Alongside Underworld’s Drift project and the Kiwanuka album, the other musical highlight of the year for me has been discovering the work of Erland Cooper. As ever, thanks to Mary-Anne Hobbs for acting as musical matchmaker and my own ‘blind date’ with Cooper’s work was a live performance of this track “First Of the Tide’ on Mary-Anne’s 6 Music show.
This year say the release of the second and third parts of an Orkney trilogy, ‘Sule Skerry’ and ‘Seachange’, after last year’s ‘Solan Goose’. Discovering these, alongside Murmurations was a real pleasure, a treasure trove. I now often play his music whilst painting as it seems to put me in a creative sweet spot and I have happy memories of sitting by canals in Bruges this last summer painting away as Erland Cooper blocked out the sound of the coach parties milling around me.
Most of the albums are instrumentals, with sampled interviews with islanders recounting local legends like mermaids, accompanied by the sound of local birdlife. This track, ‘First Of The Tide’ has more of a Thom Yorke/ WARP vibe to it. Cooper is also part of The Magnetic North with Hannah Peel and Simon Tong.
After the tumultuous year the UK has had it feels appropriate to end my countdown with a moment of serenity on Orkney.
You can look back at all our choices over the last twenty days here. Have a great new decade and thanks to my musical fellow travellers Ian and Roy whose top songs of the year will be posted below…
My top tune of the year is from DJ Shadow. In 2019 the artist and producer who created a who new musical art form in 1996 with the world’s first completely sampled album, ‘Entroducing’ – released a mammoth double album, ‘Our Pathetic Age’; half instrumentals, half rap collaborations. Announcing the record back in September, Shadow spoke of a wide-ranging concept reflecting a world plagued by “rampant homelessness” and “generational poverty.” Citing institutional failure, widespread feelings of anger and confusion, and an entertainment culture grounded in distraction. As might be expected by such an extensive project, the results are patchy, but this piece of dystopian future-rap, stands out as its shining moment.
Number 1 – DJ Shadow (Rockwell Knuckles, Ted Poe and Daemon) ‘Urgent, Important, Please Read’
“More cowbell” is the well known refrain from the SNL skit with Christopher Walken. It’s hard not to believe someone heard the Flume remix of Disclosure’s “You and Me” and said “What this needs is more brass.” That someone would be German techno-marching band Meute. Similar to festival favourites like Parov Stelar and Caravan Palace (who blend swing and house music for the night club set), Meute re-work classic DJ tracks with a marching band influence. I found myself in London earlier this year when they were playing at the Camden Jazz Cafe. Keen to see them, I pretty waited much all afternoon to try for a spare ticket to one of their sold out shows. Sadly no luck, which is a pity since I’m pretty sure their set would have been my gig of the year if I’d made it into the club. No overt politics or pointed messages here, just a terrific video of Meute performing, live in Paris, my #1 song for the 2019 “You and Me (Flume Remix)”