Review of 2014 pt.4 - PC Music

PC Music

Possibly the biggest musical revelation this year for me was the emergence of PC Music. Every time I rave on about it I am forced into the situation where I have to describe what PC Music is. It is hard, but essentially PC Music is: a record label, collective, sound, scene, revolution. It's a bunch of middle class kids who grew up in the nineties and noughties, surrounded by Aqua and 3 Of A Kind and Junior Senior - pop music that was sickly sweet and covered in tack, but at its core really damn good. As the 00s wore on, young people got 'cooler', East London rose to prominence as a hub for trust fund trendsetters and unbearably hip artists and the music of 'cool' became less fun, less innocent, less natural. I feel like PC Music flips all of that on its head. The artists within and affiliated to PC Music each deconstruct pop music in their own way. Each PC Music artist revels in an anonymity that leaves their music distinctly formalist: who gives a fuck who made it, how it is presented or whether it is acceptably 'cool', this is plain good pop music. Amplifying cuteness to an extreme, the music is often deceiving in its presentation - behind its aesthetic are arrangements that are often highly sophisticated and intricately detailed. These artists have lifted the musicianship and professionalism from 'serious' indie music and dropped it into the hollow frame of gooey chart-smashing pop music. A strong awareness of both the mainstream and underground is prevalent, while the music gives nods to everything from 80s balladry, footwork, UK bass and even the avant-garde. Decorated with chipmunk vocals, bubblegum synths and kitsch beats, the sound of PC Music has an often over-bearing sense of humour. And sure it may be simple and sweet on the outside, but there is no doubting the brains of this lot.

Although founded in 2013, the label really exploded this year. GFOTY's 'Secret Mix' was the first PC Music release I ever heard - a nine minute patchwork of infuriatingly good dance music. GFOTY breaks through the boundaries of 'annoying', turning repetitive samples into mesmerisingly percussive loops. In the mix, pop music is stripped to its bare minimum while retaining a clear appreciation for it: she rallies quickly through classics by Celine Dion, Toni Braxton and Carly Simon. Yet this is not ironic, it's sincere and affectionate, a dizzying ode to the pop music everyone secretly loves.

In the phenomenal 'Hey QT', the sound of PC Music stuck its foot in the door of the mainstream. Released on XL (alongside Adele and Thom Yorke, no less), QT's first (and so far only) release was a smash hit. A slight departure from the more experimentally inclined output of early PC Music, 'Hey QT' is an instant classic, ludicrously catchy and a genuine challenge to chart mediocrity.

At the head of it all is A. G. Cook, 24 year old founder of the label and leading innovator in the collective's sound. 'Keri Baby' is a ludicrously catchy song, restlessly flitting between hooks and beeps. Yet it is the richness of the sound and the depth of its arrangement that makes this so good: rather than just settling for a killer hook and being done with it, A. G. Cook decorates every last inch of the song's palette. Hannah Diamond's flawing vocals ("kinda real, kinda oooh") are simply the icing on the very very sugary cake.

And it is Hannah Diamond who is responsible for possibly my favourite track of the year, 'Attachment'. This is a song the defies the already high expectations of PC Music's million-miles-an-hour aesthetic. On 'Attachment', Diamond takes it slow, effectively forming a 'post-ringtone' ballad; a heart-wrenchingly honest song with lyrics that pierce through its playful aesthetic to provide something really emotional, even poignant.

Review of 2014 pt.3 - Albums


This year was a funny one for me. A few years ago I would have been on top of every new release, with an opinion on anything remotely buzz-worthy. This year my listening habits have been much more indiscriminate; I have spent a lot of time playing catch-up, without a care for release date or newness. I had mild obsessions with Neu! and Judee Sill, binged on Sean Nicholas Savage, studied to Woo and swooned over Haruomi Hosono. There were a few 2014 releases that really stood out, so here they are:

Ariel Pink - pom pom
From the very beginning, one of the biggest inspirations behind Dig That Treasure! has been Ariel Pink. His DIY ethic has fuelled my passion for independent scenes, his outsider touch has informed my interest in naivety in pop, and his ludicrously good music taste has pointed me in the direction of many, many, many tracks. pom pom, released in November, feels a bit like Pink's lap of honour. It's a fairly self-indulgent run-through of his clearly extensive knowledge of pop (and its dark corners), making stops at the Middle East ('Dinosaur Carebears'), the '60s ('Dayzed Inn Daydreams'), and whatever the hell 'Jell-O' is. The record was totally divisive among critics but I believe this is one of his best works. It is an album that oozes with confidence: it is funny, sad, loud, quiet and really really catchy.

Woo - When The Past Arrives
This record was a real grower - not in the sense that disliked it to begin with, but rather that it is an album of such subtlety and delicacy that at first it can drift by you without much effect yet, with each further listen it gets bolder and bolder. Each deft and understated melody has slowly ingrained itself into my consciousness. Songs like 'Satya' and 'Teddy Bears' are particularly gorgeous but it's '1001 Decisions' which really blows me away. This track is evokes such warmth and comfort; it is poignant but yet so uplifting. A stunning return from Woo.

tUnE-yArDs - Nikki Nack
I feel like this record has a lot in common with pom pom. It is witty and affecting in equal parts, restless and constantly surprising. I can't really put into words why I like it so much, but Nikki Nack just feels like a coming together of years and years of critical listening. Merrill Garbus really knows what she is doing... she has a clear vision of what she wants and a strong (yet sensitive) understanding of all things pop. She transcends 'genre', forming a sound that is intercontinental and truly unique. 'Real Thing' has got to be the stand out track here, but really the whole record stands up as a solid piece of work.

Stephen Steinbrink - Arranged Waves
I have been following Steinbrink since my buddy Christian from the legendary (but now defunct) label Holy Page got me into him back in 2012. (Side note: Holy Page is a real trove, exhibiting the best of America's underground. It was through Holy Page that I was introduced to Hleger and Ed Askew among many others). Anyway, I was really excited to see Stephen Steinbrink get the credit he's been due for years - he is coming over to Europe in the New Year and has recently signed to Melodic. His latest record, Arranged Waves, was a triumph for everything that he represents; it was everything it needed to be and more. The key track here is 'Sand Mandalas', but it is really worth investing your time in the whole thing.

Avi Buffalo - At Best Cuckold
I got into Avi Buffalo way back in 2010 when he put out his self-titled debut. He disappeared for a few years and then returned with At Best Cuckold, a really mature record and a clear progression, if only at the expense of some of the charm that coloured his debut. 'So What' is appropriately angsty and 'Overwhelmed With Pride' is absolutely gorgeous, although my favourite track has got to be 'Think It's Gonna Happen Again'. The record is a real testament to Avi's two best assets: his sensational guitar playing and his distinctive falsetto.

Ava Luna - Electric Balloon
I came across these guys while looking for things to do in Copenhagen - it turned out they were playing there on my second night in the city. I remember the first time I heard 'Ice Level', the song that turned me onto the group. I was so struck by its sound; how nuanced, dynamic it was. I then got my hands on Electric Balloon, a record very unashamedly proud of its influences (no-wave, post-punk, r&b, Stax records) yet simultaneously so distinctive in its own sound. 'Plain Speech' is my favourite on the record but it's more an album of moments than songs: the Byrne-esque vocals on 'Daydream', the Dirty Projectors chirps on 'Crown' and those "uh-ohs" at the beginning of 'Genesee'.

Review of 2014 pt.2 - Live Performances

Live Performances

The past twelve months have been exceptional for live performances. I might predominantly write about 'World music' and older, now-defunct groups, but I was somehow lucky enough to catch multiple artists that have been featured on the Dig That Treasure! blog and radio show.

In London, Momus played the city's best venue, Cafe OTO, Keel Her headlined Old Blue Last, and Kiran Leonard sold out his first headline show in the capital at The Waiting Room. Elsewhere around the continent I saw Jerry Paper blow away an intimate show in Berlin, while this autumn I caught Canadian underground hero Sean Nicholas Savage in Brighton.

