Every Friday, Dusted Magazine publishes a series of music-related lists compiled by our favorite artists. This week: Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson and New Zealand jam-family Bad Statisics.
Listed: Jóhann Jóhannsson + Bad Statistics
Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson first generated international waves in 2002 with Englabörn, an album originally written for a play of the same name. His second release for the venerable Touch imprint, Virthulegu Forsetar, contained one glacial piece of music for brass, organ/piano and percussion. 2006’s IBM 1401, A User’s Manual was originally composed to accompany a dance piece by Erna Ómarsdóttir, with the album’s title referring to Jóhannsson’s father’s career as the chief maintenance engineer of the IBM 1401 Data Processing System – one of Iceland’s first computers. Jóhannsson is also part of Apparat Organ Quartet, which consists of four organists and a drummer who bonded over an affinity for outdated electronic equipment, farfisas, faulty synthesizers and Steve Reich. His latest album, Fordlandia, came out late last year and will be reviewed on this site next week.
High-Fives: German Electronic Albums of the ‘70s and Film Scores
1. Cluster - Zuckerzeit
Delay-soaked, distorted organs, primal synthesizers, muted drumboxes. Their earlier albums were more experimental while the later ones were a bit too easy on the ear, but they really made some magic on Sowiezo and Zuckerzeit. The best electronic music is hand-played - I think Cluster couldn’t afford a sequencer so they just played the repetitive riffs by hand, which gives them an amazingly fragile character. This is so beautifully wrought, with so much detail in the sound.
2. Peter Baumann - Romance 76
First side is quite melodic synthesizer music in the Tangerine Dream style, but side two is a bizarre orchestral and choral piece, with electronic touches. A wonderfully strange record. European, romantic and futuristic, before Ultravox ruined it for everybody.
3. Tangerine Dream - Phaedra
One of my first records was by TD, given to me by my sister’s fiancé. He had quite a big Krautrock collection, which I raided regularly, so I’ve been listening to this German stuff since my early teens. Although it’s not obvious, I believe there’s an influence in my solo work, in the minimalism and the romantic sweep of the melodies – which is something I really admire in Kraftwerk - although there’s probably a more direct influence in some of my other projects like Apparat Organ Quartet and Evil Madness.
4. Popol Vuh - Aguirre, Wrath of God
Music for the wonderful, transcendent film by Werner Herzog, which I can watch endlessly. The music is a huge part of the experience and is too beautiful to describe. I like Popol Vuh’s guitar based music less, although some of it, like their music for Herzog’s Heart of Glass, is marvelous.
5. Harmonia - Musik Von Harmonia
Supergroup formed by members of Neu! and Cluster. It’s quite similar to Neu!, but more electronic. I like supergroups.
1. Bernard Herrmann - Sisters
Not the most obvious Herrmann soundtrack, but one of my favorites of his. I like the geeky referentiality of it, De Palma’s film referencing Hitchcock even to the extent of bringing in Hitchcock’s composer. It’s Herrmann’s most extreme score and almost a logical conclusion to his ideas - he only wrote two more before he died, I believe. Try to see this film in a cinema, it still has a very powerful visceral impact, although it’s of course also very silly in places, this being Brian De Palma.
2. Goblin - Suspiria
A single insistent motif runs through the entire film, but you never tire of it – this is simply one of the most effective horror scores ever written. Again you have to see it in a cinema to get the full impact.. the music is mixed LOUD, but then the director Dario Argento is not known for his subtlety.
3. Ennio Morricone - Il Sorriso del Grande Tentatore
There’s something about Italian film scores form the ‘70s. There was just this amazing creativity, this anything goes kind of feel, which makes today’s film music sound pathetically conservative and tame. I’m a huge fan of Morricone and I love his more extreme, experimental scores from the ‘70s, which he wrote for horror films mostly. He became more sonically more conventional in the ‘80s and ‘90s although he didn’t lose his gift for melody.
4. Edward Artemiev - Stalker
Tarkovsky’s film has a soundtrack that is an ambient masterpiece in its own right. I watch this film every two years or so and it never loses its impact. Pure cinematic poetry.
