Tuesday 29 April 2014

Hip Hop I Ignored - An Introduction

Hip Hop goes retromania.
I've decided to do a little feature series along the lines of my Glaring Omissions series that I did about classic Australian albums that didn't make it into the greatest Australian albums book or The Age Newspaper's 50 best Australian albums list. This is going to be a bit different though. I once heard of a feature where they gave a bunch of rap guys a bunch of classic country albums to review or was it vice versa? It's a great concept either way. So with rap & hip hop never never being my main source of listening it should make this series slightly interesting. Being a bit of a dilettante sometimes leads you, due to financial and time constraints, to miss certain things and sometimes even massive pop cultural events. You can't be into everything.  So I'm gonna do 5 legendary, classic or canonical  Hip Hop LPs that I missed. There ain't gonna be any Wu Tang, PE, Beasties, Snoop, Diamond & The Psychotic Neurotics, De La Soul, Showbiz & AG, Tribe, Ice-T, Missy, Main Source, NWA, Pete Rock & CL Smooth etc. here as I caught them at the time. But there will be some massive surprises that I missed. I never got into Tupac & Biggie and really thought hip hop had run its course by the turn of the millennium despite now diggin some occasional current shit by Dj Mustard, Kanye, Raven Felix, Kendrick Lamar and Schoolboy Q. Is this shit a last gasp or a Renaissance? I do think there is some future life in that interzone between rap and R&B and all the micro-genres inbetween. Time will tell I guess. There will be no Aussie hip hop either as I'd rather listen to Andre Reiu than that shit! I guess this whole concept started to ferment inside my brain after watching Jimmy Fallon the other night where he introduced Nas who is now doing 20th anniversary concerts of his apparent classic Illmatic from 1994. So he's going to be first. Some consider this record the best rap has to offer. So I'm rather looking forward to it. I'm not even sure I know any of the tunes....I'll get back to you soon with the first instalment of Hip Hop I Ignored.

Schoolboy Q's 2014 track Studio is the biz.

Gira & Cyrus

I listened to the Swans new 2 hour epic album last week To Be Kind. Initial response is its not as good as The Seer their previous 2 hour opus but still plenty of laughs to be had. Some epic journeys into sound ie the 34 minute Bring The Sun/Toussaint l'ouverture really brings the noise and is worth the price of admission alone. I even thought a bit of (proto)grunge was creepin in on one or two tracks, you know, like Helmet-esque riffs and Scratch Acid type of cacophony. Sure those groups were probably influenced by the Swans. Anyway those particular trax just didn't seem as classy as Swans of old. Actually in my wife's car the other day Wrecking Ball by Miley Cyrus came on the radio and gave me the same kind of sonic pummelling thrills I expect of Swans. Does this render Gira and crew redundant? Strange days indeed!

Pseudo Echo

Pseudo Echo have joined in the retromania and have a new album out. Will I listen to it? Probably not. I only ever had that first LP Autumnal Park taped off someone. There weren't that many memorable tracks really. I wonder if it's a return to their more electronic/new romantic days or their later more rockified funk sound that gave them their transglobal hit, their cover version of, Funky Town?

I always liked this tune Don't Go from 1985. Had the 7" I do believe. Still sounds alright I reckon. They were a bit more talented and original than say I dunno Geisha. I remember seeing one them at Melbourne's Queen Vic Market in like 86 and thinking that was something but also thinking he's just a guy in the street like the rest of us.

Liked the goth/post punk type guitar in this one from 84 and those keyboards ofcourse. Funny 80s videos eh?

