NOWNESS iMix: Dean Wareham

An Instrumental Interlude From the Dream Pop Maestro

Shorn of the reassuring presence of a vocal line, instrumental music can sound inherently unfinished, or worse, easy to ignore. While plenty of voguish bands have abandoned conventional singing (Animal Collective, Sigur Rós), most treat vocals as another instrument, rather than eschewing them altogether. In Galaxie 500, Dean Wareham (now of Dean & Britta) demonstrated his ability to craft compelling lyric-free music, most pointedly on the handily titled "Instrumental" from 1988’s Today, which predicts the coming dynamism of the best post-rock. Wareham feels that the art of the instrumental—for film at least—is a dying one: “I don’t like any of the current big film composers’ working now, really,” he says. “Music ruins films for me all the time. So many directors use it to bludgeon you." Accordingly, he's furnished us with an exclusive list of his favorite instrumentals, presumably to show us how it's done. Click here to get Wareham's mix on iTunes.


1. Göran Söllscher: "The Deer Hunter" (from 111 years of Deutsche Grammophon, 2009)
This is a Swedish classical guitarist playing the theme to The Deer Hunter, a film I have mixed feelings about (though I like the track).

2. Davey Graham: "She Moved Through the Bizarre" (from Folk, Blues and Beyond, 2007)
The recently departed English finger-picking legend. I don't love his singing but his playing is beautiful.

3. Billy Strange: "Don't Think Twice It's All Right" (from Strange Country, 2006)
Billy Strange arranged a whole lot of Lee Hazlewood and Nancy Sinatra material, made a number of instrumental guitar albums, and wrote the Elvis hit "A Little Less Conversation."

4. Sandy Bull: "Memphis Tennessee" (from Inventions for Guitar and Banjo, 2009)
It’s pretty mesmerizing. He would do versions of Chuck Berry as here, but also do eight minute versions of Bach. He had his own style, his own sound, which is the highest compliment you can pay someone.

5. Jonathan Richman: "Egyptian Reggae" (single, 1977)
This was a number five hit in the UK, which I find bizarre. I saw him in the Bowery Ballroom here and he won’t play with air conditioning on. People were calling out “air conditioning, please!” and he’d break into a little song about how he didn’t like air conditioning. He has no cellphone, no GPS, no website. Lucky, lucky him.

6. Xavier Cugat: Perfidia (single, 1940)
Sonic Boom (of Spacemen 3) turned me on to this beautiful track; it can also be heard in a couple of Wong Kar Wai films, Days of Being Wild among them.

7. Martin Rev: "Narcisse" (from, Les Nymphes, 2008)
Martin Rev is half of the seminal electro-blues band Suicide. This is one of my favorite tracks from his recent album.

8. Air: "Love" (from Love 2, 2009)
My favorite Air track in ages, for the bass sound alone, which prompted Britta to go out and buy a Fender Mustang bass. Not strictly an instrumental, but the only lyric is "Love" repeated over and over.

9. Gabor Szabo: "Some Velvet Morning" (from Bacchanal, 1969)
Lee Hazlewood & Nancy Sinatra's classic, reworked as an instrumental.

10. Los Indios Tabajaras: "Maria Elena" (single, 1958)
This was a big, big hit, and another track that Wong Kar Wai has used to great effect.

13 Most Beautiful... Songs for Andy Warhol’s Screen Tests is released by Double Feature on July 27.

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