Every Friday, Dusted Magazine publishes a series of music-related lists compiled by our favorite artists. This week: Rick Moody and Donnacha Costello.
Listed: Rick Moody + Donnacha Costello
Rick Moody is the author of The Black Veil, Demonology, Purple America, The Ring of Brightest Angels Around Heaven, The Ice Storm and Garden State, which won the Pushcart Press Editors' Book Award. He is a past recipient of the Addison Metcalf Award and a Guggenheim fellowship. His short fiction has appeared in numerous publications, including The New Yorker, Esquire, Paris Review, and Harper's. Moody has also dabbled in music, most notably with the spoken word album he released this year with "the house band for McSweeney's," the self-titled Rick Moody and the One Ring Zero. He also co-wrote lyrics on one of the year's most unfairly overlooked pop records, David Grubbs' A Guess At The Riddle (Drag City). Moody's new band, The Wingdale Community Singers, is slated to release their debut record in the spring of 2005. His new novel, The Diviners, will be published in January, 2006.
1. Sun Kil Moon - Ghosts Of The Great Highway (Jetset)
I like everything that Mark Kozelek does, including the Red House Painters' cover of "Long Distance Runaround." This album is tuneful and thoughtful and "Glenn Tipton" has some of the best lyrics I've encountered in a while.
2. Sufjan Stevens - Seven Swans (Sounds Familyre)
Yes, he seems to have openly evangelical qualities, and yes there is a rumor circulating that he voted for George Bush. I, for one, do not care, though I am a yellowdog Democrat. He's an amazing banjo player and these songs feature really luminous, beautiful arrangements. Plus, when he sings "For he is the LORD," and the accompaniment swells around him, I am moved.
3. Rocket from the Tombs - Rocket Redux (Smog Veil)
This constitutes a rerecording of earlier classics by a band best known for having spawned other bands (Pere Ubu, the Dead Boys, etc.), here reassembled with some living persons supplanting the dead ones. Richard Lloyd on lead guitar is astoundingly good, and some of the tempos are louder and faster than they were thirty years ago. I love this record, and seeing them play it live was one of the best shows I've seen in years (the other was the recent NYC gig by the also reconstituted Red Krayola).
4. David Rakowski - Etudes Book I and IV (Bridge)
Rakowski's insane piano etudes, which include pieces to be played only with thumbs, fists, or with help from the noze, are, technically, "classical music," and they are atonal like much contemporary music. But that doesn't keep them from being really fun and full of quotes from James Brown, Deep Purple, Hendrix, etc. The etudes are here interpreted by one of the best pianists for contemporary music I know of, Amy Dissanyake. The only thing that keeps music like this from being beloved by the indie rock and postrock set is snobbishness about the academy.
5. The Books - The Lemon Of Pink (Tomlab)
A friend in radio told me about this record. I really can't think of anything that resembles it exactly, except maybe Matmos. It's partly ProTools synthetic miracle and partly virtuosic acoustic playing (the instruments being primarily cello, acoustic guitar, and banjo). The two lie easily together here in ways you wouldn't expect them to. I don't know of a record of late that I have played as fervently or with as much joy of discovery as this one.
6. The Pixies - Live in Indio, 05.01.2004 (self-released)
One of the authorized boots from the reunion tour. I didn't see the tour, but I love this recording, which is menacing, tight, and full of the giddy intensity that you would expect from such groundbreakers.
7. David Grubbs - A Guess At The Riddle (Drag City)
This is in the shameless category, since I wrote a couple of lyrics for this album, but that's not why I like it. I have written lyrics for records that I never listened to again. But I listen to this one a lot for the aweseome electric guitar playning on it, the unusual arrangements, and the ragged warmth of Grubbs's singing voice. Definitely one of the true geniuses of contemporary music. I'm lucky to know him and to play music with him now and again.
