Retro chart for stowaways – 21 October 2006

Here are the top albums from eleven years ago this week:

  1. Delerium – Nuages du Monde
  2. Front Line Assembly – Artificial Soldier
  3. Kings Have Long Arms – I Rock – Eye Pop
  4. The Future Sound of London – Teachings from the Electronic Brain
  5. Hot Chip – The Warning
  6. Electronic – Get the Message – The Best Of
  7. Sparks – Hello Young Lovers
  8. Massive Attack – Collected
  9. Faithless – Forever Faithless – The Greatest Hits
  10. Conjure One – Extraordinary Ways
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The Shamen – Boss Drum

In 1992, The Shamen were truly in control of their careers. The five years that came before had been turbulent, as they journeyed from indie to pop-dance

Fifth album Boss Drum opens with the self-produced version of the title track, later released, in reworked form, as the third single from the album. Most of the singles were remixed at the hands of The Beatmasters, and frankly those that weren’t do suffer noticeably. So the album version of Boss Drum is a bit dull and noisy, particularly when compared to the single.

For L.S.I.: Love Sex IntelligenceThe Beatmasters were at the helm as producers, and this is consequently brilliant. Mr. C‘s rap is typically awkward, but hey, these were the early 1990s – pretty much nobody in the UK was an expert at rapping back then. This was released as the first single in June 1992, and immediately hit number four.

With seven singles from a ten-track album, there’s little room for anything else here, but Space Time is one of the few album-only tracks. It did appear on The Face EP in remixed form, and with some acid chirps it’s a bit deeper than some of the other tracks on here, but ultimately it isn’t really anything special.

Librae Solidi Denari literally means “pounds, shillings, and pence” in Latin, but you have to wonder from the initials and some of the other tracks on here whether it took its inspiration from another source. It’s a pretty dull tribal instrumental that also made it onto The Face EP and the subsequent remix album Different Drum.

Then comes the number one hit Ebeneezer Goode, released just a couple of weeks before the album appeared. In a curious step, listeners of the LP version get The Shamen‘s own (vastly inferior) version, whereas on the cassette and CD you get an extended version of The Beatmasters‘ single version. It’s a great track, very much of its time, and yes kids, it is about drugs. Don’t do them.

The second half of the album kicks off with the final single, Comin’ On. If there was ever a track that needed to be reworked by The Beatmasters, this is definitely it. On the album, it’s a dreadfully misguided attempt to sound Indian (or possibly West Indian? It’s difficult to tell at times – or perhaps that’s the joke?) full of silly voices and sitar samples and descriptions of people as “yellow” (was that really ever acceptable?) It would be hard to believe that this seemed funny to anyone, even shrouded by illicit substances as they probably were when it was recorded.

But amazingly, there was a good song hiding in there. The 1993 single version strips out all the silly and racist bits and turns it into something quite brilliant. The Beatmasters, it seems, are indeed capable of magic.

They also had their hands on the single version of Phorever People, released just in time for Christmas in 1992, but in this instance the album version holds the song together well. It’s followed by the dreadful album-only track Fatman.

Things do improve towards the end though, with the pleasant instrumental Scientas, which could have only been improved if it had been a bit more melodic, and finally the eight-minute single Re:evolution, featuring the drug-inspired ramblings of neophilosopher Terence McKenna.

I like the track – actually I like it a lot, particularly some of the remixes on the single from The Future Sound of London and others, but bluntly, he is talking total nonsense. Even the first sentence, “If the truth can be told so as to be understood, it will be believed,” doesn’t really make sense if you stop and think about it. I’ve really tried – I’ve been listening to this song for at least two decades now, and ultimately I’ve had to just conclude that the whole thing is gibberish. But close your eyes, try not to listen to the actual words too carefully, and maybe imagine you’ve injected a lot of cannabis pills, and you can enjoy it as an intriguing, experimental piece of music. Which is reasonably true for the album as a whole actually, on balance.

But in the end, I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone. The CD version of the album gets you a couple of additional dub versions of Boss Drum and Phorever People, but honestly it isn’t worth the bother. Save yourself the money and just get the singles album The Shamen Collection instead.

