Thursday, December 18, 2008

Every Dish

Artist: The Cinematic Orchestra
Album: Every Day
Released in: 2002

My music collection is sending me a message. It says: you have too much downtempo. Granted, the CO are much more jazzy than most downtempo practitioners, and I like that. They're a talented bunch of performers with a late-night, back-of-the-jazz-club aesthetic that I really enjoy. Still, the music mostly just grooves quietly on with little fanfare.

Again, though, there are two exceptions, although one of them is not a pleasant exception. This album features All Things to All Men, perhaps the worst Roots Manuva song ever recorded. The rhymes are lame, it's way too slow and the CO and Roots seem hopelessly mismatched. At the other end of the album, though, there is the swoop of gorgeousness that caused me to buy the album in the first place:

All That You Give opens with a glorious shimmer (and a harp!), but the best moment in the whole song is (I think) when the bass line, some strings and the shimmer combine at about 1:00. Listen and love.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Abstract Dishes

Artist: Various stalwarts of downtempo
Album: Abstract Vibes
Released in:
I Just Discovered: imeem!

This CD captures the mid 90's downtempo scene well -- it's smooth, sampladelic, jazzy, trip-hoppy, and chill. Most of the tracks go down easy but are not too memorable, with two exceptions.

Exception 1: Chocolate Elvis by Tosca.
Very well-constructed with just the right touch on the (well-chosen) samples -- not a continuous onslaught, but not some random dude shouting 'Heyyyyy' once every two minutes.

Exception 2: Dieu Reconnaitra les Siens by DJ Cam
A downtempo classic: initial gorgeous silky synth + some nice 'n' chunky beats + a bit of scratching. What more could you want? Jazz flute, perhaps? You got it.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Re-Releases of the Un-dishes

Artist: Chicks on Speed
Album: The Re-releases of the Un-releases
Released in: 2000

All of the best songs on this album were first released on Chicks on Speed Will Save Us All!, so I'll wait until I get to that CD to adore them in detail. The rest of R-r of the U-r is art-school filler that is funny the first time, but not worth the packaging it came in the second time.

The single exception: Turn of the Century. This is perhaps my favorite CoS song -- a thrash-y whirlwind of energy with a fantastic rave-up at the end that never fails to induce maniacal jumping around. Sophomore year of college, when the world got us down, me and my friend Jackie used to gather in my dorm room to dance and scream out the lyrics...

Sunday, November 2, 2008


Artist: BT
Album: ESCM
Released in: 1997 (so long ago!)
Fun?: Yes

I had wonderful memories of this album, and they have mostly remained intact. The first four or five songs are impeccably produced, energizing, gorgeous, progressive trance -- I don't even mind the mystical flourishes and cheesy synths. Check out the anthemic Flaming June (wiki, Youtube) -- the build-up and release at about 40 seconds in is so deeply satisfying.

The latter half of the CD begins to drag, especially with the randomly angry Solar Plexus. However, it also contains my favorite track from the album, the surgingly beautiful Remember. It's all the sonic goodness of the progressive trance with an emotional punch (although I could do without the guitar parts). I remembered the melody of the final refrain even though it had been years and years since I listened to this album: "Remember me near / There may be times when it's not right / You need to be there / and remember me near." Cue your swelling strings and swirly synths, but I love love love it anyway.

This was one of the must-have albums for anyone who listened to electronica in the late 90's and early 00's, and, in my opinion, it remains a classic.

Monday, October 13, 2008


Artist: Broadway Project
Album: Compassion (2xCD release)
Released in: 2002

I have washed the dishes in the past month, I swear. There are excuses major (dissertation) and minor (houseguests), but I hope to get back on the wagon now.

Another one of the minor excuses was that I had a two-CD set of Broadway Project to get through, one CD of which was quite long and required several dish-washing sessions. I also did not like the long CD, which naturally kept me from really wanting to listen to BP anymore. But I did, and I was somewhat rewarded.

Broadway Project is a British one-man operation that does sample-heavy late-night jazz-influenced downtempo.... a little like Funki Porcini. However, in the first disc in this double set, the lack of structure in the songs really bothered me. Don't get me wrong - some lack of structure is fine - I am a big fan of Windy and Carl. But this was the kind that grates on me -- it just meandered aimlessly through atmospherics without deigning to offer something to hang your hat on: a pretty melody, an interesting rhythm part... nada. I generally very much enjoy this genre, but this album drove me crazy.

