The Rough Guide To Brazilian Electronica: Ramiro Musotto

(Ramiro Musotto at work)

Right, so having actually looked in the inlay of the Rough Guide album, there's actually a pile of information about each act on the cd. Curses. Here was me showing up Wikipedia's weaknesses and all along the 'fo was there. Never mind: it means I get to do a proper summary post at the end of the series. Lets get moving, today to Ramiro Musotto.

Background time: Ramiro Musotto is not Brazilian. He's from Patagonia, which according to my vast banks of knowledge is the most arid desert in the world, or something. Whichever, it covers vast tracts of Chile and Argentina, not really Brazil. However, on moving there at age 18, he became, as it were, the percussionist of choice to many of Brazil's top artistes; I'm not kidding, we're talking Marisa Monte, Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil, and if you're providing percussion for some of the giants of Tropicalia, you ain't doing bad for yourself. In solo terms, today's track comes from Musotto's 2003 debut (making it bang up to date when the Rough Guide was released), Sudaka, on the not-for-profit Fast Horse Recordings. The record can be listened to in full (not downloaded though...) from Fast Horse's website, and is a slightly dizzying amalgamation of traditional South American and African music - plenty of rhythmic percussion of their own, and some great chanting to boot (there's a sentence I wouldn't find myself saying often) - with samples and found sound (e.g. Botellero's Bahian street vendor's crys), and more up-to-date electronic backing.

I say up-to-date, Musotto uses predominantly Roland 808's, that synth drum so favoured of the Second Summer of Love's acid house heroes. You wouldn't neccessarily know it though, as because of the traditional instrumentation melded with the beats it doesn't sound retro in the slightest.

I guess when you've got such a rich and diverse heritage as Brazil (not just the traditional Amerindian sounds, but the array of Iberian and Western influences), you'd be hard pushed to exhaust it, and Ramiro Musotto manages to trace a similar path to some of the other artists on the Rough Guide yet remain very much an independent, free-thinking spirit. Sudaka is a pretty fascinating record, and if you're interested in your world music (as I'm slowly becoming) but like it with a more contemporary, less ethno-hippie twist, maybe Musotto's a good place to start. Caminho, the opening track on Sudaka and the Rough Guide selection, is as indicative a song as can be plucked from the album, and features a gentleman by the name of Buziga wailing over berimbau and electronic beats. Good stuff, fella.

The Music
Ramiro Musotto - Caminho

The 'fo
Artist: Ramiro Musotto
Website: ramiromusotto.com
Rough Guide To Brazilian Electronica, Sudaka
Rough Guide, Fast Horse
Amazon, Fast Horse
More: Hype Machine; elbo.ws; PopMatters review
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The Rough Guide To Brazilian Electronica: Funk Como Le Gusta

(DJ Patife, photo by Gib546)

Funk Como Le Gusta appear to be one of the few acts on this cd sufficiently together enough to run a website. Damned if I can understand what's going on though, my Portuguese ain't so hot. ST2 records is, just about, in the altogether more navigable English, but it doesn't provide much help. To be fair, this remix is almost more about the remixers than the remixed, so let's hope practicalities don't get in the way.
Funk Como Le Gusta are, as to be expected, a funk band from Brazil. However, to qualify for inclusion on this album, their track has Meu Guarda Chuva has been given the drum'n'bass makeover by DJ Patife and Cosmonautics. Patife is best known - to me at least - for his work with Roni Size, and indeed accompanied him on his Mercury-winning New Forms back in ooh, the mists of time. 1997. He's gone on to have a pretty successful career back in Brazil (including soundtracking Cidade de Deus) and in Europe, especially the UK. In fact, given the propensity to d'n'b remixes on this album, it's no wonder he's played Rock In Rio and generally done quite well for himself. Cosmonautics prove a little harder to track down, but they've worked with Patife on more than one occasion.
Enough of the background blurb then, what of the track. Well, it's beat-heavy - what did you expect? - but still very much a Brazilian thing. It's amazing really; if you had to describe what sounds Brazilian, what would you say? Um, congos? That's about all I can think of without resorting to ridiculous, meaningless sentiments. But every track I've covered so far sounds distinctly, and undebatably Brazilian. It's not smothered with that familiar spasmodic jungle beat, but rather the drum'n'bass touch brings out an already iconic sound, the aggressive, but sultry female vocals adding the power. It's definitely dance music, which is actually what drum'n'bass lacks so often - the ability to dance to the music.
The Music

DJ Patife with more smooth d'n'b featuring one Max Vianna. This one's more in the samba/MPB tradition of Brazilian pop, but definitely worth a listen still.
Funk Como Le Gusta, as they more often sound - funky, jazzy and cool, but lacking the bite of the remix.
Cosmonautics - a bit cool, a bit dancey, a bit funky.
The Music
The 'fo
Artist: Funk Como Le Gusta/DJ Patife/Cosmonautics
Buy: Amazon


Captive In The Height Of Summer

(OMR, 22/2/06, photo by PokeYoke )
Us Rosbif's have a love/hate relationship with the Frogs. We love their food, we love buying their rundown houses for our holiday homes, we love Thierry Henry. We hate the fact that they're French and look down their noses at everybody, despite being in no position to judge that sort of thing ourselves.

However, we are in a position to judge their music, because for the most part it's fairly embarrassing. There are a few luminaries (Serge Gainsbourg, Françoise Hardy), and they do a fine line in the sort of lush electronica that kind of washes over you (M83, Air and the like) and bangin' techno, if that's your bag. But the rock, the indie-pop, all tends to be kind of lame; Phoenix, for example, do precious little for me.

