Intros are often overlooked. An introduction to a new person can have have impact that can make a lasting impression - both good and bad - that inks itself on the memory. But the musical equivalent can simply be seen as a trivial diversion, forgettable filler, irrelevant scene setter or an annoying interlude. They are not usually memorable in their own right. So here's two that I think are:
Odin's ride over Nordland (from the album Blood Fire Death) is from the legendary black metal maestros, Bathory. Whilst satanic themed music in the States and UK was still maturing out of b movie horror territory, the Swedes were already sharpening their axes, standing in caves with goat heads and leafing through the local parish pamphlet deciding which church to burn first. I've got a massive soft spot for the late Quorthon. He took the Hellhammer approach to raw, rabid energy and went on a sonic rampage all the way to Valhallah (just not the one on Vivian Street). I love this album. The artwork depicts a marauding horde on horseback, decimating life on earth, plucking unsuspecting victims by their hair and dragging them to their doomed destiny. The intro starts with braying horses and a stampeding army. Synthesised orchestration adds layers of majesty to the mix, then it all falls away to sad boy guitar strumming and angelic harmonies, till: all hell breaks loose in the first song proper, and the Norse gods set about dishing out some honest to goodness punishment to mankind, while also inventing viking metal into the bargain.
Odin's Ride is swiftly followed by A Fine Day to Die (first two tracks):
My second is from Pendulum's first album Hold your Colour. Prelude is glossy, grandiose and completely grin inducing. The awe of space and time make life on this small planet a mere triviality. To make sense of it all, we need drum and bass. It is this metaphysical glue that sticks two fingers up at relativity, looks condescendingly down at gravity and doesn't give a quantum buggery about anything else. Just play a meaty bass line and some cool samples over a break beat, and get the hell on with it! This album was the cusp of stadium style drum and bass, which became cheesy, vapid and crap music for hormonal teenagers. However, I still really dig what they did here. It still manages to bring out the cheesy, vapid, hormonal teenager in me.
Prelude is followed by Slam (first two tracks):
Dimmu Borgir - Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia - Fear and Wonder followed by Blessing Upon the Throne of Tyranny
Black metal is nothing if not atmospheric and these pioneers of symphonic black metal released, in my opinion, their best in this album, the title of which is virtually impossible for any human to consign to memory. A quick Wiki-search tells me Fear and Wonder was written by the keyboardist, and the album made use of real orchestral instrumentation for the first time. My knowledge of classical pieces is not good, but this seems well written and is an awesome start to this album, despite the possibility of it being considered a rip-off from a Batman soundtrack!
(First two tracks)
(First two tracks)
Estel - The Bones of Something - Stacy (intro) followed by Journey To The Centre Of John's Ma
I've actually played the second track at Music Club before, at the Horror gathering, but the intro to this album sets up the terror to come so well that I thought that's not good enough a reason to advertise this great, ultra independent Dublin band. Prepare to be a little perturbed!
A good intro track exudes hubris. Only the most swaggering artists would dare one. An intro track tells the world to sit down and buckle up.
So there is no way Madlib and MF Doom could go without one on the defining album of their Madvillain project, Madvillainy. Their project is satirical, playing on the fear of the black man and his sexuality that gangster rap plays up to such effect in its attempt to secure demand from insecure white boys.
The intro sets the scene for a succession of playful and amusing tracks across several different styles. The intro is a collage of samples from an old fashioned cops and robbers show. This is a recurring motif in MF Doom's work: while he encourages us to fear him as a supervillain, he also makes it clear that he spends most of his time getting stoned, watching TV and unsuccessfully hitting on women.Part of the reason Madvillainy is such a good listen is that it makes great use of many jazz samples. When jazz infects an adjacent style, the results are often far more satisfying. A great example of this is of course Flying Lotus. He is far too cool to have an actual intro to his album Cosmogramma, but given the fractured and kaleidoscopic tone of the album, it makes perfect sense that one of the middle tracks is titled Intro//A Cosmic Drama. It was an easy choice, particularly since the following track, Zodiac Shit, is a real high point in the album, all watery synths, distant strings and thundercat's funky bass.
