Every Friday, Dusted Magazine publishes a series of music-related lists compiled by our favorite artists. This week: Detroit producer Stephen Hitchell and New York saxophonist Briggan Krauss.
Listed: Stephen Hitchell + Briggan Krauss
Stephen Hitchell is a U.S. based ambient/dub/experimental/techno producer, as well as a sound and audio engineer who in the course of the past 10 years has been releasing music and playing some of the world’s most important festivals & clubs. In this past year, his Echospace project with long time friend, Rod Modell (of DeepChord) debuted their The Coldest Season full-length on the Modern Love imprint, which earned album of the year consideration in over 25 publications and was The Wire’s top spot for best electronica album of 2007. Hitchell shared some of his most inspirational sounds in this week’s Listed.
1. Augustus Pablo - King Tubby Meets Rockers Uptown
This is one of my all-time favorite Tubby productions for many, many reasons. This is and always will be an eternal classic. Augustus Pablo’s melodica sings the entire duration of this album with Tubby at the controls, fading, dropping, blending and bringing to life every new sound introduced in the mix. A magical session. I think Tubby proved a mixer was just as important an instrument as a guitar or bass with this recording. Another highlight with this album is the bass hooks – unreal and out of this world. A contribution from Aston Barret (bass player from Bob Marley & The Wailers) made an amazing album even more brilliant. Mesmerizing from start to finish.
2. The Congos - Heart Of The Congo / "Congoman Chant” Limited 12" (1977)
One of the best recordings to come out of Lee Perry’s Black Ark studio. Its percussive accents are far above any other in the genre and you can sink into the melodies. The effects and treatments given to the melodies and vocals are haunting; Lee’s effects and mastery of the mixing board is really demonstrated on this album. I love the vocals, which are sometimes almost chants and, in cases, barely present in the mixes, just floating along at the bottom of the ocean. If I had to pick one album that has influenced me in my productions, this would be it. The thing that draws me so close to dub / reggae productions more than just the music is the way it is recorded, the way it’s mixed and, most of all, the treatments the sounds are given. It creates an atmosphere and mood that in our recent digital age will never be capable of replicating. The 12" of "Congoman Chant" is something out of this world; it came out as a separate dub plate, but the magic from the album sessions is clear and present. Blood and Fire did the right thing by including it on the re-release double-CD edition of Heart of the Congo.
3. Rhythm & Sound - Rhythm & Sound / w/the Artist
Two albums which have stood the test of time and then some. The first self-titled release, compiling all the 12" material (including the bonus "No Partial" from UK label PK), has been something I have adored since it was released. To me, it is the purest form of ambient, dub and techno. The element of their music that has always pulled me in is the clear attention to every fine detail, the way it moves, shapes and forms throughout the listening experience. They must have studied the classic reggae / dub vaults closely, as there are only a few people who could pull off mixing sessions and effects treatments with as much finesse. They manage to bring to techno what Lee Perry and King Tubby brought to dub, a natural mystic. On w/the Artist, they add the heavenly vocals of legend Cornell Campbell on "King In My Empire," a song that literally made the hairs on my arm stand up the first time I heard it. (It still has a similar effect today.) Cornell gave one of his best vocal performances I can recall, and this might be my favorite song he’s ever sang. Another highlight is Tikiman’s heavenly voice (Paul St. Hilaire) over "Jah Rule," which is a magical and gentle journey straight into the subconscious, a soothing trance inducing number. All of the songs and vocal performances are brilliant, but one that still touches my soul is the vocal performance of Love Joys (check their soul melting album on Wackies as well, Lovers Rock Reggae Style) on "Best Friend." The vocals speak of pain, heartbreak and loss, genuine and felt through and through with a bassline straight outta Kingston. I could go on for days about their music. It’s all addictive, but these two will be in my top five for eternity.
4. Massive Attack - Protection
This entire album is a slice of heaven for me, dubwise and experimental, but still manages to maintain an ominous feeling throughout. Tracey Thorn’s voice (Everything But The Girl) shines like the brightest star in the sky in her certified masterpiece, "Protection." It makes you cry and smile at the same time. Call it nostalgia or memories of yesterday, but music like this only happens once in a lifetime and since this project, music, emotion and/or feeling has never been duplicated or replicated. Another stand out here is one of the most delightful piano pieces ever written, played by the hands and heart of a certain Craig Armstrong (who’s discography is legendary). It gives you a feeling like it’s raining inside your house and for whatever reason you don’t want to seek shelter, just end up drenched in nature’s beauty. Moving onto the life altering "Spying Glass" (originally recorded by Horace Andy on his monumental Dancehall Style album on Wackies), I still remember almost being in shock when I heard Horace Andy’s voice over a seductive, downtempo rhythm. It caught me off-guard, but the production only served the original justice.
