Caught by the River

Here Comes That Weird Chill

14th November 2008

Maybe it’s my age, but until recently it seemed like I was having an enforced sabbatical from listening to music – some kind of aural gardening leave. I’d find myself trawling back through things I was listening to 10, 15 years ago, retreating to my musical comfort zones. New music was doing nothing for me – everything just sounded like The Lurkers on a bad day (them, not me). I’d lay blame fairly and squarely at the doors of Myspace (and latterly Facebook) and the dearth of demo bands that lurk within – I’m with Mark E. Smith, there should be an exam for musicians before they are allowed to own instruments. Equally problematic is the fact that great music is now so constantly available, from ultra rare folk songs on mobile phone adverts to Elbow soundtracking the end of Big Brother. It all ends up becoming nothing more than sonic magnolia paint – it’s just there, inoffensive, inconsequential. It’s no wonder the kids don’t want to buy records anymore – where’s the excitement, where’s the kinetic energy that got you bunking off school to be the first to buy a record you’d taped off Peel weeks before from your local Our Price on a Monday morning? As I said, it may well be my age…

Thankfully, the last few months have been something of a revelation for me. Fred Deakin’s exemplary compilation album “Nu Balearica” set the ball rolling. Here was a collection of low-motion disco tracks, mainly hailing from Scandinavia, bunched together by a music head, someone who knew what to do with a box of records and a couple of hours to fill. The sound was expansive, propulsive dance music, music which seemed weirdly reflective of long nights and frozen winters – this was the sound of a party under the Northern Lights rather than under the flight path on the outdoor terrace at Space in Ibiza.

As always with these things I’m late on board – the current Scando dance music scene had been going on for an age. By the time I got excited about it, it had invariably had the life blogged out of it somewhere else, there’s probably an Albanian drum’n’bass scene everyone is going crackers about. Well, all I can say is – sorry if this is all old news to you – if it’s not, here’s a few things you really should check…

First off, pretty much anything by Swedish duo Studio (featured on the Deakin comp) is worth a listen. Over the last couple of years, they’ve ended up creating their own niche of futuristic electro-prog music (no, stop, come back…), remixing everyone from Heavenly’s The Little Ones to Kylie. Check their monumental 12 minute mix of A Mountain Of One’s “Brown Piano” “Brown Piano” or, even more out there, the remix they’ve done for Fontan. It sounds like Dave Gilmour’s in your living room, he’s taken one pill too many and is starting to foam at the mouth, twitching uncontrollably as the sun rises outside. Yes, it’s that good.

Prins Thomas is a guy whose name tends to crop up a lot on these records. Hailing from Norway, some of his stuff is proper genius crackers dancefloor music that raises the blood pressure a bit more than I’ve become used to recently – for starters, go straight to his mix of James Yuill’s “This Sweet Love”James Yuill’s “This Sweet Love” a record with a hook that sounds like an acoustic take on Lil Louis’ “French Kiss” – a hypnotic cyclical earworm of a riff topped with a folksy vocal that sounds like a more tranq’d out Tunng.

Invariably with these things, it’s the mutations of these things that end up being the most interesting. From Fife’s DIY folk collective Fence comes The Pictish Trail, whose “Winter Home Disco” is probably the best example of permafrost Balearic music out there right now. Remixed by men-of-the-moment, Putney’s Hot Chip, it’s a mogadon paced blast of arctic chill right across the dancefloor, something otherworldly that hails from just up past Scotch Corner. Both icy and euphoric, this one’s sums up the whole spirit of how I’m feeling at the moment – “Let’s have a disco with all of these people in our front room/The winter’s begun I don’t think that I’ll go outside”. It might just be the “We wanna get loaded/We wanna have a good time” for me and the rest of the pipe and slippers generation…

Recommended listening:

“Brown Piano” A Mountain Of One (remake by Studio)
“Winter Home Disco” The Pictish Trail (Hot Chip remix)
“This Sweet Love” James Yuill (Prins Thomas sneaky edit)
“White Diamond” Hatchback (Prins Thomas discomiks)
“Early Morning” Fontan (Studio remix)
“Killing For Love” Jose Gonzalez (Todd Terje Brokeback mix)
“I Feel Electric” Rubies feat. Feist (Tiedye remix)
“Cutup Piano & Xylophone” Fridge

Also, check Test Pressing, a great music blog site for all things mellow…


(Thanks to Ed, Carl, Kieran & Alexis for pointing me in the direction of a few of these records this year)