We knew that the house where we’ve been staying in Andalucía had no TV and no internet (theoretically; we found some going spare on the roof) when we booked it, which was kind of the point – this holiday has definitely been about getting away from it all. But we also knew that it has a CD player (two in fact), and while we suspected that they wouldn’t quite be up to my usual standards of fidelity, we thought we’d bring some music along, just in case.
So a couple of nights before we left I tweeted asking for recommendations of music to bring along, and inspired by the answers received (thank you all) we selected about 18 albums to pack into our old CD travel case (not something which gets used that often in the iPod age).
(Regarding what people recommended: there were a handful of things I’d never heard of or didn’t own; lots of postrock, most of which I felt was a bit too doomy for the kind of break we had in mind; and some ambient / gentle electronic stuff, which seemed like a very sensible option, but not something I’d want too much of).
So, here is what we’ve been listening to, when we’ve been listening, over the last six days in the mountains. I’ve broken it into two chunks; music we’ve listened to in the house, and music we’ve listened to in the car (after I got comfortable enough on crazy Spanish mountain roads to be able to have music on).
en el interior de la casa
Luomo – Vocal City
Susumo Yokota – Grinning Cat
Boards of Canada – The Campfire Headphase
Yokota and BoC were both Twitter recommendations; the former someone I’ve to listened to or thought about in probably six years, but who instantly seemed like a good suggestion. I picked Grinning Cat over the other three or four albums we have as, well, we couldn’t take a real cat with us; I also remember it being more cheery than The Boy And The Tree or Sakura, if less ambiently beatific.
BoC just seemed like such an obvious choice that I hadn’t considered; I picked Campfire Headphase as I feel I have more ownership of it than most of their other material; perhaps because I reviewed it for Stylus way back when.
Luomo’s minimalism I thought would suit the massive blue skies I was anticipating, and I thought would also be good to read to; it was – all three of these albums got listened to while I read The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga.
Caribou – Andorra
Panda Bear – Person Pitch
Andorra begins with the same first three letters as Andalucía, and I suspect is similarly mountainous, sun-drenched, and beautiful; the album certainly is, dynamic rhythmical peaks and troughs, stretches of exquisite beauty, and sunshine melodies abound. I think Emma put this on the CD player, again while we were reading in the first two nights here, but rather than encouraging me to consume words on the page I found it distracting; probably because I like it so much.
Person Pitch I bought because Noah Lennox lives in Lisbon, which is where he made the album as I recall, and I wanted to see if the aesthetic transplanted as well as I suspected to the Mediterranean; it does. In fact it works so well with pueblo blancos and views of the straight of Gibraltar that I’m tempted to slap anyone who over-emphasises its Beach Boys / West Coast heritage. Again, it was put on while we were reading, but distracted a little; though not as much as Andorra. I don’t think we got all the way through it before either going to bed or leaving the house (I forget when exactly we played it).
Brian Eno – Before and After Science
Laura Marling – I Speak Because I Can
The Eno I brought because I’ve been hankering after listening to it since I chose Another Green World for Devon Record Club; there’s been a recent ILM poll about it, too.
The Marling I brought because Emma loves it as much as I do, if not more. However, neither of us could identify it just from the picture on the disc, so we played it blind; the opening rising note almost fooled me into thinking it was another ambient album for 15 seconds; we wee both pleased when it wasn’t. I remember I purchased this album in Tesco, as a present for Emma, one evening in the week of release while popping out for bread or something. Perhaps the best thing I’ve ever bought there.
en el interior de la automóvil
PJ Harvey – Let England Shake
The Patrick Wolf and Wild Beasts albums have both lead to me talking about this record in recent weeks as one of my three favourites so far this year, but I’ve not actually listened to it in a while, hence bringing it on holiday. I also had a fleeting suspicion that, despite its overt Englishness, it might work well when translated to Spain, and Andalucía in particular; the graphic talk of limbs hanging from trees and men hid with guns in valleys could easily be about struggles against Franco in the Spanish Civil War, or any of the other pitched battles this part of the world has seen, against the Moors, the English, everyone else who has seen the gateway to both the Mediterranean and Africa as strategically essential territory. Likewise the colonial influences o the music here, samples of Arabic singing, reggae lilt, Constantinople, etc etc. I was right; of course Let England Shake is of such quality that it works anywhere, for anything, but it was particularly good as we drove the winding, ascending and descending road from Gaucin to the autovia on the way to Tarifa, the southernmost point of all Europe.
Beirut – The Flying Club Cup
Wild Beasts – Smother
Four Tet – There Is Love In You
Owen Pallett – Heartland
The Beirut was brought because a; I believe he has a new record soon, which I am looking forward to, and b; because of its European influences. Admittedly these are French rather than Spanish, but beyond Spanish Bombs by The Clash I couldn’t think of a great deal of music we owned with any kind of Spanish heritage at all. Given the dross I’ve heard being pumped out of young men’s cars, and the horrific selection available in the one music shop we ventured into in Gibraltar (they had the Joe McElderry album, for heaven’s sake; I’ve never even seen it in the UK), I’m not surprised by this, but vaguely inspired to investigate; there must be some Spanish music that doesn’t make me feel ill, surely? Recommendations welcome.
Wild Beasts was brought simply because I’m in love with it at the moment; likewise Four Tet, which I was in love with so dearly last year but haven’t played in so long, such is the arbitrariness of the cut-off points music geeks enforce on themselves. It fitted the winding coastal road out of Tarifa beautifully, even more so than Smother fitted the frustrating mission to find a parking space in Tarifa.
The Owen Pallett album was brought along for two reasons; firstly much the same call to listen to a favourite from last year as with the Four Tet, and secondly I thought it would fit well with the Beirut (Owen guests on the Beirut album). We listened to Heartland on the second stretch of the return journey from Tarifa, as we wound our way back through the mountains. It struck me that it would make an excellent choice for the record club one time…
We have another 24 hours before we leave for Malaga airport and home; if we listen to any more music tonight, which we may, as after three nights out in a row I think we want a quite evening with a bottle of wine and books again, I shall make a note and edit in our choices.