5. Manuel Göttsching - E2-E4
50-plus minutes of atmosphere, depth and a melody you’ll never forget. It somehow molds and morphs into a guitar ballad caught somewhere between B.B. King and Santana. This is a synthesizer singing the blues. The feeling you get while listening to this body of work is out of this world, and since then has never been replicated. There is something so pure about the harmonic sequences. If I had to reference one record that established electronic music as a true art form, this would be it.
6. Steve Roach - The Dream Circle
A slow morphing sequence takes you through space and time and everywhere in-between. I love Steve’s work and would say this and Dreamtime Return are two of my favorite ambient releases. His work is so organic, yet ominous in mood amd distinctive in sonic richness; it’s like closing your eyes and thinking in slow motion. This album played quietly in the background for the first year of my son’s life and he slept like an angel every night because of it.
7. Cabaret Voltaire - The Conversation’s “Project 80” 12”
As a long time fan of Cabaret Voltaire’s work, this 4xLP album really caught me by surprise. It was so different from any of their past productions. From the beginning of side E, you’re asking yourself if this is really them? It’s not electro, not industrial, but a 4/4 rhythm with atmospheres, pads and mind-altering vocal experimentation taken from cult sci-fi flicks. It has an organic earthy feeling that I am always left enchanted with. If I had to guess, I would say Richard Kirk was mostly responsible for this recording.
8. Underground Resistance - Galaxy 2 Galaxy
My absolute favorite Underground Resistance release to date, and for so many reasons. This album is more than eternal; it is everything I love about music, all on one release. The theme, the feeling, the pure soul – it’s enchanting from start to finish. "Journey Of The Dragons" with Juan Atkins is why most of us love electronic music – Tangerine Dream with a Detroit edge. The sequencing on this song is unbelievable and the melody could almost make you cry. Then we have "Star Sailing"; I rate it right next to Derrick May and Carl Craig’s "Kaotic Harmony." This is what Detroit is all about: mood, feeling and pure electronic soul.
9. DeepChord - Vibrasound: The DeepChord Years
Well, despite my close relationship with Rod (and Mike), this album has meant a lot to me. It highlights some of their early work, recorded in the mid ‘90s to 2002. In knowing Rod as well as I do and working so closely with him over the years, I’ve learned many things from him, but most importantly has been his precise attention to detail. His love of pure ambient, slow motion movements, musique concrete, tape manipulation and field recordings is more than just a passion to him – it’s an art form. And with every brush stroke by this duo, a picture of beauty emerges. This album is a masterpiece in sound, from moody Detroit themes (which leave you with tainted images of East Grand Ave. back in the ‘90s) to the mystical beauty of songs like "Grand Bend." The one interesting thing I love about the DeepChord productions is how I always seem to notice something different with each listen.
10. Benge - 20 Systems (Expanding Records)
This one is the most recent and speaks to me not on a musical level but on a conceptual level. This showcases the beauty and uniqueness of some of the most important synthesizers of our time and all of their progressions along the way. Benge uses a simple but effective method to showcase the character of each synth by using a sound-on-sound recording method (much in the same spirit of the early echoplex’s and space echoes) and a few others were highlighted by each synth’s built-in sequencer. It truly is a lovely piece of work, which raises the question: What sounds better, a computer emulation or the real deal? For anyone interested in an education on what vintage synths really sounds like.
Briggan Krauss is a New York composer and saxophonist who’s played a prominent role in the city’s avant-garde jazz scene for more than a decade. Krauss first made waves in Wayne Horvitz’s Pig Pen while still in Seattle. He moved to New York in 1994 and helped found seminal jazz outfit Sex Mob. He’s played with John Zorn, Bill Frisell, Anthony Coleman, Medeski, Martin and Wood, Jim Black and Ikue Mori, among others. The latter two play with Krauss in the trio H-Alpha, a trio that incorporates Krauss’ interest in electronic music and sound art. The group’s new album, Red Sphere, is Krauss’ fourth as a band leader and was released on Oct. 15 by Skirl Records.
