Every Friday, Dusted Magazine publishes a series of music-related lists compiled by our favorite artists. This week: Portland vowel-lovers Au and Swedish ambient electrician Jasper TX.
Listed: Au + Jasper TX
Portland, Ore., collective Au (pronounced A-U) is led by Luke Wyland, a multi-instrumentalist with a penchant for pop-infused classical music. Or is it classical-infused pop music? He’s surrounded by an indeterminate cast of characters, but you can usually count on fellow string/reed/wind/percussion players Johnathan Sielaff and Mark Kaylor showing up. Other potential vowels include Dana Valatka (of Jackie O Motherfucker), Becky Dawson, Jeremy Faulkner, Sarah Winchester and Bob Jones. The trio -- complemented by a host of Portland musicians -- spin elaborate, repetitive pop songs reminiscent (like so many other bands these days) of Animal Collective, only with about a dozen more instruments. The group’s second album Verbs came out earlier this year on Los Angeles label Aagoo. Wyland and Valatka took part in this week’s Listed.
1. John Coltrane and Juno Lewis - "Kulu Se Mama" (from the Major Work of John Coltrane)
From Elvin Jones’ rolling intro to Juno Lewis’ first notes, this is one of my favorite masterpieces of 20th century music. Plus, McCoy Tyner’s solo halfway through is one of the most powerful piano segments I’ve ever heard amidst such a maelstrom of players. A perfect blending of ritualistic music and its counterpoint in post-modern expression. The first time I heard this entire album in high school was a revelation. Fucking blew my mind right open. (Luke)
2. Terry Riley - "Celestial Valley" (from Shri Camel)
The hypnotics of a man and his tape loops. More so than composers like Reich or Glass, Riley’s work has always struck me hardest of all the minimalists. Maybe it’s the ‘just intonation’ he employed so amazingly and the harmonies he gets that just confuse the hell out of my equal-temperament-conditioned ear. As well as the rolling, eastern tinged stream of consciousness playing that runs frolicking and unraveling so gracefully. (Luke)
3. Mount Eerie - "Wooly Mammoth’s Absence"
A song that seems to never loose its magic for me. I was obsessed with Elverum’s work in college, which served as a large inspiration for me to start writing songs of my own, 4-track style. This man’s lyrics are so wonderfully divine and human at the same time. This one in particular hits upon such bittersweet emotions and the moods of the Northwest. I sometimes get confused and think he’s written this song from my own experiences. A strange supplanting of self. (Luke)
4. Music of Madagascar
Some of the most otherworldly polyharmonic singing I’ve ever heard in my life. Man as animal as insect as buzzing machine. Oh to be so lucky to one day visit this island. (Luke)
5. Maurice Ravel - Piano Concerto for the Left Hand in D Major
Commissioned by a pianist who lost his right arm during World War I, this piece by Ravel is one of my favorite classical pieces. Listening to this, you’d never think the piano was being played solely by the left hand (which has always been my weaker hand in terms of dexterity). I used to fall asleep to this piece in high school and it’s implanted itself firmly in my subconscious. The Impressionists of this time were more interested in the power of suggestion than the usual heavy-handed plot driven goals of the Romantics, ultimately leaving interpretations open to the listener. A perfect way to be led into dreamland. (Luke)
6. Joseph Cambell
Joseph Campbell would make the best grandfather. The man is an encyclopedia of myth and a delightful storyteller. All of those spiritual ideas that sprung from the unconscious of man have been literalized, bastardized, co-opted and made otherwise impotent over the years. JC illuminates and ties them all together, shows us how the symbol only points to that which we can’t name, and paves the way for us to create our own new relevant myths. Really helps me deal with the world and "say yea to life" (Dana)
7. Knut Hamsun
This Norwegian writer has been called "the father of modern literature.” Perhaps you’ve read Hunger, but try Mysteries, Pan, Victoria and the rest, and see why he was so influential to Miller, Kafka, Bukowski, Celine and so many more. He just got it right, (Dana)
Seeing Neurosis play live at their peak in the ‘90s was like being cleansed in fire, and their heavy tribal drumming was a big influence on me (much like the drum-heavy Adam Ant records, only different). I believe that it was the influence of Crash Worship that pushed them to what they were. Seeing Neurosis and Eyehategod in the later ‘90s was a defining moment (and Eyehategod is still one of the best things for when you’re angry and disgusted. Really good if you have a shitty job and you really don’t want to be there). I ended up on my knees pounding my fists and hands on the floor until they were red and swollen. Even though I don’t care so much for their recordings from this decade (hey, they’re older, they have kids.. people mellow out), I’ll still respect anything they do. (Dana)
9. Fanny & Alexander by Ingmar Bergman
Even though I still have so many Ingmar Bergman films to see and love, I’ll still take the time to sit and watch the five-hour version of Fanny & Alexander straight through. (Dana)
10. People Like Us
I was going to put Ween here (and I guess that this is my sneaky way of doing so), considering how much of my teenage life and beyond was spent smoking way too much pot and singing along to every word. But now that they have fully made the transition to yacht rock, and the new album blows (sorry, guys!) … I get my biggest dose of silliness from Vicki Bennett, a.k.a. People Like Us. I was primed for this stuff by listening to Spike Jones and Doctor Demento when I was a kid. Plundered, cut-up goofiness that still makes for rewarding repeated listens. And the best part is that it’s all available for free on her website, peoplelikeus.org. Make a long playlist on your favorite media player and have it playing continuously wherever you go, and your life will become much more fun. (Dana)
Dag Rosenqvist, a.k.a. Jasper TX, isn’t your typical Swedish musician. No perfect-cheekbone indie pop here. The black-haired Rosenqvist produces deep, dark drones that reflect his country’s arctic chill more than its sunny skies. Guitar is his primary method of meditation. Tones emerge from the void and devolve slowly over long stretches of time, which he decorates with distant pulses, hisses and roars. His fifth full-length, Black Sleep, takes this minimal approach to the extreme, splitting one 51-minute composition into six parts that touches on the full extent of the minimalist palette. Rosenqvist took part in this week’s Listed, and in an odd coincidence, also chose to highlight Neurosis. Another strange bit of trivia: This is the second consecutive week an artist chose to highlight Górecki’s Symphony No. 3.
