Inner Ears vol. 1

Welcome back to inertia. We return to you with a new musical feature titled Inner Ears, a fresh freeform feature where our contributors serve up some piping hot music recommendations. Based on what’s been streaming through our own headsets, hopefully you find some artists, albums and genres here to plug into that you’ll dig as much as us. Charlie starts us off with discussing a genre, an artist and an album that have graced his earphones the last few weeks. Bless up!

A Genre That’s Surprised Me

Ambient. It conjures up an image of massage parlour background music, or a freaky new-age art installation. Definitely not something you’d listen to by choice. In the words of the ambient grandfather Brian Eno, music in the style of the genre ‘must be as ignorable as it is interesting’. I find it so fascinating that when you finally do tune into it, pay it its due, it rewards you in kind for providing it with your attention; It turns out to endear you toward it in a calming kind of way. Each song is its own iridescent pearl – pretty at first glance but when you turn it in your hand and listen to it from a slightly different angle it changes form with every repeated listen.

I have American artist Ana Roxanne to blame for all this. I can’t even say when I first heard her music but I do know the first song was her radiant ‘I’m Every Sparkly Woman’, which sounds like a soundtrack to heaven’s escalators as its soaring arpeggio carries you upwards. I’ve absolutely blitzed her two-album discography and still never tire of it. Her 2020 album ‘Because of a Flower’ is a sublime meditation of fluid, dreamy soundscapes, where her background as a Catholic choir singer snaps together with equally mystic sounds that prod your mind towards deep reflection.

There are so many other artists (the majority of them women) pushing the bounds of this overlooked genre right now. Kelly Moran takes her classically trained musical abilities and puts them to task on glittering, fractal-like productions that are well worth a listen. Nala Sinephro is absolutely unmatched in her engaging jazz infused works that bristle with organic sounds and ethereal harp strums. Hannah Peel’s Mercury-nominated debut work from last year is exciting stuff too, like a march out into the dark of night with no shoes on and no clear picture of where you’re going.

Ana Roxanne

An Artist That Passed Me By

I’m really ashamed to say I’ve only just started a foray into The Prodigy and their back catalogue. My first encounter with them was in the flesh at T in the Park 2015. I’m not sure if it was a case of too much, too soon but their punkish, blistering sound blaring through the sound system didn’t capture me at the time and I dismissively wrote them off as not my cup of tea.

Fast forward all these years later and I’ve been taking double servings of their ground-breaking Fat of the Land LP in the last week, feeling like a right tube for not recognising their brilliance way sooner. There’s no better time than now to start making up for lost time however, and I’ve been wrapped up in their tongue-rattling, sweat-dripping music since I decided to give it a second go. The fun of listening to it is how much it sounds like the dance music of today despite coming out before I was born, where the irony lies in the fact that it’s really today’s sounds that feel barely apart from these seismic tunes that are over a quarter of a century old.

I can only crack a guess at how the surging energy of their forward-thinking songs must have blown the socks off of ravers back when it was first released. As a new fan arriving at their music in 2022 their sound still packs a punch and leaves you with a bloody nose. I’ll kick myself forever more for leaving their Sunday night set at T for Noel fucking Gallagher.

The Prodigy

An Old Friend I’ve Returned To

I’ve returned to the habit of putting my liked songs on Spotify on shuffle, mainly to do some gardening and prune my library of stale songs that I’ve fallen out of love with. Of course, it’s also churned up in the soil some forgotten earworms that I haven’t forgotten the words too. One such album is Lou Reed’s marvellous Transformer, which is chock-full of some rock and roll classics and weird, wonderful poetry.

Produced by David Bowie this album is jaunty and performative, a crowning landmark of the glam rock movement. It epitomises the 70s, or at least it does in my head because I have no idea what the 70s were really like. I mostly just have this album and the films Midnight Cowboy (1969) and Taxi Driver (1976) to go off of, but the lyrics cast up a heady depiction of New York City suffering through a 60s hangover. Reed casts all kinds of oddball characters in his songs-cum-short-story-snippets of NYC newcomers embracing promiscuity, gender fluidity and drug use in the city’s stairwells, back alleys and nightclubs. He paints these misfits in a sympathetic light, essentially waving away the squeamish as prudish. ‘Get with the times’ is the resounding takeaway message here.

In amongst it all are some truly iconic tracks. The toasty riff of the signature track Walk on the Wild Side will be known to all as the killer sample on A Tribe Called Quest’s Can I Kick It?; the heroin ballad of Perfect Day will forever be etched into our minds as the accompanying soundtrack to Mark Renton’s grim overdose scene in Trainspotting. My return to this genre-defining album has also had me enjoying some of the album’s more introverted, in-need-of-some-love numbers in Andy’s Chest and Make Up. The whole LP feels like a setlist to a glam-gothic musical in the vein of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, which itself must have drawn heavy inspiration from this collection of tunes. If you haven’t stuck your teeth into this work yet, or like me you’ve taken an extended hiatus, then plenty of surprises await you in giving it a once-over.

Lou Reed

Words by Charlie Forbes

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