June 2006 Archives

Zenith/Salt Tank

I have a few compilations that I mostly listen to late at night. One of them is the first FAX compilation, a double CD of ambient electronic music from one of the most prominent ambient labels of the mid-90's. The second is a promo I was given of a compilation called United States of Ambience 2, which is pretty much what it sounds like.

I've got two tracks today, good for when you realize it's about 1:30 or 2 in the morning and you've been up for longer than you expected but aren't quite ready to go to bed yet. Maybe you've got the last of a glass of wine to finish, maybe you're on the last few pages of your book (or maybe, with pleasant synchronicity, both). Or maybe other people don't sit up all night reading and listening to ambient music and drinking wine.

They're both beat-driven, but quietly so. They don't pound, they throb and pulse. They're subtly insistent, taking you with them while they go somewhere and look around and then bring you home again. The first, "Electro Dreams," is a brisk walk at night, past people moving through their own lives and doing whatever it is they need to do separately from any observer and from one another, while the second, "Introspection Part 1," is a look around the cannery sometime in the very early morning when even the people at work are asleep on their feet, dreaming themselves into the machinery in a way the daytime workers never experience.

Both of these appear to be out of print. If you find them in the used bins or feel like dropping the 7 bucks Amazon sellers seem to want for the first Fax compilation, I'd say go for it.

Zenith - Electro Dreams (FAX Compilation)

Salt Tank - Introspection Part 1 (United States of Ambience 2)


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I have mixed feelings on mashups... On the one hand, you have brilliant collages like The Kleptones' 24 Hours or The Evolution Control Committee. On the other hand, there are any number of crap mixes where somebody throws a couple of songs into Ableton Live or Garageband without regard for little details like, you know, key. (Or even creative pitch-shifting.) Plus I could live the rest of my life very contentedly without ever hearing that damn "Oops, I appear to have spent all last night masturbating and now I'm going to claim it was an accident, tee hee" song pasted over another song again. (Hip-hop and soul vocalists take note! If you record a song without backing tracks under your vocals, it is guaranteed that every schmuck with Garageband will be mixing you with hundreds of generic Apple Loops the very hour your track hits the internet!)

Like any other morbid curiosity, thought, I can't resist poking around, just to see what crimes have been perpetrated against my favorite songs. Here are some tracks I've found that I think are interesting, amusing, and non-obvious enough to point out.

Policy of Sweet Dreams -- Depeche Mode and the Eurhythmics. Synthpop power mix, yeah! I especially like how the opening hooks have been interlaced to form a sort of uber-hook. And the Eurhythmics "Ooohs" and Depeche Mode chorus mix nicely. Recommended.

Never Float On -- The Assembly and Modest Mouse. Mixing two super-popular synthpop acts is too obvious? Well, okay. How about the band Vince Clarke was in between Yaz and Erasure? With Feargal Sharkey on vocals, The Assembly recorded and released one single, "Never Never." Here it is, mixed with Modest Mouse's recently-popular "Float On." A little time-stretched, sure, but it works.

Devil Went Down To The Beach -- New Order and the Charlie Daniels Band. Synthpop and indie rock was too obvious? Sure, okay. Here you go! The instrumental B-side version of "Blue Monday" and some hardcore country music! Take that!

All right. That's probably not my final word on mashups, but now I can claim I have followed internet trends and talked about mashups in my mp3 blog. Now I just need to set up an Amazon wish list and post topless pictures.

The Overlords

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I once read a usenet article on The Overlords describing them as somewhere between Front 242 and Devo. Thinking that seemed like an ideal combination, I sought out their first album, Organic?. It wasn't too bad a description. Driving industrial beats, synthy hooks, growly vocals delivered in some unidentifiable European accent, and a little bonus weirdness thrown in for extra excitement. Plus a cover of "Holiday in Cambodia." What more could you want?

They released another album, All The Naked People, which included actual production values, but it was far less interesting than their first. Thus, the three tracks here are from Organic? The Overlords appear to have pretty much vanished since then.

Holiday in Cambodia
Near Dark [Campfire Mix]

Doubting Thomas

The late 80's were a fertile period in the world of industrial music-- Skinny Puppy in particular released four seminal studio albums-- the kind of albums that influenced everyone who came after them (even if the bumper crop of imitators attracted by, for example, Cleopatra Records didn't seem to be good for much more than novelty tribute albums and opening for better bands).

Between 1987 and 1990, cEvin Key and Dwayne Goettel recorded enough tracks on their own to fill out an album and an EP. Key's percussion and Goettel's sampling combine to form an equisitely-crafted set of what they called "soundtracks for movies that never existed." The Infidel is dark, percussive, and lush, and the carefully-chosen snippets of movie dialog serve to add extra layers of expression to what might otherwise be just another set of almost ambient instrumental tracks (although an exceptionally lush and complex set).

I'm including a few tracks here-- "Naugal Tone" and "Come in Piece" from The Infidel and the extended version of "Father Don't Cry" from the Father Don't Cry EP.

In 1995 Dwayne Goettel died of a heroin overdose at his parents' house, where he had gone in an attempt to kick the habit.

Father Don't Cry (Extended)
Naugal Tone
Come in Piece

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