When John from Peter, Bjorn and John gives you five albums, you listen.
Hortlax Cobra is the new project from John Eriksson of Peter, Bjorn and John. Since we're still busying whistling "Young Folks," when John asked us if he could contribute a Five Albums, we didn't even balk at the fact that he gave us six. Check out Hortlax Cobra's debut album, Night Shift, out now on Ingrid Records.
I have always admired artists who have managed to create their own little universes, and after picking out albums that inspired Hortlax Cobra, I noticed they all seemed to be written by artists you could call "music scientists." For me, music has always been about exploration — I have tons of cassette tapes from as early as when I was five years old, tapes filled with sound collages and crazy improvisations. I guess that's what I'm still doing. These albums from the last five decades all have sounds that still make me excited.
1. Joe Meek & The Blue Men, I Hear a New World (1960)
The music on this record sounds more modern and futuristic than almost all of the electronic music being made today. I like comparing it to the first Alien: that film feels real because everything on the space ship is so dirty and trashy. Prometheus, on the other hand, looked like it was sponsored by Apple. When there isn't any trace of dust or dirt on anything, I do not believe it. Joe Meek went into a studio in England and recorded human voices, feedback, household objects, and electric guitars, and made them sound like something from another planet. You need to recognize human elements in electronic music in order to make something "futuristic," and this album succeeds in that: it sounds like 1960 and 3060 at the same time.
2. Kraftwerk, The Man-Machine (1978)
The problem I have with most of the electronic music today is that I can't hear the man behind the machines: I want to imagine a finger tapping on the keys of a keyboard and a hand twisting the knobs. I can really hear that on this masterpiece by Kraftwerk. It's the sound of four (probably single) guys playing romantic music on a bunch of huge synthesizers. Sometimes it feels like I'm listening to a string quartet. If Beethoven had lived in the 1970s he would have been the fifth member of Kraftwerk. (He would probably have been the lead singer on "The Model.")
3. Jan Hammer, Music from Miami Vice (1985)
Jan Hammer must have spent many hours in his room in Czechoslovakia practicing piano before ending up in the U.S. and ultimately scoring the coolest TV show ever. I was around twelve years old when Miami Vice made its way to the Sweden, and Hammer's main theme must have made a enormous impression on me, because I still get goose-bumps when I hear it. I think that 1984-1985 marked the peak of how musicians used electronic instruments in an inspired and playful way. A couple of years later, the synths and drum machines started to get too normal.
4. Boards of Canada, Music Has the Right to Children (1998)
During the '90s, playing keyboard wasn't the coolest job in the band. It seemed like the electronic musicians left the parties and crawled back into their caves. But caves can be a great place for creating timeless music. I love Boards Of Canada because they make smooth electronic music sound like it's been buried under the dirt for a couple of weeks. The drums and beats on this album definitely have that late-'90s sound, but the short, softer tunes are still amazing. Inspired by Brian Eno's ambient stuff like the Apollo album (which is another fantastic album that could have made this list), Boards Of Canada combine soft synthesizers with sounds from nature to create new microcosms of their own.
5. J. Dilla, Donuts (2006)
Last but not least, I must include this visionary sound collage. On 2003's Ruff Draft (2003), you could hear Jay Dee's abstract and playful way of making progressive hip-hop. But on Donuts, he managed to melt down all of music history into his own rich and inspiring music. Together with his soulmate Mad Lib, Dilla built small wormholes into the galaxy where all music exists at the same time.