Musicophilia

[Singer-Songwriter] – ‘Their Hearts Had Six Strings’ – Vol. 3 & 4 (1967-1976)

Posted in Mixes, Talking by Soundslike on November 29, 2013

Three years on from the first two volumes (‘His Heart Had Six Strings‘ and ‘Her Heart Had Six Strings‘) here are the third and fourth volumes in Musicophilia’s singer-songwriter series exploring the surprising depth and alluring warmth of the post-folk-revival scene as artists came to trust their own voices and the ability of the guitar-and-voice core to take on wide-ranging influences.  While the music is certainly lovely, there’s a lot of sophistication and variety on display here, with roughly equal parts American and British participation drawing from their unique but intermingling traditions.  These two volumes feature 35 more brilliant artists/acts, some very well known, others prized jewels, and yet others virtually unknown.  I hope you’ll enjoy, and pass it on!  Stream, download with artwork and full tracklist after the “more…” link.  Update: had the wrong download link before–too out of the habit, forget how this is done!  Corrected now.

To all those still sticking with Musicophilia as we’ve gone from a mix every couple weeks to a couple every year: thanks for listening!  I hope these sounds will add a little something to your end of the year.   As always, I’m always listening to as much music as I can, and making mixes in my mind.  I’ll do my best to share all that “real life” allows!  As always, I greatly appreciate any tips on artists or albums you think me and other Musicophiliacs would enjoy!

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[Singer-Songwriter] – ‘Her Heart Had Six Strings’ – Vol. 2 (1965-1977)

Posted in Mixes, Talking by Soundslike on December 23, 2010

Finally following up ‘His Heart Had Six Strings,’ here’s the second volume in Musicophilia’s singer-songwriter series, representing the women of the movement as it expanded through the 70s from its neo-traditional folk revival roots.  Like the men on the first volume, there’s perhaps more range here than might be expected, subtly incorporating elements of the gestalt of the late 60s and early 70s, from jazz to folk to even a touch of Stockhausian electronics and avant-garde experimentalism.  The overall palate certainly emphasizes blues, purples, greens: the emotional intimacy and sensitivity for which the genre is known.  But there are explorations of both darker and sunnier territory to match the longing and the hopes.  To be sure, the central strength of the singer-songwriter approach was that it suited the voices, literal and figurative, of men and women equally.  This is simply music about being human, seeking universality through the honest expression of the personal and specific.  Download with artwork and full tracklist after the “more…” link.

I’ll forgo the usual breakdown of specific artists, and instead apologize for the mothballing of Musicophilia over most of the last year, if anyone is out there who noticed.  I can only say that almost every aspect of my life has changed radically in the last year, mostly for the best (happily married, graduate school in traditional architecture) but with the result that I’ve had almost no time for even listening to music, much less making mixes.  I certainly miss it, and sharing its joys through this blog.  Hopefully somehow I’ll manage to make a few mixes during the new year.  Regardless, I hope Musicophilia continues to be found by a trickle of new folks, and isn’t too dependent on “new” work, but rather acts as an archive of worthwhile listening.  Do check out the “back pages” and see what might be new to you, and pass it on.  Many thanks for your kindnesses, and I wish you all the best in the new year.

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[Singer-Songwriter] – ‘His Heart Had Six Strings,’ Vol. 1 (1968-1977)

Posted in Mixes, Talking by Soundslike on April 11, 2010

Say the words “singer-songwriter” to some music geeks, and you may induce a Pavlovian cringe.  It’s a much-abused term, no doubt, often applied to every M.O.R. woman to sit at a piano and wail, every goateed doofus to wallow over his mother-of-pearl-inlaid Taylor or Ovation.  But taken (as a start) as a natural progression out of 1960s folk revivalism into music with more potential for both sonic breadth and popular appeal, it is one of the bedrocks of the greatest decade in popular music, the equal of funk or post-punk or Krautrock.  It’s sometimes spare and unadorned, sometimes verges on baroque pop, and often brings in jazz and chamber music touches to become something that just doesn’t fit under a more accurately descriptive ready-made label.  This mix is intended as evidence that if handled with care, a few unabashedly poetic lyrics, a little soul-searching confession, some sing-along melodicism, and an acoustic guitar can add up to a very good thing.  ‘His Heart Had Six Strings, Vol. 1‘ features (as the title suggests) male songwriters; it will be followed up soon with a feminine counterpart–and probably a sequel, since I left so many favorites of this volume.

