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Sunday, April 23, 2017

Numbers 15-11, "Blood on My Hands"

I hope we all had Ricardo Villalobos in our SuperMuso teams this week ...

15.Fizheuer Zieheuer - Ricardo Villalobos
Fizheuer Zieheuer (2006)
Well. You either know it or you don't. Or you may just know it by the horns 'breakdown'. Yes, it's a 37 minute 'dance' track with a funeral speed 'breakdown' in traditional horns sampled from a Serbian gypsy folk group. 37 minutes of large-scale monotony, where the horns appear as oases amongst the seemingly never-ending dunes of "oom-pah" that blanket everything.

But this is not an exercise in banality. A desert at scale could be read as monotonous, but closer perspective will reveal much texture amongst the dunes. This is an exercise in monotony, but it's a deeply profound one.

If taken at one sitting and in the right mood, it's mesmeric to the point where the ear becomes, in the midst of the sameness, intensely attuned to the very subtle ways in which the track does ebb and flow.

If you're willing to give it your full attention, it is certainly one of the most profound musical listening experiences the decade delivered. And this man is without doubt amongst the finest practitioners of his craft, consistently pushing the boundaries of an often stale genre.

For the faint-hearted, I made a YouTube video for a shorter, 15 minute version. Give it space. You won't be sorry,

14.Evil - Interpol
Antics (2004)
Too easily derided. Maybe they invite it in their self-conscious hipsterism, but musically I do maintain they were easily a million times more creative than say The White Stripes, who readers will find rather conspicuously absent from this list.

This utterly irresistable dancefloor-filler was probably their finest moment. It ebbs and flows in a way so much contemporary pop just refuses to do. The "chorus", pitches up to what could be full crescendo about three times, only to push further, finally hitting the pinnacle - a series of emphatic drum smashes "Why. Can't. We. Just ..."

It's just a superbly crafted song, superbly produced. The only thing that genuinely sounds like Joy Division about this band is Paul Banks' voice. People were far too quick to dismiss them for their po-facedness, but this album and ... Bright Lights would probably both belong somewhere in a Top Forty Albums of the Noughties.

13.Moan - Trentemøller
The Last Resort (2007)
What to say about this? No, this wasn't on many other lists and never this high. But I'm still, after nearly a decade past, completely addicted to this. It's like the finest stuff Massive Attack ever did with their female guest vocalists.

Anne Trolle is the vocalist here, and based on this she deserves be known far wider afield than her native Denmark. Delivering her vocal this breathlessly could have easily come across as trite, but Trolle goes nowhere near that domain.

She serves up just ... just enough emotion to set up a conflict between the deadpan delivery and the almost desperately emotive content.

This entire work is a Danish tour-de-force, with the artist himself hailing from Copenhagen, where he's helped popularise a number of local acts through his remixes. The song just oozes Scandi cool.

But I swear it's not just because it's a Dane-ophile's wet dream that this one has earned its place here. Use your ears.

Brilliant video too. You can check out my Pinterest tribute board to Laika here.

12.Blood on My Hands (Ricardo Villalobos' Apocalypso Now Mix) - Shackleton
Blood on My Hands (2007)
Why is this at number 12? Who the hell is Shackleton?

Well, put simply, I don't think I know of a better, more powerful or significant artistic response to the events of September 11, 2001 than this. Shackleton's other works - particularly Music for the Quiet Hour are all well worth checking out for fans of stripped back yet moody minimalism.

It's both a response to the events themselves and a response to OUR response, but it totally avoids lecturing or moral posturing from any dimension. Instead, we're asked to create meaning from a set of almost uncannily disparate phrases.

"I'm standing on a mountain top/letting out a scream/it's the language of the earth, it is the language of the beasts." And it's thoroughly unclear throughout who our narrator is.

It seems to me that this work is drawing a very sophisticated parallel between the drivers of the terrorist horrors that were visited upon the world, and the response of our political leaders to those events.

We're perhaps condemned for failing to speak ourselves in anything less mute than "the language of the beasts", but we're never really sure. And it's from within that ambivalence that the song derives its power to deeply unsettle.

It's just a great, great work of art.

11.Walk In The Park - Beach House
Teen Dream (2009)
There's only ever really been one way to write a great pop song. Pick a melody. Pick a really catchy melody. Now repeat it ad nauseum. Congratulations, you're now an artistic genius.

In some dimension. Because it should simply be that easy. But if it's that easy then why has so much utter musical dross been written? If it's that easy, then why is is this SO sublime?