July 29, 2016

Satoshi Ashikawa - Still Way, 1982

The only available recordings from Satoshi Ashikawa, who passed away shortly after making this record. This was the second in a three record series called Wave Notation, which also included Hiroshi Yoshimura's Music for Nine Postcards and a collection of Erik Satie songs played by Satsuki Shibano--fittingly, fans of Yoshimura and Satie will find a lot to love here. Perfectly bare bones minimalism--just harp, piano, flute, and vibraphone. Crystalline, pastoral, picnic-ready. Midori Takada on both harp and vibraphone. Long out of print.

July 27, 2016

Atmosfear - En Trance, 1981

Unbelievably tight group of British synth-funkers at the top of their game. Blazing, relentless rhythm section, heavy bass grooves, subtle floating synth lines, dynamic solos, and sultry, often warped vocals in a perfect marriage of jazz and funk.  The songs are continually surprising, and the exciting interplay between seasoned musicians will keep you guessing and engaged. Attached here is the 2005 reissue which includes both sides of two of the group's singles. "Dancing in Outer Space" made Top 50 in the UK singles chart. 

July 21, 2016

Li Garattoni - Find Out What I'm Dreaming, 1982

I've been dragging my feet on this one for two years, both because it's very dear to me and because I have no idea how to talk about it. There's also very little information available about it anywhere, but from what I can cobble together, this is the only release from Jutta Li Garattoni. She produced Find Out What I'm Dreaming herself, and it features her husband Jean-Pierre Garattoni on drums alongside a slew of other musicians. As none of the listed credits suggest otherwise, I assume both piano and vocals are Garattoni. She passed away in 2004. She was a Taurus. That's about all I know. 

The range on this thing is remarkable. It opens with "Dornröschen," a flanged-out synth lament featuring whispery, Blonde Redhead-esque vocals and a whole lot of doom. We then move through a piano jazz-rock ballad ("Lonely"), sing-songy pastoral ("Find Out What I'm Dreaming"), dusty electronic soul ("Friends," which would have been perfectly at home on the Personal Space compilation), and some loungey art pop in between, before closing with a short reprise of "Dornröschen." Garattoni's vocals are similarly diverse, ranging from girlish naïveté to full-blown belting. Unabashed, capricious, sweet, a little unhinged. Even writing it out now, it doesn't sound like much--there's something quietly brilliant going on here that's hard to identify. The only thing I can think to compare this to is Kate Bush. Has Kate Bush heard this? I see all y'all UK readers on our traffic stats; can someone please ask her?

Four of these tracks appear on a compilation called Relax Your Soul which has some very good album art and can be purchased on Amazon (linked below)--other than that, this is long out of print and fetching triple digit prices on the rare occasion that it surfaces on Discogs. Enjoy!

buy four tracks / (download removed)

July 18, 2016

[RIP] Suicide - Suicide, 1977

We were deeply saddened to learn of Alan Vega's passing on Saturday. The reach of Suicide's influence is well-documented, and Vega's work needs no introduction. Produced by the venerable Craig Leon and allegedly recorded in four hours, Suicide has a permanent slot on every reputable list of the most influential records of all time. It was post punk before punk had actually figured out what punk was, it was true rock and roll because Vega was a teenager in the 50s, and it was two steps ahead of no wave because it evoked something apocalyptic without having to try so damn hard. It's volatile and degenerate music, both in form and content. It sounds like trying to listen to music through earmuffs. It sounds like heat waves--dirty and shimmering. It sounds like nothing else.

I was lucky enough to see Suicide at Club Europa in 2007. In his signature checker-print skullcap, Vega was so focused and furious that he might have been casting spells, while Martin Rev, slithering around in a slashed tank top and wraparound sunglasses, looked like he belonged in the opening sequence of Blade. It was simultaneously brutal and hypnotic, and with the room soaked in unrelenting red light, it felt like a reminder that the punishment for suicide is hell. It was Disneyland compared to their riot-inducing bloodbath performances of the 70s, but to this day it's still one of the best shows I've ever seen.

Thank you for everything, Alan--you will be missed.

July 15, 2016

[Mix for NTS Radio] Getting Warmer Episode 2

Listen to my second episode of "Getting Warmer" for NTS Radio. Tropical, balearic, ideal poolside or sunset listening. If you like it, you can download an mp3 version here. Happy summer!