Starting things off are Duncan Browne and the Zombies Colin Blunstone; both excel at more spare and introspective sounds (please don’t miss Blunstone’s heartbreaking chamber masterpiece, ‘One Year‘), but are featured here in a more uptempo approach.  I haven’t avoided the well-known and the beloved favorites–Cohen, Simon, Dylan, Van Morrison, Tom Waits, and (stretching the term a bit) Eno and Kevin Ayers are all here.  But fewer may know Canadian wit Lewis Furey, or Uruguayan hero Eduardo Mateo (of the beautiful El Kinto).  I hope you all know Arthur Russell, but if you missed the most recent facet of his work as revealed in Audika’s ‘Love Is Overtaking Me,’ you’re in for an unexpectedly treat (if anything can really be unexpected from Russell).  Frenchman Areski Belkacem is best known for his work with Brigitte Fontaine, but his first solo album may be even more adventurously mysterious; his countryman Henri Texier diverted from his Mingus-influenced jazz bass work for a trio of truly unique and accessibly experimental albums of wordless vocals and bass-driven rhythms that call to mind Morocco or Turkey as much as France.  Procol Harum is far from a one-hit wonder, and the aching voice-and-organ “Too Much Between Us” is a longtime favorite of mine.  Leo Kottke‘s resonant voice is underrated, as is his often funky second album, ‘Mudlark‘.  Curt Boettcher (of The Millennium/Sagittarius) takes a slightly more stripped-down approach to his sunshine pop, Jorge Ben brings a little Brasilian sun of his own, and Bill Fay makes sure the End Times will sound good.    Download with artwork and full tracklist after the “more…” link.

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[Musique du Monde] – ‘Le Mystère de la Musique,’ Volume One (1973-1977)

Posted in Mixes, Talking by Soundslike on September 15, 2009

The ‘Le Mystère de la Musique‘ series progresses the Musique du Monde label into the under-appreciated mid-70s, bridging the gap between the late-60s/early-70s ‘Le Tour du Monde‘ and ‘Les Miniatures‘ mixes and Musicophilia’s post-punk mixes.  Appropriately for a time that sits in the shadow of the more well-loved musical “peaks” before and after, ‘Le Mystère‘ explores a nocturnal, ambiguous territory that is perhaps more understated but also more bewitching than the other Musique LPs.  The fantastic beats are still featured, and the genre-eschewing, world-spanning ethos remains in place.  But there is a greater emphasis here on spaciousness, noirish shadow and light, and slow-boiling sexiness–on mystery.

Volume One‘ opens with three tracks–by Henri Texier, Joni Mitchell, and a very young but already ambitious Arthur Russell–that set the mysterious, unclassifiable tone of ‘Le Mystère‘.  Osama Kitajima amps things up with an avant-metal-cum-kabuki sound.  Musique concrete master Bernard Parmegiani provides an abstract interlude, while Lou Reed brings the first side to a close with a dose macabre humor.  Alan Parker and John Cameron, sound library kings, open Side B in a mellow grove, and Brigitte Fontaine and Areski echo Texier’s French-via-Central-Asian exoticism.  Italians Le Orme follow the direction laid out by Franco Battiato into sci-fi-tinged Prog that doesn’t need to show off its chops to be effective.  Sun Ra simmers one of the Arkestra’s funkier, more laid-back numbers, and Harmonia bridges to Iggy Pop‘s dark masterpiece “Nightclubbing”.  The untouchable Hamilton Bohannon closes the record with one of his sexiest, most intoxicating sophisticate-disco grooves, sending us off into late-night ecstasy.  Full tracklist and download link for this LP-length mix (with full “sleeve art” and “liner notes”) at the “more…” link.