These are albums that have influenced me a lot in the past and that I still listen to quite frequently. The selection of these particular albums are not to be interpreted as though they are direct musical influences on what I do, rather door openers into something new. Something else.
1. 90 Day Men – To Everybody (Southern Records)
By chance, I read a review of this album shortly after its release and it got me really curious. So I went to my local record shop and I listened to the whole album, right there and then. I then went on to listen to the second track on the album, “Last Night A DJ Saved My Life,” at least five times in a row, realizing it must be the ultimate pop song. Musically, it’s kind of hard to describe, but definitely a recommendation for those of you into spaced-out, prog-pop weirdness. Unfortunately the band broke up a couple of years later. Bassist Rob Lowe went on to form his solo project Lichens, which I also strongly recommend.
2. Mogwai – Come On Die Young (Chemikal Underground)
An obvious choice perhaps, but also kind of inevitable. Perhaps not their best album (there are a few tracks that could have been excluded from it), but this was my first serious contact with Mogwai. I first heard the album on a crappy tape recorder at this tiny festival in the south of Sweden and I was immediately mesmerized by it. At the time, I was starting to get into bands like Godspeed You! Black Emperor and similar stuff, but at that point I had never heard anything like Mogwai.
3. Godspeed You! Black Emperor – (Constellation/Kranky)
Also perhaps an obvious choice, but just as inevitable to end up on a list like this. This bands needs no closer introduction, they are after all, along with Mogwai, the godfathers of guitar post-rock, and XXX is, in my opinion, their best album. Fragmented, intense and beautiful. This album has everything that was good about post-rock, before it got worn out. I saw them live for the first time back in 1998 or 1999 at the same festival where I first heard Mogwai. They played late at night and I remember lying down in the grass listening, looking up into the night sky.
4. Sigur Rós – ( ) (MCA)
Although Ágaetis Byrjun was the first Sigur Rós album I heard, it was definitely ( ) that totally blew me away. So utterly perfect in every detail. Full of melancholic beauty and flowing, interweaved melodies. A perfect mix of light and darkness. And talk about saying a lot without words! A truly amazing album that I still listen to quite frequently. For me, this is the pinnacle in Sigur Rós’s discography.
5. Fennesz – Venice (Touch)
When I started to let people listen to the music I was making, a lot of them said it reminded them of Fennesz. A friend of mine sent me Endless Summer on MD and although I didn’t get the comparison, I was instantly grabbed by the music. It was totally different from anything I had ever heard, but for some reason I didn’t buy the album then. It wasn’t until Venice was released a couple of years later that everything just seemed to fall into place. It became one of those albums that haunts you. That you can’t seem to get out of your head. Whenever I’m travelling, I always silently recite the lyrics to Transit.
6. Do Make Say Think – Goodbye Enemy Airship The Landlord Is Dead (Constellation)
I bought this album for two reasons: the exquisite cover art and the fact that it was released on Constellation, a pretty new label back then that I was just starting to discover. This group turned out to be my favorite act on the label’s roster and I think it’s the band that has evolved best from where they started. This album is full of lovely, slightly skewed pop melodies. And the fact that they utilize double drum kits makes for some amazing syncopated grooves.
7. Polmo Polpo – Like Hearts Swelling (Constellation)
A friend of mine said that he actually wore out the needle on his record player listening to this album. I bought it on CD, but it could have been just as true for me. It’s the perfect mix between pop and drone. Just listen to the track “Rome Heart,” to all the sounds and melodies embedded in that piece. Absolutely stunning and quite different from his other releases.
8. Labradford – E Luxo So (Blast First/Mute)
I checked them out because a friend of mine recommended it to me. I went to the record store and listened and thought it was pretty boring actually. But I bought it anyway because I really wanted to give it a chance, and once I got home and listened to it in the comfort of my own home, something happened. The music just floated through the room, filling it with a soothing calm. I keep returning to this album and I keep recommending it to people who I meet.
9. Henryk Górecki – Symphony No. 3 (Elektra)
Along with Estonian composer Arvo Pärt, Henryk Górecki is one of the most respected contemporary composers around and his third symphony is truly an astonishing piece of music. This is really an album that requires your full attention. You can’t just put this on when you’re doing the dishes or riding the bus to work (which is of course true for most of the albums on this list). I have the recording that was released back in 1992 featuring soprano Dawn Upshaw.
10. Neurosis – Through Silver In Blood (Iron City Records)
Neurosis has been a favorite of mine for a long time now, and the album that really caught me was Through Silver In Blood. “Harsh” and “stubborn” are two words that come to mind when trying to describe the music. It’s dark and intense and beautiful, all at the same time. It’s primal, yet highly intelligent music, full of contrasts and contradictions. There is no light without darkness. I strongly urge you to check this one out.
By Dusted Magazine