August 31, 2005

In recent years, ambient music has become less scene-oriented, and its audience has developed into a more scattered listenership. Ambient pieces are being crafted by rock bands, laptop composers and, of course, Eno-esque studio veterans.

Biosphere - Tombant

The early nineties were a pivotal period for ambient music. Names like The Future Sound of London, Global Communication and Pete Namlook perhaps gave the genre its biggest audience in history. And while most of these figures’ records haven’t aged all that well, Tromso, Norway’s Geir Jenssen (aka Biosphere) has managed to stay active and relevant ever since his 1992 debut, Microgravity. While Jenssen’s early releases can be nestled contently beside other ambient records of that time, he later traded the skittering, echo-laden percussion and looping synth phrases with eerily serene, beatless atmospherics. Jenssen’s 1997 opus Substrata has been regarded by some as the best ambient record of all time, trouncing even celebrated classics like Music for Airports, Apollo and On Land. “Tombant,” which is culled from last year’s Cirque LP, continues the Arctic-inspired equanimity of Substrata while exercising a more barebones song structure. Jenssen’s forthcoming album Dropsonde will hit shelves in late September.

[buy stuff here]

Chib - Soo

The soft, unpredictable tracks of Tokyo-based producer Yukiko Chiba (aka Chib) are certainly not the most conventional examples of ambient music. However, Chiba clearly has a knack for a sparse, spare placement of samples and awkward-yet-appealing melodics, values upon which ambient music was founded. The bizarre “Soo” is just as dumbfounding as its title. Sample-based keys and pads hiccup, honk and chirp along in a seemingly tempoless fashion. The rest of Chiba’s exceptional 2004 debut mini LP, Moco, which clocks in at just under 30 minutes, follows in this eccentric pattern. There’s no current info as to whether or not she’ll be releasing anything soon, but fingers crossed.

[buy stuff here]

Efterklang - Antitech

“Antitech” is lifted from this Danish post-rock ensemble’s 2003 Springer EP. The initial pressing saw a mere 500 copies. Leaf has been kind enough to reissue this obscure gem in the wake of Efterklang’s 2004 full length debut, Tipper. While most ambient music these days is crafted by solo artists, it’s refreshing to hear what a full, thorough sound this eight piece outfit is capable of. Sometimes jazzy, sometimes atmospheric, “Antitech” is an evolving piece heavy on both electronics and live instrumentation. The beat is present, but it’s entirely inconspicuous and unobtrusive. Vocals are introduced towards the end of the seven-minute-plus oeuvre, but they too are gentle, harmless and welcome.

[buy stuff here]

Logreybeam - thisTormentAndThought

Perhaps best known as one half of Yasume, a duo whose full length, Where We’re From the Birds Sing a Pretty Song, dropped on City Centre Offices in 2003, Gabe Morley (aka Logreybeam) fashions a semi-beatless, post-IDM palette of ambience somewhere between the work of Christian Fennesz and the abovementioned Geir Jenssen. Morley’s solo debut was peddled by the UK-based Type imprint and hit shelves last September. “thisTormentAndThought” didn’t make it onto the album’s track list, but its tranquil nature juxtaposed by a certain ghostly apprehension would have made it a welcome addition. At just under the two-minute mark, it’s a refreshing contradiction to the age-old standard of the overly lengthy ambient track. Sometimes it’s just better when a composer introduces the environment at hand and moves forward rather than insisting we bask in it for half an hour. For the time being, you’ll only hear “thisTormentAndThought” here on Stylus.

[buy stuff here]

Will Simmons | 8:00 am | Comments (0)

In recent years, ambient music has become less scene-oriented, and its audience has developed into a more scattered listenership. Ambient pieces are being crafted by rock bands, laptop composers and, of course, Eno-esque studio veterans.

