Listed is Dusted Magazine’s series of music-related lists compiled by artists we admire. This week: Berlin electronic beacon Ellen Allien and Lightning Bolt drummer Brian Chippendale.
Listed: Ellen Allien + Black Pus
Ellen Allien is one of the most adventurous women in electronic music. The Berlin DJ has been spinning records for more than 20 years and releasing music on her own Bpitch Control (pronounced “bitch control”) since the late 1990s. Over the years, her own electronic compositions have evolved from dancefloor anthems to uncategorizable rhythmic experiments, the latest being the contemporary dance soundtrack LISm, which was released in March. In this Listed contribution, Allien shares her favorite 11 records.
1. Kraftwerk - The Man Machine (Kling Klang/EMI, 1978)
Kraftwerk changed my listening comprehension. Minimal beats, cool vocals and incredibly entrancing melodies. This was the first not-over-produced music I was listening to at the youth club, in German and with cool and intelligent lyrics. Kraftwerk was perceived much later in Germany than in the U.S.
2. Cat Stevens - Mona Bone Jakon (Island, 1970)
My mother and sister always listened to this record. I remember Cat Stevens singing on a Sunday, the sun shining into the living room. As a child, I tried to sing along — even without understanding the lyrics, his voice and the guitar had me dreaming. I perceived his romanticism as a warm wave.
3. Nina Hagen - Nina Hagen Band (CBS, 1978)
German lyrics, very extreme and naughty. Her band was amazing. This record is still one of my favorites. Nina Hagen is telling stories about life, the street, the underground and freaks. My sister gave the record as a present to my mother and we listened to it all the time. I interpreted the lyrics into my child world — listening to it later I realized that they were very grown up.
4. Stevie Wonder - Talking Book (Tamla, 1972)
This man represents light, love and soul. “I Just Called to Say I Love You,” “You are the Sunshine of My Life” … such a creative person, he wrote the most beautiful songs in the entire world. I feel the passion under my skin listening to his songs.
5. Ideal - Ideal (Innovative Communication, 1980)
The “Neue Deutsche Welle” landed on earth with cool deadpan lyrics and synthesizers. Ideal was unapproachable and taken from real life, a resolute record representing for me 100 percent of the German New Wave. All Berlin was listening to “Blauen Augen.” Ideal went to No. 1 — the city was crazy about it.
6. Kate Bush - Never For Ever (EMI, 1980)
Free dance, crystal clear voice, unreachable beauty. Dance, chant and the body movements are one. Is she from a different galaxy? The spirit she is transmitting has so much power.
7. Laurie Anderson - Big Science (Warner Bros., 1982)
Deep spoken words — the way Anderson embraces experimental performing touches me a lot. She transforms the drama and beauty of your society in a very elegant way. So violent, so smooth — no one else could reach this level. I still follow her today, she is one of my heroes in art.
8. Plaid - Double Figure (Warp, 2001)
Sounds are moving like dolphins in the water. The most beautiful synths on earth. So beautiful and perfectly programmed with ease. Glimmering beats enlacing the melodies — it’s pure uplifting romanticism. Melancholy picks you up and turns into bliss.
9. Björk - Debut (One Little Indian, 1993)
Her voice is fascinating, an electronic fairylike music. She has a strong character, the childish diva, the freak, the velvety girl. Abstract music mixed with these vocals, creatively accentuated and sensed words. Her expression, costumes and presence are very strong, like no other songwriter or singer. She is a role model for me. I feel Björk like the wind in my hair.
10. DJ Shadow - Endtroducing… (Mo’ Wax, 1996)
Uff … the best Akai MPC maniac. DJ Shadow throws his sampled beats into our faces till the booty is shaking, but it’s also an emotional head massage. Rock funk jazz experimental sounds become one.
11. Motorbass - Pansoul (Astralwerks, 2003)
Étienne de Crécy and Philippe Cerboneschi (a.k.a. Philippe Zdar) brought a masterpiece to the dance floor. Deep house and soul sounds like coming out of the crinkly electronic forest. The bass line so warm and sexy, vocals used like synthesizers falling out of the clouds. This record is a blessed warm electronic shower.
Brian Chippendale is the barking gasmask behind the drumkit in Providence noise legends Lightning Bolt. Since 2006, Chippendale has made an occasional racket as Black Pus, a drums ‘n’ oscillator solo project that’s sounded at points like free jazz and pop music. Chippendale recently released his second official Black Pus album, All My Relations, on Thrill Jockey Records.
1. Slayer – Reign in Blood (Def Jam, 1986)
I’m mowing the lawn at my parents’ house on a weekend in high school. Conjuring up visions of the world bursting into flames and explosions while I run through the streets with a bow and arrow collecting supplies. Or maybe a limo pulls up with a hot wealthy lady here to rescue me from the suburbs. Either way, it’s escape. Because Slayer is raging on my Sports Walkman and Slayer demands you change your reality, or at least your perception of it. Total Terror. Total Frenzy. Reign in Blood is like every piece of negative energy you ever had honed to a diamond and forced back upon you. The most volatile superstorm in existence throwing forth waves of lightning, shattering suburban kid’s brains everywhere. These guys were really pissed and really tight.
