Every Friday, Dusted Magazine publishes a series of music-related lists compiled by our favorite artists. This week: Dave Fischoff and Macromantics
Listed: Dave Fischoff + Macromantics
If you've followed the career of Chicagoan Dave Fischoff, you might get the sense that he has a lot of ideas, and a lot to say about them. It should come as no surprise, then to learn that a seemingly central point of his latest press campaign revolves around Fischoff's love of the library. Indeed, many of the samples and even more of the inspiration for his latest record, The Crawl came directly from the Chicago public library. Equal parts Brian Wilson, Sufjan Stevens, and the Postal Service (though certainly not a sum of the three), Fischoff crafts lovely and delicate pop that should appeal to a pretty wide swath of listeners. All of his library time clearly gave him an opportunity to think about some of his favorite things, about which he elaborates below.
1. Grandmaster Flash - The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash on the Wheels of Steel
I must have heard this for the first time when I was 7 or 8 in my friend Brian’s basement in suburban South Bend, Indiana. We were trying to teach each other how to breakdance. I didn’t give it too much thought at the time, I just liked the way it sounded. But looking back on it now, it’s amazing to me how groundbreaking this song is. It’s basically one big sound collage that’s been pieced together to make a pop song. I like to think that it made quite an impression on my little ears, even if it was a totally subconscious thing at the time. You can make a song out of anything! Any sound you can get your hands on. I actually have a cassette recording I made of myself around this time, busting out some freestyle rap, and I quote some of the lines from The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash… Maybe I can convince Secretly Canadian to release it as a single.
2. Kronos Quartet - “Doom. A Sigh” from the album Black Angels
I heard this for the first time when I was in college at Indiana University. IU has a really big music school and sometimes I’d go to the music library to listen to things that I’d heard or read about, like John Cage, Karlheinz Stockhausen and other 20th century composers. I’d heard about the piece "Black Angels" by George Crumb, so I checked out this CD, but it was the track "Doom. A Sigh," composed by Istvan Marta, that really made an impression. The piece revolves around two scratchy, old recordings of women singing in Hungarian about a war and family members who have died. The Kronos Quartet plays a string arrangement around these recordings, and the result is something that’s really haunting and sad, but also really beautiful. This was the first time I’d heard live and pre-recorded sounds being mixed together, an idea that played a big role on my first two records, Winston Park and The Ox and the Rainbow.
3. Leonard Cohen – "One of Us Cannot Be Wrong" from the album The Songs of Leonard Cohen
Yes, Dylan is probably the more important songwriter, but it was Leonard Cohen who made the bigger impact on me as a lyricist. This song, from his first album, is a perfect example of what he does so well. The lyrics are strange, even surreal at times, but out of this weirdness come emotions that are completely universal. I think the third verse is my favorite: "I heard of a saint who had loved you / so I studied all night in his school. / He taught that the duty of lovers / is to tarnish the Golden Rule. / And just when I was sure / that his teachings were pure / he drowned himself in the pool. / His body is gone, / but back here on the lawn / his spirit continues to drool." This is also the only song I’ve ever covered since I started making records; there’s a version I recorded a long time ago for an obscure vinyl-only Norwegian compilation that’s (thankfully) very out of print. Mr. Cohen’s version is much better.
4. Boards of Canada – Geogaddi
Music Has the Right To Children seems to be the more revered album by BoC, but I actually like this one better. The biggest difference between the two is in the beats, I think. Whereas Music… tends to rely on mostly hip-hop styled rhythm tracks, Geogaddi has a much more varied beat landscape. Boards of Canada were on heavy rotation in the headphones when I first started working on The Crawl. I love the way their recordings manage to sound both old and new at the same time. It’s also a kind of music where textures and timbres are just as important as melodies and harmonies- the way an instrument sounds is just as important as the notes that are being played. I tried to keep this in mind when I was piecing together all of the arrangements for The Crawl.