Monday 21 April 2014

More Soundtrack Gold

Shogun Assassin OST (1980) - Mark Lindsay & W Michael Lewis
Came across this on the interweb and thought 'What's that something to do with Quentin Tarrantino...yeah maybe...no Liquid Swords!' Of course Liquid Swords is the Genius/GZA hip hop masterpiece from 1995 that I've discussed before on this here blog. It's possibly the greatest hip hop LP of them all in my book. A big part of Liquid Swords appeal is the twisted music's strange one of a kind vibe as well as the brilliant lyrics, phrasing, beats etc. And a big part of Liquid Swords eerie vibe is the sampling of this Shogun Assassin soundtrack. I'm not usually a tracker of samples, you know a trainspotter, but sometimes sampled songs end up in your collection via different routes. Curtis Mayfield & Liquid Liquid turned up many years later (after being sampled by Ice-T and Grandmaster Flash respectively) when I discovered those artists records. I do have The Winstons version of Amen, Brother on a compilation from whence the Amen break was torn out and I often think 'Why these few seconds of drummage?' Anyway listening to Lindsay & Lewis's soundtrack it's impossible not to think of Liquid Swords. This is the sample stain right? Was that a derogatory term though? I can't remember. Whatever, this soundtrack will always be tied to Genius/GZA in my brain & eardrums. Having said that Shogun Assassin is excellent and I am fairly certain I would love it if I'd not heard or even disliked Liquid Swords. Who are Lindsay an Lewis?? They don't sound particularly Japanese do they? I believe they must be Western ring ins for the dubbed/re-soundtracked English speaking version of this film. They've created some synthy goodness on this record and some unique atmospheres not attained by anyone previously or since. This OST will appeal to 70s analogue synth fiends and the electronic soundtrack headz out there (aren't they one and the same?). One wonders whether the eastern motifs used on a couple of tracks would be considered cheesy, crass or even offensive by the Japanese. Who knows? Who cares? This is the biz.

Un'Ombra Nell'Ombra OST (1979) - Stelvio Cipriani
Still in the field of electronic soundtracks from the late 70s early 80s. I just can't seem to get enough of this stuff. Never seen the film but this is one hell of a soundtrack that I've recently tracked down in digital form. This is the 7th Cipriani soundtrack to cross my path. There's only something like another 200 to go, shit I better not get too obsessed with him. Some of Cipriani's classics include Whirlpool, Gli Orrori Del Castello Di Norimberga and his collaboration with Goblin that seems to be very underrated Solamente Nero but this tops all of those. This is a horror score and all I can find out about it is that it was composed by Cipriani and Goblin's Claudio Simonetti plays synthesiser on it. This isn't as funky, beat driven, easy or symphonic as other Cipriani OSTs. It's a minimal synth prog record with suspenseful bass along with some added clanks and textures. It turns out this was recorded in 1977 but the movie remained unreleased until 79. This places the recording around the same time as the Goblin classic soundtrack to Suspiria and I've gotta say it has a similar vibe but way more stripped back. Un'Ombra Nell'Ombra is one of the best records Claudio Simonetti has played on.  This is another Goblin missing link along with Solamente Nero that may have passed many of you by. Now I'm wondering if Cipriani did any other recordings with Goblin members because if they're anything like this we have to hear them.

Monday 14 April 2014

Don't Touch That Stereo Part I

Millie & Andrea - Drop The Vowels (2014)
This is one of the dudes from Demdike Stare and some other bloke. For some reason I'm really enjoying this record which I didn't really expect to. I don't think anything much new is happening here. There a bit of post dubstep, some gamelan vibes, isolationist type ambience, a dose of Basic Channel, hardcore continuum styles, drum & bass pops its head up, tech-house (that was a thing wasn't it for a minute there in the 90s?) and I dunno it's all a bit zombie rave (that should so be a genre). Not really hands up in the air more like your arms fall off as you try to raise them above your waste. Is it undeconstructed or reconstuctured deconstruction or constructed unreconstruction? More to the point does anyone give a shit at this point? More nails in the coffin for rave in the best possible sense.

