A Tribute to Long Songs With Cocoon Recordings

I associate long songs with climatic center pieces, such as Jane's Addiction's 10-minute opus "Three Days" (track six of nine) or finales that tie together themes and bring the proceedings to a close in spectactular fashion, like The Beatles' "A Day in the Life" (at 5:33, it's long for a Beatles song). It's a gutsy move in my book then to start an album with its longest song. There's a risk that if the track isn't interesting enough, listeners may never get beyond it.

At nearly 11 minutes, Jacek Sienkiewicz's track "Dream Machine" (MP3) may seem like a song best fit to close rather than open the first compilation of Cocoon Recordings 12-inches, creatively titled Eins. Instead it serves as a remarkable introduction to this densely rhythmic and highly enjoyable collection.

The song begins in ambient fashion with a light chiming sound that would fit perfectly on a Four Tet record. Weaving its way through a dense bass-line and swirling flourishes of synth, "Dream Machine" grows tougher as the minutes progress. By the time it hits the half-way mark the delicate instruments fade, replaced by a steady beat and a chorus of belching horns. The mood swings from airy to pensive as the sound of tom drums add texture to the rhythm. This turn towards aggression sets up perfectly what is to come on the record.

Jacek Sienkiewicz, a Polish electronic artist from Warsaw, release the Dream Machine EP on Cocoon Recordings in 2004. He is also the founder of Recognition records. This post is both a recommendation for this song and Eins, which collects the highlights from Cocoon Recordings output of singles.

Long Songs With Yura Yura Teikoku

Just as I owe U2 for helping me discover the greatness that is Curtis Mayfield, I am in debt to Rajeev for insisting I go with him to see Yura Yura Teikoku live at Northsix earlier this month. Even though I went into the show with only vague memories of the one song I had heard from them, I had lofty expectations. I expected the band would serve only the finest in Japanese psych-rock, hand-crafted with care and delivered with mind-blowing power.

Did YYT measure up? I set my expectations too low. Rajeev's description of the show is spot on: with minimal effort, YYT devastated the livejasmin room with a precise set of monumental psychedelics. As Other Music wrote back in the day, YYT are "bombastic and scorching, with fuzzed out guitars and droning freak-outs." They played the show of the year for me so far.

Adequately enthused, I sought out whatever YYT releases I could find. They may have nine albums out, but good luck trying to find any of these releases around here. Somehow I stumbled upon just the record I wanted to find, the trio's 2003 live disc Na.Ma.Shi.Be.Re.Na.Ma.Me.Ma.I. No seriously, that's the title. I knew a recording wouldn't recreate the experience of watching YYT "scorch" the room, but it would get me close.

I listened to the record that night after the show, trying to identify the songs that had just burned through my ears. Heading into the fifth track I stopped. What did I just hear? I skipped back to track four, an 11-minute odyssey titled "Nai!!" I played it again. Brilliance! What an amazing song! It begins with a simple bass-line, a melodic, rolling refrain that repeats over and over. Under all the noise and all the beautiful spires of guitars, you can still hear Kamekawa Chiyo's bass dancing in joyous circles. It carries the track, keeping it earthbound while Sakamoto Shintaro's guitar heroism makes you see stars.

If it's true that this song has more in common with Galaxie 500 than Acid Mothers Temple, as Other Music points out, then this is YYT's "23 Minutes in Toyko" (ok, I know that's a Luna song, but please indulge me), with a bullet train taking the place of Eurorail. Breath-taking!

Curtis Mayfield and "Move on Up"

I owe U2 a big thanks for introducing me to Curtis Mayfield and the song "Move on Up". In 1987, U2 frequently covered Mayfield's signature Impressions' hit "People Get Ready" on the Joshua Tree tour. Each time I saw them perform the song, Bono would pull one person from crowd and let him or her play guitar along with the band. While I was diligently practicing the simple chord progression at home, I was never close enough to get the call. This moment of interaction was so inspiring to me that I went out and bought a collection of Impressions hits. If U2 liked them, then so would I.

During U2's 2001 Elevation tour, Mayfield's solo hit "Move on Up" served as a key piece of jasminlive pre-show music. To establish just the right mood before taking the stage, the band chose songs that fit the theme of elevation, such as Stevie Wonder's "Higher Ground", Radiohead's "High and Dry" and Jackie Wilson's "(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher". Mayfield's nearly nine-minute workout was the highlight for me.

From the two drum beat intro to the last gasp of the horn section, the song induces levitation with its boundless energy and Mayfield's perfect falsettos. That's just in the first four minutes. After a false ending, "Move on Up" launches into an extended instrumental jam where once again a chorus of horns lead the way over a funky percussion riff. The jam is so pure, it could go on forever and I wouldn't care.

