April is the month of my birthday. Therefore, I felt it only appropriate that I reflect that general merriment with a more upbeat playlist. I also, in its construction, had several things going on in my life that rather coloured the choices I made. As a result, it’s perhaps not as exploratory as i’d like it to be. That said, I do feel it improves over my more disparate offering from last month. There’s still a clear divide in the groupings of similar material at times, but i’m going to blame that on the personal nature of my decisions. For those who can see the implications of my words, it didn’t work out.
Lost in the K-Hole – The Chemical Brothers
The Chemical Brothers were always the worst of the good electronic acts of the late 90’s, if you get what I mean. While fantastic producers, with many quality tracks, they never quite hit the nail on the head for me. With contemporaries like Orbital, The Prodigy, Underworld and many more, their competition was admittedly strong. That, somewhat harsh, assessment aside, Lost in the K-Hole is top notch from start to finish. It’s one of those tracks I heard in the background of my brother’s room, when I was all of nine years old. When I came to be an adult, hearing it again thanks to the grace of a fated shuffle, I nearly gurned my face off. Is it just me, or do some of those synth lines sound like dungeon music from Ocarina of Time?
I knew that this one would end up on April’s Office Chart at the beginnings of March. Almost as soon as I released last month’s offering, I heard this and instantly chose it. Hip-Hop and Rap have always been amongst my favourite genres, meaning that a fandom of BadBadNotGood and Snoop Dogg is inevitable. The release of this version of Lavender brought some controversy along with it, mainly because Snoop assassinates a facsimile of Donald Trump in its music video. It didn’t help that Snoop’s nephew tweeted at Trump after its release, claiming he’d “pimp” his wife before deleting it within twenty-four hours. Forgetting that hilarity for a moment, it’s simply a great tune. Idiots have given it some flack for “conflicting musical styles”. Fortunately, we all know how hard they can fuck off.
I was going to embed the aforementioned video here but it seems extremely difficult to find. The realities of censorship are stark indeed.
Thanks for introducing me to Fabian Almazan, Dominick Nero! During research, in preparation for Nero’s excellent appearance on our podcast, I discovered Almazan through a music video Nero edited for him. Entitled Rhizome, the piece was utterly and hypnotically gorgeous. It was disappointing to discover that Almazan hasn’t made that particular record available on Spotify. As a result, I was forced (gladly) to trawl the music he had made available. What I found within was, mostly, dual-billings and “featuring” credits. Fortunately, his collaborations are a beautiful web of lengthy jazz odysseys. This was one of the shortest appropriate pieces I could find, but it had a similar mesmerising quality to Rhizome. It’s annoying that Almazan wasn’t on my radar, prior to Nero’s recommendation. His musicianship is staggering, and free from the pretensions of his peers. As for Defne Sahin, of whom I know less, what an incredible voice!
Yes, it’s the monthly semi-Boards of Canada tease-track. Amongst their fan community, Boards of Canada’s remixes are known for bearing little, to no, relation to their source material. This renders them, essentially, entirely different tracks. There aren’t too many of them out there either. Poppy Seed is one of the better ones; an archetypal dreamy journey through synthesiser synesthesia. The original version, by Slag Boom Van Loon, is pretty good in its own right. Put it side by side, however, and the two are clearly different beasts. This track may not really go anywhere, but not all music has to end in some climactic crescendo. I also can’t help but feel that this may be more than a little based on their old Hell Interface remix of Trapped by Colonel Abrams…
By & By – Nick Lutsko
When we had Nick Lutsko on our podcast recently, I made several comments to him personally about my genuine love for his work. It wasn’t just professional fawning either; his album Etc. has become a firm independent favourite of mine. There are many tracks on it that would fit fantastically onto one of my Office Charts, but By & By was the one I found myself coming back to the most. To have heard, in Lutsko’s own words, how practically everything, but the guitar, bass and his vocals, is MIDI is deeply impressive. It’s rare that bands of talented musicians construct something of this vibrant colour. The fact that Lutsko put all of this together on his own isn’t the only thing that makes it good, but fuck does it make the whole thing all the more excellent. Easily one of the better tracks on April’s offering.
The Great Beyond – R.E.M.
I mentioned last month how R.E.M. are one of those bands I just can’t get into, beyond a few songs. Those songs that I do like, however, are some of my favourites of all time. I felt a bit odd about putting on The Great Beyond. I’m not entirely sure, but I feel like it’s something that R.E.M. mega-fans would probably sneer at. Trepidation at potential snobbery aside, this is just one of the greatest songs ever written. And that’s what it is, and what much of R.E.M.’s best material represents. They’re great songwriters, and that can’t be denied. One of the things that’s particularly notable about this track is how well it displays the talents of lead-singer, Michael Stipe. He’s, to state the obvious, a wonderful vocalist. He really drives things with his intuitive, yet complex, melodies; not to mention his deeply evocative lyrics.
