John Freuschiante may be best known as a guitarist in the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, but outside of this world arena touring act he has also had many side projects, covering many different genre.
On his album, Maya, he creates new music that feels authentically representative of 90s Jungle music. Chopping up breaks with a competency reflective of many of the greats of the genre, he wraps them around simple yet effective melodies.
I think the beginning of the record is the project at its strongest, with the opening two tracks being my highlights.
Usburp Pensul is the second track, and a more aggressive piece, chopping up one break with relentless abandon to create a high energy work. It keeps up that energy throughout its playtime without overstaying its welcome:
Surfjan Stevens latest work “Convocations” is a large collection of instrumental music over two and a half hours long.
It could be a lot for many to listen several hours of melancholic instrumental music but this stuff is right up my street. It works well as an ambient collection of forlorn tracks you can have on in the background sound tracking your daily activities as it amorphously shifts between instruments and styles.
Celebration III comes about halfway through the work and gives you a good idea of what you’re in for if you listen to the whole thing so I’d recommend it as a good place to start.
I’m always going to listen to anything OPN puts out and more often than not its going to end up as my track of the week. His ability to have a unique style and yet keep it fresh with rampant experimentation have struck a chord with me over the past decade and then some.
His latest track “Nothing’s Special” uses the same sounds you’ve heard in his work before, It exited previously in a different form on his album “Magic Oneohtrix Point never” but this time the changed elements are collaboration with Spanish singer Rosalía.
Her vocals create a powerful organic counterpoint to the colder electronic circuitry that makes up the instrumentation of the track. This results in a strong and mournful feeling that’s extenuated by the tracks tempo:
The first time I heard Kölsch it was on his fantastic double single “Speicher 93,” which I have already brought to your attention on a previous track of the week. Gray was one of the tracks on that record.
However, it’s far more aggressive a version than the one you will hear on his album “1989,” which I’ve decided to highlight as my track of the week.
The instrumental elements are found on both versions of Gray, but the aggressive leading brass sound, found in the single version, mixed beneath a collection of woodwinds, gives the track an airier vibe. This continues throughout other production decisions, including a slightly less compressed kick drum and stripped down piano in the breakdown, with fewer chords and larger reverb tales.
The two versions show how much a track can change with a few production decisions; both great in their own right but each with its own atmosphere and direction. Listen to both below:
It may not be their most critically revered album but The Bends is probably my personal favorite Radiohead album. It may be because it was the first of their records that I heard that it has such a connection for me, but I don’t think it’s the main reason.
Looking back at historical reviews, you get the sense that many critics at the time believed that this was the work of an Indy band trying to move into “stadium rock” and follow along the likes of U2, who are mentioned in several reviews at the time. In hindsight, I think they were both right in the sense that it elevated Radiohead towards the the huge success they are now, but also wrong in their assumption that this album marks a turn towards “stadium rock.” Instead it shows a band who are starting to experiment in ways that they develop a lot further on their next album “Kid A”.
“Fake Plastic Trees” is my favorite track from the album and a great example of the experimental elements starting to push through in their sound. You can hear clearly that the origin of this piece comes from a singer songwriter approach, with acoustic guitar and vocals forming the center or the track. You add to that electric guitar, bass, strings, organ and percussion, and it has the basis of what you would expect to hear on a “stadium rock” track of the 90’s, but their implementation and compositional structure is far from it.
Initially, the mix on the majority of the track is fairly space with many of the elements of the track mixed so low in the mix that you can only sense hints of them.
When they are all brought to the front and center of the track in the second third of the track, they have the sonic signature weight of what you would expect from stadium rock. However, they are doing things very differently to what you would expect from that sound.
The lead guitar sound is a great example as it distortionally falls over itself compositionally far closer to a “sonic youth” or “MBV” then anything you would expect to see on the closing act of a main stage at Glastonbury at that time.
It’s this experimentation that has marked Radiohead so far apart from other bands of that time on the same scale. Although the critics didn’t seem to bite onto this part of their sound at the time, its clear to hear now that Radiohead were sharpening their teeth – all be it subtly – on this record for their later works.
The Latest album from Floating Points entitled Promises is a collaboration between Jazz saxophonist Pharoah Sanders and the London Symphony Orchestra. It’s a complete work, broken up into 9 movements on the record. It focuses around a singular motif that repeats throughout the entire album.
This blend of classical, jazz and a peppering of electronics took me several listens to get into and yet I have repeatedly returned to it over the past month to listen to the whole thing again, intrigued by its intricacies.
“Promises” seems like the kind of album that is rarely made these days. An indulgent and absorbing work of this nature rarely seems to get a budget large enough to gather a collection of talent this large, and for that risk alone it should be respected.
Yet it has much more to offer. Its distinctive sonic landscapes will be a joy for anyone who is into experimental music that focuses heavily on musicianship and sound design.
By its very nature, picking a singular “track” from the album is hard as the movements work so well as a whole. However “Movement 6” on Promises seems to be the crux of the album. It is the most instrumentally diverse and a great calling card for what the whole album is about when its firing on all cylinders. If you like the way this Movement sounds, It’s well worth listening to the whole thing:
My French is rusty at best and struggles with the basics, let alone the more cryptic metaphors and references found on this track.
Yet, I was instantly attracted to it’s groove blending drum machines and synthesizers for the first verse, before they add elements of a rock band, which the track tonally interesting. It’s then peppered with compositional moments of eccentricity that turn Écran Total into something well worth hearing:
Nils Frahm is always a pleasure to listen to. His ability to create such intricate textures out of single instruments makes his music captivating for the listener.
“My Friend the Forest” is a track that demonstrates these qualities perfectly. A closely mic’d piano is the main instrument on the piece. The piano is played softly, and the mic pics up a lot of the mechanical noise of the instrument. This helps enhance the piece, by creating an intimacy and realism in the performance, which gives it greater emotional weight. Give the track a listen below:
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