8. The Roots - Phrenology (Geffen)
I know this isn't their most recent album, The Tipping Point, but that album has too much drum machine on it. I dislike drum machines. In fact, I am resistant to most hip-hop, because I like melody. But this is a consistently surprising and moving record, one that is played impeccably and which reaches into so many great African-American traditions: jazz, spoken word, funk, etc. This album rewards attention and repeated playing.
9. Meredith Monk - Mercy (ECM)
Monk is perhaps the greatest exemplar of extended vocal range music, and on this album, recorded with her ensemble, she finds room in the music for clarinet, bowed cymbals, and other unusual colorations. It is just nigh of being as great as Dolemen Music, from the early eighties, which is one of my favorite records ever. Now going on forty years as a composer and performer, Meredith Monk gives hope to all those who would continue to find ways to think creatively over the course of a career.
10. Various Artists - Kentucky Mountain Music (Yazoo)
A really excellent box set of the one genre these days that never disappoints me, Appalachian music. There still seems to me much more expressivity in a poverty-stricken, dentally-challenged fiddlers badly recorded in the twenties or thirties than in all the mult-tracked, auto-tuned teenyboppers put together.
Dublin-based Donnacha Costello started his music career as one of Ireland's most well-known technical producers. It wasn't until 1996 that he began playing the minimal electronic music for which he is known today. HIs full-length debut was released in 2000 by the influential Force-Inc. label. Lately, Costello has re-focused his energy on various projects that go beyond being entirely 'musical,' like art installation and software design. However, this by no means indicates that he has halted his musical output. Together is the New Alone, was released in 2001 by Mille Plateaux, and in the past year he has released a series of 'Color' 12"s on his own Minimise label.
These are not necessarily my top 10 albums, artists or songs of all time but they are 10 that I got excited about when I sat down to write this morning. I think it’s quite difficult for a musician to give an all-time top 10 as there are generally so many musical moments and memories to choose from. How can we narrow it down to 10? There will always be more than I have included here and I’m sure that other musicians will look at the list and say ‘how could you not have included ‘X’ or ‘Y’?’ Anyway, here they are in no particular order, thanks for reading!
1. Plastikman (entire catalog)
I had been playing in bands for years but in early 1994 I became hooked on electronic music and was then trying to figure out what instruments I needed in order to make that kind of music. So, I started buying music technology magazines. It was later that year when I picked up the December copy of ‘the mix’ (early UK mus-tech mag) and therein was an interview with ‘Plastikman’ who I had never heard of at that point. I read the article and felt a real affinity for the concepts he was discussing and was fascinated by the instruments he was mentioning (303,909,808, serge modular synthesizer). It was a bit of an epiphany and I decided I would make it my goal to get my hands on some of these machines and get started. I then bought everything I could by Plastikman and I still buy the new stuff to this day. The new album Closer is really great. It took me a while to ‘get’ the vocals. A lot of people have been criticizing them but I think it was a brave step for Richie to use his voice and I think it really adds another dimension to the record.
2. Eurythmics – “Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)” (RCA, 1983)
I was born in 1974 and so I was becoming ‘musically aware’ during the whole synthetic pop boom of the late-’70s/early-’80s. The earliest things I recall are “Cars” by Gary Numan, “Vienna” by Ultravox and “Sweet Dreams” by Eurythmics. I’m being completely honest when I say that the sound of the analog bass/synthetic cello in this song really affected me quite deeply. It has been with me ever since. When I would go to play a keyboard in a music store or when I had toy keyboards as a child I could never get that type of sound. I always described the sound to people as ‘on fire’ or ‘burning’ and nothing I ever found had it. Then, when I bought my first synthesizer from that era, I heard what I had been missing for all those years and it was like coming home, a really amazing feeling. I also thought that Annie Lennox looked so odd in the video with her tight crop, dyed bright orange. Odd in a nice way though :-) I was attracted by it but thought I probably shouldn’t have been. Anyway...
