Black Hair – Jerksin Fendrix
Jerksin Fendrix (stage name) is part of a new wave of musicians centering around the Windmill pub in Brixton. What brings these groups and artists together is their experimental approach, lack of adherence to genre, and combining self-taught and classically trained playing that is both technically impressive and not lacking in ‘realness’. Cambridge classical music graduate Fendrix is perhaps the most left-field of this collective, amongst peers such as mathy post-rockers Black Midi and buzzmakers Black Country, New Road, combining the weird hyper-pop of 100 gecs and Charli XCX with the dark romanticist sensibilities of composer Franz Schubert.
‘Black Hair’ from the album Winterreise (a reference to Schubert’s famous work of lieder) is less consciously vapid than other PC Music, working in some interesting lyrical content and an overall less bubblegum sound, yet retaining much of the huge synths. It’s an interesting and unclassifiable sound, but it (somehow) works.
On Some Faraway Beach – Brian Eno
For some time now I’ve been a fan of the ambient music for which Brian Eno has made himself a name, yet neglectful of his early art-rock output. I caught ‘On Some Faraway Beach’ in the soundtrack for the brilliant Adam Curtis documentary HyperNormalisation (worth a watch, and especially relevant in our current political climate). It scores a particularly striking sequence in which archival clips of Soviet officials being arrested and executed in the fall of the USSR are interspersed into Jane Fonda aerobic workout videos. It’s a fairly triumphant track, with lush wall of sound instrumentation that crescendos into Eno’s lyrics of fading away into a sort of happy obscurity (“Given the chance/ I’ll die like a baby/ On some far away beach”). It’s both a jarring juxtaposition and fittingly poignant.
Electricity – Orchestral Manouevres in The Dark
After perhaps the Germans, it’s my contention that the only synth-poppers worth any real attention are British. The genre is sort of nerdy and almost populist, lacking the braggadocio of a lot of American music. ‘Electricity’ is a song not about flash cars or girls or guitars, but one about wasteful use of energy that is inspired in part by seminal electronic auteurs Kraftwerk and their song ‘Radioaktivität’ (a track that almost this list). Though lyrically relevant even today, what is most enduring is its infectious hook and bassline. Orchestral Manouevres in The Dark are by no means a derided or obscure band, but any modern fans of 80s synthpop a la New Order who aren’t aware of them should definitely give a listen to this single and their self-titled album.
Theme from Failure, Pt. 1 – The Guest
Lockdown comes hand in hand with a little too much time to think about yourself and who you are. ‘Theme from Failure, Pt. 1’ is a song about the identity crisis of a modern late-age teenager, trying too hard to be cool. It’s an interesting exploration of how contemporary personality is so often formed through merely collecting media we consume (‘I watched Mad Max: Fury Road with my mother to learn what masculinity means’, ‘I pretended to not know who Lil Yachty was/ I told everyone I’d met that I’d never seen Black Mirror‘), and how perhaps that isn’t the best way to go about it. Delivered in spoken word, The Guest is the solo project of Black Country, New Road vocalist Isaac Wood and provides a little more music for fans of the band that are feeling a little burned out on their two as-of-right-now released singles.
Alliance – Robert Wyatt
This is an unapologetically political song, and one that is still as lyrically precise as in 1986. In a time when it appears more than usual that the ruling and upper classes are diametrically and consciously opposed to the masses – such as with Cumming’s disregard for breaking lockdown guidelines and subsequent absolution by Johnson – the words of ‘Alliance’ feel like a breath of fresh air. Lyrics such as “I think that what you’re frightened of more than anything/ Is knowing you need workers more than they need you’ speak of the purported heroisation of workers despite failed attempts to provide them with adequate protections in face of a global crisis. Unlike other left-wing music, however, it does not come across and loud and angry, but is filled with a cool confidence set against a proggy jazz organ.
Last modified: 27th May 2020