The reward: the second disc was suprisingly better. It's a collection of BP's earlier singles and rarities, and the songs just work more. Perhaps BP thought of his album as one long stretch of atmosphere, whereas the singles were more concentrated and (in my opinion) effective? Who knows. What I do know: I will not listen to the first CD of this set for a long time.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Interlude: Late Night Playlist

I recently was up late and messing around with iTunes, and I came up with this playlist. I like it, and I feel like sharing. Consider it a snapshot of my current music tastes as opposed to the late 90's / early 00's fare featured here (and yes, I really do like Steely Dan, and not in an ironic way). Youtube versions are linked whenever possible.

1) Steely Dan - Babylon Sisters
2) Azure Ray - These Bright Lights Will Bend to Make Blue
3) Ladyhawke - Paris is Burning [I am obsessed with this song]
4) Tilly and the Wall - Reckless [youtube audio sounds it was recorded at the bottom of a well]
5) Sufjan Stevens - Say YES! to M!CH!GAN! [very odd, unofficial youtube]
6) Paris Combo - Interlude Potzi
7) Jens Lekman - A Man Walks Into a Bar [live youtube]
8) Laika - If You Miss
9) Squarepusher - Hello Meow
10) Yo La Tengo - Can't Forget
11) Ellen Allien and Apparat - Rotary
12) Joe Jackson - Real Men [shout out to my sister, who is the source of this one]
13) Annie - Heartbeat
14) Everything But the Girl - Low Tide of the Night
15) Badly Drawn Boy - River, Sea, Ocean
16) M.I.A. - Paper Planes

Dishes Disease / Rancid

Artist: Breakbeat Era
Album: Our Disease / Rancid [Single]
Released in: 1999

So, yes, Breakbeat Era only have one full album, but they also have a small cluster of singles. Apparently, I own this one. I only have two comments on it.

  • Listening to Rancid again made me realize I should have included in the list of good songs below. It's quite enjoyable, from the Portishead-like guitar in the beginning to the searing vocals. And maybe I should have been less harsh on Breakbeat Era since three good songs is not an inconsiderable achievement.
  • The rest of the EP is a couple of remixes and one B-side. The remixes are not credited to anyone so they're presumably by Breakbeat Era itself and they're kind of .... boring. My harshness in re: Breakbeat Era's boring beats remains in place.

Sunday, September 7, 2008


Artist: Breakbeat Era
Album: Ultra-Obscene
Released in: 1999

Breakbeat Era are DJ Die, Roni Size and vocalist Leonie Laws. They only ever released this one album -- my (completely unfounded) guess is that DJ Die and Leonie were a couple and then they split up. The one time I saw DJ Die spin in person (in 2002?), there was no Leonie Laws backing him up, but there was a similarly small, dark and attractive woman MC'ing.

Anyway, I had fond memories of this album, but listening to it now I find it rather disappointing. The basic sound is the darker, hard-thumping side of 90's d'n'b that's also found in Reprazent (no surprise there, given the personnel overlap). Laws is on vox, and man, is she angry. She snarls, threatens, tosses around insults (Here's to another / crap weekend / You lied to yourself / And you s*** on all your friends), and generally goes to town. This works on the songs Bullitproof and Time 4 Breaks where her voice and the beats really work together to create a powerfully emotional package (please ignore the anime montage behind the youtube video for Time 4 Breaks...). The rest of the time, Leonie's just going on up there and not only do her lyrics get more enigmatic/inane (Emma may look like a man / but she sucks spice[?] / she sucks my life), but I feel like the guys are letting her down in terms of the beats. It's the same boring breaks over and over. AMG doesn't seem to mind, but Pitchfork calls it a disposable album. I'm leaning more towards Pitchfork.

P.S. If you're reading this, comment. Please. Just 'hi' is fine.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

New Dishes

Artist: The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band
Album: New Tricks
Released in: 2000
Provenance: England

I was dreading this moment in the Dishes Project. A friend from England burned me a copy of this CD, I was a bit put off by the band name, and I ignored it for apparently the seven years that have elapsed since. However, I had not fully realized that the Bonzos are to be filed under humor (cf. Flight of the Conchords). I was pleasantly surprised by the silliness (watch The Intro and the Outro), the adept satires of British pop genres, and the very Monty-Python-like Shirts (not on youtube, sadly). Seven years later, thanks Amy!

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Music Has the Right to Dishes

The Dishes Project was on vacation for a few weeks, but now it's back in business.