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[Full Album] – Chalsa Nepal – ‘Let Them See’ (1983)

Posted in Albums by Soundslike on April 1, 2009

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A Musicophilia first: sharing an utterly out-of-print album in full!  I’ve scoured the internet, including the encyclopedic Mutant Sounds, and nobody seems to have shared it yet, so I’m happy to make a first-source contribution.  The album is truly one-of-a-kind, and unfortunately almost a total mystery: its nine tracks are untitled, and I can find almost no information beyond what is written in the liner notes of the Russian “import” reissue promo that I picked up at Exiled Records.  So I’ll simply quote the notes here:

Let Them See‘ is the long-lost cornerstone of the nearly-forgotten but deeply influential post-post-punk Circuscore scene based in La Digue in the Seychelles from the early 1980s through the fall of the Berlin Wall. The album was produced jointly by Robert Gotobed of Wire and Albert Kuvezin (later of Tuvan thoat singing combo Huun-Huur-Tu), and features guest contributions from bassist Lemmy Kilmister, trombonist Peter Zummo, ex-Shangri-Las Mary Weiss, and string arrangements by future Fraggle Rock music director Don Gillis.

Chalsa Nepal combine their obvious debt to Crass, the bands of Les Disques du Crépuscule, and an abiding love for classic skiffle 78s with the longstanding Seychelles tradition of Circus Music derived from the islands’ French, African, Indian, and Chinese populations’ roots. ‘Let Them See’ (a title taken from a quote by band-hero Henry David Thoreau) is a free-wheeling set of neo-psychedelic disco-dirges and xylophone-led post-Soul proto-dubstep pop confections–albeit with a tendency toward Marxist-Feminist death metal darkness.

Says Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore, “The first time I heard it, I hated it; but the second time, my brain turned around backwards in my skull. It changed me forever; I think it changed all of us.”

This is one you have to hear to believe.  Full tracklist and download link below the “more…”

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[Full Album] – Soundslike – ‘A Where Was And Isn’t Anymore’ (1999)

Posted in Albums, Talking by Soundslike on March 30, 2009

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Before spring wins out, winter gives it one last shot, and the night can seem colder than ever.  And so this album seems to fit, inspired by vast open spaces of a Southern winter night.  ‘A Where Was And Isn’t Anymore‘ is partly the sound of hiding in a cocoon of winter bedding, partly the sound of lonesome sojourn drives away from distant love; this brief album reflects the feeling of a transitional time and place in life.  If you have not heard ‘The Irish Sea‘ and ‘Complicity,’ I’d recommend you start with those more fully-formed works (previews of which have been added to the original posts).  But if you happen to enjoy them, you’ll probably find worth in this one.  Like those others, this is improvised music, created by impulse and instinct in my youth, when a lack of any ability to create music that reflected my tastes didn’t stop me.  I was beginning to listen to more expansive music, but I had no skill to replicate or reflect expanding influences.

Perhaps that was an advantage, as this music has no direct musical inspiration, but rather bypasses intellectual channels and reflects emotional (in)experience directly.  The music is spare, open, unadorned, with flashes of fire and ice; it was never really intended for an audience, but it might find a home with those who place value in simplicity and emotional honesty.  Improvised on an inexpensive Danelectro guitar and a cheap Korean acoustic over the course of three days in December, 1999, this album contains nine tracks over 25 minutes.  The track “Sleep” is previewed below.  Full tracklist and a download link are found at the “more…” link.

Sleep” (1999)

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[Blog Swap] – ‘Tall Stories of Evil Gris-Gris’ (1915-2007)

Posted in Mixes, Talking by Soundslike on February 19, 2009

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[NOTE: This mix is now available to download from Musicophilia here.]

Musicophilia is happy to announce a first with this mix: a blog-swap of custom-made mixes (and hopefully not the last).  I’ve created this mix, ‘Tall Stories of Evil Gris-Gris,’ specially for my friend and musical role-model Ettiem and his ‘Gris-Gris On Your Doorstep‘ blog–and following shortly, he’ll be presenting Musicophilia with a special mix of his own.  I’ve had a long-standing desire to use the Dr. John track ‘I Walk on Gilded Splinters’ as the cornerstone of a mix.  When Ettiem proposed the blog-swap idea, I took the murky, slightly dark, beat-oriented tendencies of Ettiem’s blog and music and my desire to revisit the heavy-mixing techniques of the ‘Sensory Replication Series‘ but with a focus on songs (music with vocals and lyrics) and realised I had the opportunity I’d been waiting for.  The title of his blog clinched the deal.  Other ‘Sensory Replication’ mixes have been largely instrumental, immersive but hazy soundscapes, abstract scores to imaginary films, often involving upwards of six tracks brewing at any given time.  With ‘Evil Gris-Gris,’ I wanted cracked scary stories, spiritual folk tales, cautionary legends told at a witching hour in a shack on stilts in a swamp (though one that’s incongruously filled with beeping, half-broken technology).  In terms of mix method, I wanted to restrict most of the overlapping to “duets” between a storyteller and a complimentary (or tension-producing) instrumental work of pure sound.  I’m very happy with the results, and hope that people will let the slight madness creep in and rest awhile.

