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Green on Red - (Gee Ain't It Funny How) Time Slips Away

What an odd trajectory Green on Red had throughout the 1980s. They started it playing a rather unconvincing neo-psychedelia, and after a few years switched entirely to become a rawboned band of country rockers. By the time their 1985 release No Free Lunch arrived, you could barely detect any of the Paisley underground in their sound. From that album, here's their gloriously tortured take on Willie Nelson's Time Slips Away. There's still a trembling organ hiding behind Chuck Prophet's big guitar bends and twangs, but it's all in service of something distinctly gritty. Singer Dan Stuart could have been another Neil Young - they both were restlessly experimental and had voices like lost souls - but I guess history just wasn't on his side.

Green on Red - (Gee Ain't It Funny How) Time Slips Away
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Graham Lambkin - Divers

Graham Lambkin is probably best known for his 1990s band The Shadow Ring. At least to me he is, I really loved The Shadow Ring. Their music rejected every notion of beauty with crude lo-fi recording, detuned instruments, clumsy rhythms, and Lambkin's own distorted, disturbed spoken word vocals. There was a genuine sense of poetry to their defiantly unattractive aesthetic.

Divers comes from the 2007 album Salmon Run. It's a solemn and melancholic work for piano and... I want to say mezzosoprano. Very classical, with all the stately dignity that goes with the form. And then the musique concrete intrusions appear: scraping furniture, falling objects and the like. It's a moment of total social disruption, as beautiful in its inappropriateness as Jake and Dinos Chapman painting over Goya prints. I love it.

Graham Lambkin - Divers
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Mogwai - Scrap

Kin(2018) was a film that Mogwai provided the music for. Found myself really liking this short piece from the soundtrack album. Scrap is a moment of quiet exultation, with that swell of sound that post-rock does so well. It's a little subdued and a little polished, but it feels absolutely perfect.

Mogwai - Scrap
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Girnų Giesmės - Virstantis Drugiais

Here's a recent discovery I've been enjoying. Laurynas Jukonis cut his teeth as part of the Vilnius music scene, forming his outfit Girnų Giesmės in 1996. Virstantis Drugiais comes from the album Procesai (2003), and it's a throbbing industrial heartbeat. No idea what Jonokis is saying in his spoken word contributions, don't care, I'm all about this huge dark pulse and the abstract expressionistic surface details that accompany it. Could do without the out of place noir sax towards the end, but frankly the sound engineering on this is so good that I can't bring myself to listen to anything else right now.

Girnų Giesmės - Virstantis Drugiais
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Tools You Can Trust - Working and Shopping

Art music is dead, long live functional music. Music should be like a pair of well-made boots or a petrol bomb. If music doesn't make itself useful, what good does it do? That always seemed to be the message of the 1980s Mancunian act Tools You Can Trust, with their dancefloor-friendly industrial swamp rock. Throughout their career they were frequently let down by some piss poor production, but their 3 Peel sessions caught the band at their full power. Working and Shopping is more Birthday Party or Suicide than Test Dept; the Black & Decker percussion is there but it's in service to horrified passion and the destruction of the capitalist system. As I said, functional music.

Tools You Can Trust - Working and Shopping
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Dijf Sanders - Ravana

Not entirely sure where the field recordings end and the studio instruments begin on this one. Dijf Sanders travelled to Nepal to record his new album Puja, but the sounds on Ravana sound distinctly North African. There's a certain type of dissonance that I've only ever heard before from massed Tuareg shawms which here join Sanders' thrusting workout electronics. Sinuous and muscular, I like this a lot.

Dijf Sanders - Ravana
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Lafawndah & Midori Takada - Le Renard Bleu

Midori Takada started her career as an orchestral percussionist. In 1983 she released Through The Looking Glass a highly influential (partly due to how difficult it was to obtain a copy) album that was part new age, part classical minimalism. Further albums arrived at a frustratingly slow pace, and for many years it seemed as if she had retired from composition entirely.

That changed in 2018 with her first release in nearly 20 years, a collaboration with Iranian/Egyptian singer Lawfandah. In another world Lafawndah would be an icon of panglobal experimental pop music but her restless creativity means she's had a hard time attracting an audience. She contributes what is at first a sombre, almost cloistered vocal to this extended piece. It's an astonishingly beautiful work for percussion and electronics. Tiny slivers of feedback slide into marimbas, and when Lafawndah joins them it's like a classic Meredith Monk number, minus the extended vocal technique and with more contemporary intonations.

More instruments join the dance and soon it fills the entire night sky. The piece ends with sky only with just the stars for company, tinkling bells playing in the distance for no less than 5 minutes. Le Renard Bleu is a bold and particularly complete work, broad in scale and emotional range. Dynamic range too: turn your speakers up for this. Highly recommended.

Lafawndah & Midori Takada - Le Renard Bleu
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Bernard Parmegiani - Je Tu Elles

One of the best known pieces by electroacoustic composer Bernard Parmegiani is Pop'eclectic (1969). It's a collage-like work full of musical quotations that washes back and forth through genres like a John Zorn fever dream, written for the film Je Tu Elles. It wasn't the only piece he wrote for the film though. When the album Mémoire Magnetique, Vol. 1 (1966 – 1990) was being compiled, Transversales Disques uncovered this short piece that was written for the soundtrack but rejected. Je Tu Elles is a rather more austere piece with ominous booming and the quintessential space-age electronic sounds of the 1960s. It's an unsettling combination, and while this sounds like the sketch for a larger work it's still a cool snapshot of the French electronic music landscape of the time.

Bernard Parmegiani - Je Tu Elles
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Dans Dans - Feline

The trouble with blues rock rhythms is that we've heard them all before. And the more you hear them, the more you come to associate them with the sort of dull shitheads who only ever repeat what they've already heard: the same turgid beat time after time after time. It's not the fault of the genre, it's just that historically it attracted really boring musicians. Has their time finally passed? I'd like to think so, but even if it hasn't at least there are some people doing really excellent work around it.

Dans Dans are the trio of Steven Cassiers, Bert Dockx, and Frederic Jacques. They mix jazz noir, walking basslines and yes, blues rock, but they do so with a subdued precision that makes for terrific intensity and excitement. There's so much going on in Feline from their album Dust (2016), and none of it is typical. The three give each other plenty of space to let their idiosyncratic phrasing be heard, and the result is a track that's sometimes as tight as it gets, but also a big echoing bag of noise that threatens to crash off the cliffside road entirely. Never does though. Magnificent.

Dans Dans - Feline
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Squid - Houseplants

Why yes, I would like to listen to a post-punk song about the impossibility of home ownership, or even making rent. Does it break down in despair and abandon all semblance of rhythm or direction? Does it get back going with driving jagged atonality and despair? Does it just need a skronking sax solo to make you think you're back in 1979? Well if it does you've clearly not been listening to the lyrics properly. Fearless stuff, go out and buy it etc.

Squid - Houseplants
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