For the second and final part of our 2017 round up series we’ve divulged a bit about some of the things we discovered in the last year that we most enjoyed music-wise. Music discovery isn’t always about finding new music, rather it can more often than not be about back-tracking and learning of older stuff that is fresh to you. As such the majority of what’s included here is aged to some degree.
It’s important to stay current and to not lose track of some of the great music coming out in the present but we’d argue it’s equally important to learn a bit about its context and the art that laid the groundwork for what’s around now. Enjoy!
Vril – Torus XXXII
This is one track in particular I found last year which stands tall above the rest, released in 2015 as part of Vril’s Torus full length. I remember finding this track early in the year and thinking it was nice but nothing else, it was only later on in the year when I listened to it again by chance and was really captured by the melancholic beauty presented in the tunes lead melody. For a period of time this helped me in a big way, and I’d often have it on repeat, never getting sick of that melody line. It’s one of those rare tracks that will bring about tears on the dancefloor, and a track I now consider to be an all time favourite.
Bicep – Bicep
This selection isn’t something older that I’ve found during the past year but it was a landmark bit of music for me.
Bicep’s self-titled debut album Bicep was my standout full length in a year with many great efforts. It was a long wait for fans of the Belfast duo but thankfully this was worthwhile as the album definitely lived up to expectations for me (I know Aiden will argue with me on this haha). Drifting nicely between breakbeat and ambient, the record provided some of my favourite musical moments of the year with tracks such as Orca, Glue, Drift and Vespa which could show a lighter side to Bicep as opposed to the usual 4×4 stuff they’ve become renowned for. The album really stood up for me in its replay-ability and diversity. I often found myself returning to it listening to a particular track if I was feeling a certain way, something I gladly found solace in. The album also acted as the main crux of the Bicep live show which I got to see twice this year. Tracks such as Spring were really given another dimension on the dance floor and I found I enjoyed that track in particular after hearing it out. Orca actually turned out to be one of my most listened to tunes this year and is one I love due to the emotion invoked – a track which is the perfect example of something that is suited for the home environment and a live experience, and I found a lot of the album to share this quality.
Lauren Garnier- Electrochoc
I’d been meaning to buy this for ages, and when I finally got it in October I was satisfied it was well worth the purchase. Tracing the roots of dance music as told through the eyes of Mr. Garnier, it is a truly fascinating read with some great anecdotal material and funny at times as well. My favourite part of the book though, was when Laurent visits Detroit for the first time in the early 90s and meets his heroes. I found this not only interesting, but also so inspirational. So much so, that I’ve pinned up a quote from that chapter in my room: “That first trip to Detroit wasn’t life-changing. I didn’t like the music from Detroit more because I had breathed the city air. But what Detroit did teach me was the importance of putting your heart and soul into your music. The reason why Detroit techno strikes a chord with me is because its producers lay bare their souls in their music. They lay bare their sorrows, their resentment, their wounds and their hope. Derrick May’s words kept going round inside my head, ‘You don’t make a record for fun, man.’
If the music of Chicago shoots from the hip, the music of Detroit has always spoken straight to the heart. It can bring tears to my eyes. It produces an intense emotional reaction. Records like “World 2 World” or “Strings Of Life” are the soundtracks to my life. I can listen to them time and time again and still feel the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end. This cannot be manufactured. This is real.
Electrochoc is available for purchase here
Durutti Column – Return of the Durutti Column
Before familiarising with Durutti Column my knowledge of the ‘Madchester’ era was a lot more superficial. I didn’t realise how significant that period of time was in shaping music and club culture in the UK. Post 1970s Manchester had a remarkable impact on how different genres of music are positioned alongside one another. The lines between them blurred, with the introduction of new genres such as new wave and electro and the birth of DJ culture as we know it today.
The Return of the Durutti Column perfectly exemplifies this catalysing time. The Column’s Vini Reilly described the album as “an attempt at experimental things and an attempt to challenge what is considered rock and roll.” I got onto this back in the spring based on a friend’s recommendation and it sucked me in immediately. The opening track Sketch for a Summer has a quite floaty, almost dream-like atmosphere to it. This light-hearted naivety recurs on tracks such as Jazz and Katherine.
However the album also has much darker tones and textures, both parts of Aspects of the Same Thing and Sleep Will Come are great examples.
The album certainly mounted a successful challenge to traditional perceptions of rock and roll. With the help of Martin Hannett, Reilly was able to use sounds that no one else was at the time. The delicate melodies heard throughout Return are a far cry from the typical use of electric guitar at the time.
In his youth Reilly received classical musical training and this is integral in the way he constructs his music. The record listens much more like a series of classical compositions than rock or ‘guitar music’.
One of Factory records’ great left-field gambles, this perhaps my favourite album that’s emanated from the post-punk period in Manchester.
Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark – SOUVENIR
This is actually a bit of a rediscovery for me. I had the chance to plunder the family record collection and came across this track which I hadn’t heard in years. I’m guilty of nostalgia being a large part of my attachment to this track. It was a staple at family BBQ’s when I was younger. On every listen, I’m revisited by the image of a sandy red sunset.
Self-indulgent sentimentality aside, this is a great tune. It’s got a tolerable amount of cheese to it and the melodies craft a really romantic, bittersweet atmosphere. There’s something endearing too, in the workmanship of OMD’s music. Limited financially, a lot of their work supposedly used the korg micro-preset, choosing it simply because it was “the cheapest money could buy.” Best enjoyed on the tail-end of an evening consisting of: Heineken, barbecue sausages and good company.
BBC RADIO 6
This is a party that I’m undoubtedly quite late to but I’ve been enjoying Radio 6 Music massively for the past five or so months since first tuning in. There’s a plethora of online radio stations with a vast amount of musical diversity, however it’s rare to encounter that same level of variation on offline radio.
With programming spanning across a wide array of genres, the offering on Radio 6 caters to the tastes of all music lovers.
Gilles Petersen and Lauren Laverne’s shows in particular have been giving me major kicks over the past few months. Petersen’s weekly Saturday show encompasses, not exclusively; jazz, soul and electronic music. With a consistent selection of quality music supplemented by astute commentary and great guest musicians, something is always learned when to Gilles’ Join The Dots.
A great breadth of music can be found too, in Lauren Laverne’s programme which runs daily during the week. Playing electronic, rock, hip-hop to name a few, it tends to have an upbeat energy to it for great daytime listening. Her Monday Motivation show is great at doing exactly what it says on the tin.
You can catch Radio 6 on digital radio at DAB 12B or channel 707 on Freeview.