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As expected, Simon provides an eclectic collection of tracks that have inspired, shaped and moulded him musically over the years.
1) Wendy Carlos - Creation of Tron
I was always a fan of Tron, it oozed atmosphere and was other-worldly. We'd never seen anything like this back in 82. There's something about the futuristic yet early computer-generated visuals crossed with Wendy Carlos' (LEGEND!) mind-boggling score that makes it such a unique and extraordinary universe. As a kid I would watch it purely to take in the magical world they created, and hoped it was the same inside my Atari. The music is a strange, discordant and often intense score that has some beautifully delicate melodic sections in it. I still want a light cycle.
2) Aphex Twin - Xtal
Aphex is obvious choice but this has to go on because it was the first track I heard where I realised that you could truly make music with a limited set up, not a huge over the top studio. The whole album is dusty and imperfect. It was such a revelation and so refreshing to hear something that was so unpolished. Surely most people who make electronic music have been influenced by Aphex at some point, he really was ahead of his game. The balance between the gorgeous chords, reverberated breaks and lush vocals just does it for me. I wish he wrote more like this, this is still my fave!
3) Boards Of Canada - In a Beautiful Place
Again, I think I would be doing this list an injustice without Boards Of Canada. I think Warp Records went through a phase of becoming a tad pretentious at a certain point, but when they released "Music Has The Right To Children", they knocked me for six with what I regard as one of the most important electronic albums ever. It completely restored my faith in their label again. Soulful, reflective electronica at its finest. I selected this because I loved the EPs around that time too.
4) Kleeer - Tonight
Another track making use of the vocoder like the last, and an instrument I've always loved and used. The production in this is off the hook. So much space. So much atmosphere. And Nail (Bent) would always joke about me always liking ANYTHING with modulated wobbly 80s synth chords in it (He's right). This just sums up so many records of that era that I love.
5) The Jones Girls - Nights Over Egypt
Again, another track from a similar era and atmosphere. This track like the last has such seductive, soulful chord structures in, and I'm always a sucker for harmonies. It's so evocative.
6) Plone - Marbles
Plone came out just as we were finishing the first Bent album, as I recall. Nail and I heard this in a record shop (Selectadisc… miss you!) and he laughed because he looked over knowing I'd love it… my face was lit up! It echoes quirky old games.. it conjours up the love between two robots haha! It has a sense of humour without trying to be jokey, and there's definitely a lot of that in Bent and my own work.
7) The Flamingos - I Only Have Eyes For You
Shifting back a few decades I adore this old 50s sound. It's romantic, dreamy, dusty, and the vocals are executed perfectly. I have a passion for vintage reverbs and delay units purely because of music like this. It makes me imagine the room they were in and just transports me to a different place. And yes, the harmonies on this are absolutely off the hook.
8) Beach Boys - All I Wanna Do
Pushing forward a decade, I *love* The Beach Boys. There have been times when I've been literally obsessed with them. They had a beautiful mixture of teenage hope mixed with melancholy, and that combination always resonated with me, which is why a lot of my own work both by myself and in Bent has that a similar combination of emotions. Love, hope, fear, optimism, yearning, reflection. This track came from a later album "Sunflower", and it stayed on loop when I discovered it. Still gets me every time.
9) The Stranglers - Paradise
Feline is my favourite album by The Stranglers by a long shot; probably a view many Stranglers fans would argue with. It was a very different direction for them after their previous work. The whole album has such a strange hybrid of analog synths, esoteric vocals, tropical percussion, novel lyrics and soft atmospheres. There's latin and European influences in there too. As a kid it put my head in a different universe, and it still does. This particular track still sounds unique, and it was a brave shift for them to move in this direction, a reminder that making music should be your own journey, not your audience's, and if the fans like it, it's a bonus.
10) Gilberto Gil - Toda Menina Baiana
I was lucky enough to go and see Gilberto Gil play live, when Bent played in São Paulo years ago. What a delight that show was. Blew my hat off. As people may have noticed in Bent and my solo work, you'll often hear subtle latin influences. I didn't discover this song until a year or so, when a friend passed it on. I think I had to listen to it about 100 times just to try and get over it and move on! It's so uplifting it hurts. How could you ever possibly feel down while this song was playing?
11) Inti-Illimani - Mi Chiquita
Another latin fave, this time from Chile. I love the progressions and rhythmical patterns, it always transports me. You've probably noticed this is a common theme in me, desiring to project into another world haha! But this is something I always aim for in my work. Music for me is a form of escapism, when writing or listening, at home or in a club, or driving… wherever.. This track conjures all of that. I don't tend to listen to music that reflects reality and the more sobering facts of life. I'm the same with books and film. I always love the romanticism of being away from it all. Probably why I now live on the rural coast of Ireland. :-)
12) Book Of Love - Modigliani (Requiem Mass)
Time to bring the synths back. Anyone who's heard my first solo album will recognise this piece. It's a version of this track that appears in Planes, Trains and Automobiles, a fave movie of which I referenced in my track "Lament". In my mind, it was John Hughes' masterpiece. I adore it. Watched it so many times I couldn't say. Always loved this track, the digital synths in it went out of fashion in the late 90s/early 00s, but I love them, always have. You can make such lush textures with some of those late 80s machines.