5. Henryk Gorecki – “Symphony No. 3”
Somewhere in the sphere of human emotions there’s a point where joy and sadness meet. Gorecki’s third symphony, particularly the first movement, manages to evoke that point; it’s utterly sad and completely joyous at the same time. I remember the first time I heard it- I’d walked into a friend’s house right after he’d pressed play and I wasn’t even aware that any music was on. Gradually, I started to hear this series of slow moving chords, building and building, until the whole room was filled with sound and for a moment everything felt like it had just stopped breathing. If there’s a soundtrack to religious experience, it probably sounds something like this.
6. Public Enemy – Fear of a Black Planet
Music critic types have pretty well established this as one of the greatest albums ever made, and for good reason. I’ve been listening to this thing for 16 years now and I still don’t know how they did it. Yes, that’s Prince’s guitar on "Brothers Gonna Work It Out," that’s Vincent Price’s laugh on "911 is a Joke" and that’s a James Brown horn stab at the beginning of "Burn Hollywood Burn," but other than that…where do all of these sounds come from? "Welcome to the Terrordome" is built around what sounds like a mangled siren, and what’s that skittering circular saw sound weaving back and forth across the speakers in "War at 33 1/3"? Geoff Emerick just wrote a book about the time he spent recording the Beatles, but I’d be even more excited to read a book about the Bomb Squad production team and how the hell they built this thing.
7. Arthur Russell - Another Thought
This album was my introduction to Arthur Russell. I found it at a Chicago Public Library record sale for 50 cents. These songs sound like absolutely nothing else I’ve ever heard, and yet they seemed completely natural from the first moment I heard them. For the most part, they’re just Arthur playing cello and singing in his pristine voice. You wouldn’t necessarily think of a cello as the most appropriate instrument to write and record songs with, but he makes it work. Sometimes he uses the cello as a melodic instrument, sometimes as a percussion instrument, and sometimes as both at the same time. I’ve picked up some of his other records since then, World of Echo, and some of his more dance oriented stuff, but this is the one I come back to the most. One of a kind, a little bit sad, and absolutely gorgeous.
8. Burt Bacharach – The Look of Love: The Burt Bacharach Collection
This box set does its best to collect the definitive versions of Bacharach’s biggest hits, as well as some of his lesser known stuff, and while not all of the songs have stood the test of time (umm, "Me Japanese Boy I Love You"?), a good chunk of them are absolutely brilliant. Time signatures are constantly shifting, songs swing back and forth between different keys…nothing seems to want to sit still in a Bacharach song. And yet so many of these tracks are perfectly polished pop gems. And those arrangements! Check out the way the Wurlitzer and the electric guitar play off each other perfectly in "Trains and Boats and Planes" to create a wider, richer sound than either could have done on their own. Yes, he loses his way in the 80s ("On My Own," "That’s What Friends Are For"), but between the early 60s and the early 70s, Mr. Bacharach seemed to be churning out another 3 minutes of pure pop bliss every few weeks or so.
9. Dinosaur Jr. – You’re Living All Over Me
There aren’t too many albums that I’ve been listening to steadily since I was 15, but this is one of them. There’s a hazy, murky quality to these songs. Originally I thought that was because my only copy was a normal-bias cassette dub, but then I finally got it on CD and realized, no, that’s just the way this album sounds. The song titles speak for themselves: "Sludgefeast," "Tarpit." I remember listening to it one night in high school as I was falling asleep, and when "Poledo" came on (the Lou Barlow’s tape collage piece that closes the album), I could literally feel myself sinking into the bed.
