Listed: DC Berman + Rob Ellis
David Berman is best known for his work as the leader and only constant member of the Silver Jews (which has featured all-stars like Stephen Malkmus, Bob Nastanovitch, and Tim Barnes, among others). His witty lyrics are as bitingly sharp as they are pristinely clever ("And so the rent became whiskey / And then my life became risky; shattered dogs on the rocks"), and his off-kilter rock tunes (often aided by Malkmus) are tragically catchy. The Silver Jews have four proper albums, the most recent of which is 2002's Bright Flight. Berman is also an accomplished writer whose work has recently appeared in The Believer, among a number of other literary rags. His most recent book, Actual Air, was recently reissued by Drag City and is available in their "book nook".
These are some songs I've been thinking about:
2. The Crystal Mansion - "A Song is Born” – A painfully innocent meditation on origins. By a late ’60s N.J. band whose guitarist was named Ronnie Gentile. Which cracks me up for some reason.
3. Oneida - "Wild Horses” – They have qualities of third wave SST bands I have loved. Formidable in the extreme.
4. Rites of Spring - "All Through a Life” – The final 7”. The bald heads of Michael Stipe and Ian MacKaye form the ass that shit this beauty out.
5. Jackyl - "Down on Me" – The best Jackyl album? Greatest Hits, of course. But only Track One.
6. Jimmy Buffett - "Dallas” – All songs about Dallas are negative.
7. The Movies - "Secretariat" – From In One Era Out Another. Just great. The whole album.
8. Isley Brothers - "Showdown Vol.1” – Produced by R. Kelly from last year.
9. Simon Finn - "Jerusalem” – Porridge eater.
10. The Darkness - "Get Your Hands Off Of My Woman” – It's great to hear genius English music again after so many years. Pure blowback override.
11. Mel Street - "Town where You Live” – Shot himself in 1979. Like Breece Pancake at the peak of his career. Both were West Virginians making it in the flatlands. He's buried down the road. I smoke cigarettes sitting Indian style on his grave and talk to him sometimes.
12. Dan Hicks - "I scare myself” – I heard this on the public radio one afternoon about 10 years ago. I was lying in bed listening to pecans fall on the roof. It sounded like Braniff Airlines stewardesses were singing backup.
13. Thin White Rope - "Disney Girl” – They were one of the best live bands I ever saw.
14. T-Model Ford - "To the Left to the Right" / 15. Roger Miller - "My Uncle Used To Love Me But She Died" – Two insane songs I listened to constantly last year on insane nights that turned into insane days that turned into insane nights.
16. Carter Family - "Single Girl, Married Girl” – Also Bill Frissell's cover version. Maybe my favorite guitar part ever. The rolling pulse of it.
17. Jorma Kaukonen - "Genesis" – Heard Widespread Panic cover this. Swell melody. Swellody.
18. Cedell Lewis - "The Horror of it All” – Listen to this on the way to see the doctor.
19. The Carolina Tar Heels - "Peg and Awl" – Child labor music.
20. Azita - "Miss Tony" – A true artist of Chicagoland. Ayatollah, you knew she had this in her.
21. UFO - "Shoot Shoot" and "Doctor Doctor” – Michael Schenker at 19 jerking off into purple Crown Royal sacks.
22. The Jam - "Going Underground" (live) – I used to blast this on my dad's stereo in high school and jump around on the couch.
23. Bill Anderson - "I Love You Drops" – Tried to run his girlfriend over last year, but was only going 5mph.
24. Kenny Chesney - "A Lot of Things Different” – I still don't understand how this blockhead managed to make my favorite song from the last years. Written by Bill Anderson and Dean Dillon. Listen to this when you're old enough to believe how good it is.