Biosphere - Tombant

The early nineties were a pivotal period for ambient music. Names like The Future Sound of London, Global Communication and Pete Namlook perhaps gave the genre its biggest audience in history. And while most of these figures’ records haven’t aged all that well, Tromso, Norway’s Geir Jenssen (aka Biosphere) has managed to stay active and relevant ever since his 1992 debut, Microgravity. While Jenssen’s early releases can be nestled contently beside other ambient records of that time, he later traded the skittering, echo-laden percussion and looping synth phrases with eerily serene, beatless atmospherics. Jenssen’s 1997 opus Substrata has been regarded by some as the best ambient record of all time, trouncing even celebrated classics like Music for Airports, Apollo and On Land. “Tombant,” which is culled from last year’s Cirque LP, continues the Arctic-inspired equanimity of Substrata while exercising a more barebones song structure. Jenssen’s forthcoming album Dropsonde will hit shelves in late September.

[buy stuff here]

Chib - Soo

The soft, unpredictable tracks of Tokyo-based producer Yukiko Chiba (aka Chib) are certainly not the most conventional examples of ambient music. However, Chiba clearly has a knack for a sparse, spare placement of samples and awkward-yet-appealing melodics, values upon which ambient music was founded. The bizarre “Soo” is just as dumbfounding as its title. Sample-based keys and pads hiccup, honk and chirp along in a seemingly tempoless fashion. The rest of Chiba’s exceptional 2004 debut mini LP, Moco, which clocks in at just under 30 minutes, follows in this eccentric pattern. There’s no current info as to whether or not she’ll be releasing anything soon, but fingers crossed.

[buy stuff here]

Efterklang - Antitech

“Antitech” is lifted from this Danish post-rock ensemble’s 2003 Springer EP. The initial pressing saw a mere 500 copies. Leaf has been kind enough to reissue this obscure gem in the wake of Efterklang’s 2004 full length debut, Tipper. While most ambient music these days is crafted by solo artists, it’s refreshing to hear what a full, thorough sound this eight piece outfit is capable of. Sometimes jazzy, sometimes atmospheric, “Antitech” is an evolving piece heavy on both electronics and live instrumentation. The beat is present, but it’s entirely inconspicuous and unobtrusive. Vocals are introduced towards the end of the seven-minute-plus oeuvre, but they too are gentle, harmless and welcome.

[buy stuff here]

Logreybeam - thisTormentAndThought

Perhaps best known as one half of Yasume, a duo whose full length, Where We’re From the Birds Sing a Pretty Song, dropped on City Centre Offices in 2003, Gabe Morley (aka Logreybeam) fashions a semi-beatless, post-IDM palette of ambience somewhere between the work of Christian Fennesz and the abovementioned Geir Jenssen. Morley’s solo debut was peddled by the UK-based Type imprint and hit shelves last September. “thisTormentAndThought” didn’t make it onto the album’s track list, but its tranquil nature juxtaposed by a certain ghostly apprehension would have made it a welcome addition. At just under the two-minute mark, it’s a refreshing contradiction to the age-old standard of the overly lengthy ambient track. Sometimes it’s just better when a composer introduces the environment at hand and moves forward rather than insisting we bask in it for half an hour. For the time being, you’ll only hear “thisTormentAndThought” here on Stylus.

[buy stuff here]

Will Simmons | 8:00 am | Comments (0)

August 30, 2005

I’m not normally one to rely on what other people have to say about things, but sometimes they say it much better than I can (even if I don’t always agree)…

KT Tunstall - Suddenly I See

“An amiable rattle through three and a half minutes about nothing whatsoever, KT chucks out lines like “Her face is a map of the world, it’s a map of the wurrrld/You can see she’s a beautiful girl, she’s a beautiful gurrrrl” like so much chicken soup for the soul, but the pace it kicks along at keeps its head just about above the water, the little twitch when she goes “suddenly I see” just enough to keep you interested. You tap your pen along, and not much more. It’s dead on a 5.” [link]