Of course, the year's live highlight was the very first 'Dig That Treasure! presents' show. On December the 5th, after months of planning and organisation, I hosted a triple bill of exciting off-kilter pop music. Let's Eat Grandma opened the night, leaving a sold-out Cafe OTO crowd speechless. The teenagers couldn't have made a better impression at their debut London show; their fearless outsider-pop perfectly suited the venue.

End of year list-topping Jane Weaver followed with a dense sound finding the middle ground between Krautrock and lush dream pop, a highlight being the dizzying eight minute epic 'Don't Take My Soul'.

By the time headliner Laetitia Sadier had taken the stage, value for money had well and truly been met and a fantastic level of entertainment had been displayed. But celestial Sadier pushed this quality through the ceiling, completing an "immensely satisfying night" in real style.

Other live highlights of the year included my second visit to the utopian End Of The Road festival, where The Flaming Lips and tUnE-yArDs proved their worth as two of the world's best live acts, and a further two sets from Kiran Leonard completed a blissful weekend. Elsewhere I managed to catch Malian group Songhoy Blues provide a ridiculously fun dance party at Hackney's Visions festival (where I saw Leonard once more). I witnessed These New Puritans take their genre-defying Field of Reeds to the Barbican centre, art-pop weirdos Ava Luna rock out in Copenhagen, and fellow Resonance FM buddy Peter Lanceley host his first 'Hollow Earth' night in Brighton.

Review of 2014 pt.1 - Dig That Treasure!

2014 was the first full year of Dig That Treasure! Having come into existence late-summer 2013, the remaining months of that year saw me building the foundations of the blog and radio show. It feels like the turn of the year was when everything kicked off. Despite large chunks of the year being quiet (I travelled from May-July and was distracted by study in October) the Dig That Treasure! name really gained momentum in the last twelve months.

This blog was started as a reaction against zeitgeist blog-buzz sites that all write about the same music in the same manner, providing little that is different or stimulating. By nature then this blog - keenly encompassing music regardless of decade, country or 'genre' - is not best suitable for an 'end of year list'. It's not that I avoid new music, because I don't. Rather, it's that new music isn't my priority and I would not listen to something purely because it was new. I will happily spin anything without much care for when it was released.

On this blog I've only ever posted in four formats: the standard track review, the band profile, the radio show catch-up, and the guest post. I decided after much deliberation that I'd break this mould for a special 'Review of 2014' post. What follows is a fairly lengthy ramble through the past 12 months, starting with a review of all things Dig That Treasure! before moving on to discuss my favourite musical happenings of the year.

Dig That Treasure!

I published three very exciting guest posts this year. In January, interdisciplinary artist KARESS contributed a mix of J-pop, K-pop and synthpop. February saw producer, Glass Ghost member and Here We Go Magic collaborator Eliot Krimsky contribute a collection of "iconic songs of alienation". In March I published a seriously leftfield mix of "wordless vocalisations", compiled by Otis Fodder, member of the legendary The Bran Flakes.

There were twenty-eight episodes of the Dig That Treasure! radio show on Resonance 104.4fm, one of which was dedicated to an incredible session by Adrian Knight, later released on Bandcamp as the first Dig That Treasure! Records release. Eternal thanks to Ed Baxter and everyone else at Resonance for the opportunities I've been handed.

Despite moments of quiet, the blog continued strongly. Highlights included a discussion of Francophile Japanese pop music, a biography of Joe Meek and a look at dictatorial Zaire. Elsewhere, I contributed an article on Ethiopian pop music to Tom Robinson's Fresh On The Net, and an essay on the impact of dictatorship on Soviet pop music to new culture website Retrospective.

December saw the first ever 'Dig That Treasure! presents' gig, with a triple bill of cosmic female-fronted acts featuring headliner Laetitia Sadier supported by Jane Weaver and Let's Eat Grandma. It was a sell-out and a resounding success, best encapsulated by this glowing review from John Doran of The Quietus. 

David Darling & The Wulu Bunun - Lugu Lugu Kan-Ibi

On this blog I often cover music that is indebted to intercultural exchanges; products of traded ideas, or the obsession of one culture with another. I've written previously on the Francophilic tradition of Japanese pop, the admiration of Ethiopian pop by Western indie rock acts, and the exotic fantasies of island life. But this is quite different. On the record Mudanin Kata, American composer and cellist David Darling matched the a capella songs of the Taiwanese aborigine tribe the Wulu Bunun with his own New Age accompaniments. Unlike, for example, the exotica of North America and Europe that reinterprets or - more often - completely constructs fantasies of the Pacific islands in a playful imaginative way, Darling's project involved actually taking recordings of the tribe's ancient song and altering them. It was a project with the potential to be tacky or even disrespectful. Yet, the sensitivity with which Darling handles the aborigine songs is remarkable, and his arrangements are subtle and tasteful: they are there to amplify the effect of the melodies, not overpower them. There's a duo of tracks on the record that work as a suite. Whether that was the intention or not, they complement each other perfectly and are tied together by field recordings of what is presumably the Taiwanese rainforest. 'Ku-Isa Tama Laug' is followed by 'Lugu Lugu Kan-Ibi', these two tracks characterised by beautiful cyclical melodies. I feel like this project is a real testament to human compassion, sensitivity and appreciation.

Label: Riverboat Records
Year: 2004
Genre: Traditional, New Age, Folk

Resonance FM 4/12/14

The latest Dig That Treasure! show on Resonance 104.4FM travelled from Ethiopia to India, Italy to Australia. I span a duo of tracks from American goofball Biff Rose (the latter featuring Van Dyke Parks), as well as a tune from an even bigger goofball, Tiny Tim (covering The Ronettes). I closed the show with a rare demo of Stereolab's classic 'Cybele's Reverie' in anticipation of the Dig That Treasure! presents Laetitia Sadier show. Listen below!

Dig That Treasure (4/12/14)
Orion Salih - Aykessen
Alessandro Alessandroni - Mitzi
Biff Rose - Ball Me Out To The Take Game
Biff Rose - Evolution
Tiny Tim - Be My Baby
The Reels - Cry
Veera Bamrungsri - Mercy
Stereolab - Cybele's Reverie (demo)

Resonance FM 20/11/14

From Ween demos to a Bollywood interpretation of 'Video Killed The Radio Star', this show was an eccentric trip around the world. I opened the show with a trio of tunes by Ween, then followed up with tracks by New York school teacher Nancy Dupree, Somalian funk group Dur-Dur Band and Ethiopian legend Mahmoud Ahmed. I closed the show with a totally wacky cover of The Buggles classic 'Video Killed The Radio Star' by Indian film composers Usha Uthup and Bappi Lahiri.

Dig That Treasure (20/11/14)
Ween - Hey There Fancy Pants (demo)
Ween - That's Poppycock (demo)
Ween - Ocean Man (demo)
Nancy Dupree - Cold
Dur-Dur Band - Dooyo
Mahmoud Ahmed - Bemin Sebeb Litlash
Usha Uthup & Bappi Lahiri - Auva Auva Koi Yahan Nache

Super Eccentric Theater - Oh Les Beaux Japonais!