5. Poul Schierbeck - Day of Wrath
Wonderful string based score for the famous film by Carl Theodor Dreyer. Beautifully melancholic music that draws out the emotion in Dreyer’s ascetic and cold direction.
The noise-jam quintet Bad Statistics were formed in Wellington, New Zealand in 2005. Consisting of Thebis Mutante (singer and improv sax player), Mark Williams (guitarist), Johannes Contag (drummer), Justin Barr (bass) and Torben Tilly (organ), the band released its first full-length in late 2007 on the Belgian label (K-RAA-K) Records. Static was pressed in an edition of 500 and got good press from Aquarius Records and, well, us. Their second album, Lucky Town Gone came out on the Antony Milton’s PseudoArcana Records last year, and their third album, what the band calls their our most ambitious effort to date, was recorded earlier in 2008 and is currently being mixed. Release is planned for early 2009, with a tour to follow in Europe and the U.S.
Earlier this year, our Doug Mosurock had this take on Static: “I’ve given this one multiple listens and there’s parts of it I keep coming back to in awe, namely when the finally hit the stride 2/3rds of the way through “If I Were a Pint of Milk,” a 22-minute colossus of slow-burn fuckery that gives way to a crashing, crushing beat, a manipulated reanimation of said beat on top of itself, and layers of bass, synths, and sax that aim right towards the sun. Make no mistake: despite the label affiliation, this is rock music, and it rocks pretty goddamn hard at that.” (He wasn’t as much a fan of Mutante’s vox.)
1. Jean Marc Foussat - Abattage (1981/1996)
Can’t remember exactly where I discovered this record, but have treasured it ever since. Born in Algeria in 1955, Foussat made this obscure musique concrete record in 1981, to be re-released on Pyjama records in 1996. The title seems like some French word-play on abattoir and collage, which is a good indication of the strange and at times brutal audio juxtapositioning this record offers up. Abstract voice, piano, synths, guitars etc. combined with field recordings of jack hammers, commercial radio stabs, water, fire and other miscellany, and with one of the best overdriven outcries of heavy frequency-bending feedback noise to be put to record, it gets me madly dancing every time! (Torben)
2. DNA - DNA on DNA (No More Records, rereleased 2006?)
Richard Hell and the Voidoids’ Blank Generation came my way in college when I was first learning guitar. Of course Hell was brilliant, etc, etc, but what really got me was the guitar spazz of Robert Quine & Ivan Julian. For a while this was enough, but I wanted more and I got it when I heard DNA. While Quine and Julian forged their racket around Hell’s pop tunes, DNA foreground the primal. In DNA, Arto Lindsay sings as if he’s simultaneously swallowing his tongue. As he attacks his guitar in wrenches and stabs, it sounds like someone is still building it. I have no idea what he’s singing about, but it reminds of the joy of dribbling baby food out the side of my mouth and having someone else clean it up for me. Each song is about two minutes, and that’s also very clever. (Mark)
3. The Aesthetics - Off (Mental Telemetry, 2000)
I first encountered this record when a cheap but thoughtful flatmate gave me a CD-R copy for my birthday. At first I thought there was a problem with the burn, or the disc was damaged - it just sounded so degraded. After obtaining a legitimate copy I realized that that’s how it’s supposed to sound - odd, twangy guitar, ultra-fuzz steamroller bass, squashed drums that sound like dusty old casiotone beats, and vox which bring to mind an angry drunk yelling garbled polemics in an underwater cave (not too far from the truth). The whole thing is swimming in a thick, ugly soup of distortion & feedback, and the riffs are brutally simple & repetitive (as are the lyrics). The overall effect is one of unsettling malevolence, although it’s highly comical at the same time. (Justin)
4. Tangerine Dream - Alpha Centauri / Zeit / Atem / Electronic Meditation (Ohr, 1970-73)
Those first four Tangerine Dream albums are something else, similar territory to the pre-Kraftwerk Tonefloat - lots of percussion, brooding out-of-tune organ, displaced flute, backwards vocals, the odd sweeping synth. Great stuff for the thinking teen’s formative stoner sessions (dare I mention Ummagumma?). For me, a compilation double album of this early TD stuff (on Castle Communications) was the backdrop to reading Thomas Mann’s Death in Venice (miles better than the Mahler wallpaper used by Visconti in his film adaption). The decadent road to destruction experienced by the main character is told through the symbols of Dionysian ritual - particularly a low, sickly flute tone accompanied by a relentless, cultish percussive thud. What better soundtrack to this celebration of morbid sensual abandon than the pot-fuelled jams of Edgar Froese and Klaus Schulze. Why oh why did you have to discover the arpeggiator Edgar. (Jo)
5. Sun City Girls - Torch Of The Mystics (Tupelo, 1993)
"Blue Mamba" opens this album with a very straight rock riff, but once the weird guitar solo bits come in, you know something funny’s going on. The tracks get progressively odd from there, styles running the gamut from spooky surf through discordant swamp-blues to cod-Eastern ecstatics. The guitar sound’s huge and ringing, layered over rambling bass and clunky, meat-and-spuds drumming. I’ve listened to this for ten years and never tired of it, such is the variety and plain weirdness contained within. (Justin)