Boards of Canada
Album: Music Has the Right to Children
Released in: 1998

This album was very well-received critically. But all I really think about when I think of Boards of Canada is the song Roygbiv. The youtube recording can't do justice to its beauty (and for god's sake don't actually watch the hideous fan-made video), but it might give some idea of the atmosphere. Sweet, nostalgic, warm, with a melody that captures the essence of childhood happiness. One of my favorite tracks of all time.

(All right. I admit it. The rest of the album is pretty good, too.)

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Best of Dishondie

Artist: Blondie
Album: Best of Blondie
Released in: 1981
Perfect?: Pretty close

Alternate Careers Which Have Not Been Pursued:
  • dancer
  • rare book seller
  • dog walker
  • president
  • archaeologist
  • lead singer of a Blondie cover band
I could have worn punky outfits. I could have sung that song. It would have been great.

Thursday, July 24, 2008


Artist: Black Dog Productions
Album: Bytes
Released in: 1993
Reaction: a little snore

This album is allegedly seminal in the idm scene... as seminal as early Aphex Twin and Autechre. Well, not for me. I found it pretty boring, with the exception of Track 9 which had some pretty moments. I actually only listened to half the CD before continuing on, but then read some stellar reviews of it and decided to give it a second chance. Second chance = still boring. Ah well. Can't love 'em all.

Monday, July 21, 2008


Aritst: Bjork
Album: Homogenic
Released in: 1997

This album received ecstatic reviews and inspired some amazing videos. Yet, I remain not the biggest Bjork fan in the world. The End.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

This is Teen-C Dishes!

Artist: Bis
Album: This is Teen-C Power!
Released in: 1996

I submit to you a pre-iTunes phenomenon: the one-CD wonder. Before you could buy a single song that you liked for 99 pennies, you had to buy a whole album, even if you only liked and/or knew one song by the artist. Thus, there are lots of musicians for whom I own just one CD -- the one-CD wonders of my personal collection.

Bis (Scottish, high energy pop punk) is one of them. A friend played me Kill Yr Boyfriend, and I bought the EP which it appears on, but no more. I liked this EP more than I expected to now, though -- Kill Yr Boyfriend is kinda funny, and Kandy Pop is still stuck in my head.

Monday, July 14, 2008


Artist: Biosphere
Album: Insomnia (soundtrack)
Released in: 1997
Seen the Film?: Yup

Even though Insomnia was released around the same time as Substrata, it's not as enjoyable. The sound palette is much the same, but there are a few reasons why it doesn't measure up.

  1. The songs are shorter. Almost all are less than five minutes long and many are less than two. This timing works for pop and rock, but is not enough space for the thoughtful, reflective, ambient themes that Biosphere explores. In Substrata, the songs are good and long and provide ample room for the establishment of a motif, repetition, deviation, return. The short songs on Insomnia are like one-off, throwaway ideas.
  2. It is creepy, and we all know how I feel about creepy ambient/idm. Granted, this music has a better motivation for creepiness than, say, Aphex Twin just being his creepy self. The movie Insomnia is meant to be deeply unsettling, and the music meets this challenge well. It's just not as nice to listen to on its own.
  3. It's a soundtrack. This is not the same as Reason #2. Some soundtracks sound half-finished without their movie accompaniments (yes, counterexamples abound, see one of the first posts on this blog). Insomnia is like this.
I don't mean to criticize Biosphere too harshly, though. He has many other excellent later albums (although I don't own any of them... if necessary, I mooch off the significant other). On to new pastures tomorrow!

Saturday, July 12, 2008


Artist: Biosphere
Title: Substrata
Released in: 1997
Classic?: Yes

Word association time. Start word: Biosphere.

Bleak, gray, rust-colored, post-industrial, Arctic, tundra, snow, beautiful, piercingly melancholy, wistful guitar, like David Lynch, Twin Peaks samples, one of the saddest and best tracks ever Kobresia, ambient, idm, reminiscent of Slowdive's masterpiece Pygmalion, deeply moving.

One of the best electronica albums ever recorded. Those who claim electronic music can never capture human emotion should listen... and weep.

(NB: none of the Youtube links have good audio quality - listen through headphones and take with a grain of salt.)

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Bikini Dishes

Bikini Kill
Title: The Singles
Released in: 1998
Who's a Riot Grrl: Me

Selections from the Collected Works of Bikini Kill

That girl thinks shes the queen of the neighborhood
She's got the hottest trike in town
That girl she holds her head up so high
I think I wanna be her best friend

Rebel girl, rebel girl
Rebel girl you are the queen of my world


Do you believe there's anything beyond troll guy reality?
I do, I do, I do

It gets so hard just to be OK
Sometimes being happy, baby, is what I'm most afraid of....

