Today’s playlist comes to us from the Heliocentrics. Their most recent album, A World Of Masks, is already out digitally, but as of today, it’s also available on vinyl and CD via Soundway Records in the UK. To celebrate the release, the band compiled a playlist of songs that inspired the album. The band is rarely defined by one genre, as members of their collective have backgrounds in hip-hop, jazz, psych, funk, and scoring movies—much like this playlist. Be sure to check out the album stream and review on NPR’s First Listen, too.
—Keenan Kush, Talkhouse Marketing Manager
Pärson Sound – “Tio Minuter”
While we were touring 13 Degrees of Reality, I picked this up on the recommendation of the owner of an amazing Danish record shop who supports the band. This Swedish band, who were trained jazz musicians like their German counterparts Can, completely reinvented themselves after the psychedelic explosion of 1967-8 to create the blueprint of drone-rock after seeking a more minimalist approach to their music.
A full couple of decades before the likes of Spacemen 3 and the terms “drone-rock” and “shoe-gaze” were even coined, this track has a melancholic, ethereal feel to it that is reminiscent of the early Velvet Underground. The second half of the track is where the magic lies, and its growing intensity builds steadily to the end. The idea of having a mid-song slowdown in our song “The Uncertainty Principle,” came from hearing this.
Third Ear Band – “Ghetto Raga”
This late ’60s English album is an oddity which boasts an appearance by the late John Peel on jaw harp. It is, again, very minimalist in approach, and drones feature heavily throughout the whole album—although this time all the instruments are acoustic, the lineup consisting of violin, viola, hand drums, oboe/recorder, cello, and slide pipes, and draws heavily upon traditional English folk and medieval music. This influence is more apparent in the material we have subsequently written, but I’ve always been blown away by the mood and hypnotic string arrangements throughout this album.
Pisces – “Dear One”
Numero Uno do it again with this beautiful and left-field psychedelia from the obscure late ’60s band Pisces out of Rockford, Illinois; the LP on which this appears was reissued in 2002. This intensely soulful track has a dreamlike quality, and the most beautiful, ethereal vocals by Linda Bruner.
Clyde Borly Musica in 5 in Dimension – “Taboo” and “Afro Mania”
“Clyde Borly e il sou complesso a percussion,” to give him and the band their full title. These two tracks take the listener on very different journeys into surreal worlds of Brazilian exotica, which conjure up images of vast swaths of unchartered rainforest, replete with unfamiliar bird noises. “Taboo” is welcoming and oozes tropical warmth, enticing the listener to float downstream under the shade of palm and coconut trees, while “Afro Mania” is ominous and warns of unseen lurking dangers behind every turn. We tried to get near this beautiful production on some of the tracks on the album, like “Capital of Alone.”
The Battered Ornaments – “Smoke Rings”
I first heard this courtesy of my good friend and fellow producer Mike Russell of ADM/MMR renown, who is now the curator and artist on his Drumetrics label out of San Diego. This very well-written song starts out like one of the better oddball and non-twee British psych records of the late ’60s, but transcends into a manic near–drum and bass speed jam. It reaches a furious intensity and climax which nearly implodes under its own uncontrollable momentum, but fantastically holds together till the finish line.
Philippe Besombes – “La Ville”
A literally mind blowing obscure French soundtrack that has an amazing production. I managed to get this album in a killer record store in Tokyo when the band played there a few years back. I heard it after we had finished The Last Transmission LP with Melvin Van Peebles, and I remember being gutted that someone else had eclipsed us by doing something similar, but better, back in 1975. This album, along with the early ’70s Faust and Ennio Morricone/Italian library records, the late ’60s Silver Apples output, and the more recent ADM/MMR 10”, are still the benchmarks for innovation and production.
Ennio Morricone – “Il Gatto A Nove Code”
This is the title song on the soundtrack of a film which translates as The Cat o’ Nine Tails. It was directed by Dario Argento, released in 1971, and finds Ennio Morricone and his musicians in one of their finest instrumental arrangements. Malcolm put me onto this 15 years ago when he gave me his copy from a compilation because the lucky devil found a 7” version. I guess it’s the same musicians who were involved in the amazing and much-sought-after Feedback album. Featuring some of the best bass and drums I’ve ever heard, this track is the constant background noise when I’m trying to come up with new bass lines for the Heliocentrics. I haven’t heard much which compares with this.
Gary McFarland – “2nd Movement: 80 Miles An Hour Through Beer-Can Country”
Hailing from the great label Skye Records, this nine-minute workout goes through many different musical stage, including classical themes and obscure bits, ending up with a heavy, funky, blues groove that would put many bands to shame. When I first got this from the wonderful guys at Record Mania in Sweden, I knew I had stumbled onto something special. It made me think of how, with some of our Heliocentrics tracks, we should also feature different phases and essentially focus on themes in our music to draw in the listener.
The Rainbow Band – “Now is the Time”
I have to admit that I like a bit of folk here and there. The last track on this album is a corker and inspired me for the tracks “Made of the Sun” and “Capital of Alone.” It has a really ethereal quality about it—great atmosphere and understated production.
Eddy Detroit – “Run To The Sun”
Hearing this recommendation from a long-standing record-collecting friend of mine, Raj Majumdar, you wouldn’t think something made in 1982 would sound as great—but it really is an exquisitely produced record (with a great homemade cover, too). Again, the atmosphere of this track inspired me when we were recording the gentler tracks on A World of Masks.
Okay Temiz/Johnny Dyani – “Black Sea Waves”
On the album The Witchdoctor’s Son, every track stands out, so picking a favorite was hard. This is another that Malcolm put me on to, and it most definitely inspired the track “Dawn Chorus,” what with all the different percussive sounds that Temiz and Dyani created on this fabulous album. I initially was misdirected to this record (long before Discogs!): Johnny Dyani also released an album without Temiz called the Witchdoctor’s Son, which I bought in a London record shop. I got the record home all excited, only to realize it was the wrong one! His version does however include the jazz dancefloor classic, “Radebe.”
Ultimate Spinach – “Visions Of Your Reality”
I got this record at a boot fair whilst with my family in the states (New York) a few years ago. We did a house swap with an older couple from Long Island who, fortunately, had an old record player. My poor family had to sit and listen to me playing this all holiday, but I think they grew to like it in the end. It’s one of those tracks that is very personal, I guess, but I have never yet listened to it and been bored—it’s so soulful and inspiring.