All posts by Ronan Keegan

Kate Bush – Hounds Of Love

Hounds of Love is a self made album that any fan of pop music should make an effort to listen to at least once. Bush’s use of effects and overdubbing as well as synthesizers is something to be admired. The album was created in a recording studio that Bush built herself in the barn behind her family house in 1983, there she was able to work at her own pace because paying for studio time was too much for her to afford. Bush started as a child star at a time when the music industry was  stagnant, many companies were looking for the next big thing and Bush was a promising opportunity.  Hounds of Love is comprised of lots of small demos that Bush made and then added to them over time, redoing them or adding to them. The album has been described as ”dramatic, moving and wildly, unashamedly, beautifully romantic” by Sounds Magazine. However a lot of the publicity used to promote the album was more focused on Bush’s body as opposed to her musical ability her label EMI promoted her with “a poster of her in a tight pink top that emphasized her breasts” promoting her more as a female body than a legitimate artist. Bush had more success in the UK than she had in the US as many of her songs weren’t radio appropriate. In the sense that most of her music had a visual aspect to it “her genius is still ignored here – a situation that is truly a shame for an artist so adventurous and naturally theatrical” – Spin Magazine. The album consists of several musical styles “traces of classical, operatic, tribal and twisted pop”, the first few songs, particularly Hounds of Love are very pop-y. As the album progresses it becomes more experimental and obscure. The best example being “Waking the Witch”, this song seems to be comprised of recorded phrases and synth effects and then there’s a single piano playing in a lower register. Out of all the songs on her album this is the only one that I wouldnt consider music and more of contemporary piece. Overall I would recommend this album to others, at least to say “I’ve listened to the best piece of work Kate Bush has ever made”.

Aphex Twin – Syro

As I listen to Syro, one thing comes to mind “I don’t like this”. The album is a mix of techno, glitch, jungle, ambient and parts sound like deconstructed drum and bass. When I listen to this, however, all I hear are noises being played over a drum loop, I appreciate that there is a lot going on in each of the tracks and that it takes time to create something listenable but the sounds and tracks on this album seem to be very niche and would only appeal to someone who is interested in this genre of music. I found myself skipping through the album on my second listen to see if there was anything about it that I enjoyed other than the closing track “aisatsana[102]“. Often I would find small sections of tracks that I liked only then to have the section ruined by the inclusion of a synth that sounded out of tune. While listening to the album I did research on what others had thought of this album and to my surprise many were giving this a glowing report which I found strange as many say the album as a whole is “a banging reminder of why the Cornish raver is one of music’s true innovators” or “ utterly engrossing and remains, somewhat unbelievably, on a completely different planet” and yet having looked through Spotify the one thing that grabs my attention is that the last song on the album is the one that is played the most and not by a short amount either it has been replayed 22 million times, the next track that comes close to that is 4 million. The rest of the album isn’t much better ranging from 750,000 to 1.5 million. Surely an album of this critical acclaim shouldn’t have such a sporadic listener base?  While an albums success should not be derived by simple statistics, they are there for a reason and the general public seem to prefer the closing song to the rest of the album. Aisatsana is a beautifully jarring piece, the light piano notes along with the bird songs in the back create a contrasting piece that sounds both serene and disconnected. I wouldn’t recommend this album but I would recommend that you listen to the last song.

