Voodoo Child – Baby Monkey

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Moby had used a variety of different pseudonyms, quickly essentially becoming the entire artist roster of Instinct Records. His best known nom-de-plume was Voodoo Child, a name he used to release an eponymous single in 1990, followed by a double a-side single Demons/Horses in 1994, and then a full-length album The End of Everything

Having got on with other things for the next seven or eight years, he then returned with a couple of underground 12″ releases, which grew into Baby Monkey,

For its sound, Baby Monkey owes a lot to Play and 18, as you might expect, but it’s also very different. Gotta Be Loose in Your Mind opens the album, with a repeated vocal sample and some dark beats. It’s one of the shortest tracks on here, and also one of the least imaginative in many ways. But it soon gives way to Minors, a dark nouveau-rave piece that may lack some of the cheesy charm of his 1990-ish output but sounds infinitely more professional.

Take it Home is next, side A of the second release from this album and (to date) the final Voodoo Child single. Somewhat analogous to tracks such as Guitar, Flute & String from Play, this is largely built around gentle pads and some slightly quirky samples, as well as a huge bass line and housey beats.

Then comes Light is in Your Eyes, side A of the first single from this album. This is by far the best track on here, and probably the only one that could have hit the charts if this had seen a more commercial release. Again, it’s built around pads with huge bass and beats, and frankly it sounds a lot like Moby, but it’s beautiful and catchy, and probably deserved better than being hidden away on an obscure underground release.

The two AA-sides follow in chronological order, the lovely chirpy Electronics first, a relaxed piece that sounds as though it belongs as the piece to wake everyone up again at the end of a chillout mix. Then Strings,

Having got the singles out of the way, there’s still half an album to enjoy, and really the theme continues – these are oddly named, long, dance and house tracks, generally without vocal samples, or with only indiscernible ones if they do turn up. The gaps between tracks are so short that each track almost blends into the next.

Gone wouldn’t have sounded out of place on one of Moby‘s obscure early compilation releases, full of acid squelches and fast chord changes. Unh Yeah – not to be confused with Ooh Yeah, from Last Night,

You can tell that this album was probably recorded pretty quickly – not because the quality slips particularly, but because Moby – sorry, Voodoo Child – was clearly having a lot of fun recording these tracks.

Obscure follows, with huge bass and sliding synth sounds. Last opens with fake vinyl crackle, and grows into a piece full of swishy hats, punchy basses, and different sliding synth sounds. Harpie is a curiously pleasant piece full of harmonising synth sounds coming from different directions. This is clearly intended for very late night listening, but it’s beautiful nonetheless.

This album received poor reviews from critics, who saw through the pseudonym immediately and either missed the point that Moby was just trying to enjoy himself here, or saw this as the unchallenging, and somewhat homogenised album that it is. It’s nice – there’s nothing wrong with it at all – and it does entirely what it’s trying to do, and gives Moby a chance to express his creativity without being judged too harshly. Except, of course, everyone knew it was Moby anyway.

Closing the album is Synthesisers, with the British spelling, curiously. It warbles with deep pads and circling high notes, and lacks the huge beats of other tracks. It’s a beautiful closing track, somewhat unlike the rest of the album in that it’s quieter, gentler, and comes from a different place. I wonder if removing the beats from the rest of the album would have produced a better critical response?

So Baby Monkey might have just been a one-off side project for Moby,

You can still find Baby Monkey at all regular retailers.

Preview – Trevor Horn feat The Sarm Orchestra

I’m not entirely sure what the purpose is here, but Trevor Horn has worked together with the orchestra from Sarm Studios to record a compilation called Reimagines the Eighties. Here’s Robbie Williams, gracing Tears for FearsEverybody Wants to Rule the World in slightly annoying jazz-pop fashion:

Chart for stowaways – 29 December 2018

Let’s quickly catch up on the last album chart of 2018…

  1. Jean-Michel Jarre – Planet Jarre
  2. Jean-Michel Jarre – Equinoxe Infinity
  3. The Radiophonic Workshop – Possum (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
  4. The Future Sound of London – My Kingdom (Re-Imagined)
  5. The Radiophonic Workshop – Burials in Several Earths
  6. The Grid – Electric Head
  7. Moby – Long Ambients 1: Calm. Sleep.
  8. The Prodigy – No Tourists
  9. David Bowie – Glastonbury 2000
  10. Culture Club & Boy George – Life

The Ultimate Guide to the BRIT Awards

This year’s BRIT Awards will be the 39th ever, and due to the gap between the first and second, it’s over forty years since the first ceremony was held in October 1977. There’s no particular reason for a celebration, but let’s take a moment anyway to look back at the previous 38 ceremonies and the history of the awards!

Artists they love

We calculated the top twenty artists at the BRITs just last year, and – spoiler alert – the top five British acts, in ascending order, were Annie LennoxTake ThatAdeleColdplay, and Robbie Williams. Comparison with the top-selling British acts of all time puts Annie Lennox and Take That nowhere on the list, Adele and Coldplay joint fourteenth alongside others, and Robbie Williams joint twenty-fifth.

Or you could compare with the top sixty singles acts of all timeAnnie Lennox still doesn’t make it, Take That are fifteenth, Adele is a bit too recent for the list, Coldplay are sixtieth, and Robbie Williams is twenty-second.

