Bird In Hand

Nearly twenty years ago my friend Gwen had told me that Lee Perry's mystical majestical "Bird In Hand" from "The Return Of Super Ape" was in fact a cover version of a Bollywood tune. Gwen even owned the original recording.

For a long time I'd held onto this information and not really been able to do anything about it. However today at work my pal Richard was playing "Bird In Hand" and it prompted me to ask Google. Of course nowadays you can even see the section of the film on YouTube. Remarkably the comments thread contains no allusions to its use by Lee Perry, so be sure to let 'em know Woebot sent you.

The song is "Milte Hi Ankhen" is sung by Talat Mahmood and Shamshad Begum and it comes from the film "Babul"(1950), which means "Father's House". Hearing it is a fabulously disjointing experience - not least because the assumed mysticism is in fact a kind of schmaltz. How the song wound up in Jamaica and was transcribed into a phonetic Urdu by Sam Carter in Kingston is a whole other kind of mystery.


Micachu and The Shapes: Good Sad Happy Bad

This will be favourite Micachu LP so far. It's the LP I've been waiting patiently for them to make.

Mica needs the discipline of working with the Shapes. They are a shit hot band. Her mixtape of last year "Feeling Romantic Feeling Tropical", a solo effort, rambled. I mean, frankly, modern avant-garde music... The "Under The Skin" (2014) soundtrack was great but didn't necessarily work in isolation (I mean, it wasn't supposed to, it was a soundtrack)

I've always been hooked on Micachu and The Shapes' nimble pseudo-rock. "Never" (2012) made the mistake of trying to rock out too hard but it's their left-footed shamble which is the real attraction, not their sonic attack. Micachu sounds amazing here: her bewitching vocals, drunken and depressed, scat, slur and moan.

This disc takes the strengths of "Jewellery" (2009) and magnifies its best qualities. That the album was recorded in more or less one session is both remarkable but also very revealing about how turgid post-production has destroyed the atmosphere in music. This is the kind of music I wish Ariel Pink could still make. "Good Sad Happy Bad" is a strong candidate for the best album of the past ten years. It's up there with timeless classics like "Oar", "Dub Housing" and "Tender Buttons". More please.


The Cosmic Sound of L.A.

FACT have been commissioning these excellent videos. The last one I saw was on Litefeet: "music of the New York Underground". These music scenes are niche and accordingly the mood of the films is intimate. They feature stories of tremendous sincerity documenting people working at the margins of dance music. In the way that the sheen of hyperbolic music journalism often works against the grain of obscure music (like, heh heh, you KNOW it's just one guy in his bedroom making this shit and his mate is putting it on their "record label") - the kitchen sink feel of these videos actually intensifies the atmosphere - is incredibly wistful and evocative.

The Cosmic Sound L.A. is a perfect example. I love the way that, almost accidentally, the vid doubles as an advert for Daddy Kev's Cosmic Zoo Studios (in Attwater, L.A. - actually really central...etc, lol). It's very charming. Not least because Kev is clearly a genius and has carved himself a career, yeah that's right (addressing any passing pretentious dilettantes for whom the very idea is anathema), a career as exotic and fascinating as anyone's. Kev is clearly a hard-working man who'd sprinkle his magic dust on anyone who'd care to hire him. I respect that. I doubt Ennio Morricone ever turned an offer of a score down.

The soundtrack of the film trickles away deliciously in the background. You kinda wish it could be louder! If you watch the trailer however you get to hear Mike Gao's "Pivot" an excellent example of the Cosmic Zoo Studios art. Tough, squelchy, grainy - it's as though, finally, funk has moved into the present.  Recently Bob James took Stones Throw to court for an unauthorised use of "Nautilus" - sincerely, it was painful to see that happening - but what was possibly more painful was the suit's tart criticism of Hip-Hop:
“One of the problems that confront many ‘Hip Hop’ or ‘Rap’ artists is that they are unable to achieve an instrumental background musical sound quality for their works. As a result, they borrow or ‘sample,’ therefore infringe the performance and composition of others in this case, the copy written works of James.”
With some of these Cosmic Zoo productions it is as though Hip-Hop finally has a rejoinder to statements like this. Of course theirs is a bohemian endeavour - we're a certain distance from Young Thug - but the point stands.

I started researching Young Pup, the label tied up with Cosmic Zoo and the Low End Theory nights and other related releases. I couldn't quite get with the Jonwayne stuff - Jon was a beatmaker who turned rapper (made that very mistake myself). I also went through Daedelus' catalogue - I bought "Love To Make Music To" in 2008 - but I think I must have sold it. Regardless there is great stuff out there and here are two very good examples:

Daedelus and Teebs' "Los Angeles 6" (2010).

This really blew me away. A lot of these glitch hop LPs, most particularly Flying Lotus's releases get trapped into being major opuses by self-imposed necessity. My favourite FlyLo disc was always "1983" because it was so quietly self-absorbed. In contrast the frankly awful "Cosmogramma" and really very terrible "Is Dead" saw his music swollen to ungainly portentousness. Ornate jazz-rock licks reminiscent of the best-forgotten shame of Mahavishnu side-projects and strategic collaborations of questionable taste.

In fact Daedelus himself, a very sweet and interesting man who got his first hit of music listening to pirate radio in the UK in the prime 'Ardcore era (props right there dude), can fall prey to the extended breaks symphony virus at times himself. However this, this truly glorious, forgotten split 8 track EP is a masterpiece of concision. Perhaps owing to the ingloriously off-cut quality of the record itself - sixth out of ten discs of L.A. music (the others are weak) and a split ten-inch - they're working away from the spotlight. If there's one thing which springs to ear hearing Daedelus and Teebs' collapsed beats it's Julian House's The Focus Group. Really unmissable.

Nosaj Thing's "Drift" (2009)

Oh my gosh. Dumbstruck! I seriously missed this at the time - well, what of it I suppose. This is unquestionably a future classic. Taking leave from the Boards of Canada, its VSTs too have hauntological echoes. I'm not even sure if the last disc benefitted from Daddy Kev's input (I suspect so), but "Drift" certainly features him. Monstrous stuff.