For The Record: Moby: Play

Oftentimes it is said by people (pretending to be) wise enough that the most beautiful pieces of art are products of despair, depression and crisis. I’m not going to go into this since 1. this is not the case with this record and 2. I do not want to pretend I’m wise enough for that.

The first time I heard Moby’s name was in a song by Eminem and as an 11 year-old I could not really see the point of being so angry at someone whom the man did not really know. At least that was the picture in my head. Small skip in time, I heard ‘Bodyrock’ in the video game Fifa 2001. I really liked its sampled lyrics  (“we rock the party, rock the party” seemed to do exceptionally well with a game on football – or soccer for the dear readers from over there).  Another timelapse later I got to hear “Natural Blues” when I was in a really bad period and hearing those achingly well-placed chords of strings and its driving dynamics with all the piano and staccato bass… I rarely cry only because I hear a piece of music… But this was so liberating yet saddening that “Natural Blues” evoked some sort of an emotional whirlwind in my mind and heart and forced me to register and process daily pain until I was well enough.

Everybody knows the story: ‘Play’ at first seemed to be a commercial disaster and because of the bad press of Moby’s previous effort ‘Animal Rights’ not too many music critics took the time and energy to even listen to the album.

“February in 2000, I was in Minnesota, I was depressed and my manager called me to tell me that Play was #1 in the UK, and [...] Then it was #1 in France, in Australia, in Germany—it just kept piling on.” – Moby told Rolling Stone.

And this of course turned Moby’s fortune and life upside down. That’s not the point though. The why is so much more interesting. Moby’s early techno and ambient ambitions and records are somewhat known and loved or hated according to how receptive the listeners were to that sort of raw electronic, assertively pioneer sound he was aiming for but what had always been there was Moby’s sensitivity to harmonies and melodies, arches and emotional provocation in the good sense. (It’s enough to listen to ‘Go’ for instance, or ‘Hymn’.)

‘Play’ was recorded and released at the end of the ’90s and consists of 18 songs. It features sampling heavily and has mostly mid-tempo songs. Many of them feature blues field recordings’ samples or instrumentation pieces reminiscent of blues, supporting this are house/downtempo beats and synths. The meeting of these elements give us essentially some sort of a quintessence and looking back and yet, pretending to be wise, I risk saying zeitgeist at the end of a century.  A millennium. Everything got faster and more incomprehensible with the advent of the 21st century. ‘Play’ partly sums that up – there’s all the speed, dynamism and rage in that jump on the cover – but on the other hand the album evokes a pastoral, bucolic setting, out in great spaces.

If you find this hard to believe or too emotional, high-brow or pretentious, you can listen to ‘Play’ without having to believe in such big things. Listen to it only in itself and pay attention to yourself.

And this is where I shall return to a thought earlier: ‘Play’ in itself is liberating yet saddening. It evokes some sort of an emotional whirlwind in the mind and heart and forces the listener to register and process daily happenings (love, pain, loss, or only moods) until he/she can move on. It will not shout this skill out loud but sometimes it can help by taking us a bit down but bringing us back up a higher. And this is exactly how the album lets us off: ‘My Weakness’ is no depressive masterpiece. It’s the main character walking away because he/she had had enough and wants to overcome.

You can listen to the album below:

Review: Retro Stefson: Retro Stefson

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Those who know me in person may be getting sick of my love for Iceland – for its language and culture and nature and its entirety. It started for me with their pop music as it has for many-many people. Sigur Rós and Björk probably don’t need an introduction – it’s all the same if you like their music or not in this respect. You know they are from Iceland. You know they redefined many things about pop: music-writing, beauty, technology and performance. But Iceland (and of course Icelandic music) is much much more than this genius band and this visionary. And you do not necessarily have to look for great bands among the more established ones who have been around in the last 10-15 years. In Iceland you’re never late.

