It’s Album Time
Much has been made of how long many of us have been waiting for Todd Terje’s magnificent, kitschy, richly detailed, party-starting masterwork of an album. Less has been written about why everyone wanted an album from Terje so bad, as though a series of singles wasn’t basically the same thing. Joke’s on you, album-lovers: the best cuts on It’s Album Time have already been released as… wait for it… singles. The man is not what you’d call prolific,Â and what’s wrong with that? Stupid insatiable free market.
Anyways, we’re still richer for knowing that Terje is not just a great programmer but also a keyboard savant; other producers sample riffs from latin-jazz-fusion rarities, but I’ll bet my piano-key tie that Terje’s playing the stuff himself. “Preben Goes To Acapulco” Â sounds like it was made by someone who’s spent a lot of time with Weather Report and/or Herbie Hancock’s mid-’70s catalog, “Svenk Sas” and “Alfonso Muskedunder” areÂ built on montunosÂ fast enough toÂ at least startle Chucho Valdes, and all of them feature what seems like an endless supply of vintage-synth wibble-wobble soloing. All of these things make me indescribably happy, in case you were wondering where I was going with this.
But it’s the dance-iest tracks that really make the album more than a retro pastiche, and I defy anyone to stay still when “Strandbar” comes on. If this album has a flaw (other than the Bryan Ferry vocal on “Johnny and Mary,” which isn’t my cup of lounge-lizard mumbling, but your mileage may vary) it’s that the version of “Strandbar” is only 4-odd minutes long, unlike the 12-inch version. Four minutes of that unstoppable Rube Goldberg-goes-disco machine, even with its brilliant and harmonically sophisticated piano-led bridge, is not nearly enough. You’ll like the other tracks, and it’s no exaggeration to say you need this collection as a whole, but if you don’t listen to “Strandbar” early and often, frankly I’m a bit worried for your general well-being. They should hand out copies in office buildings and stores, like hand sanitizer.
Pye Corner Audio
Black Mill Tapes Vols. 3-4
Some years ago I got in the funny habit of combing through those newsletters that record stores like Amoeba and Aquarius put out, and making a list of any records I’d never heard of, but that sounded interesting so that I could add them to my eMusic saved items. You’d think with the bazillion records hitting the interwebs every day, not to mention the plethora of media sources offering to filter said bazillion records according to your taste, culling an artificially-selected herd of new records every week would be a colossal waste of time. Funnily enough, it hasn’t been.
One of the discoveries I remember making a big impression (and coming out in 2010, around the same time as the similar-in-nature Moon Wiring Club and Belbury Poly) was Pye Corner Audio, whose Black Mill Tapes Vol. 1 was one of the year’s highlights. It seemed like a quixotic project that would appeal more to synth nerds than to listeners – it can’t have been an accident that the pseudonym of the man behind the 1970s and 1980s school-science-filmstrip was “The Head Technician.” But most nerds can’t make a catchy number out of their virtuosic attention to detail, which is why it’s so gratifying when one of them does it – and in robust quantities.
If you had to be fleeing a villainous cyborg or removing a mind-control device from your crainium, you’d want the soundtrack to be the carefully-constructed yet gauzy ambiance of “Memory Wiped” or the music-box-synths gone sinister and John Carpenter-y of “Electronic Rhythm Number Eight.” More surprising to me was the emergence of dancefloor-ready tracks amid the sci-fi-soundtrack fodder. Both “Electronic Rhythm Number Two” and “Void Bound” have a kind of dull, rubbery sheen to their pulsing grooves that make them great set-openers, all you budding DJs. Oh and did I mention that synth nerds will love this? Because you will. Love this.