A couple of examples from my collection sprang to mind immediately... and then a couple more... and then... The closer I got to the day the greater the surfeit. Decisions, decisions...
First up, Combichrist. Their last.fm profile says (with my edits), "Combichrist" is an aggrotech group (wt?), formed in Norway (of course!) and currently based in the United States (of course...). The review also claims they are scions of the 'dark electro scene' so that's a thing then. Lead artist is a Norsk by the name of Andy LaPlegua, birthname of Ole Olsen for those studying why Scandi music is so dark... His music is about as far as I want to go into the whole aggro/terror subterranean thing but he came through the electro dance scene so I do find myself tapping my toes a bit. Apparently he has also credited his dog, 'Pika', on some of his albums so his Mum obviously tried to bring him up proper.
These are the first and second tracks from their second full album "Today We Are All Demons" (2009). Track 1, 'No Afterparty' becomes self evident when you hear it and sets the stage for the rest of the album... So we start with a bit of misery and go down hill from there with Track 2 'All Pain Is Gone'. By now you should be used to it and you'll breeze through the rest of the album...
I was introduced to the next group by Christian (who was then roundly thanked by all those present...). The description of Diablo Swing Orchestra as a Swedish (of course) metal band (of course!) from Stockholm (of course...) doesn't really match what they do, which is take to a swing beat with the usual guitars and drums while throwing in a cello, trumpet, accordion, trombone and a Wagnerian opera singer just for good measure... what could possibly go wrong? Not much, as it turns out. Their second album, "Sing Along Songs for the Damned and Delirious" (2009), is full of energy providing a musical confluence I'd never come across before. The only real critique I have is the helping hand they offer to those less fortunate in society... for example, Youtube is now clogged with amateur videos of amateur tap dancers attempting to boogie while wearing castanets on their feet to the not so delicate strains of "A Tap Dancer's Dilemma"...
I also had to stretch the boundaries of the theme to get them on board but since LP's are making a comeback I shouldn't have to explain how this works... suffice to say IF "Sing Along Songs..." were issued as an LP THEN these would be tracks 1 and 2 of side 'B'... I give you "Siberian Love Affairs", a drunken bumbling half shambles of a mumble followed by a "Vodka Inferno"
I can’t remember if I had anything insightful to say when I introduced these tracks from King Creosote and Jon Hopkins’ Diamond Mine and truth be told I’m not entirely sure if these were my selections. What I will say is that First Watch situates what is to come in place, tone and theme – the Scottish voices in a local greasy spoon are the backdrop to a piano played in a minor key that sets up the plaintiff tone of the record. This gives way to a two-chord tale ostensibly about the discomforts of going to sea, being content not to be out adventuring but instead about observing from the shore, as one might from the corner of the greasy spoon. The albums themes are comfort in inaction, about time passing and passing people by. The contentment that can be found in that is also heard in the cosy noise of a Scottish caff.
If an introduction is meant to set up the atmosphere of the record to come, then what could be more evocative of the sound of the audience at the precise moment a band walks onto the stage? Crowd noise, the sound of hundreds or thousands of strangers reacting to the same thing at once, can be the sound of excitement and joy, or focussed attention. It’s a moment in time, capturing the relationship of the musicians and their fans, and sometimes even the sound of a much larger cultural picture – for instance in Dylan’s 1964 “Royal Albert Hall” bootleg.
So there’s the human element, where you listen to your fellow fans’ expression of appreciation across time and space and through your speakers. There’s also the sound itself, which can be like a brief but intense rain shower heard from a sheltered spot, or a low burning fire. When, in the case of esbjörn svensson trio’s Live in London record, the applause gives away to music that itself creates a wide sense of space around an insistent, intense melody, the effect can be quite magical.
I also note another way introductions play into this tune for me – Christian introduced me to e.s.t a year ago when I stayed at his house for a while. This introduction, along with a subscription to a streaming service, has lead me down a path of contemporary jazz and classical minimalism, as well as ambient music. There is no small risk that, after a long absence, Brian Eno will make a return to music club.