Metope - 33

“Admitedly, 7,4 feet tall Hans and his italian dwarf pony Monty were unmatched partners. But their constellation had a decisive advantage. Like this Hans was able to support his loyal fellow using his own legs. Besides both of them loved exploring the plains of the wild wild west listening to the funny clip – clap of their cheerful 6-foot- gallop.” [link]

Cocorosie - Noah’s Ark

“A regular Kill Whitie partygoer, she tried the conventional (that is, non-hipster) hip-hop clubs but found the men ‘really hard-core.’ In this vastly whiter scene, Casady said that ‘it’s a safe environment to be freaky.’” [link]

[buy Tunstall / Metope / Cocorosie]

Todd Burns | 8:00 am | Comments (1)

August 29, 2005

It was sometime in the winter of my senior year of college. My girlfriend and I had gotten into a huge fight, a stupid, tempestuous argument that seemed to threatened our entire nine-month relationship, and I was sitting on the floor of her cramped dorm room, frustrated and restless, while she lay on the bed, unresponsive. The lights were out. It was snowing outside, over the vast darkness of western Michigan. All I wanted was for her to talk to me, to just say something. Maybe I could read to her from The Little Prince, as I’d done on other cold nights, when we curled up together and drank tea; I didn’t care. When she finally moved, she didn’t speak. She leaned over to her tape deck, pressed play, and sank back into her bed. Amidst the clutter of recording equipment, a small voice said, “This one is called ‘I’m Not Quite’…”

I’d heard the song before. The cassette was a bootleg of David Bowie demos recorded in his bedroom in early 1969; she’d copied it from a girl with whom she’d had a brief, intense friendship in Australia several years earlier and whose flowery handwriting was all over the sleeve. No one seemed to know much about the recording, though; it wasn’t until recently that I learned that it usually goes by the title The Beckenham Oddity. What I did know was that it sounded completely unlike the rambunctious, swaggering Bowie I knew from classics like “Jean Genie” or “Suffragette City.” These were all reflective, starkly intimate songs, with Bowie lightly strumming an acoustic guitar and cooing close to the mic in an unexpectedly meek, almost childlike voice. On “When I’m Five,” the future Ziggy Stardust even imagines himself as an angelic four-year-old who can’t wait to grow up; the result is predictably maudlin.

When she’d played the tape for me on other occasions, “I’m Not Quite”had always stood out among some of the more muddled tunes, from the breathy, jazz-inspired “da-da-da”s of its intro to the tumbling melancholy guitar patterns toward the end. Listening to it that night, though, I keyed in on the words more than I ever had before. If you haven’t heard it, the song is in the form of a letter to an ex-girlfriend whom Bowie writes in order to gauge the extent of her current feelings for him. It’s a genuinely heartbreaking set of lyrics, in part because he lays his own emotions so bare (”I care for no one else but you / I tear my soul to cease the pain”) but also because he’s clearly self-deluded. Every indication seems to be that the ex is perfectly happy without him—he’s heard reports—and yet he constantly speculates and projects his own misery onto her. “You cry a little in the dark,” he says at one point. “Well, so do I.” (The coincidence would be more impressive if his conjecture had any basis beyond a nagging feeling.) The apotheosis comes at the end of the third verse, when he imagines what her new boyfriend must be like and then asks, nakedly, “But did you ever call my name just by mistake?” This second-person voice lends Bowie’s lament a haunting immediacy; by his final breath, I was both desperately hoping I wouldn’t soon find myself in his shoes, and also romantically clinging to all the melodramatic sentiment. Having led a fairly carefree adolescence, this was one of the first times I can remember being so emotionally bowled over by a piece of music.

