Wire’s 100 Records that set the world on fire while no one was listening. 26-30
The person who introduced me to this list told me later of their precision memory around the introduction. Except for other music he had ‘revealed’ this was the first time the part of one’s psyche that music reaches was tapped. To be honest, I always thought the “music thing” eluded me. I liked what I liked and didn’t pursue it hard and that was that. The most adventurous I’d ever been was jazz and indie and Jazz was the only place I “felt” the music. Interestingly, I used to sing in a jazz style – perhaps there are some things no level of ignorance can avoid. The day this list was given to me, I disappeared for 4 hours, only to re-emerge with the line – “I’ll never be the same again.”
So much has happened to me musically since this list. These days I’m more excited by my own discoveries than by being hand-held and spoon fed – not that I want to pretend my backyard education didn’t mean everything to me and still does. I never go out without my headphones treating my depths to the watery warmth of musics endless intelligent reach. I feel music all the time now – even training myself to hear the music beneath the traffic, under tiled corridors and behind glass doors. Chrome has a sound. Rice and ice do to. Music is opening up more and more for me every day, the deep and varied pleasures of becoming an educated listener unravel a piece of me forever previously bawled up tight. Almost every day I have the experience of never being the same again.
For this reason, this list means so much to me. It gave me a springboard and strangely taught me to trust my ears – something I didn’t know i wasn’t doing. It’s also why i am so devoted to sharing it in some depth on this blog. I want to give it to you also. I want you to hear these small thrills and let the music in. Let it find the part of you that vibrates against its taught pluck.
Nothing – really really NOTHING – can touch us like sound can touch us.
Alexander Skip Spence
Totally drug-fucked, Spence was in a mental institution when he made this brilliant originator of the quintessential stoner album. He did this entire thing himself. Talk about therapy. Can you see him sitting in a room alone receding into his depths to find some desire to get back to the grimy filth of life? This album, like so much of the genius on this list, was ignored for years. Not by the establishment interestingly. Studio heads liked it (apparently) and it got a brilliant review in Rolling Stone. But it’s dark. Oh so, oh so dark and in the days where flower power cured all, this just wouldn’t do. Freedoms only a good thing if it makes you chipper. Me thinks at this time of life it may have found a better audience in Europe, if the existential types and post-Freudians had an opportunity to get their hands on it. But they weren’t looking for great music either, so this sat in obscurity for years. Sigh.
Shooting at the Moon
Despite the uber creepiness of the lyrics – May I sit and stare at you for a while ? (Dude! No! Jesus!) – this stunning album is the true Canterbury sound – maybe. However, this spectacular album has the most astonishing line up behind Kevin Ayres. Avant Guarde performer Lol Coxhil (a personal favourite) is jammin’ his sax, a wet-behind-the-ears Mike Oldfield plays strings and some dude named Mick is the drummer. Ayres romance is creepy and drug-fused but it really works. Actually, everyone sounds as though they were off their heads, and where that doesn’t work more than it does, here it really really works. This is a messy stew rather than a rich tapestry of independence lacing through independence. Unlike all other like-minded projects of the Progressive era, Shooting At The Moon actually achieves a balance between the extremist proclivities of each of its session’s participants. It drew up the blueprint for a merger of free jazz/pop/rock/avant grade whomp that should have been used as a roadmap for the revolution. Alas, it was not. We needed more albums like this. It really is a triumph. ANOTHER favorite from this list.
Prog features heavily on this list and I confess to that being absolutely no problem for me. Using inspiration like Milton and classical mythology, the drama alone excited me when I first heard this album. Apparently Comus emerged around 1969 and fell apart in 1974 after a disappointing second album. It’s hard to repeat something this beautiful – maybe. This is an album that speaks easily of the threat of the loss of female chastity, brutal murder and Christian Martyrdom. The wire gives a nice write-up here: Roger Wooten’s contorted vocals (echoes of Family’s Roger Chapman) forcefully convey the terror and hysteria in the lyrics, supported by atmospheric arrangements which veer from poignant partoral to turbulent workouts for acoustic guitars, violins, hand drums, and electric bass. Folk rock at its most delirious, devilish, and dynamic.
Born Michael Clement Irving Gibbs in Southern Rhodesia (Now Zimbabwe). Gibbs moved to the US in 1959 when in his twenties. He studied music initially at the Boston Berklee College of Music before moving to the Boston Conservatory where he worked alongside Aaron Copeland, Lukas Foss, Stan Tracey & David Lindup. As a trombonist he was a member of several jazz big bands of the time including the Graham Collier, Tubby Hayes & John Dankworth orchestras.
This meant he was able to gather some enormous names around him for this brilliant brilliant album. Michael Gibbs is excited here – and don’t we KNOW it! This stunning album throbs with his passion and excitement every step of the ahead-of-its time way. This a;bum is one of the jazz staples and an adored member of this list for me. Everyone on here is in fine form, and as if all of this isn’t enough, Gibbs adds tribute pieces to the collection to thank the greats he admires. The seamless mix of improv and great composition make this album decades ahead of its times. According to Wire it should have changed Jazz forever – and of course it didn’t.
I Am Sitting in a Room
I adore this! Adore it over and over again. I don’t know how many times I have listened to it, delving into its darkness, trying to find my way into that room. It is a such a powerful music experience that it is not simply sensory but textual as well. Its breathtakingly simple. He intones a brief text describing the process of creating the album, recording this and then playing it back into the room, before re-recording it again. And again. And again. With each repetition, the frequencies of Lucier’s voice that most closely match the room’s resonant frequencies are enhanced, and soon he becomes incomprehensible, only the dim memory of his text animating glistening spools of sound The music is its own score, but it’s not the formal simplicity of technique that impresses the most. Towards the end, once Lucier has gone and only the inarticulate room remains. An incredible example of sound and space intersect. This is another standout for me amongst so many standouts. Fortunately all of this is available on good ol’ You tube.