Obsession is a wonderful thing. With the glut of [c]rap and hideously ordinary music in the charts these days, it is rare for me to find an album that absolutely captivates me, one that I can listen to for weeks on end without it becoming dull. So it is something of a surprise that this last month I’ve found two, quite different, albums to become obsessed with.
The first is Michael Nyman’s lush, extravagant score for Peter Greenaway’s The Draughtsman’s Contract - a film of landscapes, devious wit, sex, and murder. It’s full of sensual harpsichord and frenetic woodwind; it is intense and sharp and makes my head spin when listened to up loud on headphones. Interesting I had familiarised with this album so totally that I was disappointed with its use in the film – cut up, edited sharply (but then, unlike a score taken on its own, the music in the film is there to support the picture.) Michael Nyman is one of those interesting composers who works in the minor key a great deal, and the minor key to me has always been very intense and expressive and emotional (for instance I’m sure “the brown noise” is in a minor key). But he is also rather one-dimensional in that his score’s tend to sound very much the same (not that this is a bad thing; every composer is a plagiarist of their own work). But he would never sound this cohesive again (except perhaps for The Piano). This score, whilst a magnificent complement to the film, is also a beautiful operatic experience in itself. It pulls you through so many shifting emotions – whimsy, sensuality, arrogance, violence – with consummate ease, and a playful deviousness.
I’ve been waking up in the morning and stepping into the shower and abruptly this will enter my head and I’ll be humming along to a particular cadence or rhythm. A mark of a good piece of music, perhaps, being maddeningly intrusive and somehow becoming the soundtrack to one’s life, too.
The second is M83’s new album – Saturdays=Youth. I’m only a recent devotee to M83. I can’t even remember how I first came to discover him – possibly a trawl through my Amazon recommendations. After the ambient bliss of Dead Cities, Red Seas & Lost Ghosts, and the ode to drug-fuelled nights that was Before the Dawn Heals Us, both albums that delivered great intensity in parts but didn’t quite make for a satisfying whole, we get the staggeringly good Saturdays=Youth. The title says it all – this is dreamy, hazy, 80’s ambient- styled electronica full of beautiful reminiscing tracks about youth. We get everything here, from angsty death-dreaming (Graveyard Girl) to happy pop (Kim & Jessie).
However, nothing compares to the perfect Skin of the Night – an intense wash of synths, sharp drum-machine and a breathy Kate Bushesque chorus that climbs and climbs into ecstasy. It’s one of those songs that you can’t get enough of, that reaches in and pulls out something in you that you thought only you could express. There’s something of an elusive freedom in it. Very much a driving song, out on vast plains, nothing but you and the car, and the road.
Ladytron in a few weeks time. Not sure what to expect. The most troubling thing is deciding what to wear. Ladytron after all are perhaps one of the coolest bands in existence. Aesthetically speaking.