6. Theoretical Girls - Theoretical Record (Acute, compilation 2006?)
On TR you can hear the joy of distorted electric instruments, and the directness of punk. But there is also art-school smarts; on “Computer Dating,” Jeffrey Lohn rattles through a personality questionnaire before intoning “NO STAMP IS NEEDED! NO STAMP IS NEEDED! MAIL IT!! MAIL IT!! MAIL IT!!” On “US Millie,” the group breezily hammers through a keyboard-led ditty supposedly inspired by Bach. On “Contrary Motion,” the group lay down a glorious pile driven blast of keyboard and guitar that sounds like they’re channeling concrete. It’s thrilling. Sonic Youth’s engineer Wharton Tiers played the drums and surely Lohn’s dissonant-but-tuned guitar was a huge inspiration for SY. Glenn Branca also played in this group but didn’t want his songs included on the retrospective CD. It doesn’t suffer for it. (Mark)
7. Attwenger - Sun / Dog / Luft / Most / Pflug (Trikont/Self, 1990s/2000s)
Named after their obscure home town in deepest rural Austria. Attwenger are one guy playing Steyrisch-style accordion and another guy (with a mustache) playing drums and slow-rapping dialect phonetics. Their music – veering between upbeat punk-polka mess and Yello-meets-Toneloc - easily descends into the truly awful-exotic and probably only makes sense if you get the dry cutting humor of the Austrians, but you’ve got to admire their staunchly anti-world-music take on preserving folk tradition (oh yeah, the accordionist also has an oompah trio with his mum and dad). Curiously, Attwenger’s 2002 album Sun features a 15-minute live collaboration with Fred Frith on guitar ("Mei Bua"), which is currently one of my all-time favorite pieces of music ever. (Jo)
8. V/A - Molam: Thai Country Grooves From Isan, Vols. 1 & 2 (Sublime Frequencies, compiled from 1970s/’80s)
Lee Scratch Perry visits Bangkok with Timothy Leary and they say "wow this Lao Khene is so happening, ain’t never heard nothin’ so funky... soak a bat and three snakes in potent Thai rice vodka, drink, then sing & dance baby, sing and daaaance!" (Thebis)
9. Sonny and Linda Sharrock - Black Woman (1969)
The genius primitivism of the drums and Sonny’s raw guitar combined with joyous life-praising sing-a-long choruses and the suffering and the ecstasy of Linda’s vocalisms makes for pure sonic love and emotion! Alongside other extreme vocal channelers of the time like Yoko Ono and Patty Waters, when this record is played loud, Linda Sharrock’s wails and chants will either educate or truly horrify your neighbors! As Bek Coogan says: “Just lie back and let Sonny and Linda take you to the edge of honesty!” (Torben)
10. Societe Absolument Guinen - Spirits Of Life: Haitian Vodou (Soul Jazz, 2005)
Oh me oh my oh legba ayeebo! Do do do do do do do do do do do do do do. Da da da. Do do do do do do do do do. Mama papa mama mama! Mama mama! Papa mama! Gaanyaa deeaalon masnawl petraaval! Blasnortal kenupta veeonda bas ba bas bas tooarl needorval!! NEEDORVAAAAAL!!!! (Thebis)
By Dusted Magazine