However, occasionally I receive nice little packages which sit on my desk for up to months sometimes before I get around to listening to the contents, even when preceded by a friendly email. So, OmR: my apologies for the delay. Because Superheroes Crash is a nice little record, one actually improved by being from a French band. There's some very Gallic turns, the sultry female vocals, the almost baroque keyboard flourishes. There are songs that bear similarities in structure to some of Air's last record, and the subtle uses of electronica add something approaching a simultaneously icy detachment and warm embrace.

I waffle, clearly. Sorry. I'm not sure OmR are destined for huge, stadium-filling excess, but there's no reason they shouldn't gather at least a little critical and commercial acclaim - they've already had engineering work done by the German maestro behind the Notwist/Lali Puna/Ms John Soda sound, Mario Thaler, and remix work by Prefuse73 and Abstrakt Keal Agram, which is fairly good going. The Thaler touch is especially evident in the innocent but knowing vocals of I Don't Know, and although the electronics have apparently been toned down since OMR's first record, the lightness of touch in their use is again familiar from the Weilheim school that Thaler's a part of. Superheroes Crash, as well as being the title track, is pretty indicative of the record, pretty, undulating and cute - I haven't included the more electro tracks, simply because these songs are better.

The Music
OmR - I Don't Know
OmR - Superheroes Crash

The 'fo
Artist: OmR
Website: omrmusic.com, MySpace
Recommended: Superheroes Crash
Label: Uncivilised World
Buy: Amazon
More: Hype Machine; elbo.ws, Mars Needs Guitars
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Eine Kleine Hedmusik

(Coldcut @ Cargo, photo by worthwords73)

One of the albums I put on at work that didn't prompt an outburst of disgust was Coldcut's Let Us Play! I've never been quite sure where I stand on instrumental hip hop; I've always presumed it to be the domain of carefully-slovenly, beanie wearing snowboarding types. You know the sort. But Coldcut isn't really like that. For a start they're British, which tends to dispel a lot of stereotypes, but they're also serious godfathers of a movement.

Coldcut have been around since approximately forever, and have been running Ninja Tune for almost as long. The label has created an impressive roster of acts like Amon Tobin, Herbaliser, Daedelus and Roots Manuva, which although fairly diverse in themselves all have a certain vibe that keeps them related. There's actually a lot to explore in their line-up, and they're one of those labels that I've been meaning to investigate further for a long time; acts like Mr Scruff, Kid Koala, Antibalas, these have been on the edge of my radar for ages but I really couldn't tell you where to start. I'll keep you updated should I actually put the legwork in.

Anyway, where were we? Ah, Let Us Play! For all I know, it could be either the archetypal or a completely atypical Coldcut album, but let's assume it's the former: it's hip hop-based, yes, but a lot more. It has the clever turntable work that seems to characterise Ninja Tune, and the cut-and-paste approach which has been the foundation of most of their work, the exploration of rare grooves and beats. I say this like I know what I'm talking about.

Anyway, I really want to post Coldcut because I've had Peter & The Wolf in my head for a while, and to me the msot famous Coldcut piece I know is More Beats And Pieces from this album. If you've ever watched Spaced, you'll know the tune, and I have to confess to being more familiar with it in it's modified form now, than in Prokofiev's original, despite the tune being the opening soundtrack to many a school assembly. Obviously it's a great tune, and only a small part of this track, but it's evidence again that you can do anything with anything these days, and if you pull it off with enough panache, you'll have a winner on your hands. So have a listen to these versions of this cut and paste manifesto, as also included is Kid Koala's fairly impressive take.

The Music
Coldcut - More Beats + Pieces (Daddy Rips It Up Mix)
Coldcut - More Beats + Pieces (Kid Koala version)

BONUS: I couldn't help but do it, the Kid Koala-starring The Gonk from... well, I take it to be Shaun Of The Dead, you might know it as the mall music from Dawn Of The Dead.

Various Artists - The Gonk

The 'fo
Artist: Coldcut
Let Us Play!
Ninja Tune
Hype Machine; elbo.ws
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Are You Having A Laugh?

I must be doing something right: today I was asked to take my music off the office stereo not once, but twice. But two more different problem tracks you could not ask for. First on was Cat Stevens, out of respect to the closing track from Extras. Extras is not good. This is a problem, because you watch it hoping, almost expecting that it will be, but it's not good. There's almost an element of hoping that it's intentional, that it's supposed to refer to the sub-standard sitcom that Ricky Gervais finds himself in. But no, it's just not very good.
However, redeeming features come in many flavours, not the least of which is Tea For The Tillerman, the title track from Stevens' 1970 album of the same name. The track is always played over the credits a little bit louder than you expect, like the producers are giving due prominence to a great, classically-formed song. Which it is, like most of Stevens' output at the time - it's on the same album as Wild World and Father & Son, for a start.

So Cat went on the office stereo, and apparently not a popular choice, was replaced by Autechre.
The Music
Cat Stevens - Tea For The Tillerman

The other offender was altogether more expected. In fact, Psychocandy was put on in the almost-certain knowledge that someone would ask for it to be taken off at some point. In the event, they did admirably, and I think it was Some Candy Talking, which is track 8, that was the straw that broke the camel's back. This album has taken a long time even to get to a listenable stage for me, so I can appreciate others' anxiety at the barrage of trebly, scraping distortion that passes for a Jesus & Mary Chain song. It's not easy going. I was going to pull the "it was the closing track on Lost In Translation" trick, but stopped myself when I remembered just how often I've had to use the Pixies' Fight Club credits soundtrack for the same thing. I don't want to go down that route again.

