widg‧et /ˈwɪdʒɪt/ [wij-it] -noun: Pointless ramblings from the New Forest. Obviously complete & utter Rubbish. Why must I contibute to all this endless talk about me? My self-indulgent knees, spilling themselves all over the internet. Obviously i am Jon and his hair, I AM HIM!

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Dance to the Music (Part Four)

More endless, melody-based outpourings of lyrical drivel from me. I didn't intend to bang on for so long, just a few choice morsels of information to justify some of my selections, if only to myself. Now it feels like I must say something about each & every one, to the bitter end (not long now). A pox on my duty-bound, anal brain.

1997Björk - Homogenic
Gus Gus - Polydistortion
Tarnation - Mirador
Elliott Smith - Either/Or
Air - Moon Safari

We start off with two performers from Iceland, in fact no British artists at all this year. Not a conscious decision, though I do remember feeling a sense of unease about my music buying habits around this time. Not that I was consuming too much (this is not possible, I must have more!), but that most of the records I was getting were by bands I'd been following for years. I put the fact that I was buying very few recordings by new artists down to getting old, but now I am actually old (I even woke up with a bad back this morning, it's all down hill from here) I like to think it was more the manifestation of the cyclical nature of popular musical trends (ooh, get me), and the arse end of that cycle was fast approaching.
Anyway, Björk and Gus Gus, they're both quite dancey in a subdued kind of way. Homogenic has an interesting sound, a juxtaposition of organic strings & synthetic beats. It gets its name from the homogenous use of instrumentation, but far from being dull it creates its own unique sonic world, something I like (as well you know, if you've been reading this far).
Polydistortion (on 4AD records, hoorah) is an altogether odder (yes, I said odder than Björk) prospect. Made by an art collective of about a dozen filmmakers, designers & musicians, it's a slightly schizophrenic listen. Imagine if you had that many voices in your head (go on), this is what it sounds like.
Tarnation's Mirador (also on 4AD) was the subject of a critical debate at the time, was it alt-country (supposedly good) or just country (presumably bad)? It doesn't matter how you categorise it, these are dark tales of the soul set to steely, slidey & twanging guitars, topped off with a treacle-thick, southern (states of America) voice.
Elliott Smith, yes another dead troubador. It's not my fault. I don't want them dead anymore than they do (or perhaps I don't want them dead even more than they do, considering that this was suicide). It always annoys me when someone whose albums I've been meaning to get dies. I don't want to get caught up in the morbid rush to get them to the top of the charts posthumously, so I can never buy them. Then when people look at my records and say, "You don't own this? What's wrong with you?" I tell them what I've just told you and they realise there's more wrong with me than they thought. Suffice to say, I got this one before he died. It's almost moving enough to touch even my hard, shrivelled heart, and make me wish he'd had the consideration to stay alive a little longer, if only so I would be allowed to buy more of his music.
Air, the breezily French, electronically-minded duo. You can dance to some of their tunes, you can relax to the rest. The perfect set of noises for the exercise phobic, like me.

1998Saint Etienne - Good Humour
Yoshinori Sunahara - Pan Am: The Sound of the 70s
Kristin Hersh - Murder, Misery & Then Goodnight
Massive Attack - Mezzanine
Beta Band - The Three EPs

Now Good Humor, I just love the whole sound of this record. It conjures a feeling of tongue-chasing drops of melted ice-cream, as they trickle down the crisp & brittle wafer, on a hazy summers day in 1970s Jönkoping, whilst spying the exploits of a swedish speaking Starsky & Hutch, out of the corner of your eye, images playing on the wooden-slatted telly, though the unvarnished, shuttered windows. As you may have gathered from the above, this album was recorded in Sweden (with the Cardigans' long term producer), but even if I hadn't been told, I think I would have guessed.
Putting the Kirstin Hersh album here is slightly cheating, as one of my unspoken rules is not to list any artist twice (she's singer & guitarist in Throwing Muses, remember them? See 1995), but it's my party and I'll cry if I want to (I've just realised I already broke the rule with 1997s Björk & 1988s Sugarcubes, so there's no use complaining now, it's too late). A collection of Appalachian folk songs from her childhood, and like all good folk songs there's more nightmare-inducing death & destruction than an episode of University Challenge.
Yoshinori Sunahara, ah, more 70s nostalgia. It captures the essence of the era, without sounding like it could have been recorded back then. Recline with your glass of Cinzano and Spam sandwich, close your eyes and fly through the sky on the orange space hopper of your mind.
The Beta Band's record is, as the title suggests, not a proper album, just a collection of EPs, but still the best thing they ever did. I wholeheartedly agree with whatever nice things I've forgotten that John Cusack said about it in 'High Fidelity'.
Mezzanine contains, yay, an appearance by Liz Frasier, which even my cocteau-hating friends agree is a good thing. Like a good shepherd's pie, all meaty & gooey, a light & fluffy layer of potato topped off with gently grilled crunch.


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