What music are we listening to at Polari HQ this week?
When I heard that the German composer Hans Werner Henze had died I had only a vague notion of his work, so I’ve spent the last week exploring on YouTube and it’s been a revelation. Henze created music that’s menacing, lyrical, serious and extraordinary. It requires active listening in a way that most music nowadays doesn’t, but if you give it the time and space it’ll repay you handsomely. Many of his symphonies were written for two orchestras combined, which makes for complex, multi-layered, mini-epics that reveal something different with each hearing (the 5th for example, from 1962, is like someone shouting then comforting you in the same breath) and Henze was also one of the most prolific and admired opera composers of the last century. Henze was even more politically and sexually radical than he was in his music. Almost arrested by the Nazis for being gay, he managed to escape a dawn raid (something that must have saved his life) and had a relationship with Fausto Moroni for over 40 years. Hans Werner Henze’s music won’t be to everyone’s taste, but it could open up your ears to a whole new sound world.
Andrew Darley – Modern Driveway – Luke Abbott
As much as I love winter and all her delights, the thoughts of making the daily trek into the city centre, on public transport, does not excite me as much. Thankfully, music makes this journey feel like a hop-skip-and-a-jump against the lessening temperatures and icy rain. Luke Abbott’s Modern Driveway is the perfect accompaniment to brave such conditions. Its sleepy electronic dance music oddly provides a soothing effect and will make you want to dance. Even though it only contains five songs, there’s a lot of charisma and care taken in its abstract sounds and hypnotic rhythms. This record is much like a hot whiskey, working its way through the body to give that warm fuzzy feeling, with a kick along the way too.
Christopher Bryant – Take Offs and Landings – Rilo Kiley
The first Rilo Kiley song I heard was in one of the not-so-stellar Season 6 episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It was ‘Pictures of Success’ from their first album Take Offs and Landings. (2001). (There was an independently released EP before that in one edition was album length …) I was hooked. The song was realistic & introspective; and it was about something that most people struggle with: the idea of success, what it means to real people. It has a great – and unexpected – use of horns (you can listen to it here on MySpace). I bought the firs album, and soon after their second, The Execution of All Things (2002), which has more of a contemporary indie sound. One of the songs from it, ‘With Arms Outstretched’, played over the last scene of the Weeds finale earlier this year, and after that I started to listen to them again. The band is no longer releasing records, but its singer, Jenny Lewis, has released 2 solo CDs. Their music is unique, and trades on the darker, serious side of life.