The Music
Jesus & Mary Chain - Some Candy Talking

The 'fo
Artist: Cat Stevens/Jesus & Mary Chain
Websites: yusufislam.org.uk/subpop.com
Recommended: Tea For The Tillerman/Psychocandy
Label: Polygram/Subpop
Buy: Amazon CS/JAMC
More: Hype Machine CS/JAMC; elbo.ws CS/JAMC
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I don't know if you're loving somebody, I only know...

Elvis Costello's My Aim Is True is maybe the best album I have in my vinyl collection. This is some claim, as I have some seriously great records in there, but this is true gold. I was inspired to dig it out again after watching (via Everybody Cares, Everybody Understands) Elvis' first TV appearance, and it reminded me just how stunning a track Alison is, and therefore this post is dedicated to the album, and more specifically the song.

Welcome To The Working Week almost falls over itself in it's rush sometimes but behind the bluster is a sentiment more accurate - and as it's EC, more personal to every listener - than could be imagined in such a short track. It's just the beginning, because the album is full of them - every track a winner, a searing insight into your actual life without a hint of the emotionally overwraught, or whining or crying. The punk-pop backing is in reality small-town soul, a sound born not so much at frustration at what one doesn't have (like Elvis' peers) but a solid resolution to do what you can with what you have.

In the case of My Aim Is True, what you have is absolutely traditionally constructed and performed songs. But the main difference between this and a million others is that each simple song is eternally pertinent and always hits the spot. Whether it's the sound of the record, a throwback to the days when pop was pop and could be about this sort of thing without needing to sound arch; whether it's the we've all been there of "Oh, I said "I'm so happy, I could die."She said "Drop dead," then left with another guy." ((The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes); maybe it's the exasperated Miracle Man.

Maybe it's the way everything stops on the word Stop, in Alison. Maybe it's in the subtle, but quite beautiful electric guitar solos in the same song (seen to heartstopping effect in the video, the solo electric putting even Billy Bragg in his place). Maybe it's the wistful, bittersweet, disappointed lyrics. Maybe it's the fact that despite being almost thirty years old, this song retains every bit as much importance and relevance to any listener, to anyone who's been in love, to anyone that doesn't have a cold, hard stone for their heart. Maybe it's the fact that in this intimate demolition of long-held feelings, Costello poured out more indignation, more grief, more beauty and more spite than any of his punk peers could muster, and marshalled it not to an inept four to the floor, but to a balladic soul piece that Stax would have killed for. Maybe his aim really was true.

The Music
Elvis Costello - Alison
Elvis Costello - Mystery Dance (live at the El Mocambo, 3/6/1978)
Elvis Costello - Blame It On Cain (acoustic "honky tonk" version)

The 'fo
Artist: Elvis Costello
Websites: elviscostello.com
Recommended: My Aim Is True
Label: Stiff Records
Buy: Amazon
More: Hype Machine; elbo.ws
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Cover me. I'm going in...#4

I'm taking the contentious, not-posting-the-original route today. Mostly because its the Beatles and Apple are notoriously tetchy about Beatles songs being offered for free, or so I'm led to believe. Anyway, the cover tune is the main point today, and I'm offering one from a band brand new to me, kindly brought to my attention by the good people at Fat Cat Records.

I'm pretty useless at giving promo cd's a timely listen, but I made an effort this time to stick Songs Of Green Pheasant's album Aerial Days on the mp3 player and give it a whirl. And of course, because I'm posting about it today, the day I first heard it, it made an impression on me. The record on the whole has something of the nu-folk about it, but a lot more swirly, trippy psychedelia. In a kind of subtle way though: I'm not talking Love here, I'm talking Simon & Garfunkel a capellas with sitar and just the occasional beat. Even the occasional electronic beat, which is pleasant.

I really like the vocals most about this album. This is where I bring in the S&G reference, because they have that close-miked, heavily-reverbed tone which just suited the slightly woozy state of my head this morning. There's some lovely songs on here, but the reason I'm posting under a Cover Me... banner is, obviously, a cover. Dear Prudence was one of those classic Lennon/guru/India/celebrity hippy moments, famously regarding Mia Farrow's sister Prudence. It's a droney, acoustic number in it's original, and Songs Of Green Pheasant's cover does nothing to take away from the original vibe of the track. Drums are sparse, layered sitar and acoustic wash over you while you soak in the far-away-sounding lyrics. If it wasn't such a well-known song it would be really tricky to make them out, but as literally everyone and their pet gecko knows the song, it's not a problem. Difficult as it can be to record a cover of such a famous tune, I think Mr Duncan Sumpner, for it is he, has done admirably here.

The Music
Songs Of Green Pheasant - Dear Prudence

More Covers: Low/Nilsson; Matthew Herbert/Luna; Prince

The 'fo
Artist: Songs Of Green Pheasant
Websites: Fat Cat artist page
Recommended: Aerial Days
Label: Fat Cat
Buy: Amazon, Fat Cat
More: Hype Machine; elbo.ws
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I Need All The Friends I Can Get

(Camera Obscura, Berlin 25/8/06, photo by pelforth)

Considering that, in my humble opinion, the year's best album so far has been by Belle & Sebastian, is it a good idea to release an album that sounds a lot like the aforementioned indie-pop superstars? Is it worth the constant comparisons, the lazy journalism, the potential apathy of a marketplace? Well, in some cases, yes. Focus on the female vocals of early B&S, up the organ and string quotient, throw in a little of this trendy country-pop that's swept the American indie scene and you have Camera Obscura.

Of course, I've fallen victim to lazy journalism. It's an easy trap to fall into, and in some respects not all that bad: if you're trying to convince someone to like a band you're going to say that, ooh, they sound like a stripped-down Arcade Fire, or ah, imagine Joss Stone meets Joss Ackland, or something equally inane, rather than getting down to the nitty gritty of how their sound is constructed - well, they take a Boss DS1 and filter it through a hard-knee gate to tune the feedback into pitch (not convinced that's possible actually, now I mention it, although it would be fun to try).

