Back to basics after last week’s 100 songs best of list. If you missed that, you can check it out here. If you’ve discovered something new from that list, definitely let me know. I love to hear what you’re liking. If you’d rather listen to 100 songs in 15 second bites set to video selfies, I’m also slowly making a TikTok video for each of the 100 songs, which is honestly extremely fun for me, a 38 year old unemployed man. So far, I’m up to 25. Watch all of them here.
This week starts off with a small rock block. I’ve never exactly been a rock music devotee, usually preferring its stranger offshoot subgenres. But the three songs by Siglo xx, bar italia, and Five or Six are really lovely examples of what you can do with a straightforward sound. Siglo xx was a Belgian band from the early ’80s, heavily influenced by Joy Division. “My Sister Called Silence” is from their later era, and instead of following in Joy Division’s footsteps with New Order and going full color pop, they slow down the sound and add a tiny bit of twang. I know nothing about bar italia aside from the fact that they released a brief album on Dean Blunt’s World Music record label. “Quarrel,” the last and title track, is the best track. It’s a bit goth, with dueling staccato guitars and vocals that sound like Julee Cruise karaoke. Five or Six was a Cherry Red Records band and they appropriately sound like labelmates Felt, making similar dreamy pop rock only with a singer with a huskier voice. All three of these tracks sound simultaneously 30 years old and totally contemporary. Either that or I have really dated taste.
Valentina Magaletti has only barely begun to get her due. Her drumming straddles free jazz, dub, and psych. She moves between these sounds seamlessly. Her work as part of the duo Holy Tongue made that post-punk project sound so fresh, which is no easy task for a genre that has been smothered to death. The project “Sobaka” is from is a drum duet, a sound often reserved for the more freeform ends of the avant-garde. While there is no shortage of exploration, there’s also an immense amount of playing within structures. You could argue this track has as much to do with funk as it does free jazz. As a lover of percussion, I’m inclined to adore this music, but whatever your taste it’s meaty enough that you’re not likely to miss any other instruments.
As I’ve said a few times in different editions of this newsletter, my interest in non-musical sounds blended in with, or presented as, music has grown greatly this past year. That’s usually been somewhat straightforward, like sounds of nature or animals, or of spoken word blended with instrumentation. Nour Mobarak’s album, Father Fugue, pushes the limits of not just what is music, but what is understandable as sound. It’s a gutsy piece of audio. Its first half, the five-part Father Fugue is made up of multilingual conversations with her father overlapping with various singing. On the piece included here, “Father Fugue - Oaxacan Shower,” she repeats a wordless moan while in the shower. You can hear the water and you can hear the sound of the tape recorder being bumped as she and her father speak. He has a heavy accent and when he speaks in English finally, it’s dreamy. The piece ends with her asking him what beauty is. He starts to answer in the next piece, but when you listen to this one out of context of the whole album, it ends with him repeating her question. I think I like it better that way.
I was delighted when DaRand Land’s 2001 album Calming Effect showed up on Spotify recently as it is a favorite of mine. There’s an amateur sweetness to his house music that is hard to replicate. Calming Effect has something of a cult classic status with house fans, and its beguiling cover, a blurry closeup of Rand, is rumored to be the inspiration for Delroy Edwards’ Hanging at the Beach. Rand also has a delightful website. My favorite song of his, “Shaved Ice,” has not hit streaming outside of YouTube. Consider this a plea.