There are few things better than discovering a song for the first time. Playing music is the closest we've come to duplicating that feeling of discovery. These songs may seem all over the map, but for us, they all speak to the sincerity in the wild and exploratory process of making music. We risk it by putting it out there. Sometimes it's distorted and quiet, other times it's pulsing and frenetic. That's the kind of music we're always working to make and love listening to.
-Ra Ra Rasputin, January 2011
More information about each song after the jump...
“Tidal Wave” Grouper Dragging a Dead Deer Up A Hill (2008)
Liz Harris' music constantly surprises me, which is always my goal when writing. I'm really inspired by her sound and have spent much of the last few years recording everyday sounds and building dark, moody patches around them. Her quiet, under-watery songs are undeniably awesome.
“Heart of Gold” Neil Young Harvest (1972)
This song is my first memory of music - it's always with me and I love it.
“Egyptian Shumba” The Tammys Egyptian Shumba 7" single (1963)
These ladies were the original girls gone wild. I'm sure I've listened to this song one thousand times, and I still love it just as much as the first play. The classic 60's intro and the sex crazed shrieks and grunts are so wacky and fun I can't help but shimmy shimmy.
“Is It Medicine” The Knife Deep Cuts (2005)
Anyone who knows me knows that I have a deep and undying love for Swedish musicians. The Knife is one of my all time favorites and this song has a groove that wins gold.
“A Journey to Reedham [7 A.M. mix]” Squarepusher Big Loada (1997)
Squarepusher has a wonderful ability to find really nice melodic phrases, loop them and then throw some incredibly active drums over top as the lead instrument. I think this song is a great example of that. There are some really crazy/impressive sounds. I love the synth riff that comes in at 01:34.
“Ye Ye De Smell” Fela Kuti and Africa 70 Live with Ginger Baker (1971)
Fela Kuti always found those basslines and grooves that, for some magical reason, you can just jam on for hours and hours (sometimes literally). This song is from a live album featuring Ginger Baker from Cream, who traveled to Africa to hang out with Fela and study African rhythms.
“This Must Be the Place ” Talking Heads Speaking In Tongues (1983)
I considered adding one of the more percussion-heavy Talking Heads tunes from Fear of Music or Remain in Light, but I just really love this one. The bass and drums - which don't change for the entire song - lay down such a pleasant foundation for the vocals and synth melodies. The lyrics are really nice. And there are all of these fun sounds in the background. The video is really great too.
“Music for a Large Ensemble” Steve Reich Octet - Music for a Large Ensemble - Violin Phase (1980)
This is my favorite piece by 20th century minimalist composer Steve Reich. Another wonderful example of hypnotic repetitive interlocking rhythms. I love the subtle variations and time signature changes. Even after listening to the piece dozens of times, I still consistently find the big horn swells (02:18, for example) to be genuinely moving. The piece reminds me of one of those fast-forward shots of people getting on and off trains at rush hour. It was all recorded live, I think. Beautiful music.
"(We Don't Need This) Fascist Groove Thang" Heaven 17 Penthouse and Pavement (1981)
2 of the 3 original members of The Human League, Ian Marsh and Martyn Ware (It was Ware who came up with the name "The Human League") quit the Human League and started a new band called Heaven 17. Human League (with Phil Oakey) ended up having way more success, but Heaven 17 came out with a couple of jewels. This song is a classic.
“Hole In My Head” Box Elders Alice and Friends (2009)
This band is from Omaha, and that's where I grew up. This song is perfectly catchy and short. The drummer, Dave, is a bartender at one of my favorite bars, Brother's Lounge, ran by an awesome couple, who keep a jukebox that I would copy and rip off if I ever owned a bar. If any of my friends visit Omaha, I tell them to stop in at Brother's Lounge to listen to good music, play pool, and cheap shots. Box Elders recently toured with Black Lips, and I went to the show with a friend, and they put on one of the best performances I've seen.
“Contort Yourself (August Darnell remix)” James White & the Blacks Off White (Original, 1979, Remix 2003)
The original is good, but this is an example of where the remix is simply dancier.
“586” New Order Peel Sessions (1982)
There's a reason that England has a holiday dedicated to Peel. Listening to Peel Sessions is like having a time machine and hearing the hundreds of bands that have gone through the process of recording live. It's really quite unlike listening to a band's album. From David Bowie to the White Stripes (to bands that never recorded any Albums), an appearance by Nirvana before Nevermind ever came out. It's an encyclopedia of bands. I learned about a whole lot of bands that I'd never heard of because of Peel. This is a song by New Order, which the album version sounds nothing like! It's one of my favorite builds of a song, and I really like the tone of the chorus and lyrics "Yes, I heard you calling..."
“Scene II” Will Sergeant Themes for ‘Grind’ (1982)
Good ambient music is all about tone and subtlety. And Detail - careful attention to detail. And that's why this track from Will Sergeant's soundtrack to an unreleased* film is so stunning: not a single note is wasted and every note is beautiful. It’s incredible that he was able to coax such other worldy sounds using only guitars, an autoharp, cheap keyboards and a handful of effects pedals. You can definitely hear echoes of this album in his work with Echo and the Bunnymen, especially on “Heaven up Here” and “Porcupine.”
*The tapes were stolen out of director Bill Butt’s car
“ Poppies” The Teardrop Explodes Kilimanjaro (1980)
Before we started Ra Ra Rasputin, I had never really played bass. I was, first and foremost a guitarist. But I quickly found that the kind of music we were playing required me to do more than just plunk around playing root notes. In early 2008, I started listening to the Teardrop Explodes' first album a lot and took about a month to learn the album's guitar and bass parts inside and out.
“Take A Chance” Mr. Flagio Take A Chance 12" Single (1983)
Our friends Scott Bauer and Ed Porter used to spin this at their Velodrome night back in 2008. It’s an over-the-top slice of heaven that was released when Italian producers were at the peak of their game. The melody is just infectious; you can't help but scream along when the chorus comes in. And the ending is perfect.
“Fortune” Felt Sunlight Bathed the Golden Glow 12" Single (1984)
I'm convinced that the most innovative rock guitarists are those who originally studied classical music: Robbie Krieger of the Doors, Tom Verlaine of Television, Vini Reilly of the Durutti Column and Maurice Deebank of Felt. Deebank's intricate classically-influenced playing served simultaneously as a foil for Lawrence Hayward's simple open chord strumming and a compliment to the airy and melancholy lyrics. I've always found it a bit tragic that Felt were so overlooked. It certainly didn't help that most of their albums were unavailable in the US for years. (Felt's entire back catalog was lovingly reissued by Cherry Red Records, their original label). To this day, I'm always overjoyed when I meet someone who is familiar with Felt.