Every Friday, Dusted Magazine publishes a series of music-related lists compiled by our favorite artists. This week: sound artist Francisco Lopez and New York singer Jeffrey Lewis.
Listed: Francisco Lopez + Jeffrey Lewis
Francisco López is one of the most prolific voices in experimental music. Over the last 25 years, he’s recorded over 200 works, ranging from extreme minimalism to tolerance-testing noise. Field recordings are often a favorite, but López also travels in post-industrial and minimalist circles. No matter the volume, his work demands intense, focused listening, which is funny considering how fast he churns out material! The hard work has paid off, as he’s been honored twice at the Ars Electronica Festival. His latest recording, a duo record with Lawrence English called HB, is out now on Baskaru Records.
1. David Lynch & Alan Splet – Eraserhead
A masterpiece in the history of soundtracks. It had an enormous influence at an early stage in my career, as I happen to come across it when I started messing around with cassette tape manipulation of field recordings in the late ’70s / early ’80s. This is one of those rare cases where I feel the film without the soundtrack would be so much less… and at the same time the soundtrack could stand on its own (without the film) amazingly well.
2. João Gilberto – “Eu Sambo Mesmo”
My favorite song by my favorite Bossa Nova singer. His version got the perfect pace, instrumentation, production and mood. Such a tasteful arrangement of guitar, voice and balanced touches of sparse additional instrumentation. Sort of the epitome of Bossa. Gilberto just got better and better over the years.
3. Meshuggah – Chaosphere
I still don’t fully understand how Fredrik Thordendal and the other guys in the band do it. This album (and most of what they do) stands out in the history of metal as simply awesome. It’s not really the virtuosity (which they have loads of), but perhaps how solid and sharp the result is. One doesn’t feel this as a band, but rather as a exceptionally well-geared sonic machine. In fact, I think they shouldn’t make tracks, but a whole one-track full-length album with that sound and structure.
4. Werkbund – Skagerrak
From a master in the building-up of mystery, probably the most eerie piece he ever created. One of those albums that one can be dragged into as if there were really other worlds of that obscure nature and we could enter them for a while. You might even feel you don’t want to come back to safety and normality after being there…
5. Mnemonists – Horde
I have this problem with improvised music: no matter how hard I try, I can’t find it interesting (I know, it’s my problem). Sometimes I think why there aren’t more people taking Mnemonists’ approach of, yes, doing some improvisation (even a lot of it) but then brewing it to an interesting result. Theirs is mind-blowing to me in most of their early albums, “Horde” among them, but also as Biota. More than musicians, great studio composers.
6. Crawl Unit – Everyone Gets What They Deserve
When thinking of a very personal way of dealing with sound creation, some people might think of concepts like “originality” or “novelty.” I tend to think of it as something that somehow makes you feel the personal presence while still not being able to figure out what the creator’s life of real personality is about, because the actual creation stands there right in front of you. Joe Colley is such a case. And one in which irony and existentialism blend in such a natural way that it becomes hard to think of them as something actually different. A beautiful CD, from every possible perspective.
7. Luis Miguel – “Sabor a Mi”
This classic (by Mexican songwriter Álvaro Carrillo) is one of those songs with a trillion versions in the Latino realm. Now, the name of Mexican crooner Luis Miguel will immediately raise an uproar for a lot of people, but, what can I do, his version of “Sabor a Mi” is very convincing and nice.
8. Incapacitants – As Loud As Possible
Well, that’s a lot to say in a title, especially after a few decades of intensity on this noise front. But Incapacitants definitely know how to make a wall of non-stop noise sound mantric and alive for a much longer period of time than most noisists, at least for me. When I saw them live in Tokyo a long time ago I thought for the first time, that that was a too-short show, which for me is really lot to say about a Japanoise show.
9. Gianfranco Pernaiachi – Ora
I don’t think I ever met anyone who heard of this composer, every time I mention him. That’s a shame, as in Ora he seems to have been able to deal with silence in a beautifully interesting way, something that so many struggle to attain with very unsuccessful results.
10. The Residents – “Act of Being Polite”
Probably THE quintessential condensed Residents substance in a song. The Commercial Album always sounded to me like the most difficult one to make, and the most successful one in showing their essence. And at the time of its publication I couldn’t stop listening to it.
Jeffrey Lewis is a New York indie-rock artist, born and raised on the lower east side of Manhattan. His nasally voice, sarcastic lyrics and acoustic guitar earned him membership in the East Village “antifolk” movement of the late ’90s, a club that included, among others, the Moldy Peaches. Lewis has released four albums on Rough Trade Records since 2001, including one of 2007’s finer records, 12 Crass Songs, a collection of songs by England’s favorite socialist-sympathizing punk band reworked into relatively easy listening. Lewis is also a respected comic book artist who (coincidentally enough) wrote his senior thesis in 1997 on the graphic novel Watchmen, a book and film that he’ll be speaking about on March 19 at Jim Hanley’s Universe in New York. (He recently delivered a lecture on the phenomenon in London at the Institute of Contemporary Arts.) His next album, ’Em Are I, is coming out next month on Rough Trade U.K. and on May 19 on Rough Trade U.S. And if you’re in New York, he’ll be playing at Pete’s Candy Store in Brooklyn on March 14.