13) Malcolm McLaren - Madame Butterfly
I first heard this track when I was 10-11, and everything in my head stopped. I'd never heard anything like this. It has some kitsch spoken vocals in it, but the operatic vocals set against the synths and drum machines were so original and spellbinding. And upon listening this time, it's so obvious if you listen to Bent or anything I've done how much of an influence this track has been.. in fact I didn't realise it until now! It's all become clear! Haha! Atmospheres, synths, vintage drum machines and beautiful operatic vocals. It just keeps giving and giving, as the track goes on.. glorious. I owe it all to Malcolm McLaren!
14. Prefab Sprout - When Love Breaks Down
Another track from later in the 80s which combines beautiful digital synths and incredible songwriting. It's another song riddled with melancholy yet hope. I love what Thomas Dolby brought to this album, the programming and production is gorgeous. Back in Bent we were lucky enough to have two PPG Wave synths like the one that appears in this album. The pads at the start are a perfect example of that amazing machine.
15) Floex - The Celebration
I first discovered Floex when he did the soundtrack to a beautiful game called Machinarium. This track is from the game Samorost. I've never played it, but I got the soundtrack last year as I knew it 'd be stunning, and this track blew me away. I wanted it to go on my compilation "Sunset Hours Vol 3", but there were restrictions on what could go on it. I'm delighted to put it in this mix. The sound of magic and mystery.
16) Kate Bush - The Morning Fog
Kate Bush…. possibly my biggest musical hero (there's a few). Without a shadow of doubt my favourite female artist of all time, and *never* has been or will be surpassed, in my opinion. She is a rare miracle in music. Her song writing, her performance, her voice, her production, her originality.. has never been touched. When it comes to making music that transports you to another place, I don't think anyone quite does it like Kate. I would literally sell my soul to work with her. The Hounds of Love/ Ninth Wave is such a masterpiece. I didn't realise until many years later that the cellos in Cloudbusting were of course a Fairlight CMI sampling keyboard, not real instruments.. very groundbreaking back then. This album really pushed the boundaries technology-wise, let alone from a songwriting/production perspective. Did I say I liked Kate Bush quite a bit?
17) Penguin Cafe Orchestra - The Ecstacy Of The Dancing Fleas
I first heard this in 91 whilst switching over TV to find the end credits of a film I didn't know. I loved the music I was hearing that much that I dove onto my keyboard and recited it. Months later at art college, a lecturer was talking to me about music, and I told him how I loved Ambient stuff, Trip Hop, The Orb, Steve Reich etc.. and he came in the next day with a tape, The Penguin Cafe Orchestra. He told me to take it, and upon first listening I thought, "this pieces remind me of that music I heard on TV"..of course we couldn't Shazam things then so when I got to the last track to discover I was right, I was very chuffed! Of course later I discovered the film I'd seen was Malcolm (Highly recommended). I adore all of PCO's music. If you don't know all of their work you have a nice surprise waiting for you.
18) Pet Shop Boys - Later Tonight
Returning back to the mid 80s, I thought I should mention the Pet Shop Boys. I fell out of love with their later work, but I grew up loving their first few albums. "Please" in particular is a favourite. My dad used to take me up and down the motorway at night when we went on holiday, and I'd listen to the PSB all the way. When we did the second Bent album, we were contacted by Stephen Hague who asked to produce a track of ours. Considering he'd done the first PSB album, music on Planes Trains and Automobiles and so many other things, we were utterly beside ourselves. Nail had become a dad during that studio session (working on a version of "Beautiful Otherness"), and so it was just myself, Stephen and his mix engineer and programmer sat in the room. I was sat with a hero at the mixing console. Upon the first playback of his version I thought "This reminds me of being on the motorway at night, with my Dad"… and then it hit me.. the whole circle of this journey of being a kid listening to PSBs, and then having my own music worked on by this guy who made their sound.. Well it's something I'm very proud of. West End Girls has a voice at the start which sounds like my mum shouting "SIMON!", to which I always used to open my bedroom door to and scream "WHAT?!".. haha! It was funny telling him. Turns out it was a market he was walking through, recording, and someone was shouting "Sting" at him because he had bleached hair. You heard it here first.. ;-)
19) µ-Ziq - Ethereal Murmurings
Always been a fan of µ-Ziq since I heard his album with Aphex Twin, called Mike And Rich.. I loved that album.. daft as a brush, juvenile, playful, silly, awesome. Nail and I were equally stupid and juvenile in the studio, hence some of the tracks being the way they were. We didn't sit there like chin-strokers, trying to be clever. We just played. We tried to make each other laugh. Even the band name was born out of Nail saying "Millsy your records (that we sampled) are really Bent". But like Mike Paradinas, we loved dreamy beautiful music also. I love this piece. I had to end this mix on a long one.. it just keeps going and going. There's still playful elements in here, but ultimately, it's a haze of perfection. Love it.
Thanks for having me, rambles over xx
For this week’s mixtape, we welcome producer, DJ and artist Simon Mills to the Dusk Dubs family.
Simon Mills rose to musical prominence in the 00’s as one half of wonky chillout duo Bent. He would later go on to release uptempo material under his own name, and has released numerous electronica albums and EPs as Napoleon.
His brand new album entitled "Harmonic Jigsaws Vol. 1" is to be released immanently, and is currently at the test pressing approval stage.