Monday, 21 September 2009

Eleanor Rigby - The Best Of, Vol. 1 (1994) & 2 (1996)

I first came across Eleanor Rigby when I was questing after whether there were any Mod/Mod Revival female artists out there. While she was certainly inspired by Mod artists (doing a bunch of Kinks covers and the Rolling Stones' "Play With Fire") in music and her looks, she more frequently came off sounding like Debbie Harry, albeit a Moddier,and rougher-edged version. With currently less than 1,000 listeners on, a bit of odd controversy, and her current whereabouts unknown, she remains an obscure, even slightly enigmatic figure. She only released one full-length album, Censorship, and her best-of collections Vol. 1 and Vol. 2, packed with a cheesy, yet tuneful assortment of tracks, are currently totally out of print. You can read more about her backstory at Mr. Suave's Mod Mod World.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Jungle Brothers 'Done by the Forces of Nature' (1989)

To this day unfairly overshadowed by 1989's other alt. hip-hop/Zulu Nation milestone - 3 Feet High and Rising. The Jungle Brothers trumped their debut (Straight Out the Jungle) here and built the ark from that original Native Tongues blueprint. This is a fact acknowledged by the album's placing in the Source's top 100 hip-hop LPs of all time, but still the debut is all anybody seems to talk about. The astounding diversity of the sampling represented here is more than a match for De La Soul, the pacifist politics relayed with all the articulacy of A Tribe Called Quest and the production as densely layered as anything the Bomb Squad were producing at the time.

Musically it will just leave your head spinning. If Straight Out the Jungle was the funk album, this is the all-encompassing Afro pop album, and to my mind a definitive jazz-hop manifesto. It's a much more well-rounded affair than the (still excellent) debut, sampling everything from African trad to R&B on up, often within a single song.
Lyrically the album is as positive and (anti?)intellectual as you might expect, what with Jungle Brothers being the vanguard for the movement. They preach self-realization, address black identity with dexterity, delivering a few expertly-crafted party jams along the way; as well as a vastly superior sequel to the seminal (but dated) 'I'll House You' with 'What U Waitin 4?'.
Apparently, such conscious themes have long since passed into Afro-centric cliché within the mainstream hip-hop 'community'... so what? Black culture has always been homogenized and sold back, gutless and lobotomised, to a latent consumer herd, now more than ever. But there's always a dissenting alternative that is not for profit or ignorance. Plenty of people know it's records like this that count and provide armour for future generations... Don't miss out!

Monday, 14 September 2009

the Seatbelts 'Cowboy Bebop' (1998)

Barmy genius OST to what is universally regarded as the best anime of all time and an awe-inspiring, big band jazz eclecto-workout. The Seatbelts were assembled by composer Yoko Kanno to perform and tour this much-loved soundtrack, which is a sublime retrospective of various pre-'65 jazz trends and much more besides. From the big city blues of 'Cosmos' and the Blade Runner-in-Africa synths of 'Space Lion'; to the ostentatious spectaculars 'Tank!' and 'Rush' - there is something for every palette... especially if you dig Charles Mingus. And be sure to hear each song out, they are prone to switching genre mid-jam. Has a big band ever been put through it's paces so much as the Seatbelts?
The ever-critical users of RYM have given it a 4.16 average out of 5 (that's in the top flight of popular votes), putting 'Cowboy Bebop' in eighth place for top albums of 1998. Behind...urgh... Neutral Milk Hotel? I never said they were a tasteful bunch...
As testified by many strangers to the anime show (watch it), the album is an easygoing and accesible standalone classic; but fans of show will also revel in the déjà vu and memories of the show - indubitably to be butchered and flogged for $$ in 2011 of course!

It's all a dream...

