'Miura' Metro Area  (Metro Area, Environ, 2002)

Named as the second best album of the decade by Resident Advisor, while also getting recognition from Fact this release by the Brooklyn-based DJ duo - Morgan Geist and Darshan Jesrani's Metro Area maps out the sinister-sweet territory, perfectly.

Filtering down, distilling the essence of disco, within a strong 80s paradigm; never letting it turn too saccharine (the strings are brief, when they appear) or drowning it in irony. ‘Miura’ maintains a strong sense of itself as a piece of music, while allowing for the echoes.

Not too heavy, not too light - no need to go all-out epic. 

How to sustain that quality of naïveté in music, especially when referencing a style that was so embedded in a particular moment, without making it so self-conscious that it loses that original spark? What you find here is an act of homage via the cleverly constructed shifts, most notably at 2 minutes in. It’s the cutting back to display that demonstrates a kind of musical innocence to me. Darshan Jesrani considered these issues in an interview not so long ago, when asked:  

'Disco music has seen a significant resurgence of late, albeit in the form of edits and hybrid combinations of disco influences and other forms of dance; something that you've been famous for, among other things. What are your thoughts on the genre and its nuance?

I think the renewed interest in disco and the idea of disco represents a desire for something more from a night out and something more from the music that's played at nightclubs. However, I think it's important that people tune in and try to understand the spirit of the music in all its forms, and the social context and values that birthed disco, and the idea of dancing to mixed music in clubs. Too often the form and fashion is co-opted and the heart of the matter is lost. That wouldn't make for any kind of real revival.'

‘The heart of the matter …’  (that this music is one of community, of youth and memory). You could perhaps make a parallel with the early pre-man-in-hat-crooner Daft Punk; their early music had a spirit that was similarly enthusiastic and sweet: all about the influences.    

But it was always much more manufactured, part of a showy performance.

Here's a description of the Metro Area release from AllMusic to close, the record is ‘so rich with immediate pleasures that it would be understandable to take the craft and precision with which they were made for granted. This record is a deceptively intricate maze of tight machine rhythms, tumbling bongos, smacking handclaps, warm keyboard stabs, zapping synths, tickling pianos, lively loops of flute, guitar flicks, and seesawing strings. It's just shy of being an embarrassment of riches.’

Coda:

'Tame' Pixies (Doolittle, 4AD, 1989) & 'Ex-Lion Tamer' Wire (Pink Flag, Harvest, 1977)

Got hips like Cinderella
Must be having a good shame
Talking sweet about nothing
Cookie I think you're

Tame
Tame, tame
Tame

I'm making good friends with you
When you're shaking your good frame
Fall on your face in those bad shoes
Lying there like you're

Tame
Tame, tame
Tame
Tame
Tame, tame
Tame

Tame
Tame, tame
Tame
Tame
Tame
Tame

Taken from the Pixies first-ever (exclamation mark added/optional) live TV performance - they also played 'Monkey gone to heaven'. So nice the way Black Francis does his little dance, kicking his leg almost as he gets into it, and the way Kim Deal provides the high-pitched grace notes, ten seconds after BF starts hyper-ventilating.

Sigmund Freud, Beyond the pleasure principle (first published in 1920). Read the text here.   

There's great danger (danger)
For the loneliest ranger in town
No silver bullets (bullets)
Tonto's split the scene

Next week will solve your problems
But now
Fish fingers all in a line
The milk bottles stand empty
Stay glued to your T.V. set (T.V.)

There's great danger
And most caped crusader of all
No cloak of justice
Robin's quit the scene

Next week will solve your problems
But now
Fish fingers all in a line
The milk bottles stand empty
Stay glued to your T.V. set (T.V.)
(T.V.) stay glued to your T.V. set (T.V.) oh, oh
(T.V.) stay glued to your T.V. set (T.V.) oh, oh
(T.V.) stay glued to your T.V. set (T.V.) oh, oh
(T.V.) stay glued to your T.V. set (T.V.) oh, oh
(T.V.) stay glued to your T.V. set (T.V.) oh, why don't ya, don't ya, don't ya
(T.V.) stay glued to your T.V. set (T.V.)
(T.V.) stay glued to your T.V. set (T.V.) oh, why don't ya, don't ya, don't ya
(T.V.) stay glued to that and your T.V. set (T.V.)