Clouds - Ghost System Rave (2013)
A bit late on this one. Ghost System Rave was only hipped to me in early January by Reynolds via Energy Flash. This is far and away the best album I missed last year, the only other contender being Holden's The Inheritors. It most certainly would have made my top 9. As far as album titles that describe their contents go this is perfection. Whilst the ingredients suggest the 90s, something pulls this away from mere retro-activity. Perhaps Future 1 is the only exception to that rule here as it soundz like an obscure 91 grimey 'ardcore gem that Blog To The Old Skool might have dug up. Ghost System Rave is not just techno micro-genres revisited. Its like you're hearing an early 90s rave through a ghost's ears. You feel like you've heard it before but you haven't, not like this. This is a delightfully askew musical experience. It sounds/feels like you've already dropped the drugs and you're occupying an inbetween dimension. This is an incredible musical achievement. Rave from the otherside. We just had Zombie Rave and now this is Ghost Rave.

Wednesday 9 April 2014

True Detective - Part One

Smokin Rust
I think I've just watched the TV event of 2014. True Detective sounded boring to me and the poster was hardly sellin it to me either. It was only after watching Dallas Buyers Club (inspirational renegade movie in the vein of Milk & Erin Brockovich where Matthew McConaughey put in a sterling performance), that I became sufficiently motivated to finally watch True Detective. This show is pretty much a philosophical debate thinly disguised as a Cop Buddy/Southern Gothic Horror drama.

There's a fair bit of "I'm Marlon Brando!" "No, I'm Marlon Brando!" where the two leads McConaughey and Woody Harrelson try to out mumble one another. Talk about actors pushing each other to new heights; they both put in outstanding, career-best performances. The script is dense, funny, thought provoking and unlike anything I've seen or heard on TV recently. There's a definite southern Twin Peaks vibe happening here as the show opens with a dead girl in the middle of nowhere, followed by the ensuing murder investigation. Not to mention diaries and esoteric/occult themes. The academics and theorists must be loving it, as I can see a million essays on what the true meaning of all the chit chat between the two leads really means. Which philosophy wins and who do you side with, etc. Nihilism, existentialism, religion, atheism, some cosmic supernatural shit and everything inbetween all get a look in. I'm still getting my head around the flurry of concepts thrust at me during the eight, hour long, episodes. Oh and apart from all that, it's a really bloody intense, scary and thrilling show.

Watching Breaking Bad you could basically ignore any subtext and just dig on the propulsive, event-laden, minimal plot - which I think I did. That show for me was ultimately pure visceral entertainment in excellis possibly never to be rivalled. True detective sets out to make you think from the minute it starts but this doesn't detract from the unfolding dramatic plot. For those of you feeling bereft after the conclusion of Breaking Bad you will be able to find some solace here in True Detective, particularly around episodes three, four and five where it rivals the predecessor's edge of your seat thrills. Other parallels can be drawn here particularly with Bryan Cranston and Matthew McConaughey both transforming themselves into actors beyond what we could have ever imagined them becoming. Sure, now I look back at Malcolm In The Middle and realise that maybe Hal was genius too but I don't think I'll be going back to How to Lose a Guy In 10 Days and thinking similar things of McConaughey's performance. Then again I've been reliably told he has been building up to this since 2011 with his previous six films. This is all a moot point, as they are now the two best actors of their generation and seemingly peerless.

Friday 4 April 2014

Horror Movie Soundtracks Need No Transformation

I've only just noticed this article from late last year where it is claimed that perhaps soundtracks are mere memorabilia and the vinyl reissue boom of horror soundtracks is not necessarily based in "the music's stand alone appeal." It is also claimed that the vinyl resurgence of OSTs of horror may have led to the live revival of certain acts.