My recent listening habits have been incredibly Japan-centric and on regular rotation have been the works of Yellow Magic Orchestra, Haruomi Hosono, Susan, Shigeo Sekito, Inoyama Land and many more. In all this fascinated exploration has been one song that I've played more than any other; a song that I've really fallen in love with. Super Eccentric Theater's 'Oh Les Beaux Japonais!'. Carrying a tight new-wave groove, murmured girl-boy vocals and a ludicrously catchy hook, the track is a perfect example of the off-kilter pop that came out of Japan in the late 1970s and early '80s. What is most intriguing about this song however is its Francophile theme - something that colours its lyrics and title. This alone may not seem particularly fascinating, but when considered that this is just one example of many Francophile Japanese pop songs, everything becomes more peculiar. A trend develops. There is a definite and fairly prominent obsession with French culture in the Japanese pop music of the 1970s, '80s and '90s. Songs by Tamao Koike were often either sung in French or had French titles, while minimal electronica group Variètè expressed their passion in their band name. More broadly, Yellow Magic Orchestra based tracks on the works of Jean-Luc Godard, while the entire Shibuya-kei scene takes influence from - besides South American bossa-nova and North American lounge music - French yé-yé. But what does this obsession imply? And where does it come from? One could look as far back as the Chinoiserie of early modern Europe for explanation. This European passion for all things Chinese was born from a Romanticised vision of the East and later consummated by the establishment of trade links. It was France that the Siamese sought alliance with in the 1680s and the term Chinoiserie itself is, of course, French. Fast forward a few hundred years and perhaps France has developed a broader appreciation of the 'Far East', while intercultural exchanges have in turn benefited Asian cultures. Japanese artists and trendsetters may have done in the 1960s what many Europeans did centuries before that and created a Romanticised idea of their counterpart. France in the mid-20th century was, of course, a colourful all-singing all-dancing parade, and to many dreamers decidedly more cosmopolitan, challenging and risqué than its neighbours. Who would not want to channel such influences in their music? The often-kitsch result of French pop's influence is after all prevalent in many Western pop musics. But maybe there is a deeper psychological connection between the countries. Besides, this is a world in which a disorder called 'Pari Shōkōgun' (or Paris Syndrome) exists, a syndrome to which Japanese people are considered more susceptible. I guess that ultimately my attempted explanations for this phenomenon don't fully cover it and I'm merely tabling ideas. Frankly I am unable - and to some extent unwilling - to conclude on it. But maybe that's a good thing, for this fascinating trend is something that is made all the more exciting to me by its mystery.

Label: Yen Records
Year: 1984
Genre: New-Wave, Shibuya-kei, Synth-Pop, Experimental

Tabu Ley Rochereau - Lina

Although soukous is a musical style that is relatively unfamiliar to me it is something I have a fondness for and have previously written about on this blog. Those earlier posts focused on Leon Bukasa and Dr Nico, two Congolese musicians with a very similar interpretation of the style. On both occasions I used the word "dreamy" to describe their music which - although casual and fairly unsophisticated - holds up as an accurate description of their sound. With Tabu Ley Rochereau, much of this remains true. His music carries that same 'dreamy' sound as Bukasa and Dr Nico, with delay-coloured guitar and beautiful soft vocals. In my summary of Bukasa's work, I mentioned the featured song's name change ('Congo/Zaire Ya Biso') - a process enforced by dictatorial rule, a part of President Mobutu's 'Zairization' of Congo. Very similarly Rochereau - born Pascal-Emmanuel Sinamoyi Tabu - adopted his well-known title as a response to Mobutu's rise to power. In fact, one of Rochereau's later albums was banned by the President, demonstrating the effect of dictatorship on the nation's music. In an unsettling political period it is somewhat peculiar that the music of Rochereau and his contemporary's is so settled; so comforting and mellow.

Label: African
Year: 1969
Genre: Soukous, Rumba, Jazz

Haruomi Hosono - Sportsmen

Other than posting the weekly Resonance FM radio show, I've been inactive on the blog of late. I've been itching to write posts and what better way to return than with a track by pop legend Haruomi Hosono? A member of the ludicrously influential Yellow Magic Orchestra, this is a man whose involvement in Japanese pop music is so mind-bogglingly prominent that it's hard to keep track with who he has (and hasn't) collaborated with. Whether it's been as a member of Happy End, producing and writing for Jun Togawa, collaborating with Tamao Koike or releasing an exotica-funk record with Shigeru Suzuki and Tatsuro Yamashita, Hosono has virtually been omnipresent. And it isn't just collaboratively that he thrives. This track, 'Sportsmen', is a sensational pop song; an archetype in the context of Japan's pop scene, it's infectious, off-kilter sophisticated fun. This is an earworm whose hook will be looping your brain for days.

Label: Yen Records
Year: 1982
Genre: New Wave, J-Pop, Experimental, Synth Pop

Resonance FM 20/11/14

This week's Resonance show largely explored ambient music and easy-listening. Starting with organist Johnny Dupont and ending with the gentle whimsy of The Incredible String Band, the episode had a particularly calming tone to it. Arthur Lyman supplied the jazz with his exotica rendition of 'Autumn Leaves' while Shigeo Sekito brought the smooth electronica. Japanese duo Inoyama Land were the evening's featured artist, while Mark Isham and Structures Sonores Lasry-Baschet also featured.

Dig That Treasure (13/11/14)
Johnny Dupont - Ebb Tide
Arthur Lyman - Autumn Leaves
Structures Sonores Lasry-Baschet - Manège
Shigeo Sekito - The Word II
Mark Isham - Something Nice For My Dog
Inoyama Land - 8-31
Inoyama Land - Glass Chaim
The Incredible String Band - Air

Resonance FM 13/11/14

The most recent episode of Dig That Treasure on Resonance 104.4fm was filled to the brim with the wacky and tacky. Opening the track was the seductive Chuck Edwards, followed by the surrealist Japanese pop of Variètè, the off-kilter kitsch of Sally Oldfield, the saccharine sound of Fatouma Mansour, and eventually the Soviet pop of Aida Vedishcheva. Whew. Lots of gloss.

Dig That Treasure (13/11/14)
Chuck Edwards - Ooh La La La
Variètè - Good-Night Age
Sally Oldfield - Answering You
Sally Oldfield - Easy
Fatouma Mansour - ?
Aida Vedishcheva - Comment Te Dire Adieu

Resonance FM 6/11/14

To celebrate the release of his new record Pom Pom, I aired an Ariel Pink special of Dig That Treasure! on Resonance 104.4fm. One of my favourite artists of all time, Pink has been a huge influence on this blog and radio show, and so I felt it suitable to celebrate his career in the same vein that I've previously done with R. Stevie Moore and Van Dyke Parks. This episode was an exploration of some of his obscurer works, spanning from pre-teen recordings to recent Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti tracks. Also thrown in their is some Ghanaian highlife and Japanese pop.

Dig That Treasure (5/11/14)
Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti - Let's Get Married Tonite
The Rising Storm - Bright Lit Blue Skies
Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti - Phantasthma
Alhaji K. Frimpong - Susu Ne Wonka
Susan - Ah Soka!
Ariel Pink - One More Time
Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti - Something Isn't Something

Resonance FM 30/10/14

This episode featured tracks from France, Germany, Sweden and Ethiopia, with styles including exotica, jazz and ambience. I closed the show with a tribute to my late Uncle John, an inspiring man of the kindest heart.

Dig That Treasure (30/10/14)
Jean-Jacques Perrey - Indicative Spatial
Bhakti Jazz - Glimpses Of Truth
Joe Davolaz - Piña Colada
Netsanet Melese - Yale Senebet
Woo - Taizee
Woo - Make Me Tea
Woo - The Garden Path
Tom Waits - A Good Man Is Hard To Find

Resonance FM 23/10/14

Kicking off with some Soviet new-wave, this episode travelled through Ethiopia and Italy before arriving at spooky baroque-psychedelic act Jonna Gault.

Dig That Treasure (23/10/14)
НИИ Косметики - Пушка
НИИ Косметики - Счастлив
Tewodros Tadesse - Emiye Ethiopia
Matia Bazar - Solo Tu
Jonna Gault & Her Symphonopop Scene - Wonder Why, I Guess

Resonance FM 9/10/14 (Adrian Knight)

This episode featured a very special session recorded by Adrian Knight in his Brooklyn, NY home. He played tracks from his albums Cheap Love and Pictures of Lindsey as well an unreleased tune! I also span tracks from South London newbie Alex Burey, Ghanaian Soukous legend Tabu Ley Rouchereau, and Francophile Japanese theatre group Super Eccentric Theatre.

Adrian Knight's session - with four other unaired tracks - was then put out as the first ever Dig That Treasure! Records release. It is available to stream and download here.

