Thursday, 10 October 2013

The Whispering Voices of Deep Balearic

I have always been a great fan of  vocal tape inserts in music. The Beatles were to a certain extent pioneers in the field and songs like I am the Walrus and Strawberry Fields both feature tantalising extracts of spoken words toward the end. In fact the words in Strawberry Fields were so tantalising that they were used by some fans to give fuel to the rumours of Paul McCartney's death signaled by the misheard line "I buried Paul." Paul McCartney later explained that in fact the words John Lennon had said were "Cranberry Sauce" Even more clearly elucidated pop lyrics are frequently misheard as a rather amusing routine by comedian Paul Kay illustrates. However, for me it is the very ambiguity of spoken word overlays that I find thrilling.
Frank Zappa was also a great exponent of this and his 1968 album, "We're Only In It For The Money" which parodies the Sgt Pepper cover is, thanks in a great part to voice overlays, a very powerful social comment on the times. I have listened to this album so many times that I know just about every whisper including what sounds like the ravings of  an acid head at a party being questioned as to whether she is "hung up."

The Clash and Mick Jones's follow on band Big Audio Dynamite also used tape to great effect and I particularly like what, to me, sounds like Michael Caine and others featured on their hit E=MC2

In the Dance world the use of vocal overlays has been used very successfully to bring power and pathos to a melody. Probably one of the most effective of these was the use of Martin Luther King's, "I have a dream" speech placed behind the haunting melody of Mr Fingers track Can You Feel It

Malcolm X has also been thoroughly sampled but what I really like is something more ambiguous - tracks that feature whispering barely discernible voices that hint of another dimension to the music. Thankfully this summer I have found rich pickings, so much so that I have identified it as a new sub genre and given it a name: welcome to Deep Balearic. 

Don't ask me to explain, instead I'll let the music do it for me with a selection of tracks that feature a beguiling simplicity of melody but with voices that gradually and hypnotically pull you in. I am obviously not the only person to feel this, the first few times I played each of these tracks they brought people rushing over to the DJ booth to demand the title.  

First off is Isaac by Superflu. The rap - from a time when rap meant rapping with the audience during a set, not rhyming rhythmic vocals - is from the master of on-stage rap, Isaac Hayes. To me it sounds as though he is chatting with someone in the front row, but maybe he is also introducing a song with a rambling tale of his own. I don't really know and it doesn't matter, but somehow each of those faintly grasped words is thrilling to me.

Monkey Safari's Hi Life is a very powerful track which in my imagination features the recordings of an elderly black American street junkie, recounting his early experiences of addiction and getting high on cocaine. This is no advert for the drug and at one point in it you can faintly hear his plaintive sigh as he notes, "It ain't always fun to be that high."

Andhim's Hausch This doesn't quite fit my description of taped overlays but the song samples have been degraded and distressed like a well-worn pair of jeans. I nearly drove myself and others mad trying to work out where the line came from that states, "She's not just a plaything, she flesh and blood just like a man." However thanks to the wonders of Google was able to remind myself that I know the line from Aretha Franklin's song Natural Woman. 

Speaking of new genres, did you know that one of the latest is called Night Bus. If I am right in my interpretation, this is a genre of fairly gentle tripped-out music that would be ideal for listening to after a night clubbing and journeying home, still rather high, on the night bus. The genre features music which is just psychedelic enough to feed your mood but not too raucous to blind you to any possible conflicts arising around you from other less chilled night bus travellers. 

I like the music but I also love the obscure concept of the genre almost as much as the sub genre of Nu Disco, which is described as Disco Not Disco, ie it features some of the motifs of disco such as the wacka wacka guitars, hand claps and orchestral stabs but combined in such a way that they bear no resemblance to disco, Nu or otherwise. And they said Dance music would never last....