Music has a wonderful ability to connect us, whether this is a communal experience at a gig or a song that can dredge up feelings so sharply that you can feel the pain or the elation all over again. What it also does is provide connections between songs and artists so that one song can lead you off on a journey that ends at 2 in the morning, exhausted and elated with synapses still firing off but you know you can’t go up into the loft to find that elusive 7″ that will, for a moment, satisfy your itch.
This happened to me earlier this week when Adem’s version of ‘Tears Are in Your Eyes‘ dropped into my ears. I hadn’t quite forgotten about Adem Ilhan, but I hadn’t connected with any of his music for some time. This song is from his covers album ‘Takes‘ from 2008; on it, there are versions of Bedhead, Low, Breeders, Pinback, Tortoise as well as Yo La Tengo. This record is not just down my street, but in my house sharing dinner with my wife. His cover is quite faithful to the original, concentrating on the melancholy, acoustic guitars and piano are to the fore.
The original is one of those gentle simmering Yo La Tengo songs that seem ephemeral but have an emotional heft like a punch to the heart. The sort of beautiful melancholy that makes sadness an attractive option.
Another version worth tracking down is by the gifted William Tyler: shorn of the vocals and the melancholy lyrics, Tyler still manages to convey the mood of the song with the gentle unassuming virtuosity that makes me wish I had some means creating the same impact.
The connections that sparked aside from the obvious one to Yo La Tengo were those to Adem’s first band, Fridge. Fridge was a post-rock band, though this term doesn’t really describe the breadth of their sound. They were playful and experimental and not very rock at all. The other thing that you can hear in their music, aside from that itch of playfulness, is joy. There is often a smile on the face of the music – that, or a frown of concentration. For me ‘Happiness‘ from 2001 is their best album and the excellent collection ‘Early Output 1996-1998‘ is worth a listen. Below is one of their accurately titled cuts from ‘Happiness‘.
Alongside Adem in Fridge was Kieran Hebden, better known as Four Tet. Hebden has been prolific and endlessly inquisitive. His output has included post-rock, electronic, jazz, trance, and even krautrock. his records can be either sparklingly beautiful or harshly industrial and often in the course of the same song. A good place to start is ‘Rounds‘ which is one of his more approachable records. ‘Slow Jam‘ is the kind of music that elevates us from the mundane, watch out for the squeaky toy.
Whilst we’re straying a long way away from Americana, let’s have another example from Four Tet from the same album, and it should be noted the whole album is full of melody and heart. Here’s ‘As Serious As Your Life‘ it is the kind of music that gives electronica a good name. Four Tet was described as Folktronica, whatever that meant. It is unmistakably folk music of some sort.
You see what happens when you start listening to music, all of these connections are made and you can traverse across musical continents all from one song. Music has all of these connections hidden away like the fungal networks that link trees and provide a communication network. We started with Adem but we didn’t hear from him, so to put that right, here’s ‘Ringing in My Ear‘ from ‘Homesongs‘ his debut solo record.