Dig That Treasure (9/10/14)
Alex Burey - Unspoken
Adrian Knight - Deep Dark Eyes
Adrian Knight - Alice
Adrian Knight - Scaring All The Girls Away
Tabu Ley Rochereau - Lina
Super Eccentric Theatre - Oh Les Beaux Japonais!

Resonance FM 2/10/14

From Taiwan to Greenland, this episode explored music that pushes the boundaries of what is or isn't pop music. David Darling's arrangements of Taiwanese aborigine song actually give them a structure not unlike that of a pop song, while Sven Libaek's jazz-inspired compositions span from incidental music to sunshine pop.

Dig That Treasure (2/10/14)
Jim O'Rourke - Close To You
David Darling & Wulu Bunun - Ku-Isa Tama Lag
David Darling & Wulu Bunun - Lugu Lugu Kan-Ibi
Sven Libaek - Dancing Penguins
Sven Libaek - The Set
Sven Libaek - Start Growing Up
Sume - Forventing / Ankomst

Resonance FM 25/9/14

This episode was a fabulous parade of quirky pop song after quirky pop song, with geographical origins spanning from Soviet Union to Ghana, via Italy and Japan.

Dig That Treasure (25/9/14)
Vyacheslav Mescherin Orchestra - Persistent Robot
Cst Amankwah - Biibiba
Boys Age - Just As Satan Says
Boys Age - In The Doldrums
Ruscigan - Sin Palabras
Willy Hoffman Orchestra - Coconuts
People Like Us - Downtown Once More

Resonance FM 18/9/14

Mid-September I returned to the airwaves for my third (unofficial) series of Dig That Treasure! on Resonance 104.4FM. I kicked off with some Joe Meek, exploring along the way Bollywood soundtrack, rare Northern Soul and contemporary American singer-songwriter Stephen Steinbrink.

Dig That Treasure (18/9/14)
Joe Meek - I Hear A New World
Rajesh Roshan - Superman, Superman
Darrell Banks - Open The Door To Your Heart
Darrell Banks - You Better Leave
Stephen Steinbrink - Call You Later
Tilahun Gessesse - Bemishit Chereka
Julee Cruise - Floating

Andy Partridge - Pink Thing

Recordings like this encapsulate the true spirit of this blog. Whilst I try and primarily post songs by acts who (for whatever reason) slipped into obscurity, it's sometimes the case that interesting rarities come from big named acts. The first ever post on this blog was a 1974 demo by The Stranglers: one of the biggest punk/new-wave acts to ever emerge out of Britain. Here, like with that post, I've got a track from a band considered '70s/'80s royalty. XTC are a group I really admire, for their arrangements, virtuosic performances and idiosyncratic songwriting. This demo of Oranges & Lemons cut 'Pink Thing' strips away the band's usually clean cut production to leave simply the songwriting genius of Andy Partridge. The song was released as part of the Fuzzy Warbles 8-part CD boxset, a collection of demos, bootlegs and general rarities, recorded almost entirely by Partridge himself. One of my Partridge favourites, the track is probably best remembered for its perverted lyrical wit ("when I stroke your head I feel a hundred heartbeats high, pink thing"). This recording is extra dirty, with its low-fidelity production adding to the track's sleaze.

Label: Ape House
Year: 1989/2004
Genre: New-Wave, Lo-Fi, Pop

Rocket or Chiritori - Star

Rocket or Chiritori was the project of Japanese schoolgirl Satoko Shibahara, whose musical 'career' lasted from the ages of fifteen to seventeen. Between those ages, Shibahara recorded a collection of messy, rickety low-fidelity indie pop songs. There is something incredibly intimate about the recordings; it feels as though you are in her room with her, or in her diary, or even in her mind. What makes the music so personal is in how untreated and raw the recordings are. Her vocals are practically indiscernible, the instrumentation is naïve and the general production is a warm encapsulation of teenage angst and exploration. Yet, underneath the mess lay songs that could, with sufficient polishing, be hits in a variety of styles. 'Star', as featured in this post, wouldn't be out of place in the K Records roster, or among Scottish indie pop acts like The Pastels or The Shop Assistants, or, even, in an American college movie. I guess that implies that there's a degree of unfulfilled potential here but, at the same time: would professionalism enhance these recordings in any other way than aesthetically? No. They are perfect as they are, as snapshots into the life of a young girl, from another time, from another culture. The recordings are her.

Label: Cardinal Records
Year: 1997
Genre: Indie Pop, Lo-Fi Pop, Experimental, Anti-Folk

Structures Sonores Lasry-Baschet - Manège

Structures Sonores Lasry-Baschet was a group consisting of siblings François and Bernard Baschet and Jacques and Yvonne Lasry. The Baschet brothers were inventors of instruments (namely the Cristal Baschet), while the Lasry siblings were more conventional percussionists, and together they produced eerie musique-concrète, informed strongly by classical composition (the album No.4, from which Manège is taken, features interpretations of Vivaldi and Bach compositions). The group were a success, producing music for the Jean Cocteau film Le Testament d'Orphée and also supposedly being approached to produce the original Doctor Who theme (which of course was eventually performed by The Radiophonic Workshop). This piece, Manège, is like a trip on a haunted carousel, characterised by creepily disjointed percussion and homemade metallic inventions.

Label: BAM
Year: 1965
Genre: Avant-Garde, Classical, Musique-Concrète

НИИ Косметики - Пушка

Formed in 1984, НИИ Косметики offered an antidote to a cultural landscape of blacklists, interrogation and oppression in the Soviet Union. Musical groups under the Communist regime tended to be registered and monitored by the government, as demonstrated in the formation of Moscow Rock Lab, an official organisation set up to oversee the actions of Soviet rock groups. Sure, the Rock Lab encouraged musical diversity. But it was government-sanctioned diversity. НИИ Косметики (whose name translates as Scientific Research Institute of Cosmetics) rebelled against this. They largely functioned underground and put out risqué lo-fi pop jams, songs that transcended new-wave or new-romanticism and instead fell among the experimentalists of the time. With songs like Пушка, the band showed their intent in remaining obscure. The song's title translates as 'Gun', the track length is over seven minutes, and Michael Yevsenkov's vocals are difficult to gage on first listen. If you combine that with the fact that they'd never have broken into the US, it's quite remarkable that they've survived, even in certain niche corners of the internet. The West was terrified of Communism, of the Soviet Union, even of the cyrillic alphabet. Russian vocals were too much, especially when coming from a rather shady source in the Moscow underground. Back home they weren't exactly a hit, either. They didn't conform to the Rock Lab. The KGB weren't fans. They remained cult heroes purely to a certain demographic. And I kind of like it like that. There's a scent of mystery around this group, a feeling that oozes out of every wailed vocal part, scratchy synthesiser and shimmering guitar. It absolutely makes sense that Ariel Pink is a fan (and almost certainly an adherent), given some rather uncanny similarities in their sounds. Success or not, it's safe to say НИИ Косметики put out some stunning pop songs.

Label: ?
Year: 1987
Genre: New-Wave, Experimental, Synth-Pop, No-Wave

Profile: Boys Age

Running this blog, I spend a lot of time looking back. I travel to the 50s and beyond in search of obscurities, collectables and odds 'n' sods. A lot of the music I find has a certain quality to it: an idiosyncrasy characterised by signs of wear and tear and a feeling of genuine substance having been lost in a sea of blink-and-you'll-miss-it zeitgeist hype. But sometimes this music exists in the present, under my nose. There are bands who are currently active that embody said qualities, that inhabit their own sound and style. Boys Age are such a band. I first heard Boys Age when home recording legend and Dig That Treasure! favourite R. Stevie Moore posted about them on his Facebook page. Moore has a habit of playing Godfather to exciting lo-fi protégés, having previously championed Ariel Pink and Keel Her. He's rarely wrong, and Japan's Boys Age are no exception. Although influenced strongly by Yo La Tengo (with Boys Age dubbing themselves the "Sons" of the band), they manage to come off as original in a way that actually justifies use of such an overused word. Maybe it's in Kuzznary Mutow's croaked vocals, or in the band's aesthetic restlessness. Six minute long Fake Gold Pt. 1 includes church bells and screeching guitars, God Will Test You Through The PC Screen recalls wayward 90s rock like Ween and Beck, and Just As Satan Says is a highly textural soundscape with vocals that may as well be those of Ira Kaplan. The song featured in this post, I Wish For God's Sake, is infectious in a way that is both familiar and imaginative. The band are highly prolific, with a Bandcamp page filled to the brim with releases of different shapes and sizes. Spare some time, Boys Age are worth it!

