Categories
Indie Rock Song of the Day Synth Pop

Song of the Day (The Chain): Stereolab – Miss Modular

Day 10. I’m kind of hoping that you’re scratching your heads & wondering what the link between Pull The Wires From The Wall by The Delgados & Miss Modular by Stereolab is. This one is a bit more obscure than the previous links.

Basically, throughout his career as a radio DJ, John Peel compiled an annual best of the year list which he called his Festive Fifty. These lists have their own cult following online & fans back in the day would tape Festive Fifty rundowns straight from the radio, the tapes becoming treasured cultural artefacts in a manner it’s difficult to explain here in 2020.

Pull The Wires From The Wall by The Delgados was number 27 in John Peels 1997 Festive Fifty. One space higher, at number 26, was Miss Modular by Stereolab. So from dreamy, quirky Alternative Rock we go to the sunny Synth Pop melodies of Stereolab’s Miss Modular.

Sur la boite cartonnee un trompe-l’oeil
Avoue volontiers qu’il est trompe-l’oeil.
Sur la boite cartonnee un trompe-l’oeil
Avoue volontiers qu’il est trompe-l’oeil,

Donne l’idee do jeu et do mystere,
Un spectacle intime donne l’idee do jeu et de l’humour,
Spectacle qui rime, qui suscite dans les yeux un eclair,
Une decouverte, une idee qui peut jouer des tours,
Une muse, certes, donne l’idee do jeu et do mystere,
Un spectacle intime.

Sur la boite cartonnee un trompe-l’oeil
Avoue volontiers qu’il est trompe-l’oeil.
Sur la boite cartonnee un trompe-l’oeil
Avoue volontiers qu’il est trompe-l’oeil.

Miss Modular

On the cased box a trompe l’oeil
Confesses willingly that it is trompe l’oeil.
On the cased box a trompe l’oeil
Confesses willingly that it is trompe l’oeil,Gives the idea of the game and the mystery,
An intimate spectacle gives the idea of the game and the humor,
Spectacle that rhymes, that arouses on the eyes a flash,
A discovery, an idea that can play tricks,
A muse, admittedly, gives the idea of the game and the mystery,
An intimate spectacle.On the cased box a trompe l’oeil
Confesses willingly that it is trompe l’oeil.
On the cased box a trompe l’oeil
Confesses willingly that it is trompe l’oeil.

Keep up to date with the Song of the Day (The Chain) Spotify playlist.

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Categories
Indie Rock Synth Pop

The Flaming Lips – My Religion Is You

Hot on the heels of their last single, May’s Flowers Of Neptune 6, those fabulous freaks The Flaming Lips drop another new single from their forthcoming album American Head, due out on 11th September.

My Religion Is You pulls off a tried, tested & extremely effective trick with the mournful, acoustic folk intro which soon morphs into widescreen psychedelic Pop. The guitars all but disappear, synthetic bass & sampled strings laying the groundwork for Wayne Coyne’s acid-frazzled falsetto. Some delightfully off-kilter lead guitars melodies return for the songs instrumental bridge.

Like Flowers Of Neptune 6, My Religion Is You is accompanied by a fiery video. Coyne sings into the camera in front of a wall of fire, holding a bunch of oversized flowers. A Buddhist monk carries a crucifix with a floral wreath attached to it. Like the recent Bright Eyes single I reviewed a couple of days ago, The Flaming Lips seem to be in a pessimistically apocalyptic mood right now. Perhaps there’s something in the air.

Yeah Buddha’s cool
And you’re no fool
To believe anything
You need
To believe in
If Hari Krishna
Maybe it’s the
Thing for you

Hey that’s cool
I don’t need no religion
You’re all I need
You’re the thing I believe in

Nothing else is true
My religion is you
My religion is you
My religion is you

If being a Christian
Is your thing then
Own it friend
Don’t phone it in

I don’t need no religion
You’re all I need
You’re the thing I believe in

Nothing else is true
My religion is you
My religion is you
My religion is you

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Categories
Rock Synth Pop

David Bowie – Is It Any Wonder?

