Hooray for 2-day weekends! I’m absolutely knackered at the moment, something which is making me feel rather guilty after watching yesterday’s Olympics where someone who could barely stand up was apologising to an entire nation for finishing second, where all I’ve been doing is being alternately sat behind a desk and wandering round a warehouse for slightly longer than I normally would.
That’s one reason for the general quietness here, anyway. The other is that I’ve just been a bit fed up recently. A couple of weeks ago, I was sat listening to a new record (which I shall not name) and found the experience so dull that I actually forgot that anything was playing at all from the halfway point until about 20 minutes after it had finished. As it turns out, it was the fault of the record in question rather than my own frame of mind. That said, I’ve been in such a position several times before and know full well that when I’m depressed, the last thing I want to listen to is people singing about how good or bad their lives are, or what they think the listener should do in order to either cheer up or feel worse. Which is where the good old instrumental comes in, as they’re largely neutral, letting the listener sit there to either fill in the blanks or just have a few minutes of nothing to think about other than “well, this is nice isn’t it?”
Hopefully later today there’ll be a more wordy Whatever, paving the way for a whole bunch of updates as soon as I can find the time to get a few words in edgeways…
Boards Of Canada – Turquoise Hexagon Sun
There’s something about Boards Of Canada that sets them apart from just about everyone else I’ve heard. Their music has a genial familiarity to it thanks to the warm choice of synth instrumentation, but there’s a curious otherworldliness carefully laid on top that gives them their unique air. Evoking both Carl Sagan’s wonderful Cosmos and the countdown music before every daytime Schools and Colleges educational TV programme (and subsequent grownup pastiche Look Around You), it’s a safe little bubble of childhood reminiscence given a modern grace to make them (and this in particular) the perfect chilled soundtrack.
Baltic Fleet – Midnight Train
More on this album later in the week. As with the above track, it has a foot in the past, but where BoC take their cues from lighter sources, Widnes-based Baltic Fleet is more grounded in Krautrock’s motorik beat and its various offshoots, taking in traces of Eno, Bowie (by way of the bands that influenced their best period) and Joy Division to create something that has a bit of drive to its minimal soundscapes. A new release, this is something that I hope to be spending more time writing about before next week is over.
Soulsavers – Wise Blood
Much is made of Messrs. Glover and Machin’s choice of vocalists over the course of four albums (and rightly so), but I find that they truly shine when they’re left to their own devices, as with this powerful piece. Wise Blood is a stunning film, but it does draw a bit too much on Flannery O’Connor’s black comedy rather than taking in the overall bleakness of the book, the soundtrack in particular being a bit too lighthearted for the unfolding nature of Hazel Motes’ life. This track could be dropped in the film perfectly at the moment of Motes’ own transformation to out-of-place preacher to the tragic outcome of his revelation and penance. Strongly reminiscent of Ennio Morricone’s Chi Mai (especially with the crashing percussion, central to both works), it’s a strongly emotional piece that stands as one of the finest instrumental pieces of the last several years.
AUN – Floodland
Much effect-laden chicanery going on here, and there’s nothing wrong with that. AUN are a rather strange duo from Montreal who are happiest when making big soundscapes, whether calm and dreamy as with this, or heavy and doomy as with, well, other things. Brilliant 3am headphone music, which has been ideal for me as sleep has been somewhat and annoyingly evasive recently.
A Winged Victory For The Sullen – All Farewells Are Sudden
And there’s no better way to finish this list than with this beauty. As with the above piece, this track (and entire record) is best experienced as a complete immersion in a dark room. The thing that’s immediately apparent about AWVFTS is that the listener is rapt and moved from the very start, without ever really knowing why, and this is something that is there with every single playthrough for me. It was Number 5 in my favourite albums of 2011, and every new time I hear it I fear I have done it a grave injustice by placing it so low.