Episode 24 - Warp Record Label

Here's a Sombrero Fallout innovation - an episode dedicated to a record label.

Warp are an obvious candidate for such a show: visionary, high quality, fiercely independent. Founded in Sheffield in 1989 by record store workers Steve Beckett, Rob Mitchell and Robert Gordon, they pursue artists of a certain type, essentially modern electronica acts.

More than any other label they've come to be associated with the phenomenon known as IDM or intelligent dance music. This has always seemed a category error, if I may use that term: attempts to combine Dionysus and Apollo are rarely successful. Others can let me know, but when you're inside the music and moving where it takes you, are you looking for 'intelligence' as a criterion for how much you're enjoying yourself.

What I find intelligent about Warp music does not coincide with the music I want to dance to. (As it happens, I very rarely want to dance anyway, missing a critical part of the DNA strand urging me to move about). This is intelligent electronic music - but intelligent dance music? Perhaps someone like Battles get close - but then we're into substratum of math rock.

Anyway, there's loads of brilliant music on Warp. Artists for whom time ran out in this episode  include LFO, The Black Dog, Autechre, Flying Lotus, Rustie, Danny Brown, TNGHT and Kelela. Even Brian Eno's ended up on the label! I also feel there are some bands that ought to be on Warp, but aren't, such as Four Tet.

I may well do other labels in the future, should the mood take me. Factory, Sarah, Rough Trade and Island come to mind. Meanwhile here's a tracklist:-

Come on let’s go, Broadcast 

Atlas, Battles 

Slyd, !!!  

Flip ya lid, Nightmares on Wax 

Pulsewidth, Aphex Twin 

Get go, Death Grips 

Rue the whirl, Boards of Canada 

Chrome Country, Oneohtrix Point Never

Ready, Able, Grizzly Bear

Plainsong, Seefeel 

 

 

 

Episode 23 - Songs Under Two Minutes Long

The short song, when executed to perfection, is a miracle of precision.

The archetypal short song collection is perhaps The Commercial Album by The Residents. The enigmatic group reasoned that since songs were essentially a verse and a chorus repeated three times, why not just do one verse and one chorus and stop there? The result was an album in which none of the tracks last more than a minute. Perversely the track played in the podcast is Japanese Watercolour - an instrumental.

However there's a reason that things are the way they are. The human ear needs the story to evolve, and three minutes feels "about right". Well, it does now, but worth noting that few of The Beatles early songs lasted more than two minutes. Then fast forward to punk and Wire's Pink Flag dealt largely in miniature masterpieces, of which at 1:18 Fragile is a wonderful example. Similarly The Clash's first album.

The power pop lo-fi movement of the early 90s in the U.S. stripped back songwriting to its essentials yet again, and there is a marvellous trio of songs featured from that era by The Lemonheads, Guided By Voices, and then a Pavement track to finish which is all of one minute long: I Love Perth (don't we all?).

Jonathan Franzen or Dickens or Zola are what you come back to night after night, and those are the stories in which we lose ourselves. But there's a lot to be said for saying what's on your mind, getting in and getting out. There's no room for manoeuvre or indulgence or digression. You wouldn't want all music to be this concise, of course. But in the same way a Raymond Carver short story is breathtaking in its economy, Fell In Love With A Girl or Final Day or Girlfriend In A Coma or Forever Drone are all the better for being neither one note shorter or longer.

And, on top of everything else, you get 24 tracks in one episode.

Tracklist:-

Fell in love with a girl, The White Stripes

Mayday, The Libertines

Something against you, Pixies

Rockin' Stroll, The Lemonheads

Motor Away, Guided By Voices 

I Love Perth, Pavement

My only friend, The Magnetic Fields 

Underbelly, Wild Beasts

Girlfriend in a coma, The Smiths 

Velocity Girl, Primal Scream

King of carrot flowers Pt 1, Neutral Milk Hotel

Never talking to you again, Husker Du 

Forever Drone, Josef K 

Fragile, Wire 

Final Day, Young Marble Giants

Detail for Paul, The Durutti Column

Another green world, Brian Eno 

Japanese Watercolour, The Residents

This aint no picnic, The Minutemen

Love Song, The Damned

Vaseline, Elastica

New baby boom, Black Box Recorder

How can we hang on to a dream?, Tim Hardin 

True love will find you in the end, Daniel Johnston 

 

 

Episode 22 - Soundtrack Songs

What makes a great choice of song for a movie?

Stanley Kubrick famously played The Blue Danube by Strauss as a guide track for the space station sequences in 2001 : A Space Odyssey, then discovered that the strange juxtaposition worked. Quentin Tarantino also knows that contrast plays dividends. Stuck in the Middle with You by Stealer's Wheel was a fairly innocuous track until it took on newly sinister significance accompanying the ear scene in Reservoir Dogs. For a while his trademark use of music could resurrect an artist's career, as it did for Dick Dale with Pulp Fiction.

Occasionally the soundtrack seeps into the plot, as when Natalie Portman's character is listening to The Shins in the doctor's waiting room of Garden State. But since Coppola used The Doors' The End to such effect in Apocalypse Now, a judicious use of alternative music has become a key weapon in the director's arsenal. The rise of independent cinema has allowed alternative music to find new outlets and encourage new demographics to hear the works of more obscure artists.

This episode is divided more or less in two. Part One features some jauntier numbers from Toots and the Maytals, Supergrass, The Beat, The Shins, New Order and Lou Reed. Then, as Paul McCartney decided for the end of Abbey Road, there is a thematic unity that unites Part Two in the form of a medley.

Here's a classic indie movie: perhaps a troubled boy in his early twenties, facing problems in his life, meets a similarly awkward girl (favourite band, The Smiths). Neither feels they quite fit in the harsh world of today. Although there are obstacles in their way - the path of true love never runs smooth - eventually they realise they are meant for each other. Comic supporting characters pad out the storyline. 

What better soundtrack for this film than tracks by Air, Beck, Nick Drake, Belle and Sebastian, Lee Hazelwood and Nancy Sinatra, Broken Social Scene, Brian Eno and The Cure. You could even write a variant script in your mind. Meanwhile here's the tracklist for the whole episode:-

54-46 was my number, Toots and the Maytals (from This Is England)

Alright, Supergrass (from Clueless)

Mirror in the Bathroom, The Beat (from Gross Pointe Blank)

Caring is Creepy, The Shins (from Garden State)

Ceremony, New Order (from Marie Antoinette)

Satellite of Love, Lou Reed (from Adventureland) 

Playground Love, Air (from The Virgin Suicides)

Everybody’s got to learn some time, Beck (from Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind)

Fly, Nick Drake (from The Royal Tenenbaums)

Piazza, New York Catcher, Belle and Sebastian (from Juno)

Some Velvet Morning, Lee Hazlewood and Nancy Sinatra (from Morvern Callar)

Anthems for a seventeen year-old girl, Broken Social Scene (from Scott Pilgrim vs The World)

The Big Ship, Brian Eno (from Me and Earl and the Dying Girl)

All cats are grey, The Cure (from Marie Antoinette)