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The Presets: ‘My Secret Playlist’

You know you’ve made it in Australia when you have a song featured in a BMW commercial. Yup, The Presets have done that, and more. In this issue of My Secret Playlist, Julian Hamilton and Kim Moyes each write about four songs (Julian’s four are first) that have helped shape — in some small way — The Presets sound, finessed so superbly on their latest album, Apocalypso.

John Cage / Mysterious Adventure for Prepared Piano
At the beginning of the score, Cage wrote a table of specific ‘preparations’ that had to be employed on the piano before performing the piece. These included jamming nuts and bolts, and pieces of rubber and wood of different sizes, between the strings of the piano. Then, when you play the piece, the piano doesn’t sound like a piano at all, more like an Indonesian Gamelan or metal junk orchestra, or something. It’s really wild. I performed this piece as part of my final recital at university. I really enjoyed studying it, and I still love listening to it.

Stereolab / Super Falling Star
Stereolab are one of my favourite bands. I love this song especially, it’s so washy and dreamy. Our old band Prop opened for them a few times when they toured Australia years ago. This song is from the album Peng!, which is a great record.

Public Enemy / Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos
This song is one of many I could have chosen from their album, It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back. I loved rap music when I was growing up, but this is one of the few rap records from that era that I can still listen to. Most of the other albums I loved by bands like NWA and The Geto Boys seem like cultural relics now. Nation of Millions was revolutionary at the time, and still sounds so current today. The Bomb Squad’s production is tough, and Chuck D’s lyrics are really political charged, and provoking. I can’t believe this album is twenty years old.
Charles Mingus / I’m Getting Sentimental Over You
Mingus was an American jazz bass player and composer. This is from his album, Mingus Plays Piano, which was released in 1963. Some of the tracks are just him improvising, and some are him performing his own works. When I’m at home, I spend most of my time sitting at my piano just noodling around, sketching new ideas for songs. Playing piano is one of the things I miss the most when I’m touring, so if I’m ever on the bus feeling homesick, I just put this album on and it cheers me up.

Sparks / Beat the Clock
This song is from the Sparks album, No. 1 Song in Heaven. Produced by Giorgio Moroder, it’s a perfect blend of quirky pop and electronic disco.These guys have such a unique musical style that ranges from glam rock to disco. And the visual element is always off-beat and interesting. I feel a strange connection between The Presets and Sparks. Almost as if they were a great uncle or a grand father.
Toto / Georgy Porgy
I am such a sucker for 70s and 80s MOR and Yacht Rock, and I think that Toto are one of the greatest bands of the genre. They are the pinnacle of performance and musicianship and the songs are always so solid and catchy. I love dancing around the lounge room to Georgy Porgy. It just makes me feel like a kid again when this played on my mum’s stereo.

The Aztec Mystic-DJ Rolando / Knights Of The Jaguar
This song killed Techno for me for quite a few years after it came out. I had always loved the futuristic element of Techno, which for the most part seemed distinctly separate from traditional melody and harmony as I had known it. But this Techno song had it all: blissful harmony and melody, driving South American rhythms, Detroit Techno production, and the most insane Latino string arrangement I had ever heard on a dance floor. This song was so huge in 1999 that Detroit Techno royalty Juan Atkins had to play it four times the night he DJ’d in Sydney just to keep everyone satisfied.

Jim O’Rourke / Something Big
Jim O’Rourke is a producer and musician who is very well respected in the avant garde and improvisation world. He played bass for Sonic Youth from 2000-05, produced albums for Wilco, and most recently worked on Joanna Newsom’s albums. In 1999, he released an album of his own songs called Eureka. Many of the songs had a very old-school and grand mini-orchestral feel to them, while others show off Jim’s unique blend of pop and avant garde. This song Something Big has a real cocktail jazz feel about it. It’s a Bosa Nova and would not be out of place on a Burt Bacharach or Henry Mancini album. It’s so happy, uplifting and comical that I can’t help but smile and giggle when I’m listening to it.