1. Edgard Varese - Integrales (performed by the Contemporary Chamber Ensemble, conducted by Arthur Weisberg) (Nonesuch)
This is my favorite version of one of my favorite compositions by Varese. This is so good. There is a moment in the middle of this piece that gives me chills every time I hear it.
2. Claude Delangle - The Solitary Saxophone (BIS Records)
Classical saxophone is normally not my thing, but Claude Delangle is a rare exception in that he is not only technically an amazing saxophonist but one who is actually incredibly interesting to listen to. He takes nothing for granted as far as the saxophone is concerned. Every attack, sustain and vibrato is deliberate and controlled. On this record, he is performing solo works by 20th century composers Stockhausen, Berio, Betsy Jolas, Giacinto Scelsi and Toru Takemitsu. I should add that there is also a record by him of works by contemporary Japanese composers called, surprisingly enough, The Japanese Saxophone, which is also very good indeed.
3. Albert Ayler - Bells-Prophecy (ESP Disk)
This is a recording of live performances from 1964 and 1965. These are incredibly powerful, raw and beautiful. Although I am an alto saxophonist, my biggest influences have been mostly tenor saxophonists . Albert Alyer and John Coltrane are right at the top of the list. I’d like to make the case for how underrated a saxophonist Albert Alyer is. LIsten to the way that Albert Alyer plays melodies. So fluid and vocal, yet also subtle. You know how sometimes when someone makes something sound or look so easy you actually assume that it IS easy? Check him out and think again.
4. John Coltrane - Interstellar Space (Impulse)
This is a wonderful record of duos with the great drummer Rashied Ali. I love John Coltrane across the board and his music has had a great impact on my life. I chose this record out of all of them because it’s not so well known and is very unique and beautiful.
5. Jack DeJohnette - Special Edition (ECM)
This is a classic recording of quartet, led by drummer Jack DeJohnette and featuring Peter Warren on bass, David Murray on tenor saxophone / bass clarinet and one of the greatest alto saxophonists ever, Arthur Blythe. This record, along with Artuhr Blythe’s Lennox Avenue Breakdown, were among the most important records in my life. I listened to these records almost every day when I was a kid in high school.
6. Painkiller - Buried Secrets (Earache)
Bill Laswell, Mick Harris (Napalm Death) and John Zorn. Zorn’s screaming, multi-phonics and noise techniques on saxophone are truly amazing. Another example of how intense energy levels can disguise very impressive technique and control if you aren’t listening carefully.
7. Gyorgy Ligeti - Mechanical Music (Sony Classical)
In addition to Varese, Ligeti is one of my favorite modern composers. This is a fantastic recording of his compositions adapted for barrel organ and player piano. Ligeti wrote technically and rhythmically very difficult music that not very many musicians can actually play. This recording is an opportunity to hear these compositions played truly as written. Although these are essentially sequencers giving the performance, it’s nevertheless pleasing to listen to as these are played on what are basically acoustic instruments. The barrel organ is especially unique. This recording also has a performance of his famous piece "Poem Symphonique." A room is filled with 100 wind-up metronomes each set to different tempos. The metronomes are started together and the piece lasts until the last one runs down and stops. I have often thought that music is in a certain way always a combination of communicating ideas and/or creating an experience. This is one of those rare examples of a piece with a single easy idea; where the point of the piece is all about the experience of listening to it. At about 20 minutes long, this is an amazing experience. You really just have to hear it.
8. Music For The Gods: The Fahnestock South Sea Expedition: Indonesia (Rykodisc)
This is a really amazing recording from the Library of Congress Endangered Music Project. These are field recordings made in Indonesia in 1941. The recordings sound great and the music is just unbelievable.
9. Kyoto Imperial Court Music Orchestra - Gagaku: The Imperial Court Music of Japan (Lyrichord)
I love this music. I am attracted to its starkness, its slowness and its careful deliberateness. I also like the formality and ritual that accompanies its performance.
10. The Pixies - Trompe le Monde (Elektra)
I am a huge Pixies fan. I love all the records, but I am picking this one because it is so creative and fresh even after all this time. The song writing is pretty surreal, which I appreciate, and the orchestration and arranging is equally unorthodox, super-inventive and surprising.
By Dusted Magazine