Lyrics Are For Losers

Series outline

The Lyrics Are For Losers series of mix-tapes were produced for Voix de Cassandre in Rennes. The show's producer Greg Lochouran invites people around the world to supply a mixtape, which he then slots into a series of radio broadcasts syndicated in Paris, Athens, Tel Aviv and London. It struck me to do something on instrumental rock and pop. I was asked for one mixtape, but I got carried away and did twelve, all sourced from my record collection.

Instrumental rock and pop – in fact, instrumental anything – has long been the primary form of music to which I'm attracted. I rarely listen to lyrics and I've never been all that fascinated by the elegant elliptical craft of memorable phrases strung together to express something about a singer's heartfelt experiences. Mostly, I wish singers would just shut up. I prefer to be immersed in the sound of music, floating or sinking or swirling in a world where recognisable instruments meld with alien processes, combining the representational with the abstract all without recourse to words. This isn't an argument for the purity of music's soul. But it is an argument for evacuating human presence, and transitioning human endeavour into the cosmos of musicality and its sublime materiality.

Rock and pop has long flirted with this. Bands and performers who normally sing their hearts out will sometimes unexpectedly release an instrumental track - usually as a B-side to a more radio-friendly 7". Or there might be the odd breather track on an album. Often, such tracks are like aural spotlights shone onto the band or performer like a revealing mug shot, declaring that this is who they really are behind their regurgitated novels and poems. These tracks are where they bite the bullet and let the music do the talking. It's the inverse of the kind of glorifying spotlight on the voice gushing lyrics on egocentric shows like the Idol and Talent global franchises.

And then there's the wide world of instrumental music proper. Exotica, Twang, Surf, Hot Rod, Beat, Shake, Soul, Funk, Disco, Easy Listening, Prog, Math, Post - and all the retro and neo waves of those styles which leave us pondering exactly what decade we're living in. The twelve mixtapes I made have a loose theme, but essentially each one will lean a bit more to either guitars/amps or synthesizers/modules. My tastes are promiscuous. The core unifying factor is that 'real' instruments are employed, so there are few tracks with samples (unless it's early uses of the Fairlight CMI combined with other instruments). Not because sample music is inferior, but more to celebrate the choice bands and artists made in playing their instruments without vocal dressing, in an era before everyone started to 'unlisten' to music. Indeed, instrumental music created in these genres could be the origins of the fantastic meta-sonic world which music has now become – a world where one can imagine that singer-songwriters were never born.

Thanks to Greg Lochouran at Voix de Cassandre for airing these tapes.

Mixtapes

  • Electronic Plateau

    2014

    Broadcast through Voix de Cassandre network of broadcasters
    Uploaded to Mixcloud
    First aired July 2014

  • Synthetic Valley

    2014

    Broadcast through Voix de Cassandre network of broadcasters
    Uploaded to Mixcloud
    First aired August 2014

  • Rock Nirvana

    2014

    Broadcast through Voix de Cassandre network of broadcasters
    Uploaded to Mixcloud
    First aired October 2014

  • Guitar Zenith

    2014

    Broadcast through Voix de Cassandre network of broadcasters
    Uploaded to Mixcloud
    First aired December 2014

  • Lycra Asteroid

    2015

    Broadcast through Voix de Cassandre network of broadcasters
    Uploaded to Mixcloud
    First aired March 2015

  • Rocky Stalagmite

    2015

    Broadcast through Voix de Cassandre network of broadcasters
    Uploaded to Mixcloud
    First aired April 2015

  • Colcanic Outcrop

    2015

    Broadcast through Voix de Cassandre network of broadcasters
    Uploaded to Mixcloud
    First aired June 2015

  • Organic Valley

    2015

    Broadcast through Voix de Cassandre network of broadcasters
    Uploaded to Mixcloud
    First aired July 2015

  • Gumbo Planet

    2015

    Broadcast through Voix de Cassandre network of broadcasters
    Uploaded to Mixcloud
    First aired August 2015

  • Echoic Cavern

    2015

    Broadcast through Voix de Cassandre network of broadcasters
    Uploaded to Mixcloud
    First aired September 2015

  • Diamenté Dunes

    2015

    Broadcast through Voix de Cassandre network of broadcasters
    Uploaded to Mixcloud
    First aired November 2015

  • Plastic Clouds

    2015

    Broadcast through Voix de Cassandre network of broadcasters
    Uploaded to Mixcloud
    First aired December 2015