Listed is Dusted Magazine’s series of music-related lists compiled by artists we admire. This week: acclaimed soundtrack composer Clint Mansell and Faun Fables singer Dawn McCarthy.
Listed: Clint Mansell + Dawn McCarthy
It’s not often that a composer’s soundtrack work runs rampant through popular culture, but that’s what Clint Mansell’s “Lux Æterna” did upon the release of Darren Aronofsky’s Requiem for a Dream in 2000. The Kronos Quartet’s dramatic interpretation became a staple on movie trailers, video games and anything that wanted to convey drama. Of course, Mansell’s career in music extends more than a decade in each direction from that pivotal moment — he incorporated industrial sounds into pop music in the mid-’80s while leading Pop Will Eat Itself, and has scored every Aronofsky film, beginning with π and including next year’s Noah (yes, that Noah). On February 26, Mansell will release the original soundtrack to Stoker, a thriller starring Mia Wasikowska and Nicole Kidman.
1. David Bowie - The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars (Virgin, 1972)
This is the record that changed my life. I saw Bowie on Top of The Pops performing “Starman” and was intrigued and confused in equal measure. The album did that to me and more. A world unknown to me at that time — I was only 8. Men in high heels and make up doing things that I didn’t understand, but it sure sounded dirty.
2. The Ramones - Leave Home (WEA International, 1977)
This was the first punk album I owned. I got the first album after this one, but this one I played to death. Non-stop top tunes a go go! “Oh Oh I Love Her So,” “Commando,” “Carbona Not Glue.” I saw them at Birmingham Odeon in 1978 and was right at the front of the stage. I couldn’t tell one song from another, but it was pure bliss in the way only deafening volume can be! My ears screamed for days after and Dee Dee gave me one of his plectrums that had “RAMONES” printed on it. I put a hole in it and wore it around my neck for ages. Wish I still had it. I saw Dee Dee on Hollywood Boulevard on Christmas Eve 2001. I wanted to tell him that The Ramones were a really important part of my life me, but I bottled it. A few months later he would be dead. Joey had already gone, and a few years later I was driving when the news came on that Johnny had died too … they played “Something To Believe In,” which made me cry. I don’t know if I was crying for Johnny, Dee Dee, Joey, or for the rest of us …
3. The Adverts - Crossing the Red Sea with the Adverts (Fire, 1978)
Still the best punk album ever made, IMHO. TV Smith still writes great lyrics, but the quality here is unsurpassed. “Great British Mistake,” “Bombsite Boy,” “No Time To Be 21” … the list goes on. Great sounding record, still. Henry Rollins cites TV as one of the great lyricists of the punk era and I don’t know about you, but if Henry says so, then that’s good enough for me.
4. Siouxsie & The Banshees - The Scream (Geffen, 1978)
The 14-year-old me was obsessed with Siouxsie & The Banshees. I had heard them on John Peel and bought a great bootleg LP of their first two sessions before they released any records. They were my band and I was gutted when they became popular, but the sense of isolation and disconnect in their music is something that I’m drawn to still. We did some gigs with them in the latter days of Pop Will Eat Itself and became quite friendly. I was well chuffed to discover that Siouxsie is a Wolves fan!
5. Joy Division - Unknown Pleasures/Closer (Qwest, 1979-80)
It’s hard for me to separate these two records — I like to play them back-to-back for the full-on experience. The arrangements and the space in the sound is breathtaking. Martin Hannett is one of the few people who can actually carry the “G” word. To capture a band at the peak of their powers TWICE! … Brilliant! Growing up in the late 1970s/early ‘80s was a brilliant time. The music that was being made was so diverse and exciting, the impact records had on me, discovering punk, which led to hearing The Stooges, Velvet Underground, New York Dolls, the post punk of Magazine, Ultravox!, Psychedelic Furs, The Au Pairs, Suicide … incredible music to a young pair of ears.
6. Tracey Thorn - A Distant Shore (Cooking Vinyl Records, 1982)
This record soundtracked my first proper relationship — probably not the best of choices for “our” record, but I love it still. The sound of the record is very intimate and is perfect for late-night listening. Tracey’s voice, as we know, is the ninth wonder of the world and I wish she’d agree to record something with me.
7. Godspeed You! Black Emperor - Lift your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven (Kranky, 2000)
This record changed things for me. It opened a world to extended arrangements and power of performance. It arrived at a time when I needed it. I was getting lost in a world of impersonal music that just wasn’t speaking to me … then this. Intense, melodic, brooding, powerful and restrained. No compromise.
