Beck finished producing the new Thurston Moore solo record “Demolished Thoughts” earlier this year. It was recorded last fall and into January this year and will be released May 24th on Matador. Here’s a link with more info. Here is the song “Benediction”…
Beck’s “Cell Phone’s Dead” Live from the Basement. YES! I want to dance the robot right now.
Great new “Planned Obsolescence” mix by Beck. As eclectic as always.
Beck’s Record Club project— in which he enlists friends to cover an entire album in a day, then posts the results to his website— stands as a consistently fascinating ongoing project. At the moment, we’re almost done hearing the version of the INXSalbum Kick that Beck did with St. Vincent, Liars, and Os Mutantes. And now Time Out Chicago reports that Beck has lined up the collaborators for his next Record Club project: Tortoise and Thurston Moore.
According to Time Out, Tortoise visited Beck’s studio last weekend, while they were touring the West Coast. The Sonic Youth leader also checked in. No word yet on what album they might’ve covered or when we’ll get to hear it, but Tortoise bassist/guitarist Douglas McCombs tells Time Out that the assembled luminaries played a “broad spectrum of music that was sort of appropriate.”
While you let this news percolate, check out St. Vincent’s Annie Clark singing theINXS jam “Never Tear Us Apart” as part of the current Record Club project, because damn.
On the title track from his new album Compass (listen here), soul singer Jamie Lidell sounds worn. His voice is noticeably scratchier than on anything from his two previous solo albums, 2005’s future-funk expo Multiply or 2008’s polished throwback Jim. The rough and raw vibe runs straight through Compass, which is out May 18 via Warp. It’s still a R&B record at heart, but it has Lidell stretching himself like never before, going from desert balladry to oddball Tom Waits-ian mouth-box funk to baby-making slow jams. “This is my most full-frontal work lyrically and sonically,” he told me, sitting in the Standard Hotel in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District. “It’s all in there.”
Lidell also worked with several luminaries on the album, including Beck, Feist, Grizzly Bear’s Chris Taylor, and legendary studio drummer James Gadson, whose work with Bill Withers, Marvin Gaye, and other soul legends has made him one of R&B’s unsung heroes. Lidell talked of all his collaborators in awed tones, and he’s got a lot to thank them for. But Lidell himself is an in-demand, in-studio phenom; he helped out with Feist’s The Reminder, credited as “energy arranger.” The title makes a lot more sense once you see his spontaneous, fearless presence pop out inthe recording session videos for Beck’s recent Skip Spence Record Club project. Meeting Lidell, it’s easy to see why so many are attracted to his creative energy; he’s warm, funny, candid.
In our chat, we discussed the making of Compass, Beck’s “real super power”, and the inescapability of Michael Jackson:
Pitchfork: Jim was a pretty slick record, but Compass sounds a lot more ragged.
Jamie Lidell: My mum heard the album and she was like, “This is a lot more rough and ready. I thought it was going to be more polished.” I took that as a bit of criticism, but I feel like I already did polished. For this album, I needed to work with a different team, to be honest. I was getting into too much of a comfort zone. The last two albums I constructed largely with [songwriter and producer] Mocky in Berlin; he was my thinking and writing aide. Whether it was conscious or not, it was like, “Oh, it doesn’t matter— once I give it to Mocky, it’ll be good.” So I put less of myself in it than I could have done. So when it came time to do this record, I just thought, “I’ve never made an album on my own. Do I have anything to say? Am I incapable of writing?” This is my most full-frontal work lyrically and sonically. It’s all in there.
Pitchfork: The first song on the album is called “Completely Exposed” and is about putting yourself out there, basically. Do you feel like you weren’t doing that before?
JL: I managed to do what a lot of songwriters do— take a sentiment that’s obviously relevant to your life and generalize it. That process erodes the essence of it and you make up a sweeter perfume for the mass, but, ultimately, it’s not as raw. So I wanted to challenge myself to just jump into the spotlight, however harsh that light is. Warts and all. The writing for this album came from the last two years, which were a pretty messy time. Compass has got a lot more hurt in it than Jim, that’s for sure.
Pitchfork: How did Beck become involved with the album?
JL: The whole thing got kick-started by Beck, which was an incredible surprise. He called asking if he could be of some assistance with production work, like, “Why don’t you come over and we can just have a play and see how it feels?” He’s always supported me since we toured together [in 2006]. A few years ago, we did some strange sessions in L.A. which were just spontaneous, straight-to-vinyl recordings. He gets these ideas, like, “I need five musicians in this studio outside L.A. Who’s up for it? Jamie, you want to come down? It’ll be fun!” And you don’t really know if he ever uses a thing. Those sessions never led to anything, as far as I know. But we recorded a lot. I was doing Klaus Nomi shit and all kinds of operatics. That’s why Beck loved working with me, I think, because I’m up for anything.
During those sessions, I saw Beck doing this thing which I couldn’t quite understand at the time. He would come in with a scribbled sketch of a song, and he’d be strumming some chords, and he’d be like, “OK, I don’t know where this is going, but whatever.” And then he goes into a bit of a trance, scribbles for a minute, and is like, “Let’s do this.” I thought he had already written the lyrics and was just modifying them, but he was writing pretty much the entire song right on the spot. I can’t just freestyle a crazy song like that, but he can. That’s his real super power, it’s insane. He literally just goes, “I’ll just do a song about constellations.” And, just like that, it’s a Beck tune.
