Time for a quick breather, and a chance to catch up on some of the previous posts that you might have missed. Remember these?
British electronic instrumentalist Banco de Gaia‘s second album Last Train to Lhasa (1995) reaches the ripe old age of twenty years this week. Banco de Gaia – real name Toby Marks – apparently joined the Tibet Support Group (this is according to Wikipedia, so take it with a pinch of Himalayan Sea Salt), and decided to make an album in support of the Tibetan freedom movement.
Whether you sympathise with the sentiment or not, it’s difficult not to love the title track, which opens the album, as a guitar riff and chanted vocals carry you on a fantastic voyage for almost twelve minutes. It’s hypnotic and repetitive, but also varied enough to keep you listening, and also very beautiful.
You’ll hardly notice when this mixes into the distinctly Asian sounding Kuos, which feels as though it belongs somewhere high in the Himalayas. Or would, if they listen to a lot of instrumental trance music up there – it’s difficult to know. This is shorter, and a considerably less dramatic piece. It’s rather less memorable too, but the previous track leaves a lot to live up to.
Albums such as this one are perhaps better viewed as one whole, though, rather than the sum of their individual tracks. We’re definitely on a journey here, and China (Clouds Not Mountains) tells a vivid and evocative story of Tibet’s recent history, before mixing into the gentler and more subtle Amber.
The tribal Kincajou, also the second single after the title track, sounds almost out of place initially, until the sampled monastic-style chanting turns up, and again, as with most of the pieces on here, six or seven minutes seems like nothing at all as you drift along with the music. It really is exceptionally good.
White Paint is almost euphoric, and full of atmosphere and suspense, until the counter-melodies and arpeggios turn up halfway through. It mixes into 887 (Structure), a more repetitive piece, again with an atmospheric, almost chilling edge to it.
Disc two brings longer, more exploratory takes on Kuos, Kincajou, and an additional piece called Eagle, but it seems to me that these are bonus tracks rather than core parts of the album (and anyway, one of them is 36 minutes long, and trying to think of things to say while listening to that would be a very tall order). Whether you think of it as one, two, three, or even four discs (see below), ultimately Last Train to Lhasa is an accomplished album, evocative and full of atmosphere.
You may still be able to find the original version of Last Train to Lhasa or the more recent digital edition, but at the time of writing there are rumours of a limited edition four-disc version which may prove to be the one to go for.
Well, how could 2015 possibly top 2014 in any way? Let’s find out, by taking a peek at the year to come.
We’ll start off by completing our countdown of the best of 2014, and we’ll celebrate our 909th post in appropriate style.
We’ll work through the last few BRIT Award ceremonies from our pocket history, and celebrate the Grammys and the Stowaways!
Last year we launched the Beginner’s guide series in March. Will we have a similar brainwave this year? Probably not…
In theory, April should see us celebrating the thousandth post on this blog. Proof that quantity is always better than quality.
May will see yet another key New Order anniversary, with the 30th birthday of their key album Low-Life.
June sees lots of key birthdays, such as the 30th anniversary of a-ha‘s Hunting High and Low, two great Saint Etienne albums will come of age, as well as Banco de Gaia‘s brilliant Last Train to Lhasa. Which ones should we celebrate?
All being well, July will see the third anniversary of this blog! We’ll probably get a cake or something.
We’ll probably go on holiday in August. That’s what people do, apparently.
Astonishingly, September will see the fifteenth anniversary of the release of Goldfrapp‘s debut album Felt Mountain.
2015 will see the 35th anniversary of not one but two OMD albums, the second of which will be in October. If we don’t celebrate that somehow then something must be wrong with us…
It will rain lots. It always does. And the nights will draw in, and we’ll all get a bit depressed. It’s always the same, November.
Just as predictable as the coming of the winter, we’ll take a look at the highlights of 2015, and see if we can predict what might happen in 2016. But we’ve got a lot to do first.
Here are five of your live highlights in the next few months:
Starting his tour in Edinburgh on Sunday 30th, and then visiting Manchester, Birmingham, Greenwich, Norwich, and Bristol, with more dates no doubt being announced soon.
Simian Mobile Disco
You’ve already missed them if you’re in Romania or Portugal, but dates are coming up in Germany, Spain, Italy, the UK, and Croatia, with festival dates throughout the summer.
Banco de Gaia
Performing this Saturday at Electric Brixton, with The Orb and Bomb the Bass (how exciting is that lineup?)
With his new tour starting at the end of the month in France, before moving on to Norway, the Netherlands, and the UK over the coming weeks.
Starting their latest tour in Copenhagen at the start of April, before moving onto Paris, London, the Netherlands, Germany, and Austria.
The fifth Playlist for stowaways is a tribute to the 1990s BBC Radio Derby show Soundscapes. Presented by Ashley Franklin until his removal from the station in February 2000, the show is fondly remembered by fans of electronic music who lived in the East Midlands over the era. Or perhaps it’s only me? Anyway, I put this little mixtape together with a selection of music that he did include, music that he would have included, and music that he should have included.
Ashley talks more about his ousting on his blog here.
This is MFS005, Soundscapes, and it can be listened to here.
- Banco de Gaia – Obsidian
- Andy Pickford – Lughnasad
- Asana – Re-embodiment
- Röyksopp – The Fear
- Paul Nagle – Shanghai Surprise
- The Orb – A Huge Evergrowing Pulsating Brain That Rules from the Centre of the Ultraworld
- Rick Kenton – Red Sky
- Moby – Heaven
- The Shamen – Xochipili’s Return
- Delerium – Amnesia
- The Future Sound of London – My Kingdom (Part 5)
- Laurie Mayer – Low Floating Territory
Someone I don’t know a lot about but whose music I’ve been enjoying for a number of years is Banco de Gaia. His 1995 album Last Train to Lhasa is exceptional, as is his “greatest hits” compilation 10 Years.
He’s also back with a new album Apollo, out last week, which kicked off its journey into the wild world with a track with the rather whimsical title of Wimble Toot. Here it is: