This is a mix that I did for my friend Ali's website which you should check out as it is good and you can actually download the thing there.
A Is For A Beginning
When Ali first asked me to do a mix for this site I was both touched and a little nervous. I was initially nervous because I don’t actually know how to mix despite fairly regularly being asked to DJ and doing a semi-OK job of seeming vaguely like I know what I’m doing. I feared that I might be expected to churn out some 60 minute, beat matched, second perfect, Trakteratto session replete with horns and samples. Once I had made it clear that such a thing was well beyond my capabilities but that I would be more than happy to supply something more akin to a mixtape I then became nervous because even doing that is pretty tough.
I have tried and failed to make mixtapes I’ve been happy with countless times and possibly come away with a success rate of, at best, about 2%. A good mixtape requires a good theme, a cohesive selection and a great sense of pace. I suffer from enjoying too disparate a taste in things coupled with a miniscule attention span to ever make 60 or 90 minutes of anything ever hang together in a broadly acceptable manner. To negate this problem and give me an excuse to lay down anything I like under the guise of doing so beneath a thematic banner I offered to make Ali not one but twenty six mixes once monthly all beginning with a single letter of the alphabet. In alphabetical order. If you all hate the first one though just tell me and I’ll fuck off.
1. Abner Jay – “The Reason Young People Use Drugs”
2. The Adolescents – “Wrecking Crew”
3. Aethenor – “Untitled”
4. Agathocles – “Mutilated Regurgitator”
5. The Aggrovators – “Russian Stout”
6. Akitsa – “Ode Au Temps Passe”
7. Akron/Family – “The Alps & Their Orange Evergreen”
8. Alasdair Roberts – “Slowly Growing Old”
9. Albert One – “Turbo Diesel”
10. Alcest – “Le Secret”
11. Allen Ginsberg – “Dope Fiend”
12. The Almighty Defenders – “All My Loving”
13. Amps For Christ – “Colours”
14. Angel Witch – “Angel Of Death”
15. Angelo Badalamenti – “Twin Peaks Theme”
16. Antioch Arrow – “Chaos Vs Cosmos”
17. Anton LaVey – “Satan Takes A Holiday”
18. Aphex Twin – “Xtal”
19. Arab Strap – “The First Big Weekend”
20. Archers Of Loaf – “Web In Front”
21. Ash Ra Tempel – “Bring Me Up”
22. At The Gates – “Slaughter Of The Soul”
23. Antidote – “Real Deal”
24. Autechre – “Dael”
1. Abner Jay (http://www.subliminalsounds.se/DOK/abnerjay.html) - “The Reason Young People Use Drugs”
Abner Jay claimed to be the “last working Southern black minstrel”. Born in Georgia to slave parents in the early part of the twentieth century Abner began playing in medicine shows at the age of 5. His records took in elements of folk, blues, gospel and Pentecostal music which he played on any number of instruments ranging from a banjo that he claimed was built in 1748 to ‘the bones’ (some old chicken and cow bones that he used to bang a beat out with). He released many LP’s on his own Brandie Records label including this cut which is from an album entitled Swaunee Water And Cocaine Blues. However, I first discovered Abner's music on a reissue from the excellent Mississippi Records (http://facstaff.unca.edu/sinclair/miss_records/index.html) a label which, if you’ve never checked it out before, you really should have a look at. It’s like a treasure trove and link to a lost world that is fast becoming forgotten.
2. The Adolescents (http://www.theadolescents.net/bios_files/band_bio.html ) – “Wrecking Crew”
The Adolescents embodied just about every aspect of early 80’s Orange County punk rock. Loud, fast and bursting with energetic, simplistic melody. One of the happiest days of my life was finding the "Amoeba" 7” on blue in that funny record shop on Belnheim Crescent that is actually two separate record shops in one space run by a couple of old guys who argue all the time. If you are into punk records go there. The guy on the right hand side as you walk in gets unbelievable stuff.
