Given that I can barely recall yesterday’s lunch, the output of Johnny Lynch (yr actual Pictish Trail, yr one half of Silver Columns) has managed to carve out a rare period of certainty in this addled pop brain. The lo-fi electro-folkiness of his 2008 Pictish Trail record Secret Soundz Vol. 1, and enduring memories of a gloriously party Silver Columns set at a 2010 ATP are lodged in long-term memory and going nowhere.
Let’s move on though, because it’s 2016 and there’s a new Pictish Trail record in the world in the shape of the Future Echoes, an album typically witty and maverick in styles but with pop-suss pushed right to the front, exactly where pop-suss should be. But what influences a record blessed with such a lack of concern for the vagaries of genre? Well, we don’t know, so we asked someone that does, and found a sparkling world of Belgian minimalism, microwave dinners, Gregorian chants and much more. Which sounds just about right.
So take a moment to rejoice in Pictish Trail’s dazzling ‘Dead Connection’ video, then sit back and soak up them influences via one Johnny Lynch. And then make sure you’re the kind of person that has tickets to the show this week (Tuesday!) at Moth Club.
Hot Chip – ‘Crap Kraft Dinner’
I bought Coming On Strong the week it came out. I was taken by the cover, a cartoon drawing of an oversized keyboard with 12 keys and one switch. It was really funny. Humour and music can be a difficult mix – it’s hard to balance sincerity and daftness. There’s something about Hot Chip that manages to get that combination just right, that sense of bathos. This first full album, especially, has plenty of tongue-in-cheek references to hip-hop culture fused with geeky shout-outs to Yo La Tengo and Gene & Dean Ween. ‘Crap Kraft Dinner’ is the elegiac centrepiece to the album. It starts out slowly, with soft keyboard chords and punishing drum machine, before Alexis Taylor’s world-weary voice sings “All the people I love are here / All the people that I love are drunk”. It builds into a glorious electro-pop stomp, a scorned lover lamenting the lost joys of a simple microwave dinner, with the greatest saxophone solo committed to record in the past 20 years. Whenever I DJ, i try and play this, and it always fills a floor by the end. I always get a bit hungry, too.
The Beta Band – ‘Inner Meet Me’
They say the music you love the most is the music that you listened to when you were 18. When compiling lists like these, it’s hard to shake off what I was listening to in 1999. But there’s not really many bands like The Beta Band. Just listening to this track again, now, it still blows me away. There was something about the way they constructed songs, there was a real cut’n’paste aesthetic to it – you could make out all the composite parts, and see how they had been deliberately placed on top of one another. Almost every element is recorded dry, very little reverb going on, except for the Gregorian vocals which are absolutely swamped in the stuff. It’s beautiful, and a constant reference point for me.
Underworld – ‘Dark And Long (Dark Train)’
My family moved over to America in the 90’s, and I spent a lot of my teens sat in the basement watching music videos on cable TV. There was one channel from Canada called ‘MuchMusic’ that made a lot of weird documentaries, and I remember seeing one about Underworld that really struck a chord. They were being interviewed about the nature of their live show, and how they created their sound, and Karl refused to give any details, adamantly saying “Don’t copy us, do it your own way”. That’s always stayed with me. They’re a massive act, but they’ve always seemed to have existed out-with the world of superstar DJs and chart-friendly dance cross-over stuff – to define them only by their greatest hits is to miss out on a much bigger picture. As a fan, they are a total delight, there’s so many alternate versions and mixes of tracks to discover. This propulsive version of ‘Dark And Long’ is one I keep going back to; it kinda captures the essence of what makes them so uplifting, but also what makes them so weird, and mysterious.
Cate Le Bon – ‘Love Is Not Love’
There’s such precision to Cate’s music, it completely floors me. On this song, her elliptical lyrics waltz around cyclical guitar motifs and melodic stabs of saxophone. The delivery is so forthright and unapologetic, and yet manages to be incredibly moving. There’s not anyone else like her; and I find her really music inspiring as it’s the sort of thing I could never make myself. That timeless quality totally fascinates me.
Wim Mertens – ‘Darpa’
I’ve only been listening to this guy for the past year, but I love his music. He’s a Belgian minimalist classical composer, and I’m a big fan of his solo records – just piano and voice. He only sings in falsetto, largely in a made-up language, I think. I like listening to his music whilst flaring my nostrils, and walking around the kitchen dressed only in a dressing gown. He’s made over 60 albums worth of stuff, but I’d recommend starting with Stratégie De La Rupture, and putting on some slippers.