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1. The Mighty Two - War is Over (recorded between 1974-1979; from 2002's No Bones for the Dogs)
2. Olufemi Ajasa & His Nigerian Bros - Aiye Le (from 2008's Nigeria 70: Lagos Jump
3. Funkadelic - If You Don't Like the Effects, Don't Produce the Cause (from 1972's America Eats Its Young)
4. Radio Algeria - Disco Maghreb (from 2006's Radio Algeria)
5. Bardo Pond - lb. (from 2001's Dilate)
6. Spiritualized - Electricity (Live) (from 1998's Royal Albert Hall October 10 1997)
7. Sonic Youth - Reena (from 2006's Rather Ripped)
8. Phew - Dream (from 1981's Phew)
9. The Rolling Stones - That's How Strong My Love Is (from 1965's Out of Our Heads)
10. TV on the Radio - Stork and Owl (from 2008's Dear Science)
May was a particularly heavy listening month, and with the sweltering late-Summer like weather, I had to lead this mix off with some crucial dub reggae snagged from the always-quality Holy Warbles. I think I've mentioned before how reggae finally clicked with me while living in Bloomington in 2007, and "War is Over" with its reedy, emotive organ line is full of hooks, the excellent, smooth vocal that enters late, the simple syncopation of the bass-line; this may be the most memorable dub number I've ever heard.
"Aiye Le" takes that good energy and multiplies it, leading off with a melody on electric guitar joined in short order by rollicking hand percussion, and joyful call-and-response & group vocals. There's a great, almost surf-esque high-frequency guitar solo not even 90 seconds in. When the second solo rides in, you'll want to yelp along with the background vocalist.
It's undoubtable that Funkadelic produced some of the best rock-tinged RnB funk-jams of all time; "If You Don't Like the Effects, Don't Produce the Effects" is one of these, strutting along with slow-jam, sweltering sermon-like pacing. Aww shit, if you can't move to this, you just can't move. The strings here boost it to another level, almost as regal as the sassy group vocals throughout the second verse. Never has rhetorical reasoning sounded so damn sexy.
Radio Algeria is another of the great compilations from world-sound travellers Sublime Frequencies. this is the lead-track, which starts off on-fire, drum machines blazing, with some sort of tinny, eastern-sounding horn flying in on top of the mix. A quick vocal segues into a stringed-instrument solo which itself gives way to pleading vocals over some phased-out guitar which organically becomes a percussive jam...and so it goes. Being all over the place all the time is the mantra here, and it works even during sudden shifts, giving you the perspective of a dusty dial-twister marooned at a desk, on a rooftop, in a sweltering vehicle...
I want to bring back the 8x10 glossies...tired of this EPK nonsense. Black and white prints are so much classier.
Shifting gears is not normally a quality associated with Bardo Pond, their dense soundscapes usually encircling a towering riff, and piling onto it with the full, humid thrust of their attack. Here, "lb." lumbers through such a riff, vocalist Isobel Sollenberger letting the fuzz wash over her slow-paced vocals. "You make me feel like nothing." Ah, but here's a change! Three-plus minutes in, an over-filtered guitar squelch introduces a riff at double-speed, and the band enters re-energized while Sollenberger drags behind the speedboat of a riff, a smoky-voiced wake that works surprisingly well.
The new-found sense of speed carries over into "Electricity", which does not flow at the often glacial-pace of Spiritualized tunes, instead channeling a full-plumed V.U., complete with horn skronk and overdriven organ. It's a smash-and-bash affair, made even more effective by the vocal verse halfway through over just-quickening drums before the wild riff explodes back into the song. This is Spiritualized at the peak of their live powers, a release essential in any collection that will leave you in squall & thrall just like the end of this track.
Me with the wait of the entire Hall in the palm of my hand. Should've tried to look inside. This day felt particularly revelatory, something about standing in a spot so famous yet distant from my own life---and then being there in person.
Rather Ripped is one of my favorite records of the last five years, and though it may be ridiculed, my favorite SY record. How'd that happen? This record is one untouchable riff after another, very few effects or noise getting in the way. "But that's not the point of a Sonic Youth record!" Well...yeah, but these aren't normal riffs, they're still skewed, solo'd over, layered, de-tuned. "Reena" begins with a Daydream Nation-esque riff, which takes a while to unfurl itself, like a flag stretching out in a brisk wind. They barrel through it, roll through a feverish bridge, and end by driving it into the ground in a high-frequency jam.
Phew's "Dream" is my one nod to kraut on this mix...a Japanese vocalist backed by Can's rhythm section, produced by Conny Plank. The record itself is a melange of no-wave, alternately dance-y and haunting. "Dream" is a piano ballad, melancholy for sure, backed by interference from Plank's studio wizardry, electronics weaving in-and-out lending texture to the occasionally delayed-out chords. Some guitar-notes slide in, an eerie coda to a beautiful song. No translation needed.
Understated cover for Phew's self-titled record. Lost classic?
Otis Redding may have done it (not-quite) first, but the Stones' take on "That's How Strong My Love Is" is without fault. Jagger here is the star, pleading in the half-yowl, half-talk style he was busily perfecting on 1965's Out of Our Heads. The band ramps up momentarily, dropping down to a whisper before roaring back, letting Mick howl over the top, while they carry things into the red, a scorching ballad.
I often forget about Dear Science which replaced manic energy of TV on the Radio's most successful singles with a sound largely built on restraint. Looking & listening back, it's still an extremely strong record. Upon release of their newest effort Nine Types of Light, I feel like "Stork and Owl" is a great indicator of their direction, a song built on tons of little touches. At the beginning, the glitch-heavy slam of a beat, and vocal loops of "ahhhhs" and "ohhhhs" build tension that mounts with the inclusion of plucking strings. The chorus, with it's almost-falsetto lead vox, is a release, less glitch and more strings, and floats into the next verse with a string melody and cluster of delayed-out synth notes. They do this slow-build so well...I can forgive them for not writing another "Wolf Like Me." This is studied pop, emotionally heavy, and exceptionally beautiful at the end, vocals harmonizing with swelling strings, the beat finally tumbled off the cliff leaving just the void and those plaintive vocal loops.