Grammy Awards 2020

You probably gathered from previous years’ posts that I generally find the Grammy Awards a bit silly – there are just too many over-specific categories for it really to be meaningful. But it’s worth trawling through them once a year to see what happened, so here’s a summary for 2020!

#9 Best Dance Recording

The Chemical Brothers beat Bonobo and others to win this with Got to Keep On. They were also nominated for We’ve Got to Try for Best Music Video.

#10 Best Dance/Electronic Album

The Chemical Brothers won this too, for No Geography, beating Apparat‘s LP5, Tycho‘s latest, and others.

#16 Best Alternative Music Album

Thom Yorke won for Anima, which was also nominated for Best Boxed Or Special Limited Edition Package and Best Music Film. He was also nominated for Best Song Written For Visual Media, for Suspirium.

#51 Best World Music Album

Angelique Kidjo won for Celia.

That’s about all I could find, although I must confess I’m intrigued by the nominations for Best Immersive Audio Album, and a few others. If you have the patience to work through the full list of nominees and winners yourself, visit the official website here, and click on “Read More”.

Moderat – II

You’re probably more familiar with Moderat by now than you are with the two artists who formed to make this supergroup, but it is in fact a collaboration between the dark and experimental Apparat and the more accessible Modeselektor. Since 2009, they have been in regular collaboration, and their second album II turns five years old this week.

It opens inauspiciously, with a short instrumental called The Mark, before launching into the deep, dark, and somewhat grimy pop of Bad Kingdom. If, like me, you skipped Moderat (2009) and jumped straight to II (2013), you will have been very pleasantly surprised at this point, finding that this is very new-sounding electronic pop music.

So it continues – Versions is brilliant. Some of these tracks could easily have fitted on an album in the mid-1980s, and yet they don’t sound dated either – just somewhat timeless, and very, very good indeed. Moderat may not have ever quite made the charts (II and follow-up III peaked at 73 and 53 respectively in the UK), but they definitely deserve a very healthy cult following.

Let in the Light and the longer Milk are less dramatic – they’re still good, but they don’t grab you by the throat in quite the same way. After Bad Kingdom and Versions, though, I feel as though this album is allowed a few duller moments. Therapy is much the same – long, dark, and largely instrumental.

The middle section of this album has a whole load of this actually, and it would probably sound great in a club, assuming whatever drugs you happen to prefer are compatible with lower tempo music, but on an album it’s a little hard to swallow after a while. Aside from moments of genius which you do pick up from time to time, GitaClouded, and Ilona are all relatively dull unfortunately.

But we’re close to the end already – Damage Done is a pleasant, laid back vocal track, which is something there probably isn’t enough of on here actually. And then finally, we get This Time, another gentler instrumental piece to close the album. On some editions you might also get Last Time tacked on the end, which is absolutely a better way to close the album, but it didn’t start off on the album.

So there you have it – II is a good album, but it’s not a great album, unless long, deep, and dark instrumentals are what you’re looking for. But when Moderat are good, they are very good indeed, and that’s something to keep an ear out for.

You can still find II at all major retailers. Get a version with Last Time on the end, if you can.

Chart for stowaways – 5 July 2014

Here are this week’s top 10 albums:

  1. William Orbit – Strange Cargo 5
  2. Röyksopp & Robyn – Do It Again
  3. William Orbit – Orbit Symphonic
  4. DARKSIDE – Psychic
  5. Jean Michel Jarre – Sessions 2000
  6. Apparat – The Devil’s Walk
  7. Erlend Øye – Unrest
  8. Honeyroot – The Sun Will Come
  9. I Monster / People Soup – I Monster Presents People Soup
  10. Deep Forest – Deep Forest

Greatest Hits – Volume 3

Here’s a quick test of whether you’ve been paying attention. Did you catch Volume 1 and Volume 2? If not, here are a few posts you might have missed over the last few months:

  1. Depeche Mode – Remixes 2: 81-11
  2. Apparat – The Devil’s Walk
  3. Utah Saints – Utah Saints
  4. Pet Shop Boys – Winner
  5. I Monster – Remixed
  6. The Presets – Apocalypso
  7. Kraftwerk – Tour de France
  8. Yello – Flag
  9. VCMG – Ssss
  10. Various Artists – Electrospective

Apparat – The Devil’s Walk

Sometimes it’s very easy to write these reviews, as I know the artists extremely well, and the words just seem to flow. Other times require a little more research. This one falls into the latter category. I know literally nothing about Apparat beyond the fact that they’re on Mute Records (good enough for starters) and I think I might have come across one of the tracks for free prior to buying the album.

Then, to my surprise, I found the album in the bargain bin of my local record store, and decided it would be rude not to, and that’s how I ended up with The Devil’s Walk in my hands.

The album opens with the pleasant almost choral and orchestral sound of Sweet Unrest, before launching into Song of Los, one of the stronger tracks on the album. With its throbbing synth bass and slightly dubby drums, it’s really rather charming, although it does seem to be approaching electronic music from slightly more of a rock angle than I’m normally accustomed to.

Black Water is wonderfully atmospheric and rippling. I’ve no idea what the singer is banging on about, but it’s a great track, which might fit beautifully somewhere in the middle of some epic rock album just as well as it does here. It ends with the steady sound of rain trickling down roofs.

Goodbye has a similarly epic quality, with a piano chord every couple of seconds, shimmering strings, and bizarre atmospherics. The vocal is a little more discernable, making this a stronger track for me. Candil de la Calle follows, an absolutely beautiful track with manic percussion and more shimmering backing. You can picture this track hiding somewhere on a film soundtrack, while something very emotional happens on screen – Apparat clearly have a talent for deep and dark atmospherics.

On closer inspection, Apparat turns out to be a he rather than a theySascha Ring released his debut album Multifunktionsebene in 2001, and ten years on The Devil’s Walk is, as far as I can make out, his sixth, and also his first release on Mute.

The Soft Voices Die, largely an instrumental, is curiously one of the most “pop” tracks on the album, powered by an upbeat string section. Escape is a return to the softer, more atmospheric sound of earlier tracks. With often ambiguous or indecipherable lyrics, it’s difficult to put some of this album into words, but there’s not a single unpleasant track on here.

The curiously titled Ash/Black Veil is next up, opening with a strangely powerful arpeggiated sound, and gently mixing in piano and strings. It builds gradually into an extremely strong and affecting track with a waily vocal, and is really rather beautiful. A Bang in the Void is a more repetitive, rhythmic track, bringing us gently towards the end of the album.

Finally, Your House is My World turns up to close the album in similarly atmospheric means, with its acoustic guitars, strings, and curious percussion. Rather sweetly, it ends with one of the few discernable lyrics on the whole album – “Will you house my world within yours?” All in all, even if I may have struggled to find words to express it, listening to The Devil’s Walk was a fascinating learning experience, but one which I would heartily recommend.

You can find The Devil’s Walk on iTunes and all the other usual places.

April 2013 for stowaways

It’s April already, and here are just some of the highlights from the next month of this blog:

  • The Oldie section takes a bit of a turn as we look at four releases which are celebrating their 20th, 25th, 10th, and 30th anniversaries respectively
  • Another set of four soundtracks get cross-examined in the Movie section every Saturday
  • We’ll take a look at the phenomenon of Record Store Day
  • The first full hour-long Playlist for stowaways comes your way from the chilly pine forests of northern Europe
  • We’ll see if we can pick up the reviews of recent releases again from where we left off with the likes of ApparatThe Human League, and hopefully more
  • Plus all the usual Previews, Live highlights, Freebies, and Charts