#vinyloftheday: Friday Selekts with Blood, Wine or Honey’s Top Nine Records

Elusive yet prolific, Blood, Wine or Honey have quickly gained international momentum. Within the past year, they have graced Sonar Festival Hong Kong and garnered accolades from a laundry list of influential publications and platforms: Beats In Space, NTS, Juice FM, Radio X, Radio Bern, BBC Radio 6, Mixmag Asia, and the South China Morning Post.

The trio credits their “mantric afro-bitten electro-psychedelia” to the creative atmosphere that surrounds the industrial warehouses of Hong Kong — made even more intense by the unrelenting humidity characteristic of the regions within the South China Sea. Consisting of multi-instrumentalists / vocalists Shane Aspegren, Joseph von Hess and James Banbury, Blood, Wine or Honey has steadily championed their heady fusion of sounds throughout the global musical circuit. Their 2017 breakout tracks, “The Forest is Expecting You” and “Anxious Party People,” count the legendary Iggy Pop, Worldwide FM head honcho Gilles Peterson and Robert Luis of Tru Thoughts among their admirers. 

In conjunction with the release of their hotly anticipated debut album, “Fear & Celebration” earlier in June, #vinyloftheday has quizzed Blood, Wine or Honey on the records that have inspired them — both personally and as musicians.

Shane’s:

Ghostface Killah—Supreme Clientele

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As far as hip-hop albums go, it’s a very difficult tossup. The list could include: J Dilla’s Donuts (or maybe Jaylib’s Champion Sound???), Bizarre Ride II The Pharcyde, OutKast (but which one?) or this, which is probably still my favorite Wu-Tang record. It contains some of Ghostface’s finest surrealist/nonsensical stream-of-consciousness lyrics as well as some beautiful production from RZA, who also scored one of my favorite films from that same era, Jim Jarmusch’s Ghost Dog (though the album version of that soundtrack is pretty lame.) For a couple of years in the early 2000s, we had a ritual of playing Supreme Clientele during brunch almost every Sunday morning.

Fela Ransome Kuti and Africa ’70—Expensive Shit

 
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This was the first Fela record that I ever bought, minutes after discovering it at Kim’s Video & Music in NYC. I was on one of my first ever US tours and back in the pre-streaming days, it was a real treat for a mid-western kid to get to NYC, LA or even Chicago to find new, or in this case old, music. I was really into a period of experimental/post-punk/indie music and wasn’t at all into practicing any instruments to be technically good. Tony Allen made me want to practice the drums again and really helped me re-develop something in the way I approached percussion.

Gamelan Kya Kanyut Musem / Gamelan Kyai Udan Arum—Javanese Court Gamelan Vol. II 

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Since we’re talking about vinyl, this is one that keeps catching back up with me wherever I move—I rescued it from storage a few summers ago and brought it back to Hong Kong, shortly after my first trip to Bali, where I rekindled my love for Gamelan music. This may not be THE greatest record in existence, but was my entryway into Gamelan, before I even understood what instruments were producing those mystical sounds. On the same day (at my favorite record shop in 1990’s Nebraska, The Antiquarium) I also remember buying Gamelan Semar Pegulingan: Gamelan Of The Love God, which gave my young mind a counterpoint to the Javanese style.

James’:

The Human League – Dare

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I grew up in Sheffield in the 80s – the time of the miners’ strike, fear of nuclear war, and the destruction of the steel industry. The Human League were, in the midst of all of this this, impossibly glamorous, confident and luxurious. Catchy pop tunes, impeccable electronic production by the late great Martin Rushent, and Phil Oakey’s sonorous baritone. The sound of my teens. See also: Travelogue and Reproduction albums.

Public Enemy – It Takes A Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back

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“Too black, too strong…” This record is still as relevant and fresh as it was in 1988. Almost atonal music concrete with masses of funk – the sampling techniques were massively inspiring, and the to and fro between the serious message of Chuck D and crazed partying of Flavor Flav work perfectly. Track: Rebel Without A Pause (Possibly not the original but definitely the best use of the Funky Drummer (James Brown) sample.)

 Portishead – Dummy

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Fantastically simple and sophisticated production (something I strive for but never ever achieve) and gloomily beautiful vocals from Beth Gibbons. They pretty much delivered the benchmark trip-hop record before that term became associated with lifestyle kitsch whimsy. Some evocative sampling (Lalo Schifrin and Isaac Hayes for instance) gave the record an instant place in time (which wasn’t necessarily 1994.) See also: Tricky – Hell Is Round The Corner

Joseph’s:
Ian Dury & The Blockheads – New Boots And Panties!! (Stiff Records 1977)

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On the reverse of this album, below the track listing, are printed the words there’s nothing wrong with it!!’ and this statement is absolutely correct. For better or worse, New Boots And Panties!! is one of the soundtracks of my childhood—only ever heard on a clumsily home-recorded cassette copy that was played to death by my dad, until I got my own copy on vinyl many years later from a charity shop. 
It is a very rude, raucous and at times downright ugly album punctuated by moments of odd beauty: the unbeatably suave erotic charm of opening track ‘Wake Up and Make Love With Me’; the devastatingly elegiac biographical introspection of ‘My Old Man’; the full-on music-hall slapstick ‘n’ innuendo one-two of Billericay Dickie’. 

