Thursday, 1 September 2011

In session in my September show: The Sinatra Test

If you've listened at all to my show over the past 12 months (and, unless you've been in Antartica or space, the only two places who've yet to receive Dandelion Radio so far as I know, I'd want to know why) chances are you'll have encountered the music of The Sinatra Test, a project of the venerable Phil South featuring apparently effortless arch languid grooves that so caress the ear you'd think making original and innovative music seem so much easier than it really is. Or maybe I've got that wrong. Maybe it is as easy as this and it's those who put so much effort into making derivative pap that have misled us on the issue.

Whatever is the case, there's an ambition at play in The Sinatra Test's music that's underpinned by such an effortless vibe you can fail to notice just how hard Phil's working to make us all feel so good. A case in point is the session The Sinatra Test have recorded for my December show, streaming at various points throughout this month on Dandelion Radio. You'd swear blind the tracks were filled with sampled voices and sounds, all easily picked up and assembled together like some highly pleasing collage. But you'd be wrong, because Phil's provided them more himself, a triumphy of artistry so rare you could present it raw on a plate and pronounce it done.

And the ease on the surface sometimes belies much darker elements beneath. Among the session tracks, 'Pointlessly In Brackets' is a terrifying tale of thwarted obsession that, by the end, has you so petrified at the prospect of the phone ringing while 'Wodehouse Whippet Bingo' delivers, through a series of epigrammatic pronouncements, the kind of dissection of 21st century mores that most songsmiths would fail to achieve with several pages of lyrics and several pints of sweated blood.

The Sinatra Test have also just released their highly anticipated album 'Do Be Do: 10 Songs About Being and Doing' on Bandcamp containing at least four songs you may have heard on my show in the recent past, one of which, 'The Beat Degeneration' ranks among the finest tunes I've heard all year, from anyone. Get it here.

As for the session, Phil has provided some helpful accompanying notes on the four tracks below:

1. Pointlessly in Brackets (3:44)
A love song to stalker movies. I imagined a large girl with thick Andy Warhol glasses and a pink cardigan who spends all her time on the Internet. She has convinced herself that the cute boy across the street is her fiance. I call her Tracy Love. Like many TST tracks it's a mini movie. Lounge jazz with creepy oboe.

2. The Towel Begins (3:52)
Another piece of surrealist poetry intoned by what I call the Leonard voice, similar to the one I used on "Zombie Sundae". I call him Leonard because he's part Cohen and part Nimoy. An 808 drumbox collides with David Lynch guitars and Miles Davis style trumpet stylings. Stand back everyone, I'm a trained surrealist...

3. Wodehouse Whippet Bingo (3:13)
Someone in a PG Wodehouse novel had a whippet called Bingo, so voila, song title. This was the last track I did so the words are inspired by much more recent events. Desi style tabla drums and tape echo with fuzz bass. Voice is based on my Uncle Dil.

4. Chant Boxer (5:17)
I have this little plastic chant box about the size of a deck of cards, and it plays buddhist meditation chants through a little speaker. I sampled it to see if I could figure out the chords and play along with it, and it got away from me. The singing voice is called Lala, one I've used for other tracks. A dub style meditative steady state tune.

Mark W

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