|THE ASCENSION DIMENSION/Second Edition/Stereo Deluxe/Inertia
From the label that brought us Mo' Horizons, Bassic Instinct I and II, and the mellifluous Moodorama, comes the first essential compile of 2001. Peerless mid-tempo nu-fi sounds for the den, lounge or pool deck. Funky breaks, jazzy leanings, cool runnings. The Funky Lowlives' Wicked World leads us straight into conga/clavinet temptation but the dub version on disc two is sublime with a capital S. So too is Minimal Boy's Force of Evolution. And for a new twist on Jamaican idioms, Sound Foundation's Dub Racer will take some catching. Gas up.
Drink with: An interesting white, say an Alsacian gewurztraminer that's kinda spicy, has good structure and is fat and oily in the mouth. Phat wine for phat beats.
MESCALITO/One Path in a Million/Tummy Touch/Inertia
Post-rock meets organo-electronica on a dark and mysteriously beautiful eight track debut from yet another find for Tim 'Love' Lee's Tummy Touch label. Slow burn acoustic noodling, swirling de-phased guitars, fragile vocals sometimes a whisper, always deliciously moody. Mescalito have popped up only sporadically before so this is an unexpected and fully polished gem. This really deserves to be heard. On a rainy afternoon, maybe, when you're kinda sad.
Drink with: As Madame Bolinger recommended, Champagne should be drunk in any mood. Listen to this with a glass of top fizz from Tasmania. The combo of tunes and drink will buck you up in no time.
CINEMAPHONIC/Electro Soul/Emperor Norton Records/Inertia
The rise and rise of acid-jazz in the early 1990s was fuelled by its protagonists rediscovering the incredible energy released when jazz got fused with the funk way back when. Jazz flicked off its studious beret and hit the floor. Hard.
Plundering the vaults brought some all time re-issue tunes to a new generation. But what happens when the vaults run dry? Um, dig deeper -- into the forgotten archives of 1970s film and TV library soundtracks. Don't laugh. Electro Soul is a bunch of tracks that you'd swear you've heard before, but they're all generic interpretations of mainly black American jazz-funk styles recorded for frugal European producers who couldn't afford the real thing. The irony is that although there's the odd bit of roquefort, most of the tracks here translate brilliantly by funking out as hard as the originators.
Drink with: A glass of sweet, plummy, super-smooth merlot to fuse with the super-smooth acid jazz tunes.
DAN BRODIE AND THE BROKEN ARROWS/Big Black Guitar/Laughing Outlaw Records
Dan Brodie And The Broken Arrows' debut is a charming album of sorts. Whether it's the way the band tuck a touch of country into an essentially rock record, or quietly embrace hillbilly with plenty of passion, this is a solid and consistent effort for this local Melbourne band. Given Dan Brodie himself is only 24, he sings Big Hearted Lovin' Man with conviction and life experience. The quieter essence of Big Black Guitar relies on the pedal steel guitar complements of his older brother Chris Brodie who adds a twinkling sound in the background. I Love You Baby is a tender ballad that rolls delicately from Brodie's tongue while The Player shows him in a more chaotic emotional frame of mind and contains violin work not dissimilar to the energy of The Dirty Three. Ride On features Brodie's hero Spencer P Jones on guitar. The pair slap guitar strings together in this bustling country twang number which according to Brodie is a tribute to Australia's rock outlaws Bon Scott and Spencer P Jones. This album is evidence of fine musicianship which is simply the beginning of what The Broken Arrows are surely capable of.
Drink with: A Hunter Valley shiraz. Leathery, smokey, sweaty saddle aromas will burst open the saloon doors to easy country tunes. Giddy up, pardner.
MOTORACE/Five Star Laundry/FMG Records
Motorace's debut album opens with Hey Driver -- a song that comprises dirty metal riffs with an affectionate indie guitar strum thrown in for good measure. It's exactly this soft-loud-soft rock ethic that gives you some idea of the energy these lads possess. By the time American Shoes comes along we're heading down a melodic Buffalo Tom path -- the song comes loaded with sentimentality and bruised strings while Budge is definitely more sullen and minimalist in its approach. It's exactly the band's musical diversity that is instantly appealing. Five Star Laundry is almost anything you want it to be -- sometimes power ballad and other times melodic and thought provoking. The band's chart topping single Death Defy is pierced by lyrics that are sometimes hung up on bittersweet regret, denial and utopia while Criminal Past has the power ballad theory applied. It's a fine release from a local band with a worldly rock sound.
Drink with: A big, ballsy, full-bodied shiraz, straight out of the Barossa. Lots of alcohol, lots of flavour, lots of tannin and lots of it. Let's rock.
GOLDFRAPP/Felt Mountain/Mute Records
Goldfrapp apply the cake mix theory to their dark cinematic sounds. They measure the right amounts of Weimar Republic cabaret with electronic interference to create a tender bake of 21st century noir with an Alfred Hitchock eeriness stitched to the sides.
Goldfrapp are Alison Goldfrapp, who sung with Tricky on his debut album and appears of a few Orbital tracks, and Will Gregory. The pair create an emotional drama of sorts -- sometimes tugged by grey introspection and loops (Lovely Head) and other times swept by an icy ambience (Pilots). Goldfrapp persist with a wide-eyed hunger in music that is sometimes reminiscent of Portishead and other times strangled with a quirky Bjork flavour. It's kitsch and memorable, dreamy and lonely all at once. Goldfrapp's debut is timeless in its appeal, it was written and recorded in a studio the pair built in an old bungalow near Bath -- rather deeply set in the chilling leafiness of Wiltshire countryside. This isolation translates succinctly onto their debut album -- songs such as Utopia see them blend a euphoric longing with dreamy beats while Deer Stop is tugged by a romantic combination of softly sung lyrics while expressive strings and loops are noticeable in the background.
Drink with: Pinot noir. Textured, complex music needs a textured, complex drink that'll give you a whole lot to think about.