shine a light

When strange artists follow strange muses, I suppose there’s no surprise that they wind up in strange company. But who would have guessed which two auteurs known for oblique (and often, bleak)  minimalist takes on their respective genres would find gospel in 2008?

Dylan Carlson’s cult sludge-metal outfit, Earth, released The Bees Made Honey in the Lion’s Skull this year, and according to their label’s blog, the group drew significantly on American gospel in making their warmest, lightest record to date. Of course, both superlatives lose some steam considering the catalog up for comparison. But there’s something to the statement: “Miami Morning Coming Down II (Shine)” showcases the gospel sensibility best, with humming organs, a guitar melody that is (by Earth standards) pretty immediate, and even a fine melodic counterpoint on the piano. If not for the bass line’s contribution of rumbly doom, you might not even recognize this Earth.

The year’s second convert was production legend Brian Eno, whose vision for his team-up with ex-Talking Head David Byrne was described by both artists as “electronic gospel”. More than any musical quality, it’s the tone of Everything That Happens Will Happen Today which reveals the spiritual infusion. There’s an optimism to songs like the title track and the single, “Strange Overtones”, that takes the record beyond the ususal motifs of  information-age alienation. And in trying times, even the introverted headphones set could use some uplift.

Inspired by this convergence,  a playlist of similarly oblique “gospel” tracks, wherein the melodies, choral arrangements, and spiritual themes of that genre are appropriated, subverted and reinvented in art-rock’s veins. Call it The Gospel According to Static:

1. The Roots – “Something in the Way of Things”
2. Earth – “Miami Morning Coming Down II (Shine)”
3. TV On The Radio – “Poppy””
4. David Byrne and Brian Eno – “Strange Overtones”
5. The Dirty Projectors – “Rise Above”
6. The Arcade Fire – “Intervention”
7. Howe Gelb – “Howlin’ a Gale”
8. Primal Scream – “Movin’ On Up”
9. Moby – “Natural Blues”
10. Spiritualized – “I Think I’m In Love”
11. The Rolling Stones – “Shine a Light”

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~ by staticandme on December 29, 2008.

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