8. Soap & Skin - Lovetune for Vacuum (Play It Again Sam, 2009)
I love Anja Plaschg. I love this album. I love lyrics in a language I don’t understand because it becomes like an instrument without the distraction of meaning. I am free to get lost in the passion of the performance, the music and the emotion. Everything seems slightly unhinged. I love it. She is also someone I’d love to work with.
9. The Four Tops - Greatest Hits (Motown, 1967)
Levi Stubbs had such a beautiful voice. “Seven Rooms of Gloom,” “Walk Away Renee,” “I’ll Be There (Reach Out),” “Can’t Help Myself,” “If I Were A Carpenter,” … the list goes on. Sometimes I might mix it up with Jimmy Ruffin, but The Four Tops are the kings of lament for me.
10. Little Jimmy Scott - The Source (Atlantic, 1969)
Talking of laments, Jimmy Scott has the most heartbreaking voice. He suffered from Kallmann Syndrome, which stopped him from reaching puberty but left him with an incredible contralto voice. If you check out his life story, you’ll understand why his voices rings with such sorrow. This record is worth it purely for the amazing version of “Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless Child.” I saw him perform in the gospel tent at the New Orleans Jazz Festival some years ago and my spine is still tingling at the thought.
The creative spirit is alive and well in Dawn McCarthy, leader of the adventurous folk duo Faun Fables and frequent collaborator of Will Oldham. The Spokane, Wash., native has traveled all over the world, absorbing and then amplifying traditional musics, opera, theater and the avant garde. Most recently, she paired with Oldham’s Bonnie “Prince” Billy to record an album of Everly Brothers songs called What the Brothers Sang, which Drag City Records released February 19. Our Michael Cramer wrote that “McCarthy’s soulfulness perfectly suits the [album’s] emotive ballads.” McCarthy took a break from her gypsy lifestyle to tell us about 10 of her most influential listening experiences.
Most of these artists carved the shape of my singing path at one time or another. It follows a kind of rough chronological order:
1. Heart - Dreamboat Annie (Capitol, 1976) & Little Queen (Portrait, 1977)
Driving home with my family in the summertime along dark, winding mountain roads in Idaho after a long, warm day at the lake and dinner at our favorite juke-box diner. Snug in our station wagon with all my siblings, watching the red brake-lights glow and falling asleep. These albums played on our 8-track in rotation, speaking to me of bold magic in the dark, mountain air and in the world I was living … through the rich, autumn tones of Ann Wilson’s singing, which implanted the possibility of female singing prowess in me. I caught one of those unreal stadium shows with Heart while I was really pregnant with my first daughter. The whole effort to make it happen and get there was over the top. Just driving through the parking lot and finding a spot took 30 minutes, during which half of the Heart set happened. But from the car to a spot in the bleachers, I was uncontrollably singing the songs and blathering happy cries of hysteria. These were wonderful female figures of my childhood.
2. Grace Slick - “White Rabbit” (RCA, 1967)
Hearing Grace and this song for the first time was my first conscious moment of wanting to be a singer. There’s other cool stuff she did with Jefferson Airplane and solo — you just have to dig around a bit.
3. Agnes Buen Garnas / Jan Garbarek - Rosensfole (ECM, 1988)
Scandinavian folk music was an early epiphany for me and my singing and writing, a blast of supernatural in the natural, sheer beauty and wonder. And this album was my first experience with it. It is experimental and more ambient, to be sure, with Jan’s arrangements and sounds, but the vocals are from medieval Norwegian songs. The whole sound is very elemental, which for me is what I think of as the essence of Scandinavian folklore and mythology. I digested this long before I found my own voice and heard songs to write, and it came out integrated within my muse some years later. Hearing this tradition was like meeting a part of myself. The extra half-steps and just slight lilts … they just kinda tweak your ear, make you sit up, eyes widened.
4. Lole y Manuel - Nuevo Dia (Movieplay, 1975)
Sometimes Flamenco singing can sound too formulated to me after awhile; harsh on the ear and sentiment. But Lole Montoya is something else entirely. Her voice is incredibly androgynous and ageless … she could be a male, a female, a young boy, an old woman. That is some kind of sacred accomplishment in my book. Her voice carries such a cry to it. And always beautiful, never just yelling.
