So, how did you all welcome in the New Year? I spent much of the evening engaged in the supremely dorky but strangely edifying activity of scouring a radio station’s CD library for rockabilly instrumentals, Vampisoul re-issues and tweaking French electro-schlock to be played on a ridiculously extended version of Daz’s drive-time show.
In the process, I came across a truly unexpected and mind boggling cultural artefact, an EP of mongrel mid 90’s country/metal/techno entitled “The Smell of Love” which features drolly intoned vocals by Australia’s most infamous hitman, Mark “Chopper” Read. (If you’re unfamiliar with him, you might want to check out his Wikipedia entry, or track down the DVD of his biopic, Chopper, which helped launch the Hollywood career of The Hulk’s Eric Bana.)
The music is nothing to write home about but Chopper’s contributions (which were clandestinely recorded while he was still in gaol) are genuinely creepy. Mind you, Chopper could recite lullabies in that menacing drawl of his and you’d still be nervously checking that all doors were locked and bolted.
The EP, which was released in 1997, earned Chopper and his musical collaborator, Colin Dix, an Aria nomination for best contemporary release and was followed up in 1998 by a full length album, "Get Your Ears Off" (a reference to the fact that Chopper had his ears sliced off while he was inside). Neither of these set the world on fire, so Chopper’s musical career remained on remand until its relaunch in 2006 by Australian hip hop impresario Jaydub, who produced the album, “Interview With A Madman” and got Chopper a run of gigs at the Sydney Opera House.
Despite the title and its marketing as genuine “gangsta rap”, this slick new product is a lot less chilling than its late 90's predecessor. Mind you, that’s still like saying someone waving a gun in your face is a lot less chilling than someone jamming a gun in your temple…
Anyway, here’s a couple of Chopper tracks from both of his “pop star” incarnations so you can judge for yourself. The first track is off “The Smell Of Love”; the second is from “Interview With A Madman”. Chopper’s website offers a number of options for purchasing his “gangsta rap” album, and one of his earlier albums can be purchased here.
Jan Turkenburg is a music teacher and "obsessive collector of amazing sounds" from Holland. When he's not teaching or producing charmingly quirky sample-based music, he's overseeing 52 Weeks, the slightly-more-modest Dutch "child" of the 365 Days Project. Every week since the beginning of this year, Turkenburg has been posting a new album of interesting and/or unusual music on this site; most of it from the Low Countries.
Last week, he posted something truly beautiful and inspiring which would have to count as one of the highlights of this project so far...
In 1943, Margaret Dryburgh, a Presbyterian missionary who was being held captive in a Japanese prison camp in Southern Sumatra, sought escape from her plight by reconstructing entire works by composers like Beethoven, Debussy and Dvorak entirely from memory - without the aid of musical intruments. With the help of Norah Chambers, a professional musician and fellow internee, these works were transcribed on scraps of hoarded paper and arranged for a choir consisting of thirty other inmates. (Of those 30, only half would survive the war.)
In 1983, one of the surviving members of the original ensemble organised a recording of Drybugh's prison-camp arrangements by a Californian women's choir. That recording will be up on the 52 Weeks site till next week. I urge everyone to go there and download it.