Contributing the ‘tall stories’ (a phrasing borrowed from the included dubbed-up Leadbelly track) are such modern folklorists as David Sylvian, The Spaceape with Kode 9, David Thomas (of Pere Ubu), Muddy Waters, Low, The Knife, an ancient-sounding Shona folk musician, The For Carnation, Stina Nordenstam, Arto Lindsay, Disco Inferno, Charles Dodge‘s early electronically-created voices, Hector Zazou with Bony Bikaye, Anja Garbarek, Brigitte Fontaine and Areski, and of course, Dr. John.  Making the roux of sound around the stories: David Byrne, Pierre Henry, Scanner, Pole, J Dilla, Ike Yard, Edgar Varese, Shriekback, Charles Ives, Squarepusher, Tangerine Dream, Iannis Xenakis, and Gruppo D’Improvvisazione Nuova Consananza.  Hopefully the end result is a way-in in either direction for those who favor lyric-based songs, or those who obsess over sound itself (and it should be a comfortable, if haunted home for the freaks like me who’re equally obsessed with both).  From a “avenue for creative energy” perspective, this mix (and the other ‘Sensory Replication‘ mixes) is what I most enjoy and put the most time and energy into creating.  So I hope you’ll head over to Gris-Gris at the link below the “more…” and give it a (headphones-on) listen–and while you’re there, do yourself a favor and explore the gumbo Ettiem’s got cooking.

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[Miniatures Series] – ‘Lullaby No. 2′ (1903-2004)

Posted in Mixes, Talking by Soundslike on January 19, 2009

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The second ‘Lullaby’ mix in the ongoing Miniatures series is (like its predecessor, the early-70s-oriented ‘Les Miniatures‘ mixes and the ‘Miniatures : Post-Punk’ mixes) an exercise in maximum variety in the minimum span of time.  So in roughly thirty-one minutes, you’ll hear twenty tracks all less than two minutes in duration, showcasing spare guitar sketches, folk whispers, one-line stories, minor-key Brazilian jazz, a plaintive Country reproach on the state of your soul, and singer-songwriters and indie-rockers and Jamaican folk-singers and Psych-popsters singing songs of regret and nostalgia.  And that’s less than half of it.  It all adds up to a nap-length dream of sweet simplicity, a little reverie tinged with sadness, before a far happier day tomorrow.

Heard here in miniature are John Cage, Astrud Gilberto, Colin Newman, Mike Redmann, the Shaggs, Tom Waits, Hank Williams, Built to Spill, Sam Phillips, Neil Young, Vashti Bunyan, Stan Getz with Charlie Byrd, Penguin Cafe Orchestra, Ravel, John Fahey, The Zombies and Uncle Tupelo, as well as folk musicians from Jamaica and Peru.  Full tracklist and download link are after “more…”.

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[Miniatures Series] – ‘Lullaby No. 1′ (1957-2004)

Posted in Mixes, Talking by Soundslike on January 5, 2009

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While rather more ambitious things are afoot, I thought we could start the new year on a mellow note.   So the ‘Miniatures‘ series is continued with ‘Lullaby No. 1,’ the first of two such mixes currently completed.  The structure is the same here as on previous ‘Miniatures’ mixes: two-minutes-or-less track lengths, and mixes under forty-five minutes.  For the most part eschewing the post-punk sounds and Musique du Monde miasma of the previous ‘Miniatures’ incarnations, this mix follows its title with songs drawn mostly from the quiet, spare worlds of folk and singer-songwriter music, sprinkled with softer samplings of the avant-garde, indie rock, traditional “world” folk music, and even a little proto-punk.  So while this mix mostly whispers, it does so in a Musicophilia-style breadth of musical languages.