3. Aethenor (http://www.metal-archives.com/band.php?id=84374 ) – “Untitled”
Aethenor are a band whose personnel include, but are not limited to, Stephen O’Malley (you know, the guy with the beard from Sunn O))), Vincent de Roguin from Shora (http://www.myspace.com/shoraband) and Daniel O’Sullivan. I try and mention Daniel as often possible because he’s quite possibly one of the most gifted British musicians of his generation. He plays, or has at some point played with, Guapo (http://www.guapo.co.uk/), Miasma & The Carousel Of Headless Horses (http://www.myspace.com/headlesshorses), Mothlite (http://www.myspace.com/mothlite) and Ulver (http://www.myspace.com/ulver1). He is also my age, went to school opposite me and generally makes me feel lazy every time I think about him. Aethenor play a dissonate, scraping, droning, hum that is occasionally cacophonous yet somehow strangely soothing.
4. Agathocles (http://www.metal-archives.com/band.php?id=2649) - “Mutilated Regurgitator”
23 seconds of live fury from Agathocles. I once interviewed Eric Wood from Man Is The Bastard and he told me that Agathocles were one of the only bands whose work rate he considered to parallel his own. Have a look at how many records Eric has put out (http://www.recordhospital.org/mitb.htm) and you’ll soon realize that is no light praise. Agathocles are from Belgium and they have been playing unrelenting grindcore since around 1985. In that time they have notched up at least 150 releases. What have you done today?
5. The Aggrovators (http://www.roots-archives.com/artist/142 ) - “Russian Stout”
Taken from the 1977 collection Aggrovators Meets The Revolutioners At Channel One Studios this cut features the infamous session outfit in particularly bouyant form. The Aggrovators were essentially legendary producer Bunny “Striker” Lee’s in-house band. Along with King Tubby, Prince Jammy and Phillip Smart, Lee helped pioneer the dub sound. Jackie Mitto, Sly & Robbie and Aston “Family Man” Barret all served time with The Aggrovaters and the bands longtime drummer Carlton “Santa” Davis is credited with establishing the ‘flying cymbal’ sound that was to become commonplace in dub. The group took their name from Agro Sounds, the record shop that Lee ran in the 60’s. How has no one ever stolen that for a record label name?
6. Akitsa (http://www.metal-archives.com/band.php?id=2224) - “Ode Au Temps Passe”
Canadian black metal horde Akitsa is basically one guy who goes by the name O.T. Other than that he is based in Montreal, has been making music for about ten years now under the Akitsa moniker and plays a harsh, raw, misanthropic take on the genre I can’t tell you too much about the guy. I first came across Akitsa after picking up a split with Prurient aka Dominick Fernow whose Hospital Productions (http://www.hospitalproductions.com/) label reissued the LP entitled Goétie that this track is taken from. O.T. is singing in French by the way so even if you can make out the screams through the shards of crackle then unless you’re fluent it will still be incomprehensible.
7. Akron/Family (http://www.akronfamily.com/) - “The Alps & Their Orange Evergreen”
I’ve always been a sucker for rootsy Americana, the more bucolic the better. Maybe it was over-exposure to The Basement Tapes as a kid? Who knows. Anyway, Akron/Family’s take on folksy roots music offers sweeps and swooshes of adventure enough to justify the lofty praise they regularly garner. If Micheal Gira is going to have you as his backing band you’re gonna need be talking a real talk I guess.
8. Alasdair Roberts (http://www.alasdairroberts.com/) – “Slowly Growing Old”
Ali Roberts plays folk music so thick and burdened by the weight of history and tradition that you fear it might buckle and bough at any minute like a huge old oak that’s just had enough of being around so long. Luckily, and much like a mighty oak, Ali’s music stands tall and unquivering in the cold winds of prevailing modernity. Once upon a time he played in the band Appendix Out and he also played in the short-lived Amalgametd Sons Of Rest which was kind of like a contemporary version of Pentagle consisting as it did of Roberts, Will Oldham and Jason Molina. Anyhow, I saw this track performed at a place called The Glee Club in Birmingham where some chick with a weird voice called Joanna Newsome was supporting him and I am not afraid to say that I was almost moved to tears.