Label: Bleeding Gold, Burger Records, Rye On The All Golden
Genre: Indie Rock, Dream Pop, Experimental, Bedroom Pop

Sally Oldfield - Easy

Sister of Mike and Terry, Sally Oldfield is from a family that isn't particularly obscure or unheard of. Naturally, with a genealogy like hers Sally has been acknowledged on various levels, performing on her brother's über-famous Tubular Bells and scoring a top twenty hit with her 1978 single 'Mirrors'. Yet, in her otherwise coy solo career she's burrowed her name, her art, into a niche of its own. Sally Oldfield is, somehow, a forgotten gem; for years she's been able to quietly release gorgeous off-kilter pop music to a modest, loving fanbase, creating a profile that's more cult than celebrated. Her music is special. There's something to it that's unusual, singular. Her voice is distinctive - in a way not unlike Liz Fraser's - and it sits perfectly over music that is so beautifully coloured and decorated. Easy is her second album, an album on which the title track acts as a centre piece. That track is kind-of-kitsch contemporary pop music that draws from folk. It has this bouncing piano part, a shiny slide guitar and tuned percussion over which Oldfield's vocals - possibly my favourite thing about her music - sit. But they don't sit, do they? They float and flirt. They're idiosyncratic in their manner: like the music, like her persona. It is pure gold.

Label: Bronze Records
Year: 1979
Genre: Pop, Folk, Easy-Listening

Sume - Forventning / Ankomst

Greenland is perhaps one of the last countries whose music I expected to write about on this blog. But, as so often happens with my research and curation for Dig That Treasure!, I've surprised myself again. Trawling the web I stumbled upon Sume, a band whose initial attraction to me was largely based on the fact that they come from the musically curious island of Greenland. However, that's not the say the appeal ended there. An amply-political band with lyrics critical of Denmark's colonial power, the cover to Sume's debut record Sumut depicts the rather magnificent image of an Inuit hunter killing a Dane. Somewhat conflictingly, the band actually recorded Sumut in Copenhagen, but we needn't hesitate over that. The album, seminal in Greenland, was purportedly bought by 20% of the country's population. Impressive? If you consider that 20% of Greenland's population at the time of the record's release in 1973 only equalled a figure of around 10,000 people, everything begins to come into perspective. But you get the significance. And the music? Oh yeah, the music is great. Sume took influence from the progressive rock and hard rock of the United States and weaved that together with Greenlandic vocals and freewheelin' horns. In an upbeat quasi-indie pop track like Forventning/Ankomst, Greenlandic sounds like Welsh and, well, the whole production sounds like Gorky's Zygotic Mynki. Never a bad thing; Gorky's reign supreme as the best Welsh band of all time, a country that appears, like Greenland, invariably wet, cold and dour.

Label: Demos (DK)
Year: 1973
Genre: Folk Rock, Indie Pop, Progressive Rock

Joe Meek & The Blue Men - I Hear A New World

When writing posts for this blog, I have always been cautious of hyperbole. Sensationalising art, talent or life account is not in my interest, for exaggerative subjectivism provides only a boring tabloid read; one that becomes repetitive and that ultimately undermines subjects that really do deserve particular acknowledgement. In describing the career of Joe Meek I believe it is more simple, more honest, to state that he was a rare case of a musician whose talent was completely unique. In hindsight, his life reads in such a fantastical manner that it seems more befitting of a surrealist b-movie than of actual reality. Having served as a radar technician in the RAF, Meek developed a fascination with outer space that aided his lifelong interest in electronics. He then became a musical engineer and producer later in his twenties, despite an affliction that instantly separated him from normality: Meek was tone deaf. He could not sing, he could not play instruments and, most alarmingly, he could not write musical notation. For every idea he would have, Meek hummed a demo version, tunelessly articulating a melody for a chosen group of musicians to then interpret, clean up, and re-record. His worldwide hit Telstar (written for The Tornadoes) was composed with this method and curiously still reached No.1 in both the UK and the US. After just thirty-seven years, Meek's life came to an end in 1967 when he shot his landlady and then himself in a tragic conclusion to a life of troubled genius. I can't really comprehend his talent, but for in terms of 'outsider art': Meek had the ideas of a genius but lacked ability in a way that screamed naïveté. Art isn't about learned skill, formal education or convention, but rather about the interpretation of one's inner mechanisms, emotions or ideas. And so, despite Meek working in a way that bordered on lunacy, he embraced an unaffected manner that feels rawer than the most articulate and competent of performers. His masterwork I Hear A New World - performed by The Blue Men - blurred reality and fantasy, with Meek taking the listener on a tour of outer space. Recorded in 1959, the album was innovative in its electronic experimentation, although it remained unheard and unreleased in full until 1991. A comparison could be made with the talent of Dan Treacy, the troubled frontman of Television Personalities. Treacy's life of drug abuse, illness and crime runs parallel to a career as a wide-eyed cult hero. It is unsurprising that the title track of I Hear A New World, as featured in this post, was covered by Television Personalities on their record Fashion Conscious.

Label: Triumph / RPM Records
Year: 1959 / 1991
Genre: Outsider Music, Electronica, Space-Age Rock

Dorothy Collins & Raymond Scott - Singin' In The Rain

Raymond Scott is best known as an electronic music innovator - creating and playing his own instruments, and experimenting with electronic methods before electronic music was a major player in people's minds. Aside from that, he was a composer, a pianist, engineer, producer, and bandleader. Here he is as the latter, leading his Raymond Scott Quintette and with his wife Dorothy Collins on vocals. A singer and child star, Collins was vocalist for Scott's band from the age of 15. This recording is very much 'of its time': Scott provides an arrangement more modest than his usual forward-thinking experiments, and Collins provides vocals that are, in hindsight, dated and antiquated. The recording, from 1955, comes only three years after Singin' In The Rain - from the classic musical of the same name - was originally released.

Label: ?
Year: 1955
Genre: Jazz, Broadway

Desalegne Welde - Kale Alegne

Over the course of Dig That Treasure!'s existence, I've played twenty-four different tracks of Ethiopian origin on my Resonance FM radio show, and featured many on this blog, too. Yet none - bar Girma Tefera Kassa's 'Man Neber Yalanci', I think - have been released post-2000. With the very limited information about this artists and songs available online I could well be wrong, but hours of researching suggests otherwise*. This track is an exception - and I have an official release date to assure me of that! Put out on Habesha Poetics, a label that specialises in East African music, this song is a lively cut of modern Ethio-Pop, in a similar vein to Neway Debebe's more recent works and those of the aforementioned Girma Tefera Kassa. It retains elements of traditional Ethiopian music whilst introducing synthetic handclaps and what sounds like subtle autotune.