Using me as an example lets have a look at these claims. DRG Records had this series of cds in the mid 90s Classic Italian Soundtracks. I have the first two volumes of the Goblin compilations, one on  Ennio Morricone's  trilogy of soundtracks for Dario Argento and 4 volumes of  of the Spaghetti Westerns compilations. Of the 17 soundtracks featured on those 2 Goblin comps I'd seen one of the films, Patrick, at the time. Since the mid 90s I have collected 9 individual scores by Goblin and even a couple from the solo Claudio Simmonetti. Now over 15 years later I've only seen one more of the movies that they scored Suspiria and I'm not even sure if that's worth watching. Three of my all time favourite Morricone scores (sure, I like a few others too) are the 3 he scored for Argento The Bird With Crystal Plumage, The Cat O Nine Tails and Four Flies On Grey Velvet. I've never viewed the movies and probably never will. But this music is some of the all time great music of the Twentieth century.

Now I will pick 10 of my favourite horror soundtracks off the top of my head not including any of the aforementioned.

  • Christine - John Carpenter & Alan Howarth
  • Maniac - Jay Chataway
  • Zombie Holocaust - Nico Fidenco
  • Porno Holocaust - Nico Fidenco
  • Halloween - John Carpenter
  • A Lizard In A Woman's Skin - Ennio Morricone
  • Chopping Mall - Chuck Cirino
  • La Coda Dello Scorpione - Bruno Nicolai
  • The Wicker Man - Paul Giovanni
  • Eraserhead - Alan Splet & David Lynch
These ten soundtracks I have listened to a zillion times (but only seen three of the films) and think the music is fantastic just as much as any other genre of LP I would listen to. In fact surely there is a case for John Carpenter to be considered one of 20th centuries great composers. I don't need some deluxe reissue for this terrific music to be transformed beyond memorabilia, do I Mr Reed? Perhaps your attitude to movie music needs to transform more than anything. I often think a lot of movies don't deserve the brilliant music they get to soundtrack their films. This all fits in with my 'music is a much more successful cultural artform than film' argument that has been mentioned previously on my blog. Sure you might think I'm just a music guy, so of course I'm going to say that. Once upon a time however I was a definite film guy and was going to go into professional movie reviewing.

For how serious and intense people are about soundtracks and sound design you may want to check out the three volumes published from Philip Brophy's Cinesonic conferences in 1998, 1999 & 2000 by The Australian Film TV and Radio School. Brophy also published the excellent 100 Modern Soundtracks which was part of the BFI Screen Guides series in 2004. Perhaps someone should publish (er... maybe me) a book on soundtracks that stand alone as musical artefacts considering I've just come up with 25 of them in this short article.

The live return of people like Alan Howarth, Fabio FrizziGoblin (Goblin have always been around in one form or another as far as I can tell) and another Goblin was inevitable as their cults grew bigger and bigger by the day. More than likely the internet has served as the main reason for these artists' growth in popularity. Having said that, if someone was cluey and cashed up enough in the 90s to promote these artists live I'm sure they would have sold out shows in capital cities across the world.

Don't get me wrong, beautiful new shiny packaging, special artwork and the fetishization of vinyl are all fine things but it's still all about the music innit? I mean Blue Jasmine is an excellent film but I'm not about to rush and buy that OST if its released with a bunch of extra bells and whistles on chunky vinyl am I?

Love the soundtrack & the poster.
I wonder what the film's like?

Tuesday 1 April 2014

More On Soundtracks

I've only just realised there was a 1983 sequel to 1980s The Boogey Man and it is possible Tim Krog was responsible for the soundtrack to that as well as the original but information is thin on the ground. By the looks of things the soundtrack to Revenge of the Boogey Man aka Boogey Man II has never seen the light of day. Now that would be a coup if a record company could get a hold of both of these scores. Although perhaps the original score was just reused. If anyone has any information and can confirm or deny such rumours leave a comment.

I've also discovered this brilliant mixtape of 70s and 80s horror soundtracks at SoundCloud called Give Me Convenience Or Give Me Death from RFLX. Its got all your favourite composers Frizzi, Chattaway, Lynch and Splet, Shore, Fidenco, Korzynski etc. I know 95% of this music but it's mixed in such an exciting and propulsive manner that its a joy to listen to despite its familiarity. This is the biz.