Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Sybille's Right

A few albums that featured in other people's lists of 2006 but only made it in their entirety to the Underachieving iPod this month: the first is Spank Rock's 'YoYoYoYoYoYo' (someone should write an AppleScript to easily reproduce all those 'yo's'), the Philly/Baltimore hip-hop group that I knew a little of last year from their scurrilous anti-homage 'Rick Rubin' and their fantastic remix of 'Let's Make Love and Listen to Death From Above' by CSS, which I have nattered about quite a lot here. In a year that was strangely quiet for US hip-hop, the album is set apart by its rough style and aggression, which has receded in vogue Stateside recently. The sound is dirty and the references a bit unexpected but it's a good one for dancing. Needs a few more listens though for that breakthrough.

As is the case with Grizzly Bear's 'Yellow House'. The latest bunch of weirdos based in Brooklyn to release an album last year, their production is a bit too lo-fi and wilfully obscure to grab you but there are a couple of songs that are particularly memorable: 'On a Neck, On a Spit' and 'Knife', which coincidentally is about to be covered by CSS, for a double-A-side, the flip of which will be Grizzly Bear's cover of CSS' own 'Alala'.

Best of all of is an album recorded in 1973, and which upon its belated release last year received little attention outside of France and Germany. The record is 'Colour Green' by the then-young German singer-songwriter Sybille Baier, who at the time of the recording was known only for a small role in Wim Wenders' wonderful Alice in the Cities. She has since lived in Florida and the release was prompted by an interest in the shelved masters by her son. Like Vashti Bunyan, who also emerged from obscurity in the past couple of years, Baier is a singer from another time, her beautifully wistful melodies picked on a bare acoustic guitar sounding bizarre when heard for the first time on digital playback. The most obvious comparisons are Nick Drake and Leonard Cohen before he started cluttering the studio with unnecessary instruments, but it is the note-perfect, unwavering whispers of Baier that make you grateful that this album eventually saw the light of day. Hopefully, she'll follow Bunyan's example and record a second one thirty years on, and like Bunyan's 'Lookaftering' it'll probably sound like the second was recorded six months after the first.