But it's easy to compare Camera Obscura to Belle & Sebastian. They're both part of the fertile Glaswegian indie breeding ground, they both specialise in heartfelt pop songs, artfully constructed to reveal glimpses of the heartache within. But more importantly than this, they've both created one of those effortlessly, instantly charming albums this, one of those that gets a hook in and somehow refuses to leave.

I've had the opening track, Lloyd, I'm Ready To Be Heartbroken in my head for what seems like an age now, despite only hearing the band for the first time last week sometime. It's one of those wonderful opening tracks that set a stall for the album, and grab your attention straight away. It has a cute video too, a headrush of pre-psychedelic wall-hangings and dancing - I'm talking proper, Singin' In The Rain dancing, none of your OK Go nerd-dancing, and you can find it on their website.

The website is worth a look, if only for the personal touches: Tracy-Anne Campbell provides a regular C90 mixtape suggestion list that belies her miserable appearance in the video; Gavin Dunbar regularly updates his recipe list (I approve, food is ace); Lee Thomson on film; Kenny McKeeve's advice column; Nigel Baillie's Top Fives; Carey Lander's book summaries. They even have a proper, old-skool blog.

So yeah, listen to the songs, enjoy the music and allow yourself to be swept along by a guileless, charming and unpretentious band that may have produced one of the best albums of the year. The songs are freely available to stream on MySpace, by the way, except for the remix from the band's website.

The Music
Camera Obscura - Lloyd, I'm Ready To Be Heartbroken
Camera Obscura - Country Mile
Camera Obscura - Books Were Written For Girls (Synonym remix)

The 'fo
Artists: Camera Obscura
Websites: camera-obscura.net, MySpace, blog
Recommended: Let's Get Out Of This Country
Label: Merge
Buy: Amazon, Simbiotic (recommended)
More: Hype Machine; elbo.ws; FiL's live review
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There's Something About You

(Teenage fanclub, Stockholm 8/7/05, photo by city kitty)

What you do to me...
I know, I can't believe

For some reason, songs just come to mind for some reason, sometimes. It's not possible to explain, or reason with the subconscious, better just to let them wash over and they'll pass. So it is with Teenage Fanclub's What You Do To Me this weekend. I was never really familiar with the band aside from what I'd hear on the radio, and this track on a compilation.

That compilation album, from the front of a long-lost music rag like all the best ones, is now lost, and it's a sad, sad thing. For it was maybe the finest compilation of it's sort I'd ever heard. Released, I imagine in the mid-90's, it ended up in a charity shop when I bought it, and contained some breathtaking music. The Fall, Sonic Youth, Velvet Underground, Television and Joy Division were just a handful of delights, and the album closed with this jangle classic. By all accounts, Bandwagonesque is one of those albums you should definitely have, a UK indie classic, but I fall short on this front.

What I can tell you is that in between the mild and toned-down buzzsaw guitars plucked from a JAMC record, the Beach Boys harmonies and the catchy-as-the-plague hook lines, repeated over and over to fit an almost shoegaze-y ethic (in the vocal approach, at least) there's a beautiful, sweet classic indie-pop song. So well done Teenage Fanclub.

I'm a generous man. So instead of plumping for just the single track I'll give you another magazine-promo-classic, an another indie-pop classic to boot. Hot tip: The Times today has In The Mood For Love, for free, so if you want good promotional goodies...
Anyway, the track in question is by Seafood, a much-loved but ever under-appreciated band. Their last record, on Cooking Vinyl, revealed a more country-ish bent, with less of the lo-fi guitars of their debut, but for me their defining moment is this dynamic, head-swayingly pretty number, Belt. Watch Yourself Now...

The Music
Teenage Fanclub - What You Do To Me
Seafood - Belt

The 'fo
Artists: Teenage Fanclub/Seafood
Websites: teenagefanclub.com/seafood.uk.com/MySpace
Recommended: Bandwagonesque/Surviving The Quiet
Label: Merge/Cooking Vinyl
Buy: Amazon TF/S
More: Hype Machine TF/S; elbo.ws TF/S
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Up Against The Wall

(Ian MacCulloch, 6/8/05, by dopamine)

An unfortunate lack of inspiration this evening. I must be pining for Let's Kiss & Make Up. So my eyes rove and happen upon one of those old-fashioned plastic discs that seem so arcane and weird nowadays when surrounded by virtual music and the like.

Charity shops are great, especially when they sell you Echo & The Bunnymen LP's. I've been listening to the reissued Icicle Works album recently, and they're of the same ilk as the Bunnymen - scouse neo-psychedelia with a leaning towards the hugely dramatic. Sweeeeet. So of course, what's their finest hour? The Cutter? Seven Seas? Nothing Ever Lasts Forever? Don't kid me, when you've written one of the greatest songs of the last 50 years, everything else tends to pale into comparison. Listen to The Killing Moon. Really listen. It's such a good track - atmospheric, filmic, and oh so eighties. In a good way this time, if you're as sick as I am of the thin-tied, angular-haired revivalists you find about, this is the track that will replace your irritation with good old-fashioned moping and misery.

It's actually not a miserable song. It's Ian McCullogh hectoring the world, in a gentle, almost foppish fashion - if you are happy to listen to the Smiths for their jangly, unusual arrangements, to The Cure for their gothic (in the proper sense of the word) romanticism, to what one might call proper indie, then your heart was mightily cheered to watch Donnie Darko. Lovely.

