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Listed: Trembling Blue Stars + Grouper

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Every Friday, Dusted Magazine publishes a series of music-related lists compiled by our favorite artists. This week: Trembling Blue Stars and Grouper.

Listed: Trembling Blue Stars + Grouper

Trembling Blue Stars

Bobby Wratten has been making beautiful indiepop for about 20 years now. The romantic lad from London first made a name for himself in the Sarah Records band The Field Mice, who unfortunately became much more popular after they broke up in 1991, once people started idolizing the Sarah sound (and Wratten's absolutely heartwrenching lyrics). Wratten did a brief stint with Northern Picture Library before forming Trembling Blue Stars in 1995.

Twelve years in, Wratten has just released the Stars' sixth album,
The Last Holy Writer, on Spanish imprint Elefant Records. Fans of that late-'80s indie style will eat it up. He was nice enough to take part in this week's Listed.

1. Wilco - "Poor Places/ Spiders(Kidsmoke)" (From Kicking Television)
Two of my favourite songs from my favourite contemporary group. I love the transition from one to the other; the way the motorik Neu-beat of Spiders emerges from the noise. The Wilco family tree is such a treasure chest. If you think about Loose Fur, The Autumn Defense, 'Mobile', 'Chelsea Walls', 'Adult Head', 'Sunken Treasure' - the creativity involved is so inspiring.

2. Brian Eno - "The Lost Day" (From Ambient 4/On Land)
I could listen to Brian Eno being interviewed forever.I'm happy to hear his opinion on anything.Whether it's to do with music or not. This record, as the title implies, is very much about music as a landscape. I love records that transport you; that create a sense of place, an environment you can enter. Maybe it's somewhere you've never been.Maybe somewhere that doesn't even exist. 'The Lost Day' is my favorite track from this album. There's this wonderful mournful synth that's incredibly moving and evocative. It affects me the same way now as it did when I first heard it as a 15 year old. I'm always happy to visit the world that this album creates.

3. Mark Hollis - "A Life (1895-1915)" (From Mark Hollis)
The journey from 'The Party's Over' (Talk Talk's first album) to this is amazing. This is not 'career music' but someone following their own vision. If the journey has ended in silence then that seems apposite as Mark Hollis believed you had to have a very good reason to disturb silence. Spirit Of Eden and Laughing Stock the last two Talk Talk albums are two of my all time favourite records but I chose this from the only Mark Hollis solo record to date as I love the whispered mysterious backing vocals that come in half way through.I'd love to hear another record by him but he's given me more than enough should he never record again.

4. Mikey Dread - African Anthem:The Mikey Dread Show
Almost half of what I buy or listen to these days is reggae based be it dancehall, dub, roots reggae, rocksteady or whatever. I love this album because it's a snapshot of Mikey Dread's JBC radio show which began in 1976 and broadcast from midnight to 4:30 am.Because he was an engineer rather than a radio personality he wasn't allowed to talk so the records were all linked by specially designed jingles, some of which feature on this album. Also, what he was playing was revolutionary as it was then the only place on radio to hear authentic raw roots reggae and dub. I can only imagine how exciting it would have been to hear music like this coming over the airwaves into the Jamaican night.

5. Popol Vuh - Nosferatu (Original Soundtrack)
I had two points of entry to the world of Popol Vuh. One was my interest in the " Great Kosmische Musik - 1968 Onwards" and the other was the films of Werner Herzog. Watching Nosferatu I was struck by how beautiful the music was which lead me to this soundtrack. Once you discover the music made in Germany from the late sixties onwards it's an endless seam to mine.

6. Rhythm & Sound - Rhythm & Sound
This album is like a combination of the above two choices in that it's German and heavily influenced by reggae.This CD from 2001 contains some of the most minimal and beautiful music I've heard.I love the whole Rhythm & Sound set up; no interviews, no credits, no photos just the music - everything shrouded in mystery. Basic Channel from whom Rhythm & Sound emerged also made incredibly evocative and minimal records and Rhythm & Sound have gone on to work wonderfully with vocalists like Cornell Campbell, Jah Cotton, Willi Williams.

7. Talking Heads - Remain In Light
Eno again. I think 1979-1981 was a real high watermark in terms of innovation and creativity within music with artists continually striving to move forward into unexplored areas.There is so much going on within the grooves of this record....so much information,ideas upon ideas, overlapping vocals, fantastic rhythms, incredible textures. The three songs that make up the original side one are as good as music gets. I'm also grateful to this record for introducing me to it's influences.People like Fela Kuti and Hamilton Bohannon.I'm always interested in who the people I listen to listen to.

8. Judee Sill - "The Kiss" (From Heart Food)
This song is so far beyond the everyday that it's hard to imagine it was created by someone who lived and breathed and walked the earth. The words, the melody, the chords all combine to produce something other worldly. This song completely transports me, it seems to shine and give off this golden glow. It's like Judee Sill tapped into some eternal spirit that she channelled into her songs.

