is the album he’d have put out. Murders, suicides, God, serial killers and dead soldiers – all of Cave’s familiar obsessions are here.
To be honest, the fact that Gram Parsons loved them is literally the only thing I know about the Louvin Brothers, but a glance at the cover of this album and then the title would have had me picking it up in a record shop.
I doubt I’d have played it all that much, though. At their best – on ‘Knoxville Girl’, say. or ‘Katie Dear’ – they’re certainly listenable enough, but generally speaking even a ‘Murder Ballads’ lp from 1956 is still pretty tame stuff.
The Wildest! – Louis Prima (1956)
The notes for this claim that jazz fans have called Prima a poor man’s Duke Ellington, and – having about as much knowledge of jazz as I do of quantum mechanics – I’ve no idea if that’s true, but if he is, then Ellington must be amazing!
Because this is brilliant from beginning to end – the most FUN record I can remember hearing. The title’s no exaggeration – it’s wild, bouncy and exuberant, never letting up for even a second, full of mad horn playing,scat singing, laughter and great tunes. I’d never heard any Prima before now – but I hope there’s more as good as this…
This is Fats – Fats Domino (1956)
It’s fine, maybe even good. It’s Fats Domino and it’s not ‘Blueberry Hill’, so that’s a positive. And ‘Valley of Tears’s sounds a tiny bit different from the others, so that’s also a good thing.
Eh..and that’s it. Harmless enough, pleasant enough, never likely ever to be played again by me…