Label: Habesha Poetics
Year: 2012
Genre: Ethio-Pop, Synth-Pop

(* if I do happen to be wrong, let me know) 

Jun Togawa - Suki Suki Daisuki

Over the course of a year's work on Dig That Treasure, I've been continuously blown away by the quality of the pop music that faded into obscurity in Japan in the '70s and '80s. Pop acts that were a little too edgy, unconventional or experimental for the mainstream slipped into a more niche market. Unsurprisingly, these Japanese artists - forward-thinking but well-informed by the past - are often connected to one another. There is a 'scene', I guess. At the fore were Yellow Magic Orchestra. Massive in Asia and popular worldwide, YMO aren't exactly 'obscure'. Where things get interesting, however, is in the side projects of one particular member: Haruomi Hosono. As well as being a core member of YMO, Hosono played a hand in folk-rock group Happy End and was one third of the supergroup 'Hosono, Suzuki, Yamashita' that put out the mindblowing 1978 record Coral Reef. Hosono - and his YMO bandmates - were also supposedly responsible for writing Tamao Koike's gorgeous dream-pop classic 'Automne Dans Un Miroir'. No surprise then that Hosono is affiliated with Jun Togawa. Although he wasn't involved in this particular song, he did write and produce other songs in Togawa's repertoire. When a friend first played me Jun Togawa's 'Suki Suki Daisuki' earlier this summer, I was a little baffled. But after a couple more plays, that feeling was replaced - this song is joyous. It's witty, it's energetic, it's a little scary and, most importantly, it's catchy as hell. Sure, with a title like 'Suki Suki Daisuki' ('I Love You So Much'), it's kind of a love song. But when the chorus builds into a grating cry of "say you love me or I'll kill you", you realise something's up. That doesn't stop it from being a goddamn great pop song though.

Label: Alfa Records
Year: 1985
Genre: Synth-Pop, J-Pop, New Wave

The Cats - Swan Lake

The Cats were a short-lived reggae group from London who put out five-or-so releases in the late sixties. One of those releases - the first of their short run - was an instrumental reinterpretation of Tchaikovsky's classic ballet Swan Lane. On paper, or, 'on screen', it doesn't seem like it should work. It does. And very well. It begins with a solitary piano playing the ballet's eminent motif before offbeat guitar and other reggae tropes join to provide a timelessly familiar but slightly confusing three minutes.

Label: BAF Records
Year: 1968
Genre: Reggae, Ska, Ballet

Joe Davolaz – Piña Colada

Exotica is a genre that evokes a pseudo-tropical experience, with artists affiliated to the scene usually coming from anywhere but the regions to which they pay tribute. An elaborate homage to the regions of Oceania, the South Pacific and Amazonia, the musical aesthetic may include anything from ethnic percussion, obscure instrumentation and jungle ululations to airy strings, space age electronics, and surf guitars. The result tends to come out as a laid-back, sunny latin-tinged relation of jazz, with space-age inclinations and a magical realist outtake on island life. As genre pioneer Martin Denny put it, exotica started as "what a lot of people imagined the islands to be like... it's pure fantasy though". As clear examples, the exotica I've included on this blog and the Dig That Treasure radio show has been from the likes of Poland, France and Japan; outsiders to tropical lifestyle. And, sure enough, Joe Davolaz follow suit. Calling from Stockholm, Sweden, the ensemble make dreamy easy-listening from another planet, combining surf guitars, woodwind and breathy vocal hums. It's a totally refreshing sound for 2014; a joyful slap round the face from an unexpected source.

Label: Tonaserenad
Year: 2014
Genre: Exotica, Easy-Listening, Experimental, Pop

Quarteto Excelsior - Batuque No Morro

This track is from the rare 1957 album Coquetel Dançante N°1 by Brazilian group Quarteto Excelsior. It features pre-bossa nova versions of music by Cole Porter, Valdrido Silva and - here - Russo do Pandeiro & Roris Sá. The piece in question is Batuque No Morro (or 'Drumming On The Hill'), a gorgeous samba track filled with light-hearted optimism. A tight groove underpins interplay between piano and clarinet, over which 'Maestro Zaccarias' sings in a sophisticated Portuguese accent.

Label: RCA Victor
Year: 1957
Genre: Samba, Jazz, Bossa-Nova

Iftin - Gabar ii Noqee

Having focused on Ethiopia's rich musical history for so long, I decided to explore the music of its neighbouring countries. An obvious step was Somalia, whose musical aesthetic may be mistaken for that of Ethiopia's - both share the use of pentatonic scales, 'big band' set ups, and polyrhythmic grooves. However, unlike Ethiopia - the only African country to never have been colonised - Somalia was colonised for long periods of time by Britain and Italy (British Somaliland and Italian Somaliland). It is arguable as to whether this colonisation was an influence on Somalia's music, but one thing for sure is that the country's music scene makes much more of an observance to Western musics than Ethiopia's music scene does. Blues and funk seem to be two common influences on the country's musical landscape: the latter being a great drive behind Iftin's sound. Iftin were a band who dominated the Somali music scene in the 70s and 80s. I guess in a way, Iftin were much like Roha Band: they were a core of musicians that provided the backing for guest singers. Both bands shared the use of a prominent horn section, but Iftin also utilised a funk guitarist. Along with pentatonic horn lines and boggling grooves lays wobbling guitar, giving a unique edge to Iftin's music. This particular song is called Gabar ii Noqee, which translates to 'Be My Wife'.

Label: ?
Year: 197?
Genre: Somali Funk, Jazz

Mziuri - Lampionebi

Sometimes a discovery blows me away for reasons beyond just the music. As a History student with a fascination for Soviet culture and lifestyle, to stumble upon Mziuri was special for me. Mziuri (or Мзиури) were a Georgian pop group made up of pre-teen schoolgirls, handpicked to guarantee only the 'best of the best' for the band's formation. They wore matching outfits - often including neckties - and performed dozens of concerts a year in front of astonished audiences of adults. A massive success in the USSR and Soviet-occupied Georgia, they won the Lenin Komsomol Prize in 1976: a yearly award for Soviet youth in various fields. A breakdown of the name is telling, with Komsomol being an abbreviation of 'Communist Union of Youth' and with Lenin being, well, of course... being Lenin. Surprisingly, only a few of the band's members really 'made it' in music, namely Maia Jabua, the fresh-faced lead singer of the video embedded above. The song, Lampionebi, was released in various versions, but the clip I've included is from sometime around 1974-5. A cleaner, organ-driven version is available to hear here. I personally prefer the fuzzier, guitar-led version, whose poor video quality adds to the distortion and texture of the track.

Label: n/a 
Year: 1974-5
Genre: Pop, Easy-Listening, Russian Rock

Sean Nicholas Savage - Caitlin

Out of print, unavailable for download, and with under 40 listeners on music scrobbling site Last FM, Sean Nicholas Savage's 2008 CDr Little Submarine is virtually untraceable. Yet, as Arbutus Records's first ever release it acts as a landmark: the beginning of 'weird Canada' - a modern scene and sound manifested in acts like Makeout Videotape, Majical Clouds, Doldrums, Tonstartssbandht and other affiliates. This release is special and 'Caitlin' is the best of the lot. The guitar line is frantic and Savage's vocals are strained, but still it remains sugary, sweet and infectious. It's a real modern treasure, one that's very hard to find but easy to digest.

Label: Arbutus Records
Year: 2008
Genre: Indie Pop, Freak Folk

Matia Bazar - Solo Tu

Matia Bazar were - and are - massive in Italy. Since 1975 they've scored number ones in the home country, represented the nation in the Eurovision Song Contest, and racked up an adoring fanbase of middle aged Italian MOR and new wave fanatics. But in the UK? Matia Bazar are a case of not quite 'making it' in the English-speaking West. Maybe they're too 'cheesy', maybe the language barrier caused issues. Either way: for me right now, writing this post to be published to a base made up largely of English and American readers, this song is a total gem. It's a chirpy pop song. It's simple, it's easy, it's fun. And it has the vibe of a new wave rarity that didn't achieve what it could and should have (see also: Warfield Spillers).

Label: Ariston Records
Year: 1977
Genre: MOR, Pop, New Wave

Rajesh Roshan - Superman, Superman

A few weeks back I posted a song from a Hindi film soundtrack, the Title Theme to Bombay Talkie, composed by Shankar Jaikishan. Driven by placid vocal "hums", the song's melody was a curiously modest affair. This song, from 1988 film Dariya Dil, is a whole lot different. Seemingly, their situation in Hindi film soundtracks is where the comparisons end. Rajesh Roshan's 'Superman, Superman' is a bass-driven disco track; a massively catchy girl-boy duet whose infectiousness lies within the almost comical cries of "Superman, Superman!" That's not to say it's a novelty; the combination of traditional Indian instruments, Hollywood orchestration and disco synthesisers works in a surprisingly sophisticated manner. It may seem a strange comparison, but it has the same rickety low-fidelity quality of William Onyeabor's 70s Afro-Funk.