9. Keren Ann - "In Your Back" (From Keren Ann)
Another favorite contemporary artist. At the moment this is my favourite track from her new album.Like Judee Sill she has a very understated voice and doesn't feel the need to show off. I like it when people have the confidence to be quiet and refuse to shout. In such circumstances you have to go to the artist.They don't feel the need to draw attention to themselves.

10. Roy Harper - "When An Old Cricketer Leaves The Crease" (From HQ)
The great British DJ John Peel used to say that his producer John Walters always said he'd play this song in the event of John Peel's death.Unfortunately John Walters was no longer alive when John Peel passed away but Andy Kershaw(another great BBC DJ) did play this song in John Peel's memory. All of this makes what is already an almost unbearably moving song even more poignant.When The Grimethorpe Colliery Band strike up it's almost too much to bear. I don't normally think anything of being English but this song seems to bottle a certain kind of England.It's back to that idea of music conjuring up a sense of place.


Liz Harris' Grouper is a foggy notion. Curling up from the Northern California shores, her incomparable psychedelia is cloud-laced and mist-faced. Perhaps she's prettifying fear into droning comfort-blankets, or maybe her fuzzy excursions are psychedelia blurred beyond the paint-by-numbers boundaries. Either way, the results, as found on Wide and Way Their Crept, as well as on collaborations with Xiu Xiu and her recent, practically unfindable LP on Root Strata, are like opium served up on the rocks; beautiful in the least cliche sense of the word, powerfully shaking, ever so softly, the foundations of drone, folk and the seemingly unflappable avant-garde. Listen and listen high; these sounds call.

If you are lucky, catch Grouper live during their tour of Spain, Belgium and the UK this fall.

1. Zainidin Imanaliev - "Küidüm Chok (I Burn, I Smoulder Like Charcoal)"
The saddest love song in the world, an old Kyrgyzstani song. I am not one for music comps so much but my father got me the one this song is off of, and I listened to the track over and over for days. A young peasant and a wealthy girl fall deep in love and this is the song the young boy sings after their love is ended by her forced marriage higher up in society.

2. John Dowland - "Come, Heavy Sleep"
The image of true death. I like the version off an old Folkways album. I'm very sorry so many people now believe Sting wrote all these songs. Makes my teeth hurt.

3. Arthur Russell - "Soon-To-Be Innocent Fun-Let's See"
This is the one Arthur Russell song I listen to over and over again. I use to always listen to it on planes when I got nervous. While I looked out the windows. Made the clouds and our height a little less malevolent.

4. Lilys - "There's No Such Thing as Black Orchids"
Complete portal, hypnotizing. When the guitars hit I have to try hard to keep from doing a sappy swaying back and forth thing with my eyes closed.

5. Lungfish - "Put Your Hand in my Hand"
Put on a mix tape for me by someone close. It seems kind of funny to choose one Lungfish song over another but this one is my favorite.

6. Black Tambourine - "Black Car"
Unrequited dream love. So aching.

7. Judee Sill - "The Kiss"
Haunting love for the son of God. Plaintive and lonely.

8. Tim Hardin - "Misty Roses"
My mom used to play Misty Roses when I was little. I love his voice. Just enough to get from one word to the next. Sad and smooth. I'm going on a road-trip to his grave on my birthday. He is buried nearby to Portland.

9. Roy Orbison - "Crying"
I got stuck on a 12 hour road trip with only a Roy Orbison tape, and a Shirelles Greatest Hits tape, both stolen from my mothers house. All time favorite Shirelles songs: "Baby Its You," "Foolish Little Girl," "Don't Say Goodnight" and "Mean Goodbye," "Dedicated to the One I Love," and "I Met Him on Sunday."

10. Handel - "I Know That My Redeemer Liveth," from Messiah
I can't find the name of the soprano who sings the version of this that I love, its off an old tape. Such a pretty melody.

11. Clark Sisters
Not such a fan of their newer stuff but Is My Living In Vain? has some beautiful songs on it. I feel a draw to devotional music, regardless of the denomination. I think because of a certain honesty and love that shines through. And sometimes a sort of reaching out and searching, for community, for love. Those feelings, those yearnings sometimes make the best songs. Plus, in the same way its nice to put on something gloomy and disappear in to it, sometimes you want something like this, where its impossible to feel bad while listening to it. I wanted to include a strange Hari Krishna tape I bought across from the Scientology Centre on Franklin in Los Feliz, but I lost the cover, and then the tape as well. I will say I enjoy some Hari Krishna music too, then, and leave it there, as I don't have the info on the one album I really enjoy. Its from the 70's though, and its got lots of children and women singing on it. Plain honest singing.

By Dusted Magazine

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