Shuffle Everything – Vol. 3

We’re three weeks in, and so far we’ve sung the praises of Stereophonics, fallen back in love with Grizzly Bear and had an excellent selection of B’s. This time M.I.A. gets distilled into 30 seconds and we get into the dilemma of who makes the creepiest song – Arca or Rid Of Me-era PJ Harvey.

Banana Skit – M.I.A.

The very introduction to M.I.A. in album format, but it actually manages to pack a sum-up of M.I.A. into the 30 seconds we get. It’s amazing how M.I.A. was talking about refugee education back in 2005, but it’s only now big news. This wasn’t a one off, M.I.A. would repeatedly talk about issues before they became high profile like when she spoke out about WikiLeaks and freedom of information. The instrumentation is uniquely M.I.A., full of syncopated beats that have an acoustic sound mixed with a more synthetic side. It’s the fusing of the old and the new, the Sri Lankan side and the London side. Arular is pretty amazing, it’s the first album I’d recommend to anyone who doesn’t know where to start with M.I.A. Or maybe Kala, if you want your fix of ‘Paper Planes’.

The Gentle Art Of Choking – My Vitriol

Now here’s a band I don’t know enough about. I know they’re a bit of a cult band, releasing only one album back in 2001 and are currently trying to release another one. It’s definitely a sound of the era, back in the days of the Strokes and the Vines, except there’s more of a noise-rock/shoegaze flavour to it. Points for the hyper-emo title and lyrics: ‘Don’t look at me that way / I know what you’re gonna say / It’s on your face’, but I like the sound of it. They’ve got the bonus of sounding like a blend of every indie rock band from the 1980s onwards, but maybe that’s a bit of a nail in the coffin of making an original bunch of noise. They’re kind of mysterious in a Sunny Day Real Estate kind of way, they’ve even got the one-album-then-silence deal going on.

Else – Arca

Genuinely scary electronic music from Arca, this album in particular makes my skin crawl in a good way. Though ‘Else’ doesn’t rank anywhere near some of the creepier stuff, it has eerie piano keys plonking away and occasionally splashes of noise. This falls into the beautiful category of Arca, but there’s always an uneasy alliance between what is beautiful and what is stupidly scary with Arca, and he loves to play between the two. The lack of recognisable vocals and the use of silence makes songs like ‘Else’ something a bit inhuman, and maybe that’s why I’ve never got into Arca as much as I’d like to.

Rid Of Me – PJ Harvey

Last week we hit the jackpot with Beyoncé on ‘Sweet Dreams’, this week we’ve got the mother of all bubbling tension with PJ Harvey’s ‘Rid Of Me’. This album especially has a kind of restrained fury that’s inexplicably more terrifying than if Harvey goes apocalyptic. Which she does, on the chorus of ‘Rid Of Me’. Ever made the same mistake I did when you first heard the song and it was so quiet that you had to turn it up, and then when the guitars and drums kick in it bursts your ear drums? ‘Lick my legs / I’m on fire / Lick my legs of desire’ and ‘Don’t you wish you never never met her’. The way it bubbles up, you end up begging for it to explode, because you know it’s coming. You aren’t rid of it.

Deny – The Clash

I’ve got a problem with the Clash that I can’t get past. They’ve becoming such a flagbearer of original British punk that they’ve become a bit of a parody. However, saying that, they do have an incredible amount of variation in their music compared to the Pistols (But then again, were the Pistols around long enough to write anything other than snotty punk?). Joe Strummer has a knack for a pop song, singing about the in-fighting within the relatively small punk community. I think the guitarwork on songs like ‘Deny’ sets them apart from just a power chord thrash, even though they do employ that tactic. There’s a section at roughly 30 seconds in where you can hear where the Libertines came from.

Best Of The Week?

‘Rid Of Me’. The song leaves a deep impression, one that might not have been as powerful if not for the muted guitars that build up to the unrelenting chorus. Hopefully we get a less scary week next time.

Track Review – EN / Arca

Arca’s responsible for some of the creepiest beats this side of Aphex Twin. Last year’s Xen was a surprise success for the Venezuelan producer; based around his alter-ego. ‘EN’ continues that same creepy electronic atmosphere, complete with artwork that you can’t quite get your head around and beats that should by all accounts turn your brain to jelly. It isn’t ‘abrasive’ or ‘harsh’ as such, it sounds less like an industrial factory collapsing in on itself and more like something organic and breathing, like a metallic butterfly constantly hitting a window. If that doesn’t sum it up well, it’s because it’s hard to pin down ‘EN’.

There’s little structure or evolution. Brief pauses allows more ‘fluttering’ to pile on top with a repetitive human voice breathing in and out to add to the instrumentation. In that respect it feels more like someone messing around with effects more than crafting a song. But Arca isn’t really out to craft a pop song. He’s making experimental stuff that makes you grab onto a structure before changing to another one just to confuse you. ‘EN’ is the sonic equivalent of Memento, a film where the structure goes back and forth in narrative and forces the audience to piece together the story themselves. It may be hard work, but Arca offers the same twisted, alien narrative with his music.