Balearic Mike`s Musical Diets / Week 31: 23/12/2021

It might seem a bit incongruous to post Mike`s Christmas selections in the middle of January, but they’re too lovely to leave sitting on my hard drive….Last Christmas breaks my nostalgic heart, and that Kate Bush track is so damn funky…

Words & selections by Balearic Mike.

It might be almost Christmas, but the music never stops yeah …

Falle Nioke & Ghost Culture – Youkounkoun EP – PRAH Recordings 2020

BALEARIC MIKE FALLE NIOKE

I am so late to the party on this one that the party has actually finished, and they’ve already tidied up and everything. Luckily my good friend and former DJ wife, Jan Hammered, is as hawk-eared as ever and hipped me to these excellent tracks, which were released last summer. Thankfully lots of other people must have also missed it, as there are still a few copies available on their Bandcamp page.

Falle Nioke is a singer and percussionist from Guinea Conakry, West Africa. He sings in French and English, Susu, Fulani, Malinke and Coniagui, and plays a range of cultural African instruments, such as the gongoma, bolon and cassi. Ghost Culture is the alias of UK electronic music producer, James Greenwood. Together they have made a stunning 4 track E.P. of Afro-electro-techno-dub.

The opening track, Barke (Blessing), is my favourite of the four. A mid-tempo Bal-ectro affair, all bouncing electro style beats and synth riffs, with Falle’s beautiful vocal over the top. The remaining three tracks are more up-tempo dancefloor bangers, with Fufafou pounding along like UR`s Astral Apache, again with a beautiful vocal. In fact, ditto for Loneliness. Mounemouma has a slightly mellower, more house / electro rhythm, but again big analogue synth chords and a soaring vocal make this a proper peak time beast of a track.

A gorgeous record, and I’m sure I’m not the only one who missed it, so do yourself a favour and get right on it! 

It’s definitely winter. Almost Christmas. We’re not likely to get snow here in Brighton, but still …

Kate Bush – 50 Words For Snow – Fish People 2011

BALEARIC MIKE 50 WORDS FOR SNOW

The tenth LP from one of the most interesting artists of all time, and it`s just celebrating its 10th birthday. I’ve been listening to this LP a lot at the moment. It feels a bit wrong listening to it when it isn’t winter for some reason. Which is a shame because I absolutely adore this album. It’s so beautiful, gentle, and delicate. Its sparse, haunting piano lines instantly recall those cold, frozen, snowy winters days, when the world seems peaceful and quiet. I grew up in Scotland in the 1970s, back when we still had an ozone layer, and nobody had heard of global warming, so I’m speaking from lived memory here. It’s also blissfully bonkers in just how un-pop it is. For a start, all the tracks are very long. The shortest is nearly 7 minutes, while the longest is almost 14. On opening track, Snowflake  – clocking in at just under 10 – Kate doesn’t even sing the lead vocal, instead leaving that to her son, and only joining in on the chorus. 

The whole LP is fantastically minimal in its arrangements. There isn’t a second when there’s an inessential note played or cymbal brushed or bass plucked, with the standard of playing from the likes of Danny Thompson and John Giblin on bass, and Steve Gadd on drums exceptional.

My favourite track though, is the stunning duet – no, not the one with Elton John, although that is quite lovely) – with Stephen Fry, on the LP`s title track. Thankfully Stephen doesn’t sing, instead he has more of an acting role, playing the part of Prof. Joseph Yupik, whom Kate encourages to recite his 50 words for snow, while she counts from one to fifty, over a propulsive, jazzy, rhythm, which recalls the rolling beats of Can’s Jaki Liebezeit. It’s so gloriously nuts, but the outcome is pure joy, with the listener never sure if the ‘words for snow’ are real, or just wonderful nonsense they’ve dreamt up. Wenceslasaire, Santanyeroofdikov, faloop’njoompoola, phlegm de neige, and albadune are some of my favourites.

It’s Christmas Eve … there can be only one!

Wham! – Last Christmas / Everything She Wants – Epic 1984

BALEARIC MIKE LAST CHRISTMAS 1

Without doubt the finest Christmas song ever written – admittedly the level of competition in this field is not high – but also for me one of the finest double-headers ever released in pop music. I’m talking Paperback Writer / Rain, Town Called Malice / Precious, Sabotage / Get It Together, levels of amazingness here! Not bad for £2.49!

BALEARIC MIKE LAST CHRISTMAS 2

Loads has been written about how Last Christmas was the biggest ever selling record not to make it to number one, until finally making it big (see what I did there!) in January this year. Lots has also been written about how George and Andrew donated all the proceeds to charity. Ignoring all that, both tracks are incredible pieces of music, and both are pretty much George Michael solo outings. I mean doing that “Prince thing”. George, a LinnDrum, a Roland Juno-60 synth, some sleigh bells – for Last Christmas, obvs – and recording engineer Chris Porter were all that was needed. The results were two sparse, electronic soundscapes, over which George would record some of his finest, and for a Christmas song, darkest and most heart-breaking lyrics.

That one side is a beloved holiday staple, while the other is considered one of the greatest club records of the electronic age – I notice that Danny Krivit got around to doing a re-edit of Everything She Wants this year – now a staple of the coolest dance music clubs and festivals 36 years after its release, is testament to just how special this single is.

And don’t forget THAT video! The Swiss ski chalet. The huge hair! The amazing clothes. The fact that the model, Kathy Hill, who plays the bitch that dumps George for Andrew was actually Vangelis’ girlfriend at the time. Apparently George spent the whole trip asking about Vangelis’ music. Don’t forget that Shirley Holliman, of Pepsi & Shirley, took her boyfriend, Martin Kemp from Spandau Ballet, along, and that 36 years later they’re still happily married. If that doesn’t warm your heart, then nothing will.

Merry Christmas.

For more from Balearic Mike you can find him on both Facebook and Instagram – @balearicmike. Mike also has a Mixcloud page packed with magnificent, magical, music.

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