The BRIT Awards seem to have always struggled with the Female Solo Artist categories, obsessing for years on end over Annie LennoxAlison Moyet, Adele, and (internationally) Björk.

Artists they hate

Contemporary artists who haven’t done quite so well based on those lists include Elton JohnQueen, and David Bowie, who came 15th, off the chart, and 11th respectively, although much of their heyday would have been in the 1970s, and OasisSpice Girls, and George Michael, who have never quite made the cut, appearing 10th, 17th, and somewhere just off the list respectively.

Famously, Radiohead have never won anything despite plenty of nominations, and Jamiroquai also inexplicably got lots of nominations but sanity prevailed on the night, and they never quite won.

Nominated in the wrong category

U2 seem to have caused a bit of confusion about whether they were British or International, having been nominated for awards in both. Solo artists have got a bit confused at times as well, with Roland Gift of Fine Young Cannibals receiving a solo nomination in 1990, despite not releasing anything on his own for another decade. Fortunately, his group returned their awards after a particularly vomit-inducing appearance from Margaret Thatcher as part of the ceremony. Mick Hucknall also seems to have caused some confusion in 1997 about whether he was a solo act or group, as did.

Trouble at the top

Plenty of drama happens on and off stage at the awards, most of which is well-documented. A new one that I hadn’t come across previously was that somewhat amusingly, Rick Astley apparently couldn’t quite make it up to the stage in time, so wasn’t able to accept his own award.

There have been some very odd choices of presenters – after Michael Aspel presented the first, and Samantha Fox and Mick Fleetwood were never invited back, a lot of odd people were, including Tim RiceNoel EdmondsSimon Bates, and Russell BrandAnt & Dec have presented three times (2001, 2015, and 2016), Chris Evans has done four (1995, 1996, 2005, and 2006), and astonishingly James Corden

Nobody cares any more

The ceremony has had its ups and downs (Sam Fox, perhaps not unfairly, apparently blames everyone but herself for the 1989 event). Search online, and there are plenty of good articles about the better and worse moments in its history – this one is one of the better researched.

But in its heyday, the BRIT Awards ceremony was event TV, with a sixth of the country watching, but these days, barely five million people can be bothered tuning in.

Stay tuned for more coverage on the run-up to the 2018 BRIT Awards. There’s plenty of coverage on this blog from previous years, but one place to start might be this post from a couple of years ago.

Fever Ray – Fever Ray

Fever Ray‘s eponymous debut shouldn’t really have come as too much of a surprise to anyone – Karin Dreijer had, after all, been doing a lot of this kind of thing with her brother in The Knife for nearly a decade. But if you hadn’t heard those bizarre Nordic vocals before, you were in for something rather special here.

Fever Ray opens with the debut single If I Had a Heart, which is dark and dreamy, deeply melancholic, and almost directionless. It’s an odd opener, both for her solo career and for the album, but it does give you a decent idea of what’s going to happen here.

When I Grow Up is a bit more like it – the vocals, which stay just on the right side of the line between challenging and annoying, speak of a child’s dreams and nightmares. The gentle instrumentation somehow warps and wails in the background while complementing the lyrics and vocal delivery well. It’s really rather good.

At worst, this album is always an interesting listen – Dry and Dusty

But it’s on the next track, the final single Seven, where Fever Ray‘s brilliance really starts to shine through. The lyrics are either imaginative or total nonsense, but it’s definitely catchy. Third single Triangle Walks is great too, although it wouldn’t have sounded entirely out of place on an album from about 1987.

Half way through the album, and you should have a pretty good idea of what’s going on here. The lyrics are hard to discern anyway, and when you can make them out, they don’t really stand up to a lot of scrutiny, but the heavily processed vocals are always interesting. The instrumentation, with wailing instrumentation, is unfailingly beautiful too. So even the duller tracks, such as Concrete Walls, are always interesting to listen to. And then, of course, you get an instrumental break like the one in the middle of Concrete Walls,

Fever Ray is always an interesting listen, at worst, but in the absence of poetic lyrics, it’s really the production that brings certain tracks to life above others. So Now’s the Only Time I Know is a bit dull, but then I’m Not Done is brilliant, full of interesting percussive sounds and catchy melodies.

That’s not to say that the quieter tracks are all dull – Keep the Streets Empty for Me is a pleasant piece built around gentle guitar strumming and dirty electronics. I’m not sure the panpipes are entirely necessary, but they don’t do too much harm either.

This album closes with Coconut, a pleasant but somewhat directionless seven-minute piece, the first half of which is entirely instrumental. It’s nice, but after having heard an entire album of this already, you might be ready for something a little shorter.

So all-in-all it’s mixed feelings for Fever Ray, a decade on from its original release. When it’s good, it’s exceptional – but a lot of the time the songs themselves are nothing special, just wrapped in some brilliantly unusual production. But that should be enough to make it worth trying – in an era with plenty of dull music floating around, you seem to always be able to count on Fever Ray

If you can find it, the US version has extra tracks, a DVD, and an entire bonus live album with all the same tracks again in live versions. If not, any version will do nicely.

Preview – MGMT

Not really so much of a preview here, as it first appeared exactly eleven months ago, but the quiet period at the start of the year is always a good time to catch up with new releases that you missed! Here’s the title track from MGMT‘s latest, the lovely Little Dark Age: