Wednesday, January 6, 2010
This...future, part final (20-1)
20. Einstuerzende Neubauten, "Weil Weil Weil"
I was skeptical about the growing interactive/collaborative nature of Neubauten’s process, especially after the uneven PERPETUUM MOBILE. But ALLES WEIDER OFFEN was an insanely cohesive dispatch, with the band sounding terrifyingly focused. This track brought us the familiar metal-pipe-to-the-head sonics of yore, with some truly startling electronic accents to put us away.
19. Prince, "Black Sweat"
"All instruments and voices: Prince." If a DJ segued from Nine Inch Nails to this s/he wouldn’t lose a single person from the floor. And if Michael Jackson had locked everyone else out of the studio and made a perfectly-cut diamond like this once in a while, he might still be with us.
18. David Bowie, "Sunday"
The Thin White Duke begins HEATHEN in a decidedly pensive mood, hovering over dozens of possibilities and sounding almost forlorn. But there’s something in his voice that hasn’t stopped, and when he finally stretches out in come the drums of Sterling Campbell (an undersung Bowie sideman) and suddenly we’re on wings.
17. Gary Numan, "Fold"
Another Numan disc, another killer track-two, this one a nice subversion of the nu-metal formula of quiet-verse, screamed-chorus – Numan keeps it bottled in even as the chorus spreads its wings behind him. And for a victory lap he finally jumps up an octave and pelts out “Oh, oh, oh, oh” like it fucking means something during the final minute.
16. Yoshida Brothers, "Rising"
Specifically the break where everything drops out except for the duelin’ shamisen and the drums, because it always makes me lose my shit.
15. Clint Mansell/Kronos Quartet/Mogwai, "Death Is The Road To Awe"
Though I hadn’t liked Mansell’s previous score for Darren Aronofsky, THE FOUNTAIN was my favorite film score of the decade, and a powerful collection of sonic talent. This track, the climax of both the album and the film, brings together the various motifs of the score and painfully, gorgeously follows them to oblivion and far beyond.
14. SunnO))), "Alice"
A drone-metal road to paradise – the slow emergence of the strings from the group’s patented squalls of guitar makes for some compelling fucking drama, indeed. An elemental masterpiece, carved out of sound.
13. Spoon, "Was It You?"
Mark told me he had, basically, an Earth-2 Tubeway Army track to play. This track certainly vibes early Numan dystopia, but there’s a distinctly American suburbia within it. To these ears it’s the most aurally stimulating track on GIMME FICTION, employing dozens of miniature sounds to create an unsettled, dark atmosphere. Jim Eno’s drums sound like they’re counting time to the delivery of some terrible, terrible news.
12. John Zorn, "Tears Of Morning"
A gorgeous piece for piano, bass, and cello, and one of Zorn’s most overtly Morriconesque film cues. Zorn’s masterstroke here was bumping accordionist Rob Burger from his regular instrument to piano, where his light touch was something of a revelation – I notice that Burger’s been on piano for Zorn ever since.
11. King Crimson, "The Power To Believe II"
There’s nothing about this last decade’s Crim that isn’t contradictory – guys in their 50s rocking louder and tighter than punks half their ages; the bass replaced with whatever the hell a Warr Guitar is; a drummer who refuses to play the guitar part; a leader who refuses to lead; and finally, in this track, an ethereal, otherworldly din that couldn’t sound less like a beat combo.
10. Burial, "Raver"
The conclusion of the murky dubstep disc UNTRUE, with some truly lovely synth washes letting in just the right amount of light. Reminds me of darker, earlier, more insular days, while sounding like the present moment. Desperate, desolate, and even romantic.
9. Wire, "The Agfers of Kodack"
So nice to hear new Wire after so many years without. Sometime-lead vocalist Graham Lewis just punches this one out (and for the first time on the SEND disc, the Lewis/Newman vocal duets manifest, and do it with a vengeance). These motherfuckers make me feel GREAT about getting older, reminding us that the post-punk era was more vast than we’d thought, and never really ended.
8. Radiohead, "Dollars and Cents"
I swore up and down, no doubt to the point of tedium, that this was an ideal Bond theme – its swirling strings and insistent rhythm would lend themselves perfectly to a Maurice Binder title sequence. Turns out “Lucky” from OK COMPUTER was already an intentional Bond theme, so I went ahead and used this in the score of a play I directed instead.
7. Lady Gaga, "Paparazzi"
A nice balance between the electropop gloss of the other singles and more dramatic songwriting. The song’s truly psychotic narrative of fame, lust, and envy makes it the darkest chart single I can remember since “Every Breath You Take,” and the prettiness of (and genuine longing within) the vocal lines only poison it further. This one can only end in death, and reminds us that opera was pop music, once.
6. Sigur Rós, "Glósóli"
The crescendo brings copious tears every single time.
5. John Zorn, "Makaahaa"
Zorn’s easy listening phase kicked off in earnest with this, and continues through his Dreamers project. I must confess I wasn’t on board with this at first, but after absorbing some of the source material relating to tiki culture (the music, especially) I returned with gusto. Marc Ribot’s guitar-playing is just right, evoking a dreamy surf and the twi-lit beach it embraces.
4. Björk, "Vökuró"
She might as well be singing in Martian, but Bjork’s dispatch from the still alien territory of Icelandic musical tradition honors it, while nailing the universal elements within it.
3. Robert Fripp, "Affirmation: New York"
The spiritual aspects of Fripp’s Soundscapes became more overt this decade, reaching a high point on this track from LOVE CANNOT BEAR. It dovetailed nicely with an emergence of a spiritual aspect in my own life and work. Nothing but love for the mind, heart, and work of a man who continues to inspire and teach.
2. Merz, "Warm Cigarette Room"
The first song I thought of when compiling this list, and the first song I’d heard from the UK’s experimental folk artist. There’s a hazy vibe through this, and a film blanc story of quiet, internalized desperation that I’ve tried, more than once, to find a theatrical equivalent for. It’s an evocative track, certainly, and one that makes me stop whatever I’m doing whenever it comes on.
1. Radiohead, "How To Disappear Completely"
This is the one I keep coming back to, the one where the band just take their time, where Yorke’s dislocation from one world takes him to another one. This is the closing monologue from Jack Arnold’s THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING MAN set to music, and the moment when Yorke hitches his falsetto to the passing music is positively euphoric.