Tag Archives: great stories

Elephant Micah Plays…KLF

ElephantMicah1High

Elephant Micah aka Joe O’Connell is an artist I was hugely excited to discover.  The multi-instrumentalist from Indiana writes and sings proper songs, the type that make you catch your breath, cry or smile wryly to yourself. Considerately and poetically penned and – although experimental in parts – they possess an old fashioned gravity.

As a musical entity Elephant Micah spans over a decade, from the debut LP Low Energy Dance Music in 2002 to the latest endeavour Globe Rush Progressions. Here Joe talks about an intriguing influence, notorious acid house pioneers The KLF and their classic album Chill Out, recorded live in 1989.

Elephant Micah

Elephant Micah Plays…KLF ‘Chill Out’

I was doing some free-form internet searching on “ambient music.”  I wanted to know what albums people consider to be part of the “ambient” canon.  A citation of the KLF caught my attention.  Is this the same 1990s pop group that set fire to a million pounds sterling?  My focus shifted entirely to the KLF—their ideas, their antics, and their music.  The group’s story continues to hold my attention.

Chill Out belongs to a tradition of club music for relaxation and repose, styled in contrast with dance music itself.  The KLF designates the sheep as Chill Out totem animal.  Sheep occupy the album cover, resting at pasture, and the early moments of the album audio, bleating in a call-and-response with their human shepherd.  In addition to appreciating this album as a work of sound collage (mixed live from mostly pre-recorded sources), I take interest in it as a kind of “techno pastoral”—an idealization of the countryside by electronic musicians.

Check it out the album here:

You can listen to Joe’s most recent Elephant Micah release ‘Globe Rush Progressions’ below, ‘Marie’s Hair’, ‘Ever Greener’ and the jingle bell tinkling ‘Jesus Christ’ are my personal highlights.

I’m also a huge fan of this collaboration with Hiss Golden Messenger

…and this track from 2012 release Louder Than Thou. If that’s not enough to make you buy the entire backcatalogue more fool you.

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State Broadcasters Play…The Bhundu Boys

State Broadcasters are a six-piece band from Glasgow who I’ve only come to know in the last year or so…

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…although they actually first formed first back in 2004. Released on the fairly wonderful Scottish label Olive Grove Records the band’s newly released album Ghosts We Must Carry is the type of music you’ll want to sink right in to, dusky voices, melodic strings and quite simply endearing songs.

Following a Play a Song For Me plea Pete from the band was kind enough to share a musical memory with us…

The Artist: The Bhundu Boys

The Album: Shabini

When I was young our dad used to play us The Bhundu Boys in the car. They’re a band from Zimbabwe who play this beautiful jangly pop music that is about as catchy as anything you’ll ever hear. Their guitar lines manage to be both intricate and simple at the same time, and their vocal harmonies are gorgeous. John Peel was a huge fan – there’s a lovely story Andy Kershaw has about them going to see a Bhundu Boys gig and Peel crying through the whole show because he thought it was so wonderful. I think hearing their music has had a massive influence on the way I make and enjoy music: I love a major key, and sunny jangly pop songs. I’m pretty sure my love of The Smiths and The Beach Boys can be traced back to hearing the Bhundus in the car when I was 4. 

The story of the band is extremely sad. Their early records are full of exuberance and celebrate a bright and optimistic future for Zimbabwe, – when Mugabe took control of the country after the civil war he was seen as a good leader, someone who would take the country forward. But as time passed parallels can be drawn between Zimbabwe and the band themselves. Most of the original Bhundu Boys lineup are now dead – the lead singer committed suicide, and 3 others died of AIDS related illness.  The only founder member still performing is the guitarist Rise Kagona, who now lives near Edinburgh. He hasn’t been able to return to Zimbabwe for years and doesn’t get nearly as much recognition as he deserves for his music – he’s one of the best guitarists I’ve ever seen and if there were any justice would be playing huge sold out rooms.  I’d urge you to go and see him play – it’s a totally joyous way to spend an evening.

The thing I personally love most about Pete’s suggestion is that I doubt I’d have thought of picking up this record and it’s quite far away from what I’ve fallen in the pattern of listening to, but I love how vibrant and sunshiney the songs feel and hear echoes of their influence in work by many other artists. As a random aside also read that they labelled their style ‘jit’, love the word and being a massive fan of watching performances on vintage telly, thought you might enjoy this treasure

Here’s a wee bit of Rise Kagona for good measure, playing with Scottish musician Doug Veitch.  I also found a great Guardian interview

As for State Broadcasters you can stream their second full length album below, purchase from their bandcamp and check them out all over the wonder woven internet. Ghosts We Must Carry highlights include comfort laden single ‘Trespassers’, the delicately melodic ‘The Only One’ and opener ‘The Only Way Home’.