I admit it: I'm a total hog of the office stereo. It's caused fractions before: I'll never forget the bloody aftermath of a particularly heated Jimmy Cliff vs. Cher exchange with one unenlightened individual. I can be remarkably stubborn, and although my populist sensibilities take over if I'm putting an album on, putting my mp3 player on random is bound to cause some upset.
I recently filled it up. This means that I've had to start going through and deleting those promos to which I've never given the time of day (Our Brother The Native; Television Personalities; Plastic Constellations. I can't take the approach of many bloggers and listen and appraise everything, sorry), and to those albums I frankly just don't want on there any more (Arctic Monkeys, I'm looking at you). Which means I have an ever more streamlined approach to the shuffle button. Increasingly, everything on my Zen is fantastic, everything has its place, everything is important. Listening to my mp3 player on random some days is a near-religious experience, darting from one end of the experimental electronic atmosphere to the poppier side of Tropicalia, via some Undertones or some Tanya Donnelly or some Johnny Cash. It's really good, I promise.
Quite regularly though, there'll crop up songs which, for whatever reason, are just not appropriate for office consumption. Not for any lyrical content, but for sheer wilfull unlistenability. I know my limits, for the most part: I know that if I were to throw on Keiran Hebden's collaborations with Steve Reid I'd get many a scratched head: electronic free jazz is certainly an acquired taste. But occasionally something will come up that's a bit beyond most of my colleague's usual listening practice: the lengthy, spacious minimalism of Murcof perhaps, or the keyboard swathes of M83. What came on this week was a My Bloody Valentine remix of Mogwai Fear Satan.
This ticks many boxes for me. Firstly, the artists involved. In Mogwai you have one of my favourite acts ever, the mind-meltingly loud sonic terrorism of the band's early approach very much evident in the original of this track. Mogwai always cook up a winning formula, dynamic and abrasive and beautiful. Then you have a band which has been slotted into an increasingly rigid category, "shoegaze." My Bloody Valentine are more than that, in fact it could be argued that far from rigid, MBV are the most expansive band you could ever hope for. For while they fit themselves, just about, into pop song format, they create a sound that has never been equalled or approached, which veers so far off into skull-scraping monsters of noise that it cycles back round into beauty again.
Then you have the song, a 16 minute statement of future intent that closed Mogwai's debut, Young Team. The one occasion I've had the privilege of watching a Mogwai show was opened with this. If ever the expression Wall Of Sound was fitting, it wasn't for the blustery pop of Phil Spector or anything like that; it was made for the banked guitars or Mogwai Fear Satan, the just-when-you-think-it-can't-get-any-louder build-up. It says everything you need to know about Mogwai.
So: the tag team, the dream pairing of Mogwai and MBV. Some remixes work, some don't, this is well-established fact. This works because it takes a song barely on the edge of listenable and plunges headlong with it into realms of fear and fantasy - like Ian McKellen taking out the Balrog if you like.
And while it's not perhaps office stereo material, here you have a frightening, and frighteningly beautiful question being asked of each listener, of what is beautiful to them, of what they can understand and tolerate. It's cerebral and powerful.
Mogwai - Fear Satan (My Bloody Valentine Remix) (Kicking A Dead Pig, 2001)