Tuesday, October 29, 2019

McQ's Best Of 1998 Vol 9 - Words Be Damned!

With our final themed mixed of 1998, we take a listen to some of that year's best from those bands for whom, at least to English-tuned ears, lyrics were a much smaller part of the musical equation - post-rock, experimental rock, electronica, international music, and one very unusual indie band.

Due to the long run times of so many of these songs, this mix goes on for quite a while, so don't try to take it all in in one sitting, just pick a spot to kick things off, and enjoy.

Here's the Spotify Link!

About the Artists/Albums/Songs represented on this mix:

1. I Set My Face To The Hillside - Tortoise: We begin our Words Be Damned mix, appropriately enough, with this delightful number from a band that almost never had use for words, Chicago's impossible-to-pigeonhole, pioneering instrumental post-rock outfit Tortoise, and their third LP TNT, the most jazz-inflected release in their long discography. 

2. So Now... - Herbert: My favorite song from British sample-king and dance music original Matthew Herbert's breakout fourth release Around The Housewhich substituted any drum machine help with recorded samples of strikes and movements of everyday items that could literally be found "around the house." 

3. The Seasons Reverse - Gastr Del Sol: On their fifth and final outing, this highly respected, Chicago-based Jim O'Rourke/David Grubbs post-rock duo moved slightly towards more conventional songcraft to create the most accessible record of their careers Camoufleur. The Seasons Reverse here is the album's most popular song.

4. Dry The Rain - The Beta Band: Widely considered one of the 100 best albums of the 90s, Scottish "folktronica" outfit The Beta Band's The Three EPs isn't really an album proper, but rather a compilation of the band's initial three EPs - 1997's Champion Versions (for which Dry The Rain here was originally recorded), and 1998's The Patty Patty Sound, and Los Amigos del Beta Bandidos. I had originally intended to include our three The Three EPs selections on our Early Indie / Aging Alts mix, but ultimately, the Beta Band's preference for loose unpredictable structures, long track lengths, and minimalistic lyricism made the Hi-Fidelity-featured Dry The Rain and those other two songs a more natural fit here. 

5. Bongo Bong - Manu Chao: Following the break-up of his Paris-based party-rock-band Mano Negra in 1995, French-Spaniard Manu Chao moved to Madrid and became obsessed with capturing the sounds of street musicians around the world. Over the next three years, he would travel the world, particularly South America, seeking such artists out, and writing and recording individual numbers whenever inspiration struck. Finally, in 1998, those recording were collected in his world-music classic Clandestino. A one-of-a-kind merging of deep tradition and personal perspective, sung in a three or four languages, Clandestino is one of the 90s most singular offerings. Here is the record's most popular number, Bongo Bong

6. Aquarius - Boards Of Canada: Arguably the most significant and influential electronic album of 1998, Boards Of Canada's full-length debut Music Has The Right To Children acted as a clarion call for emerging electronic musicians who wished to see the genre's full potential aimed at headier aims than the dance floor. In recoding the album, the Scottish brother duo employed all manner of degraded analog equipment, often even physically damaging homemade reel-to-reel or cassette recordings, and combined those recordings with natural world sounds and samples from children shows (like the various Sesame Street snippets utilized in Aquarius here) to craft Music Has The Right's uniquely warm, innocent, and nostalgic sound.

7. Minas De Cobre - For Better Metal - Calexico: For their second album The Black Light, Tuscon, Arizona's Celxico chose to focus on the Southwestern desert and all that it inspired to create a collection of short, impressionistic tunes rooted as much in the Latin genres of bordering Mexico as the country and rock influences prevalent in the States. Both critics and fans loved it. More evocative than forceful, the album included several instrumental tracks, like the mariachi-flavored Minas De Cobre - For Better Metal presented here. 

8. There's A Fight At The End Of The Tunnel - The Third Eye Foundation: Fantastic atmospheric creepiness here from Bristol, England producer Matt Elliot and his excellent, very unusual 1998 album as Third Eye Foundation You Guys Kill Me.

9. Sr. Cobranza - Bersuit Vergarabat: Don't know exactly what it's about, but love the feel of this fiery protest song from Argentina's veteran rock act Bersuit Vergarabat and their fourth studio release Libertinaje.

10. Rae - Authechre: Though a clear transitional record, many consider British electronic duo Authechre's LP5 to be their best, as it's the one album fans of their earlier melodic techno work and later, highly percussive experimental work both seem to love. Rae here, my personal fav from the record, is a very good representative of what's found on the album in full. 

11. The House Song - The Beta Band: Our final two tracks from The Three EPs come from The Patty Patty Sound section of the album, starting with The House Song, the overall compilation's funkiest number. 