Helios - Eingya

HeliosWithout knowing it, I've spent quite a extensive amount of time listening to the intensely melodic music written by Keith Kenniff. A man of many aliases, Kenniff composed the incredibly beautiful album Corduroy Road, under the name Goldmund. That record dominated my late night listening last year. Now comes his second release, Eingya, as Helios (named after the early Greek god of the Sun), and it's just as stunning.

Is this man capable of writing anything that is not gorgeous? The tracks on Eingya are delicate blends of shuddering, hollow rhythms and warm acoustic guitars. One is pushed to the background and encased in layers of melancholy, giving Eingya a sense of forelorn space. The other is gentle and inviting, calming drawing close with intimate advances. Kenniff's guitar playing is a vividly human presence in a cold atmosphere. Each chaturbat song is tastefully embroidered with accompaniments from pianos, strings and ghost-like samples.

The record is garnering praise from around the globe, judging from the reviews gathered at Type Records, Kenniff's label and home to other excellent artists like Khonnor and Paavoharju. "11 wordless, dream-drenched vignettes whose influences are known only to Kenniff," writes The Seattle Weekly. Listen to "The Toy Garden" (MP3) and understand why the compliments have been so effusive.

A Guy Called Gerald at P.S.1, Saturday, 3 p.m. - 9 p.m.

I'm hoping the rain stays away from Queens this weekend so I can enjoy A Guy Called Gerald's performance at P.S.1. I attended my first Warm Up event two weeks back and was hooked instantly. Rajeev wrote about The Idjut Boys' brilliant DJ set that day; I without doubt won't soon forget witnessing the crowd go crazy for The Rolling Stones' "Start Me Up."

Joining A Guy Called Gerald on the bill is San Serac and Derek Plaslaiko. San Serac is a Massachusetts-based electronic artist, whom according to this article has a thing for Yello, plays an electronic MIDI saxophone and combines original material with a DJ set in his live performances. This is the first I've heard of him, but I plan on listening to the DJ mix on his site and the tracks on his MySpace page. Derek Plaslaiko is a local DJ with a Saturday residency at Shelter. You can find a number of his mixes here.

So while I do want the rain to stay away this weekend, I have been enjoying the lightning storms that have passed over New York lately. In tribute, or rather as an excuse, I post a track from the excellent Rhythm and Sound compilation, See Mi Yah Remixes, released by Burial Mix on June 30, 2006. The song is appropriately titled "Lightning Storm" (MP3) and features the vocal work of Lance Clarke, aka Rod Iron and the remixing skills of Francois K. Check out the Rhythm and Sound site for more information on this record.

Thursday Tunes

Fields - "Elysian Fields" (MP3). This song comes from Fields, the 1969 album by an American trio of the same name. The only LP they ever released, it's an addictive set of bluesy, psychedelic rock that was just recently reissued by Fallout. I was tempted to instead post "Love Is The Word," the insane 18-minute track that finishes the album, but that'd be like selling someone on The Shawshank Redemption by cutting straight to its ending. So instead I give you "Elysian Fields," which kicks the LP off with three and a half minutes that pack in most of what's grabbed me about this album, including backing vocals from Motown/Northern Soul singer Brenda Holloway.

Hexa - "Masked?" (MP3). Speaking of song lengths, I actually thought the 1:29 of "Masked?" was just a clip when I first heard it. But nope, that's the whole thing, and it actually is supposed to end like that. The short length doesn't make "Masked?" any less catchy though, nor does the fact that the hook is swimming in distortion with every instrument seemingly in the red. Instead, this all makes the track more memorable, and I imagine the rest of the songs on the Brooklyn band's self-released EP bring more of the same. Their website tells us little beyond the fact that they're six members strong and playing a show on August 3, but my interest is definitely piqued.

Isolée - "Initiate II" (MP3). Western Store hasn't owned my ears for a sustained stretch this year like Isolée's Wearemonster did last year, but it's a record I keep coming back to every couple weeks. It collects Isolée's tracks from before and between Rest and Wearemonster - handy for relative latecomers like me - and "Initiate II" comes from a 1998 single. Isolée's production was just as sharp back then - look no further than the sparkling detail on this song's percussion - and, especially with its vocals, "Initiate II" feels particularly sunny and spry to me. Perfect in this heat.

Lindstrom - "Another Day (Todd Terje Remix)" (MP3). I missed Todd Terje last week. Twice. First at APT, then at P.S. 1. Rather unfortunate. I wonder if he played this or, even better, his killer remix of Michael Jackson's "I Can't Help It" (look for it!). I plan to be back at P.S. 1 this week, though, for A Guy Called Gerald.

Spacemen 3 - "Starship (demo)" (MP3). From the Forged Prescriptions set and smoking! My favorite Spacemen 3 songs are when they kept things blissed out and mellow, but it's hard to deny the rock on a cut like this. And I don't know what Sonic Boom was talking about - I'm pretty sure I hear some hi-hat in there.