Not long thereafter (eventually things settled down, as they do), I picked up a copy of Space Oddity at a thrift store and discovered that “I’m Not Quite,” unbeknownst to me, had had a second life as the album track “Letter to Hermione.” (Hermione Farthingale, a ballet dancer and sometime singer, had broken up with David Bowie shortly before he wrote the song; a Bowie fan site wonders if the earlier version of the song omits the subject’s name from the title because the split was too recent.) Recorded only six months after the demo (in August 1969), “Letter to Hermione” has never appealed to me quite as much. Though the song lengths are nearly identical, the new, fleshed-out version feels more brisk, which means that certain lines aren’t given their proper weight. Bowie’s voice is also raspier, robbing the song of some of its innocence (the original is on the order of Chet Baker’s “I Get Along Without You Very Well” in terms of innocent delusion), and he takes some liberties with the melody, which makes the whole thing seem more playful and showy, with significantly less of the demo’s quiet hermetic feel. Still, there exists in both versions an eerie sense of longing that, over five years later, continues to stop me cold.

[buy stuff here]

The styPod | 8:00 am | Comments (0)

August 26, 2005

One of these days, I swear I’ll make good on my long-promised CD compilation comprised solely of songs I never get sick of. Problem is, the project keeps smashing head-on into two roadblocks: 1) I’m lazy, and 2) I keep getting sick of the songs I intend to include.

One song that would currently be a lock is Prefuse 73’s “Busy Signal (Make You Go Bombing Mix),” which is in the midst of a two-year run toward the top of my most-played list. If I felt this space existed solely as a forum for perpetuating blatant lies, I’d say that I took the song’s parenthetical title so literally that while listening to it one time I went back and torched my old elementary school. I also might say that I bought my iPod just so that “Busy Signal” could serve as the background music of my life. But I’ve got little to say about this song other than that I absolutely love it.

The beginning, with its beat-boxed, breathy hiccups and Mannie Fresh-style pulsations, sets the song off nicely, but it’s what happens after the voice drops in and says, “so come on and” that makes “Busy Signal” special. For forty seconds, the song is perfect. The beatboxing is still the foundation, but it’s overlapped with some of the finest synthetic horns ever laid to tape. This combination renders “Busy Signal” both a stuttering mess and glass-smooth. I believe that songs as good as “Busy Signal” are precisely why so many were left disappointed by Surrounded by Silence (a record I’ll happily defend)—no other moments in the Prefuse catalog are quite as brilliant. After a slightly creepy xylophone and bassoon interlude, the main sequence is repeated before the song ends fairly abruptly.

Which is precisely what I view as the biggest problem with “Busy Signal”—it’s way too short. I can’t think of a single reason why it has to stop at two minutes and forty-one seconds. The forty-second stretch described above is so good that it could stand to be repeated up to ten times, conservatively. I suppose there’s something to be said about the always-leave-them-wanting-more approach, but, to use an NFL analogy, there’s a fine line between Gale Sayers and Barry Sanders. Unlike Sayers, “Busy Signal” doesn’t suffer from any (metaphorical) crippling knee injuries, but its greatness is far too fleeting all the same.

Regardless, hall-of-famers are hall-of-famers, and “Busy Signal” stands at the upper reaches of my musical pantheon. It’s suitable for moments of stress-free lounging as well as post-shower dance-a-thons. It was even used by MTV to wrap up an episode of Real World vs. Road Rules: The Inferno last summer. If that’s not proof that “Busy Signal” is one of the greatest songs of our time, then I don’t know what is.

The styPod | 8:00 am | Comments (2)

August 25, 2005

I’m a punk and I like Sham

Cockney Rejects are the world’s greatest band

But I like Joy Division, Public Image too

Even though that’s not what I’m supposed to do…

“Fun, Fun Fun”

These were the words of the Big Boys, Austin’s premiere punks whose tremendous lead singer, Randy “Biscuit” Turner, died last Thursday in his home town. If you know anything about Austin, you know we take our status as a musically creative locale way too seriously. But Biscuit and the Boys lived up to the hype: during the heyday of hardcore, with its earnest fascism and strict faster-and-angrier line, the Big Boys were pleased to stick out by scooping in major handfuls of funk, melody, and tongue-in-cheek provocation. They were dubbed the “sister band” of Minutemen (a canny nickname, as the openly gay Turner was a rarity in the militantly hetero hardcore scene). For six years they were the city’s standard-bearers for what punk rock could be, and cast an influence and/or shadow upon nascent outfits like Butthole Surfers (who recorded an album at the Boys’ place), Fishbone, RHCP, and Fugazi.