Manic Street Preachers - JFPL Demos

*These* are the demo versions of all the tracks from the new Manic Street Preachers release Journal For Plague Lovers (Jenny Saville's Stare pictured at left), included on a bonus disc with the deluxe edition of the album. The sound is seemingly stripped away of that extra 'oomph' heard in the actual album release, and yet some of these tracks here rival the final product (especially "She Bathed Herself in a Bath of Bleach", sung by Nicky instead of James, and "All is Vanity" which is all the more powerful in bare, acoustic form) - highly recommended!

Related items:

- *Click for JFPL Article Scans from NME May 2009* (re-upped!)

- The Shadows and Words documentary on the making of the album on YouTube (Pt. 1 is below):

Here also is a description of the original release...:
(Originally posted at A Future in Noise in May, 2009):
It's impossible to listen to or discuss the new Manic Street Preachers album, Journal For Plague Lovers (set for release on 5/18), without placing it in the context of the band's history: their confrontational, politically-charged style of music, after a couple of EPs and 1992 debut album Generation Terrorists , offered a stark contrast to the early-90's British shoegaze scene. Though threatened to be smothered by the exploding Britpop movement, a cult following sustained them. Member Richey James (songwriter and guitarist) contributed heavily to the lyrics and mood of 1994 album The Holy Bible, released only months prior to his disappearance (sadly declared as 'presumed dead' in November, 2008), proved an intensely dark reflection of his personal turmoil.

The remaining three Manics, James Bradfield (vocals / guitar), Nicky Wire (bass / songwriting), and Sean Moore (drums) went on to release the brilliant Everything Must Go in 1996 (including 5 tracks co-written by Richey), and several other albums which all received mixed critical reception: This is My Truth Tell Me Yours (1998), Know Your Enemy (2001), Lifeblood (2004), and Send Away the Tigers (2007).

A mixture of semi-outrage and hopefulness in fans and critics alike has surrounded Journal For Plague Lovers since the announcement of the track-listing and cover art in March. In many ways appearing as a Holy Bible 'part 2', the cover art was done by Jenny Saville (whose Strategy painting graced the Holy Bible) and all of the songs contain lyrics left behind by Richey.

Opener "Peeled Apples" establishes an immediate departure from the commercial approach of Send Away the Tigers, with soundbite snippets and unnerving bass throbbing away. Tracks like this, and extraordinary album high-points like "She Bathed Herself in a Bath of Bleach" and "Marlon J.D.", not out of place in comparison (or companionship) to The Holy Bible, show a sudden maturity and advancement in band's sound, as if Journal For Plague Lovers is a purging of all they have been holding back. The content of the track available as a promo at their official website, "Jackie Collins Existential Question Time" seems a bit shocking amidst the radio-friendly instrumentation, with "Me and Stephen Hawking" continuing the feel of poppiness mixed with tongue-in-cheek wit.

"This Joke Sport Severed", acoustic and moving at the outset, and strings leaping in midway, is the most somber track so far, followed in theme, though more sarcastic, by "Facing Page: Top Left" later on. The album's mid-section has a greater continuity than the start, with title track "Journal For Plague Lovers", and even "She Bathed Herself in a Bath of Bleach", hinting at their glam-rock influences, while "Marlon J.D." is a crunchy synth-punk track, my favourite on the album. "Doors Closing Slowly" reiterates that unsettling gloom introduced earlier on. "All is Vanity", "Pretension/Repulsion", and "Virginia State Epileptic Colony" nearly blend into each other, sounding incomplete and hum-drum in comparison to what else is available here. Closing track "Williams Last Words", which is delivered vocally by Nicky Wire with much sadness and presumably in tribute to Richey. Bonus track "Bag Lady" ought to fulfill the needs of anyone who really expected to hear something Holy Bible-esque, sounding incredibly like it was pulled straight from '94.

The overall production (done by Steve Albini, who produced Nirvana's In Utero) wavers between sounding too polished and moments of the raw grittiness an album like this calls for and would have greatly benefited from if implemented on a wider scale throughout. Not exactly a place for beginners, since there are so many reference points to other places in their discography, nor is this the sort of album that can be properly understood after just a couple of listen-throughs, Journal For Plague Lovers ends up as the most enigmatic, satisfying release the Manic Street Preachers have put out in years.