Bill Evans – Conversations with myself

“Conversations with myself” is an incredibly complex, creative and technical piece of musical craftsmanship. Through use of overdubbing Evans is able to have 3 distinct sides to each song that he creates. Each of his songs have a unique vibe to them that would have been hard to replicate at the time of their composition considering the stigma around overdubbing that was spreading throughout the music community. Many in the 60′s saw overdubbing as “cheating” since it wasn’t live music but just recordings on top of recordings. Evans, being an already distinguished musician and jazz player, decided to tackle the stigma of using overdubbing to prove it was a legitimate method of producing music.  Since his album was a success other jazz artists slowly came round to the idea of using overdubbing and now it is a widely and completely valid method of music production. His use of timing, timbre and technique is prevalent throughout the entire album. Each song is is stylistically similar but lyrically they are quite distinguishable. Being someone who does not consistently listen to jazz some of the more nuanced pieces of Evan’s playing is lost on me, but from what I was able to understand from his playing, I found quite enjoyable. I wouldn’t however, recommend the album to just anyone. Since the album is targeted at those who are more versed in jazz, it already has a niche following which may alienate some newer listeners. “Conversations with Myself” is something to be admired and to draw inspiration from if not from a jazz perspective then from a principles standpoint, at a time when something was truly stigmatized  Evan’s took it upon himself to show that something that is feared is not in fact evil or illegitimate. That much like in jazz its not what you play but more in what you don’t play.

Pink Flloyd – The Only Side of the Moon?

Created in 1973, DSOTM helped pioneer prog rock and helped expand what could be put on an album and still be considered “music”. Most albums at the time contained individual songs without any obvious connection to each other, DSOTM took a different approach to how an album could be structured. Each song leads into the next creating and telling a story. Following the themes of life, death and time the album explores areas that many don’t often think about when listening to music. A key aspect of this album highlights the editing techniques used which were incredibly intricate, detailed and cutting edge. The introduction to “Money” was created through cutting and splicing together recorded sounds to create a detailed loop used throughout the song. Some would argue that it captures the ennui of the generation at the time but I don’t think even the band themselves realized that this would still be current 40 years after DSOTM was released. The songs deal with aspects of life, and each deals with different themes, “Money” deals with greed, “Us and Them” could be seen as a statement on cultural divides or racism, “Speak to Me”, the first song on the album is regarded as the birth of someone with the inclusion of a heartbeat and the final song “Eclipse” is the end of that person’s life as the heartbeat is heard again and then slowly dies. DSOTM influenced many albums across different genres, for example the album “Random Access Memories” created by Daft Punk in 2013. The songs “Contact” and “Giorgio  by Moroder” both contain similar styles of music, repeating sci-fi-esque loops to tones and layout similar to sounds from outer space, especially in “Contact”. While DSOTM is praised for its boldness to be different it seems that the album has one of two followings,  those living at the time of its release who have grown up listening to it and appreciate its message, and other more pretentious followers. Many in weed culture would say that DSOTM is the greatest album they have ever heard, but can they really appreciate what the album is about when they can barely focus on the imaginary dragon that they are trying to chase?

Astral Weeks – Side effects may include Astral Projection

“Astral Weeks” was an album that was created out of Morrison’s desperation to get out of a terrible recording contract he had made with Bang Records in the mid 60′s. The album portrays themes of love, both earthly and towards a woman. Towards the end of the album however, particularly at the end of the last song “Slim Slow Slider”, takes an unexpectedly sour turn. Many have said that the album is just a stream of consciousness as the length of time to create the album was very short. Several hours recording and then several more for editing. There are aspects of jazz, blues and classical found throughout the album that create an ethereal atmosphere. Upon deeper listening to the album I can see that the upbeat tempo and cheery vibe hide a more melancholy ideology. Since Morrison wrote this album in a very short amount of time he was under a lot of pressure, more from himself than from the record company who told him he could take his time and write what he thought would work. “What is unique about “Astral Weeks” is how unique it is. It comes from no tradition and left no legacy. Stylistically, it stands absolutely alone.” having listened to the album multiple times I can completely agree with this statement, I don’t think I’ve ever heard an album quite like this one, its wide use of instruments and yet restraint is something to be admired. While nothing other than his desperation influenced this album, this album has influenced quite a lot of other artists, two being Bono and Bruce Springsteen. One thing that all artists, current and future, could learn from astral weeks is to have the same level of integrity that Morrison had when dealing with his record company. Also that making the difficult choice and not selling out may seem detrimental in the short term but in the long term will be worth more than any record company can offer.