I've talked for a while about nothing there. Good for me. Listen to Echo & The Bunnymen, but make sure you listen really loud (on vinyl if possible), and make sure you grow your hair and start writing poetry because this, my friend, this is romance.

The Music
Echo & The Bunnymen - The Killing Moon

BONUS Material:
For Colin:
The Field Mice - Let's Kiss & Make Up

Idlewild - You Held The World In Your Arms Tonight
One of the few tracks of recent years to really capture the bombastic, overblown pop of the Bunnymen and their contemporaries.

Pavement - The Killing Moon
Nouvelle Vague - The Killing Moon
Grant Lee Phillips - The Killing Moon
I don't like Pavement, boring slackers that they are. But, for the sake of completeness, here's a fairly decent cover. Grant Lee Phillips has one of the great voices of all time, so he's a safe bet. Nouvelle Vague are more of a Gallic curiosity.

The 'fo
Artist: Echo & The Bunnymen
Website: bunnymen.com
Recommended: Songs To Learn And Sing
Label: Cooking Vinyl
Buy: Amazon, CV
More: Hype Machine; elbo.ws
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I've seen broken people smile

(Hope Of The State, 11/2004, by The Slow Wonder)

Tuesday is Contrast Podcast Day, it's official. Colin (from one of my absolute favourite blogs, Let's kiss and make up...) has suggested the Entrance Music (To A Film) film, which is inspired. I can't tell you the number of times I've been walking down the street in the morning with an amazing song on the headphones imagining I'm the lead character in some movie I've written...

I have a vivid imagination.

Anyway, my choice is somewhat controversial, given the band's more recent output, and all being fair should give Jamie the chance to mock me back for making fun of Marion and Mansun in the past. Hope Of The States never stood a chance in the credibility stakes really: major label deal, massively pretentious concepts, weedy-sounding singer... But they were a great band. Were, I say, as the last single was fairly useless, over-bombastic nonsense. But The Lost Riots was a fantastic album. I got carried away when I reviewed it (see the list, right), giving it a ten out of ten at the time, and although maybe I've tempered a little since then, I still stand by it. The Lost Riots is the place where Mogwai and Godspeed and Explosions In The Sky meet accessibility and songs, scope and emotion. My choice was The Black Amnesias, the opening instrumental, which distils the aforementioned post-rock heroes into a three-minute rush, a heady blend of picked acoustic guitar, crashing drums, loud soft dynamics, thrashed out distortion.

That's the track most appropriate for the podcast, but it's not the best on the album. It's instrumental, for a start, which doesn't let you experience the most controversial aspect of Hope Of The States: Sam Herlihy's vocals. These are the breaker for a new listener - weedy and lame on first listen, in my opinion (though certainly not one shared by all) these reveal cracked emotion more than a classically-trained singer ever could. These are what you'll hear on today's track. Just the one song from the album, it should be all you need. This is the kind of song you turn up loud, because the opening vocals are so close you'll find yourself drawn in. It's a builder; and by the end you'll either have switched off or you'll be on the edge of your seat straining to hear every last detail.

The first time I heard this was a P2P download from a Steve Lamacq radio show. He spoke over the end, as his job insists upon; but he regretted it, you could tell. Listen to the album version: it's a breathtaking finish to a track with soaring feedback and positively aching strings.

Just looking up the website now, and the band have split up. Yes. I didn't know that, and I'm not really bothered, because they've left me with probably the one good album they were capable of. Listen to Enemies/Friends, or Don't Go To Pieces, which sound remarkably poignant given the subsequent tragic death of founding guitarist Jimi Lawrence.

The Music
Hope Of The States - Black Dollar Bills

The 'fo
Artist: Hope Of The States
Website: hopeofthestates.co.uk, Myspace
Recommended: The Lost Riots
Label: Sony
Buy: Amazon
More: Hype Machine; elbo.ws, The Daily Growl, Keep Hope Inside
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The Rough Guide To Brazilian Electronica: Fernanda Porta

("View from Pedra da Gávea", photo by Christian 3D)

In Europe, or North America, electronic musicians tend to be a fairly earnest bunch. Either they're in the RAM-heavy soft-everything league of using as many different sound effects to make minimal differences to their music, or they're in the see-who-can-use-the most-obscure-sample division, or whatever. Judging by this record, Brazilian's tend to take a more laidback approach, with less of the out-randoming and overthinking - see today's track, by Fernanda Porta. Although utilising drum'n'bass and particularly European electronic styles, the music is essentially samba/bossa nova (which is great for me, I'm listening to a lot of Bebel Gilberto and Celso Fonseca at the mo...), revealing none of the oneupmanship of elsewhere.

The track on the Rough Guide is De Costas Pro Mundo (the coasts pro world, according to Google, although that doesn't make any actual sense). It's a chilled, vocal-led piece with wonderfully subtle beaty touches, leading to a track that chills rather than energises. It's almost approaching the sort of thing you'll find on Balearic chill-out compilations, but without the overly familiar lack of anything approaching different that afflicts these. You have to admit that without the Ibiza-party-central connotations, the idea of sitting in a beach bar watching the sun come up with some mellow, sexy electronica/bossa nova in the background is remarkably appealing.

So: I present that guilt-free chillout track you've been waiting for, in De Costas Pro Mundo. Also available in bonus goodness is some more Porta, this time with some more of Brazil's great DJ's. Sambassim is a Porta signature tune, and is more upbeat and drum'n'bass-y. It was, I'm informed, the UK's biggest-selling drum'n'bass single of 2002. It's less chill-out, more go out, whereas So Tinha Que Ser Com Voce is a fun, funky but still relaxed version of the Antonio Carlos Jobim classic, somewhere between the two.

