Songs for the Road 4 – A slightly introspective Christmas

This year will be an odd Christmas, at least for me. In the last 12 months, in facts, my biological family has shrunk – through deaths and inheritance-caused greed – from 8 members to two, my brother and father. It is to this absymal nucleus which, as it often happens in the best dramas, also is separated, that I return this year. And these are the tracks that I’m listening whilst flying, coaching, train-riding there.

James Murphy James Murphy for IBM – Remixes made with Tennis Data. James, as I said more than once, is my absolute hero; I saw him live with LCD Soundsystem, I saw him live DJ-ing, even though I didn’t really like it, but I love enormously his interview on BBC 6 Music. Almost by accident I discovered that James, one find day, stumbled across loads of raw data prepared by IBM when they were on gathering information on tennis players who played at the 2014 US open in an attempt to create a mathematical model, Moneyball-style, to predict who would be the next Novak Djokovic. One fine day somebody at IBM decided to create an algorithm to turn these data into music (here you can read a little bit more about it) and what came out of it are 12 songs that James is periodically mixing and releasing on Soundcloud. They’re really hypnotic.

Ali Farka Touré – The River. Touré, one can say, is the grandaddy of Malian blues. This is one of his first albums, released in 1991, and one where he starts doing some more experiments, mixing John Lee Hooker with his cultural heritage, adding saxophones and harmonicas. What really catches me, though, is the rhytm of the djembe, the classic Malian drum: it’s omnipresent, regular as the heartbeat of a sleeping person and, I should say, capable of sending people into trance. At least that’s what happens to me and this is the main reason why I’m not listening to Ali when I happen to be driving.

Ellen Allien & Apparat – Orchestra of Bubbles. I had my first crush for Ellen at the ripe age of 24 – a good 10 years after one’s supposed to have crushes for musicians, I’d say – at the Movement festival in Turin, Italy. Right in the hockey stadium-turned-concert-hall that hosted the 2006 Olympics, Ellen mounted on one of the stages, under the watchful albeit a little glazed eye of thousands of clubbers, MDMA flowing through their synapses and standard water bottle in hand. The other stages were pumping the no-nonsense techno that’s the standard beat in all postindustrial cities from Düsseldorf to Detroit, where even the mere thought of drum ‘n’ bass would be sufficient to start knife fights. Well, Ellen goes up on stage – it was about 2 AM, mind you, party in full swing, we had been done with the minimal electro hours before, when half of the punters were still hoarding up at the gates – and puts on a downtempo broken beat. Glazed eyes defrosted. Ecstasy pills, ready to be dissolved in the omnipresent bottles,were put back in the pockets. Vodka RedBulls stopped in mid air. People stopped moving, starting to stare at her. Then a few began whistling in disapproval, more left for the main stage where Carl Cox was doing its best to turn youngsters deaf ahead of their time. I remained, and loved her. Then, subtly, once her start scared off the chavs and left the connoisseurs (or those too lazy to move), she starting hammering down and didn’t quit for hours. Orchestra of Bubbles isn’t the second half of the DJ-set, it’s the first one. Listen carefully and enjoy it: sooner or later you’ll find yourself humming to its tunes when she puts them on to scare the chavs off the club you’re in. Because she’s doing it for your own good, you know.

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