The major thing, though, is that Turner and his crew were exceedingly kind. In the post-Pistols era, in which crowd provocation was almost mandatory, the Big Boys instead let everyone join in on the fun. Kind of a spiritual precursor to the Dismemberment Plan, to list just one example. After the band broke up in ‘85, Turner stayed in town, joined Cargo Cult and performance punkers Swine King, and worked on his mixed-media art, which was exhibited nationwide. He liked to close his shows with an “OK y’all, start your own band.” Just three examples of his own and greatest band, the Big Boys, follow.

Fun, Fun, Fun
Sound on Sound
Spit

[buy stuff here]

Brad Shoup | 8:00 am | Comments (0)

August 24, 2005

Bjorn Olsson

Few figures in progressive rock have matched the unreserved majesty of Swedish icon Bo Hansson. His forestial sonic charms, piloted by the Hammond organ, have set standards few have even endeavored to follow, even in his native Scandinavia. Luckily, a few brave souls have ventured this path worthily, among whom is Soundtrack of Our Lives founder Björn Olsson.

Olsson broke from that outfit just after the release of its 1998 sophomore effort Extended Revelation for the Psychic Weaklings of Western Civilization. He proved a year later that his true inspiration came not from the new psychedelia of TSOOL but from the musings put forth by Hansson 30 years earlier. Olsson’s solo debut Instrumentalmusik found melodies borrowed in a near note-for-note fashion from Hansson’s masterwork Lord of the Rings, as demonstrated on “Minnesstund,” which borrows its melody from Hansson’s “The Black Riders & Flight to the Ford.” On the whole, Instrumentalmusik comes off as a mellowed-out tribute to Hansson’s early works, both equally rich with cinematics and Hammond progressions. “Mellanspel” recalls Eno’s Apollo as much as Lord of the Rings, with its beatless, looping framework and ambient organ swirls.

We find Olsson stepping up the pace for his next endeavor, the shellfish tetralogy, featuring the 2001-released Shrimp, 2003’s Crayfish and Crab, and the forthcoming Lobster. With The Shrimp, Olsson clearly removes his sound from such blatant Hansson impersonations and opts for a more eclectic, original palette. Touches of Morricone reign widespread with deep, twangy guitar plucks, whistles and not to mention a cast of recruited horn and string players. “Tema IV” demonstrates Olsson’s ability to harness an uptempo format, something not fully exercised on Instrumentalmusik. “#22” continues in this fashion, providing heart-wrenching melodics and a rich orchestration uncommon with most rock types.

With The Crayfish, Olsson remains in spaghetti Western mode. The main difference is the lack of orchestration; Olsson employs a more barebones and homemade brand of recording. But whatever The Crayfish lacks in arrangement and orchestration, it often makes up for with great songwriting. The goosebumps-inducing “Juli” is the album’s opener. One might assume for the duration of this cinematic folk track that someone had just popped in The Good, the Bad & the Ugly. So far, The Crab has proven to be the sore thumb of the series. It’s a lo-fi guitar record that, while certainly pleasing, doesn’t carry the theme of the previous two in the series, as demonstrated with the album’s untitled closer.

[buy stuff here]

Will Simmons | 8:00 am | Comments (0)

Bjorn Olsson

Few figures in progressive rock have matched the unreserved majesty of Swedish icon Bo Hansson. His forestial sonic charms, piloted by the Hammond organ, have set standards few have even endeavored to follow, even in his native Scandinavia. Luckily, a few brave souls have ventured this path worthily, among whom is Soundtrack of Our Lives founder Björn Olsson.