3. U2 – “New Year’s Day” (Island, 1983)
By their own admission, U2 didn’t really feel that they were a part of what was going on around them in the music world of the ’80s. However, I think that at times they were closer to it than they thought. For me, one of the most important characteristics of the music of this period is a lack of embarrassment about using slightly predictable musical devices/chord progressions to pull at the heartstrings. The piano line and supporting bass progression in this song are fantastic. Soaring, emotional, compelling. I’ve seen U2 live a few times and they are probably my favorite band of all time.
4. Frank Bretschneider, a.k.a. Komet (entire catalog)
Frank makes music which although on the surface has the potential to seem cold, is actually quite enveloping, warm, comforting and just plain beautiful. Composing with a virtual modular synthesizer system and a computer, Frank has a very painterly approach to his music and for me he’s like a musical Mark Rothko. He’s also the nicest guy you could hope to meet.
5. Aphex Twin – Selected Ambient Works II (Sire, 1994)
This is an album that has stayed with me for years and is really one of the most important albums in my musical history. Not really much that I can say to do justice to it, so I’ll keep this short: amazing music that affects me very deeply. First electronic record that actually brought tears to my eyes. If you don’t already own it, go and buy it.
6. Dubstar – Shining Through (Kompakt, 1999)
This is an early Kompakt record. I think there was a pop group in the 90s also called Dubstar, but this isn’t them. This is a very simple, mid tempo, straight-grooving kind of track. Great groove, nice dinky little melody, nice 808 drums. A real understated classic.
7. Harold Budd/Brian Eno – Ambient 2: The Plateaux of Mirror (EG 1980, Virgin 2004)
One of my favorite ambient albums ever. I must have bought about 10 of these as presents for people at this stage. I got it for my dad a few years ago and it’s now his favorite record ever. Haunting, strange, evocative, beautiful, relaxing, emotive. Go and buy this one too!
8. Orbital – Orbital 2 (Brown Album) + Snivilisation (ffrr, 1992 + 1994)
An act born out of the early-’90s British rave scene and, for me, their two best albums. I was lucky to have seen them live several times before they retired this year. Undoubtedly the best electronic live act I’ve seen (excepting Kraftwerk).
9. Joe Satriani – Surfing With The Alien (Epic, 1987)
Probably not very cool of me to have this in my list, but so what? This is the first breakthrough album of the guitar hero’s guitar hero. Released in the late-’80s, it bears some of the hallmarks of its era. There is one song in particular on this album called “Echo.” It still brings goose bumps up every time I hear it. Soaring, expansive, heart wrenching ‘chorus’ (even though it’s an instrumental album).
10. Wolfgang Voigt – Studio Eins (Studio 1, 1997) & Burger/Ink – Las Vegas (Matador, 1998)
I first encountered this music when I was living in New York for six months in 1998 (3rd/Ave C). I picked up the Studio Eins compilation CD and the Burger/Ink album at Other Music and was pretty mesmerized. They had a strong influence on my musical direction and the Studio Eins concept in particular was a strong inspiration when I decided to do my own “Color Series” records this year. Mike Ink is a pseudonym of Wolfgang Voigt. Las Vegas was recorded with fellow Cologne artist Jorg Burger and is a real gem. I think it might still be available from the Kompakt store (here).
11, Icebreaker International and Manual – Into Forever (Morr Music, 2003)
I know that this is number 11 in what is supposed to be a top 10, but please indulge me, I couldn’t leave this one out. Actually, it’s number 13 as I’ve listed two albums/records for some artists. This is a collaboration between two artists and one of the finest ambient albums I have heard in a long time. To me it’s quite an ’80s influenced album insofar as it has that lack of embarrassment or lack of concern with cool that it takes to just allow the chords go where they want to with heartbreaking, beautiful results. I used to play it for my girlfriend all the time and she ended up buying another copy for herself because she loves it so much.
By Dusted Magazine