“That’s some weird stuff, bro.”
One of the best things about music is simply the fact that there’s so much out there. There’s always something to listen to, and something else to discover. It goes without saying, of course, that there’s a lot of left-of-centre stuff out there beyond your indie rock and Spotify Fresh Finds playlists. To that end, here’s a somewhat random selection of 10 tracks from the fringes for your listening pleasure, linked by the fact that they’re all examples the sort of music that will definitely not impress anyone you know. Just like how it should be.
1. The Gerogerigegege – Ai Jin
I could have picked any Gerogerigegege track, to be honest. But ‘Ai Jin’ holds a special place in my heart, and it has quite an interesting story to go with it. ‘Ai Jin’ was first released on a flexi 7”, but, as the story goes, Gero main man Juntaro Yamanouchi ended up inviting a bunch of people to the launching of the 7” at a beach, where he proceeded to burn most, if not all of the copies. A few copies survived, and the track was later re-released on an album. The story is silly enough, but the track is probably even sillier; three and a half minutes of Juntaro singing along to a Teresa Teng track with a metric ton of distortion. Ultra silly and ultra amazing at the same time.
2. German Shepherds – THC
German Shepherds’ legend is built partly (or mostly, even) on fake biographical information and completely fabricated nuggets, such as the claim that one of the band members was arrested on child molestation charges (and committed suicide as a result of the arrest). ‘THC’ is a maelstrom of mongoloid percussion, noisy synth squiggles, and Stark’s tale of psychedelic music, drugs, and parricide. RIP Alan Vega, but I’d take German Shepherds over Suicide any day of the week.
3. Throbbing Gristle – Hamburger Lady
‘Hamburger Lady’ is probably the definitive Throbbing Gristle track – four minutes of industrial doom-and-gloom that set the stage for all of the industrial and noise music that’s come out since. The rise-and-fall analogue synth, heavily-processed guitar, and unforgettable duck whistle riff are already pretty menacing on their own, but add Genesis P-Orridge’s spoken word lyrics, based on a letter from American artist Blaster Al Ackerman describing a badly burnt woman in a burn unit, and you have one hell of a ride.
4. Einstürzende Neubauten – Armenia
Neubauten are straight up one of the best bands ever, and ‘Armenia’ is probably one of the most memorable songs from their earlier, noisier period. It sees the band taking their intense metal percussion and power tools sound and melding it to a pulsing drone, topped off with a masterfully chosen sample from an Armenian folk song. Melancholic and punishing at the same time, as heard in Michael Mann’s Heat.
5. Anthony Braxton – To Composer John Cage
Anthony Braxton’s For Alto is a landmark album, being the first extended solo saxophone album ever released. Of course, that’s not the only thing it’s got going for it; it’s also a fire-breathing, paint-peeling example of extended saxophone technique that, for my money, still hasn’t quite been equalled, even to this day. ‘To Composer John Cage’ is a staggering example of Braxton’s mastery of saxophone technique. It’s actually quite beautiful. Cue the Toni Braxton jokes.
6. Les Rallizes Dénudés – Night of the Assassins
Built on Peggy March’s iconic bassline from ‘I Will Follow Him’, ‘Night of the Assassins’ is a 12-minute brain-melt that takes the bassline to places Peggy March (or the original composer, Frank Pourcel) probably could never have imagined, anchoring proceedings while bandleader Takashi Mizutani’s slash-and-burn guitar arcs across and saturates the sound spectrum like lightning across the night sky.
7. Igor Wakhévitch – Sang Pourpre
Wakhévitch’s biggest claim to fame is the fact that he composed the music for Salvador Dali’s only opera, Être Dieu. One listen to ‘Sang Pourpre’ and you can probably guess why Dali chose Wakhévitch for the task; it’s a gloriously off-the-wall assemblage of babbling vocalisations, deconstructed acid-funk guitar, and tribal drumming. One of a kind.
8. Geinoh Yamashirogumi – Osorezan
Shoji Yamashiro’s ensemble might be best known for its soundtrack to Katsuhiro Otomo’s Akira, but the group released a lot of albums over its lifespan, including this early masterpiece from the first album. ‘Osorezan’ has very little to do with the gamelan-heavy sound heard on Akira; instead, it’s an extended, smouldering freakout that touches on everything from creepy ambience to jazz-rock, with a strong thread of classical Japanese music running through.
9. Boredoms – Acid Police
Early Boredoms is best Boredoms. ‘Acid Police’ opens up their fourth album Chocolate Synthesizer with call-and-return vocals, a braindead guitar riff, and heavy, heavy percussion stomp that just builds and builds and builds. Don’t worry if you notice yourself trying to imitate Eye’s vocals after listening to this, we’ve all been there before.
10. Current 93 – Where the Long Shadows Fall (Beforetheinmostlight)
An amazing example of the remarkable powers of repetition. The track is a mind-bending 19-minute affair with a main “riff” that consists of a short loop of Alessandro Moreschi (the only castrato to ever record) singing “Domine, Domine,” over and over. For all 19 minutes. David Tibet whisper-sings over the top, and various other samples and instruments fade in and out, but this is all about that loop. It doesn’t actually ever change, but over the 19 minutes, it seems to take on a life of its own. But it’s really all in your head.
Alternatively, listen to his mix (that will impress absolutely nobody too) for JUICE here.