10. Diplo’s DJ Set at the Pitchfork Music Festival, Chicago, July 30, 2006
I’d been standing in an open field for two days straight in the middle of a record-breaking heat wave. I was exhausted, my ears were shot, and all I wanted to do was go home. Then Diplo came on and I realized, no, all I really wanted to do was dance. It feels a little strange to say this, but I think some of my most profound musical experiences of the past half-decade have taken place at dance parties. Hearing a new Timbaland or Neptunes beat bouncing out of a giant set of speakers gets me more excited than most of the rock bands I see these days. That’s not to say I’m predicting the demise of live music. It’s just that a lot of the sounds I hear coming out of the more studio-based genres (hip-hop, electronic music, etc.) are much more interesting to me than electric guitars. It feels like we’re at a weird turning point- as musicians become more reliant on new technology, they’re inevitably going to be working with sounds (and instruments, even) that never existed in the "real" world. How do you take something that never existed outside of a studio and make it live? I’m still trying to figure it out. We’ll see what happens…
Like most of her Kill Rock Stars labelmates, Macromantics is an all-female hip hop ensemble from Australia. Though it would be remiss not to mention similarities between the staccato flow of masterMantic Romy Hoffman and hype-du-jour Lady Sovereign, the smooth, catchy, dense production on Macromantics' full-length debut, Movements in Motion run circles around anything that Lady Sov has touched. It would also be remiss (though much less so) not to mention that if Hoffman's name sounds familiar, it's quite likely because she played alongside Ben Lee in the mildly legendary duo Noise Addict. Divergent paths indeed!
10 AUSTRALIANS SINGLES YOU MUST HEAR THAT DON'T INVOLVE BOXING KANGAROOS, CROCODILES, CONVICTS OR ANY OTHER DOWN UNDER MYTHS...
1. The Birthday Party - 'Mr. Clarinet'
I would be kidding if I said I wasn't influenced by Mr. Nick Cave's haunting balladry. This comes from Hee Haw which is probably one of my top 10 favourite albums of all time. This single will be my wedding song. It's the perfect song and this band makes me proud to say I'm Australian.
2. The Saints - "Stranded"
Classic, straight up late 70's punk rock. Reason number two for being proud to being Australian
3. My Disco - "Perfect Protection"
Punchy, brutal disco dance intensity from this Melbourne trio. Head nod, knee shakin' action. Minimal lyrics, stabbing bass line, shredding guitar...And it's even better live.
4. Ground Components - "On Your Living Room Floor"
This song moves through movements, so many parts and sections. Not a three minute rock song. It gives me shivers, honestly. Dylan-esque talk/sing lyrics, killer hook, screams, organ... These boys play unaffected, heads down, get rowdy rock n' roll. One of the songs of the year.
5. New Buffalo - "16 Beats"
So sweet, endearing and honest. A love song. Samples and original composition. Sally Seltzman is the woman behind New Buffalo and she plays the piano like no other.
6. The Onya's - "Beergut"
Loud beer drenched rock n' roll that inspired under age drinking. A beer guzzler's anthem. 'I got a beer gut, I feel fine'... The cover to this 7" is amazing fantasy too. It might be too rude to explain.
7. SPDFGH - "Too Much"
In 1995 there were a handful of bands who played regular all ages shows. One of them was SPDGFH, an all girl band who inspired me to make music. The now Via Tania was a member with her sister Kim. Distorted indie pop at its sheer best.
8. Magic Dirt - "Ice"
Other-worldly blissed out feedback rock from when this band was at their peak. I don't know what else to say, but I really like this song and the E.P Life was better... which it lives on...
9. Tumbleweed - "Sundial"
Heavy Stoner rock from the early 90's maaaan. I remember thinking this sounded like bulldozers on guitar when I was 13. I need to revisit this for nostalgia's sake and as a reference point and lesson in how my idea of heavy has changed.
10. Midget Stooges - "Crazy Bitch"
Can you conceive that there once was a real rock n' roll highschool? The Midget Stooges were graduates and at the time of this release were like 14 years old. One day Sonic Youth went into the school to give guest lessons. Thurston Moore loved this band so much, he released the single on his Ecstatic Peace label. I was jealous, big time.
By Dusted Magazine