March 30, 2016

Ernest Hood - Neighborhoods, 1975

A personal favorite. A rare example of a record acting explicitly as a vessel for nostalgia without being maudlin. From Kill Ugly Radio:
Ernie was a Portland area Jazz legend, along with his brother, saxophonist Bill Hood. Ernie played with many great jazzbo dudes in the 30’s and 40’s, before his career was cut short by polio. He ventured into community radio and also played improvisational Zither music. His son Tom (who gave me this LP) once played me a recording at my house at 3AM of Ernie jamming in his kitchen with Airto Moriera. It was amazing! Ernie went on to help co-found KBOO radio, where his son is now the station engineer (and a damn fine DJ).
Comprised of zithers, keyboards, and field recordings of suburbia, Neighborhoods is heavy and hazy with childhood summer delirium--humidity, mosquitoes, and the smell of asphalt--but somehow it's just as much about naivety as it is about aging; equally interested in the act of looking back and the thing being looked back upon. As Ernest says in the very moving liner notes, this isn't social music--it's almost invasively intimate, making it ideal for reading or headphones listening in the park. Give it a few listens to let it get its hooks in you. I hope you connect with it--this is a special one.

March 24, 2016

Yukihiro Takahashi - Neuromantic, 1981

The third solo release from YMO member Yukihiro Takahashi, with appearances from Haruomi Hosono, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Andy Mackay of Roxy Music, and Tony Mansfield, who's worked with Lio, the B-52s, New Musik, and Jean-Paul Gaultier. Assistance from Steve Nye of Penguin Café Orchestra, Chris Mosdell, and Hideki Matsutake, who has computer programmed every great Japanese electronic record ever made.

Unsurprisingly, this has a lot of the same spiky relentlessness as the music that YMO was making at the time, though this is more new wavey, more optimistic, and as a whole, less hopped up. It's also a vessel for very well-constructed pop songs, like "Something in the Air" and the shimmering, perfect "Drip Dry Eyes" (live version previewed below). There's a rumor that the title for Neuromancer was inspired by the record (which was in turn a play on New Romanticism)--if anyone can confirm or deny, I'd love a citation ;) Enjoy!

March 18, 2016

The System - Logic, 1983

A terrific and confusingly obscure French synth-pop release; not to be confused with the 80's New York boogie funk band of the same name, or Hideki Matsutake's proto-techno project Logic System. Zero information is available about it on the internet apart from its Discogs listing. With its moody synth pads, watery vocals, relentless bass riffs, and surreal lyrics, the album delivers a satisfying familiarity to fans of contemporary dream pop and lo-fi. John Maus, Ariel Pink, and Connan Mockasin come to mind immediately.

The epic dance floor jam "Almost Grown" (below) is a standout that could have wedged itself nicely in between Tears for Fears and Gary Numan on the radio in 1983. I'm curious to find out how this masterpiece was lost--this is way ripe for a reissue. For now, you can download below!

March 16, 2016

Ustad Ghulam Ali & Asha Bhosle - Meraj-e-Ghazal, 1983

It would be totally nuts to suggest that I'm sufficiently well-versed in Asha Bhosle's catalogue to argue that any one record is her best, since she's the most recorded musician of all time and has performed over 12,000 songs. I'm not even sure how this one wound up in my hands, as it doesn't seem to be online or in print anywhere. I stumbled across it in my library by accident a few weeks ago and have been stuck on it ever since. There's not much that can be said about Asha Bhosle's voice that hasn't already been said--it's weightless, luminous, and radiates joy like nobody else's. Additional vocals by the esteemed Ghulam Ali on four tracks. Ideal spring soundtrack.

March 9, 2016

Tim Buckley - Blue Afternoon, 1969

I don't really have a sense of how people feel about Tim Buckley these days, other than a widespread unending fascination with "Song to the Siren," which could very well be a perfect song. I get the sense, though, that Happy/Sad is typically treated as Buckley's magnum opus, and that not much attention is given to Blue Afternoon, which he recorded in a month at the same time as Lorca and Starsailor. Some people think Buckley might have considered Blue Afternoon a throwaway record made to fulfill a contractual obligation to Frank Zappa and Herb Cohen's label, Straight. It's also a lot more approachable than some of his more avant-garde works, which might be off-putting to hardcore fans. I would love to hear that I'm way off and that this record is loved by many, because it's dreamy, in the more honest sense of the word.

I'm especially excited to share it today, on what feels like the first day of spring. Blue Afternoon is so lazy and honeyed that it feels like having too much wine at the picnic and drifting in and out of consciousness in the shade. Hazed in twelve-string guitar and vibraphone shimmer. Taking a jazz approach to folk, Buckley is moody, blissful, and deeply expressive. If this is in fact a throwaway album, all the more reason to stand in awe of his ability.

March 4, 2016

52nd Street - Children Of The Night, 1985

As is often the case with collaborations, Manchester based jazz-funk and R&B group 52nd Street put out their strongest material at the very beginning of their career. In 1982, while being courted by both RCA and Warner, the manager-less group opted to release several singles through UK's Factory Records. "Cool As Ice," "Can't Afford," and "Look Into My Eyes" are to this day some of the heaviest grooves I've ever heard.  

52nd went on to record two full-length albums for Virgin Records including this one, 1985's Children Of The Night produced by Philadelphia-based Nick Martinelli, who also worked with UK R&B group Loose Ends. The album still maintains the unapologetically dense 808 drum machine loops and poppin' bass slaps of their earlier work, but is significantly smoother and more expensive sounding, and with more complex songs.

It would have been difficult to continue pumping out the amateurish rawness of their early work, having gone through several changes in the cast of characters and pressure from labels to work with an established producer. Nevertheless, the band came through with some magic on this album. Note: this download includes four extra tracks from the 2008 reissue, including the aforementioned "Look Into My Eyes," and another mix of "Cool as Ice.")

March 1, 2016

Alexander Robotnick - Ce N'est Q'un Début, 1984

Classic. Maurizio Dami (aka Alexander Robotnick) went on to collaborate with traditional musicians from India, Algeria, and Kurdistan; release music for transcendental meditation; give Florence its first ambient music festival; and start a label, as well as release a slew of electro and disco records, though it's his first release that most people remember for its unabashed, almost grotesque dance floor classics. Relentless and completely disinterested in taking itself seriously. Enjoy!