Olsson broke from that outfit just after the release of its 1998 sophomore effort Extended Revelation for the Psychic Weaklings of Western Civilization. He proved a year later that his true inspiration came not from the new psychedelia of TSOOL but from the musings put forth by Hansson 30 years earlier. Olsson’s solo debut Instrumentalmusik found melodies borrowed in a near note-for-note fashion from Hansson’s masterwork Lord of the Rings, as demonstrated on “Minnesstund,” which borrows its melody from Hansson’s “The Black Riders & Flight to the Ford.” On the whole, Instrumentalmusik comes off as a mellowed-out tribute to Hansson’s early works, both equally rich with cinematics and Hammond progressions. “Mellanspel” recalls Eno’s Apollo as much as Lord of the Rings, with its beatless, looping framework and ambient organ swirls.

We find Olsson stepping up the pace for his next endeavor, the shellfish tetralogy, featuring the 2001-released Shrimp, 2003’s Crayfish and Crab, and the forthcoming Lobster. With The Shrimp, Olsson clearly removes his sound from such blatant Hansson impersonations and opts for a more eclectic, original palette. Touches of Morricone reign widespread with deep, twangy guitar plucks, whistles and not to mention a cast of recruited horn and string players. “Tema IV” demonstrates Olsson’s ability to harness an uptempo format, something not fully exercised on Instrumentalmusik. “#22” continues in this fashion, providing heart-wrenching melodics and a rich orchestration uncommon with most rock types.

With The Crayfish, Olsson remains in spaghetti Western mode. The main difference is the lack of orchestration; Olsson employs a more barebones and homemade brand of recording. But whatever The Crayfish lacks in arrangement and orchestration, it often makes up for with great songwriting. The goosebumps-inducing “Juli” is the album’s opener. One might assume for the duration of this cinematic folk track that someone had just popped in The Good, the Bad & the Ugly. So far, The Crab has proven to be the sore thumb of the series. It’s a lo-fi guitar record that, while certainly pleasing, doesn’t carry the theme of the previous two in the series, as demonstrated with the album’s untitled closer.

[buy stuff here]

Will Simmons | 8:00 am | Comments (0)

August 23, 2005

1878: Thomas Alva Edison, then best known for inventing the porno theater, develops the “phonograph,” a machine to take sound and etch it onto a cylinder with something called a “stylus,” an early precursor to pretension on the Internet. The etchings formed grooves of varying heights that, when played back, would reproduce the sounds recorded. The original cylinders were made of wax, hence the modern term “wheels of steel.” In 1878, Edison’s assistant Charles Batchelor was listening to the hot single of the day, Edison’s own “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” when he accidentally bumped into the phonograph, causing the cylinder to skip. “Mary, Mary,” went the phonograph, and thus, hip-hop was born. This will be the last mention of hip-hop in this column, as its connection to vinyl records is well-documented, and I am secretly racist.

1939: By this time, there is a phonograph in every home, by law, and the hits of yesterday and today blare on across the land. The wax had been replaced my plastic, and the cylinders were squashed into dinner-plates. Leave it to institution-bothering iconoclast John Cage to see more than just passive playback in them. In 1937, he went in front of the Seattle Arts Society to demand greater recognition for the turntable as an instrument. What a loon! By 1939 he had composed “Imaginary Landscape No. 1,” for two prepared turntables, set with recordings of pure frequencies, along with muted piano and cymbals. You’ll hear echoes of today’s electro-acoustic improv in this, which goes to show that Keith Rowe is a total biter. This recording is taken from a 1958 performance at New York’s Town Hall curated by Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg, so it’s very artful.

1979: Christian Marclay, student of Cage and the post-Dadaist Fluxus performance-art movement, sees Cage’s ideas and decides he didn’t take them far enough. He looks at his probably-vast record collection and sees destruction as the only answer; he takes out scissors and saws and glue and sandpaper and obliterates his vinyl, then puts a few on some turntables, and sets them off each other. The result is scraping, screeching, yawning maw symphony, which often sounds remarkably like the end of music. Naturally, he fell in with the likes of Sonic Youth and Glenn Branca, the omega and alpha, respectively, of the New York no-wave scene, and still plays frequently with the Youth, as well as folks like Otomo Yoshihide and Elliot Sharp. The piece here is from his 1988 recording More Encores, featuring tracks inspired by artists who inspired him. It features several pieces of live-performance vinyl, chopped up, and glued together to make one entirely new record. The name: “John Cage.”

