Lately I’ve been seeing lots of these “artist naming their 10 favourite albums” posts. I like those because there’s often something new for me to discover in them. It’s definitely not easy to boil down half a lifetime of music listenting to just 10 titles and doing so is likely a great excersise. It forces you to really think about where your influences come from. About how and why they had a certain impact.
So I decided to do one myself.
Here’s 10 albums, in somewhat random order, that had a profound impact on me. Music that inspired me and shaped my work, and sometimes even made me think differently about music altogether.
1. Matmos – Plastic Anniversary
Let me start with this one, since Matmos have generally been such a huge influence on me. I could have chosen almost any of their albums, and from a pure listening perspective I would maybe have chosen another one. But this one best incorporates the “making wonderful music by playing and sampling anything” approach which makes Matmos such an incredible duo.
2. Dag Rosenqvist & Matthew Collings – Hello Darkness
I learned from Dag Rosenqvist from Romanian drone musician Topographer, for whom I designed a logo years ago. He highly recommended this album to me. I gave it a listen, and it immediately became one of my all time favourites. Especially the track “Reinaissance”, which explodes into such a powerful moment of “glorious distortion mayhem“. Rosenqvist’s most interesting aspect is definitely how he plays with dynamics, he really pushes those quiet moments, contrasting them with very loud and noisy ones. Quoting his words from an interview on soundsofatiredcity.com: “I try to make sure that the original dynamics in the pieces are kept as close to how I did it as possible. Of course there is some compression on basically all my masters, but in most cases very little. When it’s quiet it should also be quiet.”
I find this very inspiring.
3. AMULETS – THESE STATIC TRANSMISSIONS
I think I found out about Randall Taylor aka Amulets through Bandcamp’s tag search, while I was looking for some new tape-loop music. There’s a few albums from this artist which I quite like, but side A of this one is probably my favourite. The mix of degraded tapes, melodic guitar looping and the overall corroded feel really hit home for me.
This album does one thing, which I’ve often tried to do in my own musical explorations: it creates melodies, which then get swallowed by the noise, while never disappearing completely, just to emerge out of it again at one point.
4. Jenny Berger Myhre – Lint
I found out about the album thanks to this interview on the Four Questions blog.
Mixing field recordings, sound collage and more traditionally composed music has always been something that interests me a lot, it’s basically at the core of what I am trying to do in my own work. There’s a few people who have made some really interesting music that fit the above description, but this album by Jenny Berger Myhre was really kind of a revelation to me. I love how she seems to treat everything like a field recording, literally. Even the songs with her singing and playing guitar are (or sound like they are) recorded with the exact same approach as you would do field recording.
In her interview on Four Questions she touches on another theme, which I’m really interested in: “In my sound work, place is undeniably connected to a situation: a memory of that specific time and place that I’ve recorded. I usually use field recordings that aren’t “neutral” — I’m very much present in the recordings myself, or someone else is.”
5. Nine Inch Nails – Ghosts I – VI
I have to admit that I’ve never been into NIN. Trent Reznor’s way of singing always put me off. But when I heard Ghosts I was completely blown away.
I think it’s the textures, the moods, the richness of details. It’s the kind of music you don’t just listen to, but which you inhabit.
Ghosts V-VI can still be downloaded for free from nin.com. The older ones were also originally free, but the download doesn’t seem to be on their site anymore.
6. Neil Young – Dead Man OST
Again, I can’t say I’m really a Neil Young die-hard fan. Some things I like, some less, most of them I don’t remember. But this soundtrack really stuck with me.
I originally saw the film when it came out in 1995. I didn’t know Jim Jarmush back then, nor did I know that I was about to see Dead Man. I went to the cinema with my brother to see Dead Man Walking, but they got the wrong reels. I guess the distributor was confused by the titles.
In retrospect it was a lucky accident, and I immediately fell in love with both the film and the soundtrack. Especially the parts where Neil Young just plays these repetive, solitary notes through the delay (for example the part, in the video above, after 8:00). Interestingly, in my memory the soundtrack has a lot less melody than it actually has.
7. Shlohmo – The End
This has been my soundtrack to the first Lockdown in 2020. The album came out early 2019, when we were still blissfully ignorant of what was awaiting us, just few months later.
What makes this so interesting to me, from a more musical point of view, is how Shlohmo mangaged to pull off one thing, many people failed at: to cross-breed hip-hop and rock influences into one cohesive style, which is much more than the sum of its parts. As one reviewer on Bancamp said: “Shlohmo is a genre”. On top of that I just love the melancholic, wonky, unstable, but still energetic and melodic feel of this album.
8. David Lynch – Eraserhead
I like to regard this as something completely detached from the movie it originates from. Something between a radio drama and a fictional field recording album. I think this should actually be a genre with a name (I’m open for suggestions, in case anybody has ideas!)
A comment I often get from people listening to my music is: “it sounds a bit like a soundtrack to a David Lynch film”. It’s not something I’m consciously trying to achieve, I guess it’s just the kind of sounds I am spontaneusly drawn to. I can’t deny though, that this and other Lynch soundtracks had a big influence on me.
9. Kate Carr – I Ended Out Moving To Brixton
There’s a narrative quality to this album, which I’ve rarely found in other experimental, field-recording-based works, even in other works by Kate Carr. Although, Herbert Distel’s Travelouge is another example that has a similar quality to me.
When listening to this you are really taken on a personal and intimate journey, Carr being your guide to her own version of Brixton.
More than an album this is about the entire production of Austrian musicians Lukas König and Leo Riegler, who for some time worked together as Koenigleopold.
What I really love about them is how they mix absurdist humor, experimental approaches, hip hop, noise, contemporarty music and generally repurpose existing genres turning them into something kind of different.
There’s a few tracks which I could post here, but maybe this performance best represents what I find inspiring about them.
Because I’m not good at sticking to my own rules.
Jacaszek – Glimmer
I bought this album roughly when I started to make music with kvsu. It was a perfect fit for what I was trying to achieve back then, and somehow still is. I like how well it blends all sorts of noises with acoustic instruments.
“Evening Strains To Be Time’s Vast” is probably my favourite track here. Most of it is just one loop playing over and over, but as the track progresses, it gets brighter, layers are uncovered, melodic fragments appear, then the material gets increasingly distorted, everything slowly drowns in the stormy sea of noise.
DJ Shadow – Endtroducing
Maybe this is a bit of an obvious one. When it came out I was starting to be a bit bored by the kind of 90s rap that I was listening to a lot during the prior years. What had attracted me to hip hop in the first place was the gritty sample-based sound, the beats, the implied mechanic bleakness of repeating the same thing over an over, contrasted by the inherently human elements in the sampled material. I didn’t really like most of the rapping.
Endtroducing opened a whole new world to me. To me it was hip hop for the people who didn’t like rapping. And it was an amazingly gritty, sometimes dark, and powerful album, both funky and bleak at the same time. I still take inspiration from many of its tracks.