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SUNDAY, midday: it’s been raining for 24 hours now, and no one around here can remember the last time this happened (in the newspaper this morning the police advised motorists to ‘pull over if they can’t see when driving’ – that just shows that we Canberrans have actually forgotten how to do this whole wet-day thing).  For lunch I’ve knocked off a few slices of shaved ham (which might qualify for Ordinary Ecstasy status; see previous post if you have no idea what I’m talking about, or you’re the police).  I’ve chased the ham slices with a couple of chocolate shells.  It’s highly likely that I’ll be making myself a cup of peppermint tea, because my no-caffeine diet is going gangbusters.  The opposite of gangbusters is The Old Lady of The House and Cat the Ripper who are happily curled on the lounge, dreaming of long mountain walks and cornering rats respectively.  We may not be leaving the house for hours.

But this is all by-the-by, because over the past few days I’ve been falling in love…truly madly deeply IN LOVE…with a new album.  It’s playing as I write this; in fact it’s been on high-rotation since I bought the thing last Monday.  (Does anyone else find semi-colons miraculous, by the way?  See?  Only when you’re in love do you start asking questions like that!)

The album?  Well, it’s the appropriately titled ‘There Is Love In You’ by Four Tet.  Four Tet’s 2003 album ‘Rounds’ is also much adored, because it too is electronic music with warmth and humanity.  But where ‘Rounds’ more than anything else was an organic album, sampling pianos and mandolins and saxophones (wait, come back – there’s nothing Kenny G about Four Tet’s Keiren Hebden) and even children’s toys, so it could almost be called a folk record, this latest collection is more dance-oriented, in the way that Animal Collective’s ‘Merriweather Post Pavilion’ is more dance-oriented.  But what really gets me about this music is the sheer beauty.  It reminds me of The Field in that Hebden gets a soft little riff going and then plays with it, taking it here a little, taking it there a little, building things up just a bit before bringing us down softly.  This isn’t glowstick-and-pills music; it’s more peppermint tea and a nana-blanket, though your toes will be tapping beneath your nana-blanket, nothing is surer than that.

There’s also a touch of Burial.  And hints of The Chemical Brothers, in the way that it sounds like the machines making this music are having conversations with each other, although Hebden’s machines are hanging out together in the sandpit, or making daisy chains, or sitting on the front steps with their arms around each other, just cuddling because cuddling is a good thing to do.  I don’t post MP3s on Under the Counter, but ‘Angel Echoes’ and the extraordinary ‘Love Cry’ are worth checking out, even if electronic music makes you want to run a million miles to the nearest beer-soaked hotel.  (And don’t YouTube them, because someone will have put the music to some shit images that’ll make it all look and feel like a badly drawn ad for aftershave.)

But not only has this album got my heart a-flutter and my arms out wide looking for the nearest thing to hug (The Old Lady of The House and Cat The Ripper are two lucky creatures today!), it also has the brain turning over, forming a question: what is it that I look for in the rather large amount of music that I buy each month?  It has to have its own voice.  It must know what it’s setting out to achieve, and it must be more than record sales and Video Hits.  It has to work my brain and heart and other parts of my body too, like my legs and arms, and…well, you get the picture.  It can’t be meretricious.  It can’t be copies of something else.   Above all, it has to have some kind of resonance; it has to aim for a response.  It should make me realise something about myself.

Four Tet’s ‘There Is Love In You’ makes me realise that I like music with heart, in the same way I like people with heart (amazing how many people don’t actually have hearts).  ‘There Is Love In You’ also makes me realise that I like music that says, ‘I really don’t care what you think about me, because I’m just going to be myself, because that’s all I can be.’

I like music that has the gentle fighting spirit: never try to take away my soul.

March of the Zapotec/Realpeople Holland by Beirut.  I’ve been following Beirut, which either is, or is very heavily driven by, the multi-talented, multi-located Zac Condon, since the first album, the completely wonderful Gulag Orkestar. This latest collection is essentially two EPs: in the first, Condon is backed by The Jimenez Band, a 19-piece brass outfit from Teotitlan del Valle, wherever the hell that is; the second contains a handful of electronic pieces under Condon’s pre-Beirut moniker of Realpeople.  If that all sounds like a bit of a mess, it is, but it’s a delirious mess – ‘My Night With the Prostitute from Marseille’ sounds like an early Depeche Mode b-side, while what’s on March of the Zapotec could easily have appeared on Gulag, which sounded like a bunch of Eastern European men getting really hammered on crap-house vodka, but managing to make great music while they were at it.  Charming, melancholic, flawed.  Perfect, in other words.

Primary Colours by The Horrors.  These guys have been on my radar for a while now, though they never really stayed there because they look like comedy Goths.  But this album is a pearler: My Bloody Valentine is a clear influence, but ‘Scarlet Fields’ and ‘Sea within a Sea’, which closes the album in the most majestic manner imaginable, are worth investigating.  Produced by Portishead’s Geoff Barrow, and on the latter it shows.

Over the Stones, Under the Stars by Ned Collette & Wirewalker.   I first heard of this guy – or should that be guys? – when Rage played the video to ‘Come Clean’: not only is the film-clip a ripper, the actual song is bloody brilliant, in fact I’d go so far as saying it’s one of my songs of the year (stay tuned for another best-of list, it seems).  Sure, in parts this collection sounds like a wondering drunk bemoaning the fact that life, at times, actually a fair bit of the time, can be very shit, but it’s all done with such a keen attention to detail that it’s pretty hard to ignore.  I hear in this more than a dash of Red House Painters, if that bunch of misery guts were fronted by a more tuneful Bob Dylan, and that’s a compliment.  Into the bargain, this album is a true grower: it might not get you first time around, but be patient and it’ll come back like a sad wet dog.  Perhaps.

The Bachelor by Patrick Wolf.  I’m a fan of Master Wolf: he’s as camp as all buggery (yeah yeah, I know), but he sure can write a tune, and he’s also interested in mucking around with sounds and forms, often shoving into one song as many things that squeak and moan as possible, probably thanks to Pro-Tools.  And there’s more than a bit of Celtic rock here, which may or may not be a mistake, not to mention quite a few choirs…possibly children’s choirs, which are never easy to make work. But if there’s anyone who can do it, it’s this guy, even though he might look like the bastard son of some Morrissey-Bowie coupling action (whoa, no one should have to imagine that).

Merriweather Post Pavilion by Animal Collective.  This is a pretty special album to me because, by design, it was the CD I had playing in the car when I was down at Bundanon in April/May this year – it made that long, windy trip to and from the rather downtrodden Nowra completely magical.  There’s such joy in this music; at times it’s hands-in-the-air ecstatic.  I’m sure I’ll still be listening to this in ten year time…when I’m fifty-one years old…Christ.

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