A List Of Records
69 / 96
This is currently the number one album on the Japanese chart. Keigo Oyamada, who lives with Kahimi Karie, used to be the singer in Flipper's Guitar. Here he moves away from the acid jazz of the first Cornelius recordings to something beyond categorisation. This is loud, strange and deranged: psychedelic music which sounds sometimes like the Beastie Boys or Beck, sometimes like David Bowie's early 70s work, bits of late Beatles, even AC/DC! A bit like Lawrence of Denim, Keigo has a way of taking all of this month's pop discovery and revival fetishes and turning them into something incredibly personal, utterly mad and fabulously inventive.
Vanessa Daou
Vanessa Daou and husband David have just released this album through MCA. It's jazzy svelte house music in the style of C (Leslie Winer, the dub lesbian) or David Sylvian's wife Ingrid Chavez. This time the texts are the poems of 70s sex writer Erica Jong. I had high expectations of this record but feel a bit let down by the production (too much reverb) and arrangement (not strange enough). It's pleasant, nothing more.
Addis Black Widow
The Battle Of Adwa
I flipped when I heard their single 'Innocent' ('I'm not a murderer, I'm innocent'). The best rap single since 'Me, Myself And I'. Dacream (outrageously sexy African Asian lesbian) and Pigeon (mad-eyed guy) have the knack of being completely off this planet, rapping in imaginary languages totally at cross purposes to each other. The sounds are fresh and radical, the rapping fresh, zany and explicit. Nothing on the album quite touches the single, though.
L'Education Anglaise
Philppe Katerine is part of the 'minimalist variete' movement in French pop, which also includes Dominique A. Although he sings well himself, on this album he's got his sister and girlfriend to do all the vocals. It's delicate acoustic pop, somewhere between Francois Hardy and Stephane Mallarme. The only passion you'll encounter is a wistful, sensual melancholy. 'I want to relax,please'.
Refried Ectoplasm (Switched On Volume 2)
At first it was the Emperor's new clothes: how could they get away with such minimalism, songs that throbbed on a single chord? Then I saw them live (show of the year, Beck aside) and it all fell into place. The Velvet Underground meets Kraftwerk meets medieval rondelets meets Jacques Loussier. My band of the moment.
Space Age Batchelor Pad Music
I prefer this to 'Refried' because of the unfeasibly bubbly Moogs.
Kahimi Karie
Leur L'Existence
In fact I was first played Stereolab at Kahimi Karie's flat in Tokyo, but was paying more attention to her kittens Caesar and Nova at the time. This EP, available only in Japan, is the record she made before I wrote and produced 'Good Morning World' for her (58 000 copies sold in a week! Champage corks are popping at my flat!). Produced by Pizzicato 5, this is the best pastiche I've heard (my own included) of the best period of Serge Gainsbourg: the 'Vu De L'Exterieur' and 'Melody Nelson' albums. I adore the ballad 'L'Amour'. What a string arrangement, including a priceless cascade as Kahimi whispers 'Enseigne moi!'
Pet Shop Boys
Alternative (B Sides Collection)
I never bought Pet Shop Boys singles, so this is all new to me. I like songs like 'Your Funny Uncle'. But the sounds have aged badly, ghastly synths and too much going on. They never topped the spare, remixed sound of 'Introspective' (although I loved 'Very'). What I notice now is how oddly stilted Neil's lyrics are, how Victorian his phrasing. The prissy old charmer!
David Bowie
J'adore le personnage. This splendidly confused man of broad culture is the reason I (and a million others) chose to be a pop musician. And his new record is worth getting if only for the links in which he impersonates (fabulously) a little girl and an old man. I dig the plotline, the moral ambivalence, the Photoshop art. But, 'Hallo Spaceboy' aside, I don't really dig the music. Too crunchy-funky, basses slapping and Reeves Gabrels wailing. Mr Bowie should sample more, should listen more carefully to Tricky.
Towa Tei
Future Listening
This is not quite as exciting as it should be, but I'm certainly aboard the Easy Listening trendwagon with Mr Tei, so I approve. The guest vocal from Miss Keir is spookily great. Arto Lindsay does a beautiful bossa number. The breakbeats elsewhere are a little tired.
The Afro Left EP
It sounded much better on TV (with the video) than it did when I got it home. Ditch the 909, keep the vocalist (a certain Mr Djum Djum, for whom I predict great things). More and more I think pop has to learn from the wild extremes of ethnic music. We have to ditch European scales, tunings and structures. Our Akais will learn to be tribal.
Digable Planets
Blowout Comb
Rap like this is so delicately schizophrenic, its mosaic of (stolen and fatigued) horn and Rhodes riffs so fetishised that it ends up having something of the alien fascination of Sumerian fragments in a museum. (Sumeria is my dead culture of the month, I'm rereading Gilgamesh). And they rap about reading Chairman Mao. I wonder if they went on the Million Man March? I think we need more long marches. And fewer cars. Rap in a Walkman has the rhythm of walking, which is a good rhythm. In cars they play, as we know, Chris Rea.
Aphex Twin
Donkey Rhubarb
Boing Boom Chakk with fiddles. An excellent title and some very likeable music. I listened to Balanescu's 'Possessed' again, though, and it was better.
Vic Chesnut
Is The Actor Happy?
The record consumer is not happy. After reading rave reviews, he found this was in fact insipid, embittered and twangy rock in the manner of the vile Neil Young.
I enjoy the mysteriousness and pretension of this record, which is made by people 'of broad culture'. James Bond music with a narcissistic, fingernail-biting rapper on top. Best track is the free single, 'Nowhere'. It reminds me of Hair, the American tribal rock opera.
The Cardigans
Genius arrangers and masters of melody. As a crotchetty grammarian I disapprove of sentences like 'I will never know cos you will never show', but that doesn't stop me singing along with lines like 'From Paris to Lausanne, from Athens to the sun'. Shazna's always playing it.
Kahimi Karie's Favourite Records This Week
Ben Folds Five
Ben Lee (Beastie Boys - Grand Royal)
Papas Flitas
The Apples
Sophie Zelmani