9. Albert One (http://www.albertone.net/) – “Turbo Diesel”
Much has been made of the resurgence of Italo Disco in the last half decade and, love it or loathe it, it’s hard to argue with its infectiousness. I first discovered Italo after attending a night called Cocadisco (http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=17834115290) which began life at The Social on Little Portland Street and has since moved from The Dolphin in Hackney to Visions in Dalston to Corsica Studios in Elephant & Castle. Cocadisco is the baby of someone who I am lucky enough to regularly work with and has a vast and passionate of knowledge of Italo, techno, acid and just about any other form of dance music you’d be willing to cut a shape to. For introducing me to the sound and generally being one of the greatest humans on the planet this one goes out to Piers Martin.
10. Alcest (http://www.metal-archives.com/band.php?id=19701 ) – “Le Secret”
Alcest make black metal so glacial that the guy behind it has named himself after snow. Neige has been perfecting the art of frozen, shoegazey black metal from his blot-hole in Avignon, France, for the better part of a decade. This title track from his 2007 two song EP is possibly his high water mark. Bleak, but strangely uplifting.
11. Allen Ginsberg – “Dope Fiend”
Everyone knows that Allen Ginsberg wrote Howl and was buddies with alchie-Jack and junkie-Bill but have you ever heard his blues jams? If you’ve ever read any of his stuff you won’t be too surprised by the tone or delivery. Whiged out rants and conjecture that manage to be simultaneously light-hearted and needlingly insightful. Other tracks from this mid-70’s album entitled First Blues include “You Are My Dildo”, “Vomit Express” and “CIA Dope Calypso”.
12. The Almighty Defenders (http://www.myspace.com/thealmightydefenders) – “All My Loving”
I am not entirely sure that this is out yet or that I should be putting it on here but never mind. I guess I am biased as I know all the people involved but what’s not to love? This is basically The Black Lips and King Khan & BBQ Show playing raucous Gospel-influence garage and rhythm and blues. Like I said: what’s not to love?
13. Amps For Christ (http://www.ampsforchrist.com/) – “Colours”
A reworking of the Appalachian traditional song “Black Is The Colour Of My True Love’s Hair” put through the frazzeled feedback of the Amps For Christ process. Amps For Christ is the solo-ish project of Henry Barnes whose home made speakers and amplification equipment gave Man Is The Bastard its unique range of sonic brutality. With Amps For Christ Barnes has turned his experience with amplitude towards softer frequencies which are closer to free folk than the powerviolence influenced noise of his previous work.
14. Angel Witch (http://www.myspace.com/youranangelwitch) – “Angel Of Death”
While nowhere near as well know as Iron Maiden’s 1980 self titled debut Angel Witch’s first record was also released that year and I’d take it any day of the week over Maiden’s initial effort. It contains all the elements that would go on to define the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal (operatic vocals, dueling guitars and vaguely heathen and satanic imagery) but delivers them with a sense of commitment and intent that few other bands of the era can hold a candle to.
15. Angelo Badalamenti (http://www.angelobadalamenti.com/) – “Twin Peaks Theme”
I am not sure what I could possibly say about this that would add anything to just listening to it. So do that. And then maybe listen to Badalamenti talking about working with Lynch (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a_9D5PiOjog&feature=related).
16. Antioch Arrow (http://www.myspace.com/antiocharrow) - “Chaos Vs Cosmos”
For three years of my life I lived in Nottingham, a city that has a lot to be said for itself, not least, a hugely fertile music scene. When I first arrived in town there were a bunch of kids who dressed like they wanted to be in a San Diego screamo band. There was also a band around called The Murder Of Rosa Luxemburg (http://www.myspace.com/themurderofrosaluxemburg) who weren’t really from Nottingham but did actually sound a bit like a San Diego screamo band. They no longer exist but their singer Shaun plays in a band called Lovvers who don’t really sound anything like a San Diego screamo band. Whenever I remember those days I think of Antioch Arrow who were just about the best San Diego screamo band of all time. Apart from maybe Heroin.