The Music
Fernanda Porta - De Costas Pro Mundo
Fernanda Porta - Sambassim (Madzoo Jazzy Remix)
DJ Marky & DJ Patife feat. Fernanda Porta - So Tinha Que Ser Com Voce

The 'fo
Artist: Fernanda Porta
Website: fernandaporto.com
Recommended: Fernanda Porta
Label: Trama
Buy: Rough Guide; Tunes
More: Hype Machine; elbo.ws
Tags: Brazil; electronica; Fernanda Porta; DJ Patife; DJ Marky; drum'n'bass


Take a trip and Multiply

(Photo by Neil365)

White Men Can't Funk. Have you heard the theory? It's got a lot of credibility, as you'd be hard pressed to find one that's got as much soul or funk as, say, James Brown or Bootsy Collins or whoever. And yet, making a sweeping statement like that isn't entirely accurate - I've known black guys who couldn't funk if they were shown exactly how, and for proof that white guys can do it too, I present: Jamie Lidell.

Jamie Lidell released his debut, Multiply, in 2005 to pretty much universal acclaim. It's a record that mixes funk with really soulful vocals, almost Al Green-ish in his feline improvisations, and throws some cutting edge electro sounds into the mix as well - more than one track breaks down in a hail of electro, synth madness, and pulls it back from the brink to a rhythmic, groovy beat.

He recently released Multiply Additions, an album of remixes and reworkings from Multiply, featuring a whole host of great names, as follows...

You Got Me Up - live at the Scala (Kings Cross), this shows Lidell at his soul hero finest, in the live arena, taking the rarified Sly Stone grooves of the original and extending them and drawing them out.

Multiply (In A Minor Key) - the original title track being almost an epitome of Multiply, this reworking is maybe the most radically remixed, and possibly the most interesting on the album. The original vocals are set to new harmonies and new genres, with jazz club piano by one Gonzales making it more like something you'd find in a New York cocktail club, while you're sipping on your martini.
The second version is by the reliably wacky Matthew Herbert, entitled the Hoedown Bump Instrumental, and you can take that to mean it's literally that - a pant-swingingly yokely barn dance of a tune.

When I Come Back Around was one of the highlights of Multiply, with Lidell getting all aggressive with his vocals over an electro-disco backing. The remix is one of the straighter ones here, a Freeform Reform.

A Little Bit More is chopped up with Luke Vibert's usual mixture of 50's jingles and talky bits, and is complemented by another Herbert version, an unusual spacier version.

What's The Use is treated pretty straight by Mocky, adding more of hip hop tone and some rapping.

The City, in it's original state, is a slightly creepy, echo-y and insistent funk number, and in it's Four Tet remix, the aggression is heightened with a forceful, housey beat and the creeping paranoia is also boosted by Hebden's digital mentalness. As expected, one of the highlights.

Original closing track Game For Fools is another of the Al Green deep soul numbers, organ-heavy and showing of Lidell's impressive vocals. There's a live version here, and a bizarre but wonderful ukelele cover by Mara Carlyle.

The Music
Jamie Lidell - Multiply
Jamie Lidell - Multiply (In A Minor Key) Piano by Gonzales
Jamie Lidell - Game For Fools (live in Paris)

The 'fo
: Jamie Lidell

Website: jamielidell.com, MySpace
Recommended: Multiply (2005)
Label: Warp
Buy: Amazon; Warpmart
More: Hype Machine
Tags: Jamie Lidell; Multiply; soul; funk; remix; cover


The bugs are biting

(Photo by Mil)

It's gardening time of year again. Being just a little less than green-fingered, my propagation of nature tends to weigh heavily on the side of enthusiasm, but is occasionally found lacking in terms of persistence and skill. That said, we have (with little to compare it to) an excellent crop of tasty tomatoes (which need using actually, mental note), a pepper well on its way, even chillies and olives. A squirrel (now issued with a fatwa) made off with the head of one of our sunflowers, but it looks as though one is about to burst into life. Good stuff.

However, the next major project is due to our Greek-Rigsby styled landlord, who was less than impressed at the housemate's removal of the garden path. Liability and health hazard though it was, it was at least a path. So, a new one is in order, leading to my first, tentative steps into the world of garden design. A subject foreign to me, it is none the less one in which I have picked up tips via osmosis, many being the occasion at my parents house when a gardening show on the telly would distract me from my book/sleep/food. So - trips to Homebase are on the cards, we'll soon have a melange of sand, gravel and paving to explore the garden with.

All last evening's activity inevitably led to a fairly impressive series of insect bites, hence the situation coming still to mind. It does, though, give me the opportunity to post songs from maybe my favouritest band in the world, Mogwai. In Cornwall, there's a tourist attraction named The Lost Gardens Of Heligan, a fairly over-dramatic name for a garden if you ask me. I don't know what's there. It always reminds me of Mogwai, indeed one of there more famous early tracks (check the track title).

That would be a tenuous link indeed, though, so I'll bolster it with the fact that the song refers to exactly what I was creating (albeit not to the song's stated location).
I've included several versions here, as there's two parts to the song. It doesn't appear on any of the band's standard full-lengths, and the original versions I have here are those on the collection of early EPs, Ten Rapid. The live versions are from Mogwai's excellent BBC sessions album, Government Commissions, and the remix by Max Tundra is from Kicking A Dead Pig, the Mogwai remix album. All excellent: Part 2 is the sort of subtle, all-quiet Mogwai moment (although mercilessly and brutally chopped and changed by Max Tundra), but Part 1 is the classic Mogwai hail-of-beautiful-sound, the sort of song Windows Media Player visualisations are made for.
NB - the songs are labelled slightly differently on each release, but they're all versions of the same songs...

