Every Friday, Dusted Magazine publishes a series of music-related lists compiled by our favorite artists. This week: Spring Heel Jack members and Treader label-heads John Coxon and Ashley Wales.
Listed: John Coxon + Ashley Wales
Ashley Wales and John Coxon (often collectively known as Spring Heel Jack) first came to prominence in the mid-’90s as a drum 'n' bass and remix duo, albeit with an eclectic taste in samples and sources. Coxon was formerly guitarist with Spiritualized; sampler extraordinaire, Wales is just as likely to reference John Cage, Vaughn Williams or the Winstons. Since 2000, when their album Disappeared featured the Milesian trumpet of Ian R. Watson, and legendary trombonist Paul Rutherford, alongside their own samples, Wales and Coxon have increasingly gravitated towards freely improvised music, a trend reinforced by a groundbreaking series of albums on the Thirsty Ear label. Following the albums Massed and Amassed, including such luminaries as Evan Parker, Han Bennink, John Edwards, Tim Berne, William Parker and Matthew Shipp, Coxon and Wales embarked on a series of collaborations with legendary free jazz figures including Wadada Leo Smith, John Tchicai and Sunny Murray. In 2004, the pair launched their own Treader label which has released imaginative and innovatory albums from Evan Parker with Birds through to John Tchicai with strings. In recent years, alone or together, they have become vital driving forces of the London improvised music scene, notably through the regular Back in your Town series of gigs.
1. Peter Brotzman Octet - Machine Gun (Bro 2, 1968)
I bought this on CD reissue in Bath whilst recording Ladies and Gentlemen... with Spiritualized. I'd heard about it, but never heard it. When I did, it floored me and changed my musical interests forever. So called 'free jazz' and its corollaries weren't on my musical agenda before this.
2. Al Green - "Strong as Death (Sweet as Love)" (Hi, 1974)
The greatest b-side ever? And the guitar playing! It was the b-side to "Oh Me, Oh My (Dreams in My Arms)." Strange to think this single was only seven years old when I bought it.
3. Rhythm Rulers - "Power Pack" (Moodisc, 1970)
In 1989(?), when I worked at Mute/Rhythm King records, I bought this from Honest Jon's record shop. When Ashley and I started DJ-ing together, I used this as a kind of 'theme,' starting every set with it for a while. Probably my most played piece of vinyl. Hard to find in the U.K. I've never seen another copy of this LP (Mudies Mood).
4. Sviatoslav Richter - Richter Rediscovered (RCA, 2001)
Ashley bought me this CD when it came out. The first track, "Dear Gentle Haydn (Sonata No. 60 in C)," is so exquisite, a piece by a composer I would usually not listen to being channeled by this extraordinary genius. The Prokoviev on the second disc is also revelatory. Recorded at Carnegie Hall in Dec. 1960. In the documentary, Richter the Enigma, he, oddly, reminds me of Han Bennink.
5. The Congo Natty Label - any mid '90s 12" (Congo Natty)
Rebel MC's energetic, roots-inspired take on jungle floored the competition. The kind of records that 'lose it,' as Ashley would say. "Zion," "Exodus," etc. I waited with baited breath for these to come into the black market on white label.
6. Evan Parker/Han Bennink/Derek Bailey - Topography of the Lungs (Incus, 1970)
Before the reissue that followed Derek Bailey's death, it was hard to get hold of this recording. I eventually found this in Spitalfields Market, along with Collective Calls. I met someone in New Orleans to whom I had said, "You'll never find that record." But he said he had two copies, bought cheap from Amoeba Records in San Francisco. The dry and unsentimental recording has probably had more influence on Treader releases than any other.
7. Dizzee Rascal - Boy in da Corner (XL, 2003)
Unlike Rebel MC, Dizzee Rascal seemed to emerge fully formed... to rescue 'urban' British music from the impersonators of U.S. R'n'B. "I luv U" and "Fix Up Look Sharp" are so brilliant, especially from someone who had just left school. And he namechecks his school music teacher on the sleeve.
8. Messiaen - "Le Banquet Celeste" (RCA Classics, 1992)
From the album Messiaen Par Lui Meme. Profound devotional recordings. Imagine if we could hear J.S. Bach playing his own organ works.
9. Mark Sanders - Swallow Chase (Treader, 2004)
A wonderful and undervalued record of the great Mark Sanders. Very proud to have this on our label.
10. Dean Parrish - "I'm On My Way" (Laurie, 1966)
Last track played at the legendary northern soul venue The Wigan Casino. I imagine this played at my funeral - possibly my favorite single. There was a great radio documentary about his 'rediscovery' last month. He really didn't know anything about how beloved this track is ... and when he turned up to do a northern soul show in England subsequent to this, the audience expected him to be black, and he expected the audience to be black. He told the story of this enormous tough northern soul fan who asked him to sign his hand - he made the signature into a tattoo.
1. Billy Stewart - "Sitting in the Park" (Chess, 1965)
The late great Billy Stewart, killed when his car crashed over a cliff. I remember this record from the '70s and it stayed in my memory for years with no idea who it was until I met John Coxon, a soul fan. I sang a few bars to him and a week later he gave me a present of a Billy Stewart LP with his version of "Summertime," and at last, "Sitting in the Park." It was worth the wait - what a voice; beautiful harmonies, a summery, back-porch, laid-back vibe that still sends shivers down my spine just thinking about it. 100 percent classic.
2. The Jayes / Rankin' Trevor - "Truly" (Different, 1978)
Late '70s version of the Marcia Griffiths tune. A classic song - three-part harmony, a wedding march organ, top dub, and toast outro. Never get tired of hearing this. The first Jamaican 12" single.
3. Scott Walker - "Time Operator" (Phillips, 1970)
From the album Til The Band Comes In. Telephone beeps, boom bams, operator's voice, flugelhorn and late night jazz make a rather creepy tale just about palatable. "Picture Paul Newman / He looks a lot like me."
4. Joy Division - "Novelty" (Factory, 1979)
B-side of the better known "Transmission." Heavy rock/northern soul with heartbreaking lyrics and delivery from Ian Curtis. "You're the only one responsible to take the blame." Like a lot of Joy Division's music, it reflects the extremes of depression - at once euphoric, but pointing to the deepest despair. A song of loss and regret to listen to in the privacy of your own room.
5. The Buzzcocks - "ESP" (UA, 1978)
From Love Bites... One guitar, then two guitars, then the drums intro, and then round and round forever. What a riff.
6. Iggy Pop - "Dum Dum Boys" (RCA, 1977)
Post '77, I had only heard of Iggy and The Stooges. My new punk friend Pete played me The Idiot and of all the tracks, "Dum Dum Boys" seemed to have most relevance at the time. Of all the tracks, it has retained its power most over the years, from the junkout intro to the sludgey stomp and ecstacy of the twin-guitar barrage. Great.
7. DJ Sappho - "No Good"
Could have been any number of drum 'n' bass tracks, but this one is such a grower from the golden age. Keeps going up, gear by gear.
8. Jean Sibelius - Symphony no. 7 (Composed 1924, various recordings)
One of the best trombone solos in the orchestral repertoire - or anywhere. The human spirit embodied in music.
9. The Beatles - "Love Me Do" (Parlophone, 1962)
Almost any Beatles track would suffice here, but this song is so good. Beautiful harmonica, arrangement, everything. What a great first single.
10. The Bee Gees - "I Started a Joke" (Atco, 1968)
Hardly any drums, amazing harmonies and wonderful lyric. It's meant to be about the life of Christ.