Label: ?
Year: 1988
Genre: Disco, Pop, Bollywood

Hosono Haruomi, Suzuki Shigeru, Tatsuro Yamashita - Nostalgia Of Island

This song, 'Nostalgia of Island', is from the 1990 collaborative effort Pacific, released by what is essentially a supergroup made up of Haruomi Hosono from Happy End and YMO, his former Happy End bandmate Shigeru Suzuki, and the chart-topping popstar Tatsuro Yamashita. Naturally, the result is a coming together of those musicians backgrounds: namely psychedelia, electronica and funk. Yet, the group also show their versatility and breadth of musical interest by exploring exotica, bossa-nova, jazz and lounge musics. The record is aptly named, for probably the biggest influence on its aesthetic is Polynesian and Hawaiian music. This track is a perfect example of what the record is all about; it is playful, exotic, aquatic but, most importantly, sophisticated. Also, watch out for quick interpolation of The Beach Boys's 'Girls On The Beach' towards the end.

Label: Sony 
Year: 1990
Genre: Fusion, Exotica, Electronica, Funk

Profile: The Motifs

It's taken a while for me to write about The Motifs because I've been trying to find words to do them justice! I still haven't got there, but I think it's time to publish something about this special little band. The group come from Melbourne, Australia, and are based around vocalist Alexis Hall, who actually started The Motifs as a solo project back in 2003. Over a series of releases in the 00s, The Motifs defined a sound that is about as close to 'perfect' as I can imagine. A combination of acoustic guitars, cheap Casio keyboards, drum machines, handclaps and shakers makes for the exquisitely warm instrumental base on top of which Alexis's lush vocals sit (although 'sit' may not be the best choice of words, as every component of the music feels so entwined and compatible). Alexis simply has one of the most gorgeous voices I've ever heard - it's hushed, breathy and utterly enchanting. And yet, this isn't a band that focuses on the quality of a voice, or the aesthetic of the its 'sound'. Nope, the lyrics are strong - beautiful, often melancholy - and the instrumental arrangements are far more sophisticated than one may imagine. No one area of The Motifs is stronger than the next, they're a band that's mastered a sound with nothing amiss. This is indie pop at its finest, for fans of Architecture In Helsinki, Camera Obscure, Mutual Benefit, Tenniscoats. If you'd like to hear more, I'd say their sound comes together best on tracks like Night Sky, Envelopes, Tell Me More and Yours & Mine (which I've posted above) - all stunning short pop songs; sweet, infectious and fun.

Label: Knock Yr Socks Off / Music Is My Girlfriend /  Cosy Recordings
Genre: Indie Pop, Twee Pop, Folk, Electronica

Nagisa Ni Te - Premonition

Despite putting out multiple records on zeitgeist label Jagjaguwar, Nagisa Ni Te (渚にて) have remained criminally overlooked over the course of their career. Affiliated with Maher Shalal Hash Baz, the Japanese couple make breezy indie pop that sounds like the junction between their aforementioned contemporaries, as well as 90s alt-rock and 60s psych-folk. I guess that essentially means they sound like The Pastels or, more specifically, the incredible Pastels/Tenniscoats collaboration record from a few years ago. Which would make sense, as Nagisa Ni Te have also released music on Stephen Pastel's continent-crossing Geographic label.

Label: Jagjaguwar 
Year: 2008
Genre: Indie Pop, Psychedelia, Folk Pop

Nancy Leticia - Would U Like Some Flan

Nancy Leticia is a pianist based in Vancouver whose music inhabits - but seamlessly blends - two different worlds. A formally trained pianist, she's posted videos of herself playing Chopin, Satie and Scriabin on YouTube. Yet, the music she composes herself is electronica in a similar vein to producers like Hot Sugar (who she's collaborated with in the past). Her music embraces net art, Classicism and Hypermodernism and the combination of classical influences with internet-age means produces something really beautiful; her piano playing is elegant and fluid, but the musical aesthetic belongs in the considerably 'kitsch' world of the internet. This track, 'Would u like some flan', is a perfect example of her work - an aesthetically gorgeous piece, whose lush synthesisers and modest beat build slowly and warmly.

Label: n/a
Year: 2014
Genre: Electronica, Classical

Selomon Shibeshi - Fikre Tetchawetchi

This track from Ethiopian jazz musician Selomon Shibeshi is dressed to kill; it is bold, slick and holds a real tight groove. Typically of Ethio-Jazz, the rhythm of the track evolves around hypnotic polyrhythms. Harmonically, obvious comparisons can be made to Gétatchèw Kassa or the 'pioneer' of Ethio-Jazz, Mulatu Astatke. Unlike those two prolific artists however, Shibeshi seems to have only released two songs - on a single that sells for all of £200+. That, or he's released a load of other records that I embarrassingly can't track down.

Label: Philips
Year: 1974
Genre: Ethio-Jazz, Funk

Harpers Bizarre - Come To The Sunshine

Despite working with Harry Nilsson and Randy Newman, Harpers Bizarre are a rather obscure name in 60s pop terms. They released a few records between '67 and '76 but never seemed to 'make it' in the way that many of their more memorable contemporaries did. Still, they put out some great tracks, thanks to the songwriters they worked with and their choice of cover versions. Written for the band by Van Dyke Parks, 'Come To The Sunshine' is a typical Sunshine Pop song, with jangly guitars, vocal harmonies and a heavily orchestrated arrangement; woodwind, strings and brass all put to use here. I've been a big fan of this track for a couple of years and although I probably prefer Van Dyke Parks's recording, I'd say this version captures the 'swinging 60s' better.

Label: Warner Bros.
Year: 1967
Genre: Sunshine Pop, Baroque Pop

Resonance FM 9/4/14

Last night's Resonance show was the final Dig That Treasure radio show for the foreseeable future. Of course, I'll try and launch a new series at some point, regardless of whether it's on the wonderful Resonance 104.4FM. But for the time being the show's over, folks! I ended with a bang though, playing some of my favourite treasures, including: soulful art-rock-synth-pop (Adrian Knight), video game jazz (Asuka Sakai & Yu Miyake), Japanese indie-pop (Three-weeks-old Lovesick Puppy), a piano-playing nun (Emahoy Tsegué-Maryam Guèbrou), casiotone spoken-word (The Mennonites), 60s Northern Soul (The Groove) and finally the first song I ever posted on this blog, a special rarity from a very famous punk outfit (The Stranglers).

Dig That Treasure (9/4/14)
Adrian Knight - Pedini Cabinets
Asuka Sakai & Yu Miyake - Overture II
Three-weeks-old Lovesick Puppy - Empty Park
Emahoy Tsegué-Maryam Guèbrou - Presentiment
The Mennonites - If You Lived Here You'd Be Home Right Now
The Groove - Love, It's Getting Better
The Stranglers - My Young Dreams

Brenda Ray - D'ya Hear Me!

Brenda Ray is a musician who put out various releases in the 1970 and 80s, in and around Cheshire. While much of her work was heavily dub and reggae influenced, this track is a raw new-wave rarity, not unlike tracks I've posted on the blog or played on my radio show before by Warfield Spillers, Mag & The Suspects or Trixie's Big Red Motorbike. It's a lovely track; jazzy and sugary, yet somewhat dissonant.

Label: EM
Year: 1979
Genre: New-Wave, Experimental, Dub, Post-Punk

Shankar Jaikishan - Title Theme From Bombay Talkie

Shankar Jaikishan were a duo of composers (Shankar Raghuvanshi and Jaikishan Panchal) who composed music for the Hindi film industry from the 1940s right up until the 70s. Jazz (or jazz influenced music) gets its fair share of coverage on this blog, so it's worth mentioning that these guys are credited with pioneering 'Indo-Jazz'. Their melodies have been described as "everlasting" and "immortal" and this theme from the film Bombay Talkie is no exception, a familiar and yet curious melody; charming, mellow and memorable.

