Gabriel Yared – Betty Blue s/t
I watched lots of French cinema growing up. I knew my uncle was home if there were books stacked up against the TV to cover up the subtitles. Béatrice Dalle was my first pin up and Betty Blue was the first time I saw sex on screen.
I found the movie so disturbing I only watched it once or twice. I had the soundtrack on cassette and that was a permanent fixture. It’s synaesthetic music in a way – it’s difficult to disassociate the sound from the dusky blues and burnt ambers that come across on celluloid.
This and the soundtracks to Blade Runner and Rumble Fish remind me of a kind of melancholic rapture that I often found myself in as a kid. Crazy really, there’s no way I’d let my kids watch Betty Blue at seven years old. What were they thinking? Punks.
I was obsessed with this record when I was making my first solo record as Mothlite and also the later period Guapo stuff that I was involved with.
I’ve always been attracted to devotional music I guess but at this point everything had to be enormous. The sound here seemed so dilated and stretched, every particle coated in hypnogogic ambrosia. Voices suspended in revolving, unresolving aether. Liquid golden tapestries.
Microtonal music never really entered my trajectory until it was presented to me in this form. I love the vast switches in tempo, almost as if guided by the wind.
Mercury presiding. Before I even heard this record their story of transgression from synth-pop wideboys to hermetically sealed minimalists had me in its talons.
Although know I realise the difference was only superficial, the shape of this group was slow and sedimentary. You can hear flickers of what was to come in their earliest work. I listened to this record almost every day for a couple of years, switching it up with Laughing Stock.
It’s just a complete one-off with no obvious antecedents. An ocean of bottled messages.
Electricity comes from other planets. This just keeps going on and on and on. This music will never die. It’s so unconcerned with time and space.
It’s so playfully self aware which is more than you can say for a lot of the bands that emerged from the ’60s counterculture. It’s a portal to the unified field, but you enter very, very softly. Hard to believe that this wasn’t considered worthy of release at the time.
Honestly, the only song based records I continuously listen to (other than my own) are this, Basement Tapes and Judee Sill.
This one is a teenage love of mine, not much to say really just great melancholic songwriting and composition. When they became very popular in the ’90s, I can remember going out to buy Life’s Rich Pageant and absolutely loving it.
I bought quite a few of their records in my early teens but Murmur always stuck with me. Many people think of R.E.M. as a really conventional band with guitar, bass, drums and vocals, but on a lot of their stuff there’s some really gorgeous keyboards, synths and strings. There’s all sorts of sounds balancing out their best work.
Michael Stipe was great for me when I was younger because he was being really emotionally open. I was very sensitive as a kid, and I am as an adult as well. I have always just really loved the way that he was so open and honest with music.
Various – Mr And Mrs Smith And Mr Drake s/t
This tape-only album by Cardiacs members Tim Smith, Sarah Smith and William D Drake is another teen favourite of mine which has followed me into adulthood. Rather than Cardiacs heady mix of intense songwriting, this displays a more traditional bent featuring acoustic guitar, piano, harmonium and reeds.
Some instrumental passages on this remind me of Stravinsky, and the doom-blues of track Dergo is just such a pure fit for The Wicker Man. There is an almost medieval quality here, and that is something that I would usually run a mile from but in their hands, it sounds so beautiful.
I had not realised until recently, how the album has filtered into my work with its use of acoustics and an ability to compose miniature epics from the comfort of my own home.
The first time I heard this album in Rough Trade it did not make any sense, it just sounded like a block of massive distorted sound.
A few months later a friend of mine played Tommy Gun Angel – the first track from Lapsed. This time with the aid of some pot, the block transformed for me into complex layers of constantly mutating sound all wrapped around a gorgeous song.
I loved the balance of muscular psychedelic heavy guitars against lead singer and flautist Isobel Sollenberger’s soft feminine intonations. There is a strong emotional aspect to this band that a lot of other experimental rock acts lack.
All of Alastair Galbraith’s albums are amazing so it was really hard to single one out. Alastair’s albums always have these great combinations from track-to-track, moving between fragile, hushed songs that are underpinned by a natural pop sensibility. His songs are incredibly open and emotive.
Other pieces are formed from the abstract sounds of late night radio interference, feedback and ambient atmospherics. These are all recorded on to 4-track tape machines.
Galbraith’s pieces read like a music concrete book of short stories, his use of backwards material always make me feel as though I have never heard this kind of process done anywhere before. The great thing is, when listening, I can almost picture his sheer delight at playing himself back and marvelling at the outcome.
Stars Of The Lid – The Ballasted Orchestra
Stars Of The Lid are still in my mind so much better than a lot of the current crop of drone and ambient guitar bands. There are these beautiful cinematic dronescapes with nods towards David Lynch.
You can almost feel the Texan sun-drenched sand swirling about your feet. There are some great 4-track tape collages on this record too. I was about 22 I think when I got The Ballasted Orchestra on vinyl in Canada and I was just totally blown away by it. It was what I had been looking for, for ages, just because it’s all guitars that you can barely hear – it’s all about the tones and the drones.
That cinematic vibe comes across on tracks like Music For Twin Peaks Episode #30. I really like the fact that it’s all recorded on a 4-track, and it just sounds so epic and broad in its scope. I don’t think it’s been bettered really by anybody else. I feel like Stars Of The Lid really excel as minimalist composers in the vein of La Monte Young and Terry Riley rather than rock, metal or psychedelic sounds.
Grumbling Fur’s album Furfour is out through Thrill Jockey on 16 September 2o16. Tour dates and further information can be found here.