Second David Bowie post in two days (& third this week). Is It Any Wonder? is a six-track EP consisting of unreleased or rare tracks recorded in & around 1997.

To kick things off, there’s the version of The Man Who Sold The World from the ChangesNowBowie radio show (also released as a new album this year). This is a stripped back, downtempo, acoustic version of the song, reminiscent of the much lauded Nirvana cover. A conscious decision, I’m sure, & a moving tribute to the late Kurt Cobain.

The second track is a moving, moribund treatment of the Tin Machine song, I Can’t Read. This version was recorded during the mixing of Bowie’s ’97 album, Earthling (which I wrote about yesterday) & is said to have been Bowies preferred version of the song. Check out the video (above) for some great, artistic visuals. I particularly like the faces projected onto the white masks.

Stay 97 is an update of the track from 1976 album Station To Station. The idea was to bring older material in line, sonically, with the newer stuff from Earthling. This is achieved with motorik rhythms & crunchy, digitized guitar riffs.

Baby Universal 97 is a rerecording of another Tin Machine track. Originally intended as the penultimate track on Earthling, Bowie was aid to have being extremely fond of the track & didn’t think enough people had heard it before. This version is built around hard drum machine beats, thrashing guitars & a melodic soundscape of synth & vocals. I can easily imagine it sitting comfortably on Earthling.

Nuts is minimal, Junglist, Drum & Bass. Recorded in the Earthling sessions, Nuts was also originally slated for inclusion but was eventually left off the album. It’s incredibly atmospheric. A friend of mine says it reminds him of a lot of Eric Serras film soundtrack work, paticularly The Fifth Element & Goldeneye. I agree, but it also reminds me of the music for the excellent original PlayStation game, G-Police or Wipeout.

The final track is another version of The Man Who Sold The World. The ‘Eno’ Live Mix, 2020 remaster. This Brian Eno produced version transforms the song into a downtempo, Dub-influenced Trip Hop tune. This version was recorded in 1995 & released as a single alongside Strangers When We Meet. Heavy dubby basslines, delayed percussion & echoey sonar blips combine to create a truly contemporary (for 1995) sonic experience.

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Categories
Music Overlooked Classics Rock Synth Pop

Overlooked Classics: David Bowie – Earthling

David Bowie’s 1997 album Earthling was the first new Bowie record I was aware of as a teenager. I already knew songs like Space Oddity & Ashes To Ashes, & even liked what I knew, but Earthling was essentially my generation’s Bowie album.

Bowie, finger ever on the pulse of the zeitgeist, was inspired by emergent genres like Drum & Bass, IDM & Breakbeat. Earthling was written & produced with these influences at the fore. Everything could have gone so horribly wrong. Many other classic artists who embrace genres of younger generations fail miserably (in my opinion), take Neil Youngs synthetic experiments in the ’80’s for example.

Luckily, Bowie was able to understand & appreciate what it was about these genres that made them special & unique. Instead of bending the technology & techniques used to create Drum & Bass to match his songwriting, he bent his songwriting to match the technology.

Album opener & lead single, Little Wonder, is a great example of this. A thumping, Junglist, Drum & Bass beat underpins trademark. His incredible vocal melodies floating above the hard, Junglist beats. In line with a key influence at for Bowie at the time, The Prodigy, Little Wonder’s skittering breakbeat manglement gives way to headbanging, anthemic hard rock sections.

Elsewhere, other influences come to the fore. Looking For Satellites is heavy downtempo breakbeats, somewhere between Hip Hop & Trip Hop (Meat Beat Manifesto?), but with rhythmic vocal melodies that wouldn’t be out of place on a Talking Heads record.

Prodigy vibes abound on Battle For Britain (The Letter). Crunchy, digitally harsh guitar chords juxtaposed against similar Junglist rhythms to Little Wonder. Bowies trademark melodic melancholia & a space rock glueing the whole thing together. Free jazz piano segments notwithstanding.

Seven Years In Tibet brings us more downtempo drum machine shenanigans, with heavy, metallic guitar riffing. This is more in Nine Inch Nails’ sonic territory than Prodigy though.