Label: ?
Year: 1970
Genre: Indo-Jazz, Raga, Folk

Dig That Treasure 2/4/14

Wednesday's Resonance show was the penultimate Dig That Treasure. It's been a great run and I'm deeply sad to be ending, but next week's final show will be special! That's not to say this week's wasn't; I span Indonesian garage rock, Caribbean outsider music, and a couple of tracks from Nick Drake's mother.

Dig That Treasure (2/4/14)
Dara Puspita - To Love Somebody
Superstar & Star - I Ain't Missing You
Shankar Jaikishan - Title Theme From 'Bombay Talkie'
Selomon Shibeshi - Fikre Tetchawetchi 
Molly Drake - Happiness
Molly Drake - Never Pine For The Old Love
Television Personalities - Wonder What It Was

Dig That Treasure 26/3/14

Wednesday's Resonance show explored various genres, from bossa-nova to early electronica, Ethio-Pop to sample-based ambience. I span tracks from Norway, Spain, Ethiopia, Japan and more...

Dig That Treasure (26/3/14)
Pizzicato Five - The Girl From Ipanema
Remington Super 60 - Please Don't Go
Zola - Pop-a-Nova
Hamelmal Abate - Endemal Kere
L. Pierre - Sad Laugh
Woo - 1001 Decisions
Delia Derbyshire - Mattachin

Kazumasa Hashimoto - Noaro

Kazumasa Hashimoto is a classically trained Japanese musician who makes electroacoustic pieces that come across equally masterful and naïve. This song, Noaro, manipulates and processes acoustic instruments (namely guitar) to form a blissfully textured and entrancingly rhythmic cut of electronica. Its repetitive nature really draws me in, making me feel as though I'm becoming a part of its beautiful and hypnotic world.

Label: Plop
Year: 2003
Genre: Electronica, Electroacoustic, Experimental

Woo - 1001 Decisions

Woo is a band made up of two brothers, Mark and Clive Ives, who have kept a low profile over their thirty year career despite recent re-issues of their first and second albums, 1982's Whichever Way You Are Going You Are Going Wrong and 1989's It's Cosy Inside. This song '1001 Decisions' is from their first label-released record in over 20 years, the aptly named When The Past Arrives. '1001 Decisions' is a warm and beautiful piece that fills me with inexplicable comfort. Embracing jazz, ambient new age and low-fidelity pop, this track gives nods to Brian Eno, L. Pierre and The Caretaker - the song's crackly looping nature is reminiscent of the latter's "ballroom' jazz experiments. Woo and this song are a particular treat to stumble upon, and have opened up to me decades' worth of stunning ambience.

Label: Drag City
Year: 2014
Genre: Electroacoustic, Jazz, Ambient

Girma Tefera Kassa - Man Neber Yalanci

I'm really struggling to find information about both this artist and this song. From what I can work out, Kassa's father was a musician called Tefera Kassa, and Girma has continued his father's legacy (possibly even rerecording his songs?). There's also very little information on when this was released: I've read online that it's from the 70s, but I'm wondering whether that's when his father's version was released. Although there's a good chance this was released in the last decade, I'll label it as 'treasure'... not because of its age but rather its elusiveness. Not that any of that really matters anyway: it's all about the music! This song is fabulous, a really upbeat rhythmic track with a great raspy brass section!

Label: ?
Year: ?
Genre: Ethiopian Pop

Dig That Treasure 19/3/14

Tonight's Resonance show included a couplet of Japanese tracks, some Ethio-Pop, a song by Eliot Krimsky's Glass Ghost, and two super rare new-wave tracks from the 80s!

Dig That Treasure (19/3/14)
Warfield Spillers - Daddy's Little Girl
Brenda Ray - D'ya Hear Me!
Kazumasa Hashimoto - Noaro
Jun Miyake - Tokonatsu No Urei
Girma Tefera Kassa - Man Neber Yalanci
Glass Ghost - The Same

Julian Lynch - Es's

Julian Lynch needs little introduction. A favourite of mine, the multi-instrumentalist has released several criminally overlooked records over the last few years. These records have seen him develop a sound that weaves together freak folk, electronica, psychedelia and ambience to form a really distinctive, pastoral sound. As an Ethnomusicology PhD student, a profound and audible understanding of global musics and cultures lines all of his works, whether that's rhythmically, melodically or simply in his instrumental choices (clarinet, synthesisers, percussion and whatever he can lay his hands on!). This song, "Es's", is from his limited edition cassette Buffalo Songs, a tape that collates various cuts of Lynch's unreleased home recordings and demos. "Es's" is a warm potpourri of Moog synthesisers, strong percussion and sweet vocals.

Label: Goaty Tapes
Year: 2011
Genre: Folk, Experimental, Electronica, World

Guest Post: Otis Fodder presents Wordless Vocalizations Mix

Otis Fodder is a Canadian musician and record collector. As one half of The Bran Flakes he makes quirky and charming pop songs, by means of sound collage. He combines samples from old vinyl rarities with live instrumentation and in this special mix for Dig That Treasure, he's shared some of those rarities. These songs were all released between 1950 and 1978 and feature 'wordless vocalisations'...

A mix for listening in the early morning, the late night, or perhaps by train overlooking the scenery. A few of my favorite wordless cuts from vinyl. I hope you enjoy these songs as much as I do. My very best - Otis

Otis Fodder presents...
Wordless Vocalizations Mix:

Tony Mottola with The Ray Charles Singers - "Danger" Theme
Bas Sheva - Hate
Leda Annest - Part I
Micheline Ramette - Eve Psychedelique
Mystic Moods Orchestra - Universal Mind
Francis Lai - Melissa
Kinkies - Midsummer Nostalgia
Claudine Longet - Epilogue/While You're Sleeping
Yma Sumac - Magenta Mountain

Tsegaye Eshetu - Sew Yalesew

This song from Tsegaye Eshetu is quite different to the typical Ethio-Pop I post on here. As well as having a distinct lack of horns it also lacks the fast and complicated polyrhythms that typify much of Ethiopia's pop music, opting instead for a 6/8 time signature. It's none the worse for it though; this is a great, strongly melodic track with smooth synthesisers complimented by Tsegaye Eshetu's cool vocals. It comes across almost as an Ethio 'slow jam'.

Label: ?
Year: 198?
Genre: Ethio-Pop, R&B

Resonance FM 12/3/14

Last night's Resonance show featured songs from Sumatra, Turkey, Ethiopia and Italy, as well as a duo of tracks from New York 'outsider musician' Gary Wilson. Check it out below!

Dig That Treasure (12/3/14)
Samsimar - Indang Pariaman
Timur Selçuk Orkestrası - Dünden Bugüne
Gary Wilson - In The Night
Gary Wilson - When You Walk Into My Dreams
Tsegaye Eshetu - Sew Yalesew
Roberto Cacciapaglia - My Time

Warfield Spillers - Daddy's Little Girl

This is a seriously rare and hard-to-trace track from 'Warfield Spillers' a band who seemingly only ever had one release, a 7" with this on the A-side. It barely exists online, but for on Ariel Pink's 2010 FACT mix, which led me to think that it could be an Ariel hoax... I was over-theorising there and have decided it's just a super weird and low-fidelity one-off release from the 80s. Most simply it's a cracking soul song, but it definitely borders on new-wave territory.

Label: Compography
Year: 1988
Genre: Soul, New Wave

Zola - Pop-A-Nova

Zola were (still are?) a sextet from Barcelona whose aim it was (is?) to remove elements of pop music rather than add them, to create natural and simplistic melodies. Zola's sound is filled with references to bossa-nova, jazz and - most clearly - c86-era twee pop. Spain has a rich history of indie pop and so Zola are to me an unsurprisingly but thoroughly pleasing discovery!

Label: Jabalina Música
Year: 2003
Genre: Indie Pop, Twee