1. Joëlle Ursula — Position Feeling
2. David Astri — Safe And Sound
3. Byron — Too Much
4. 10cc — I’m Not In Love
5. Linda Di Franco — TV Scene (Extended Version) (Excerpt)
6. Mike Francis — Features of Love (Apiento Edit) (thank you Jacob!)
7. Isabelle Antena — Laying on the Sofa
8. Black — Wonderful Life
9. Laid Back — Fly Away / Walking In The Sunshine (Excerpt)
10. Dip In The Pool — I’m Still In Love With You
11. Yōsui Inoue— Pi Po Pa
12. Renée — Come Closer
13. Jennifer Hall — Ice Cream Days
14. Roxy Music — True To Life

July 13, 2016

Masumi Hara - Yume No 4-Bai, 1984

Experimental pop. Brooding ballads with Enya-like synth sweeps and sparse, kick-heavy upbeat tracks that playfully reference dub reggae, hip hop, samba, disco, and even polka. Lush atmospherics, vocal layering, and liberal delay effect. Most songs have several minute long intro sections before opening up.

A lot of people participated in the making of this album. Most are unknowns, with one big exception: Hideki Matsutake of YMO fame. I actually found this record by digging through his absurdly long list of credits on Discogs. You can check out more of his work by grabbing these albums by Mkwaju Ensemble, Miharu Koshi, or Ryuichi SakamotoYeah, I know...the album art is incredible.

July 11, 2016

Harold Budd & Hector Zazou - Glyph, 1995

An underheard record from two masters. Trip hop feels like a radical genre departure for both Budd and Zazou, and yet it instantly makes sense upon first listen. Both leave their stylistic fingerprints all over Glyph--Budd's melancholia, Zazou's sinister sensibility--weaving haunted ambient jazz into fizzed out drum loops. Trumpet arrangements by Mark Isham, guitar by Barbara Gogan (with whom Zazou also collaborated on a very good trip hop full-length that I'll be posting at some point), and poetry recitations by Budd. Attains startling heights of opiated beauty ("Reflected in the Eye of a Dragonfly," featuring a wash of pedal steel guitar courtesy of BJ Cole; sinuous grooves on "Pandas in Tandem" and "As Fast As I Could Look Away She Was Still There"). Does exactly what good trip hop is supposed to do, and then some.

July 6, 2016

Harry Case - In A Mood, 1989

An untouchable album from outsider American guitarist Harry Case. Clever drum machine programming and synth lines, effortless smooth jazz guitar, and a breezy, new age sensibility. Each song is uniquely crafted, hitting a funky hotel lobby samba on "Midnight Samba" and classical guitar/synth reggae on the album's moody title track. "Chasing The Goon" and "Jam (At Your Party)" are high tempo party tracks where Case's jazz guitar and drumming are in full force. The percussive new age-y "Native Drums" is reminiscent of Wally Badarou's Echoes.

“Carry Me Home” (lyrics and song below) simultaneously gives me the chills and makes me smile, as it feels like the most positive song ever written. Just wish it were a bit longer..

I see the way to carry me home 
I see the way to home
Sometimes I am lost in sin I can’t find the power deep with me.
(I see the way to home)
I raise my voice up to the sky and things get better by and by.
(I see the way to home)
Don’t you know that I 
I see the way to carry me home 
I see the way to home
So don’t give up if you feel pain cause nothing ever stays the same
(I see the way to home)
If you think things are at an end, just turn around and start again.

I hope this album will be on lifelong rotation for you and yours. Many thanks to Contain Yr Brain for the tip. A perfect 10!

July 4, 2016

Alec Mansion - Alec Mansion, 1983

Guest post by Ian Hinton-Smith

A YouTube forage on a late-night mission to find everything related to early 80's Telex eventually led me to Alec Mansion. The first track to hit me was "En Volant" (a sublime slice of uplifting disco-boogiefunk and well worth sniffing out) from his first LP Microfilms, but his self-titled follow-up album has an excellent run of dance floor bangers and so gets our attention here today. Instant winners are "Ou Es-Tu," which gives RIPrince a run for his money in fizzy funk synth territory, and "Laid, Bête, Et Méchant" (roughly "Ugly, Stupid, and Mean"), which snaps harder than a stretched pair of disco knickers. 

Impossible to find a hard copy and commanding high prices when it does rear its head in the vinyl market, so I highly suggest you grab this and save yourselves a few months waiting time...and a scramble to find a few hundred clams when it does.

High recommends for fans of Telex and Lio. Repress please!