The Sight Below

NEEDLE EXCHANGE 014: An Exclusive Mix By … The Sight Below

April 06, 2010   Needle Exchange

Much like his last LP Glider, The Sight Below‘s new It Falls Apart album is a pitch-perfect blend of crisp ambient textures and subtle subterranean techno. It’s got a couple wild cards, though; namely the cross-continental contributions of former Slowdive drummer Simon Scott and a profoundly depressing–in a good way–Joy Division cover (“New Dawn Fades”) that features the vapor trail vocals of Tiny Vipers.

The following Needle Exchange mix is an absolute must-listen if you’re a mopey, mercurial bastard like us, as it involves live blends (snap, crackle, pop vinyl and all) of Joy Division, My Bloody Valentine, This Mortal Coil, the Chameleons…even some early Kraftwerk. The Sight Below’s thoughts on the Cure’s “All Cats Are Grey” pretty much nails it: “[it’s] a very effective cross of acoustic and electronic instruments to create a very powerful feeling, like the world collapsing around you and you couldn’t care less.” True.

1. This Mortal Coil | “Red Rain” | Filigree & Shadow (4AD, 1986)
The concept of This Mortal Coil shouldn’t have worked on paper: putting together an “all-star” band or supergroup. I mean, seriously, supergroups RARELY do anything outstanding. This is one of those rarities. This lovely track is from their 1986 album FIligree & Shadow. I found this vinyl jewel at Amoeba in San Francisco a few years ago and bought it for like $10. Not bad for such a masterpiece!

2. The Durutti Column | “A Sketch For Dawn” | LC (Factory, 1981)
Vini Reilly is perhaps the most underrated musician in the world. This is my favorite Durutti Column song, from the album LC. It is a very simple pop song with fantastic lyrics and hypnotic guitar lines. Very inspirational indeed!

3. The Cure | “All Cats Are Grey” | Faith (Fiction, 1981)

While most people will say Pornography or Disintegration are the best Cure albums ever, I have to always point to this song from their Faith album. I think this is their best work imo. It sounds extremely bleak, cold and detached. The production is perhaps some of the best in their entire career–a very effective cross of acoustic and electronic instruments to create a very powerful feeling, like the world collapsing around you and you couldn’t care less.

4. Joy Division | “The Eternal” | Closer (Factory, 1980)
From Joy Division’s second and final album, released shortly after Ian’s death. This album is even more somber and eerie than the first one. Ian’s death added a new level of mystique to an already bleak album, of course. The copy I have is actually signed by Peter Hook. I met him at a club a few years ago. And of course, me being a fan, dragged all my JD vinyl with me to the show. He was nice and signed them.

5. Echo & The Bunnymen | “All My Colours” | Heaven Up Here (Sire, 1981)
Zimbo, Zimbo, Zimbo…ah, such a dramatic and sweeping song. Love at first sight.

6. The Chameleons UK | “I’ll Remember” | Strange Times (Geffen, 1986)
The Chameleons are one of my fav bands of all time. It was hard to pick one song, but I love the production on this track and the guitar sound is a huge inspiration to me. I had the good fortune to see Mark Burgess live many years ago. He played an all acoustic guitar set and played lots of old songs. It was a lovely show, unfortunately there were only 20 people there. Quite heartbreaking, cause the next day fucking Interpol played for a sold out crowd of 1,200. Oh well, the true geniuses always go unnoticed by the masses, perhaps it is what makes them so special!

7. Slowdive | “Shine” | Holding Our Breath (Creation, 1991)
I’ve been listening to Slowdive since I was a teen–they provided a soundtrack for those lonely years. Interestingly enough, I’ve been working with Simon Scott, who was their drummer during this period. Life takes some very strange turns when you least expect it! Simon last year sent me a box full of old (and rare) original pressings of Slowdive vinyl as a present (like from his actual leftover copies). This song is from their Holding Out Breath 12-inch EP, which was released shortly before the Just For A Day album on Creation. It was later remixed by Locust (aka Mark Van Hoen) and released as part of the shoegaze friendly soundtrack to the Slendor film, but that’s another story, hehehe.

8. My Bloody Valentine | “Lose My Breath” | Isn’t Anything (Creation, 1988)
The first time I heard MBV it was one of those life-defining moments. Not only did it change the way I play the guitar, but it also
re-contextualized the way I viewed music in general. I remember listening to “Only Shallow” (Loveless) and thinking: “I do not know what makes that elephant sound, but I want to play that!” This track is from their earlier album, Isn’t Anything. It’s amazing the amount of electronic artists I’ve met that have mentioned MBV as an influence. Perhaps they didn’t sell too many copies when it was released, but everybody who bought a copy of their albums started to make music. Now THAT’s quite something!

9. Kraftwerk | “Ananas Symphonie” | Ralf Und Florian (Phillips, 1973)
This track off their third album is quite outstanding. Way ahead of their time! I’ve always wondered what Kraftwerk would have sounded like if they had followed this guitar-centric direction…proto-shoegaze?

10. Talk Talk | “Ascension Day” | Laughing Stock (Vertigo, 1991)
This track is from Talk Talk’s fifth and final studio album (and their masterpiece imo).This album is like the post-rock bible. “Ascension Day” is an incredibly lovely song, with great dynamics, production and sounds. Ironically, like everything that’s great, it was virtually ignored when released in 1991.

  • Thank you!

    Big fan of the Sight Below.

  • Samantha

    i’ve been ambivalent of this guy. the music is a passable Gas imitator and the album was named after a My Bloody Valentine EP. now a Joy Division cover? everything about this guy is just cringingly derivative. even his commentary above about MBV: sounds a lot like that famous quote “almost nobody bought the Velvet Underground album when it came out, but everyone who did started a band”…

    oh and asking Peter Hook to sign your Joy Division vinyl? embarrassing. (but in a cute way, kind of like those “i had my period in front of my crush” letters in Seventeen magazine.)

    i mean, this isn’t horrible music, but there are hundreds of more original acts who deserve the attention.

  • The Sight Below is amazing, everything is a derivative of something else, mindsets like the one above are what kill creativity.

  • leslie ren

    beautiful mix. love the track by the Durutti Column.

  • mark

    taken from Resident Advisor’s interview with The Sight Below by Todd Burns:

    Unlike Voigt’s Gas, which was as much about techno as it was about ambience, The Sight Below throbbing pulse was incidental—a mere time-keeper.

    “Glider was all live. I would plug in my guitar, had a bunch of effects ready and would hit record on a two-track machine. I found out later on that it was a huge problem afterward. When we were thinking about getting things remixed from the album, we didn’t have any parts to send to people. It was just one guitar file. I really wanted the guy from Seefeel to remix something, but he couldn’t do anything with it.”

  • Brian

    fantastic mix… all of my favorites right here.
    I can say that The Sight Below has one of the most diverse musical tastes of any musician out there. the new album is stunning!

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  • what happened up there with samantha, it sounds like she had her period in front of her computer listening to this mix. (a) “ambivalent” means having mixed feelings, and her feelings aren’t mixed, they’re just negative and;(b) there’s more than one reason to make a mix – including bands that are “original” and “need attention” is one (samantha, samantha, where’s your mix) while making a mix of songs that mean something to an artist personally, is another. i loved this mix! and i told the artist so.

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