Back when DVDs were considered legitimate gifts, I was given a really interesting DVD as a gift.
It was called ZenTV, and it featured videos from various artists on the Ninja Tune label. I had already been way into Ninja Tune for a few years (at least half a dozen Ninja Tune artists have been featured on this blog), and a thoughtful roommate of mine rightly assumed I would be way into the DVD.
I was living with a group of fellow music nerds at the time, and they all loved it. We would often have it playing on mute at parties, just to give people something weird to look at.
Watching this DVD was like scrolling through a compilation of the world’s most bizarre dreams. And in some cases, nightmares. There was a cartoon ode to pie. There was a noir-esque spy film. There was a Sesame Street throwback. And something I can only describe as a nature documentary animated by Monty Python.
But in the midst of this high-energy visual assault was a video that didn’t seem to fit. It was slow-paced, simple, and to my impatient 2004 self, a bit boring. It was the video for “Sculpture” by Skalpel.
Some of the songs on that ZenTV disc have not aged well; music that uses technology as a selling point is often stuck in its own era. But Skalpel’s moody jazzy masterpiece still works for me, blending its sounds as if it’s got one foot in the 1960s and one in the present.
And maybe a third foot in 2004, hanging out at a party at my old house.
What makes this a beautiful song:
1. The warm waves of the vibraphone.
2. The stuttering tension of the drums.
3. The quote that opens and closes the song. It’s very similar to the audio sample that opens the Coldcut remix of Eric B & Rakim’s “Paid In Full.” Which may sound like a strange thing to point out, so let me explain. That remix came out in the late 80s, and appeared on a compilation record called Rap Traxx, which was the first LP I bought with my own money. The song captivated me. In 1990, probably only a few months after I had been listening to it on repeat, the two members of Coldcut, Matt Black and Jonathan More, founded their own record label and called it Ninja Tune.
Recommended listening activity:
Storyboarding a dream you had last night.