As that number opens with Ian Dury’s spoken words: ‘…good evening—I’m from Essex, in case you couldn’t tell…’ I simply see my dad. Therefore it isn’t just hearing the songs played throughout my childhood that take me uncannily back, it’s also the more-than-passing similarity between Dury’s dulcet tones and my own father’s inflections. My dad’s tall tales of growing up in the East End of London and Essex seemed always to merge in my mind with the stories on this record so that I hardly knew which was which. Of course as a kid, I barely understood what any of it really meant—oh, except for the opening of ‘Plaistow Patricia’. I knew exactly why that was so rude. It begins… well, listen for yourself if you haven’t heard it already! 

It’s not just rosy nostalgia at play here though: I love New Boots And Panties!! because it makes that curious link between old-time London music hall, an unmistakable Chas ‘n’ Dave pub rock aesthetic, and contemporary punk provocations. What’s more, there’s a huge nod and a lusty wink to the funky funky sounds of the discos of New York. This last is largely due to the influence of the legendary Chaz Jankel, the guitarist, keyboard player, writer and arranger for the Blockheads and Chaz’ input is what makes this record really endure for me. It’s that unerring sense of what makes people really move, laughing out loud as they do so, a sensibility that later took the Blockheads into the US top 40 and ensured them a permanent place in David Mancuso’s fabled Loft Party play lists.



Yiorgos Mangas – Yiorgos Mangas (Globe Style 1987)

Fast-forward a decade from Dury’s debut, and, aged 11, I’d been playing clarinet for a year when this LP came into our home. The album captures Yiorgos Mangas (a virtuoso Greek Rom clarinetist and as far as I can tell, a household name in terms of ‘traditional’ music in Greece) at the peak of his powers. The music has had such a lasting effect on me that barely a day goes by without thinking of one or other of the melodies and techniques showcased here. The clumsy imitations of this music that I attempted on my already-ancient Boosey & Hawkes Edgware paved the way to a lasting obsession with the clarinet, as well as with Roma music. 
The complexity and improvisational power of Mangas’ playing, which is very much for dancing as well as listening, transcends any such clumsy labels as ‘folk’ or ‘world’ music. It is plainly very rooted and very powerful and is therefore of a piece with any demotic forms in music, anywhere. Mangas plays a ‘simple system’ clarinet, allowing for a high degree of flexibility and control over grace notes, glissandos, overtones and overall tonality. The passion, purity and emotion of his playing, backed by simple rhythmic accompaniment from accordion, guitar, outi (oud) and traditional hand drums, demands immediate attention. 

The opening track ‘Tsifiteteli Rok’ (‘tsifteteli’ being an instantly recognisable rhythm/dance style in 2/4 found all over the Balkans) opens with a brief, loose, yearning intro to soften you up, before throwing down the ultimate tsifteteli groove that underpins a set of interlinked melodies so magical and transformative that the track is at number 1 in my list of imaginary soundtrack pieces for my fantasy film adaptation of Ovid’s Metamorphosis. The insanely brilliant playing is never showy for its own sake or self-indulgent though—it’s much too direct and confident and full of raw feeling to fall into that trap. I think it is simply unforgettably gorgeous music for brain and body. 

Unlike the Blockheads record, we did have a vinyl copy of ‘Yiorgos Mangas’ (it is still in my record box right now)—but we never had a record player throughout my childhood so again, the only playable copy was a home-recorded cassette. Side B’s ‘Chorepste Tsifteteli’ could also be found on an NME-compiled sampler cassette in 1987 (‘World at One’) and because we played that compilation a lot too, it is probably the most familiar track on the album for me. I wanted to remind myself and comment more in depth on a couple of the other numbers, but funnily enough, 30-odd years down the line I still don’t have a working record deck to hand… so I am relying on memory and scattered bits and pieces on Youtube. One final standout that I don’t need reminding of: ’Yia Tous Anthropous Pou’, which I think translates as ‘For The People’, is so packed with bubbling, rolling improvisational patterns, animal and bird sounds and a palpable sense of connection with all life that it feels like a direct conduit from, and to, the mythical past.

ESG – Party Music (Popular Records 1988)

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To me this 12” is everything a dance record should do and be. Anyone who knows anything about ESG will probably have some sense of their slightly ‘outsider’ status and this record really illustrates that, since it is something of a neglected rarity. I only have the 2003 Tiger Sushi reissue and though obscure, I believe this single track to be ESG’s finest recorded work. Part of the reason for the obscurity is that for reasons that are unclear to me, the song has never appeared on any album, reissue or compilation from ESG. As with Ian Dury, there’s both a punk and a disco connection since ESG’s sound encompasses a raw, working-class, street-side feel as well as the glittering reveries of disco and dance music. I have played Party Music’ many times in DJ sets comprising house tunes and disco rarities, amongst which it seems to shine like a rare jewel. There’s something about the velvety, liquid funk of this tune that always transports me and in my experience, never fails to get people moving. 

The diegetic party sounds of the opening segue into the unrelenting, rolling, rollicking bass line, the firing Latin percussion and the house-inflected chordal hooks—and we’re away. The mesmeric vocal, ‘Can you feel it—the party music, can you feel it? / See it makes you wanna groove’ says all that needs to be said. There’s no fat to cut, no extraneous adornment. When you have no money and every day is a struggle, having fun is a serious business and this record is unequivocal in its call, summoning all to the dance floor. Even if, heaven forbid, this was the only record ESG had ever made (ignoring such timeless classics as ‘UFO’ ‘Moody’ and ‘Dance’ just for a second!) then I feel any claim on behalf of the band for a permanent place within the hallowed halls of ‘stone-cold-classic music-for-dancing’ would be totally unquestionable.

Check out Blood, Wine or Honey’s debut full length release, “Fear and Celebration” on Bandcamp.

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