Mogwai - Helicon 1 (from Ten Rapid)
Mogwai - New Paths To Helicon Pt.1 (from Government Commissions)
Mogwai - Helicon 2 (from Ten Rapid)
Mogwai - New Paths To Helicon Pt.2 (from Government Commissions)
Mogwai - Helicon 2 (Max Tundra remix)

<$>Mogwai/Max Tundra<$>

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The Christmas lights are taken down

MySpace is an even more brutal world than mp3 blogs. Out of about twenty friend requests from bands that I went through yesterday, just the one grabbed my attention. From a record label rather than an artist, for a start, which is slightly more unusual, and obviously signifies that the guy actually has a deal and isn't just some two bit, poorly bedroom-recorded Libertines sound-alike or grunge survivor. In fact, Grand Harmonium Records are a fairly tiny Edinburgh-based label, and it seems that the main thrust of their promotion at the moment seems to be behind one Steve Adey, Birmingham born and raised. With just cause, it seems, as Mr Adey seems like an extremely talented individual.
The most apt comparison that has been quoted is Will Oldham, which is really spot on. I don't think Adey's world view is quite as bleak as Mr Prince Billy, but the richness of vocal tone, and the hushed reverence of the songs is definitely on the same level - Adey even covers Oldham's signature tune (see below), taking an orchestral approach which sounds really nice.
The other point of reference, for me at least, would be Richard Thompson, with a voice that touches Americana but is still distinctly English. What I'm trying to say, in irritating journo-comparison style, is that he's got a really good voice, and some really good songs. I heartily commend him to your listening apparatus.

Steve Adey - Find The Way
Steve Adey - Find The Way (acoustic)
Steve Adey - Evening Of The Day
Steve Adey - I See A Darkness (Bonnie 'Prince' Billy cover - sample)
Steve Adey - Shelter From The Storm (Bob Dylan cover - sample)

<$>Steve Adey<$>

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Rock Classics

(Photo by shbib)

I recently described my posting habits on You Can Call Me Betty as 'wilfully difficult', but the truth of the matter is that I'm just pretty lazy at rooting out the new music. Generally, brand new things get a cursory listen and if they inspire me to further listens within 10 seconds, well, well done them. Such was not The Knife. I tend to take a fairly perverse attitude to things which are popular, and although I've overcome my post-adolescent aversion to anything touched by the clammy hands of the mainstream, I'm still a little put off by something that The Internet is going bonkers over. Such as The Knife.

I don't feel like I miss out on much, to be honest. I tend to view these bands as faddish and not nearly as interesting as fawning commentators suggest. Which made it nice when one of these bands was recommended by someone I actually know, and who has musical opinions I respect (to a point, don't let's go nuts here). The Knife are a Swedish combo - you may know them best, depressingly enough, for a cover of one of their songs. The incredibly boring José Gonzalez mumbles Heartbeats over those phone adverts with the bouncy balls, and put me right off originally, but having heard The Knife's original, I am more than impressed. It's a great song at the beginning of an album of great songs, and certainly deserves to be better known in it's original state than its stripped-of-everything-including-emotion singer/songwriter guise.

You wouldn't generally expect an electro/synth band to go hot on the emotive aspects of pop, but you would be foolish to presume it's not possible. Check out M83, for example, or even Air for this, and add The Knife to the list. They're also charmingly eccentric, appearing only rarely in public and not without their semi-Papa Lazarou masks. They're playing The Forum in October, so I might be able to report back then. Heartbeats has these aching vocals, not mechanical at all, which is what sets them apart in my book. Plus, as has been mentioned, they do have an ace synth sound.

The Knife - Heartbeats
The Knife - Take My Breath Away (MHC remix)
José Gonzalez - Heartbeats

<$>The Knife/José Gonzalez<$>

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The Rough Guide To Brazilian Electronica: Cila Do Coco

(Photo by Lucas Lima)

Time we got this moving. And, typically, it's another where I can find few details about the track or the artists. Taking another well-established singer (like with Claudia Telles), Dona Cila Do Coco, Instituto have remixed this song from it's more traditional routes to the funky, shifting electronica here. Pop Matters agrees with me that this is one of the highlights of the record.

This song is the first real time in the record that it has sounded really tribal, and I have to be careful how I phrase it: I don't want to be getting all colonial on you. But Cila Do Coco is a singer in the more traditional Latin vein, her voice a passionate shriek at times. There are moments (especially at the beginning, before the major remixing work kicks in) that this sounds like something recorded 60 years ago - in fact, when Dona Do Coco was a child. It has a grainy, sepia kind of sound, filtered of course through an almost animal cry. And that continues throughout, from the insistent congas to the chanted backing.

But there's some fascinatingly eclectic remixing here as well. The string sample is a recurring motif, and the vocals are chopped and changed and strung out and mutilated. The result is something that sounds, as I said, in some ways almost ancient, in some ways absolutely cutting edge.

Instituto are a five-man audio-visual unit founded by Rica Amabis, and this is maybe their most famous remix work. It takes the Do Coco track and chops and changes and adds and takes away, and features a notable contribution from Ninja Tune's turntablist Kid Koala. For me, it really sums up what this CD is all about, the fusion of styles matching Brazil's history, politics, culture, you name it, and is a great, funky, and downright cool song.