Just cause my world, sweet sister, is so f***ing goddamn full of rape
Doesn't mean my body
Has to be
A source of pain.


Mass acceptance
Lip synch: apology
Lip synch: salutations
Lip synch: teen anthem
Lip synch: obligation



Monday, July 7, 2008

The Sound of Dishes

Artist: Joey Beltram
Album: The Sound of 2AM
Released in: 1999
Dance Floor Ready: oh yes

Joey Beltram is a highly influential techno and house producer. The Sound of 2AM is a DJ mix, mostly containing hard-thumping house and techno. Beltram has a deft hand on the decks (as one might expect) and he keeps everything moving along at a brisk pace. There was most definitely a dance party in the kitchen during this one.

A Small Rant: I particularly appreciated the non-dramatic beginning and end of this mix. Yes, I said non-dramatic. Some DJs feel the need to preface their mixes with mysterious synths, deep thudding drums and somebody saying the DJ's name over and over again, before the first track slams the beat down. Sometimes, this is amusingly silly. However, I respect Joey Beltram because he didn't indulge. The CD starts to play and instantly, the beat is going and you're dancing. No need for frills, dramatic builds, or self-glorification.

Saturday, July 5, 2008


Basement Jaxx
Album: Rooty
Released in: 2001
Heavily Influenced by:

Rooty was the second album produced by the Jaxx. Pitchfork thinks it's too tacky; AllMusic loves it. In Pitchfork's defense, it contains some truly cringe-inducing songs like Get Me Off and SFM. However, it does feature some of the best trax of the Jaxx, including Jus 1 Kiss (I'm a sucker for disco) and Do Your Thing. The majority of the songs are innovative and catchy, if imperfect (Romeo, Broken Dreams). I do own the next album the Jaxx released (Kish Kash), but it's apparently somewhere else in my CD collection -- no more Jaxx for now.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Dish Alert

Artist: Basement Jaxx
Albums: Remedy and the Red Alert single
Released in: 1999

Basement Jaxx = Simon + Felix (British, house with lots of vocals and pop song structure, great for parties and dancing).

Freshman year of college + me + a good friend = Basement Jaxx obsession (to the point of hijacking stereo systems at parties and putting on Red Alert)

Now = still fun and charming (see especially Bingo Bango), but no longer the best thing ever

Saw Them Live: (i) in Boston, at a small club, before they were really famous (before they sold out, man!) (ii) in Cambridge England, where I was almost crushed by a mob surging forward during Where's Your Head At (which is actually from Rooty, the next album in the Project...)

P.S. I've started linking to videos of the trax that I mention, and I highly recommend the video of Rendez-Vu, which originally got me into the Jaxx when I saw it on MTV's Amp.

Thursday, June 26, 2008


Banco de Gaia
Album: Maya
Released in: 1994
Provenance: outdoor CD sale in the mail room at college

SCENE: Exterior, somewhere in Central America, hot, humid and dazzlingly bright. Lush jungle is encroaching on beautiful stone ruins. A group of tourists mill about, including you, snapping pictures and chatting.

You duck behind an ancient pyramid, hoping for some relief from the sun. A sudden fatigue overwhelms you and you sink to the ground.................................................

When you open your eyes again, it is sunset. The rest of the tourists have gone. The sun behind the pyramid makes it glow, and it is blazingly hot to the touch. From far away, you can suddenly make out an eerie chiming, and then an ancient-sounding instrument playing a haunting melody. A man starts chanting, and bean shakers begin to beat out a steady percussion.

The music comes closer.... and closer... and then suddenly a mass of people chanting "hunta hata haaaaa!!" burst from the jungle and start raving to some trance-y beats.

Damn, I love this album.

For a sample, check out Heliopolis. It is less ritualistic than Mafich Arabi (which the above description is based on, and which probably uses Middle Eastern samples not Mayan, but whatever!), but you can still get the sense of it....

