Earlier this month we discovered the debut EP from Laila Sakini & Lucy Van. Figures is a really intriguing mix of minimal electronics and evocative spoken word. With near narcotic words over these ambient post house beats it felt like nothing else around at the moment and we wanted to know more. Lucy Van writes about poetry and photography. She is a post-doctoral researcher in the English and Theatre Studies program at the University of Melbourne, and an editor at Cordite Poetry Review. Lucy also writes lyric and prose poems. Laila Sakini, a DJ who has recently emerged as a songwriter-producer, has opened for the likes of Dopplereffekt and Optimo, and her gentle minimal experimental electro pop on Figures is quite restrained and beautiful. You can listen to it here. We have so many questions, so we thought we’d ask them about the music that moves them. So welcome to “Songs/videos we are feeling at the moment.”
Jean Binta Breeze – ‘Aid Travels with a Bomb’
Watch out! Jean Binta Breeze at her finest. I love the original 80s recording of this track but for me the 2009 version from the album Eena Me Corner is even better – the sly upbeat structure of feeling here encapsulates dub poetry’s tradition of lively and bitter dissent. One morning, on a Kingston pier, a Rastafarian man told Jean Binta Breeze that she should stop what she was doing and become a poet. And that’s what she did. One of the coolest poets in the world.
Linton Kwesi Johnson – ‘Loraine’
I love the idea of this – LKJ is synonymous with Brixton, dub and political poetry, and here we have this repetitive, romantic hyperbole addressing a beloved Lorraine. I don’t know why this works, but it does. I saw LKJ read once in Scotland, and he told the audience ‘Loraine’ was written in jest. There never was a Lorraine, driving him insane, and he was never standing in the rain, waiting to see her again. He was playing with the inanity of love poetry conventions, but somehow the tight rhyming manages to move the listener anyway. It might be something to do with the contrast of the arrangement, where the verses break down into freer lyrics and the tempo really winds back. Maybe it registers that sense of split reality lovers know so well. Who knows? An anti-love song is still a love song.
Sonic Youth – ‘In the Kingdom #19’)
This is from one of my all-time favourite albums, Evol, by Sonic Youth. Even after I decided to throw my CDs away, this album somehow came back from the tip and it hasn’t left my car since. So ‘In the Kingdom #19’ is intriguing to me – intrigue at one remove, I guess, because it’s all about how much Thurston Moore is intrigued by car crashes. The car crash feeling runs through a lot of Sonic Youth’s material but here is where it’s brought to the foreground. I love the pacing of this, the wild twists in tempo, all the noise and the feeling of heat. The vocal is so laconic but then the sudden ruptures in delivery rip everything up. All accidents, flows, drifts and bright lights – what a story.
Ocean Vuong – ‘Someday I’ll Love Ocean Vuong’
Ocean Vuong audaciously apostrophises himself in this beautiful poem. Each line of this devastates me: ‘Ocean, are you listening? The most beautiful part of your body is wherever your mother’s shadow falls. Here’s the house with childhood whittled down to a single tripwire’. Ocean Vuong’s book of poems, Night Sky with Exit Wounds came out last year, and deserves every accolade and success.
Eyvind Kang – ‘Virginal Co-Ordinates’
I want to learn everything I can about this composer (one that Laila showed me), but in the meantime I’m just too busy listening to this droning, hypnotic, soporific piece of music. I listen, it plays out, and then I listen again. Every time I listen to this there’s a different part that catches my attention, then it utterly eludes me. I always go back to try to find what I just lost, only to find something new that I can’t hold on to.
KYO – ‘Vi Byder Sommeren Ind’
Recorded live? Who are these guys?! I love Posh Isolation (their label) of course, and this discovery is beautiful and integrates so many different types of sounds that speak to me: from classical strings and harps to experimental electronics, noise/sonic elements, distant kick drums and or toms – generally ambient – yet dynamic all the way through. I’m really intrigued by Danish culture and it’s sociological differences to other western nations and things like this draw me in further. I’m so glad KYO exist and hope to see them with my own eyes in hopefully their own country playing live very soon (I am visiting in August). I also hope they accrue the following they deserve as last I saw, they had only around 300 followers on Soundcloud.
Leslie Winer- ‘Flove’
Somehow this is dubby, synth pop, political spoken word, breakbeat, industrial/techno in one song. Largely underheard at the time – it’s one of those releases that went under the radar until its reissue, my radar too mind you – shown to me by a friend who digs deeper than I. Thankfully.
Req – ‘Razzamatazz‘
I’m just listening to hip-hop again and this early London track by producer Req is simple and fresh with all the hallmarks of “back in the days” type vocal stuff but with some pre-IDM/trip hop type tendencies in the ambient synth parts.
Richard Sen – ‘Songs of Pressure’
Known to people mostly thanks to a reissue by Chuggy of Emotional Rescue/Emotional Release/Especial. It’s dubby, bassy but 4/4 straight up tempo house style with de-tuned drifting synth melodies and lovely delay/feedback soaked vocals. Just ticks all the boxes really, and saved me from writing about a million dub songs which I feel Lucy has covered above. Not an obscure find anymore I suppose but a good one. For me.
The Threshold HouseBoys Choir – ‘Ikoreek’
A later guise for Peter Chistopherson (RIP) of Throbbing Gristle, Coil, Psychic TV… Look he needs no introduction really. Anything with portamento like this slide always gets me good, and of course it’s all contextualised with all the right ambient elements that appear gradually, some a little surprising even with their sparkly jazziness. I discovered Ikoreek after a friend told me about the Threshold project and I snooped about and found this song with its stunning appropriated footage by Steven Arnold, (1969) Various Incarnations of a Tibetan Seamstress, encircled (a Coil motif) for copyright I imagine too – but which I think makes it visually interesting in another way. This then sent me down a Steven Arnold wormhole and made me become more and more obsessed with old film, light and movement, and experimental film shorts in general. And of course it reinforced my love for the ambient world and my adulation for such an integral figure in British experimental, industrial and electronic music.
You can find Laila Sakini & Lucy Van’s Figures EP at Purely Physical.