UK ostinato, 1976-2023
March 7, 2023 4:36 AM   Subscribe

I am looking for songs that rely heavily on ostinato—motif/theme/riff repeated throughout the song—preferably without even a separe chorus, and really ONlY looking for UK music from, say punk onwards.

I enjoy songs with an insistent theme that repeats and repeats—and in which the only development is either additional instruments jointing the theme, or a crescendo (or both). Or no development at all!

The example I always come back to is Crest by Stereolab (I’m sure I could think of other Stereolab songs, but I find the names impossible to remember), but this question was precipitated by Get Unjaded by The Cool Greenhouse, which appeared on Spotify for me this morning.

Your particular challenge, as noted before the jump, is that I am really only interested in UK popular music from punk onwards.

posted by Admiral Haddock to Media & Arts (24 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

Primal Scream - Accelerator, Exterminator, probably most of the XTRMNTR album would be your jam
The Duke Spirit - Love Is An Unfamiliar Name
More of a big rock riff type: Hell is for Heroes - You Drove Me To It
posted by corvine at 4:59 AM on March 7

From the 80s— Human League “Hard Times”.
posted by profreader at 5:27 AM on March 7 [1 favorite]

Doves - Pounding
Cure - Close To Me
There's a *bit* of variation in there, but both are built on a single motif with a strong rhythmic element so I think they fit the brief.
posted by tomsk at 5:45 AM on March 7

Foals Cassius
posted by Ardnamurchan at 6:08 AM on March 7

Cornershop 6 A.M. Jullandar Shere
posted by staggernation at 6:13 AM on March 7 [1 favorite]

The Smile - Thin Thing

Probably quite a bit of Radiohead / The Smile fits the bill actually.
posted by mekily at 6:18 AM on March 7

Wire - Three Girl Rhumba
or the very similar Elastica - Connnection
Cornershop - Brimful of Asha
OMD - Talking Loud and Clear
Happy Mondays - Step On
Blur - Parklife
Gary Numan - Metal
posted by JoeZydeco at 6:24 AM on March 7

Maybe The Boy With The Arab Strap, from Belle and Sebastian's Fender Rhodes era
posted by pullayup at 6:56 AM on March 7 [1 favorite]

And the "only development is [...] additional instruments jointing the theme" Stereolab song I'd pick is Metronomic Underground. Ostinato begins at 1:06
posted by pullayup at 7:04 AM on March 7 [2 favorites]

Most of Mogwai's back catalogue will do you nicely, including:
Mogwai Fear Satan
My Father, My King
Auto Rock
We're No Here

Hey Colossus - Back In The Room
The Fall - Blindness
Kling Klang - Heavydale
Kosmische Läufer - Goldene Tage (he is (probably) British, despite the German name!)
James Holden - Pass Through The Fire (actually most tracks on his album The Animal Spirits fit the bill, more or less)
Electric Wizard - Black Mass
Pushing a point beyond any sense of reason: Khünnt - Failures
posted by dudekiller at 7:09 AM on March 7 [1 favorite]

Jump In the River-Sinead O'Connor Maybe "Just Call Me Joe" by the same artist.
posted by effluvia at 7:22 AM on March 7 [1 favorite]

Not British, and not pop, but it is from 1976: Ostinato.

I learned this word from this song by the German jazz-fusion group, Passport.
posted by Rash at 8:43 AM on March 7

The Divine Comedy -- Gin-Soaked Boy
posted by neroli at 8:50 AM on March 7

The Verve - Bittersweet Symphony
Underworld - Born Slippy

There are tons of other examples from the '90s, when sample- and loop-based music-making became the foundation of rave and dance music, and then migrated into pop.
posted by Artifice_Eternity at 8:52 AM on March 7 [1 favorite]

Gescom's Viral Rival (Ae remix) is ostinato in all its stubborn glory. A lot of mid-90s Autechre (Amber, Tri Repetae) would fit the bill.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 8:59 AM on March 7

Perhaps Telephone & Rubber Band by the Penguin Cafe Orchestra?
posted by Puppy McSock at 9:42 AM on March 7 [2 favorites]

Led Zeppelin has plenty. See Custard Pie for example.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 10:57 AM on March 7

The Buzzcocks occasionally did music like this; one I particularly like is Moving Away From The Pulsebeat, where a clattering tom rhythm is overlaid by circling guitars for seven minutes.
posted by vincebowdren at 11:56 AM on March 7

this john murphy piece from 28 days later is nothing but a single theme building to crescendo by adding instruments and increasing intensity. after the very short intro. english.

in the house, in a heartbeat
posted by j_curiouser at 12:27 PM on March 7 [1 favorite]

How about the first Gorillaz album? This one or this one, or ...
posted by credulous at 5:01 PM on March 7

Sometimes the inspiration of the ostinato is interesting too:
Zeotrope - Boards of Canada (Zeotrope)
The Smiths - How Soon is Now (The tremolo - or specifically three of them connected in series and each with a different phase setting)
Strict Machine - Goldfrapp - Inspired by experiments performed on the pleasure centres of the brains of laboratory mice, apparently.
posted by rongorongo at 10:23 PM on March 7 [1 favorite]

Late to the dance here but and not popular music but worth mentioning:
Bolero - Maurice Ravel
posted by falsedmitri at 10:43 AM on March 12

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