Wednesday, June 25, 2008


Artist: Autechre
Album: Confield
Released in: 2001
Liner Notes: blank as usual

Confield allegedly requires close attention and multiple listenings to enjoy. It's a turn away from the melodic, essentially linear compositions of Tri Repetae++ into more forbidding territory: less bass, a splintered/scattered/disorganized quality to the beats, snippets of melody that never cohere. Pretty much a paragon of bad dish-washing music. Pitchfork ultimately enjoyed it; Allmusic is more hesitant. Although it certainly wasn't doing it for me yesterday, I abstain from more lasting judgment on its merits.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Dance these Dishes Around

Artist: the B52's
Album: The Best of the B52's: Dance this Mess Around
Released in: 1990
Wigs: optional

Some bands you discover by yourself, and you enjoy by yourself (see Alexkid). Some bands you partake in along with the rest of your generation (see Air). Some bands you find via obscure recommendation, and discuss at length with your fellow enthusiasts of the obscure (see Autechre). And then there is music that is deeply connected to the fabric of your life (see Tori Amos). Which group do the B52's fall in? Surprisingly, the last one.

It must have been my older sister who introduced me to the B52's, but they will always be associated for me with my bff. In middle school and high school, we studied intensely every single song on Cosmic Thing. We brazenly belted out Roam and Deadbeat Club walking to school ("we are wild girls / walking down the street"). The B52's were empowering in their craziness. They sang about alternate universes, bushfires, and caffeine buzzes, not about relationships or the trials of adolescence. We loved it.

I had a VHS tape of B52's videos that we would watch over and over again. There were songs on it that we enjoyed but hadn't heard of otherwise, like Song for a Future Generation and Legal Tender. Sometime in late high school or early college, I picked up Dance This Mess Around, and it all became clear. DtMA is an excellent guide to early B52's - there's not a bad track on it. There's the epically silly Wig and Dance this Mess Around, hallmarks of weirdness like Planet Claire, as well as some of the best tracks that the B52's ever recorded (and some of my fave tracks of all time) like 52 Girls and Private Idaho (which, if I've ever made you a mixtape, you probably know about).

A tacit goal of this whole blogging enterprise is to determine which of my CDs I want to preserve for posterity (ha) by adding to my hard drive. So far, it's Little Earthquakes and Dance this Mess Around.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Tri Dishes ++

Artist: Autechre
Album: Tri Repetae++
Released in: 1995, whoa
Rotation during college: heavy

More giant-machine, abandoned-factory, texturally-brilliant soundscapes from Autechre. This one made Pitchfork's top 100 albums of the 90's list (in a higher position than Selected Ambient Works 85-92). I almost feel like I couldn't do it justice though, by listening to it while washing the dishes. It's not about hummable melodies or dance-y beats, and I couldn't make out a lot of the detail in the layering. Autechre's Incunabula does a little better in this regard since it is less squelchy and more creepy - a bit more melodic than rhythmic. The significant other and I had a small debate about which is actually Autechre's best album -- Tri Repetae++ is more their prototypical sound, but Incunabula is more emotionally rich (although this could be due to its association with the movie Pi).

I don't own Incunabula on CD, but there still is one more Autechre album to go. I might skip ahead since I'm getting a little weary of idm.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Dishes Session

Album: Peel Session (EP)
Released in: 1999
Liner Notes: utterly blank

I like IDM. Really, I do. And I like Autechre so much better than Aphex Twin. I never listened to this CD much, but for once, I can say that I should have listened to it more. It's very classic Autechre -- the thudding, giant-machine-like percussion with a counterpoint of gently weaving melody. Peel Session of course refers to John Peel, the iconic British radio DJ. The three songs here were recorded on his show in 1995.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Music for Imaginary Dishes

Arling and Cameron
Album: Music for Imaginary Films
Released in: 2000
Liner Notes: copious

Arling and Cameron are two very silly Dutch producers. They wrote some amazing songs for some other very silly bands (Pizzicato Five - Arigato, Fantastic Plastic Machine - Bachelor Pad). They also write their own rather silly material (Voulez-Vous, How About the Boys, both successfully used in national advertising campaigns... which means they are two very silly rich Dutch producers). And then there's this album.

It really is a collection of music for imaginary films and television shows -- the liner notes provide posters, casts and tongue-in-cheek critical discussion of each extremely silly fake flick. There's 1999 Space Club (70's disco), Le Flic et la Fille (60's French noir), Hashi the Drug Sniffing Canine (action TV series), W.E.E.K.E.N.D. (70's teen TV series with a sugary theme song that I can't get enough of), etc. The actual music is surprisingly cohesive (the drum tracks are standard late 90's / early 00's breaks), often witty (the parody of dub in the Hashi theme), and really great to dance to. The songs also hold up well outside of their original context - I've successfully used two of them on mixes: Le Flic et la Fille on Hey Daddyo (a mix for my dad - Happy Father's Day!) and Zona Sul (cocktail mix) on Cocktail? (a mix for cocktail parties). There's no denying that this is a novelty album, but it remains a joy to listen to because of its sense of fun and its fearlessness about being utterly silly.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Selected Ambient Dishes Volume II

