Right now, this song is conjuring up in my mind the final scene in Children of Men. Go with me here. Not really because of it’s literal reference to a “boat” but in it’s humanity rising up within a glitch tech context. A river of hopeless static brought on by a future ridden with despair. Yet inside this boat remains a soul-laden hopefulness. Thoughts of freedom, birds in the sun, and wind in the trees. None of which is a part of this sonic industrial landscape. There is a unmistakable current lifting us from horror, into a foggy but enlightened future.
Though I appreciate the twitchy glitchiness of “Be Good to Them Always,” I want to see a smidge more humanity. Thus I went to Lali Puna, one of the few girl-fronted bands who can successfully combine pop-song allure with electronic alarm.
“Alienation” is sort of a little sister to the Notwist’s “Consequence,” a track I very nearly used here but pulled away from due to my having championed it on mixes and in conversation for a full decade now. Both are the emotional climaxes on their respective albums, but where “Consequence” rides a dizzyingly haunting melody and jockeys for the title of Saddest Song I Own, “Alienation” absorbs patterns of noise and additional instruments to blossom into something quite beautiful. I love those sounds—typewriter keys, striking matchsticks, plucked strings—but they’re no match for the breathy vocal and piano and the almost-hidden guitar. Why have I not been talking about this for years too?
I promise my contributions to the next volume won’t be so German.
It’d be a shame to go down the path of highly visual songwriting without referencing the Books. Hailing from New York City, this duo defined an experimental genre that’s been described as Folktronica, or perhaps more aptly, a sound collage.
The Books made a name for themselves by removing sampled voices and compositions from their original contexts, and crafting them into new emotional compositions. Moments of contemplation, understanding, excitement and refinement are cataloged, transformed and infused with new meaning, creating aleatoric, yet highly controlled experimentation.
Over a backdrop of electric guitars, eclectic samples, and incessant clicking, Nick Zammuto reveals hidden melody in Be Good to Them Always by singing in concert with the Books’ familiar sampled voices. This duet tends to take the edge off phrases like “you are doing something the whole world is doing” and “this great society is going smash.”
Oh Cornelius. How long I have loved you. Through every weird-ass turn, Beach Boys inspired pop, Sonic Youth-esque noise rock, and his very own post-kraut weirdness. Every flavor perfect and alien.
I can’t think of another artist with a more sensitive ear for detail, and when he fills his long, repetitive krautrock compositions with his signature production work it sounds unlike anyone else in the game. There’s something highly visual about his songwriting. A tiny burst of color here, a perfectly-rendered but oddly out of place photo-realistic flower there; it’s the musical equivalent of Jeff Koon’s Easyfun-Ethereal paintings.
Loving where this is going. Krautiness. The essence of music that is equally minimal and maximal. Both direct in its focus but going nowhere in particular.
And who knew one of the best purveyors of modern Krautiness would be three Japanese ladies, playing wildly eclectic unpredictable rock music, that while guitar centric, is so full of electro flourishes, counter melodies, and atmosphere galore.
This track from Buffalo Daughter’s first record has been a favorite for a long time. The guitar sounds shimmer and crunch at the same time. And the drum texture is just lovely. A round smooshy kick thump balances beautifully with one of the thinnest snare pops on record. This track is incredibly directed, driving at one speed the entire time. It’s not going anywhere but I’m along for the ride regardless.
Somewhere between the mechanical menace of Mogwai and the, well, shit-ass weirdness of Patten lies “Paradise Walk,” certainly the krautiest of all the krautrock in my library. Which is only really Neu! and Can, so maybe that’s not saying much. I first heard this album—recorded in 1986, bootlegged in 1995, and officially released in 2010—last year in New York, and it’s always retained that wide-eyed wonder of wandering a massive city. It’s a pretty awesome coexistence of order and chaos, with samples and disembodied voices and the occasional windchime gliding over and under and through that wonderful drumbeat. When the synth line rises from the murky depths…I don’t know, it sounds like pure hope.
Every couple of days, one of the NEIMT authors will post a song that is in some way a reaction to the previous song posted by another author. Every 15 songs will be packaged up with cover art and presented for download as a complete mix. The only rule is that no artist can appear more than once in the same volume.
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We freely admit that this blog is probably a violation of artistic copyright law. We put together these mix "tapes" as way to share great music in a way that encourages artist support and utilizes grassroots promotion by purposefully violating those copyrights. We would like to imagine that no artist in their right mind would oppose such altruistic intentions despite its bureaucratic insubordinance.