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Baker's Dozen

Arcane Lore: Alasdair Roberts' Favourite Albums
Neil Macdonald , April 2nd, 2013 07:59

The Scottish folk artist picks out his top LPs, going from Bach to Kraftwerk by way of Bahamian field recordings and 14th-century French polyphonic classical music


Nico - Desertshore
Desertshore and The Marble Index are my two favourite Nico albums, and in a way I think The Marble Index is a more exciting listen, it's more experimental and more colourful. To me, again, this is a really stark, black and white record while The Marble Index is a bit lighter, even though Nico's records seem unremittingly humourless and bleak. This is quite a heavy record, and I do sometimes enjoy listening to quite heavy things... Not doom metal, or Swans, not that kind of heavy - more like Nico kind of heavy! It's quite monolithic, the way it's recorded with the harmonium high in the mix, this omnipresent drone throughout. Some of the more beautiful songs on the record are when the harmonium drops out, like on the song 'My Only Child'. I suppose it goes back to the German thing, there's a real Teutonic quality to this, it's almost Wagnerian or something, like she's a one-woman Wagner. I can sense that she's into exploring that German-ness. Maybe she wouldn't have done that so much if she hadn't been cast in the role that she was, so maybe she played up to it a bit. I think when I first heard this I was into the Grail myth, and Jungian stuff, and reading about the Rosicrucians; and that all seemed to tie in, these German legends and folk tales, things like Parsifal. You get a sense that these things were all part of Nico's psychic world in the same way that they were part of Wagner's. It's like Anselm Kiefer's paintings in a way. To me, Nico's the musical equivalent of Anselm Keifer in the way that it's a post-war Germany looking back into German mythology and history. I'm interested in that era of German painting, that romanticism of Caspar David Friedrich that now seems quite problematic because a lot of these painters were the Nazi's favourite artists. It's a record for very special occasions, for when I'm in the right mood.