January 3, 2013

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Various Artists: TV Sound and Image (Soul Jazz)

One of this writer’s recent obsessions is a download of the music library created in the ‘70s for the game show "The Price Is Right." Much of this music is ingrained in our memories, including the brief “defeat horns” passage (you know: “BUH buh buh BUH, waahhhhhh”), but even without the delight of recognition and association, these pieces, composed by Edd Kalehoff, actually stand well on their own―they’re tight, funky, vibrant instrumentals that, had they been released on obscure library record labels in the early ‘70s, would undoubtedly be sought by crate-digging DJs.

This reviewer had a similar revelation with the excellent two-CD compilation TV Sound and Image: British Television, Film and Library Composers 1956-1980. While those raised in the United Kingdom would likely recognize many of these tunes, this Tennessee-born writer approached this collection being unfamiliar with the selections, apart from a few: the theme from "The Avengers," Roy Budd’s superb earworm "Get Carter" theme, C.C.S.’s cover of “Whole Lotta Love” used for "Top of the Pops," and the badass, syncopated-horn-and-piano showpiece “Soul Thing” by Keith Mansfield used in the ‘70s as the “Our Featured Presentation” cinematic bumper music. Also, only two composers represented are anywhere close to being household names: James Bond soundtrack composer John Barry and Tony Hatch, known for his Petula Clark hits like “Downtown.”

A good deal of the compilation concentrates on the breed of “tense funk with bongos” crime/action show music of the early ‘70s or ‘60s spy themes, but there are a few diversions, including the folk-rock track “Light Flight” from Pentangle, used for the drama "Take Three Women," and the electronics-enhanced, appropriately futurist 1980 version of the Tomorrow’s World theme. As any library music aficionado will tell you, these composers were certainly under-appreciated, and in typical Soul Jazz style, a 48-page booklet with background info on each composer is included with the set, overflowing with impeccable selections and soundtrack gems that were created to be as striking and memorable as the shows they represented.

Melody’s Echo Chamber: Melody’s Echo Chamber (Fat Possum)

In an example of true music-gear-nerd awesomeness, Parisian Melody Prochet had a dream inspired by seeing a vintage tape-loop echo-effect unit listing on eBay. Her fantasy involved her bedroom having its acoustics transformed to produce an infinite echo―from this dream, the name Melody’s Echo Chamber was born.

Prochet is a classically trained violist involved in the bands My Bee’s Garden and Narcoleptic Dancers, and she teamed up with Australian home-recording multi-instrumentalist Kevin Parker of Tame Impala to create a refreshing pop debut album, informed by nostalgia but not mired in the past. Its influences range from psychedelic sources including early Red Krayola, classical music and My Bloody Valentine’s guitar-effects overload. Although mostly sung in English, a few tracks are sung in French, and modern Francophiles will find plenty to love here, with moments resembling Air, like the electronic whooshes on “You Won’t Be Missing That Part of Me,” amid funk-inflected rhythm loops reminiscent of drumming by Can’s Jaki Liebezeit. “Bisou Magique” uses a vaguely hip-hop drum machine beat, underneath gentle synth patterns, while “Some Time Alone, Alone” has a more fuzz-guitar-driven garage-pop sound, with its rawness contrasting nicely against Prochet’s delicate, pretty, and whispery voice. At other times, imagine, if you can, a version of the psychedelic-era homemade-synth-and-drums duo Silver Apples fronted by a young Parisian woman, leaning slightly more toward the pop side than the Krautrock-hippie-space side.

The album jumps around with its pop variations, with two irresistible should-be-hits, “I Follow You” and “Endless Shore,” and two oddball tracks, the entirely backwards “IsThatWhatYouSaid,” and the album’s closer, “Be Proud of Your Kids,” a sort of “Tomorrow Never Knows” variant with prominent snippets of a small child apparently saying hilarious things in French. It’s an excellent debut that gets better with each listen; it may appeal the most to a certain strain of fans of insider pop (a la Stereolab and April March) and may even be capable of inspiring some odd, fantastic sound-related dreams.


January 3, 2013

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