steering clear of the mainstream
since 2001

june 2010

ten crucial records
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hi red center's ten crucial records

New York City foursome Hi Red Center have been enthralling and confounding audiences since 2003, picking up sterling reviews and multitudes of fans along the way. Out on the always excellent Joyful Noise label, the band's sophomore effort, Assemble, recently impressed Indieville's Matt Shimmer, establishing the quartet as "notable purveyors of unusual rock music." Upon Matt's request, the band got together and hammered out what they consider Ten Crucial Albums for you, our dear readers. Continue on for the remarkably diverse results...



Hi Matt,

Our 10 crucial records in alphabetical order:

Boredoms - "Chocolate Synthesizer"

This album took everything that made the Boredoms exciting - chaotic layers of rhythm and melody, insanely catchy genre pastiche coupled with abrasive noise, incomprehensible collisions of texture - and magnified and codified it into a statement that sounds both quintessential and fresh. Their following albums were a big left turn into different musical territory, leaving this album as the definitive statement on this period in their music making.

Ornette Coleman - "The Shape of Jazz to Come"

Turn it on, start with "Lonely Woman" and let it play through to the end. Repeat. Everything you need from music can be found on this disc.

Deerhoof - "Apple O"

This record represents slightly different things to each of us, but the overarching result of the disc was to help us realize that rock music was still a viable art form that still had a lot to say today. The music that has since come from this band is definitely a testament to the notion that rock can mean a number of different things and can encompass a huge amount of influences and energies while remaining vital and honest.

Eric Dolphy - " Out to Lunch!"

Out to Lunch! is such an amazing disc for a number of reasons. What's really great is that while the tunes themselves often sound positive or uplifting (listen to "hat and beard"), there is still an underlying sense of tension in the music. Dolphy's playing is full of intensity; wailing in both pain and ecstacy, he is supported by the rich textures performed by his band. Bobby Hutcherson's vibraphone playing is particularly instructive in that his use of repetition and texture helps to ground Dolphy's instrumental excursions while adding to its drive. The conflict between an outwardly positive sound and the group's underlying effort and occasional hints at weariness and depth make this record extraordinarily compelling.

Gorge Trio - "Open Mouth, O' Wisp"

This disc is really special because there's a ton of information being packed into a small amount of space. Its so concise and perfect and continues to offer rewards after years of listening. Not only do each of the songs hold up on their own, but the record as a whole holds together amazingly well with each piece flowing effortlessly (and necessarily) into the next. Fantastic.

Neutral Milk Hotel - "In the Aeroplane over the Sea"

Though constructed of very simple elements, "In the Aeroplane..." manages to say a lot with very little. Everything comes off in a very straightforward fashion, but all of the layers add up to something much larger. The way it was recorded, very audibly low-fi, also helps to augment the immediacy of the lyrical and musical content a lot without being self-concious.

Scott Tuma - "The River 1 2 3 4"

Scott Tuma creates lush soundscapes with acoustic guitar, harmonica, and fantastic swathes of reverb in this record. Clicks and background hum and noise often enter into the texture, adding to its shimmer while giving the listener a sense of "place" in the music. The effect is beautiful, if haunting. Nostalgia and memories about some forgotten distant past creep through and are gradually destroyed and blurred away through the layers of reverb, hiss, and time.

Spontaneous Music Ensemble- "Karyobin"

The spontaneous music ensemble was a rotating group of musicians (mostly based in London) in the mid 1960s who were concerned with exploring the limits of improvisation. Though there are a bunch of records documenting their work, we feel this album is the pinnacle of their time together, and has some of the best musicians on it. It offers extremely instructive lessons in ensemble playing, listening, and creative approaches to coaxing conventional and unconventional sounds out of acoustic instruments. The emphasis here is on a group texture and aesthetic that is created through individual approaches, oftentimes with the result being quiet and introspective. With the late Derek Bailey (guitar), John Stevens (drums), Dave Holland (bass), Evan Parker (saxophone), this album is a fantastic document of amazing improvisational talents working together and is a special experience every time you listen to it.

Squarepusher - "Feed Me Weird Things"

While Big Loada's Journey to Reedham may be the one track to put on endless repeat, Feed Me Weird Things is Jenkinson's most complete album and is classic Squarepusher- meaty, epic, dazzling, danceable, and widely imitated.

Varèse - "The Complete Works"

Edgar Varèse saw musical structure from a wholly different perspective than any who had come before him, and arguably, all who have come after. His treatment of pitch, timbre, and texture as formal elements revolutionized music composition. While his innovations with instrumental music were far-reaching, his experiments with and use of electronics helped pave the way for many composers and musicians to come.

-- Published March 11, 2009


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