This morning, we are wading through worlds of color, shrouded on all sides by an entire kaleidoscope of sound. To craft this experience, we are beyond thrilled to welcome composer and multi-instrumentalist Janko Nilović to MailTape this Sunday.
Based in Paris, Janko is a living legend in the arena of library music. A pioneer of French production music, Janko is behind so many beloved arrangements. In addition to commissions for classical compositions, Janko is frequently sampled by hip hop, rap, and rhythm and blues artists (including Jay-Z and Dr Dre).
Nothing if not versatile, Janko slips easily across styles of jazz, funk, rock, and classical music. Janko’s selections, too, reflect this versatility and freedom within music :)
The Soul Surfers’ selection
Steely Dan - Do It Again
Janko: “Au début des années 70, j’ai découvert un groupe qui s’appelle Steely Dan. Les titres sont d’avant-garde, les compositions de Donald Fagen sont exceptionnelles, les musiciens au top, et du coup j’ai acheté 4 albums à eux les uns meilleurs que les autres. J’ai apprécié particulièrement le titre Do It Again de Can’t Buy a Thrill. Perfection rythmique, voix magnifiques, arrangements extra et guitare super. Quand je pense que cela a été réalisé il y a 50 ans!
At the beginning of the 70’s, I discovered the group Steely Dan. Their releases are avant garde, Donald Fagen’s compositions are exceptional, the musicians are fantastic, and because of this I bought four of their albums, some better than others. I appreciated the song Do It Again from Can’t Buy a Thrill in particular. Perfect rhythm, magnificent vocals, super arrangement and guitar. To think that this was produced 50 years ago! “
Moondog - Bird’s Lament
Janko: “Un artiste complet. Aveugle et jouant de plusieurs instruments. Compositeur et arrangeur original et excentrique. Les musiciens faisaient face à une musique difficile et en souffraient! Comme titre, j’ai choisi Bird’s Lament de Lament 1. D’une originalité orchestrale extravagante! Comment composer, jouer, arranger et même chanter en étant aveugle! …Cela m’a stupéfait. Il me fait penser à Nobuyuki Tsujii: pianiste également aveugle qui jouent les concertos les plus difficiles : Tchaikovsy, Rachmaninoff…et j’en passe! C’était aussi un poète.
A true artist. Blind and playing multiple instruments. An eccentric and original composer and arranger. For the song, I chose Bird’s Lament from the Lament 1 album. What an original and extravagant orchestral feat! To compose, play, arrange, and even sing while being blind! … It amazes me. It made me think of Nobuyuki Tsujii: a pianist who was also blind, and yet played some of the most difficult concertos: Tchaikovsy, Rachmaninoff, and more! He was also a poet. “
Frank Zappa - Joe’s Garage
Janko: “Artiste complet, d’avant-garde, toujours à la recherche du nouveau, de l’invention… J’ai choisi le titre Joe’s Garage. Si je cite ces trois différents personnages (c’était mon époque), c’est que je suis moi-même éclectique car il n’y a pas de limites ni de frontières dans le monde musical.
A true artist in the world of avant garde, always in search of the new, of the invention… I chose the song Joe’s Garage. If I cite these three different people (it was my era), it’s that I myself am eclectic because there are no limits nor frontiers in the world of music.“
Janko Nilović - Black on a White Ground
Sarah: “Never have I had such a difficult time selecting a guest track! Each album of Janko’s is a wonder in its own right, with every collective work standing apart from the previous release. Surprising at each turn, Janko’s arrangements are a true delight to follow. This particular track comes from the Rythmes Contemporains album, originally called Giant for its enormous production ensemble (45 musicians!). The album was released in 1974 (remastered in 2018), and showcases Janko at his finest. Not to mention it’s recorded live to tape :) Though the album draws from big band influences, Janko still takes significant risks departing from conventional structures. The quick climax a minute into the track creates the space for Janko to bleed into softer melodies, crafting more subtle harmonies and gentle dissonances in the process; something uncommon in big band albums. Just as we acclimate to these minimalist moments, even more intricate, expansive crescendos are constructed before our ears. Parsed carefully between these peaks, Janko experiments with noticeably dampened sections, even letting silence creep in, creating a delightfully sharp contrast to the powerful (even celestial) musical buildings elsewhere. Such an ever changing dynamic allows us to thoroughly appreciate each section for what it offers on its own and as part of the composite. Incredible :)“
Janko Nilović and the Soul Surfers - It Never Ends
Sarah: “Off of the wonderful live to tape 2021 album, Maze of Sounds. A true gift to the year 2021! This combined effort with Russian funk band The Soul Surfers presses into layers of psychedelic funk listening. Such fantastic piano improvisation from Janko, the Soul Surfers rhythm section surrounding him like old friends, falling organically in a world of sound alongside him. The electric piano, organ, and guitar comps take this track to a new level of revisited vintage sound. As with all of Janko’s work, an entire world is created with broad musical brush strokes. This song feels like swimming through a dreamscape; or maybe a mid afternoon drive through the countryside with the windows down, the faintly sweet scent of roadside wildflowers drifting across the passenger seat. But perhaps these worlds are the same :)“
Mabe Fratti - En Medio
Sarah: “We are still caught on Mabe Fratti’s music, perhaps even more after her MailTape appearance in September :) This track brings waves of peace with each listen. Mabe’s subtle meld of synths alongside steady sections of cello create the perfect space for delicate yet powerful vocals to harmonize and weave across each other. The burgeoning bass of the combined cello and synths offer something healing, near consuming to the listener. As with the entire Será Que Ahora Podremos Entendernos album, one falls into the world this track creates.“
Nino Nardini Eddie Warner Roger Roger - Beyond the Clouds
Sarah: “An experimental track to close this morning’s playlist :) Holding our hand into the cosmos, the synths here build onto each other in delightful tangles, a wonderful compliment to a bassline that could make your head spin. The song ends just as easily as it began, almost like a daydream :)“
That’s all for this morning! As always, thank you so much for joining us. Our love to Janko Nilović for his eccentric and surprising Sunday selections, and many thanks to our very talented Jason Pridham for this episode’s brilliant illustration !