Every Friday, Dusted Magazine publishes a series of music-related lists compiled by our favorite artists. This week: plunderphonic veteran Jon Leidecker and a duo featuring members of Trans Am and Earthless that formed for Record Store Day.
Listed: Wobbly + Mitchell & Manley
Jon Leidecker, more commonly known as the experimental electronic sound artist Wobbly, got his start in radio outings in the 1990s, where he would juxtapose live musicians, spoken word, random electronics and other found noise sources together on the air. Since those days, he has collaborated with such folks as Matmos, People Like Us, Lesser, Otomo Yoshihide and Don Joyce of Negativland to continue his quest of creating harmony out of field recordings from disparate cultures. His latest album, Simultaneous Quodlibet for Important Records, finds him once again collaborating with friends Matmos and Lesser to push the boundaries of improvised electro-acoustic music.
1. Scott Joplin - Piano Rags performed by Joshua Rifkin
The early 1970s Joplin revival was singlehandedly kicked off by this album, which was released around the same time I was born. My parents played it endlessly, and when I play it now I enter that odd trance state where I know I’m hearing something that happened to me before my earliest memories. As a teenager, I tried to teach myself how to play piano under the dangerous influence of a ton of Philip Glass records. Only after rediscovering this record in college did my own playing began to make more sense. Some people fault Rifkin’s playing as revisionist, for playing Joplin too much like Bach, but Joplin would have loved this record.
2. Negativland - The Easter War Show - cassette of April 4th, 1985 episode of Over The Edge
I got into records in junior high, moving from Devo to Kraftwerk to Jarré to Hip Hop Scratch Mix bootlegs -- basically, anything electronic. One night while channel surfing, I came across one of those magic nodes on the dial where three stations were clearly coming in at once, and pulled out a cassette to tape it, only to slowly realize it really was only one station, and the group Negativland was performing a live mix in the KPFA studios. I tuned in every week, phoning in with other locals to add sounds & instruments to the mix, and within two years I’d talked my way onto the occasional show -- most of what I learned about live studio improvisation, I learned from Don Joyce.
3. Faust - The Faust Tapes
When I bought this in 1986, there really weren’t that many records that balanced experimental noise and pure pop songwriting. This is the album that taught me how to edit, and I kept coming back to it to hear how it’s done. It may seem easy to simply improvise a lot of spectacular, intriguingly abstract sounds, and then simply splice out all the boring parts. The first thing you learn is how quickly those highlights become meaningless without context. And beyond that, you can’t fake good songwriting. This album was also my introduction to Recommended Records -- everything on that label was worth hearing.
4. Francois Bayle - Erosphere
This import LP turned up in the electronic music bin at the Berkeley Rasputin’s one week in 1986. I initially had no frame of reference for something that seemed to be structured like those Eno ambient albums I’d been soaking in, yet wasn’t exactly consonant or soothing, so I made a cassette and returned the LP. In the years since, I’ve probably listened to this hour-long piece more times than any other single record in my collection. Later on I discovered the other works that had come out of GRM Studios, the traditions of musique concrete and acousmatic, and I gained more of a context for music this profoundly abstract and intrinsically electronic. I will never get to the bottom of it. It sends me into a very deep state, and I feel lucky to have encountered it early.
5. Charles Ives - First & Fourth Symphonies, Michael Tilson Thomas & Chicago Symphony Orchestra
The first Ives disc I bought in college was MTT’s first take on the Holidays Symphony and it might be the best starter disc. But the fourth is the masterpiece, the one where he literally cut and pasted a lifetime’s worth of his favorite fragments into one simultaneous, unified stream. Overall, it is an assault on the senses. Even the Fugue, which begins as a truly beautiful respite to the chaos, suddenly goes off the cliff as the unignorable question is asked for the third time, and you realize there will never be an answer -- the two minutes of music that immediately follows the drop are two of the most tragic and yet reassuring minutes in music anyone will ever hear. Reassuring in that by hearing it, you know he managed to capture it and survive -- it cost him his health, but it exists. If I have only one hero, it’s Ives.
6. Moebius & Roedelius - Complete Box Set 1970-1986
It is an imaginary box set of the 35 albums these two released either solo or as primary collaborators during those years. I still catch myself out making melodies that aspire to Roedelius, or coming up with synth patches that reflect years of listening to Moebius. Unlike most of the other 1970s krautrock and electronic albums I bought at around that time, these are still constant listening. Perhaps it’s because there are just so many of them; they never seemed to release another record until they’d drastically changed their sound, and yet taken together they all feel like chapters in a single book. Which is why listing to an imaginary box set feels less like cheating than just telling it like it is.