Over the past ten years, Rob Ellis has had quietly made quite a mark on contemporary music. He is best known for his instrumental contributions to various PJ Harvey songs, as well as being co-producer of both Dry and Stories From The City, Stories From The Sea. He has also worked with artists such as Marianne Faithful, Laika, and Kitty Wu. Ellis has done solo projects such as Spleen and two instrumental albums, Music For The Home and Music For The Home Vol. 2, both of which are out on the Leaf label
1. Stravinsky - Anything by Stravinsky,
2. . . . and Debussy
3. . . . and Ravel
4. Charles Koechlin - Les Heures Persanes Performed by Kathryn Stott (Chandos records) - This music made a huge impact on me. Koechlin was a contemporary of Debussy's, and wrote a huge amount of music throughout the first half of the 20th century, but which has, unfortunately to a great degree, been overlooked. This particular piece however, in my view, deserves to be recognized as one of the masterpieces of contemporary music. It doesn't matter how often I hear it, it always astounds me how beautifully and effectively it evokes it's subject matter ( an imaginary voyage through "A thousand and one nights" ) . It's very simple, and very sophisticated at the same time (some sort of magic is going on), and actually sounds, in performance, as if the pianist is just conjuring it out of thin air. It was written during World War I but it sounds like it anticipates music written much later in the 20th century, but at the same time does not give the impression that the composer gave a damn whether his music was "revolutionary" or not.
5. Federico Mompou - Musica Callada Performed by Herbert Henck (ECM) - Mompou was quite a bit younger than Koechlin, but could certainly be considered a contemporary as far as their musical affinities go. Mompou was very influenced by Erik Satie's music, and you get a sense in this (sorry to have to repeat myself) undiscovered masterpiece of 20th century piano writing, that he had somehow managed to distil all the stillness and poise of Satie's Gymnopedies Gnossiennes, and Nocturnes into a new and unique set of 28 pieces for piano. This recording, by the way, is pretty much, a benchmark for how to record a piano.
6. Gyorgy Ligeti - Hamburg concerto, Double concerto, Ramifications, Requiem (Teldec classics The Ligeti project IV) - I could easily include a piece by Ligeti as representing all of my ten favorites, but I threw this one as representative only because I have fond memories of being in the audience in Berlin when the Requiem was recorded for this issue, and I recall it being a particularly intense performance (now that I am aware that it was being recorded for this Ligeti project I can understand why).
7. Wells Cathedral - Wells, Somerset, England. - This Cathedral is very beautiful. Probably my favorite building. I grew up near it. I sang as a choirboy in it. Later, I had a (more) significant musical epiphany in it. I've never really been a religious person, but in my neck of the woods, if you were educated nearby, then Wells cathedral would be the hub of your activities regardless of your beliefs or lack of them. Hence my involvement as a faithless but musically enthusiastic chorister. The acoustics are very resonant and probably, to the greater degree, responsible for my epiphany on visiting some years after my days as a choirboy when I walked through the front entrance to be greeted by an amazing sound, which at first I could not identify. Then as I proceeded deeper into the building I realized that this halo of sound reverberating and sustaining throughout the building was being generated by four hand-bell ringers stood by the altar. I have since had similar experiences in different Cathedral spaces generated by the Church organ or a practicing choir, but none has ever surpassed in my memory the simplicity of means reverberating through a vast space to create something (musically) transcendent.
8. Morton Feldman - Rothko Chapel (New Albion) - More than likely, my love of this is related in some way to the above encounter in Wells Cathedral, but is also related to Satie-esque simplicity of means. This piece ( as is all of his work) is about simplicity of gesture, a statement of an idea, quiet and emphatic, no more, no less, and is beautifully constructed. The movement that Feldman wrote for vibes and cello based on a piece he wrote as a student is particularly moving and telling, especially in the context of the rest of the music's more "sophisticated" detached and super-understated agenda.
9. Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band - Lick My Decals Off, Baby - Despite all critical plaudits singling out Trout Mask Replica for special consideration I think that himself and the band really distilled the essence of what they were trying to do e.g. Mould blues, jazz and "avant-garde" in some new form with this album, and as a listener I find it more fun . . .
10. Busted - Because my son and daughter sit in the back of the car and argue (jovially) over how important this band is to them, and whether they can really play their instruments or not, and therefore I witness the first inklings of musical discourse/dissent by my kids . . .
By Dusted Magazine