2. Sun Ra & His Solar Myth Arkestra – Life is Splendid (Ann Arbor Blues & Jazz Festival 1972) (Total Energy, 1999)
It seems like there are hundreds of Sun Ra LPs and you could spend a lifetime trying to dissect them, which I have not. This LP is a live recording, maybe somewhere out there exists the entire concert, but this LP, this artifact, starts right in the middle of the song “Enlightenment” with some gorgeous female vocal melodies and just keeps raging from there. Songs change whether the band is ready or not. All the various cuts go too far and go in wrong places, but they never let up. The Arkestra is just down to take off — all they need is a launching pad and the songs are just the beginning of the journey. It’s maximal music, lots of players, lots of sounds, but it’s lo-fi and squished, things pop out, things recede, the recording itself can’t contain the band. It’s full on. Amazing.
3. Harry Pussy – Untitled (self-released, 1997)
The second to the last song on side A, “No Hey,” is one of the grooviest songs in existence. This album, this band, delivers ultimate energy music. The sound of an avalanche of rocks pouring into a body of water, mega-amplified as heard through the filter of two guitars and a singing drummer. It’s a wash of furious upward and downward motion. I got this LP from them when they played our place in Providence on I think their final tour in the late 1990s. Drummer Adris Hoyos was sick so vocals were at a minimum, but she was still a tornado on the drums. A drummer like no other. We had piled up everything in the room to make a 10-foot tall horseshoe shape around the stage for people to stand on. I think there was a spaghetti fight. People witnessed a force of nature. Guitarist Bill Orcutt’s recent solo recordings have also been fantastic. Dude has great tone and a liquid technique. Sonny Sharrock of the modern era.
4. Quintron – Internal Feedback 001-011 (Bulb, 1994)
This was his first record, his “drum” record. It’s quite possible I swiped my entire Black Pus aesthetic from this one record. Drums, vocals and noises. Seemingly free-form structures. Weirdness with some hooks. I love this record. He then moved to the keys and cemented his party style in place, but this one is the percussive Quintron record, and as a drummer it really loosened me up. Quintron’s got this advice: “Take off the wetsuits.”
5. John Coltrane / Rashied Ali – Interstellar Space (Impulse!, 1967)
Someone told me once in the early 2000s that Lightning Bolt was like this record so I went out and got it, and no, we don’t sound like that. But nestled in Lightning Bolt, I hope there’s a kernel of the absolute truth of this LP. Free as fuck high-energy duets. John Coltrane on sax at the end but also peak of his career, and Rashied Ali on drums, at one point hitting so hard you can hear the mic distort (and this is not a distorted album). It rages, it whispers, the definitive minimal free jazz record for me.
6. Boredoms – Soul Discharge (Selfish, 1989)
“What is this insane band doing,” I thought when I first heard this freshman year at college. The structures seemed ridiculous, the sounds made no sense, the vocals were like gruff children and the guitars sort of sounded like shit. And the photos! They were wearing the weirdest clothes! Goggles? I really liked it. Me and Mat Brinkman (Mindflayer) listened to this and Eye’s other stuff (like Hanatarash) all the time in college. I didn’t understand it, yet it appealed to me on some primal level. Was it Dennis Hopper who said the art he ending up buying was always the art he walked out of the room thinking was horrible at first or just irked him? Because you need the inexplicable in your life or you will fall prey to absolute logic, which is the killer of dreams. Hopper didn’t say that second part, I just did.
7. Unsane – Unsane (Matador, 1991)
Another record that I could not understand whatsoever when I first heard it. What were the structures? How did they play so intensely? The drummer!!!! Charlie Ondras (R.I.P.) was like a wind up doll, the energizer bunny. His kick drum pulsed a forward motion and never quit — it made a huge impression. A limited approach but so goddamn intense!!! Not long after, I realized the songs were actually quite simple, but my brain just couldn’t identify the frequencies when I first heard it so it got all turned around in my ears. A great galloping record that spits up a lot of hate (as foreshadowed by the totally fucked up album cover).
8. Missing Foundation - Go Into Exile (Restless, 1992)
These guys supposedly threw metal at their audience in NYC during their live shows, something that seemed cool to me in college having never been hit in the face by a flying chunk of steel. The records probably never lived up to the live show, but they managed to spew out pretty straight-laced anarcho-political lyrics without it sounding like absolute dogma — it just becomes seething strangeness, echoing the lyrical message of chaos in its presentation, which then, by its nature, obscures the message. From ugly noise sludge to ambient beauty, a precursor to a band like Sightings in texture, it paints a portrait of a raw, grimy, punk NYC (now long gone). New World Order!
9. V/A – Golden Rain: Balinese Gamelan Music / Ketjak: The Ramayana Monkey Dance (Nonesuch)
This record on the Nonesuch label has “The Ramayana Monkey Chant” on it, a chirping yelping staccato vocal style that really floored me. Everything rolls like a downpour of rain — the music is a cascade of gorgeous singing and percussion played by what seems like an army of musicians with one voice. I lifted the monkey singing right off it for a couple old Lightning Bolt songs. I buy this LP every time I see it — yes I horde it, but I’ve only got 2 copies cause you don’t see it that often (or at least I don’t).
10. Crash Worship - A Pillar of Fire (Rocco Fresco/Alamut, 1990)
This 12” blew my mind. Were they like a wild tribe living somewhere in the U.S.A.? Did the 1960s still exist in America somewhere in the ’90s? But infused with punk? The band photo was all grainy, and they were naked. The tales of their shows were legendary, constructed of whispered story, a whirlwind of drumming mania that whipped people into a Bacchanalia, vomiting forth magical potions, pulling fire from the sky and engulfing everyone in orgiastic dancing. Is this my ticket to a law-free world? The stuff of myth. I saw them in Boston, but it was too far from their power sources of the west coast and New Orleans and a little too late in their career. Still an intense treat, though. Doo Rag opened one of the times, another incredible band.
By Dusted Magazine