There is a lot to Cracked Actor’s Iconoclast that might raise a few inquisitive brows, what with it being a deeply sensual and original piece of work that eggs you on as you take a stroll into your own conscience. To see if we could ascertain more about its source, we asked the band’s own Sebastian Field to tell us about five tracks that paved his way.
Secret Chiefs 3 – Knights of Damcar
Having had a keen interest in Mike Patton‘s projects (at the time that being of Faith No More, Mr. Bungle, Fantomas, etc.), you could have mistaken me for a youth in a lolly shop the day I came across Secret Chiefs 3 (comprised of members of Mr. Bungle, sans Patton) and, in particular, their track Knights Of Damcar – the opener for Book M, a staple album of mine for some time. It’s three minutes worth of gypsy/Arabian flavour not allowing itself to sour due to the characteristic addition of Bungle-esque humour, found present in the wonky, off the beat keys, purposefully average bass parts and strings ranging from dedicated to droll. What a laugh, and what an introduction to the greater universe of not only Secret Chiefs 3 (Xaphan: Book of Angels, Volume 9 is massive), but the wealth of material that can lurk hidden in side projects and associated acts.
Aphex Twin – Film
Hoping to not come across as ‘that guy who likes Flim just like Skrillex does’, I don’t think I could exclude it in such an article as this. Shimmering memorably, levitating in it’s own peculiar place, Flim is a very important song for me as both a songwriter and music enthusiast. I was first introduced to the track in my youth, as I was first becoming familiar with Aphex Twin – of which it came sequenced in second place after the title track on his 1997 EP Come To Daddy. The former being one of the best examples of someone actually capturing the essence of hell within four minutes and twenty three seconds of music, the latter being a near perfect gloat in sonic structure, as brittle as it is determined. As stuttered as it is full of breath. The simplicity of the melody is rarely found elsewhere unless, I feel, if you were to delve into minimal piano, of the likes that Satie or Debussy may have produced. It’s a beautiful song. And quite aside from the excellence of the track, as mentioned before, the sequencing of it after the demonic brutality that is Come To Daddy highlighted an alternative to normalized track listings and that is something that has stayed with me for a long time. Always offer good music. Always keep a listener second guessing.
Björk – An Echo, A Stain
Perhaps it’s a tad boring of me to include such an artist, perhaps, for the sake of interest, I should be less obvious when writing about great music – but Bjork’s ‘An Echo A Stain’ is one that I regard fondly as the first example I’d noticed of a through composed song. It’s themes are delicate, ruminating on intimacy (as often her words do) but it’s the constant hum of the choir and the swollen and swelling composition which catches the listener. It builds from the aforementioned high vocal hum, all along the way adding sequenced electronics from American duo Matmos (another inspirational favourite), curious plucked harps and deliberately brooding, moody string arrangements. And favourably, all is traded in place of the normal verse / chorus song structure as it climaxes, returning you to the ground as Bjork whispers ‘complete’. How nice.
Matmos – For The Trees
Following on naturally with what this semi-imposed trip down memory lane is offering me, I’ll choose a song by the previously mentioned Matmos. For The Trees is a luscious sedative, a musical barbiturate and one of the first examples I can recall of an group being experimental with standard instruments. The yawning, saturated pianos are entirely relaxing and the processed guitars inject direction, all the while a slow march of snare and tambourine plays out below. To me, Matmos had always been electronic tinkerers and, as I hear this track again, I recall initially being moved by the simplicity of the abstraction of an experimental duo turning their efforts a more regular side of the musical spectrum.. in this case being that of a barn yard slow jam. Such an effective experiment, of which I’d hoped they’d done more of.
Clark – The Autumnal Crush
Clark, despite his personally questionable output since Body Riddle (2006), the album on which The Autumnal Crush features, has remained a favoured artist of mine due to the sonic strength and hyper-realized concepts of nostalgia found on the aforementioned record, of which The Autumnal Crush plays a pivotal role in being the closing track. Its dusky key swells drone repetitively while crunchy sequenced drums expand quickly, distorting further and further as the track plays out until you find yourself in a swirl of reds and oranges – an autumnal crush, an artist’s impression of change, highlighting feelings of hurried anticipation to sadness of loss. It’s a beautifully bi-polar track and one that, if not at least for the emotional content, I’ve tried many times to emulate.
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