In just under thirty-one minutes, you’ll hear 21 tracks from those you’d predict, like Nick Drake, Jeremy Enigk (from his ‘Return of the Frog Queen,’ a minor chamber-pop masterpiece you shouldn’t overlook due to emo associations), Bob Dylan, Big Star, Syd Barrett, Willie Nelson, Low, Mark Kozelek, Leo Kottke, and Cat Power; and also from some you might not expect, like the Modern Lovers, Bjork, a Burmese choir, a Bali gamelan orchestra, Can, Moondog, Tyrannocaurus Rex, and Felt.  Download link and tracklist after the “more…” link.

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[Full Album] Soundslike – ‘The Irish Sea’ (2001) + ‘Full of Blue-Green Blood’ (2004)

Posted in Albums, Talking by Soundslike on December 7, 2008

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The most surprising result of the recent Musicophilia poll is that in response to the question of what Musicophilia should cover next, “pretty stuff, in general” was tops, with double the votes of the next closest option.   Emboldened by that result, I’ve decided to post the second full album (and a remix project) of my own work.   Like the first album posted, ‘Complicity,’ ‘The Irish Sea‘ was improvised by adding one extemporous layer of sound to another over the course of a couple days.  (So determined was I to record that you’ll hear a couple of unmuffled sniffles from a cold I was suffering—there could be no second takes.  It was always my pattern to record in a flurry of days, and then most likely not touch an instrument for months till the next session.)  The similarities more or less end at the improvisational methodology.  Whereas ‘Complicity’ is a dark, largely electronic, slightly wide-screen and nocturnal affair, ‘The Irish Sea’ was created almost entirely with a cheap acoustic guitar with some borrowed piano, and it paints a winter day on a small canvas.  Though created ad-hoc, it is entirely listenable, simple, spare and inescapably “pretty”.  I am not a song-writer, but this album turned out to be a collection of songs (even including a cover of Bob Dylan’s “Boots of Spanish Leather”).  It is an intentionally small creation (running just under 28 minutes), but it has stuck with me because it is emotionally evocative and feels whole and self-contained.

As a counterpoint to the unabashed English midlands- and Irish east coast-inspired prettiness of ‘The Irish Sea,’ I have also included in the download ‘Full of Blue-Green Blood‘.  Created several years later, this was an experiment in using only the final mix-down of one of the tracks from ‘The Irish Sea’ (“Full of Blue-Green Doubt,” an acoustic build in a canon-like form), tearing it apart and pushing and pulling it back together to see how far from the original sound and feeling I could end up.  So from the gentle original, using primative wave editing software and no additional sound sources, I created twelve short pieces totaling 24 minutes.  Some are unrecognizable, harsh or menacing rhythm pieces; others more clearly stem from the original but are altered completely in mood and feeling.  ‘Blue-Green Blood’ is not meant to be a proper companion to ‘The Irish Sea,’ but I find it most interesting in direct comparison and contrast to its source material.   The results are not for the most part as ugly as I’d first intended, but I felt the modest experiment was a success—you probably wouldn’t know this album came from one finished song without being tipped off.  Full tracklists and the download link after “more…”.

Full of Blue-Green Doubt” (2001)

DNA” (“Full of Blue-Green Doubt” Remix) (2004)

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[Musique du Monde] – ‘Le Tour du Monde, Volume 7′ (1967-1973)

Posted in Mixes, Talking by Soundslike on October 13, 2008

The second release in the ongoing ‘Le Tour du Monde‘ series, ‘Volume 7′ features more of the jaw-drop breakbeats, spinning bass lines, post-Psychedelic production flourishes, tape-manipulation and music concrete techniques, early electronic instrumentation, copious strings, harps, Hammonds, Rhodes, brass arrangements, matured post-folk singer-songwriter tunes, and illustrations of mutating funk as it made its way around the world.

Artists from twelve countries are represented, including sound library heroes like Janko Nilovic, Gerard Manset (a major discovery for those who love Serge Gainsbourg), Roger Roger, and Bernard Estardy; art kings Faust, Franco Battiato, and John Cale & Terry Riley (in supreme beat-centric mode); singer songwriter greats like Karen Dalton, Richie Havens, and Nick drake; as well as representatives of pure-pop, jazz-funk, post-psych and even surf-rock-supreme. Bobby Darin even makes an appearance, and if all you know is “Splish Splash” and the Las Vegas crooning, you’ll be in for a surprise. Tracklist, full album art, liner notes, and download link follow the “more…” link. For the previous release in this series, see ‘Le Tour du Monde, Volume 5‘.

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