If you do fancy a copy of Boss Drum, it is still available here. It’s worth taking a few minutes to enjoy the reviews first.

The Future Sound of London – Papua New Guinea Translations

After a bit of warm-up, The Future Sound of London really started operating under that name in 1992 with the groundbreaking and enormous hit single Papua New Guinea, and just under a decade later, they put that particular career on hold with the mini-album Papua New Guinea Translations, released fifteen years ago this week.

It opens, of course, with the track that began it all, the exquisite original 12″ version of the title track. Until you listen to it again, it’s easy to forget quite how good it actually is. Those simple, reverb-laden piano notes and choral washes will send shivers down your spine – it really is that amazing.

That was the first translation (back into the native FSOLish, it would seem). The second owes a lot to the original, built around a similar chord sequence and directly sampling it at various speeds. Papsico is a great way to begin in earnest – a ten minute exploration which takes the original in a very different direction while at the same time not straying too far from the theme. There are definite echoes of FSOL’s later, broader and more exploratory material, with a slidey middle section and hints of far-off alien worlds, but it’s almost certainly best not to read too much into that at this stage.

Other translations are more of a departure from the original – The Lovers, later revisited on the next Amorphous Androgynous album The Isness, borrows primarily from the original with just a laid back bass part, and a spacious progressive backdrop has been built around it. In its original form, it’s another nine minute exploration, which gives it plenty of space to evolve and saunter through the concept.

After this, the translations start to drift from one to the next, both literally and metaphorically. Wooden Ships hints at the eastern directions of their next project a couple of years later; The Great Marmalade Mama in the Sky is less psychedelic, and more of a beatsy, cosmic variation.

The journey we take on this album carries us around the world – perhaps even across the universe. Requiem is a gentler piece, with piano, harmonica, and waily vocals. Then Things Change Like the Patterns and Shades That Fall from the Sun is a more dramatic translation, built around startling pad chords based on the original Papua New Guinea sequence.

The eighth and final translation is The Big Blue, bringing together many of the themes from the preceding tracks into one. It’s a pleasant eastern-themed piece, drifting along with various instruments taking the lead. On the face of it, there isn’t a lot of Papua New Guinea left here, but then elements from the original do turn up from time to time, and the sum product is entirely pleasant.

Like the album as a whole – blurring the line between what “single” and an “album” might mean, this is an extremely enjoyable exploration of different elements from the start – and end – of The Future Sound of London‘s chart career.

You can find second-hand or downloadable copies of Papua New Guinea Translations from places like this.

Chart for stowaways – 30 July 2016

Here are the top albums this week:

  1. Jean-Michel Jarre – Electronica 2: The Heart of Noise
  2. Clarke Hartnoll – 2Square
  3. I Monster – Bright Sparks
  4. Pet Shop Boys – Super
  5. New Order – Music Complete
  6. Jean-Michel Jarre – Electronica 1: The Time Machine
  7. The Avalanches – Wildflower
  8. David Bowie – Best of Bowie
  9. The Future Sound of London – Environment Five
  10. Aphex Twin – Cheetah

Chart for stowaways – 16 July 2016

Here are this week’s top albums:

  1. Jean-Michel Jarre – Electronica 2: The Heart of Noise
  2. Clarke Hartnoll – 2Square
  3. I Monster – Bright Sparks
  4. Pet Shop Boys – Super
  5. New Order – Music Complete
  6. Jean-Michel Jarre – Electronica 1: The Time Machine
  7. David Bowie – Best of Bowie
  8. The Future Sound of London – Environment Five
  9. Conjure One – Holoscenic
  10. Little Boots – Working Girl

Chart for stowaways – 2 July 2016

These are the top albums this week:

  1. Jean-Michel Jarre – Electronica 2: The Heart of Noise
  2. Clarke Hartnoll – 2Square
  3. Pet Shop Boys – Super
  4. I Monster – Bright Sparks
  5. New Order – Music Complete
  6. Jean-Michel Jarre – Electronica 1: The Time Machine
  7. David Bowie – Best of Bowie
  8. Conjure One – Holoscenic
  9. The Future Sound of London – Environment Five
  10. ABC – The Lexicon of Love II