12. Light - Talvin Singh: Widely credited with pioneering the Asian Underground movement in electronic music, London producer and tabla-master Singh got the ball rolling in 1998 with his highly regarded debut OK, which would go on to win that year's Mercury prize for best music recording in the United Kingdom. 

13. Consume - Plastikman: One of my favorite electronic albums of 1998, Consumed found Windsor-Canada DJ Rickie Hawtin steering his minimalist techno in a more darkly mysterious ambient direction for his fourth outing under his Plastikman alter ego.  Full of deep-as-the-ocean bass grooves adorned with the slightest of eerie synth washes, it's a highly immersive listening experience, almost completely devoid of dance floor appeal, that really plays as one long, rumbling composition. That said, certain moments definitely stand out, like second track Consume featured here.

14. Vuli Ndlela - Brenda Fassie: By 1997, South Africa's beloved anti-apartheid crusader and provocative live performer Brenda Fassie (aka Ma Brr, aka "Madonna Of The Townships" aka "The Queen Of Afropop) had been long battling a devastating cocaine addiction that would land her in rehab over thirty times and take her life just a few years later, but somehow, she remained able to compartmentalize her demons and still produce music at a high level, as Memeza, not released in the States until 1998, was the top selling album of 1997 in South Africa. 

15. Glim - Mouse On Mars: Originally composed as a soundtrack for a film of the same name, Glam - the 1998 effort of the still active German electronic duo of Jan St. Werner and Andi Toma - was rejected by the NC-17 film's director, art house infant terrible and Ali McGraw/Robert Evans son Josh Evans, and became duo's fifth proper release under their own Mouse On Mars name instead. In a nice turnabout, Glam the album is the far more revered of the two efforts today, featuring a number of stirring, near ambient compositions like Glim presented here. 

16. Ida - Rachid Taha: Though hard-partying, French-Algerian poly-stylist Rachid Taha had been a staple in France's rock and punk scene for over a decade, it would be a return to his Algerian musical roots that would provide his huge commercial breakthrough. For his 1998 fifth album Diwan, Taha ditched the punk work of his past (as well as any original compositions) for a stirring set of modernized covers of the Algerian and Arabic folk songs that informed his childhood years. Arranged with a perfectly modulated mix of classic rock and middle eastern instrumentation, it would introduce a hybrid sound that would power Taha's career for years to come. 

17. This Time - Herbert: Here's one more from Matthew Herbert's 1998 sample fest Around The House, the otherwise breezy record's most driving and intense number This Time.

18. Dormir Sonando - El Gran Silencio: An early local hit for Monterey, Mexico's El Gran Silencio, taken from the enduring barrio-celebrating act's 1998 major label debut Libres Y Locos.

19. Telephasic Workshop - Boards Of Canada: Here's another favorite from Boards Of Canada's landmark debut Music Has The Right To Children, this selection emphasizing the band's affection for, and warped reimagining of, hip hop beats. 

20. La nuit je mens - Alain Bashung: Chanson specialist Alain Bashung (considered by many the second most important French rock artist ever after Serge Gainsbourg) had been at things for quite a while before releasing his tenth studio album Fantaisie Militaire, but the awesomely Nick Cave-ish Militaire is the album that, pun-intended, blew things up for Bashung. It won every conceivable French music award that year, and is still regarded as one of the 10 best French rock releases in history. And leading the charge for the album was this sleazy pick-up single La suit je mens - which in English translates to "At Night I Lie."

21. Swung From The Gutters - Tortoise: As we did with Herbert's Around the House, after profiling one of TNT's most effervescent numbers with first selection I Set My Face To The Hillside, we take a listen to one of the album's heaviest numbers here in Swung From The Gutters. 

22. Luna y sol - Manu Chao: For our second inclusion from Clandestino, one of my personal favs, the celebratory, mariachi-driven Luna y sol. 

23. Authentic Celestial Music - Dirty Three: The Dirty Three are a long-running instrumental rock trio out of Australia anchored around the violin of future Bad Seed and Grinderman member Warren Ellis. Part jazz rock, part post rock, they have an organic sound considered well meshed to the vast natural grandeur of their homeland, as the epic build Authentic Celestial Music here from their fifth full-length Ocean Songs makes clear.

24. La Copa De Europa - Los Planetas: We've already featured tighter singles from Spain's Los Planetas on our Early Indies / Aging Alts mix, and Nancy will be profiling the band's all-time greatest song on her upcoming Favorites mix, but here we celebrate the art-rockers ability to stretch things out, in the epic La Copa De Europa from their third full-length Una Semana En El Motor De Un Autobus.

25. She's The One - The Beta Band: One last oddball number from the Beta Band's joyously amorphous The Three EPs to close things out. Listening to this, it's easy to understand how the members of Radiohead and Oasis became so enamored with these Scottish lads.

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