What else could be a better example for this than Retro Stefson, a 7-piece band which formed in Reykjavík in 2006 and whose members are still conspicuously young. Retro Stefson released their first album Montaña in the year of their formation and the sophomore effort followed in 2010 as a release at one of the most well-known Icelandic rock labels Kimi Records. Kimbabwe – as that album is called – got distribution outside Iceland and it certainly showed a rather ambitious yet creative and fresh band with a truly unique approach to music. Especially if we consider that all of them are at the beginning of their 20s.

Their mixture of funk and some really sensibly written pop-rock with a hint of electronic instrumentation certainly showed great promise. Retro Stefson is however not your everyday “pop-rock” band. Of course many take at least 21 steps back when they – prior to having listened to the band in question – hear that something is “pop-rock”. In their minds a really tacky picture is constructed of some people getting together playing awfully boring songs about love and longing and things like that. Well, Retro Stefson is not at all like that.

Retro Stefson is rock because they have drums, guitars and basses they are not afraid to use (fade in at 1.05 in their song Rome, Iowa off Kimbabwe and you’ll know better than ever) and they are pop because their lyrics are well-constructed and really nice to listen to, especially with such clever hooks written. However, Retro Stefson’s music has another hugely enjoyable face as well: jamming. And that’s where their funk-like attitude comes in and their live energy is let out. Up until now there was no need to go to a concert when you wanted to hear 7-9 minutes around one structure since Montaña and Kimbabwe were filled with jams like ‘Senseni’ and ‘Kimba’ which showed that this lot had a lot in them when it comes to making people dance, yet on albums with such catchy sounds and straightforwardly clever music it was a bit strange and off-putting. Not because these songs were inferior to the others, it’s just that you don’t expect Valentino Rossi to participate in X-Games as a rider pulling off tricks on his motorcycle.

And this is where Retro Stefson comes into the game. This third album is much more focused and much more dense than the previous two. And it’s just what we needed from the guys. 3-4 minutes a song, smartly arranged, nice – yet.. well, retro – synth sounds, a rhythm section tighter than the leggings you would want to put on an elephant and diverse, intriguing song-writing. Let it be the groovy yet soothing ‘Glow’, the quasi-house crowd-bouncer ‘Qween’, the electro-‘breakrock’ song ‘Time’, or ‘(o)Kami’, which could easily bring back quiet storm into popular music with its electric piano and guitar sound taking us to the golden age of psychedelic soul – you know these songs are gems. They also are relatively short but hey, that’s what the repeat all button is for. And the jams can come at the gigs.

Nowadays a significant part of musicians who want to keep the album format alive are aspiring to make a record which showcases the multi-talent of theirs, cramming hip-hop, rock, ballads and electronica-infused songs onto a single album which is supposed to be nice and inspiring but in fact, it takes the face and cohesion away.

Not in this case. Every single song shines and shouts the same: Retro Stefson er rosaleg hljómsveit*

*Retro Stefson are an awesome band

Review: Kosheen: Independence

It’s always strange going back to times that were either emotionally or humanely significant to us throughImage something else than merely remembering. It is shocking, even, how scents, tastes, sounds, déja vu or anything else can take us back to or at least make us remember our long-gone dreams, hopes and feelings of the time. Remember ourselves, essentially. I’m not planning to elaborate on this issue, you can google the word madelaine and Marcel Proust. What Mr. Proust couldn’t possibly have written about though is Kosheen’s fourth album, the aptly titled Independence. Which appears to be my little piece of madeleine. But does it taste good?

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Laughing Vixen’s first EP is released

Sound Arkive owner and editor Tamas Arki’s personal music project Laughing Vixen has released its first EP which is a self-titled debut and shows just what Tamas has been wishing to look into in the past few years.

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London Olympics Music 101

The United Kingdom, having been the starting point of popular music, or at least  one of the most important focal points thereof, and as host to the XXX. Olympiad will truly deliver something special in the days to come. Not only in sports but also when it comes to showcasing musical talent from the UK. Let’s see what we know so far, starting with the acts’ names and then everything you need to know concerning their appearance.

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Flea’s solo album is finally out

Red Hot Chili Peppers / Rocket Juice And The Moon / oh-too-many-projects-

Mr. Balzary in action (photo: Wikimedia Commons)

to-count bassist Flea has released his solo effort titled ‘Helen Burns’ which can be downloaded even for free or for set amounts. Be advised, all proceeds go to The Silverlake Conservatory of Music, a community based non-profit music school.