1. The Hook - Will Grab You (Uni, 1968)
Many years ago, I bought this very scratchy LP for a dollar out of the trunk of a guy’s car in the middle of nowhere in Maine. I’d never heard of it, but it became one of my favorite ’60s garage/psych records; it’s really an interesting crossroads between mid-’60s simple garage stuff and late-’60s "heavy rock" blues-jam slop. It’s very Cream/Hendrix influence, these guys must have listened to "Foxy Lady" a lot, but it’s strangely thuggish – the singer talks about beating people up and having his friends join in to help! Not long ago I learned that the main guy in this band had formerly been in the Leaves, who recorded the first hit rock version of "Hey Joe," which Hendrix then swiped for his first single, so it’s ironic that The Hook feels a bit Hendrix-influenced, maybe this guy figured Hendrix owed him! Beware their second album Hooked, it’s mostly not very good.
2. The Fall - Dragnet (1979)
The first Fall album I got into and, 40 Fall albums later, still my favorite, tho’ it seems many Fall fans tend to favor whichever album first ensnared them. It’s weird lo-fi carnival-esque punk with very bizarre and engaging lyrics. Tons of enthusiasm and imagination, so who cares that it was recorded so shoddily that the studio engineer apparently demanded not to be credited?
3. Prewar Yardsale - Lowdown (Olive Juice, 2001)
A gal banging buckets and a guy strumming two chords on an acoustic guitar with a distortion pedal. Lyrics that seem stupid the first time around until you realize how many surreal puns and idiosyncratic visions they’re chock full of. The rhythms ain’t exactly tight, shall we say, and the first track’s 16 minutes long. The true sound of New York City! A huge influence on me.
4. Donovan - For Little Ones (1967)
My favorite Donovan album, tho’ you can usually only find it as a double-album pair with Wear Your Love Like Heaven, my LEAST favorite Donovan album. This one is his best batch of songs, perfectly beautiful and charming and trippy and childlike.
5. Phil Ochs - All the News That’s Fit to Sing (1964?)
When people say they get annoyed at ’60s political folkie coffee house protest song crap, this is the album they’re talking about whether they know it or not. But it’s truly a brilliant and beautiful album, and if he hadn’t had the bad luck to be completely overshadowed by the mega-genius of Dylan, Ochs would have reigned supreme as folkie king.
6. Lou Reed - Mistrial (1985?)
I love trying to outrage people by telling them this is my favorite Lou Reed album. Most people seem to find the super-’80s production (and Lou’s attempt at a rap song) to be even more unlistenable than Metal Machine Music’s two discs of undifferentiated guitar feedback. I really do think this album is one of Lou’s absolute best collections of songs, I’ve been covering "Tell It To Your Hear" for years. i thought maybe I oughtta record my own version of this whole album, just stripped down so people can hear how good the songwriting is and give it another chance. I’d call my version Retrial!
7. Daniel Johnston & Jad Fair - Jad Fair & Daniel Johnston (1989?)
I think this has been re-issued on CD under the title It’s Spooky. Maybe the single greatest album either of these geniuses put out, and that’s saying a lot. Life-changing.
8. V/A - Pebbles Volume 3 - The Acid Gallery
Speaking of life-changing, this is one for sure. I was a fan of weird ’60s psychedelia thru my school years but prided myself on not buying compilation albums – as a teen I would have scoffed at buying a "best of" the 13th Floor Elevators or some such. I much preferred finding the original full albums and deciding for myself the best tracks. Naive me, I had NO idea there was a vast universe of ’60s music thousands of times more obscure, more psychedelic, and more bizarre and mindblowing than I had ever known. I resisted buying this compilation album for a long time despite the record store clerk’s recommendation, but after finally conceding that I’d probably NEVER find the original full-length albums by microscopic acts like Crystal Chandlier (who were apparently tripping so hard they forgot how to spell chandelier). There are actually many mind-bogglingly good volumes in the Pebbles series, particularly Vol. 23 and Vol. 10, but this one is extra-special. It’s just magic. The CD re-issue of this has a few great bonus tracks but is sadly missing some tracks from the original LP – and even more inexplicable, my favorite song on the record ("The Trip" by Godfrey) appears on the CD version with totally different (and inferior) lyrics!
9. Whodini - Escape (1985?)
I think this was the first album I ever bought and somehow it’s just as great now as it was back in the mid-’80s. I don’t know why Whodini is rarely mentioned alongside other early rap greats like Run DMC and Grandmaster Flash, but from what I remember hearing on the streets of NYC as a child, Whodini songs were just as likely to be coming out of boomboxes as any of the others. In fact, a lot of these Whodini songs were big rap hits, at least in NYC, I remember hearing them all the time – "Big Mouth,” "Five Minutes of Funk,” "The Freaks Come Out At Night,” and "Friends.” Some of these have been sampled by Nas and Sonic Youth and probably elsewhere. A lost classic album of late-period "old school" rap.
10. Acetone - Cindy (1995?)
And speaking of lost classics, this mid-’90s indie-rock album was a top favorite of me and all my friends in college, right alongside Yo La Tengo, Mr. Bungle, Ween, Velvet Underground, etc. It wasn’t until after college that it dawned on us that this album was not as famous to the rest of the world as it was to us, and although the other stuff we were into was mostly widely loved, this great one was somehow our own discovery. It’s a perfect mix of ethereal ballads and brutal garage grunge, often with a strange surf-rock gleam. Glorious vocal harmonies and whammy-bar guitar feedback. Great songs. How was this album totally overlooked and forgotten by the world? We considered it part of the pantheon, and assumed everyone else did, too. Unfortunately, Acetone’s following albums were a decreasing spiral into more and more boring, placid ballads with nary a rock song to balance it out, and one of the trio eventually commit suicide. I hope that the remaining two members of Acetone know that, at least to a few former college kids, they have a place in history in our hearts with this album.
By Dusted Magazine