April 14th, 2005


Tarwater and Tibor

Will I tell you what I often do on my blog? I often recommend records I haven't bought. I still haven't bought the Books album I recommended so warmly to you last month. It's because I'm such an emotional communist that I don't really like spending the money, and I'm not really hooked up with any downloading services. I mean, I don't have the hard disk space, even if I were. And anyway, I want the sleeves. So I will eventually buy the Books album, and I'll also eventually buy The Needle Was Travelling by Tarwater (Morr Music).

I've been buying Tarwater records since I picked up Animals, Suns & Atoms in a record shop on Orchard Street, New York, in late 2000. I liked the sleeve, which looks like it's shot in Jamaica. In fact, dub did seem to figure in Tarwater's textural landscape, but the thing that really came through was some German-Manchester-80s thing. They seemed to incarnate all the best parts of the left-field quirky electronic pop I've always liked. A bit of early song-based Brian Eno in Bernd Jestram's arrangements, a trace of Wire in the lyrics, a German Manchester glum "coldness" in Roland Lippok's singing. Something Martin Hannet-like in the production, blipperty-strange. Bowie's Lodger. Even a more experimental New Order, like the New Order of Turn The Heater On, their Peel session reggae cover. It was perhaps the day I bought Animals, Suns & Atoms in New York that Berlin started calling to me. I bought Silur, Tarwater's earlier, less poppy album. Then I moved to Berlin. Then I bought some more Tarwater records, and started seeing the Lippok brothers around town (like the Nicolai brothers, they're a fixture in the art / music world here. One of them's in To Rococo Rot, you know.)

Well, the new Tarwater is The Needle Was Travelling. I've listened to samples from all the tracks, and it sounds exactly like the kind of thing I love. Some people have complained that they've gone in too poppy a direction, but I think the balance between pop and oddity is just right. I mean, I'll tell you for sure when I buy the record. In the meantime, here's a review and here are some full tracks. Actually, I couldn't get those songs to work, but I liked the way the BBC described them: "the kind of avant-pop opulence that Brian Eno used to dish up back in his pre-ambient days." I hear Eno is working on songs again right now, but I doubt they'll have this satisfying blipperty-bloppitty quirky thing that Tarwater have going for them.

Here's a thing you don't even need to buy. It's totally wonderful. It's a reading, set to music, of Oscar Wilde's story The Happy Prince. My Hungarian friend Tibor made it. Tibor lived in Berlin a couple of years ago, but now he's back in Budapest. He works in advertising, but he also makes minimalist electronic music. The Wilde track moved me to tears. It also reminded me of some of the stuff Shazna and I did with our project Milky.

Tibormade: The Happy Prince (mp3 file)