Four Tet - Unspoken (original version)
Unspoken originally contained a sample of Tori Amos. But because Four Tet could not get the sample cleared, he had to change the original version so it could be released on his sophmore LP Rounds.
Today (ten years after Rounds was released) he tweeted a link to the original 9 minute version along with a download link. What a champ!
Download - Unspoken (original version)
Binary Star - Thumper aka The Caped Crusader aka The King James Diversion
Anyone familiar with Binary Star will know of One Be Lo and Senim Silla, the two emcees who bonded over music after serving time in prison for armed robbery.
After their release from prison, the group quickly recorded Waterworld and rereleased many of the tracks, plus some new ones, for wider distribution on the Masters of The Universe LP which is widely regarded as an underground hip hop classic. Twelve years after MOTU, the two artists finally decided to collaborate as Binary Star once again to release a self-titled EP. While it was a breath of fresh air to hear the two friends at it again, the standout track for me was the epically titled Thumper aka The Caped Crusader aka The King James Diversion, which contains raps from only One Be Lo.
Listening to just the first verse will set your mind boggling. The wealth of knowledge One Be Lo displays regarding Christianity, Hebrew and Islam is truly amazing. His wordplay and intricate double entendres reflect why One Be Lo is known as the emcee’s emcee. I guarantee after listening to this song a few dozen times, you will continue to find meaning that you missed previously.
Wrapped in Piano Strings
Radical Face - Wrapped In Piano Strings
One song I know I will never tire of hearing is this one. Ben Cooper uses accordion, strings, guitar and yes, piano strings to pull at your heartstrings. Gothic subject matter is in its abundance on Radical Face’s debut concept album where narratives are told from the perspective of a ghost.
The 2006 album Ghost is not short of its fair share of classic songs. Welcome Home and Glory are just two other highlights worthy of a listen if this type of chill is up your alley.
Twice (Black Room Session)
Little Dragon - Twice (Black Room Session)
Little Dragon have gradually been emerging into the social conscious through their genre-defying music. They have continued to break new ground with each subsequent release and with luck, they will continue to win over fans worldwide.
The Swedes released their self-titled debut album in 2007. Twice is the opener.
Beginning your album with a song like Twice is setting the bar high. Its deadpan melody and sparse production brings out the rawness of Yukimi Nagano’s vocals. That piano riff is contemplative and has been sampled to great effect by hip hop artists A.Dd+ on Under and Zion I & J. Period’s Likwid (Dubplate).
Perhaps one of the most impressive things about this song is that it is a live rendition of Twice. You can watch Little Dragon’s performance of this on Youtube.
Vivace From Concerto In C Minor
Jacques Loussier Trio
Jacques Loussier Trio - Vivace From Concerto In C Minor
Take one percussionist, one bassist, and one pianist with an impressive aquiline nose. Add classical training, and juxtapose with the desire to break rules. Combine, and the result is the Jacques Loussier Trio.
The Trio (originally comprising bassist Pierre Michelot, percussionist Christian Garros, and Loussier leading on piano) began recording during the 1950’s, transposing compositions by Johann Sebastian Bach - taking them from former lives as strictly classical pieces, and transforming them into fresh jazz numbers.
During the mid-1970’s, Loussier disbanded the trio, in order to develop some original compositions. However, the Trio re-formed (with a new lineup) in 1985, still focusing on Loussier’s love of Bach, but also branching out to include pieces by Handel, Mozart, and Satie (among others) in their repertoire.
Of the Trio’s Bach interpretations, Vivace From Concerto In C Minor is a personal favourite. While the ear is drawn to the elegant piano, the percussive and bass work is impossible to ignore, gifting the listener with the best of not one, but three worlds. This recording is taken from the Trio’s 50th Anniversary release, and features the post-reformation lineup of Vincent Charbonnier and André Arpino (handling bass and percussion, respectively).
Despite octogenarianism calling, Louisser still has a lot of Bach to work with. Here’s hoping for a few more recordings of the man with the masterful hands.
Cutup Piano And Xylophone
Fridge - Cutup Piano And Xylophone
Four Tet has a pretty large fanbase nowadays, but not many fans of his music would know that before building his reputation as the godfather of folktronica, he made music in a trio called Fridge.
The group was pretty prolific in the late 90s, early 00s, producing four albums in five years. The very descriptively titled Cutup Piano and Xylophone is taken from their third full-length effort Happiness. It blurs the line between sampling and live instrumentation in a fresh, unconventional way.
Download - Cutup Piano and Xylophone (control-click & save)
Menomena - Cough Coughing
Last year, Menomena brought out a great album that expanded on their experimental sound. But something about Moms didn’t really appeal to me enough to get the album. That led me on a search to find music that got me in to the band in the first place (songs such as Intl and Wet and Rusting).
My search led me back to their first album, I Am The Fun Blame Monster! and it was in the midst of my trawling through Youtube videos where I stumbled upon Cough Coughing. The track is still firmly rooted in the experimental indie rock Menomena fans are familiar with, but its avante-garde soundscapes are tempered with a sense of fun, spontaneity and unexpectedness. The drum-bass-piano combination is a treat and the minimalist production organically emphasises the instruments in a way reminiscent of early Modest Mouse.
If you have never heard of Menomena before, the first track from their debut album is a good starting point.
Ben Kweller - In Other Words
The baby-faced Ben Kweller is one talented musician. His music is largely indie acoustic/rock based and Ben released his fifth solo studio album earlier this year.
I don’t have a large amount of Ben’s music, although I’ve always admired his work. The track In Other Words appeared on his debut album Sha Sha in 2002 although I was originally introduced to it through another artist. Brooklyn emcee Talib Kweli brought my attention to In Other Words in 2005 when he sampled it on his track Ms Hill. Ms Hill is an ode to the talented Lauryn Hill who had ceased recording and music and fell out of the spotlight due to personal issues.
Like Ms Hill, In Other Words’ strength lies in the melody. In particular the chorus carries the understated message of the song:
Another night slips away, in other words I should say,
there are no words, he should say there are no words.
These lyrics are delivered powerfully by Ben Kweller’s simple singing. There is a kind of resigned understanding shown towards a mutually lost communication with a loved one. While Ben’s lyrics are cryptic, Talib Kweli builds on this theme to discuss his fallout with Lauryn Hill and laments over how he wishes he could reestablish their relationship and metaphorically “pick up the load” for her. Both versions are definitely worth a listen.
Click here to hear Ms Hill otherwise, enjoy the original.
Download - In Other Words (control-click & save)