I have long harboured a desire to be a cartoon character. Alas, my dream has not been realised to the extent of Damon Albarn and his buddies.
I’ve only ever had a passing interest in the output of Blur. I did own their Great Escape album on cassette, but it’s been lost somewhere in my travels.
This album was very, very hard to resist however. The Clint Eastwood track is a pop masterpiece, and so perfectly suited to the imagery of the band (even if they are terrible lip-synchers):
Much of the album is a surprisingly restrained and subtle collection in comparison. It burbles along in a similar vein to the Avalanches, but with a more daytime groove and less attention-seeking. It feels the soundtrack to some bright sunny, lazy day in some cyber near-future Tokyo.
The highpoints tend to revolve around the laid back rhymes of Del the Funky Homosapien on the aforementioned hit and Rock Tha House. Albarn sounds his funkiest on 19-2000.
Clearly Albarn is more talented and creative than Blur ever allowed him to be. He also has some handy acquaintances (including the most under-rated Talking Head Tina Weymouth).
This is a big tick for collaboration and virtualisation.
File under: Giving Josie and the Pussycats a run for their money
I spent several hours yesterday on a bus travelling out and back to the bridge on the River Kwai. Part of my journey was spent in the company of Mr. Shadow and his enormous record collection.
DJ Shadow is reported to have over 60,000 records in his collection. So if he embarked upon my mission, he’d be looking at approximately a 164 year timeframe.
This, his debut effort, is a headphone joy. His waves of samples, his humour and his experimentation swirl around your head and distract you from the Bangkok gridlock and the monotony of endless truck part shops.
This is in the same vein as (and was presumably an inspiration for) The Avalanches‘ debut. It doesn’t have the self-conscious frivolity of the Aussie lads’ effort, nor does it chase any dance floor glory, although this candidate no doubt does the trick:
This stuff has been labelled “trip hop” and it seems an apt label. It is very much a chilled-out, relax and imbibe vibe. There is nothing lazy or rushed about the sound collages here. Everything feels like it belongs.
Let’s see if his follow-up can handle some Bangkok wandering…
File under: Aural découpage
The Avalanches were regulars on the Melbourne gig scene in the late 90s and early 00s, playing mashed-up electro and DJ sets. For a while it seemed you couldn’t escape them at a festival. They had a unique sound in the local context – basically they created a party on stage and invited everyone along. They are renowned for having an enormous collection of old vinyl and samples from the most obscure sources.
This debut album showcases all of this and more. It is an enormous patchwork of beats and samples (suppposedly more the 4500 or the latter) which does, indeed sound like a big party. It all comes together extremely effectively. They maintain a consistent sound, i.e. like a real band, yet don’t repeat themselves. There are only two songs with a traditional chorus-and-melody structure, but the album is better thought of as a singular soundscape that captures your attention and keeps you hooked.
This works well as a party player or as something to take you away on your iPod.
The album came out way back in 2000. We still await their second album, which rumours tell me will be titled Chinese Democracy… 🙂
File under: Sonic smorgasboard