Sunday, September 6, 2015

Smokelit Flashback III

"Sniff Me Out Like I Was Tanqueray"

[This is one post in a series about my music mixes.  The series list has links to all posts in the series and also definitions of many of the terms I use.  You may wish to read the introduction for more background.  You may also want to check out the first volume in this multi-volume mix for more info on its theme.

Like all my series, it is not necessarily contiguous—that is, I don’t guarantee that the next post in the series will be next week.  Just that I will eventually finish it, someday.  Unless I get hit by a bus.]

You know, I mentioned at some point1 that Smokelit Flashback was my longest mix.  Given that, it’s time to return to those waters and pick up where we left off after Smokelit Flashback I and Smokelit Flashback II.  Which, you may recall, featured a lot of cuts from 5 different albums.2

The primary problem with overfeaturing a few albums in a volume of a mix like this is the lack of variety.  But no less of a problem is that you can overmine your material.  I currently have 5 volumes of Smokelit Flashback, and enough material for at least two more, but the Lemon Jelly and the Naomi are all on the first two volumes, and only a single Portishead track remains.  It’s “Sour Times,” from their debut Dummy.3  And it’s a classic, don’t get me wrong.  I just wish I’d saved a bit more Portishead for these later volumes.

Also returning is Falling You.  They’re back again (of course) with a track off one of their later albums, Faith.  In general, the later Falling You albums aren’t as good as the earlier ones, but you still find gems on them, such as this one.  But, strangely, these two tracks—the one from Portishead and the one from Falling You—represent the only two returning artists.  By this point in the mix, I needed new blood.

Happily, my programmer friend4 had yet more wonders to introduce me to: in this case it was the first 3 albums5 from Belgian group Hooverphonic.  Hooverphonic is another of those bands that’s hard to classify: they’re a bit dream pop, and a bit ambient, but mostly trip-hop, and, like Portishead, a perfect fit for this mix.  I’ve managed to restrain myself though, so you’ll only find two tracks of theirs here.  But, like Falling You, expect to see them on just about every Smokelit volume from here on out.

My other big discovery is Thievery Corporation, who are mostly electro-world, somewhat like Transglobal Underground, but where TU is at the club end of that sub-subgenre, Thievery Corporation exists firmly at the trip-hop end.  They’re from DC, where I lived for many years, and my discovery of them is somewhat bizarre.  The Mother used to be the bookkeeper for the Capital Yacht Club, and some member there had a free copy of Thievery Corporation’s 2002 classic6 The Richest Man in Babylon.  Or maybe they had a bunch of free copies; I never got the full story.  Anyway, one way or another, someone offered The Mother a copy, she brought it home to me (she never said, but she probably listened to it once and said “here’s some weird shit he’ll enjoy”) and the rest is history.  Thievery Corp has a beautiful sound that works perfectly for this mix, as well as a few others.7  They’re giving us two tracks on this volume: one is our opener, and the other is right in our centerpiece, between the second Hooverphonic track and the Falling You track.

Other fairly obvious candidates include my discoveries of three male/female duos: Mono, a cool trip-hop London duo with only one album (but it’s a great one), Dahlia, a duo from Portland whose style is sort of half trip-hop, half darkwave, and Goldfrapp, another pair of Brits whose elcectic style encompasses dream, trip-hop, electronica, and even a bit of disco and downtempo.  Mono and Dahlia I think I discovered via some sort of “if you like that, you’ll like this” links; Goldfrapp I distinctly remember hearing on Morning Becomes Eclectic.  Each of the three contribute a track here, and you can be sure we’ll be hearing from each in future volumes.

For a slightly harder edge, I start to drift into a bit of acid house territory by closing out this volume with the Chemical Brothers followed by Massive Attack.  For the former, Dig Your Own Hole is probably one of the first electronica albums I ever bought, primarily on the strength of “Block Rockin’ Beats” (although that’s definitely not the best track on that album, as it turns out).  For the latter, I first heard “Paradise Circus” (the very track I use here) when I watched BBC show Luther, starring Idris Elba.

