Features I by I 16.10.14

This Is Yello-ism: Boris Blank’s 10 favourite electronic records

Originally posted on The Vinyl Factory

With his solo retrospective and vinyl box set Electrified receiving the requisite crowd-funding earlier this year, Boris Blank, founder of Swiss electro-pop jokers Yello, is back on the scene.

As part of The Vinyl Factory’s Machine Music Week, he’s picked his 10 favourite ‘electrified’ records – and they’re eclectic as anything. Blank’s selection is defined not by an era or genre but by sound, a positive discriminator that means The Normal can share the stage with M.I.A, Herbie Hancock with Raymond Scott, Aphex Twin with Chinese vocalist Fifi Rong. Once you know that Blank is a man who has compiled over 100,000 named and categorised sounds to use as samples for Yello and his other projects, that eclecticism begins to make more sense. As Raymond Scott says at the end of ‘Limbo’, chosen by Blank below: “I wonder if it would help if I filed things alphabetically”.

In this case, the answer is probably no. As well as sound, there’s a certain irony and humour that connects a lot of these choices to the fun of Yello, who as well as creating some of the most raucously inventive electro-pop of the ’80s were decidedly, self-referentially goofy.

Pushing the use of unusual samples to the limit in a way that crossed over into early video (see Godly & Creme’s video for Herbie Hancock’s ‘Rockit’), Yello were as instrumental as Depeche Mode and Art Of Noise in capturing the ’80s zeitgeist, with albums like Clara Que Si and You Gotta Say Yes To Another Excess the best place to start for the uninitiated.

Listen to Blank’s 10 choices in a single playlist.

Håkan Lidbo
‘Clockwise’
(Shitkatapult, 2003)

I love this tune a lot. Full of irony, subtle and clever. Watching the video makes me smile – and to think that this movie is almost 15 years old. Håkan Lidbo is also the man who was responsible for the concept of the Yellofier-App.

The Normal
‘T.V.O.D.’
(Mute, 1978)

I’m still in love with this song. ‘Warm Leatherette’ and ‘T.V.O.D.’ gave me the final kick to start my own music career. Also I am still a proud owner of the original single from the time when it was released. This music is absolutely timeless. I was recently at a club in Berlin, where ‘T.V.O.D.’ was played, and the people went crazy. One of my favourite tracks ever.

Aphex Twin
‘On’
(Warp, 1993)

There’s a lot of Aphex Twin which I like, I’m almost addicted to his ingenuity. This title combines both his sense of abstract music with a Dadaist video that is full of humour and bizarreness. Timeless and fantastic.

Raymond Scott
‘Limbo: The Organized Min’
(Basta, 2000)

I’m a big fan of Raymond Scott’s music. That’s why I was looking for a film of Raymond Scott, but I found nothing that I liked. Then I came across this video, which seemed to me very exceptional, because I think that the animation fits quite well to the music of Raymond. As my English isn’t perfect, I did not understand all the talking, but it feels like there is an exciting story behind it.

Herbie Hancock
‘Rockit’
(CBS, 1983)

‘Rockit’ hit me like a bomb at the time. It was something which takes you away from the main road to bolder horizons. ‘Rockit’ was very catchy, almost pop, unusually so for an instrumental. And the video was awesome, way ahead of its time. It was strange at this time, everything was a bit gloomy with these prostheses, but in the context of today’s videos, it seems somehow harmless. My secret favourite by Herbie Hancock is ‘Raindance’ from the album Sextant. This track made me buy an Arp Odyssey and fall in love with making electronic music in 1973.

Kraftwerk
‘The Model’
(Capitol, 1978)

Actually, I don’t like to use big words about this song, because the images and the music of this band have gone down in history a long time ago but it’s still a brilliant piece of nostalgia.

Fifi Rong
’56 Weeks’
(2013)

I fell spontaneously in love with the unique voice of the Chinese goddess Fifi Rong. She opens slowly up in her songs as a miraculous flower that does not grow in any garden, and it’s unmistakably beautiful. My fascination was so strong, that I invited her to sing a song which I wrote. It was as if two people were playing chess, the one in Moscow and the other in Rome, and each could make the next move via the internet. I sent her the basic track, and she sent me her singing parts back by WeTransfer. The song will be finished soon.

Magnetik North
‘Fuck The Napkin’
(Inky Blackness, 2012)

Ian Tregoning is a magician, maybe an alchemist, mixing his musical ingredients into a miraculous brew far away, in a world of unknown territories. With magical help from Jaki Liebzeit (formerly of Can) on drums and Lee Harris (formerly of Talk Talk) on percussion. Ruslan Khasanov moved with oil a fantastic pictures world. This is not easy entertainment, it is music that gets under the skin.

Ametsub
‘The Nothings Of The North’
(Progressive Form, 2009)

I can’t remember exactly how I came to Ametsub. But In any case it was the music and especially the videos that totally fascinated me. These subtle, almost fragile fragments in both the music and the video are quite unique, a bit ambient, a bit stylish, but not kitsch.

M.I.A. x The Partysquad x KENZO
‘Y.A.L.A.’
(Interscope Records, 2013)

I think M.I.A. is bringing ‘industrial techno’ back as a music direction in the present day. Of course she finds her own style using the music technology of today. I really like the vitality of her voice, and the fact that she said goodbye to long disused song structures. There may seem to be too much controversy about M.I.A., but for me, her musicality is all that counts, and this is very strong.

Boris Blank’s Electrified is out now

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