17. Anton LaVey (http://www.churchofsatan.com/) – “Satan Takes A Holiday”
This was originally written by a guy called Larry Clinton in 1937 and was used as incidental music in spook shows and medicine shows. LaVey covered it on a 1995 album that bought together his lost recordings. Just in case you live in a monastery and don't know who Anton LaVey is: he's the founder of The Church Of Satan. I discovered this jaunty little instrumental gem on one of the Lux & Ivy’s Favourites compilations which are basically a bunch of mixtapes put together by Cramps fans containing songs that Lux and Ivy covered, played before or after they performed live, mentioned in interviews or the compiler just y’know, imagined they’d be into. They have a lot of great stuff on them and are well worth tracking down.
18. Aphex Twin (http://www.aphextwin.com/) – “Xtal”
While it may seem an obvious Richard D. James choice to go for something off of Selected Ambeint Works I can honestly say that no other single piece of music (aside from maybe “Papua New Guineau” by The Future Sound Of London) so accurately communicates the feeling of being on drugs as this track. If you have never taken drugs: don't bother. The day after sucks. This won't give you a comedown and leave you broke and crying on Monday at work. That said I find it hard to listen to this despite its overwhelming beauty because I literally feel my body semi-convulse with tidal waves of memory and borderline nauseau and bliss.
19. Arab Strap – “The First Big Weekend”
While the previous track may well sonically distill the experience of taking MDMA based substances this song lyrically encapsulates the entirety of a weekend bender so perfectly that much like “Xtal” I am always moved almost to feelings of great discomfort every time I hear it despite its incredible poignance. Its accuracy and economy are disarmingly powerful.
20. Archers Of Loaf (http://www.myspace.com/archersofloaf) – “Web In Front”
Fuck the Pavement reunion. Now THIS I would pay every penny I own to see live. Indie-rock perfection. There is an amazing acoustic version of this song on, the now sadly defunct, bands MySpace page.
21. Ash Ra Tempel (http://www.ashra.com/)– “Bring Me Up”
While Can, Faust, Amon Duul and Cluster often garner the lion’s share of Kraut credits I’d take Ash Ra in their various incarnations over all of them. Manuel Göttsching’s work is probably best realized on his infamous solo LP E2-E4 which many site as the bedrock of what would become techno but just about any piece he turned his hand to demonstrated sparks of wiley genius. This track is taken form Ash Ra’s fifth album proper, Starring Rossi, which was recorded in 1973. It was the first record with which the band abandoned the lengthy jams they’d become synonymous with for more focused song structure. The results were pretty great.
22. At The Gates – “Slaughter Of The Soul”
Most death metal tends to give me a headache and I have a head that enjoys most marginal music. It’s all too formulaic, jocky and macho. Sure Death, Repulsion Obituary and Suffication were great but post 1989-ish my interest wanes rapidly. However, there is something about At The Gates’ final LP that, despite every nerve and synapse telling me I should feel otherwise, I love. Sorry.
23. Antidote (http://homepages.nyu.edu/~cch223/usa/antidote_main.html) – “Real Deal”
Now, I dig the Cro-Mags as much as just about anyone but if I had to choose ONE NYHC record to take to Valhalla with me it would be a toss up between the Antidote and Urban Waste 7 inches. Both those records have it all. You can almost hear the Lower East Side barreling out of them. As a side note: this cut has Bloodclot on background gang vocals.
24. Autechre (http://www.myspace.com/myslb) – “Dael”
It would almost seem unfair doing a compilation of artists beginning with “A” and including Aphex and not Autechre. While they might not have plumbed the breadth and depth that James has managed in his output there is a lot to be said in the ability of Sean Booth and Rob Brown to put an album together. Tri Repetae might just be their magnum opus but it’s a difficult choice.