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Track Record: Alpha Chrome Yayo

One of the island’s finest genre-spanning savants, Alpha Chrome Yayo takes us on a guided tour of his all-time favourite records, featuring Enya, Mort Garson, Mariya Takeuchi, Sigh, Tom Waits, Minako Yoshida and more

Photo by Aislinn Mcginn

Singles are great and all, but for me nothing compares to the experience of listening to an honest-to-goodness album, especially if it involves physical media. The ephemeral quality of music made somehow tangible, cloaked in artwork to luxuriate in, liner notes to pore over.

Beyond that, listening to an album is like fulfilling an unknowable contract. One between the artists who made the music, and the listeners who picked that exact moment in time and space to stick a record on.

Whether it’s doing the dishes on a wet Monday, the peak of a Friday night bacchanalia, a Sunday crash to reality or anything in between. It’s one of the closest things to actual magic and it’s right there in our hands and ears. Beautiful.

Enya – The Memory of Trees

There’s nary a bad record by the undisputed new age queen, but Enya’s 1995 opus The Memory of Trees is her crowning moment.

Importantly, it’s all Enya; not a guest musician in sight. Even with her multitude of connections across Irish trad and global musical royalty, she reigns supreme when undiluted. And what a potent brew that is.

Personal highlights include the pizzicato life-affirming comfort of ‘Anywhere Is,’ and album closer, ‘On My Way Home’. Never before has a Roland D-50 synthesizer warmed hearts quite so richly.

Minako Yoshida – Monochrome

Many great city pop albums lean heavily on world-class session musicians. But on this self-produced treasure, the focus is heavily on Minako Yoshida, her piano and a minimal collection of trusted musical allies.

Recorded in LA, it’s imbued with late-night sensuality and rainy-day introspection, hinted at by the suggestive artwork. An enticing and personal album, like you’re being told a secret. A FUNKY secret.

Tom Waits – The Heart of Saturday Night

I adore Tom Waits and even released a single (‘Tom Waits Is Here) about the croaker-in-chief, and the special time I spend with his records.

There’s lots to love about TW, from unhinged jazz to carnival-rhymer lunacy. But it’s this smoky 1974 treat that I spin the most.

It’s a serious piece of world-building, with fully realised characters and weighty pathos. My dad introduced me to it, and I spent much of 2020 lockdown blasting it on Friday nights, yearning for some pub thrills.

The ritual that remains; if I’m home and staying up with a glass of something good, this is going on repeat.

Frank Zappa – Cheap Thrills

Okay, I know it’s a best of. But it’s here for good reason. This was my first experience with Zappa, and while the dirty jokes went over my tiny head, the ability to swing wildly between genres got in deep and stuck with me.

It also taught me that you can release music that’s wildly silly, but still take it very, very seriously. Something that’s held me in good stead when making albums about golf clubs and sexy train voyages. 

Mariya Takeuchi – Variety

Never has such a simple album title been so suitable. Variety is best known for the city pop banger among bangers, ‘Plastic Love.’

But it’s got moments of ’50s-flavoured rock ‘n’ roll, piano balladry and out-and-out country. This isn’t just an album, it’s a showcase, of Takeuchi’s unparalleled vocals and arrangements by husband, jazz fusion maestro Tats Yamashita.

Honkide Only You gets the most plays here. A straight-up love song; unbridled joy with a doggy sample. Aww.

Sigh – Imaginary Sonicscape

A revolutionary release from the masters of avant-garde metal, Imaginary Sonicscape is yet another album that celebrates a multitude of genre influences.

But unlike any other I’ve mentioned here, Sigh don’t just switch it up between tracks – each song is an inspirational voyage, incorporating black metal cut-glass screams, blastbeats, dancefloor disco, free jazz and symphonic majesty. It swaggers, bangs, uplifts.

Warren Zevon – Warren Zevon

An early release from the troubadour of trouble, Warren Zevon hadn’t quite settled into the globe-trotting hijinks evident on his later works. Instead, this is for the most part an LA album, rife with seedy city stories and self-deprecation.

It fizzes with Alka Seltzer hangover misery, yet manages to be a serious party record. This album feels like a hug from a friend… one with a palpable air of danger and sadness.

Artdink – Notam of Wind

This is the soundtrack to an obscure Japan-only PS1 hot air balloon game, Notam of Wind, inspired by the paintings of Hiroshi Nagai (who supplied the cover art).

If that’s not already a strange, enticing prospect, it was produced in-house by the game creators, Artdink, incorporating house, jazz fusion and techno. It both elevates the sedate gameplay to something greater and stands on its own.

Hugely inspirational while I’ve been spending recent years composing game soundtracks – you’ll be able to hear ‘em soon!

Mort Garson – Mother Earth’s Plantasia

If you can’t get any joy out of a fuzzy synthesizer album for plants, you might be deader inside than the calathea on my living room windowsill.

Good job it’s just as enjoyable for humans too; probably the progenitor of the ‘comfy synth’ subgenre, rife with analog tendrils and tender melody.

The latest vinyl iteration also comes with seeds of your own to plant (which my mum helped me with – thanks!)

Andrew WK – I Get Wet

In school I was obsessed with Andrew WK and, let’s be honest, I still am. A long-haired party machine who uplifts and explores the nature of human existence is a fine role model, even if my RE teacher didn’t agree.

I can clearly remember him spying ‘PARTY TILL YOU PUKE’ scrawled on my ring binder and telling me, “That’s exactly what’s wrong with you!”

What he perhaps didn’t realise, is that AWK’s definition of partying (and mine) reaches far and wide. It doesn’t have to be alcohol, drugs and excess.

Sometimes partying means playing D&D, or driving to the beach, or staying home and spending time with your loved ones. Sometimes it means spending time with a record, and this is a damn fine one.

If you want to hear more from me, check me out on Bandcamp!

is the editor of The Thin Air. Talk to him about Philip Glass and/or follow him on Twitter @brianconey.