: Aphex Twin
Album: Selected Ambient Works Volume II (Discs 1 and 2)
Released in: 1994
Listened to: approximately never

I wasn't a big fan of this album back in the day, but I couldn't remember why. Now I know. Ready? APHEX TWIN IS REALLY CREEPY. I admit there are some nice songs sprinkled here and there (especially near the beginning of Disc 2), but otherwise, many of the songs strike me as the proper soundtrack for sociopathic behavior... strike that, the soundtrack to being inside a sociopath's head. When a baby in a neighboring apartment started wailing halfway through Disc 1, it made the album almost unbearably chilling.

Thank goodness the next CD is hyper-cheerful.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

To Dishes and Back, Part 2

Tori Amos
Album: Still Orbiting (Disc 2 of To Venus and Back)
Released in: 1999

Still Orbiting is a live album, recorded in 1998, and it represents the best of Tori: visceral emotion, musical virtuosity, quirky charm. The song selection is excellent, featuring classics from all her records to date (stand-outs: opener Precious Things, Hello Mr. Zebra, Cloud on My Tongue) as well as some lovely rarities (Cooling and Sugar). It makes me wish I could have seen Tori live, to be part of the crowd cheering and screaming when they recognize each song from the first few bars.

And thus ends our Torifest, on a welcome note of appreciation and enjoyment.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

To Dishes and Back, Part 1

: Tori Amos
Album: Venus Orbiting (Disc 1 of To Venus and Back) and the Concertina single
Released in: 1999 and 2000
Liner Notes: present, for once

Venus Orbiting is, dare I say it, the bland album. It sounds ostensibly like a Tori Amos record, but something is missing. There's still the fuller-band/electronica sound from Choirgirl, but there are no more freak-outs like Hotel and it all just sounds so..... accessible. I am a big fan of the song Lust (probably because it sounds like older Tori), but that's it. Don't even get me started on Datura and 1,000 Oceans, though -- the former is a trip through pointless free association meander-land, and the latter has such cliched lyrics and chord changes it makes me want to scream (These tears I've cried / I've cried 1000 oceans... and I would cry 1000 more / if that's what it takes/ to sail you home).

Concertina is one of the most accessible songs on Venus Orbiting, with a sweetly jingly chorus and a hummable melody. The single doesn't have much on it, though: the album version of Concertina, a live cover of a Leonard Cohen song, and a live version of Twinkle. Nothing too memorable -- I probably bought it just for Twinkle (one of my favorite Tori songs).

The last Tori post is coming up!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Selected Ambient Dishes

Aphex Twin
Title: Selected Ambient Works, 85-92
Released in: 1993
Liner Notes: Missing, but not because I was studying the lyrics

Pitchfork raves. AllMusic calls it a watershed of the ambient scene (I would say idm, but why split hairs). There's no denying how influential this album was, but there are only two tracks that hold my interest now: Xtal and Ageispolis. A lot of the album sounds like it was recorded under water and/or far away (AllMusic blames this on bad cassette transfer and an encounter with a cat). A lot of the drum tracks sound like slowed down 90's rave beats and/or Enigma (probably because they were made on the same equipment). Still, you gotta give respect where it's due, and the sound palette for the album remains rich (squelches, teeny plinks, expansive swaths of synth, etc.). And at least Richard D. James wasn't dabbling in highly disturbing imagery yet.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

From the Dishgirl Hotel

: Tori Amos
Album: From the Choirgirl Hotel
Released in: 1998
Liner Notes: missing - what happened to all my Tori liner notes?

My tolerance for Tori is plummeting, and this album was never my fave.