For our purposes also known as Sensimilla - 'Scones'.
Previous 'mystery album' here. (Touch wood this method seems to work, the only well-known album I received notification for and had to remove was Loop's 'A Gilded Eternity').

This fileshare is always being taken down, and once you've become a believer you should probably buy it. Because the proceeds (as long as you buy from Stones Throw) go straight to the mother of 'real' hip-hop's greatest deceased producer, who succumbed to the effects of a rare blood disease on 10th February 2006, 3 days after magnum opus 'Donuts' came out. The mum has been yet another victim to the ethnic cleansing of America's healthcare system, still lumbered with her son's medical bills three years down the line. Despite the universal acclaim and popularity of Dilla's productions since the late 90's, she's still struggling. Listen, enjoy and support if you aren't already struggling enough through life...
This album is the only real contender to 'Entroducing...'s untouchable 'sampled soundscape' throne, a strange place where familiar sounds structures have been lovingly dismembered, distorted and juxtaposed to build a world that stands on its own two feet - testament.

In fact such is the quality of these beats (an inadequate term in this context, let's say 'works') that not only are they still being used for songs by a lot of the top 'real' MCs; but the works succeed in totally upstaging all raps by virtue of the layered emotiveness in the music. Be prepared to dive headfirst into the Melting Pot.
If you've heard the latest DOOM album or the classic Fishscale, you will instantly recognise 'Lightworks' and 'One For Ghost'.
One of the greats, with more soul than you can shake a stick at.


Tune from the album Workinonit (10CC and Beastie Boys fans pay attention)

Various Artists 'Ethiopiques 1'

Bored of music? Never-ending streams of obnoxious, pasty suburbanites with amplifiers? I was until I got volume 2 of Buda Musique's Ethiopiques series, and now I've never felt better! There have been 23 of them so far, and they are all far, far, far out. The agenda for the series is Ethiopian music with the occasional overspill into neighbouring Eritrea, but the sheer range of styles covered therein is as much, if not more, that what you might find in inferior countires that never knew the wisdom of Selassie.

I was going to upload the aforementioned vol.2 which focuses on urban azmaris, in fact I've been sitting on it for a while, but using somebody else's link is much easier and where better to start than the beginning? This is a snapshot of the popular Ethiopian sound from 1969-75, and despite using some US-style jazz and 60's electric instrumentation it is nothing like you've ever heard before; they completely made it their own, much like West Africa's ever-popular Mali music, but much strangers to the senes. The overall effect is something quite hypnotic, some truly weird loping rhythms here and some mind-blowing jazzstrumentals there, all entrenched in the meandering scales of traditional Ethiopian singing, percussion and perhaps a trace of gypsy music brings to mind the black Zionist link. Sometimes it sounds like a parallel universe, non-wife beating James Brown. There aren't any Yoobtube videos for this one so you'll just have to do the clicky-click - this is one of the best things I've shared in a while so ignore at your peril.

Link nicked from hee-yer, with a few others in the ridiculously diverse series aussi:

Saturday, 12 September 2009

Various Artists 'Samurai Champloo Music Record - Impression' (2004)

The ronin-themed hip-hop soundtrack thing is just a happy coincidence and after this it will definitely be out of the way, honest...
Recently I was tickled pink to discover that Shinichirō Watanabe (director of hands-down the greatest anime series of all time Cowboy Bebop) had completed another acclaimed series a few years back called Samurai Champloo, which maintained his propensity for fusing kinetic storytelling over approximately 26 episodes with purdy musiks - to spellbinding effect. And by fusing I mean the initially unholy, but soon completely natural marriage of Edo period Japan and, you guessed it, hip-hop. A historical revisionist take on the chanbara genre (there is an episode with beatboxers), like Bebop it raked in the glowing reviews for it's soundtrack of which several discs were released. 'Impression' is by far the strongest though so here it is.