For x-number of years, I misheard the refrain to be 'Tame me' when in fact it's just unexpected London-accented vowels singing the word T.V ... thereby keeping me fresh via imperfection/damaged hearing, maybe or listening via expectation-fulfillment.  

Coda:

Description below YT video: 

'Hey, I'm Jay Fleetwood. I'm 17 and I've been playing drums for 4-5 years. This is my channel of drum covers and other videos. If you like my videos then you can subscribe. Also I'm looking for a band, so if you're interested in the idea and live in the DC/Maryland/Virginia area or somewhere near hit me up. Enjoy!' 

Check out this teen with his alt-90s/80s/70s punk etc obsession, playing the same music I was into as a youngster: kind of lovely to observe, he's super-talented as well (esp. with those Joy Division covers). 

Versions/Live Recordings: 'Sunny' Bobby Hebb (Sunny, Philips, 1966)

Live performance from 1972, with Ron Carter

Written in the 48 hours after a ‘double tragedy’ in 1963 - the assassination of U.S. President John F. Kennedy and the murder of Hebb’s older brother, Harold who was stabbed to death outside a Nashville nightclub’ (source, Wik), ‘Sunny’ is one of those key touchstone tracks whose success has eclipsed all the other work by songwriter, Bobby Hebb.

Hebb claimed that he wrote the song as an expression of a preference for a 'sunny' disposition over a 'lousy' disposition following the murder of his brother and that his goal with the ‘optimistic’ lyrics was to express the idea that one should always ‘look at the bright side’.

All my intentions were to think of happier times and pay tribute to my brother – basically looking for a brighter day – because times were at a low. After I wrote it, I thought ‘Sunny’ just might be a different approach to what Johnny Bragg – from the Prisonaires -was talking about in ‘Just Walkin’ in the Rain.’ 

Though if you listen to the Prisonaires’ track there is little obvious point of connection between the two: ‘Sunny’ appears to be a straight-up love song, while ‘Just Walkin’ is an expression of hopelessness. It was released on Sun Records in 1953, while the group was incarcerated in the Tennessee State Penitentiary in Nashville – here is some info on the group that included one member on a 99-year prison sentence. They were given day release to perform across the state and became famous during their time. 

The dark inspiration for the song’s composition – the two murders – and the reference to the imprisoned singers fascinates me, as it disrupts what would arguably be the most common associations with the song, as a ‘simple’ expression of love and feel-good, light-hearted entertainment, aka Boney M groovin' & movin' in sequins. 

Without wanting to over-state this too much, I like to think that this song holds this complexity and depth – as code – within it; you can feel it in the live version above, with Ron Carter, where there is an element of threat, or menace in the way Hebb enunciates and the music builds. You can sense it in the lyrics too that strike me as surprisingly non-specific for a straightforward love song:

‘Sunny
Thank you for the truth you let me see
Sunny
Thank you for the facts from A to Z
My life was torn like wind-blown sand
And a rock was formed when you held my hand (oh, sunny)
Sunny one so true, I love you.

Sunny
Thank you for the smile upon your face
Hmm, sunny
Thank you, thank you for the gleam that shows its grace
You're my spark of nature's fire
You're my sweet complete desire
Sunny one so true, yes, I love you

‘Thank you for the gleam that shows its grace/You're my spark of nature's fire ..’ aside from being wonderfully poetic it sounds far from human, is Hebb encouraging us to think that he is, in fact, referring to something more abstract, without spelling it out in fixed terms. This notion bewitches me a little; pop transcendence, hidden in plain view.    

The raw intensity of the live acoustic performance is missing in the original recorded version that has a sweet self-exposure and vulnerability, in the way it starts and falls away from time to time. Hebb’s 1966 album is really consistent, with some equally impressive songs; see, for example, I am your man and You Don’t Know What You’ve Got Until You Lose It

Within the year and soon after, well-known artists were releasing their takes, most notably, Marvin Gaye and this superb version from the Stevie Wonder Live record – bassline paradise forming ...

'Sunny baby yeah ...'

