When Prince wrote 1999 in 1982 he had no way of knowing what 1999 would actually look like. Unlike a lot of futurists, he seemed to think that it would be a pretty fun party. The idea that in 1999 we would all be partying in celebration turned out wrong; in 1999 everyone was too busy worrying about a hypothetical apocalyptic computer crash, making it a low-key bust. Prince saw a future 1999 where technology was secondary to his usual concerns about ladies in Corvettes. He must have been bummed that reality turned out less sexy and bright.
This is a instrumental, and yes, it will probably guide you right to sleep. Psychedelic music very often does that. As usual with pop album instrumentals, it’s probably better in context of the whole damn album. Especially since Flaming Lips always have a lot of thought and meaning behind the sequencing of their records. I almost feel bad for giving you something that isn’t supposed to stand alone. At best, think of it as a fragment of a dream.
Music for teatime is a made-up genre that I often come back to, because for my needs, it’s an important distinction. Can I sit and relax and drift away to this? Moby is very much the master of music that fills those drifting-away needs. I can sleep to this, and I can write and create to it. It’s not quite full-ambient, but it’s close. I think that we should not underestimate the power of the near-ambient; it discreetly does a lot to tinker with our mood, and we need all the discreet spirit-lifting we can get, in this age of darkness that we live in.
Fatboy Slim has been around long enough that you can probably recognize the elements of his aesthetic within a few seconds. You know, irresistibly catchy beats paired with herky-jerky samples that are almost discomfiting in their oddness, almost pushing the boundary into ‘too weird to dance to’ but always still making you dance. Having an identifiable style is a tall order for a demi-anonymous musician working in a genre that’s faceless kind of by definition. There’s a lot of interchangeable DJ’s and producers cranking out beats and splicing samples, and whatever human warmth their music generates usually comes from passing guest vocalists. In that environment a career with lasting power is unusual. Norman Cook, of course, is a trailblazer who helped usher in the era of mainstream electronic music, and it’s probably fair to say that some of the genre’s cliches originated as his own personal tics.
Alongside the lifelong familiars you watch, listen to and follow over the years, there is the ephemera, random songs for instance, that you remember and hold on to despite not really knowing what they are or where they first appeared or why you liked them in the first place. Who are Arling & Cameron? A couple of Dutch guys who became moderately successful in the European market for their electronic lounge music, or whatever you want to call it, and ended up on a Putumayo compilation for using vaguely Middle Eastern musical samples. Apparently their trademark is using unexpected and often ironic samples from culled from different eras and corners of the world, and it’s earned them equally far-flung collaborators, from Bebel Gilberto to Nina Hagen. In fact, they’ve recorded a number of acclaimed albums, which of course never percolated outside the Euro-market. I would never know about it, were it not for the tireless efforts of the Putumayo record label. The compilation album I bought in the early 2000’s are still leading me down new paths of discovery, which, I’m sure, was the ultimate goal all along.
The world needs more Cibo Matto, but Cibo Matto have given sparingly to the world. They might just be the weirdest and coolest thing to happen in 1999. And 1996 and 2014, which covers each of their three albums. There may not be a huge market for a Japanese girl rapping about Star Wars and food, but it’s a thirsty one. This is exactly the kind of gleeful cross-cultural experimentation that keeps the music world fresh and alive. It may not have been mainstream in its time, but it’s the kind of thing that trickles up from the cool kids to the masses. Today we’ve come to expect everything from all over the world to come together in a celebration of pop culture references; it’s the transcontinental underground aesthetic. There shouldn’t be any lines between J-pop and hip-hop, or anything else. Also, those plastic hair clip thingies need to come back in style.
Today’s song is pure atmosphere that gives you nothing to think about. And that’s a good thing. Moby isn’t quite up to Eno levels of ambient mind-cleansing, but he’s damn near close. Creating pop music that gives you nothing to think about in the sense that it soothes the mind and fosters a meditative state, as opposed to giving you nothing in the sense of being stupid…well, that’s actually a pretty tall order and not very many artists fit the bill. And I would like to have my mind soothed sometimes.