The album is split into three parts, first third is produced by Japanese DJ duo Force of Nature, second by another Japanese producer of immense talent called Nujabes and the final part by brilliantly-named American DJ Fat Jon the Ample Soul Physician. The last track is an R&B song by a chick called Minmi, which actually wraps things up rather nicely. Except this one and the track listed in kanji 'Impression' is all instrumental glory, and it quickly becomes apparent that goood music is alive and well in Nippon. The track with vocals is obviously nonsensical to me, but it's surprising how the language actually survives the journey into Western musiks unmangled, and the meter isn't totally off kilter. I would never begin to try to deconstruct foreign language hip-hop, but I highly doubt it's as the internet says - that Japan doesn't have a significant black minority population and therefore has nothing to say. Apparently food is a hot topic... None of this is important!

The beats are fucking sick, so sick they will probably make you sick in your ears, and it just gets better as it goes along, like a snowball made of fucking sick. None of it suffers from OST out-of-context syndrome because it's just a bunch of appealing vomitus thrown haphazardly over the show, the soundtrack was probably written beforehand! While most tracks are in hip-hop tempo, there are tons of surprises, like 'Nightshift' being indistinguishable from funk (which is ironically where it all began) or funk with a drum quintet(?) on it. There's just an awful lot going on - particularly satisfying is some of Nujabes' loungy-jazz-cum-deep-house material and all of Fat Jon's Eastern-tinged stuff. Even raga gets a look in!
It's interesting to note that, judging by the Youtube viewing figures and the popularity of this album on sites like RYM, the show's soundtrack is something of a sleeper hit, and deservedly so. I will never use the word 'chillout' seriously in a sentence as long as Moby has breath in his body and the Tesco album charts thrive on lazy compilations for dull people, BUT elements of this album might be considered to have a therapeutic or relaxing quality on the heavy head. But it's got the aforementioned boom-bap, it's also cool, otherwise I wouldn't be posting it here would I because that wouldn't be a cool thing to do on my little blog would it? Just think about that. In all seriousness, in the strange and scattershot world of instrumental hip-hop, this is as good as it gets. This and the other albums I am posting.

On the Dee Elle

RZA 'Ghost Dog: The Way Of The Samurai' OST (1999)

Part 1 of a short series on instrumental hip-hop.

Whilst DJs have been producing beats exclusively for MCs to spit over since the early 80's, hip-hop fashioned to be heard on its own is much less prevalent (it's yet to be truly recognised as a genre of its own) but has yielded some truly intriguing results. With the exception of a few groundbreaking cut & paste instrumentals and turntablism, non-specialist interest in 'just the beats' barely existed until the potential of hip-hop as a compositional tool was fully exploited by DJ Shadow's 'Entroducing...' album, the first album to be made entirely of sampled material (with a few seconds of interlude vocals recorded in studio).
Whether it be via breakbeats and crate-digging à la Shadow or just navigating the intricacies of beatmaking on a digital workstation, once (good) hip-hop producers are freed of the limitations of having to craft a foundation for raps they can (and do) tend to go a bit mad. Variations and changes that would not have been considered before are indulged, often morphing the track into something that could no longer be called conventional boom bap hip-hop or whatever. This is why 'instrumental hip-hop' does not have it's own section in digital or physical shops - it too diverse, often crossing the border into electronica, downtempo, industrial, trip-hop... in fact just about anything, as these uploads will hopefully demonstrate.