We had little physical face time during the making of Compass, but he inspired me to write. And then we did the Record Club together and then he introduced me to James Gadson, who ended up on my record. Beck is just this incredibly potent force in L.A. He knows everyone. And he wants to make good shit happen. He’s really like, “This could be a really cool combination. Let’s just put this with this.” It’s an old-school production method. I think he gets really excited to see chemical reactions between musicians.
Pitchfork: My favorite song on the new album is “She Needs Me”, which is this incredible slow jam. How did it come about?
JL: With that song, I challenged myself to write a song in one evening. I basically ad-libbed the whole vocal over a loop on my laptop. I was just singing in my living room, just feeling the magic. Then I took it to a session at Ocean Way studios, where James Gadson added his drums. You’ve got to have Gadson for that shit. I mean, he played on “Let’s Get It On”. You can’t dream of telling a drummer these days, like, “Hey man, let’s try to do a really fucking sick slow jam.” People can try, but Gadson is that sound. Whenever I’m playing with him, some crazy lock goes on I’ve never experienced with another musician, ever. He’ll just look over and he’s smiling and nailing that fuckin’ beat. And when he finished the track, he’s like, “I got it from you!” Fuckin’ no ego on him. “She Needs Me” is about musical pleasure. It’s about a lot of kinds of pleasure but, ultimately, the musical pleasure needs to match the sexual pleasure. [laughs] Otherwise, it’s no fun.
Pitchfork: As a white musician playing music that’s traditionally black, are you ever cautious about making a song like “She Needs Me”, which could possibly be misconstrued as parody?
JL: I can’t let that be my guide. It’s a difficult issue if you want it to be, I guess. But it’s music. I’m not trying to be something. I’m not trying to parody. I really feel it.
Pitchfork: You also reunited with Feist for some work on Compass after you helped her with The Reminder.
JL: Yeah, I’m the guy singing, “Whoa-oh-oh” on “1234”. I’m credited as “energy arranger” on The Reminder; I’m probably never going to get that credit again. Feist is the real deal. She’s got such a crazy crystal; such an insane instrument. I always forget because I just hang with her and we’re talking shit. There’s a little bit of nervousness between us, like, “Whoa, you’re cool,” “I think you’re kind of cool too,” “Cool.” It’s tough for me because, while recording Compass, there were times when I had to be the one to put my foot down and be like, “OK guys, we have to record.” It’s really not my strong point at all. I just want everyone to enjoy themselves.
I remember during one session I was feeling pressured because there was lots to get done but time was running out. I was losing it a bit and I remember Gadson just put his hand on my back and was like, “Look man, I’ve been in sessions where people have brought guns out at you. You’re all right kid. There’s some nice shit here. Everything is everything.”
Pitchfork: Another highlight on Compass is the upbeat funk jam “Enough Is Enough”. I really like how you take the title phrase, which is usually associated with frustration, and flip it to be this really positive statement of contentment.
JL: I wasn’t going to put that on the record ‘cause I thought it sounded too much likeJim, but the album was getting heavy and I needed an island of hope. And that one had a lot to do with Jacko. He crept in on the album a lot. That whole thing was on everyone’s mind. James Gadson played with the Jackson 5. It was weird how all that happened while we were in L.A. We were asking, “What would Jacko do?” It was weird taking that on board in the darkness.
Pitchfork: Were you really into Michael Jackson as a kid?
JL: Artists like Michael Jackson and Prince were such dominant sounds in my house growing up— nothing was as good as that shit to me. It was irrelevant to me whether they were black or not. I didn’t even register it. Jacko’s sonic perfume was overwhelming. It still has that effect. As soon as “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough” comes on, it’s like the whole fucking room changes. How much music does that now?
Jamie Lidell: “The Ring” [from the forthcoming LP Compass, out May 18 via Warp]
beck’s record club’s version of “need you tonight” by inxs! it is performed by beck, st. vincent, liars and os mutantes. wow. and just because we can… here is the original of the song for you to enjoy, too. word.
Charlotte Gainsbourg’s brilliant IRM just keeps giving. To compliment the album we’ve not got three new releases. The Time of the Assassins EP includes remixes of the psych-folk album cut from XXXChange, Outlines, Matthew Dear, and Gentlemen Drivers. Stream or download the characteristically fizzy Dear redo above. The EP is out in most of Europe now and due in the UK April 19 and in Germany in May (there’s no U.S. release date yet).
Then there’s the Sunset Sound EP, featuring four IRM tracks recorded live at Hollywood’s famed Sunset Sound studio with Beck. It’s available on Amazon only now. And finally, Gainsbourg will release a Record Store Day single featuring “Heaven Can Wait” and “IRM” performed live on KCRW, this Saturday at independent record stores.
Time of the Assassins EP:
01 Time of the Assassins
02 Time of the Assassins (XXXChange Remix)
03 Time of the Assassins (Outlines Remix)
04 Time of the Assassins (Matthew Dear Remix)
05 Time of the Assassins (Gentlemen Drivers Remix)
Sunset Sound EP:
01 Heaven Can Wait
02 Greenwich Mean Time
04 In the End
Record Store Day 7”
01 Heaven Can Wait (KCRW Session)
02 IRM (KCRW Session)
This is “Fresh Hex” by Tobacco from their upcoming Manic Meat LP… The way Tobacco cuts up Beck’s verses reminds of Beck’s older, messier analog albums.
Maniac Meat is out 5/25 via beautiful Anticon.
Beck and his Record Club did it again… The second INXS cover song from the “Kick” album is here, with Angus from Liars and Annie from St. Vincent on lead vocals. Oh yeah.