Here’s Ella Fitzgerald/Tom Jones with the Welsh crooner tapping out the beat on a rocking chair, and even more surprisingly the film noir icon Robert Mitchum in 1967 offering his rendition as well. Jazz musicians also got involved in the celebration: notably, this classy and restrained Stanley Turrentine 1966 interpretation, but here is my preferred, as always, the passionate Les McCann exorcising spirits: 

Though the two versions that really strike me come from two non-Anglo women, first the Italian Luisa Casali – again from 1966  and this stunning rendition from Mieko "Miko" Hirota who has been called the "Connie Francis of Japan". Really love what she does here, encapsulating the erotics of the unhinged, while sounding completely committed.  

'(Sweet Sweet Baby) Since You've Been Gone’/’Ain't No Way’ single, Aretha Franklin (Lady Soul, Atlantic Records, 1968)

Recorded on December 16 and 17, 1967
Aretha Franklin - lead vocals; Jimmy Johnson and Bobby Womack - guitars; Spooner Oldham - electric piano; Tommy Cogbill - bass; Roger Hawkins - drums; Melvin Lastie, Joe Newman, Bernie Glow - trumpets; Tony Studd - bass trombone; King Curtis, Seldon Powell, Frank Wess - tenor saxophones; Haywood Henry - baritone saxophone; The Sweet Inspirations, Carolyn & Erma Franklin - background vocals; horn arrangement: Arif Mardin

Carried only by her voice, the rising sound of it, the music – the composition, construction of it, those horn and drum sounds; ‘Speak your name/And I’ll feel a thrill …’

I’ve listened to this song so many, so many times that it comes up as the first track to be heard on Youtube – it’s the best music for me, best going out walking the streets music for me, the best pick you up music I can think of, well, one of the best. ‘Hear me now (Hear me) … Hear me now.’

So perfect: three minutes or less. Some parts are linear, offering up emphasis and bombast, to stop abruptly, as if adding salt.           

Since you've been gone, baby
(Why'd you do it, why'd you have to do it)
Since you've been gone
(Why'd you do it, why'd you have to do it)

Baby baby, sweet baby
I didn't mean to run you away
It was pride on my lips
But not in my heart
To say the things that made you stray
But ah, babe
Hear me now (hear me)

Now I’m not claiming any special superhuman predictive power here, but I had always listened to these songs together and have only just discovered they were released together as a single. ‘Ain’t No Way’ was written by Aretha’s older sister, Carolyn, who also features here as a backing vocalist.

One of my favourite imaginative flights that I like to indulge in is to imagine that the various musical parts of these classic songs are human, reflecting human character traits. Thinking then about that horn sound, so sturdy and insistent and how it offers up a magical counterpoint to the other elements including the ‘operatic’ upper range of Cissy Houston, ringing out like a bell. Or consider the character of the drumming in ‘Since You’ve Been Gone’.

And then listen in from around 1’50 for the way everything comes together for the next 20 seconds or so, opening out so sweetly, fanning out in circles in ‘Ain’t No Way’ – one of the most touching and emotionally resonant songs I know.

Coda:

Live performance - 'Since You've Been Gone' (Concertgebouw, Amsterdam 1968)

Schaum, Masayoshi Fujita & Jan Jelinek (Faitiche, 2016)

Heat that has a liquid quality, building forever in its intensity – to engage with, to recreate the Tropics. German producer, Jan Jelinek has said of this album:

'I have long been obsessed with the Tropics. This obsession involves a mental image of a specific quality of landscape: deliriously extravagant unstructuredness, hostile to life but also excessively productive. I am fascinated by the idea of installing clear minimalist forms amid such luxuriant tropical growth. Perhaps my image of the city of Brasilia is a good example: the utopia of elegant and ascetic modernism, surrounded by rampant vegetation.'

Jelinek continues that the idea of the

'Tropics is fascinating as a nervous jungle phantasm that openly indulges in exoticism at the same time as deconstructing it. In this way, the main character’s adventure becomes a journey into the subjective. It resembles a feverish inner delirium, exposing exoticism as a simulated, utopian perspective. What it boils down to is insubstantial, nothing but foam and froth.'     

The record title, Schaum means ‘foam and froth’ in German.

This is the second release from Masayoshi Fujita & Jan Jelinek, following Bird, Lake, Objects, Faitiche, 2010. Again, from the promotional material: 'Japanese vibraphonist Masayoshi Fujita prepares his instrument with various percussion elements as well as metal objects and toys, while Jan Jelinek layers loops made using small-scale electronic devices.'

