Well we’ve staggered and stumbled our way somewhat incomprehensibly to the quarterfinals of the earthings! World Cup of Music where we have to ask the question… is this whole thing some type of elaborate scam involving the contributing author, some dodgy backstreet betting agents and bundles of money laundered Swedish krona? We’ll probably never find out the truth…
The excitement of the World Cup is reaching fever pitch, especially in those countries which remain part of the competition, and given that in the finals the matches are often decided on moments of inspiration – that something special – in our earthings! World Cup of Music quarterfinals I’ve picked one artist or band that offers something slightly different to the norm.
Our first match up features Denmark and Iran, and my Danish representative is a composer and musician I first read about in the excellent The Quietus magazine a few years ago when they wrote an article entitled “Two reasons why Frisk Frugt is so flipping brilliant”. And he certainly is. I can certainly promise you that you’ve never quite heard music like it: experimental sounds and noises that somehow fuse together to create something that, once it makes sense to the ears, is totally spellbinding and hugely enjoyable. I recommend that you take a listen to Den Europæiske Spejlbue, and from it, this is “Solhyldest 1. Del”.
Facing Denmark are Iran, and this is where we have a slight complication, as my Iranian representative is actually part-Danish, which creates a situation akin to your favourite club footballer competing against you at national level, and scoring the winning penalty. Anyway, Black Dog Howl are an Iranian/Danish duo, and I love this band because I’ve never really heard anything quite like them – southern Gothic pop songs, with deep dark vocals courtesy of Mazdak Khosravi, and the catchiest of tunes – the contrasts in their music is rather magnificent.
Next up is Korea against England, and from a Korean perspective it is actually quite difficult to find something so radically different – mainly because the wealth of mainstream music pouring out of that country obscures everything else. But there is one band that I’ve come across that are really unusual (in a good way). DTSQ are from Seoul and bring together 60s pop, psychedelia and a dose of jazz, but it’s all written in a warm melodic way that’s easy to like – they’ve just played their first UK tour too.
As for England, I can only really head in one direction if I’m looking for something inspired – a moment of complete musical genius. Cardiacs may not necessarily have the biggest following, but they are a massively influential band – with bands such as Blur, Radiohead and the legendary Napalm Death all citing them as influences. Impossible to label and largely ignored by the mainstream UK music press, their leader Tim Smith ploughed on insisting he was just “writing tunes”, and a hugely devoted following now exists, even though Timmie himself is tragically unable to write or perform after a massive cardiac arrest. I’m somewhat lost as to know what to include for them, but let’s start at the beginning – their first ever video, and possibly the most extraordinary and entertaining music video ever made, backed by profound lyrics and the most wonderful anthemic tune two minutes and 20 seconds into the song.
As for Spain vs Iceland, well, we’ll start off in Spain, where the choice for me is quite straightforward, as I’ve been a big fan of Belako for a few years. They’re a four-piece band from Mungia, play dark and intensely driven indie with great vocals, and have released a stream of good tracks that I think offer something different to the standard indie sound – for those of us in the UK we’re even lucky enough to get a few UK dates in September too.
I’m obviously spoilt for choice with Iceland, but I’m conscious I’ve covered some pretty unusual stuff so far, so my Icelandic selection is a band that arrived with the most beautifully written and easy to like album back in 2014, but who we sadly haven’t really heard from since. Monotown are a three-piece band, and their album In the Eye of the Storm won the Icelandic Music Awards’ Rock Album of the Year in 2015, and (even more prestigiously, some would argue) the Nordic Music Review Album of the Year in 2014. This track “Peacemaker” still makes me glow and shiver and come out in goosebumps every time I hear it.
Finally we have Japan vs Sweden, and from a Japanese perspective I’ve selected a real monster of a post rock band, Mono. In footballing terms this would be similar to turning up for a match to find the opposition had a time-traveled David Beckham and Zinedine Zidane alongside Cristiano Ronaldo in midfield. These guys write huge instrumental tracks, soft strings matched by explosions of sounds, and they’re prolific writers and recorders too, I think they’re on about their tenth album.
As for Sweden, well I’ve long been a fan of the cult Swedish band Bob Hund, and their drummer is a talented fellow called Christian Gabel, who has a project called 1900. Now, not that many people will have come across this outside Sweden, but his album Tekno is quite possibly my favorite non-mainstream indie rock release ever. Recorded entirely on tape, each track is like opening an old treasure chest of priceless antiques, sometimes dusty, scratchy and worn, but painstakingly handcrafted and individual. This is “Anti-1900”, using the words of (the still going strong) Harry Smith.
So who qualifies for our semi-final? Well, this is where it gets really impossible, but maybe on penalties we’ll send through Iran, England, Iceland and Sweden! We’ll wrap up the series, thank goodness, at the weekend when we announce our earthings! World Cup of Music and all claim our free holidays to Sweden courtesy of the Swedish government. [AW]