Hang Me Up to Dry – Cold War Kids
Cold War Kids caused a bit of a stir for fifteen-year-old indie boys when they first popped their head out. They had some interesting lead singles, whose loose and deliberately messy production was a wonderful remedy to the increasingly disposable sound of other indie bands at the time. Unfortunately, the album that we all bought in excitement turned out to be utter dogshit. Perhaps it was just that I was growing out of the genre and moving more into 70’s prog-rock at the time. Regardless, Hang Me Up to Dry has never stopped being, and I don’t use this word lightly, an absolute anthem. A case for the intricacies of simplicity, even that’s going too far in analysing it. Cold War Kids elitists will tell me I should have put Hospital Beds on instead, but i’ll tell them to shove their recommendation up their arse and run a mile.
A Pict Song – Billy Bragg
Like Radiohead, there was no way I could avoid Billy Bragg as I was growing up. This has something to do with the fact that my dad was the world’s only Bragg tribute artist. I would say that I wish that was a joke, but it’s a fact that i’m immeasurably proud of. Therefore, almost every song that Bragg wrote would ring out from my childhood home’s dining room every weekend as Dad valiantly practised intricate guitar work with inadequate, stubby sausage-fingers. If he’s reading this, know I cast no judgement through sheer fact that I inherited the selfsame condition. Why do you think I took up the bass?
Enough personal history. Bragg truly is one of the world’s number one songwriters. Nobody can write a more deeply felt or honest love song, and that’s not even mentioning his guile and intelligence with political subjects. A Pict Song falls into the latter spectrum. It’s far from all about his politics though. He’s always been an unbelievably distinctive guitarist, which is on nice, subtle display here. It’s not his best track, but it’s a bloody good one and caught me in a whirl of nostalgia one evening. In fact, after my years of acquaintance with his work, I’ve found this to be one I’ve certainly neglected.
The Widow – The Mars Volta
I’m not going to lie. I lobbed this on the playlist almost entirely to provide a transition from A Pict Song into Haunt Muskie. That’s not to denigrate The Widow, though. It’s just a little bit like putting on Purple Rain by Prince, or Sweet Child of Mine. The Mars Volta just aren’t really that good. Their first two albums were exciting, and endure to this day. By the time their excrement-laden live album, Scabdates, came along I truly didn’t give a shit anymore. Tracks like this show what The Mars Volta were capable of when they stopped wanking off their instruments. Suffice to say, that’s a lot. Case in point, I’ve provided the single version here in order to avoid the protracted synth masturbation that its album version leads into.
Haunt Muskie – C418
I included this on a long abandoned pirate-radio project I embarked on last year. Incidentally, that’s still hidden somewhere on this website, so happy trails. Video game soundtracks are one of the best things about the medium. Over the years some extremely creative stuff has come out of that little zeitgeist, but it seems to be one drying up these days. Minecraft always had an impressive soundtrack, within the pool of post-2000 games. It was a surprise to me too, and something that helped me take the game seriously in a time when I was questioning its worth. Haunt Muskie is easily a standout track from the bunch, if not the standout track. A gorgeous slow build, I remember how blown away I was when I first heard it during an aimless strip-mine.
Karin – Bohren & Der Club of Gore
Like Socrates Drank the Conium on last month’s list, Bohren & Der Club of Gore were a group who I didn’t realise had any legacy at all. In fact, I thought them just some local band and knew them only from their stellar 2008 release, Dolores (from which this is taken). They’re actually a well-regarded German jazz collective, revered for their ambient styling. Karin strikes that tone beautifully, although the flawless nature of the record that spawned it suggests that’s synonymous with their material. Of course, you have to be in the mood for their cool saunter. It just fit so nicely after Haunt Muskie, and everyone needs a little Bohren & Der Club of Gore in their life.
New Epoch – Goth-Trad
Benjamin and I met Goth-Trad at some long-gone London dub-step event. He was a lovely guy too, and that’s something which only gives me a deeper soft-spot for his angular, yet somehow restrained, beats. I have a torrid history with the genre. It has to be admitted that I’ve been a detractor for some time, considering it far too repetitive and reliant on established tropes. Some artists stick out from the noise, and Goth-Trad is one of them. This is excellent on an expensive pair of headphones, and will truly blow your brains out if you accompany it with a joint. That’s just personal choice though. An accusation of peer pressure wouldn’t do well for a fledgling Secret Cave…
Lost Myself – Longpigs
Longpigs were a short lived band who always deserved a better shot. In truth, my experience with them is ridiculously minimal. At around the age of fourteen, a friend of mine, who I shared music with, gave me a copy of The Sun is Often Out. Trouble is, he also gave me a copy of Beautiful Freak by Eels; which I much preferred. That really is nothing against Longpigs though, as I always remembered how this opening track grabbed me. Hearing it years on, I enjoyed it all over again for its oddly oceanic vibe. Awesome song, which seemed a perfect epilogue to an Office Chart twinged heavily with the fats of personal indulgence. That “it” didn’t work out makes it all the more poignant. Lets hope that May brings with it a greater fortune.