What is particularly fascinating about this music is the way it allows for enormous warmth to come through; you can almost feel the heat, the damp and the sense of being enclosed by the clotted, putrid vegetation. This heat helps elide what could have made this idea ‘corny’ and overly manufactured, this notion of recreating an exotic environment. This music retains a physical, felt quality rather than simply becoming a purely abstract exercise.

I love all of this record, from start to finish, but the track ‘Botuto’ is particularly impressive in the way the sinister aspect is never over-played, it remains delicate and moving. I also appreciate the way the jazz references are there, but again allowed to merge with the contemporary aspect. It's modern and old. Schaum is a very distinctive and powerful release that retains a core intimacy to it as it explores the sensual world.      

Check out this Resident Advisor interview, ‘Sampling matters’ that unpacks the ‘sprawling career of Jan Jelinek, the highly adventurous German artist who's about to reissue Loop-finding-jazz-records, one of the best electronic music records of all-time.’

Coda:

The German musician patches together a mix inspired by his summer in LA, put up last year.

Invitation to Openness, Les McCann (Atlantic Records, 1972)

Personnel: Les McCann- piano, electric piano, Moog synth; Corky Hale- harp; Yusef Lateef- flute, oboe, sax, percussion; David Spinozza, Cornell Dupree- guitars; Jimmy Rowser, Bill Salter- bass; Buck Clarke, William Clarke, Donald Dean, Alphonze Mouzon, Bernard Purdie- percussion, drums

That moment before; in that time of anticipation, the thinking that comes before a turn in your life, or some change. This music, or to be more precise the beginning of the first track, ‘The Lovers’ is a perfect representation of this feeling, or experience.

If you listen to these first five minutes or so, before Yusuf Lateef lets it rip with his unexpected Eastern-mystic sounds, the music offers a wonderful sensation of space and air – a mood of something, a kind of portent, meandering about: waiting/anticipating. (‘The secret weapon on 'The Lovers' is the plaintive, moaning oboe of Yusef Lateef: his snake-charmer lines and breathy, woody tones give the piece much of its sense of vulnerability and exotic surrender’ - to quote another). 'The Lovers' - 26 minutes long: filling the entire ‘A’ side of a long-playing record.

You can picture the musicians. Even if the sounds that they are creating are so ethereal and otherworldly, it’s hard to imagine the act of creation in itself: each instrument has its place, takes its turn, descending and falling, trickling about with such gentle reserve.

Here’s a description of that scene:

McCann then assembled a 13-member group to improvise for producer Joel Dorn around a few loose themes, very much in the style of Miles Davis’ contemporaneous recordings, and with a similarly talented all-star cast. The lineup of five percussionists on Invitation to Openness included Ralph McDonald and Bernard Purdie. Guitarist Cornell Dupree could be found tangling with multi-talented David Spinozza — just as the latter was rising to fame for his work with Paul McCartney on Ram. Yusef Lateef, Alphonse Mouzon and regular McCann contributors Jimmy Rowser and Donald Dean were also on hand.

There was nothing more to it, really. No charts, no complex instructions beyond a wink or a nod. They gathered inside Atlantic’s studios at 60th and Broadway, and began to build a masterpiece around Les McCann’s main voice. With no rules, everything was on the table. “The Lovers” even includes shimmering harp work by Corky Hale, adding another exotic element to this indescribably unique triumph.

Around three minutes, it’s more intense certainly, speeding up and then, with some repetition you sense the change of what is going to come; the single drum-beat, as the keyboards return. The drums again, the echo starts. And then, and then it begins.

The AllMusic review states that ‘the 26-minute 'The Lovers' is more illustrative, freer in its essence and translation of the predominant free love theme of the '60s and '70s.’ It’s hard to say how this music can represent a theme of any kind, let alone ‘free love’ but it certainly represents a kind of pure musical freedom, and artistry.

Another writer said: ‘it takes the listener who accepts the invitation in the right spirit to many places, never substituting the pretty for the true.’

