It seems to be tradition when you get to the end of a year to look back and rank things – “Best Ten Albums of 2015”, “Top Fifty Albums of 2015”, “Best Seven Albums of the latter part of 2015” etc.
I find it all a bit dogmatic, formulaic and well a bit too constraining.
And who wants to be constrained. Well some of you might but that’s another subject for another blog, probably not mine.
So here’s a couple of albums that I’ve enjoyed this year. There may be more to follow – there may be not be. The two albums that I’ve chosen here have a vague connection in so much as they draw from musicians from different continents. Let’s call them the transcontinentals.
The first is “Delone” by Sacri Cuori. I picked this up from the rather wonderful Blabber’n’Smoke, run in Glasgow by Paul Kerr. Paul follows the Americana scene and how it comes into orbit with his Glaswegian home. I’ve picked up a few of his recommendations through the year and have not been let down. His church is a broad one and one of the pleasures form the blog has been “Delone” by Sacri Cuori.
What hooked me into this one was this video. It was for the title track. I was lying in bed flicking through Paul’s website and played the song. N said “What’s that song? I like it”. When N enjoys a track I know we’ve hit the motherlode. The song is sexy with a sashay. It draws from the classic Italian soundtracks of Ennio Morricone, Piero Piccioni and Piero Umiliani.
The band are indeed Italian (from Romagna in the north of the country) but they’ve got friends in far flung places including Tom Waits alumni Marc Ribot, Giant Sand’s Howie Gelb and Sonic Youth’s Steve Shelley who all appear on the album. The star turn on the track featured above is Carla Lippis, who records with her own band but does a stella turn on “Delone”.
I’ve found an EP of Carla’s that is well worth a listen. It has a little more of a country feel than Sacri Cuori’s work – think Neko Case, Lucinda Williams or Gretchen Peters.
The “Delone” album really is terrific. It is fun on a very immediate level but still has a depth. If it is the height of summer, it will raise the temperature and in the depths of winter, it will transport you back to those heady sultry July days.
I’ve still not seen them live. I’ve asked if they coming to the UK and I’ll let you know if I get word. At present, the economics don’t work for the band is the message, so the family might be flying off for a Saturday night in Zurich in January.
The album in the meantime is available on Glitterbeat records who are responsible for two of my other favourite albums this year – “Ba Power” by Bassekou Kouyate and Ngoni Ba whose London gig I blogged about here and the reissue of Jon Hassell’s “Fourth World Music” which I covered here. A great label indeed.
I’ve come across the second album slightly more recently. I’ve been in the market for some new speakers and paid a visit to Soundstage in Cockfosters, North London. I had a rather pleasant afternoon demo-ing music there and choosing the speakers I’m going to buy myself for Christmas. Dean who runs the shop is incredibly helpful and not only into his music equipment but into his music as well. The giveaway was when I walked in and he was playing the 12″ version of New Order’s “Ceremony”.
Anyway, Dean’s website includes a regular playlist in the blog section. It pretty much is all up my street. I’m familiar with some of it (Nils Frahm, Aphex Twin and Rival Consoles) but there are a few people that I haven’t the foggiest about.
One of them was the intriguingly named Khruangbin. Khruangbin is Thai for “engine fly” or “aeroplane”.
The band are from Texas. They are a 3 piece – Laura Lee (bass), Mark Speer (guitar), Donald Johnson (drums). Laura has moved to London but keeps the band going via air travel and t’internet.
They released their first album in 2015, “The Universe Smiles Upon You.” It follows a couple of EP’s, one of which included an Ennio Morricone cover (I told you there was a synergy here).
The album is mostly instrumental with a smattering of tracks with vocals (similar again to the Sacri Cuori LP). The music has many influences and facets. There is a Thai funk influence, Thai funk & rock being a significant regional genre (and possibly the subject of another blog). There’s a relaxed spaciousness to the sound and I particularly love the guitarist’s tone. It moves very pure and clean with a touch of the classic sixties Shadows sound to a hint of distortion but with a Californian surf influence thrown in for good measure. It’s got some slide guitar in the background to throw in those western and Hawaiian vibes too.
I’ve only picked the LP up in the last couple of weeks but frankly can’t get enough of it.
Here’s a couple of highlights. The first is the track that appears on Sound Stage’s blog and also Bonobo’s latest Late Night Tales mix CD. It really got me from the off.
This track is from what I think is the band’s one and only UK gig from October of this year from a festival in Bristol.
The track is “August Twelve” which again appears on the LP. As a Fender Strat owner and lover, it’s no surprise why this is appealing but what I love especially is that the band don’t force the pace but it isn’t soporific either.
The album is available in the UK via Late Night Tales and there are a few left on gorgeous white vinyl.
I’ll be keeping an eye out for both bands in 2016 and hopefully will get the opportunity to see them live.
Oh and if you in North London and after some hifi gear, then stop by at Soundstage in Cockfosters.