The price of vinyl is based on scarcity, not quality. There is just one scratchy 78 of the Long ‘Cleve’ Reed & Harvey Hull (Down Home Boys) 1927 murder ballad ‘Original Stack O’Lee Blues’ in existence. If you want one prepare to cough up $60,000, and that’s if its obsessive owner will sell it to you. It’s pretty obscene, particularly as the tune is near indistinguishable from numerous other examples of ‘race music’ recorded at the time. But I digress, I want to go the other way and talk about how thanks to a cigarette company you can get a taut slab of 70’s jazz funk for a dollar. Founded in 1968, drummer Warren Daly, fresh from touring the US with the Glen Miller band returned to Australia and hooked up with trombonist/ arranger Ed Wilson to form an 18-piece big band fusing, jazz, funk and rock. Due to their size, the Daly Wilson Big Band initially struggled financially and disbanded in 1971, but were rescued in 1973 by the benevolence of the Benson and Hedges company, who’s logos would adorn four of their next five albums. Sampled by DJ Shadow, their cover of ‘Also sprach Zarathustra,’ retitled ‘Space Odyssey – 2001’ is a psychedelic funky freak-out, whilst the urban 70’s noir of ‘Theme from Swat’ was sampled by DJ Q-bert and ‘Dirty Feet’ by Mobb Deep. Whilst Benson & Hedges pulled their funds in 1983 and the band ultimately disbanded, their legacy lives on in a ridiculous amount of op shops around the country. Seriously, you can find an album in pretty much every one.
Lately I can’t get enough of eccentric Norwegian experimental pop artist Jenny Hval. She’s just released her sixth album, Blood Bitch (Sacred Bones/ Rocket) and it’s a monster. There’s so much going on. Metaphors abound, vampires, menstruation, the supernatural and 70’s horror films, are all enmeshed into a narrative that references childbirth, capitalism, love, the body and bodily functions. Sonically it’s really forward thinking, where melodies, noise, musique concrete, gothic synth pop, spoken word and all manner of experimental cross genre gestures intersect. Hval sings too, gentle crooning or intoning wordlessly over abstract yet strange and spooky, yet somehow reassuring sonics. It’s a dense album, its threads aren’t immediately obvious, and it takes some time to unravel, yet as it does you continue to find new elements contained within. These days so much music is genre safe, immediately pigeonholeable, so it’s actually quite novel to hear music that seems totally unconcerned with notions of genre, and appears much more interested in chasing down its muse. And its muse in this case is blood.
Adelaide musician Jason Sweeney, previously one half of Pretty Boy Crossover makes gorgeous ambient music as Panoptique Electrical. Last year he released an album with Hood and Declining Winter’s Richard Adams as Great Panoptique Winter. Last month he released the gentle, ambient Disappearing Music For Face on the Greek label Sound in Silence. Like his previous solo offerings, it merges sparse electronics, piano, bells and other analogue instruments. It’s sparse, gentle and atmospheric, some of the most beguiling sounds you could ever hope to hear.