What I like about ‘The Lovers’ - or one of the things I like best about it, is the way the different parts appear to remain so boxed-in – three, or perhaps steps forward, three, four steps back – and yet together transform into a still-cool riotous momentum (forever becoming muted, at times). No showy solos here, the musicians are a unit, working together, relying on their instincts to produce music that is completely improvised. And that over the top woo-woo ghosty sound is so nice that comes from nowhere – to disappear again - about half-way in, to come back later in another form, more manic.  

The rest of the album is just as impressive, showing off Les McCann’s contributions more, as the music offers a more conventional pattern; moving away from the intensity of enmeshment to a classic groove. Information gleaned from another source: there’s a ‘13-minute electronic revisit to 'Beaux J. Poo Boo' which McCann had recorded acoustically in 1965 and a 12-minute take of 'Poo Pye McGoochie.’  

Les McCann is perhaps best known for ‘Compared to what’ – here live at Montreux in 1969.

Drenched in anger and indignation, a song that remains current:

I love to lie and lie to love
A-Hangin' on, we push and shove
Possession is the motivation
that is hangin' up the God-damn nation
Looks like we always end up in a rut (everybody now!)
Tryin' to make it real — compared to what? C'mon baby!

Slaughterhouse is killin' hogs
Twisted children killin' frogs
Poor dumb rednecks rollin' logs
Tired old lady kissin' dogs
I hate the human love of that stinking mutt (I can't use it!)
Try to make it real — compared to what? C'mon baby now!

The President, he's got his war
Folks don't know just what it's for
Nobody gives us rhyme or reason
Half of one doubt, they call it treason
We're chicken-feathers, all without one gut. God damn it!
Tryin' to make it real — compared to what? (Sock it to me)

Church on Sunday, sleep and nod
Tryin' to duck the wrath of God
Preacher's fillin' us with fright
They all tryin' to teach us what they think is right
They really got to be some kind of nut (I can't use it!)
Tryin' to make it real — compared to what?

***

Another reason to like this record is the way it has been written about. Reading jazz reviews is often an experience all of its own, as writers stretch to find words that might come to close to expressing what is so affecting them. Aware that they remain in a minority, like readers of poetry perhaps, it might be for that reason that they need to justify their fascination (all rather ironic when you consider that of all forms of music, Jazz in its purest form operates on the level of the gut - or soul if you want to be lofty, depending on your perspective).

See, for example, this writing 

It is a simple matter of acid-base stoichiometry like that learned in any quantitative chemical analysis or medicinal chemistry course. If one treats the acid element of Parliament Funkadelic’s Maggot Brain (Westbound, 1971) with the sweet bass of Leroy Vinnegar, then infuse as with juniper with gin, with honey and morphine: Les McCann’s monumental Invitation to Openness would result. Ornette Coleman may have detonated a nuclear music device with Free Jazz; A Collective Improvisation (Atlantic, 1961), but it was McCann that brought that same spirit to funk, with much better results.

Acid-base stoichiometry? Or

The album opens with “The Lovers,” a 26-minute tune that took up the entire first side of the record when it was originally released. It takes me a little time to get into this one, as it opens tentatively, sort of eerily, dreamily. But this is a track that slowly puts its hooks into you, and before you know it, you’re caught up in it, curious and excited to see where it will take you. And it really starts to get interesting around the five-minute mark, when you feel you’re on some sort of Egyptian spaceship. It’s beautiful and fun and groovy and just fucking fantastic. A great jam, which just gets better and better. Check out that wild stuff on guitar around the eleven-minute mark. The song relaxes a bit for a while, but then builds against toward the end with a great groove.

 Egyptian spaceship? (This shared enthusiasm, it’s so unfiltered and natural).

Here’s a brief description of McCann’s trajectory and status as a musician, from another review on AllAboutJazz

'Les McCann is an interesting figure in jazz. After winning a talent contest on the Ed Sullivan Show in '56, McCann turned down an opportunity to join Cannonball Adderley's group, deciding instead to form his own jazz trio in Los Angeles. Playing a popular blend of hard bop and soul jazz, he signed with Pacific Jazz in '60, produced several enjoyable albums, and continued to develop and define the sound he wanted. That sound, a restless brew of jazz, funk, and soul, came to fruition on albums like 1968's Much Les and 1969's Swiss Movement, which produced the platinum-selling single "Compared to What."

