Derek Bailey: Playbacks


Bingo Records 1999.  BIN004


This is one of a pair of releases in which guitar improv legend, the late Derek Bailey improvises over material sent to him by a range of artists.  The other one, Guitar, Drum ‘n’ Bass I’ll post another time.  It also works as a reverse of Thurston Moore’s Root project, where it was Moore who sent the music out.

I generally don’t find Bailey’s work that accessible, but in this context it’s much easier to deal with. Oddly, I once saw him play live and it made much more sense – maybe it needs more concentration than I can muster at home.

It’s also worth noting that he doesn’t play on two of the tracks.  John Oswald’s contribution was, as you’d expect, a cut-up of many older Bailey performances, which Bailey felt was complete when it arrived, and the hilarious last track where he talks (but doesn’t play) about his obsession with the name George.

Most of the other contributors, including producer Sasha Frere-Jones are luminaries of the 90s alt-rock scene, particularly people involved with Tortoise, although John French used to play with Captain Beefheart.  Even when the backing track is rather uninspiring, Bailey rescues the project – he seems to be able to play along to more-or-less anything.

Thurston Moore: Root


1998 Lo Recordings, LCD11x


An interesting project from Sonic Youth guitarist, Thurston Moore.  He created 25 one minute improvised guitar pieces and sent them to 100 artists (in hoover bags).   They were instructed to remix them or create an accompanying artwork.  The outcomes of the project were this CD and an exhibition which included work from the likes of David Bowie and Gavin Turk.  Always a sucker for this sort of thing, I bought the limited edition version in a hoover bag.

A good idea isn’t enough though; this sort of thing sinks or swims on the quality of the results, and here the quality is consistently excellent, with some surprisingly big names (Blur for example) delivering some pretty off-the-wall remixes.  The rest is an impressive list of the credible end of independent music making in the late 90s; Moore’s address book is impeccable.

My favourite is the first track, remixed by the late, great guitar improv meistro Derek Bailey – a glorious cacophany of sound accompanied by a stylised technical description of harmonics.    I have no idea who “Cheap Glue” are, but their effort is really excellent, based on a looped voice sample of a guy describing getting attacked in a pub, which develops into a surprisingly funky track.  Add N to (X) and Stereolab are both predictable but in a good way.    Really though, the album is very consistent, providing you can tolerate the odd ear bleed moments from the likes of V/VM and Merzbow.

As for further listening, where do you start with Thurston Moore?  My favourite Sonic Youth albums are Evol and Sister, although you might prefer Daydream Nation if you’d rather listen to something more conventionally rock ‘n’ roll.   He has a new band, Chelsea Light Moving. If the free downloads are anything to go by, the new album should be interesting.

Track listing:

1  “Untitled” w/ Derek Bailey – (1:07)
2  “Keep Trying the Old Number” w/ Alec Empire – (4:58)
3  “Untitled” w/ Mogwai – (1:12)
4  “Moore Shit” w/ Luke Vibert – (4:50)
5  “Untitled” w/ Donald Christie & The Underdog – (1:38)
6  “101%” w/ Blur – (5:54)
7  “Untitled” w/ Mark Webber – (2:28)
8  “Untitled” w/ Stereolab – (3:42)
9  “Beaujolais Nouveau Day” w/ Cheap Glue – (2:11)
10  “Untitled” w/ Add N to (X) – (2:55)
11  “Untitled” w/ Spring Heel Jack – (5:16)
12  “Hard as Fuck ’97” w/ The Hypnotist – (0:37)
13  “Your Love” w/ The Mellowtrons – (2:01)
14  “Roots” w/ Warren Defever – (4:01)
15  “Untitled” w/ V/Vm – (2:34)
16  “Untitled” w/ The Third Eye Foundation – (4:09)
17  “No. 11” w/ David Cunningham – (1:57)
18  “Needled” w/ Echo Park – (3:33)
19  “National Enhancer” w/ Merzbow – (3:44)
20  “Super” w/ Richard Thomas – (5:48)
21  “Untitled” w/ Stock, Hausen and Walkman – (4:10)
22  “Kleen” w/ Twisted Science vs Burzootie – (2:40)
23  “Scion” w/ Bruce Gilbert – (3:15)
24  “Untitled” w/ Arashi vs The Red King (2:37)
25  “Chew on This” w/ Russell Haswell -(1:02)