Track-by-track breakdown:
  1. Spark - the big single. blah.
  2. Cruel - I put this track on the A side of a mix tape for a good male friend (who I should have dated) in high school. The B side was one of the best mixes I've ever made (if I do say so myself): we talked on the phone often and it represented a phone call between us complete with songs representing me, him, our love interests, his mom (who would tell us to go to bed), typical topics of conversation and even a sampled telephone ring and greetings. Maybe one day it will show up at this site.
  3. Black-Dove (January) - black duuuuuuuhve. black duuhhhhhhhhve.
  4. Raspberry Swirl - Scene: girl's bathroom in a high school. Me: washing hands. School's bad girl enters singing 'If you want inside her, well, boy you better make her raspberry swirl.' Me: I know that song! Bad girl glares, leaves.
  5. Jackie's Strength - the one decent old-school Tori song on the album.
  6. Iiiieeeee - forgettable
  7. Liquid Diamonds - One of my high school yearbook quotes is from this song. I was just that angsty.
  8. She's Your Cocaine - ugh.
  9. Northern Lad - memorable for the great break-up line: "Girl you've got to know when it's time to turn the page."
  10. Hotel - Tori one-night-stand freak-out!
  11. Playboy Mommy - pitiable because of the circumstances (Tori had a miscarriage) but otherwise boring.
  12. Pandora's Box - Paaaaaaaaaaaaaandoraaaaaaaaaghhhhhhhgghh
Thankfully, the end is near with Tori albums. Choirgirl was one of the last ones I bought.

Sunday, June 1, 2008


Various Indian electronica musicians you've never heard of except Talvin Singh and State of Bengal
Title: Anokha: Soundz [sic] of the Asian Underground
Released in: 1997
Recommended by: denizens of the Underworld mailing list

Good dish-washing music: energetic, clearly audible above running water, dance-inducing. Will I listen to it again sometime in the next ten years? Unclear.

This album is a smooth and surprisingly cohesive compilation of Indian-influenced drum'n' bass and techno, but it's a little boring. Even though I used to listen to it while studying, I was only ever able to remember the first two tracks distinctly (1 - Amar Singh - Jaan : really lovely, 2 - State of Bengal - Flight IC408 : grating samples, too long). And that's still the case even though I just listened to it yesterday.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Dishes for Pele

Tori Amos
Album: Boys for Pele
Released in: 1996
Liner Notes: missing

Boys For Pele is the 'difficult' Tori album. The lyrics are obscure ("furry mussels marching on / she thinks she's Kaiser Wilhelm / or a civilized syllabub / to blow your mind"). The instrumentation is often stripped down to Tori and the piano, and she delivers the songs in a half-crazed wail. It is also the most disturbingly sexual album. I hope the grandmotherly woman reading on the deck next-door was not too disturbed by "gimme peeeeeace / loooooove / and a haaaaard cock" coming out of my window.

Nevertheless, I'm mostly a fan. In-between the more rough-hewn tracks are Marianne, Little Amsterdam, and The Doughnut Song, which are well worth the price of admission. And then, at the very end, we are granted Putting the Damage On and Twinkle. On Little Earthquakes, even the sadder songs have dramatic moments where the strings swell and everything gets very intense. PtDO and Twinkle show Tori no longer needs the bombast to get her point across. It's lovely to listen to.

[For the completists again, I do own Under the Pink, but only on cassette.]

Thursday, May 29, 2008

MTV's Dishes

Artist: Various electronica stars of the 90's
Title: MTV's Amp
Released in: 1997
Color: Traffic cone orange

Amp was a TV show aired in the wee hours that spotlighted electronica (apparently MTV believes everyone who listens to non-mainstream music stays up late: Exhibit A: Headbanger's Ball. Exhibit B: 120 Minutes). Somewhere in my parent's house is a well-worn VHS of Amp episodes featuring the likes of Basement Jaxx, Dieselboy, Mocean Worker, etc. Great show.

As for the album..... well, AllMusic raves about the Amp album as illustrating depth and variety and being a good introduction to electronica. False! There's way too much big beat, and the latter half is quite shoddy.

A quick run-down:

Classic trax (7 total):
Duds (5 total):
  • Tranquility Bass [no wikipedia unsurprisingly] - We All Want to be Free (bo-ring big beat)
  • Prodigy - Voodoo People (Chemical Brothers remix - they big-beatify a great song)
  • Josh Wink - Are You There... (so bo-ring!)
  • Crystal Method - Busy Child (unsuccessful big beat)
  • Atari Teenage Riot - Sick to Death (screechy... yes, I know it's supposed to be, but it's unpleasant)
[For the completists, I remain neutral on Photek - Ni-Ten-Ichi-Ryu.]

Almost all the classic trax are on the first half, and almost all the duds are in the second half. Was the track selection split between two people and the second one sucked? We'll never know. I look forward to listening again the albums that the classic trax are from (most of which will show up here eventually - I think I actually once went in a record store with this CD in hand...). However, this is the first CD in the Dishes Project that has had some seriously dated material.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Little Dishes

: Tori Amos
Album: Little Earthquakes
Released in: my goodness, 1992
Provenance: ?

The piano intro to Winter.

