We started the show with some music from the ’90s. I find some music from the ’90s (the time frame of my young adult-hood) to have not dated too well, but this is not universal to music from the period. One band that I find to have dated pretty well is the English band Lush. I always found their unique brand of thick guitar chords (usually featuring Miki Berenyi‘s 12 string guitars) and delicate female vocal harmonies to be quite attractive, even if one might not completely grasp the words they are using. Of course, it was always the instrumental aspects of their music that always drew me. So we heard some of their earlier material – De-luxe, Ocean, and Leaves Me Cold (from the Mad Love EP, and their first album Spooky).
We then went to another English ’90s band, Ned’s Atomic Dustbin. Like with Lush, their music had a unique instrumental style, owing largely to their hyper-active drumming style and their use of two basses playing along-side one-another, one playing low and the other playing high, with a heavy guitar taking up the middle. Happily, they are still playing, which is nice to see. We heard Throwing Things, Trust, and Capital Letters (all the songs recorded for God Fodder, but only the first and third song being included on that album, with the second being released on an EP from that era).
I’ve found a number of occasions over the last year to program in bits and pieces of last year’s release of Jimi Hendrix’s complete Winterland performances. The reality is that, while Hendrix made some extraordinary recordings, the ultimate Hendrix is the live Hendrix. He had a knack for doing wonderful things on stage with his guitar, and we are happily blessed with a good number of recordings that amply document this. I’ve always known that the Winterland set (from October 10-12, 1968) was one of his better moments (going back when there was an edited single-disc release, issued by Rykodisc in ’86, which has long been out of print), but this recent box set really does an excellent job of showing us just how good that 3-night stand really was. We heard 4 songs from the fourth disc: Foxey Lady, Are You Experienced (a bit of a rarity, as there aren’t very many live recordings of that song), a rendition of Voodoo Child (Slight Return) that comes in the same month that Electric Ladyland was released, and a spectacular fifteen minute rendition of Red House.
Given the philosophy behind the music selection for the Galaxy, I enjoy the opportunities when I can highlight the contrasts between musical genres. So I had a special joy when I could contrast Jimi Hendrix with the music of Orlando di Lassus. Di Lassus was one of the more important composers of the mid to late 1500s, mainly of liturgical music (there is no evidence of any strictly instrumental works by him), but also of madrigals, lieder and chansons. He wrote in multiple languages, to include Italian, French and German in addition to the Latin used for his numerous masses. The work we heard this evening is especially interesting because it is a sample of a style of music known as musica reservata, an unusually chromatic style of a cappella vocal arrangement that appealed to a select group of musical connoisseurs. It was never all that popular, but its techniques anticipated what one would see in 20th century avant garde music by hundreds of years. Tonight’s recording, by the Hilliard Ensemble, was a lovely recording of di Lassus’ Prophetiae Sibyllarum, a secular dramatization of the Sibylline verses (where certain Greek prophets supposedly foretold the birth of Christ; the Sibylline legend had become popular during di Lassus’ time).
Its been a while since I’ve been able to program in some Hüsker Dü. Hüsker Dü dates back to a time when the term “hardcore” was rather elastic, hardcore bands were largely regional, and the indie scene that “hardcore” existed in sat largely under the surface, depending on where you lived. I had heard of Hüsker Dü long before I was actually able to listen to Hüsker Dü, an unfortunate side-effect of having grown up in Cairo (indie scene? What indie scene?), where I was doing good just to be able to listen to REM. So, while I came to an appreciation of this music late, the impact of this music on the larger music scene in general is undeniable. We heard three songs from Zen Arcade: Something I Learned Today, Pink Turns to Blue, and Turn On The News.
We closed the show with another ’80s classic, the Smiths’ How Soon is Now.