Friday, June 27, 2014

The "lost" Caustic Window album

No matter how much of a fan you think you are, there's always somebody out there who relates to the music more passionately than you, is willing to run the mailing list and/or fan site more than you, or pay $46 000 for a one-of-a-kind vinyl album more than you.

Fans of 90's electronica remember hearing the fables about dozens of unreleased Aphex Twin albums supposedly locked away somewhere, all of them supposedly mind-blowing according to the likes of Mike Paradinas (mu-ziq) but relegated to the closet by the perfectionist R.D. James himself.  Have the archive doors finally been blown open?  It's hard to believe that the likes of Prince relented years ago and agreed to release his archived work, while Aphex Twin stubbornly refused to budge.

The album is streaming in several places on the internet.  Fans of "Selected Ambient Works I" will surely love the opener, "Flutey", as it's overall mood and sonic palate are virtually identical. On the other hand, "Stomper 101mod Detunekik" (love the name -- has to be the name of a patch he put together just for this track) and "Popeye" recall the vacuum cleaner rave music of the early 90's done up Aphex style with dreamy ambient synths lurking in the background.  "Afx Tribal Kik" seems to be a stab at ethno-techno done for a bit of a laugh, but it actually comes across as a killer demo of sorts for Polygon Window's all-time classic "Quoth".  "Airflow" brings things back toward "SAW I" again, only to careen back into pure WTF-ness with the biggest oddity of the album, the acid-cum-italo house "Squidge in the Fridge".  "101 Rainbows (Ambient Mix)" might be the biggest find of the album, a collision between then-contemporary ambient house and the melodical precision of Krautrock, like Cluster and the Orb collaborating at the height of their respective powers.

As a compilation of odds and sods, the album makes sense, as many of these experiments wouldn't have blended into his other albums.  You can almost imagine Richard James' thought process on every track ... "now I want to see if I can make my style work with (insert esoteric genre name) ... eh, not bad, maybe I'll tweak it a bit later (*files track away and doesn't play it for twenty years*)".  I doubt that it will blow many minds, but it will certainly remind people of why they were such big Aphex Twin fans in the first place.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Casey Kasem RIP

It's been a rough couple of days for celebrity deaths (Tony Gwynn??  No...) and it's good to see that Kasem is getting the respect he deserved in death, seeing as the end of his life appears to have been anything but pleasant.  His family feuding over his estate and his wife allegedly holding a senile Kasem prisoner in their home will hopefully be forgotten -- a sad end to one of the great lives in pop music history.

Chris Molanphy captures the essence of Kasem perfectly in his piece for Slate.   It's true, he unashamedly loved pop, even when it wasn't exactly popular to do so.  Chart nerds could salivate over how he'd phrase a dramatic jump from #5 to #3, making it sound like a titanic newsworthy event without hardly ever raising his tone of voice.  I grew up watching "America'sTop 40" on TV every Saturday and rediscovered Kasem (in a way) on radio in the late 80's when I would listen to the countdown in full nearly every week.  I listened to and recorded his broadcast of the top chart songs of the 1980's and relistened to it incessantly in the 90's, it was one of my personal all time favourite radio moments.

As Molanphy explains, Kasem's true talent was that he was a storyteller who rarely came across as a hype-fueled DJ paid by record companies to plug the week's most popular music.  He humanized the artists in a way that DJ's and even many journalists rarely do, and his stories were so vivid I could often picture myself in the room while the music was being created.