The climax in Little Earthquakes.

The chorus of Silent All These Years.

The last minute of Mother.

The scream in Precious Things.

It was the soundtrack of years 13-19, and it's still pretty darn good. Even after hearing these songs hundreds and hundreds of times over my life, I was still moved by the moments above (and couldn't even listen to Me and a Gun because it was too upsetting). The best album on the Dishes Project so far.

Logistical note: I own a lot of Tori Amos. To keep from overdosing on the angst, I'll be alternating Tori-other CD-Tori-other CD for a little while.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008


Artist: Alexkid
Album: Bienvenida
Released in: 2001
Provenance: Probably England

Alexkid uses electronica production techniques but mostly non-electronic instrumentation, creating jazz- and Latin-influenced tracks that groove like house but sound like they are being played by session musicians (and they were, I think). He's clearly a skilled producer, but I bought this CD because of the title track and it remains the only stand-out. The rest of the CD is pleasant but sort of blah, with one semi-disastrous trip into the 90's featuring the doyenne of downtempo spoken word nonsense, Ursula Rucker.

I once saw Alexkid DJ in London, and he seemed unusually grouchy. Perhaps more people than just me were not fans of his debut. However, I did acquire a second Alexkid album at some point, though its current location is unknown. I'm sure it will appear here eventually...

Sunday, May 25, 2008

The Virgin Dishes

Title: The Virgin Suicides
Released in: 2000
Provenance: most likely the Amherst music store, Mystery Train, purchased for $4 (!)

This album is the soundtrack to the Sofia Coppola film of the same title, which in turn was adapted from Jeffrey Eugenides' excellent novel. It is one of the most successful soundtracks I own in that it perfectly reflects and amplifies the mood of the film (and novel): essentially, the feel of a languid summer afternoon in 70's suburbia that has been permeated with a strange, unsettling darkness. The single "Playground Love" is one of Air's best tracks, and its bittersweet reprise "High School Lovers" is a personal favorite. This was a very nice listen on a warm, overcast, lazy Saturday afternoon.

Update: I flipped the page in my CD book and found the Playground Love single. The majority of the single is non-memorable, but there is one particularly bad remix (the slo-mo electro Nosferatu Remix, which mangles the vocals in a highly unpleasant way) and one particularly good remix (Highschool Prom - Rob Remix) which transforms the song into an uptempo, bright, 70s pop hit.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Dishes Safari

Albums: Moon Safari and Premiers Symptomes (EP)
Released in: 1998 and 1999
Provenance: ?

Kudos to Air. Ten years after Moon Safari and Premiers Symptomes were originally released, they still go down super smooth. It's not ideal dish-washing music (too low energy), but Air have successfully avoided the datedness that marks a lot of late-90's and early-00's downtempo.

Best moment: Le Soleil est Pres de Moi from Premiers Symptomes. Perfectly captures the spacey feeling when I go off my allergy medication... but in a good way.

Worst moment: Sexy Boy from Moon Safari. This was the first Air song I heard, and it took a while before someone could convince me to buy Moon Safari anyway. Yes, everyone loves it, but something about the breathy vocals, the synths that sound like a monkey is pounding on the keyboard, something makes me irritated.

The Airfest continues in the next post.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Dancing with the Dishes

Artist: Afro-Cuban All Stars
Title: Distinto, Diferente
Released in: 1999
Provenance: Burned for me by a friend from Cambridge, England in 2002

Utterly fabulous. I am very non-knowledgeable about Latin music, but I enjoyed this CD immensely and will put it into higher rotation. I spent the first ten minutes of it dancing around the living room, and then danced with the dishes when I finally remembered I'm supposed to be doing something useful.

Unfortunately, I've fallen out of touch with the friend who burned it for me. However, I've been inspired to seek her out again, and will keep you posted on whether I can find her.


Fact 1: My partner and I have a very equitable deal: he cooks, I wash the dishes. Cooking is more labor, but much more fun. Washing the dishes doesn't take as long, but can be rather mind-numbing.

Fact 2: I have a lot of CDs. They are in CD binders/shoe boxes/pretty-looking wicker boxes/a disorganized heap depending on when I bought them. My CD collection is like an ocean to me: vast, nice to look at, but with unknown depths.

Idea: I will use the time I spend washing dishes every day to plumb the depths of my music collection, starting with the oldest CDs and working forwards in time. The result will be happier dish-washing, and, if all goes well, an interesting jaunt through my musical tastes of the past.

Welcome to the Dishes Project.