Music

King of Woolworths: Rediffusion

Tim O'Neil

King of Woolworths

Rediffusion

Label: Lo
US Release Date: Available as import
UK Release Date: 2004-10-04
Amazon
iTunes

The 2002 arrival of the King of Woolworth's debut album on American shores was one of the first clues that something strange was happening on the borderlands of electronic music. Ming Star was a strange piece of work, combining the cut and paste ethos of artists such as Coldcut with a decidedly more organic feel, almost as redolent of American folk as anything produced under the banner of IDM.

Of course, astute listeners might be able to trace these developments all the way back to 1998, with the release of Boards of Canada's seminal Music Has a Right to Children. In a similar fashion to Air's Moon Safari, Music Has a Right to Children inspired a legion of copycat groups to follow in their distinctive footprints. But there was something very different about the groups who tried to follow in Boards of Canada's footsteps. Instead of merely aping sun-drenched French pop in the guise of downtempo, as Air's followers had done, Boards of Canada's many admirers were trying to pin down something slightly more anomalous, and just a little bit dangerous, and this anarchic harvest has borne increasingly potent fruit in the past few years.

For groups like Boards of Canada, in addition to Four Tet and Matmos, the vital hook comes from the dichotomy of using artificial means to replicate organic methods of composition. Instead of the burnished perfection that characterizes the majority of electronic music, these artists attempted to insert something very human and almost scattered. And as with Boards of Canada, the disconnect between human and inhuman creates sounds many an ominous note.

Rediffusion, the King of Woolworth's third album, steps away from the low-fi discord of his first two releases, and advances toward a more elegant style, heavily influenced by '60s instrumental pop. Fans of Lemon Jelly or the first two Blue States records might find a lot to like here.

The album begins with "Coccolo", a track that begins with the simple interaction of French horn and xylophone, slowly adding an organ and a bare hi-hat until a lazy beat suddenly blossoms underneath. It's a song that reminds the listener of quiet spring days spent frolicking in fields of tall grass and napping in the shade of a tall tree. It soon becomes obvious that the goal of Rediffusion is not to upset but to soothe. We're a long way from Ming Star's unsettling and angry "Stalker Song".

"Big Sur" is one of the most obvious BoC swipes I've ever heard -- from the narration straight out of a '60s nature film to the coruscating minor-key synth chords to the deceptively placid beats, it could easily pass for BoC among less discriminating listeners. It's not a bad song, as such, but it tips its hat a bit too broadly for comfort. "Yellow World" begins with a bit of crazy English narration that could easily have been leftover from the Orb's recent recording sessions, and builds slowly from a simple breakbeat, with ominous bass noise and echoing theramin flourishes throughout.

"Ameublement" is one of the album's best tracks, a very simple piece built atop a repeating melodic synthesizer sample. There are minimal 808 samba beats underneath, along with faint harp flourishes that fade in and out of your earphones. Its striking in its minimalism, and moreso for the fact that it is very effective. "Music for Schools" is a decidedly melancholy composition, with an odd little organ sample laid across a stuttering, deliberate beat.

"Crazy Lions" presents the listener with an alternate reality wherein Link Wray jammed with Orbital. "Windrush" -- at almost eight minutes -- is the album's climax, a gently escalating synthesizer-led instrumental in the vein of Meddle-era Pink Floyd.

The deciding mood for the remainder of the album is blissful relaxation. Some of these tracks, like "The Loner" and "Stimulus Progression", could have been cribbed wholesale from any number of '60s movie soundtracks, full as they are with experimental synth textures and loping lounge beats. "Divertissements" is a mournful organ-driven mood exercise that bears resemblance to something Death in Vegas could have recorded around the time of The Contino Sessions.

There's nothing at all wrong with Rediffusion, and it is actually quite a pleasant album, perfect for a lazy summers day. But there's nothing terribly original here, and there are enough bits of blatant theft that even the casual electronic music fan should be able to have great fun playing "spot that swipe".

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less
3

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less
9

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image