With her instinctive approach to sound art and pop minimalism, London-based artist R. Elizabeth (aka Rachael Finney) creates deceptively simple tunes underscored by complex themes. On her latest album, Every And All We Voyage On, released via Night School (Patience, Molly Nilsson, Cucina Povera), she improvises with a single 80s Casio keyboard, reel-to-reel tape manipulation, piano and vocals; resulting in a mix of atmospheric, upbeat, charming sounds.
We think one of the best ways to get to know an artist is by asking what music inspired them to write in the first place. We caught up with Rachael to ask her about her “Five Favourites” – five albums that have influenced her song writing techniques. Check out her choices below, and scroll down to listen to her new album at the end of this post.
1. Scott Walker – Scott 2
‘Best of Both Worlds’, the second track on Scott 2, is absolutely staggering. I remember the first time I heard this – I had bought and exhausted Scott 1, so thought it logical to simply buy each album chronologically. I picked up a copy of Scott 2 on CD and proceeded to listen to it on my way home on some crappy discman. Hearing ‘Best of Both Worlds’ for the first time I had to stand still; the sweeping violins are dizzying, it’s a fantastically intense song. Scott 1 to 4 are all completely overwhelming in the best possible way but Scott 2 has such an incredible arc to it.
‘Plastic Palace People’ contains not only an incredible story, but there’s these almost spinning violins and flutes, then right in the middle there’s this shift where Walker’s voice sings this dissonant harmony “hurry you’ve got to get in line/your nose might start to shine” then back to these flurry of violins and flutes. Whenever I listen to Scott Walker, my teeth go on edge with excitement. I can never just have it on in the background, I have to give it my full attention and listen each story. All of Walker’s albums are incredible experiences.
2. Daphne Oram – Pop Try Outs
Pop Try Outs was a cassette release by Mondo Hebden/Was Ist Das? of some of Daphne Oram’s work. Unlike Oramics, Pop Try Outs presents Oram’s experiments with highly melodic pieces. Oram, among other women, continues to be a significant figure for me. Her work with tape and the Radiophonic workshop more broadly is endlessly fascinating. The cassette is a wonderful glimpse into her working methods. It’s also pretty much one pattern looping again and again, which is very up my street.
3. John Baker – John Baker Tapes Vol.1 1963-1969
John Baker is another Radiophonic Workshop figure. This was gifted to me about ten years ago and I have listened to it continuously ever since. Baker produced theme tunes and incidental music for TV and radio. He worked with tape, and it’s Baker along with Delia Derbyshire that I owe my tape obsession too. There is one track where Baker explains his process. Upon hearing the theme tune you would be forgiven for thinking you’re listening to a synthesizer, but it’s largely objects and natural elements like water being poured from a bottle, or a wooden ruler just hitting the top of a table. It’s magical.
4. Ikue Mori – Hex Kitchen
The patterns that Mori creates are both dense and full of space. When listening to Hex Kitchen, it’s as if all these sounds are being tipped out, almost cascading past your ears. There’s elements of collage, but then really pronounced rhythmic patterns. I like the feeling of these parts that come together almost melodically, especially when Mori uses her own voice, only to fall away into something with a much more open and abstract structure. The opening track ‘Slush’ is fantastic – you are confronted with loud, almost percussive sounds, but then they begin to sound like water – the experience of hearing these electronically produced sounds sound so fluid but structured all at the same time has a really sensuous effect. I always have to scratch my head whilst listening to ‘Slush’, it has this ability to cause quite peculiar physical responses.
5. Don Ellis Orchestra – Electric Bath
‘Open Beauty’ is one of my favourite pieces of music. It begins very open with flutterings of electronic piano and wind and reed instruments, creating beautiful patterns. It builds up to quite an intense and extended burst right in the middle then almost falls back to silence. Ellis then plays an absolutely incredible trumpet solo. Using tape delay and echo he kind of duets with himself. Its remarkable. It’s a beautiful record.
Thanks to Rachael for sharing her favourites with us. Order your copy of R. Elizabeth’s new album Every And All We Voyage On here.