1990s: Aphex Twin supposedly performs DJ sets where he throws down 12″ circular sheets of sandpaper. I have a hard time believing this, since finding concrete information about it is next to impossible, and also since The Independent recently discovered that there’s no such person as Aphex Twin, and, in fact, he’s just a robot jointly developed by the CIA and MI6 to persuade indie kids to join the army. So I don’t have an MP3 for you here, but, honestly, would you want one?

2000: There are still a few folks carrying on the avant-garde turntable torch—Yoshihide, Jan Jelinek, and DJ Olive, to name a few—but none of them wave it as fondly or as high as Liverpudlian Philip Jeck. Known outside of Europe primarily for properly recorded albums like 7 and Stoke, in the Old Country he’s made a name as an installation artist, in the sense that he performs mainly in art galleries. This particular piece, from his Vinyl Coda series of live performances, finds him at the height of his powers, mixing elements from up to eight turntables at once, looping fragments and layering them into caverns of pre-recorded sound. Released in a three-CD set by German avant-label Intermedium, much of it is out of print, so, you know, good luck and happy hunting.

Jeff Siegel | 8:00 am | Comments (2)

August 22, 2005

Horns don’t get a lot of credit for being one of the most crucial elements of rock music (mainly because they aren’t), but in the ’70s loads of soul/funk artists implemented them as a means of beefing up their records to the point where the excitement and vitality came spilling out of the speakers. Here are three of my favorite horn-heavy tracks from this era.

Joseph Henry - Who’s the King

I became aware of this song thanks to the original Funk Spectrum comp, and “Who’s the King” is still one of greatest James Brown rip-offs I’ve ever heard. A cynic might use that as grounds to write it off, but I prefer to interpret “Who’s the King” as a powerful tribute to the master. It really is terrific (and amusing when Henry yells things like “Good God!”). The horns carry the track from the beginning, but really come to the forefront when Brown shouts “Horns!” and the band takes off for good. “Who’s the King” is a relentless three-minute ride through some of the most fun sounds of the ’70s.

[buy stuff here]

The Lafayette Afro Rock Band - Hihache

“Hihache” has a little bit of everything. It starts out with Ernest’s Donable’s quintessential funk drumming that’s largely responsible for the Afro Rock Band’s status as a popular sample source for hip-hop producers. Then a slick bassline and cowbell come in, followed by some keyboards (which aren’t really my thing, but that’s just me). But Ronnie James Buttacavoli and Arthur Young’s horns are what stay with you. Not only do they supply “Hihache” with its most memorable hooks, but there’s a lot of concise, skillful improvisation interspersed throughout. An extended guitar solo takes over for a minute in the middle, but the horns (along with the drums) are what keep “Hihache” coherent, not to mention excellent.

[buy stuff here]

Tower of Power - You’re Still a Young Man

Tower of Power was perhaps the horns band of the ’70s. And admittedly, if I wanted to choose only one song that highlighted the supremacy of Tower of Power’s massive horns section, “You’re Still a Young Man” wouldn’t be the one. Aside from the brass explosions that open and close the song, they aren’t featured much more prominently than anything else. But that doesn’t keep “You’re Still a Young Man” from being a work of genius. The part where Rick Stevens pleads to his girl, saying, “I’m not a young man, baby, and I don’t feel that I’m wasting my time . . . You say that I’m wasting my time, well it’s my time, baby” is one of my favorite vocal performances ever. The horns work subtly in the background, carrying the tension until the song’s epic climax. “You’re Still a Young Man” is impassioned, humorous, and exactly what all soul ballads should sound like.

[buy stuff here]

The styPod | 8:00 am | Comments (0)

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