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Posts Tagged ‘Downtempo music’

Civil Twilight is a three-piece band from Cape Town that has alternative rock muffling tears in space. They translate melancholy into music, with sparsely ethereal melodies shivering like sick puppies licking open wounds on a wintry morning, waiting to hitchhike their way out of the cold. Sometimes the pace quickens, as Civil Twilight unabashedly borrows from bands like Television and Pavement to kickstart a groove or two, but never sounding as intense as their spacey dirges. The piano-driven title song of their 2008 Human album had me aching for a familiar face, interplanetary or otherwise, especially when vocalist/bassist/pianist Steven McKellar croons like a dejected waif, “It’s all the things you can’t explain…that make us human.“ Fantastically feel-bad.

*****

When Blu met producer Exile, unbridled greatness crawled out of the studio and surrounded itself with dazzling beats and cleverly-crafted verses. If you haven’t already heard their Below the Heavens album, I suggest you go do that, starting with So(ul) Amazing, a hip hop anthem yet to be topped since 2007. Sometime in 2008 he teamed up with producer Mainframe and under the moniker of Johnson & Jonson released another underground classic. While not as spectacular as the Blu and Exile album, their self-titled collection of laidback vibes certainly made it easier for hip hop to deal with J Dilla’s passing two years prior. On “A Perfect Picture”, Mainframe provides a ten-second intro that sounds like that badass bass riff from Dazed and Confused gassed up on amphetamines, as Blu spits rhymes that flow like the sins of our forefathers or like a summer breeze, whatever, take your pick…this is good stuff.

*****

Look beyond The Moody Blues’ famed ballad “Nights In White Satin” and you might get a taste of some fantastic progressive music. Their brand of schizophrenic psychedelic riffs splattered against soaring vocals, tight percussions and sprawling orchestral arrangements makes me want to burn all my King Crimson albums. Like Extreme never got credit for keeping alternative music alive during the Nineties despite Cobain’s best efforts, The Moody Blues never got recognition for breathing life into classical rock during the Sixties. Some of their finest sounds can be found in their sophomoric Days Of Future Passed album that had them inviting the London Festival Orchestra for one hell of a party and in the 1969 album To Our Children’s Children’s Children, which matched anything Pink Floyd had put out by then for sheer exuberance towards experimentation. Check out their 1997 Greatest Hits or something like that collection, a decent start to uncovering The Moody Blues.

*****

Downtempo music has a delayed seductive quality that very few art forms (perhaps Italian film noir or Gabriel Marquez’s short stories) have replicated. Even comedian/performance artist Andy Kaufman once opined that time and patience constituted to great humour. Downtempo musicians too rely on delayed aural responses to their sound. A few ethereal reverberations here and there, some soulful piano notes and enough breathing space for us to fully appreciate its sultriness. For instance, take Destroying Angels by German quartet Bohren & Der Club of Gore. If you dig that jazz-electronica crossover sound, I’ll bet you thirty virgins you’ll like it much more the third time around.

*****

Next up, a James Keenan Maynard edition.

Watch

Civil Twilight – Human

Blu & Exile – So(ul) Amazin

Johnson & Jonson – A Perfect Picture

The Moody Blues – Question

The Moody Blues – Tuesday Afternoons (Live)

The Moody Blues – Higher & Higher

Bohren & Der Club of Gore – Destroying Angels

Buy

Civil Twilight’s Human

Blu & Exile’s Below The Heavens

Johnson & Jonson’s Self-Titled

The Moody Blues’ Days Of Future Passed

The Moody Blues’ To Our Children’s Children’s Children

The Best of the Moody Blues

Bohren & Der Club of Gore’s Black Earth

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