Jul 20, 2015
The recent launch of Apple Music has got me thinking about the nature of music discovery. Just a few weeks ago I’d have said that the days of human curation, of finding music via primarily the radio, were numbered. The digital age had brought digital curation, machines telling us what we might like, algorithms interpreting our collective buying habits to suggest our next purchase.
Apple has decided that’s not enough. Human DJs are back, which is fine if those DJs are in tune with you. For me that hasn’t been the case since, first, the immense John Peel died, 11 years ago now, and his spiritual successor in many ways, Rob da Bank, was ghettoised by Radio One’s emphasis on genre programming. It’s not going to change with the names on Apple’s Beats payroll.
Only Mark Riley on 6music flies a flame for the kind of delightful obscurity this blog likes, which is what we should expect from a former Fall bass player. But he’s a lone voice trapped in corporate playlist land, obliged to wallow in the past as much as he’s allowed to champion the new. And he’s played Queen!
Twitter works to some extent, though following interesting bands seldom leads to interesting music recommendations; likewise, in my experience, Soundcloud.
Where discovery with a human face really works is Bandcamp. Simply by following other users you are opened up to a wealth of music of all kinds. The only obstacle to discovering music lurking in the deepest, darkest corners of the web is time — and patience, since you necessarily have to wade through a lot of ordinariness to get there.
It was via one of the many people I follow on Bandcamp that I came across SPC ECO, a prolific, London-based duo blending electronics and guitars, with KFC and pies, according to their autobiographies.
They’ve been pushing out an LP each year since their 2010 debut and this track comes from their fifth, 2014’s The Art of Pop.
SPC ECO // One for the Little One
This track was going to have been part of a post exclusively featuring artists I’d found through Bandcamp. That was until I noticed that one half of SPC ECO, Dean Garcia, was previously one half of Curve and that Curve’s entire back catalogue is available on Bandcamp.
We’re I a proper music journalist I’d probably write that Curve skilfully blended the two prevailing currents in indie music at the time: the guitar fuzz shoe gaze of My Bloody Valentine et al and the dance beats of “Manchester”.
For a while, and perhaps in no small part because they had a photogenic female singer, they were the darlings of the NME (which in those days meant something), but that never translated into huge commercial success. This was alternative music in the days when that meant something.
This track gave its name to the band’s 1991 debut EP.
Curve // Blindfold
Curve’s Bandcamp catalogue includes a collection of rare and unreleased recordings, called Rare and Unreleased, though it strikes me that by definition any such collection is no longer rare nor unreleased. Nor exactly true in this case, since some of the tracks appeared on a previous retrospective This track was one of those, but it originally appeared on a 1992 NME compilation that marked the music paper’s fortieth birthday. The three-CD set comprised 40 covers of number one singles*. Curve’s contribution was this excellent version of Donna Summer’s groundbreaking and hugely influential chart topper.
Curve // I Feel Love
Surprise has in the last been expressed at my affection for those giants of 90s electronica, Leftfield. Their debut, Leftism, is unquestionably one of the best LPs of 1995, if not the best, and certainly in the decade’s top 10, while its less-celebrated successor, Rhythm and Stealth, is not far behind.
Of the LP’s guest vocalists John Lydon is certainly best known, breathing life and fire into the closing track, Open Up.
But it’s an LP chock full of highlights, not least this track, featuring the aforementioned photogenic singer, Toni Halliday.
Leftfield // Original
*There was one exception to the number-ones rule, but what an exception. There really is nothing to compare to this version of Ultravox’s 1980 number two. Oh Vienna indeed!
Vic Reeves // Vienna