browsing through my extensive music library which spans many centuries of music, i have been getting out old and new favourites of mine, which i want to share. keep your ears open and your feet dancing (more or less) to those jewels of music culture:
PHILIP GLASS – songs
philip glass is considered one of the forerunners of the minimalist movement. his music can often seem repetitive but i also found it multi-faceted and highly absorbing. this two cd-set consists of the song cycle ‘songs for liquid days’ (with lyrics by laurie anderson and suzanne vega amongst others!) and a collection of excerpts from his ‘trilogy’ operas (akhnaten, satyagraha and einstein on the beach). the mix of classical and electronic music is splendid as you have operatic splendour, highly emotional overtones, bouncing rhythms and more (songs from liquid days is more electronic than songs from the trilogy). it is rounded by vocalists of the highest order (i.e. linda ronstadt and the roches in liquid days and operatic voices such as paul esswood and douglas perry)
(as the two cd set seems out of print, links are to the separate albums)
good place to start: changing opinion & freezing (liquid days) – protest & knee 5 (trilogy)
KATE BUSH – the dreaming
this 1982 album finds kate bush at her most individual and experimental – there is not a single note of mainstream. this is not merely pop, this is musical art and it can take a while to enter the sound world completely as it is such a multitude of sound samples, instruments and melodies that it inhabits a complex universe of its own. but this universe is truly and soundly kate bush! it might not consist of popular hits but it will linger in your ears long after having heard it.
good place to start: sat in your lap, suspended in gaffa & the dreaming
MARIANNE FAITHFULL – before the poison
marianne faithfull is such a great artist, that whatever she touches nowadays seems to turn into a wonder of feeling and wisdom where every note and word and each and every sigh and hush matters. teaming her up with such innovative artists such as nick cave and pj harvey is here like coating a diamond with platinum. it is raw, sometimes rough but at the same time involving and deeply personal. and the last song of the album with its layers of music boxes is true genius!
good place to start: city of quartz, the mystery of love & there is a ghost
SUFJAN STEVENS – the age of adz
sufjan stevens seems to be able to do whatever he wants musically – folk, rock, neo classical and for this majestic work, he employs electro to amalgamate all into one big soundwall. it is eery with layers and layers of words and music coming together in his own inimitable style. you really need to sit and listen (and you will probably start dancing) as it is no background music! his slightly etheral singing style really floats on the arrangements and culminates in a 25 min epic closing track…
good place to start: vesuvius, i walked & impossible soul
PATRICK WOLF – the magic position
i came across this by accident years ago, is i found the cover so quirky that i felt the urge to have a listen – and was struck by the vivacy of the music and a voice and songwriting that struck me as deeply unique. even though patrick wolf’s music can be quite dark, this album has a very joyous and life-affirming quality and always does the trick to uplift me energetically if i feel a bit tired. plus it is limb-shakingly wonderful too with its electro beats and violins and piano and all! (having marianne faithfull as guest vocalist on one track is intriguing too)
good place to start: the magic position, get lost & magpie
ELKE BRAUWEILER – twist in saint tropez
being better know via her band PAULA, elke brauweiler always had an affinity for french music (even with paula, there was a les rita mitsouko cover) and here she flung out to do an album of popular and obscure french music (gainsbourg et al), mostly in an electronic dress with the occasional guitar thrown in. this is dance music at its best with its forward-going rhythms. i would call it arty dance music as it is no dancefloor trash. there is an honesty in the presentation that shows the deep love for this kind of french ‘chanson’ (i use the term in the widest possible sense!) and it is truly fabulous.
good place to start: ouragon, pourquoi tu vis & laisse tomber les filles
KATERINE – mes mauvaises frequentations
i cannot believe that it has already been 20 years since the original release of this gem! french easy listening at its best. katerine later turned more electro but this early album is all french charm and lounge – it feels like a summery breeze where you sit in the shade sipping drinks. nonchalance in its purest form and it will accompany a great cocktail party with friends as well as a lighthearted evening at home.
good place to start: mon coeur balance, parlez vous anglais mr katerine & les grands magasins
JANE BIRKIN – rendez-vous
english by birth but somehow a ‘french’ nouvelle vague icon (via her relationship with serge gainsbourg and the notoriety of their single je t’aime moi non plus), she never had a strong singing voice, but what she has, she uses in a very artsy way. to make much of little, she teamed up with partners such as bryan ferry, feist, brian molko, francoise hardy and mickey 3d for this album and the finished product is a multifaceted mixture of glacial style and french cool. it is a very rewarding listen and sounds to me like the aural equivalent of an arthouse film (with some added selfmockery in the first track!).
good place to start: je m’appelle jane, t’as pas le droit d’avoir moins mal que moi & pour un flirt avec toi
… more cultural highlights to follow soon – there is still the need for tori amos, my brightest diamond and many more hidden gems! plus another venture into classical music is long overdue. food for the ears 🙂