5. Ewa Demarczyk / Zygmunt Konieczny - Their material roughly from the 1960s (Polskie Nagrania Muza)
Ewa was called the black angel of Polish song. This material came out of the Piwnica pod Baranami cabaret in Krakow, Poland, under communist rule. The songs are often based on poems of respected "classical" Polish poets, and are sometimes called “sung poetry.” The grandeur/power plus ache/beauty of this work — even just in the melodies — will part your hair a few new ways. It’s another culture and time I’ve grown to feel very akin to. There is some kind of gravity in the suffering of the Polish people that puts their artistry to a brilliant, inspired and heavy place that there is no imitation of. Just a hope that you will be able to follow the threads of this passion, somehow. It hammered and stretched me as a musician. What a wild ride it is to play it. I’ve enjoyed just simply bringing this material to a new generation and an English-speaking audience, some 40-to-50 years after it was made. I look forward to learning and recording more of it. I got to meet Konieczny in 2005 in Krakow and was given his blessing to do this.
6. Brigitte Fontaine / Areski Belkacem - Vous Et Nous (Saravah, 1977)
I loved the intricate smallness of Brigitte and Areski’s work. In the late 1990s, when I’d shifted from playing with loud bands to playing solo, or duo with Nils Frykdahl, this material was very helpful in showing me how magical and playful sparse material between a duo (and I think husband and wife) could be. There are several little albums of theirs from this era that are pure loveliness. Great imaginative vibe.
7. Mariana Sadovska - Songs I Learned in the Ukraine (Global Village, 2001)
Just voice and harmonium. This album shows why she is probably my favorite singer, if the word “singer” means to become life force and amplify it, to capture life force straight from the heart and pour it out to the listener through the voice. The greatest voice, in my opinion. Mariana breathes so much life and beauty into her singing; she is beautiful, vulnerable, a mother, manic, fierce. She makes me tremble, weep, celebrate. I am awed and humbled by the terrible, incredible reality of life as a human heart and mind when I hear her. I am also soothed, made to feel sane, quenched. I was introduced to this record in the midst of terrifying existential dread from some unexpected deaths, which manifested as insomnia for a while. It was a shifting moment of brightness out of a nightmare to first hear this album. And whenever I feel tired or frozen/boring while I’m singing, I just think of Mariana’s singing and voila! I am revived. So now I’m telling you about some of my tricks, how I cheat …
8. Popol Vuh - Letzte Tage-Letzte Nachte (Last Days-Last Nights) (United Artists, 1976)
Popul Vuh is largely instrumental … and large. This is my favorite soundtrack to put on when driving through awe-inspiring nature. Especially mountains … things that make you feel small amidst the feet of nature giants. This music sounds like worship. It was mostly created by Florian Fricke, whose music sounds like deceptively familiar instruments, but the sound quality is utterly mysterious. He made things sound big. Breathing the supernatural into the natural, again. Sometimes there is a devotion and effectiveness to the metaphysics explored in the 1960s/’70s that I admire and love immensely. Wide-eyed, sincere. The vocals here sound like worship, as well, the group singing like a cult — but in the best way possible. Some of the most beautiful sounds and places I’ve heard created in music. And a quote from Fricke is one of my favorite statements-of-intent from a musician: "I want to tell you one more thing about what I feel to be the essence of my music. POPUL VUH is a mass for the heart. It is music for love. That is all."
9. Colleen (a.k.a. Cécile Schott) - Colleen et les Boîtes à Musique (The Leaf Label, 2006)
This record, sent to me by a friend as “good new baby music,” arrived at a new rural home I’d found myself living in because I was going to become a mother. Elementally soaring, the setting seemed like the right place to step into the primal portal of motherhood. I was so scared and isolated, but excited as well. Totally raw post-partum nerves (when your heart has been exploded and feels about 50 times the capacity of what it could before) — plus the new baby’s senses and soft vulnerability — found a perfect companion in this record. It sounds like life back then, still every time I listen to it. I can barely manage Track 10, “Your Heart is Loud,” for how it crushes me. It IS the sound of entering motherhood. Because I am still so much in the trenches of motherhood and proudly a stay-at-home mom (unless we’re travelling as a gypsy family doing showbiz), I have to give a holler to this record. Thank you, Cécile.
10. Catherine Ribeiro + Alpes - Any of their four albums from 1970-74 (Phillips)
I pair Catherine Ribeiro with Mariana Sadovska in my mind as the ultimate singers … and humbling inspirations/goal-posts for my own singing. Catherine is not so familiar and intimate-feeling as Mariana; she is like an exotic, dangerous woman-beast that I’m madly lost over. She might be dangerous, you can’t tell. But what fucking tones and energy. Boundless. She transports. What kind of journey/map was she following? Absolutely out-of-time work. Another singer who taught me volumes just hearing her for 10 seconds, more than any “conventional singer training” ever did. And like Mariana, that happens every time I hear Catherine.
By Dusted Magazine