With the release of their new singles and rarities compilation, Library Music Volume One, we asked The Leaf Library to knock us up a Further Listening playlist - which they did in record time, the sign of true heads. This great mix takes in some of the greatest left-of-centre pop of the past 30-ish years, from Stereolab, to Flying Saucer Attack, Fridge, and Laika. Dig in below, and pick up the new record in the shop, or HERE
Library Music: Volume One is a sixteen track double LP collecting the North London drone pop band’s 7” singles, one-offs and compilation tracks spanning the first 14 years of the group’s existence. It includes synth pop, indie fuzz and moody motorik workouts, alongside pastoral folk sketches, dubby electronics and the occasional drone experiment. More immediate than their stretched out and slow-burning recent album tracks, the music here is taken from limited vinyl releases, album bonus tracks and music for compilations on labels as diverse as Bezirk Tapes, Second Language, Modern Aviation, and Concrete Tapes as well as the band’s current home, Where It’s At Is Where You Are. The compilation is a happily cohesive document of an inventive band that rarely stand still for long.
LISTEN: The Leaf Library - Further Listening HERE
BUY: The Leaf Library - Library Music Volume One HERE
Stereolab - Harmonium
Refried Ectoplasm [Switched On Volume Two]
This compilation is so key to my musical life that it's difficult to overstate its influence. 'Life-changing' is a bold claim but hearing Harmonium, Mountain and John Cage Bubblegum made me realise you could make something incredibly cool with very rudimentary guitar skills; just play the same thing over and over. It's pretty punk, and not in the least bit macho. It showed me a way to being in a band that had previously been blocked by things with fancy musical terms like 'technique' and 'scales'.
This was the first album of theirs I bought (my friend persuaded me to get it over Millions Now Living Will Never Die as it had more tracks for the same amount of money), and it remains one of my favourites in a hotly contested field. That opening drone and groove always pulls me in - so cool - and it still manages to take me back to being 17 again, despite many listens. As with most of the others on this list, the whole thing works really nicely as an actual album and it was a real inspiration when putting together Library Music: Volume One. (I went back and bought Millions Now Living the next week.)
Broadcast - Message From Home
Work and Non-Work
Another compilation-as-intro to a band that I'd go on to fall madly for. It's such a great opening statement (look and sound), and another that works beautifully as an album as a whole. They would become much more important to us later, especially with the drum machines and automatic writing of Tender Buttons, but this was such a cool, weird thing to find in 1997 and I've loved them ever since.
Isan - Calf
These two are really good at making tracks where each element is super melodic and sits in its own space - you could separate each part of this out and it would work on its own, as would many of the rest on this excellent compilation. Their tracks are always full of an unspecified emotion - my favourites are the more melancholy ones - though the wordlessness allows you to project onto them whatever meaning you need to at that point. Antony from the group masters a lot of our stuff (including Library Music) and it's safe to say he knows his shit.
The American Analog Set - Diana Slowburner II
Through The 90s: Singles and Unreleased
This one has that perfect standing-in-a-room-with-AmAnSet feel that they do so well (just behind the Farfisa, to the left of the drums) - slow, fuzzy and languid all at the same time. My old group toured with them and, on returning, I decided that I wanted to leave and to be in a band that made music like this. Still trying. This is a great comp that even includes their music for a Dr Pepper ad.
To Rococo Rot - Mit Dir In Der Gegand
Taken From Vinyl
I love groups whose non-album releases are just as interesting as the main albums. This is a really great collection of the latter and essential for any fan of theirs, and this track (from The Amateur View era) is a minimal beauty. I'd love another To Rococo Rot album one day.
The Chills - Kaleidoscope World
The Chills are a recent thing for me - I came to them after watching the fantastic documentary The Triumph And Tragedy Of Martin Phillipps a couple of years ago. This compilation is great - you can hear them trying out something new on every track, really restless and inventive. This one is very sweet and naive (guileless, perhaps) but there are punk things on there, scrappy noisey things and incredible, chiming melodic guitar numbers. Maybe it has something to do with how fractured and stop/start their existence was early on, but I like to think it's because Martin has so many ideas and is just so deeply into music and art. I also like to think that our attempt at a similar collection captures some of the different aspects of all the many things we dig.
Laika - If You Miss (Laika Virgin mix)
Lost In Space - Volume One (1993-2002)
This is the quintessential Laika track for me - cavernous, sad, and a little cold, something that sounds like it's in orbit and well out of reach. There is so much great stuff on this compilation and I'm sad they seem to have ceased as a group. Including their magnificent 'hit', Uneasy.
Fridge - Anglepoised
Early Output 1996-1998
Pure repetitive four track greatness on this collection. I love how inventive they were in the early days, and the lo-fi, mistakes-and-all elements of these tracks are still really inspiring. This one could go on twice as long.
Low - Venus
A Lifetime Of Temporary Relief
A lovely slice of Galaxie 500-adjacent reverb and harmony from Low's massive compilation of non-album material. It's hard to find anyone that doesn't love them - I particularly like how they try and reinvent things more or less with each album. That said, I still have a huge soft spot for this era of their work where there is so much space around them. We've tried to pinch a few things from them over the years but, really, what's the point.
Fennesz - Betrieb
Field Recordings (1995-2002)
I know very little about this compilation (is it actually field recordings?) but there's some lovely stuff on it. Venice will always be a favourite, though what I love from that album (the space, the melody in even the most minimal of drones) is also in abundance here. This track in particular has such a radiant quality that's usually very hard to reach without sounding a bit mawkish. And yet Christian F delivers the non-mawkish goods.
Yo La Tengo - Weather Shy
Prisoners Of Love (Outtakes and Rarities)
What's not to love about one of our favourite bands playing pretty much the same thing over and over for five whole minutes? The other band that showed me a way into guitar playing that didn't rely on me having to get good at it, this outtakes compilation (part of the Prisoners Of Love best of) was such a revelation. Nothing will beat the albums for me (I Can Hear The Heart Beating As One is number one, top of the list, favourite album of all time) but hearing them play about like this is always really inspiring.
We wanted Library Music to show our different sides and all the things we've experimented with over the years. We're often more relaxed about trying out weird shit (or perhaps a chorus or two) on one-off tracks, and this was an attempt to pull them all together and make sense of it.
Flying Saucer Attack - There And Not There
The band that, after Stereolab, did the rarities comp thing pretty much perfectly. Another group/artist that had more ideas than places to put them, it's great seeing how they develop and push at the boundaries of their sound over the course of their releases. The compilations stand up so nicely next to the studio (well, kitchen) albums and it's hard to pick a favourite from the two. However, this just edges Crystal Shade (from Distance) as it's a great droney washout that's a fitting way to end a mix.