The bassman comments on the album:

Warning! It is not a Chili Peppers record. It does not have songs that are like the Chili Peppers at all. It is a mostly instrumental, weird and arty record, the music is mostly just me creating soundscapes that are very emotional for me, but certainly not for everyone! Just me tripping out at home.

A 900 limited run of vinyl is also available for $75 a piece.

Album is HERE
The Silverlake Conservatory of Music website

Download a new mix by James Lavelle

The mastermind behind the great unit we all know and love as UNKLE has

James Lavelle (photo: last.fm)

released a mix, UNKLE Sounds – The End Pt. 1 which definitely evokes some misgivings, let’s hope Mr. Lavelle is just fooling around. You can listen to, and of course download all 78 glorious minutes of the mix below:

 

Tracklist:

James Lavelle Presents UNKLE Sounds – The End Pt. 1

Mix by James Lavelle
Engineered and edited by Paul Rogers

1. Intro
2. Trouble In Paradise – UNKLE
3. Let The Lord Shine A Light On Me (UNKLE Remix) – Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds
4. F.E.A.R. (UNKLE Remix) – Ian Brown
5. Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger (A Cappella) – Daft Punk
6. Restless (16 Bit Lolitas Remix) – UNKLE
7. The Runaway (A Cappella) – UNKLE
8. Natural Selection (Future Beat Alliance Remix) – UNKLE
9. The Answer (Trentemøller Remix) – UNKLE
10. Reign (String Reprise) – UNKLE
11. Reign (King Unique Remix) – UNKLE
12. No One Knows (A Cappella) – Queens Of The Stone Age
13. Money And Run (16 Bit Lolitas Remix) – UNKLE
14. Heavy Drug (Album Version) – UNKLE
15. Heavy Drug (King Unique Remix) – UNKLE
16. Heavy Drug (Future Beat Alliance Remix) – UNKLE
17. Heavy Drug (Fergie Remix) – UNKLE
18. Follow Me Down – UNKLE
19. 24 Frames (Redux) – UNKLE
20. Tomorrow Never Knows (A Cappella) – The Beatles
21. The Dog Is Black (Barry Jamieson Remix) – UNKLE
22. Heaven (Charlie May Remix) – UNKLE
23. Sayonara – UNKLE
24. Burn My Shadow (A Cappella) – UNKLE
25. In A State/God Moving Over The Face Of The Waters – UNKLE/Moby

Radio show!

Sound Arkive’s editor rkit (aka Laughing Vixen) has put together a radio show which will be broadcast this thursday from 3pm CET on Stockholm Syndrome Radio. In the focus: Icelandic music. Tune in at http://soundkitchen.hu/radio/stockholm-syndrome-radio/ this Thursday, 3pm CET.

This will be the first and hopefully not the last radio show you can hear from Sound Arkive but we’ll see about that in the long run.

(the radio people said they had to change some songs because they could not find them or they didn’t really fit the show as there would’ve been too much Icelandic music… here on the blog you’ll get the original tracklist along with the actual one)

Public Image Ltd.: This is PiL

Public Image Ltd. have returned. Or at least John Lydon with some new-old comrades what we now call PiL. The roster this time is more than intriguing: with Lu Edmonds and Bruce Smith two interesting artists returned – joined by multi-instrumentalist Scott Firth [here: double bass, bass guitar and synths] to prove that PiL still had appeal. (No pun intended.) 2009’s shows were a hit as well as the following legs in 2010 including a vastly enjoyable performance at Sziget Festival, Budapest. Then news came that an album was in the making. Now this was something riskier than pure touring. (And playing really well I should add.) Was the butter money well-spent?

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Graham Coxon: A+E

Blur guitarist, solo artist and Fender endorsee with a beautiful signature guitar,English musician Graham Coxon has exploded back into mainstream popular music. Last year. Why do I write about – what more, restart my blog on current music! – his adventures? Should he really be rushed to A+E instead?

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