In this week’s edition: very low bass noises, very high singing, very old school samples, and very weird music from the desert. I’m also very late putting it together, so I’m too tired to try and elucidate a theme from my random picks as usual; if anybody can see one (other than, er, ‘pretension”), let me know.
10. Gram Rabbit – “Something Fuzzy” (from RadioAngel and the RoboBeat, out 11/13 on Royal Order)
(Listen at their MySpace)
This Joshua Tree-based combo, led by the charismatic Jesika von Rabbit, are known for their quirkiness, but this track finds them a little calmer and more focused. The electro backing buzzes along under Ms. Rabbit’s whispered vocals, and then new guitarist Ethan Allen comes in with a straightforward melody, and the song opens up, like driving over a hill into a desert valley.
9. Kanye West feat. Chris Martin – “Homecoming” (from Graduation, out tomorrow on Island Def Jam)
(Grab an mp3 at Goodnight and Go)
Okay, okay. Yes, we’re all tired of Coldplay, but on this track, Chris Martin just seems to give up and become Phil Collins, and actually it kind of works. In fact, this is basically Genesis’ “That’s All” with a beat. Anyway, Kanye delivers some heartfelt lines in an ode to his hometown of Chicago, feeling guilty for leaving, and the track’s strange mix of emotions proves why Kanye’s such a compelling figure in contemporary music, tantrums and all.
8. Mock & Toof – “K Choppers” (from the Death From Abroad 12″ on DFA)
Songs on DFA records, whether they’re hits from LCD Soundsystem or random 12″ singles, share a common thread: an understanding that the depths of disco contain a limitless sonic pallette, and that even a simple track, crafted with care, can be revelatory. Case in point: “K Choppers;” it doesn’t do much, except build a kind of spooky, spacey mood over 6 minutes, kind of like a more mellow “Night on Disco Mountain.” And that’s enough.
7. Grit Boys feat. Trae & Tum Tum – “I’m Fresh” (single on Mo Betta Grooves) (Listen on their MySpace or iTunes)
I don’t care what they’re saying, I don’t care what they stand for, I don’t care about anything. Alls I know is this song’s got a single bass note that slides down a whole octave until resolving itself at a throbbing, speaker-killing frequency, somewhere between whale stomach rumble and earthquake. You don’t really get the full effect from the poor-quality MySpace version, and you probably can’t hear it on computer speakers, but the next time you’re on iTunes and connected to a system with some bass, just give it a try. Boooooowwaaaaammmm.
6. Thurston Moore – “Wonderful Witches” (from Trees Outside the Academy, out 9/18 on Ecstatic Peace)
(grab an mp3 here)
What separates a Thurston Moore song from a Sonic Youth song? Kim stays home? Is that it? Well, judging from this track, he’s a little looser, which makes sense. “Witches” has a shambolic, and oddly quiet feel to it, although it manages to squeeze some great riffs, a feedback freakout, and a big guitar solo into its 2 minutes and 26 seconds.
5. ZZT – “Lower State of Consciousness” (Justice remix) (download and/or listen at 78s)
I know I already posted this in the buggy-themed videos post, but this remix deserves attention of its own. Techno that pushes the edge of musicality sounds like a nightmare to most of you, I’m sure, and yes, this track contains video game error sound effects, quick clips of a disco choir, and a monster buzzing bass line that just about twiddles itself right off the spectrum of human hearing. Despite all of that, or maybe because of it, it’s immensely charming and groovy, like dancing to a cell phone factory. Since ZZT (named after the old Art of Noise record label, natch) actually consists of electro wizards Tiga and Zombie Nation, it’s easy to see why.
4. Wu-Tang Clan – “Watch Your Mouth” (from 8 Diagrams, out 11/13 on SRC) (Listen at Def Sounds)
Leave it to the Wu to remind us just how dark and dangerous hip-hop can be. Still sounding like the scariest parts of Hong Kong action films, they match the sludgy background with blindingly intense verses, all eight of the surviving members (R.I.P., ODB) getting their chance to prove their mettle, with Raekwon and Method Man standing out, if only for sheer originality. The repeated, basso refrain of “You better watch you’re motherf***in’ mouth” sure would scare me quiet. Gulp.
3. Ilaiyaraaja – “Kattu Kuyilu” (taken from Palms Out Sounds’ fascinating investigation of M.I.A.’s sample box)
54-year-old Indian film composer and singer Ilaiyaraaja has apparently written over 4,000 songs, and considering the sheer volume of productions coming out of Bollywood, it’s not surprising. I don’t know anything about where this track came from, but my favorite part of M.I.A.’s “Bamboo Banger” was the weird female vocal sample, which is straight from here; what’s surprising is this track’s rhythmic interludes, just as funky as the new dance music that samples it.
2. Dizzee Rascal – “Old Skool” (from Maths and English on XL)
Lost in the mayhem over Amy Winehouse’s will-she-or-won’t-she appearance (and Klaxons’ upset win) at the recent Mercury Awards was this nominated album from the UK rapper/producer known mostly for edgy grime. But here he proves his audaciousness by sampling the “woo, yeah” basis for Rob Base & DJ E-Z Rock’s “It Takes Two” and adding a “Dominator”-style bassline; the track ends up sounding as exciting as early Public Enemy.
1. PJ Harvey – “When Under Ether” (from White Chalk, out 9/24 on Island)
(grab an mp3 at Bon Ton or listen at her MySpace)
Those of us who remember the earth-shaking guitar-based intensity of Rid of Me are in for a bit of a shock: Harvey has taken up the piano, an instrument she apparently learned “from scratch” before making this record. On “Ether,” she sings, high and delicate, “Look up at the ceiling/Feeling happiness,” but the mood is anything but cheerful. It could almost be an acoustic companion to “Down By the Water”: a devastatingly bleak ballad, seemingly from another era, another world.