One of the musical vignettes from Ghost Dog (footage not from film)

I'd like to start with a master who is no stranger to a sequencer, and who's minimalist, kung-fu flick and Thelonious Monk-inspired beats were responsible for a renaissance in 1993. RZA (Ruler, Zig-Zag-Zig, Allah in the Five Percenter alphabet) was the mastermind, de-facto leader and producer of Staten Island, NYC's Wu-Tang Clan, a group who's hard-hitting sound once sold a hell of a lot of records but nowadays would be considered 'underground'. RZA's style must have been a revelation in the time of sluggish gangsta/Funky Drummer conscious hip-hop, every bit living up to the dark spiritualism and espionage tactics of Wu-Tang's lyrics. It sounds lo-fi, gritty and unique, whilst being extremely difficult to resist nodding your head to.

Since that initial period of success and the plethora of classic solo albums produced by Rizzer that followed, things started to tail off. The long-awaited sophomore Wu-Tang album in 1997 was an overstuffed double-disc beast, flawed but with plenty o-merit. The group however was in dissolution, and from this point on RZA turned more to live instrumentation and a pronounced 70's soul influence - whilst still crafting the occasional classic. He is nowadays more prolific and better known for his movie soundtrack work. 'Ghost Dog' was the beginning of that and it marks a one-off return to the sound that made RZA a household name and minor deity within hip-hop.
The cult movie is an understated Jim Jarmusch effort which I really recommend tracking down, and with his history of East-meets-West themes and beat-crafting there could not have been a more perfect choice to produce the music than Mr. Turkey Swizzler.
There were two soundtrack albums released, one was made up of RZA-produced rap tracks inspired by the film and released in North America (t'was so-so); the other was a Japan-only released and comprises of the much-vaunted score to the film, the excellent scratchy beats you hear throughout. In this upload I've also included a bunch of songs that weren't on the original release, like the music from the infamous Cold Lampin' scene among others, these are tagged on the end.
The score itself is like the protagonist of the film, subtle and cold on the job but warm and reflective in it's quieter moments. For the most part, this serves as a prime example of typical instrumental hip-hop (typical for the RZA at least), in that you'll never question what type of music you're listening to. There are some beautifully humble percussive pieces and acoustic effects which I can only assume were recorded live; and the few samples used are done so sparingly, with RZA's expressive keyboard work taking the 4.
Most of the tracks are short and don't outstay their welcome, but there is one big exception: the infuriating 'Opening Theme (Raise Your Swords)' at track 2. Mark my words and avoid that one and you will get along just fine this album. Now not to downplay the up-front quality of the beats, but you'll also find 'Ghost Dog' makes great background/night-time music to accompany most PG-rated activities, with it's unobtrusive rhythm and dusky atmosphere. For fans of the film, it even has the freestyle in the park as a nice little extra - what more could you ask for? Really? I'll end on a simple RZA quote I found, for anybody who somehow got through this entire entry and still thinks 'hip-hop' = Lil' Wayne.

''How has the South dominated hip-hop for the last four, five years without lyrics, without hip-hop culture really in their blood? Those brothers came out representing more of a stereotype of how black people are, and I think the media would rather see us as ignorant, crazy motherfuckers than seeing us as intelligent young men trying to rise and take care of ourselves.''

Pt. 1
Pt. 2

Friday, 11 September 2009

Edan - 'Beauty and the Beat' (2005)

Edan's second full-length is a wee independent (read: not produced by Timbaland, the Neptunes or their brood) gem from 2005, which is sample-based in an old-skool stylee. What makes it unique however is that pretty much all the sampling is culled from 60's psychedelic pop and rock, with some soul thrown in. Sounds like a big fat mistake but... well what do you expect me to say? Because it doesn't fail, it soars. Inventive (like those 60's four-track conceptual epics) und funky, but suitably sprawling given the source material; and the sound reproduction is a tad crackly like an old 45. 'Beauty...' is not rammed to the gills with obligatory guest spots either - one of the few to pop up is Mr. Lif who is supposedly amazing but, whilst admirable lyrically, always kind of annoyed me. I hope he annoys you too.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

One Last Wish '1986' (1986)

