Thursday, March 21, 2013

South American Trip!

This post has been at the back of my mind for a long time. I wanted to write something about psychedelic music from South America from different eras (because there's just plenty of it for some reason), make it well-documented, complete, insightful, and of course what it meant is that I kept postponing it and not doing anything about it. It felt like work.

So screw that! Let's just pretty much dump the videos in here for now, just to give you an idea of the amount of obscure gems waiting to be discovered.

Let's start with what gave me the idea for the post in the first place: Chicha! Originally the name of some fermented beverage made in various regions of South America, it also became the name of a weird Peruvian musical genre that combines cumbia with... wait for it... surf music! Here's a typical example, by one of the early bands that played the genre, Los Destellos:

A recent compilation, aptly named The Roots of Chicha, gives us some of the best the genre has to offer. Here's one that you just gotta love:

A recent group called Chicha Libre (ahem), with participation from some French musicians, gives us a more modern (and maybe less interesting?) interpretation of the genre. Here's a Chicha version of Joe Dassin's "L'ete indien" :

But let's move on from Peru... My favorite discovery of the year, Meridian Brothers, comes from Colombia! Despite the name, it's a one man affair. Eblis Alvarez is possible the John Frusciante of the Latin American world, and is very much active. Here's one of his recent songs:


But, the diligent EasyTV viewer is bound to ask: what about Brazil? Don't expect me to talk about Os Mutantes and the whole Tropicalia movement, I've mentioned it here before, and frankly it's not all that obscure, is it? So let me tell you instead about Tim Maia, apparently a God of Funk at home but at least unknown to me until very recently. So let's transport ourselves to the mid 70s, and let's make sweeeeeeet looooove to this music:

(apparently the song can be heard on the City of God soundtrack. Haven't seen the movie.)

To finish things off, let's go to Venezuela. OK, not quite: this is a London-based band, but the singer, Luzmira Zerpa, is from there. In any case, it looks pretty cool live:

I also had something from Chile, but I can't find it right now, and there was a band from Argentina that had an awesome album cover but the music turned out to be pretty lame, and their name is Catupecu Machu.

So there you go, hope that's better than nothing.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Obligatory Best of 2012!

I haven't been following the current music scene as closely as I used to, but it just seems to me that there's been a lot of great music in 2012, so much so that even I've heard some of it! I've been meaning to categorize, rationalize, synthesize it all, but "le mieux est l'ennemi du bien", so all you're going to get is a basic list in no particular order and without much commentary (not that I know much about these musicians anyway).

Let's start with some dancey stuff to get things going. I love this video and I can't sit still watching it:

You know what else I like? Dance music with a slow rhythm! But check out the (possibly NSFW if you live in an uptight country like I do) vintage porn excerpts!

Weirder and more disconcerting, this piece of electronica comes with a spooky video that matches the mood perfectly:

So you think Syd Barrett's dead, huh? In reality, he's been in Australia all this time, along with his buddies from Pink Floyd, playing good old Piper-era music under a fake band name that only he could come up with:

You know who was a pleasant surprise this year? Cat Power! I don't like the whole album, but there's definitely a few great tracks, including this one: (but the video, which she directed herself, is pretty terrible in my opinion. Well, you be the judge...)

But Chan Marshall 2.0 is undeniably Sharon van Etten, and it so happens she had a new album too! It's not as catchy as her previous one, but there's still plenty of good songs in there too:

More obscure? You want more obscure? Julianna Barwick comes from the same scene as Sharon van Etten, and OMBRE is her latest collaboration. That this fantastic gem didn't make a single best of 2012 list is a crime:

And you might think this comes from a 60's folk compilation from Elektra (that would be a great blog post idea, actually...), but no, this really is from 2012, and it's fantastic:

Happy new year, full of laughter, fulfillment and great music!

Friday, August 31, 2012

Mod Up! A Brief Intro to Northern Soul

I'm baaaack! Hope you didn't miss me too much. Today's post is inspired by Juliet, Naked, who is not an "easy" girlfriend of mine but a Nick Hornby novel. It was an ok read, mostly the first half, but what really got me interested was its mention of Northern Soul. Northern Soul is something that often pops up in reviews or interviews of British pop bands, often those associated with the Mod scene such as The Jam or Dexy's Midnight Runners. So I finally decided to find out more about this scene.

According to the wikipedia entry, Northern Soul is basically old American soul music from the 60s that happened to be favored by residents of Northern England. And the more obscure, the better. Now that's something EasyTV can get behind! So we're not talking about Motown big names such as the Supremes, but artists from lesser-known labels. So here's a little selection to give you an idea:

First, to get you interested, here's a song I'm sure you know, and that you probably thought (as I did) that it was an original: Tainted Love. Well, here's the original:

It's not as sleazy sounding as the Soft Cell version, but it's very danceable with its fast rhythm. Mark Almond must have heard this at a Northern Soul dance party, maybe in Wigan, maybe in Blackpool, maybe in Manchester, who knows.

Now one fun aspect of Northern Soul is the dance moves. A nice combination of spins and kicks that might remind one of hip-hop at times. Here's an illustration, to the tune of one of the most popular Northern Soul songs (but still one that's under the radar, because otherwise it wouldn't qualify as Northern Soul anymore now, would it? Such is the curse of a music genre that is defined by its obscurity). The dancing starts at 0:15

Juliet, Naked name-drops a few other artists from that era. One of them, Dobie Gray (who passed away recently), is the author of a Northern Soul "classic" (according to a character in the book) called Out on the Floor:

I'll be honest with you, this music isn't exactly my cup of tea, but I'm glad I finally found out what it was all about. Now if you happened to like this, here's a top 500 Northern Soul list you could use as a starting point. Enjoy!