Our bridges come from Banyan, who we remember from Smokelit Flashback I, and one of the Ian Devaney instrumentals off the Swing soundtrack, which we saw on a few volumes of Salsatic Vibrato.

Smokelit Flashback III
    [Sniff Me Out Like I Was Tanqueray]

        “Until the Morning” by Thievery Corporation, off The Richest Man in Babylon
        “Leave Me Alone” by Natalie Imbruglia, off Left of the Middle
        “One Way Ride” by Hooverphonic, off Blue Wonder Power Milk
        “Angel” by Artemis, off Gravity
        “Lovely Head” by Goldfrapp, off Felt Mountain
        “Sour Times” by Portishead, off Dummy
        “You Know I'm No Good” by Amy Winehouse, off Back to Black
        “Armageddon” by Dahlia, off Emotion Cycles
        “Mad about You” by Hooverphonic, off The Magnificent Tree
        “Omid (Hope)” by Thievery Corporation, off The Richest Man in Babylon
        “Milk and Honey” by Falling You, off Faith
        “Martin's Theme [reprise]” by Ian Devaney, off Swing [Soundtrack]
        “Little Black Mess” by Shivaree, off Who's Got Trouble?
        “Life in Mono” by Mono, off Formica Blues
        “Cactus Soil” by Banyan, off Anytime at All
        “Where Do I Begin” by The Chemical Brothers, off Dig Your Own Hole
        “Paradise Circus” by Massive Attack, off Heligoland
Total:  17 tracks,  73:41

For the remainder, we have a few surprising and perhaps some not so surprising choices.  Natalie Imbruglia gives us the #2 track here; Imbruglia is perhaps best known for “Torn,” and that’s certainly the reason I first picked up the insanely good Left of the Middle.  But let me tell you a secret: “Torn” is the worst song on that album.  Which doesn’t mean “Torn” is bad; on the contrary, “Torn” is a pretty decent song, for what it is.  It’s just that the remainder of the album is so much better.  “Leave Me Alone” isn’t typical, but it works very well here.8  Then we have Artemis, another Magnatune artist.9  Generally when it comes to Artemis, I prefer Undone, but Gravity (whence cometh “Angel,” the track we use here) is nice too.

Our volume namer is the classic Amy Winehouse tune “You Know I’m No Good.”  Most of Winehouse’s work doesn’t fit here at all, but there’s just something about this one track that works perfectly on this mix.  Finally we have a track from Shivaree, who’s been called everything from alt-country to “jazzy” to “torchy.”  I currently have 5 of their songs in various mixes, and only two are slotted for the same mix (and one song is currently in two completely different mixes because I can’t decide where it goes).  I’m pretty sure I also discovered them through a “similar artists” type link, but exactly who they were similar to I can’t now imagine.  “Little Black Mess” is a loungy track that has some Moonside by Riverlight tendencies,10 but still retains enough of the smokey bar and slightly trippy combo that makes it a perfect fit here.

Next time, we’ll mix it till it’s smooth.


1 Specifically, when I was introducing Salsatic Vibrato.

2 Specifically, Portishead, LemonJelly.KY, Lost Horizons, Everyone Loves You, and Pappelallee.

3 Yes, Dummy precedes Portishead.  Go figure.

4 The same one who introduced me to Lemon Jelly, Naomi, and Transglobal Underground.

5 That is, A New Stereophonic Sound Spectacular, Blue Wonder Power Milk, and The Magnificent Tree.

6 And, in my opinion, still their best.

7 For instance, we’ve seen them on Paradoxically Sized World, and we’ll see figure prominently on another mix we’ll come to in the fullness of time.

8 And is slightly reminiscent somehow of “Pity” by the Creatures, which we used on volume I.  Perhaps it’s just the vibraphone.  Although I think the instrument on “Pity” is actually a xylophone.  But you know what I mean.

9 I told the story of how I discovered Magnatune in Rose-Coloured Brainpan.

10 For what it’s worth, that’s the mix currently containing two different Shivaree tracks.

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