Cila Do Coco - Juntando Coco (Instituto remix)

Bonus material:
Elza Soares - Mandinguiera (Instituto remix)
This is a more laidback, bossa-y groove, but with the same cool electronica stylings.
Instituto - Cabeça De Nêgo (w/ Sabotage)
Hip-hoppy and hand-clappy
Kid Koala - listen on MySpace

<$>The Rough Guide To Brazilian Electronica/Cila Do Coco/Instituto/Elza Soares/Kid Koala<$>

The Rough Guide To Brazilian Electronica: Suba; Macumbalada; Claudia Telles

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Cover me. I'm going in...#3

(Photo by Ergun&Aytaç'ın sayfası)

I've never really been able to get Prince. Sometimes I think I'm missing out, sometimes I think it's for the best. There's a part of me that goes around internally yelling purple rain....

purple rain! And another part of me that thinks of the more embarassing scary dwarf connotations. But, it's impossible to deny that the man has written some seriously great songs. Maybe the finest is Nothing Compares 2 U, it's quality maybe only apparent in it's Sinead O'Connor incarnation, and while that song isn't my focus today, it's worth listening. And even better, watching, as the video is integral here.

The main thrust, if you will, today is When Doves Cry, another contender for the sex-munchkin's finest song. That said, I've yet to work out exactly how the sound of screaming might even approximate the sound of doves crying, but then, who am I to argue with a man who has sold approximately a bazillion records. The man's an innovator: using textspeak years before it was fashionable, lyrics include "Dig if u will the picture Of u and I engaged in a kiss," and "Maybe Im just 2 demanding, Maybe Im just like my father, 2 bold." Sorted.

So yeah: good song: Prince is mental: again he sounds better when covered by other artists.

For the sake of balance, here is the original by Prince and the Revolution, alongside Ginuwine's r'n'b stylings. This first cover doesn't add much to the original, in fact stripping it of it's originality. I'm all for covers changing things around big time, which is why I prefer Damien Rice's version. In some ways, Rice's ubiquity makes me want to dislike him, but the truth is that 'O' is a really great album with some amazing songs, and as was discussed with soulbrotha in a recent comments section, some people actually prefer him over Jeff Buckley. Controversial, for sure, but I see what he means. This version of When Doves Cry is great, and segues fairly impressively into Babe, I'm Gonna Leave You by Led Zeppelin. Not so keen on the Ani Di Franco version, but it's here anyway.

Prince - When Doves Cry
Ginuwine - When Doves Cry
Damien Rice - When Doves Cry
Ani DiFranco - When Doves Cry

Previous Cover Me' s are here: Fearless (Pink Floyd/Low) + Many Rivers To Cross (Jimmy Cliff/Harry Nilsson); Everybody Here Wants You (Jeff Buckley/Matthew Herbert) + Sweet Child O' Mine (Guns'n'Roses/Luna)

<$>Prince/Ginuwine/Damien Rice/Ani DiFranco<$>

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(Picture by tonto-kidd)

While I think Murcof still holds the record for the longest I've gone without mentioning/posting/reviewing a cd (to date - I still hope to have a root through my promo box at some stage, just like I mean to go through my emails and my MySpace requests), Justice may well creep up there. I'm not sure what the CD I have here is, is it a new album, a best-of, some sort of promotional toy? I don't know, and I'm not really interested - it looks to me like its some sort of summary, so this is good.

Justice (soft j, long i, justeeeece) are French, as all electro acts are these days. The duo (Gaspard Augé and Xavier de Rosnay) are really more known for remixing than original pieces, having produced curious and quite groovy remixes of Death From Above 1979, Franz Ferdinand, Mr Oizo, Mystery Jets, and probably most famously, Simian. It's the Simian track that's been the one stuck in my head today, although I didn't realise the auteurs until later on. I had assumed it was Hot Chip, or one of these achingly trendy electro-pop-rock groups that are so hot right now, but: I was wrong. It's Justice vs. Simian with Never Be Alone, or as it's entitled in it's re-release, We Are Your Friends.

It's a fun, bouncy thing, very Gallic in a number of ways: if you're familiar with Daft Punk et al, you'll know what I'm talking about; if not think nice crunchy synths and eminently poppy, dancey beats. Not to mention, that insanely catchy tag line courtesy of Simian (another group about which I know next to nothing, but are a very credible name to drop).

Simian - Never Be Alone
Justice vs. Simian - Never Be Alone
Justice vs. Simian - Never Be Alone (Lee Cabreras Lower East Side mix)
Justice vs. Simian - Never Be Alone (DJ Hell's Bavarian Gigolo mix)

The originals on this cd are also not without merit: Waters Of Nazareth is crunchier still, whereas Let There Be Light is nice and beat-driven. This is club music, I guess, in which I am still a relative novice: if I go to a club, I go to an indie disco where I'll hear some Stones (Rolling/Roses), and if I listen to electronic music, it's the sort that if you danced to it, you might get approached by paramedics looking for the epileptic. This is more straightahead dance music, of which I am sadly unfamiliar with subgenres, but I can tell you that, in theory, one could certainly dance to it.
I've picked One Minute To Midnight as it most corresponds with my tastes, I guess, it's a bit more atmospheric than the others, a bit more sonically varied as well.

Justice - One Minute To Midnight

Remixes are Justice's day job, I imagine. This, for me, is where Justice excel, picking perhaps unlikely tracks and putting them through the Justice grinder to produce something that's very much aligned along the lines of the French electro stylings of the band's originals, but retains the purpose and intention of the track being remixed. Justice started off doing French acts like Vicarious Bliss and this one from Scenario Rock: listen out for the comedy French computer accents and shouting ("who is the DJ today? give me something to dance to, and please not techno").
I actually have to retract the statement about staying true to the original track now, as the Justice remix of Franz Ferdinand's The Fallen sounds absolutely nothing like Franz Ferdinand - it's not hip hop; it's electro, but that sounds awfully close to rapping...

Scenario Rock - Skitzo Dancer (Justice remix)
Franz Ferdinand - The Fallen (Justice remix)

<$>Justice/Simian/Scenario Rock/Franz Ferdinand<$>

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