While Rob Smoughton was an early member of Hot Chip (he’s now their live drummer), the multi-instrumentalist/singer spends most of his time revisiting yacht rock’s golden age with Grovesnor. Originally a synth-spiked solo project, it recently expanded to a six-piece band in time for some touring behind Smoughton’s first proper LP, Soft Return. The following mix is as essential as the DJ sets of Smoughton’s Hot Chip mates, with selections from Tortoise, Talking Heads, and some serious garage rock scorchers.
Letta Mbulu â€“ Mahalela
I think this is from an album produced by David Axelrod, who I love. His production is always so dramatic. Letta has such an amazing voice, and this track has such a spooky beginning. It’s just a perfect track to set the scene.
Daniel Zamir/Satlah – Re’ach Tapuach Odem Shani
There’s a warning on this album that says “Please do not play this on Shabbat.” I’m not Jewish and confess ignorance as to when this might be, but these guys take their Judaism seriously. The whole record (Children of Israel) is wonderful, with great time signatures and melodies. I love the way he switches from traditional scales and techniques to real silky, swanky stuff.
Talking Heads – Double Groove
This is an outtake from the Remain in Light sessions. I love when Talking Heads go for that Afrobeat style. There’s loads going on here–maybe too much, which is perhaps why it never got on the album. But for me, it’s just a joyous five minutes.
Crossover â€“ Phostographt
From the â€˜throw it all in’ approach on the Heads track prior to this, Crossover give us the flipside of creating a groove. There’s like two synth lines, a kick/snare pattern, and no need for much more. Everything is just so well timed and paced on this track.
DMX Krew â€“ Get With You
I love the cheap sound of the synths and the guitars, like they’ve just been plugged straight into an old 4-track. I’m a huge fan of all vocoders–that computer voice thing is such a great invention. It’s really emotional, though; such sweetness, I forget that it’s not a human vocal line. And catchy as hell.
Herbert GrÃ¶nemeyer â€“ MÃ¤nner
I first heard this in an Austrian hotel in the middle of the Tirol. It was on a radio that had a tiny speaker mounted into the headboard of the hotel bed. Everything sounded great through that speaker. My German is pretty shoddy, but I think the message behind this track is â€œWhat makes a man a man?â€ Men can feel sexy, vulnerable, strong–we’re emotional beasts, let’s not forget it. Fun fact: Herbert played the blond lieutenant in Das Boot.
The Left Banke â€“ Her Evening Gown
I taped this from the radio late one night, when I was about 15. I couldn’t get enough of it. It’s less than two minutes of perfect Baroque ‘n’ roll. Great scream.
Shocking Blue â€“ Send Me A Postcard
Fuzztone guitar? Check. Cardboard box drums? Check. Bongo freakout? Check. This is European garage rock in its purest form. Shocking Blue were Dutch. They wrote “Lovebuzz”–Nirvana’s first single–but this for me is their best. It gets the party going.
Tortoise â€“ Prepare Your Coffin
Tortoise are sometimes criticized for making chin-stroking, jazzy post-rock but I think that’s just lazy music critics. If I could join any band, it would probably be them. This track is so propulsive, I don’t think I’ve ever listened to it and not wanted to punch the air when those handclaps come in.
Special Benny â€“ Airfilter
Careful, you better pay attention. Don’t let the pastoral English accents and folksy melody of the start lure you into a false sense of security. You can never tell where these guys will go next. I started drumming with Special Benny after being a longtime fan and heard that they had played a â€œgoodbyeâ€ gig. I’m so glad I did–it’s a joy to play this stuff.
Mink DeVille â€“ Spanish Stroll
Who is this? Lou Reed? Jonathan Richman? The Boss? Well, no–its Willy “Mink” DeVille, capturing something that all those other guys go for. Is it in a movie? Probably.
Justus KÃ¶nhcke â€“ Parage
This one’s all about the build up. I’d love to make music like this, where the tension is kept all the way through, but I don’t have the restraint. Justus toured with Hot Chip earlier this year, when I met him for the first time. He’s just got this soooo right.
Yello â€“ Bostich
Probably better known for their â€œchk:.chickachick-ahhhhhhâ€ from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, but Yello had some great stuff years before. I love the mix of stark synths and vocals, doubled up with an almost military snare drum that still sounds like a samba rhythm.
Alex Cima â€“ Cosmic Connection
Jon Tye from Lo introduced me to this track from a mix he did for Allez-Allez. It’s early Italo-house. The piano, vocoders and backing vocals are just irresistible.