As heard on these works, McCann had distinction in sound and style on piano and vocals, communicating with near pop-like fun and flair. McCann was poised to be great, yet something funny happened on the way to jazz stardom. Fusion, with its wild and wooly blend of traditional jazz and electronics, fractured the jazz fan base, leaving musicians like McCann a fractional audience. His '70s albums bathed too often in the waters of electronic wizardry, perhaps withering his acoustic jazz talents, or perhaps the audience for his experiments never caught up to his innovations.'

This extract from an interview with McCann by Bill Kopp, published in 2015 gives a sense of the man’s character and the motivations behind the creation of his music:  

'McCann recalls his reaction at the Invitation to Openness session: “Oh my God: it really worked!” He says, “What you have to do is experiment. I’m creating 24 hours a day, and that’s the message I try to share with people. We came from creation; therefore, we are creation. It drives me crazy when people say [about themselves], ‘Oh, I wish I had a talent; I can’t do nuthin’.’ I say, ‘Shut the hell up. Get quiet, and look deeper into yourself. Not outside; look inside, and you’ll find everything you’re looking for.’”

“A song may live awhile, but as far as style, you can’t keep doing the same thing. That’s another reason I’m so happy about the idea I had for Invitation to Openness. I gave very few – if any – instructions. No rules; just play. Swiss Movement broke the door open for me: don’t lock everything into a set pattern. And that was very enlightening for me.

And his name is closely linked with what is known as soul-jazz. “I’m told that I was one of the first people the record companies put that title to,” McCann says. “The first album I did, on Pacific Jazz [in 1960], was called Plays the Truth. ‘Soul’ is just another word for feeling, and love. It’s all good. Soul is becoming aware of what’s inside of us. When you get passionate about something, you discover yourself.”

In fact, in Leonard Feather’s liner notes for his 1961 LP In San Francisco, McCann is quoted as saying, “I want my music to hit the emotion of human beings.” He goes on to say, “If jazz is played so it can be accepted, it will be accepted.” Since that quote comes from near the beginning of his recording career, I ask him if he’d like to expand on his comment. His terse reply: “No.”

That was then. I don’t go back, no,” he adds. “That’s what I said then; I’m not going to try and go back and figure out what I meant.” I press the subject a bit and ask if he agrees that music should be accessible. Again: “No. Don’t make no rules! Everything is already accessible. People say, ‘This is hard to play. This is hard to listen to.’ They have all these fuckin’ excuses. Shit. Give me a break! Just go do it. Find your heart, your passion. That’s the word. That’s soul, that’s love: everything that is the opposite of fear. We’ve all heard it a thousand, a million times. But we take a long time to heed the message.”

Not surprisingly, McCann has strong opinions regarding the current state of jazz. “Everything must change. And they’re trying to keep it the same. It won’t go nowhere; it died.” He observes, “Once you make a recording, it’s recorded that way: that’s how it is. And that’s the way that people who buy the records want to hear it.” That runs counter to the jazz aesthetic of never-the-same-way-twice. “Musicians understand that, but record companies are sayin’, ‘Fuck that. Make me some money!’”

“Jazz is dead,” McCann repeats. “We have to make it because we like it. I tell all the young people now, ‘If you’re really into it, it’s got to be a matter of life and death. If not, go find your passion."

Seagull sound effects: 'Big love' Matthew E White (Big Inner, Domino Records, 2012) & 'Next Summer' single (1986) & Ivan Sen's film 'Beneath Clouds (2002)

Live free
Girl, I am a barracuda
I am a hurricane
Live free
I am a barracuda
I am a hurricane
Live free

Apologies to Matthew E. White – hovering somewhere out there like a hologram in my consciousness, whose persona seems rather serious/disapproving despite the levity of his lyrics, if he feels belittled by this pairing … (no disrespect intended). 

Recorded seagull sound effects. 
The signifier of summer. 
Live free. 

Two tracks, from different points, ways of seeing, ways of being returning to the same point of departure, the sound of birds circling in the sky, reminding us of our childhoods (‘next summer I’ll meet a boy/And he’ll like me …')

From the Consequence of Sound review of White's Big Inner record: Big Inner/Beginner ...