7. John Oswald - Plexure
One thousand pop songs in 20 minutes, edited together in a gradually ascending tempo. I bought this when it came out, and it was my sleep record for several months -- the only thing busy enough to short out consciousness. This record was initially too intimidating to count as an influence. But in the late 1990s, Lloyd Dunn of the Tape-beatles mailed me CD-R transfers of Oswald’s Mystery Tapes, and I realized that his disjointed yet precise sense of rhythm had definitely made its mark on my playing, particularly with the Boss SP-202’s. I was also struck by his gradual, meticulous revisions to the piece since 1992, like software updates -- composition is never over, you only ever halve the distance between you and the ideal. And the ideal is relative.
8. Shiina Ringo - Karuki Zamen Kuri No Hana
By 2004, my tastes had seemed to expand almost randomly in any direction, and I’d long given up on the concept of having "favorite" records. I mistook Shiina’s third album for a very guilty pleasure, a strange mainstream echo of Japanese schizoid hyper-produced pop like Kiyohiko Senba’s Haniwa All-Stars project. Then I heard the b-side, "Ringo Catalogue". And then I found the online translations of the lyrics, which confirmed that this was actually my favorite pop record of the last two decades.
9. La Voix Du Monde - Une Anthologie Des Expressions Vocales
I didn’t notice myself getting into choral music, I only noticed occasionally becoming obsessed with individual records. The Hilliard Ensemble’s performance of Gesualdo’s Tenebrae or Andrew Parrott’s performance of Monteverdi’s 1610 Vespers or the Harmonic Choir’s Hearing Solar Winds or Brumel’s Earthquake Mass. When I downloaded this three-disc set of a cappella music collected from around the globe in 2007, and realized that most of it was far more disorienting and inspired than the wildest avant-garde display of extended technique, and yet in many cases millennia older, I finally heard through to the things I’d already been listening to for a long time.
10. Karma Moffett - Golden Bowls of Compassion
At some point, you really learn to appreciate the act of drinking a glass of water. This CD is simply an hour-long recording of one person playing two dozen close-mic’d Tibetan bowls. It is pure sound, and it is completely inexhaustible.
Mitchell & Manley
In honor of the pending Record Store Day on April 16, Thrill Jockey Records is set to release Norcal Values, a sonic collaboration between Phil Manley (Trans Am, The Fucking Champs, Jonas Reinhardt) and Isaiah Mitchell (Earthless). Comprised almost exclusively of a single continuous guitar solo, the recording was made live with no overdubs, and was completely improvised to provide maximum and pure results. Phil Manley’s solo endeavor, Life Coach, came out in January also on Thrill Jockey. Mitchell’s Earthless recently finished up their debut tour of Australia.
Isaiah Mitchell’s picks:
1. ZZ Top - Tejas
This album covers all the bases -- getting your heart kicked in; some good natured drinking; convicted murder -- all the while having the meanest and sweetest playing and the absolute best production and tones put to wax!
2. Thin Lizzy - Thin Lizzy
Such a sweet and vulnerable record. Phil Lynott’s blood and honesty all over this one! Eric Bell’s guitar playing is absolutely amazing!
3. Ry Cooder - Chicken Skin Music
Ry finds the most beautiful old songs lost to our elders, dusts them off, re-invents them, and makes us wish we beat him to the punch. This album is one of my favorite examples of his art. Hail, hail Ry Cooder!
4. 13th Floor Elevators - Easter Everywhere
This album blows my mind. I don’t know if you can get more psychedelic than this. So dark, and yet so full of light. So grateful this album was created!
5. Jimi Hendrix - Electric Ladyland
This one goes way back to my youth. What an amazing ride; from the intro "And the Gods Made Love...." to epic blues jam "Voodoo Child," to " the R&B flavor of "Long, Hot Summer Nights" to the beautiful "1983.... A Merman I Shall Turn to Be," this record has inspired so many and proven itself to be one of the greatest albums of all time. Thanks for everything, Jimi!
Phil Manley’s picks:
1. My Bloody Valentine - Loveless
The appreciation of music is deeply intertwined with nostalgia. This record represents a very inspiring period of my youth, a time when absolutely anything was possible.
2. Harmonia - Deluxe
The pinnacle of Krautrock. Michael Rother is amazing. At the risk of using a very trite term, this record sounds very organic. Sounds like dreaming.
3. Kraftwerk - Man Machine
The German band that transcended the krautrock genre. These guys are as historically important to the pop music canon as The Beatles or The Beach Boys or The Ramones. It was hard to pick one album in particular; it could have just as easily been Computer World.
4. ZZ Top - Rio Grande Mud
The sound of good times captured on tape and pressed on vinyl for all the world to enjoy in perpetuity. The greatest band of all time, bar none. Apparently, Billy Gibbons has the softest hands in show business.
5. Elizabeth Cotton - Freight Train And Other North Carolina Folk Songs And Tunes
This record reminds me of my grandmother, who played the guitar. It puts me at ease in a way that nothing else does. Very pure and truly unique.
By Dusted Magazine