^(Sound quality of video is not representative of album)

People really have some half-arsed ways of categorising music, not to mention marginalising themselves and others. One Last Wish formed in a great year for music, er, 1986, after the dissolution of what many consider to be the first 'emo' band, Rites of Spring. This is still a term I have difficulty acknowledging in the musical sense, not least because it has been lumbered with derogatory connotations and passed into lazy slang for people who don't understand it's true origin... Although by now it's safe to say that the term has been firmly reinvented by morons (after all, what isn't 'emotional'?!) - 'melodramatic' would be so much more apt.
Anyway, when I was still at school, 'emo' was not in use and it didn't constitute a lucrative youth trend - these people were simply labelled as 'goth', a proud label indeed that is, importantly, rooted in a hugely diverse set of musical traditions stretching way back to the late 70's. I try and fail to ignore the developments of pop-metal. What you are getting here is not the Billboard 100 emo that you have come to love or loathe.
If 'emo' must be used, let us use it properly. It was invented as a title for Rites of Spring and their ilk - bands that arose from the always-active Washington, D.C. scene during the Revolution Summer - and who were tentatively billed as 'emotional hardcore' or 'emocore' (which itself has a totally different meaning nowadays). Ian McKaye and his post-hardcore group Fugazi are two of the central pillars of this scene that the music fan 'on the street' will be familiar with; and '1986' is one of the lesser-known classics of McKaye's groundbreaking Dischord label.

One Last Wish comprised of three ex-members of Rites, including singer/guitarist Guy Picciotto. They released only the one short 'n sweet masterpiece before moving on (two of them to Fugazi); and it's a record which I consider to be much superior to the output of their first band, even if they are more celebrated. Every song is a gem, the impassioned delivery is every bit deserving of the original 'emo-core' tag; and it's musically ingenious to boot, more complex and cavernous-sounding than than its violent hardcore brothers. Every little time change within the punk-length songs is calculated to twist the stomach and Picciotto's voice suits the material to a T. It's never a cakewalk understanding rock lyrics at the best of times, but you know the score here: pious straight edge personal politics and good old alienation, both from the mainstream and the 'punk scene'.

Meat is, like, murder

Various Artists 'Sushi 3003' (1996) & Sushi 4004 (1998)

Subtitled 'A Spectacular Collection of Japanese Clubpop' and 'the Return of Spectacular Japanese Clubpop' respectively.
These are the original shibuya-kei introductory compilations unleashed on an unsuspecting world (at least the portion that had never heard Pizzicato Five) through German label Bungalow. In keeping with the spirit of some recent posts, shibuya-kei happens to be a Japanese brand of international pop, a melting pot of many ingredients with the defining featuress being:
An electronica/hip-hop influence, a 60's hipster aesthetic (song titles like 'Bond Street'), twee indie-popness (thanks to the Monochrome Set and Would-Be-Goods in particular) and a heavy dose of the difficult-to-categorise Serge Gainsbourg... French pop, lounge jazz and bossa nova. It's tough to narrow down, but the end result is eclectic enough to keep you guessing from track to track before the glorious masterplan becomes apparent.

simply means 'Shibuya style', Shibuya being the trendy district of Tokyo in which the music first gained popularity in the mid-late 90s. Since then shibuya-kei has covertly infiltrated games, anime and Western movies, gained a few fans along the way (Pizzicato Five and Cornelius are only 'stars' you might recognize on here), and eventually dissipated as a coherent club-oriented genre. Its legacy endures in Nippon since being absorbed into modern J-pop, and elsewhere with the likes of the Yoo-Kayz Momus.

Hardly any of these artists embraced this tag at the time anyway, making shibuya-kei seem all the more like a fortunate accident. Also, Soft Machine fans will not believe their ears when they hear the Kahimi Karie's 'Good Morning World' on 3003. Ees craytsee.
My personal favourite of the two is 4004, the first two tracks of which are in the first upload becausetherewasn'tanyrooooom... Incidentally, Cornelius was previously in the lubly Madchester-influenced band Flipper's Guitar (see post before last), so as usual everything is connected.