Big Love’ acts as the thesis track. Its galloping, road-song tempo meshes with White’s refrain: “Moving on like any other man should, moving on like any other man would.” His words are reinforced by a seven-voice choir and a swelling string section. Musically, Big Inner reflects White’s stint as the band leader of avant-garde jazz group Fight the Big Bull. He cites Randy Newman as a personal hero, an influence that bridges the songwriting here with White’s jazzy background.

From Kitty Empire's review in The Guardian where she refers to the ‘very compressed auditory space’ of White’s music.

The son of missionaries who spent some childhood years in the Philippines, White, 30, is an old spirit who built a studio, Spacebomb, in his attic, looking to the Stax and Motown systems for guidance; he has affiliations with Bon Iver (whose first album about loss Big Inner faintly recalls), Megafaun and the Mountain Goats. He’s a jazzbo who often keeps his horns so low in the mix they are barely brass at all. There’s a choir here, so artfully deployed it seems almost muzzled to modern ears, used to having their ears blown backwards by ululating TV soul divas. Over seven elegant tracks, White and his musicians achieve the kinds of loveliness that Spiritualized, Lambchop, Cat Power and the Beta Band have tilted at, at different times in the past, and quite often missed.

Really like the shy placement of White’s vocals in ‘Big Love’ and his music, in general and that out-of-this-world bassline (providing the mechanics, the construction; from momentum to strength) and the so sharp/so pure sound of the backing singers singing ‘hurricane’. 


***
Australia, like hip-hop maybe (and then at that moment she coughs) isn’t known for its tradition of love songs, or films tackling the subject of love; I remember reading this comment once with reference to the country’s cinema. All this is true. 

Once when watching this film …. 

the miraculous (be quiet) Beneath Clouds by First Nations director, Ivan Sen – released in 2002 – with a French person I remember him saying that the essence of the film was ‘not much talk’ (this is how I remember the phrase even if it sounds like I’m rendering him inarticulate). And it’s true that this film, as most Australian films that feel real to me, are driven by intense monosyllabic communications strategies, or speechlessness, or silence: the inarticulate nature of a people who feel oppressed by the intensity of their emotions (in an - often - hyper-masculine culture that fights against any semblance, any expression of 'weakness'). 

So, what then is the connection with this ultra-sweet pop-song by an ‘all-girl’ group from the 80s (that almost no-one knows about)?

Well, let’s say the song connects with me so much mainly because of the way the it constantly distances itself from the expression of sentiment by joking around and making it over-the-top, ironic and excessive. This is telling and endearing, I think. (Here are some of the lyrics from my listening, could be wrong)

Next summer
Everything will be plastic
Because the world is a toy
Next summer
It will be fantastic
Cause I’ll meet a boy
And he’ll like me
And never be sarcastic
We’ll be together like elastic bands
And I won’t care about his clammy hands
Or the way he dribbles when he tells me he loves me on the hot sands

(Later it refers to it all being like ‘a Coke ad’).

This song includes one of my favourite ever lines from a pop-song (yes, another favourite: there are plenty):

‘Next summer he will give me a memento/the blood from his hands’. 

Memento to rhyme with Sorrento, a luxe beach-side resort outside of Melbourne, where traditionally the well-heeled Catholic private school people and their families would holiday (the Protestant versions of the same would go to Portsea); ‘hand’ to rhyme with ‘caravan’. 

Nice, funny, ambiguous: is this paramour out hunting wild-game for the object of his affections - in the savage downtown, the mean streets of Sorrento - or is it some kind of teen-blood-devotion ritual; we will never know.   

'I'm Legend' Smiley the Ghetto Child (AMOB Entertainment, 2010) prod. DJ Premier

Smiley the Ghetto Child, Real Name: D. Cruz

Profile: Born in Harlem and raised in The Bronx, NY. 
He spend more than 20 years in the game, he used to co write stuff for Black Sheep and Chi Ali. He then hooked up with Group Home because Melachi the nutcracker was his cousin. He helped to orchestrate their first album “Livin Proof”, Smiley’s first appearance was on the ‘Tha Realness.’

That perfect DJ Premier mix of a little-known sample (Bob James's 'Dream Journey' - CTI, 1975) and a better-known voice, KRS-One - providing the structure, with a kind of flourish that distinguishes his work. This music is all about balance, keeping all the aspects of it together (and has a kind of happiness about it, reminiscent of a disco remix).