Dead Man Walking sees modem noise distorted guitars over thumping four-to-the-floor beats. Techno synth arpeggios & harmonic vocal loops give this a distinctly ’90’s vibe to it. Perhaps reminds me a little of Björk’s Hyper-Ballad. I could easily imagine a successful mix of the two songs in the hands of a competent DJ.

Telling Lies sees the return of the Drum & Bass rhythms. Lowkey baritone Bowie vocals & incoherent moaning help to build an oppressive sonic atmosphere.

The Last Thing You Should Do is upbeat, cut-&-Paste breakbeat with melancholic, subdued verses & explosive, distorted choruses. Like The Chemical Brothers with a more experimental sensibility. Grunge dynamics feel strangely at home here.

I’m Afraid Of Americans is more downtempo, industrial influenced darkness. Wears it’s Nine Inch Nails influence proudly on its sleeve. Doubly so on the various Nine Inch Nails Remixes which were also made, Trent Reznor’s unique production style bringing out Bowie’s darkest artistic impulses. You’ve got to hand it to Reznor. Not only did he do a great job of this, but he did it from the position of being completely starstruck & in awe of Bowie.

Finale, Law (Earthlings On Fire) is another dive into the sonic textures of Techno. Four-to-the-floor drums, bubbling, sidechained bass lines & stabs of distorted noise. Vocals mimic the rhythms brilliantly, acting as just another instrument in the soundscape.

I forgot how much I loved this album & I’m glad I was reminded of it by a post on Facebook earlier this week. One of Bowies darkest, & most sonically adventurous, albums, Earthling still sounds incredibly contemporary today, 23 years after its release.

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Categories
Music Post Punk Synth Pop

Billy Nomates – No

I may not have verbalised it thus far, but the primary purpose & concern of Scruffy Theory is discovery and rediscovery. It’s about discovering new music, literature & art then attempting to share & spread my enthusiasm for those things as far & wide as possible. There may be some politics & respectful marking of certain anniversaries & holidays, but they’re not the primary focus.

So there are various ways that one can pick up new leads & ideas for new pathways to follow in the cause of discovery. This morning, for example, I was watching an interview on YouTube with Jason Williamson, vocalist with Sleaford Mods. One question he was asked was what new music was he currently enjoying. He answered with new English artist, Billy Nomates. He described Billy Nomates as like Sleaford Mods (but nost), Post-Punk, like early Madonna & ’80’s soul combined.

Rhythmically, No by Billy Nomates is quite similar to Sleaford Mods, with that driving beat & solid bass. Vocally there is an element of speak singing in the verses but the choruses definitely live up to Jason’s early Madonna comparison. It’s solid Post-Punk/Pop crossover music which will hopefully make an impact on the mainstream. & if it doesn’t, I’m sure the Indie scene will give Billy Nomates the love & respect they deserve.

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Categories
Music Prog Synth Pop

Hats Off Gentlemen It’s Adequate – Chasing Neon

I’m just finishing up a review of the latest album by prog band, Hats Off Gentlemen It’s Adequate for With Just A Hint Of Mayhem. It should be published in the next couple of days but, as a preview, I just wanted to share this excellent song and video with you.

This kind of retrofuturistic electronic rock music is pretty unique and the intense forward motion of the video calls forth nostalgic memories of listening to everything form Pink Floyd to Autechre through my old PlayStation’s CD drive and the insane visuals the console generated on our CRT televisions alongside it.

I hope you enjoy it and look forward to presenting my review.

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Categories
Electronic Music Music Synth Pop

RIP Florian Schneider, Pioneering Kraftwerk founder

Florian Schneider, founding member of pioneering electronic music group, Kraftwerk, has died today following a short battle with cancer. He was 73.

It’s safe to say that without Florian Schneider’s contribution to music, the world would be a different place today. The robotic rhythms and experimental synthesiser work outs that Kraftwerk were known life have influenced almost all music we listen to today.

My own field, electronic music, would be practically non-existent without Kraftwerk. Their contribution to experimentalism, with tracks like the 22-minute classic Autobahn, is equal to their contribution to synth pop, with tracks like beautifully simple The Model.

It is difficult to imagine a world without the musical influence of Kraftwerk.

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