Very cool 'Legacy of Shibuya-kei' articles (links are in post @ top of page)
Shibuya-kei on

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Various Artists 'Decca Originals - R&B Scene'

In case ya couldn't tell, I'm not in the mood for writing, but this is a really great CD. All your favourite mid-60's rhythm 'n blues rockers crammed into one delightful package... In fact much like the 'Decca Girl's Scene' disc, the tracklisting is mostly focused on obscurities - but what obscurities they are!

There's even an appearance from a young, fame-hungry David Jones with his group the King Bees, this is the scene he would later pay tribute to after making it with Ziggy, on the covers album 'Pin-Ups'. There are plenty of other 60s & 70s heroes to be heard here, young, eager and cutting their teeth gigging on the basement circuit... R&B in this context was the harder, blacker alternative to drippy beat pop, and this stuff hasn't really lost any of its power. I daresay most of these groups were London-based, but don't quote me.
Not all these value-for-money Decca retrospectives are absolutely the best in their area, but along with 'Girl's Scene' this is one of the stronger ones. Delivers what it says on the package, chock full of the pill-popping energy of the era... Pretty good for a bunch of skinny English white boys!

Middle class blues

Métal Urbain 'Anarchy In Paris!' (2004)

Just read this now:
Download this compilation that shits from a great height on all your favourite rosbif/scenester/constipated grunters of decades past:

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Henry Rollins 'Big Ugly Mouth' (1987)

Early, occasionally stuttered recordings of Hank's early spoken word gigs. Rollins (that's pronounced 'raw'-lins, if you're American I guess) is in convivial mood, which will be disarming to anybody who is only familiar with his music with Black Flag, which split up a year before this was released. These spoken word tours proved a hit; he honed the formula of anecdote, opinion, humour and observation and to my understanding still tours relentlessly, to the joy of a devoted cult following. This early gig is a bit rougher around the edges than the later stuff, both in terms of audio quality and delivery, but any fans of Black Flag and a nice dose of realism should enjoy. Rollins would have been 26 here and his frank (sometimes overtly so, like Bill Hicks' 'Goat Boy' schtick), passive-aggressive, self-deprecating, social reject thing has always been very sympathetic and helped me through some hard
times... it helps that he's funny too. He may have matured in the last 15 years, but I miss the angst.
On this rip audio quality seriously dips off in places, but it's comprehensible and you won't be finding it anywhere else online, unless you buy it on sale =P
Great nostalgia factor, slap bang in the middle of Underground America on the campus circuit, complete with dated 80's references, good stuff.

Ryuichi Sakamoto 'The Sheltering Sky' OST (1990)

''The Sheltering Sky is a 1949 novel by Paul Bowles. The story centers on Port and Kit Moresby, a married couple originally from New York who travel to the North African desert accompanied by their friend Tunner. The journey, initially an attempt by Port and Kit to resolve their marital difficulties, is quickly made fraught by the travelers' ignorance of the dangers that surround them. Time magazine included the novel in its 'TIME 100 Best English-language Novels from 1923 to 2005'.''

This is eminent maestro Ryuichi Sakamoto's soundtrack for the 1990 film adaptation starring John 'John' Malkovich. I've never seen this movie, so it's says something for the power of the music that I can enjoy the soundtrack without having any nostalgic connection to the images - it stands on it's own. In truth Sakamoto's orchestral score takes up about about two thirds of the album, the rest is Arabic music (traditional or otherwise), old swing, vintage French chanson - all stuff relevant to the film's setting and a perfect complement to the record. There are two so-so tracks by producer/arranger Richard Horowitz which are literally background music (albeit with some interesting field recordings of Morrocan women's voices from the 50's thrown in).

