dEUS – Worse Case Scenario (1994)
Deus should have been HUGE. Three or four years before Radiohead achieved legendary status with OK Computer and came to define the (somewhat clunky) term Meta-Rock, Deus produced this, their debut album, which was already pointing the way forward. Post-punk, post-rock, post-grunge, art-rock, no one really knew what to call it, but it sure was good. The Belgian band had obviously absorbed the soft/loud Pixies thing; the viola drone of The Velvet Underground; the greasy gravelly personas of Tom Waits; the dark dramatics of Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds; the subverted grooves of Faith No More; the orchestrated chaos of Sonic Youth; the atmospherics of prog; the literate leanings of REM; and the stadium-size anthems of U2. Some of these trace elements could be found, but this was all done without being derivative at all. Their sound was completely original. Deus sounded like no one except Deus. Lead singer/songwriter Tom Barman wrote some evocative surrealist lyrics about death, drugs, life and loss that were well suited to the albums varied textures. And the other members displayed a restraint and maturity (especially for a debut) that still sounds fresh – never over-doing anything – guitarist Rudy Trouvé and bassist Stef Kamil Carlens always adding the perfect touches to the proceedings. The songs were so well crafted, seeming like a band that had been around for a long time and had developed into this inventive style after years of experimentation. Through songs like “Suds & Soda”, “Worse Case Scenario”, “Let’s Get Lost”, “Hotellounge” and “Great American Nude” we get to witness the sheer diversity of this band. It’s no wonder these songs are still fan favourites; it’s a testament to this masterful (yet sadly underrated) album…and band, of course.
Pocahaunted – Island Diamonds (2008)
Set your delays and reverb dials to eleven folks, and get ready for this implosion of sound that’ll have you falling into yourself, blurring the boundaries of inner and outer as your descent takes the scenic route to the cosmos within. These two Californian girls have been hard at work producing music and releasing it via various indie/DIY labels and gigs, and they’re deservedly starting to gain more recognition for their output. The music is kinda hard to neatly categorise, and I guess a few knee-jerk references would/could be Down-Tempo meets Trance meets Ambient meets Dub meets Noise meets the rhythms of Tribal Ethnic World Music. The music slowly swirls and ebbs and seeps, while the vocals are filtered and fucked-with in a lovely messy manner that renders them just long strange chants that continue to echo throughout the distant saga of each song. They’re reinventing the Wall-of-Sound with a beautifully balanced mix of crowded sound and stark silence. Kinda like the yin-yang effect of slowly pouring milk into unstirred coffee, the ingredients of guitar and percussion become unidentifiable in the whole, and it’s a tasty checkered blend. The first song “Ashes Is White” perfectly illustrates this thing I’m (failing at) describing; sounding like the memory of a backyard Corroboree, where this strange sound is the only souvenir of your mystic experience. And it just rolls on with “Ghetto Ballet” and the rest of the album. Simultaneously, the music makes me think of ‘being outside’, yet it makes me feel like I’m ‘travelling inside my own body’. The kinda thing I imagine would go down a treat at Burning Man, with the right kind of cocktail in your blood-stream inducing some serious religious experiences. Godahaunted.
Jean Michel Jarre – Oxygène (1976)
Setting up his analog synthesisers and various effects generators throughout his kitchen, French electronic composer Jean Michel Jarre home-recorded this landmark album when—besides the slow growing popularity of German bands Kraftwerk and Tangerine Dream—there really wasn’t much of a commercial market for electronic music. Little did he know it would go on to sell millions. It would go on to become a classic, and help define and influence the future genres of Electronica, Ambient, Techno, New Age, Trance, Drone etc. Way ahead of it’s time, yet also completely bound by the nascent technology, it remains a very cool listen today. It’s instantly recognisable to most Australians due to its use in Peter Weir’s memorable 1981 film Gallipoli. And even though the film is set in 1915 and follows the fate of two young friends amid the bloodshed of WWI, the thoroughly modern music (of the time) somehow suited the film perfectly, and became as recognisable as any image from the film. The film made great use of the pings! and pows! that pepper “Oxygène (Part II)”, and gave it a context that I’m sure Jarre could never have imagined. Suddenly the sounds became ricocheting bullets and the dull bass beat became the pounding hearts of the terrified young men in the trenches. Over the top of it all was the synth-strings shadowing everything with a spooky veil of breathy cyber-Adagio atmosphere. So whether it’s listening intently through the headphones or slapped on in the background, it’s well worth 40 minutes of your time.
By Decoy Spoon