My friend Keith asked me to list “fifteen albums you’ve heard that will always stick with you”, spending no longer than fifteen minutes to think about it. I may have gone over the time limit somewhat as I found this a fascinating challenge, thinking about the albums that have been most significant in my life, which have stayed with me and remained relevant and listenable.
Music is a repository of memory and emotion for me. Certain tracks make me go almost instantly misty-eyed as my mind jumps back to a festival, a live show, a relationship, a group of friends, a moment, a chapter of my life. Music is my great artistic passion and has played a significant role in my life. My primary friendship groups have often emerged out of the music scenes that I’m participating in, I spent five years organizing music events and I’m constantly listening out for new sounds and artists.
I don’t tend to listen much to music older than the last couple of years. New music constantly replaces old music in my playlist. But some classics remains, or remain so dear to my heart that, even if I don’t get them out and put them on often, if ever, they are powerfully nostalgic when I do come across them. They remain timeless.
Here, then, are my fifteen:
Midnight Oil – Blue Sky Mine
Midnight Oil were my first “favourite band”, a love of my early teenage years and the first live concert I went to, when I was 11 or 12.
My Friend the Chocolate Cake – Live at the National Theatre
My Mum was given the MFTCC album “Good Luck” at work and despite it being nothing like what I was listening to at the time I stole it and began a love affair with the band. Something about David Bridie’s voice and the at-times haunting and at-times soaring orchestral folk music really connected with me. As is the case with most good bands they’re best live, and this is a live album which I listened to over and over again in the late 90’s and still enjoy today.
Pulp - This is Hardcore
I loved Pulp. I got into them after Different Class came out in 1995 but it went to a different level after 1998’s This is Hardcore. When they toured in support of the album my friend Dylan and I camped out to get great tickets. Completely unnecessarily as it turned out as no-one else turned up until 6am. Ergo, we must have been the biggest Pulp fans in Sydney at the time.
Leftfield - Leftism
Released in 1995 but still sounds cutting-edge today. At the time the blend of dub, breakbeat and techno was completely new and different. One of the greatest electronic albums of all time.
Various (mixed by DJ Nervous and John Ferris) – Plastic
Plastic was the first club I went to regularly, near weekly for the summer of 99/2000, and am amazing summer it was. I don’t listen to this stuff anymore but this was a really good time. The plastic sound, rocking, sometimes-cheesy uplifting trance, was the soundtrack of university for myself and many friends.
Freestylers - We Rock Hard
When we weren’t listening to the Freestylers that is. This was probably played at every house party I was at from 1999-2001.
Radiohead - Kid A
When OK Computer was released I found it hard to imagine anything better. Then Radiohead released Kid A, so completely unlike OK Computer but to my ears transcending their previous sound for one more complex, chaotic, beautiful and beguiling. Also: I met my wife at a Radiohead concert which heavily featured this album and its immediate follow-ups.
Infected Mushroom - Classical Mushroom
After their brilliant debut The Gathering Infected Mushroom emerged as the biggest psytrance act on the planet with the release of Classical Mushroom in 2000. As the name implies it infused classical elements with thumping, expansive psytrance grooves, overlayed with piano, guitars, sitars and science fiction samples. It infected many, myself included, with the psytrance bug and remains a unique and extraordinary album.
Sigur Rós – Ágætis byrjun
I’ll never forget the first time I heard Sigur Ros. I was lying on the floor of a darkened room as this strange, ethereal music washed over me, overwhelming my mind with its strange beauty. The lush contours of the music and incomprehensible-but-evocative vocals seemed to contain a dark secret, almost understood, majestic in its power. It still has that effect on me.
Coda - Calling Mission Mu
I loved the “acoustic electronic” or “neo-classical” scene that emerged in Sydney in the early-mid 00’s: bands that re-created electronica-inspired soundscapes with live instrumentation including xylophones, violins, guitars, drums, etc. Coda are the best example of this sound and Calling Mission Mu is a brilliant album.
Ott - Hallucinogen in Dub
Everyone should own this album. It’s that good. British psydub producer Ott deconstructed and reconstructed the sounds of Hallucinogen into a truly brilliant dub record.
Shpongle - Nothing lasts, but nothing is lost
I found it almost impossible to choose just one Shpongle album, they’re all so strong and so individually unique. Their music is a crazy brilliant mix of ambient, world, psytrance and dub. I chose Nothing lasts… in part because it reminds me of a beautiful morning at a festival headlined by Shpongle following the release of this album, listening to this enveloping and inspiring sound while watching butterfly’s float in rays of morning light shafting through the trees above our heads…. Just about as perfect a moment as you could imagine. The 20 “tracks” on this album flow together seamlessly so hearing one in isolation doesn’t do it any justice, but regardless:
Son Kite – Colours
When I started going out to psytrance parties I was all about the full-on morning sound. Initially I found the more progressive side of things a bit lacking in excitement, but over time this longer-form, more subtle variant began to really work for me. Son Kite was one of the first progressive artists I listened to a lot, especially this album.
Lost Keys – Faerie Spell
In 2006 our flatmate Len brought home a demo from a young producer up the North Coast of NSW, a friend of his teenage cousin. It was four tracks of fantastically well-constructed psytrance with great samples and inventive melodies. It was a hell of a lot of fun and instantly became high rotation in our house. Two years later this finished album came out and we’re still listening to it regularly now. All killer, no filler. And this track has a Dark Crystal sample! What’s not to like?
Eddie Vedder – Into the Wild Soundtrack
K and I saw Into the Wild during our frantic final few days packing up our lives in Newtown and preparing to embark on our big overseas adventure. It’s a beautiful film, perfectly accompanied by Eddie Vedder’s brilliant soundtrack. Every time I hear this album it makes me think of travel and distance, the rawer edge of life’s journey and the people you meet along the way.