The meat of the record is of course in Sakamoto's compositions, which are amongst the best he's ever pulled off with an orchestra. One thing it's important to remember is that he has always had parallel careers - one as a modern classical composer and arranger of film scores, the other as a progressive electronic artist with an international bent -and he's somehow nary put a foot wrong in either field. This is quite an accomplishment considering ol' Sakky's been averaging, at least, an album a year since 1978.
So 'The Sheltering Sky' theme is all well and good, grandiose and sweeping as any of the great main themes of cinema, but it's the variations and expressive pieces within the score that are fascinating. Given what is (apparently) the content of the film it's hardly surprising that the music is by turns sorrowful and tender, dark and disturbing. The London Symphony never mucks about (nor should they with their union rates) and they realise the impressionistic Sakamoto score here beautifully. A couple of characteristic Sakamoto piano solos crop up too, this rendition of 'the Sheltering Sky' being one of his classic pieces.
On the whole then: the two 'sides' of the album - one romantic, the other an ethic pick n' mix - present an emotional spectrum you don't find on record all that often.
Get this is you are a soundtrack aficionado, a Sakamoto fan or if you are just looking for something out of the ordinary... In which case the first two conditions will soon apply to you.

Brian Eno & David Byrne 'My Life In the Bush of Ghosts' (1981)

''My Life in the Bush of Ghosts
is a novel by African writer Amos Tutuola from Nigeria published in 1954. This novel recounts the fate of mortals who stray into the world of ghosts. The 'bush' is in the heart of the tropical forest, an impenetrable thicket left even after the rest of the forest is cleared for cultivation. Here, as every hunter and traveler knows, mortals venture at great peril, and it is here that a small boy is left alone.''

This album, from the very definition of a dynamic duo, is instantly recognisable as being in a genre all it's own, like 'Entroducing...' 25 years before the fact and accomplished not with samplers, but with simple manipulation of the raw tape; from Eno's recordings of radio call-in shows, evangelists, and the various Arabic samples that help to give the album it's haunting quality. Despite an underlying funkiness adeptly provided by Byrne playing most of the instruments (underrated musician that he be), this is a different beast to Byrne & Eno's work on the previous 3 Talking Heads albums.

The fascination with African polyrhythms remains, but as a listening experience it it free of associations with the oeuvre of either artist. The album takes on a life of it's own through the strange grooves characterized by found objects and African percussion, overlayed with those voices from disparate places in languages we can't understand - everything is out of context and the effect is supernatural and, like I said, unique. I've always loved this record and the only thing that comes close (despite all the claims of inspiration by other musicians down the years) is David Byrne's mostly-instrumental 1981 album 'the Catherine Wheel'. Innovative? Probably, 'My Life...' was obscenely ahead of it's time... but nobody went on to imitate the hands-on analogue sampling technique of this album (understandable given the headache it must have been without MIDI). Perhaps that's why sampled-based albums have rarely been so otherwordly? Having said that this would make good rush hour listening; it captures the cold and hollow functionality of an overpopulated urban area whilst being tethered to a sombre spiritual ancestry.

This is the 11-track CD edition (not the whopping 2006 reissue, but you are welcome to buy it for me =P), it's bloody marvellous and of course doesn't include the long-gone but fitting track 'Qu'ran'. The Islamic Council of Great Britain wasn't having a track that sampled readings of the Holy Book, and who were these two nerds to argue? It was struck from the running order, replaced with the B-side 'Very, Very Hungry' and has remained absent from all subsequent reissues. However you can hear it by clicking the link a couple of sentences back.

Here is the extremely cool official website of the album. The samples Eno originally used have all been made public domain so you can download them and do your own mixes. There are also streamable tracks and essays by Byrne about the production of the album and it's connection to the Tutuola book.
And for shits n' giggles here's David Byrne's web-o-log, which is surprisingly good reading... and he doesn't even have to upload any albums?!