Chad Taylor writes books and screenplays. His novels include Departure Lounge, Electric and Shirker. His most recent was The Church of John Coltrane. His website is www.chadtaylor.co.nz. Here are five albums he’s loving right now….
1 – Oscar Peterson Trio, Last Call at the Blue Note: The Maharaja of the keyboard was 65 when he recorded this, which does not seem so old to me now. It was taped live at New York in 1990 and is one of a series. I buy jazz on CD because listening to it on headphones drives me nuts: horn in your left ear, drums in your right. I prefer to leave it playing at one end of the house while I work at the other. You can get a lot done when people are having fun in another room. There are only seven tracks on Last Call but they’re long and soft-sounding even though they’re busy. It starts off with Jim which is bluesy and noodling and picks up for a nearly twelve-minute version of Yours Is My Heart Alone. Track five is a medley which confuses my old CD player and contains a musical phrase that I feel like I’ve known all my life. I can’t work out which one it is. The atmosphere of the live recording is quite fantastic: a bunch of old guys playing with nothing to prove and an audience that keeps breaking out into applause. If you play the CD three times in a row a waiter will appear holding a fresh ashtray.
2 – Sly And The Family Stone, Fresh: The sixth Family Stone album contains Qué Será which I don’t like so much so I always stop it at track eight, Keep On Dancin’ – a great number because although it is about dancing it sounds like it was recorded by someone sitting wayyy back in the chair. The whole record is like that. From the woozy overdubs to the precise placement of accidental sounds Fresh erupts from the beautiful tension of someone who is totally in control having no control at all. It’s deep, funky, out-of-it, whistling with splices and tape hiss. I listen to it whenever I’m feeling low. In spite of his lifestyle choices Sly is a spirit guide on this record. The gospel Thankful ‘n’ Thoughtful recalls his religious roots. Satisfaction is angry; Let Me Have It All is a great stand-up-for-yourself song. I carry an AAC version of this with me at all times. If you’re walking up the road in a filthy mood you can put it on, and then you aren’t.
3 – Crystal Castles, iii: I wasn’t sure about Crystal Castles at first. I thought Alice Glass might have been the now-standard Young And Fucked Up But Not Really girl and Ethan Kath might have been the Just Pushing Buttons guy. But then I saw them at Minehead in 2010 and became sure that they were fucking terrific. She was a liquid screeching machine and he was fresh and improvisational. The quality of the sound and the music was completely alive. They were a serious, loud calamity. I wanted to take them home and keep them as pets. Crystal Castle’s first two albums are helpfully titled i and ii, which is all you need to call an album in a post-vinyl age. (The sooner DJ remix credits are replaced by version numbers, the better.) Both lurch between the clashing and gentle. iii is the “nice” Crystal Castles which makes it better for writing to late at night. The songs are pretty but not too pretty. Kerosene sounds like Arthur Baker in the k-hole. Child I Will Hurt You is angelic on the surface and nasty beneath. Plague is just upsetting. There’s something wonderfully unstable about the duo – which they are, as opposed to a singer with a backtrack project. They could do you some damage.
4 – Chic, Dance, Dance, Dance: The Best of Chic: After Nile Rodgers and Daft Punk’s Get Lucky came out I ripped this collection on my iPod and have been playing it every other day. By which I mean, I click straight to Good Times and play it over and over. Good Times is the I Love Lucy of grooves. At any time somewhere in the world someone is playing it. I first heard it when it was a radio hit when I was a kid. Later going to Auckland clubs it was something of a novelty. In those days if you didn’t own a track and it wasn’t on the radio, you weren’t going to hear it. So when the DJ played a record, you got up.
5 – Washed Out, Within and Without: Most of the new music I hear now I don’t know anything about who makes it or where they come from. Someone sends you a link and you click on it and listen. Often when you find out about the person behind it the less interesting they become. It used to be that way with painters and writers too. The world was a better place then. Washed Out is just the one guy, Ernest Greene. Earnest has a librarian degree and wears a collared shirt and sweater on stage. Wikipedia describes him as chillwave, which sounds like a dessert flavour at McDonald’s. But maybe that’s right. Within and Without is the soundtrack for an existential crisis in comfortable surroundings: lush, technical, all shaking hands and calibrated plasma screens. Bowie attributed his desire for exoticism as a reaction to the boredom of suburbia – a yearning that drove a lot of musicians in the 80s. Greene is coming from the same place. My favourite late night tracks are Eyes Be Closed, Within and Without and A Dedication.