Musicophilia

[Post Post-Punk] – ‘Circuits’ – (1983-2013)

Posted in Mixes, Talking by Soundslike on March 9, 2014

Tracklist, stream and download after the “more…” link.  Rather just let the music do the talking on this one, hope you enjoy it.

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[Year-End] – ‘A Year in the Light’ (2010)

Posted in Mixes, Talking by Soundslike on February 8, 2011

‘A Year in the Light’ began as the 2010 installment of the ‘Get Off My Lawn‘ series, but ended up as something I feel is more aesthetically coherent and emotionally compelling than those “year-ender” recaps, coming closer to the decade-spanning ‘A Decade in the Dark‘.  But rather than the millennial noir quality of that mix, ‘Light’ has, while hardly a sunny daytime feeling, a somewhat more buoyant quality.  It combines the contemplative and the beat-oriented, often at once; the spacious and the immediate; the narrative and the abstract.  Somehow, the electronic and dance sit comfortably alongside the art-rock and the singer-songwriter.  As is my tendency, I heard relatively little current music in 2010, maybe three dozen albums.  But I am impressed by the quality of what I’ve heard, most of it apparently free of the shackles of irony, playful with the weight of influence and occasionally sounding genuinely timeless.

I was particularly surprised, in some cases, by where this mature art came from.  A number of artists featured in this mix were those I’ve disliked in the past, but whose current work has forced me to reconsider.  LCD Soundsystem, Joanna Newsom, Squarepusher (here as Shobaleader One), Antony & The Johnsons all rubbed me the wrong way, years ago in earlier incarnations.  I’d assumed Will Oldham’s best work was behind him.  I’d seen Four Tet totally outpaced a few years ago by his opening act, Jamie Lidell, himself another act I’d thought had lost his way.   Probably the most surprising–and most recurring–personage here is . . .  Beck Hansen.  Yeah, didn’t see that one coming, myself. But he seems to have discovered a new talent: enabling other musicians.  Beck’s production for Jamie Lidell helped him escape the white-boy-plays-the-Apollo wannabe act he’d become to recapture some of the energy that made his electronic work and early vocal music exciting.  Beck also produced Charlotte Gainsbourg’s remarkably strong album, and he apparently wrote a lot of the music for it, too.  The most surprising “album” of the year, and among my top few, was the Beck-organized “Record Club” take on the entirety of Skip Spence’s ‘Oar,’ with the help of Wilco, Feist, Lidell and drummer extraordinaire James Gadson–the whole of which is well worth a listen (along with the other fun, if slightly less consistently good, Record Club cover albums).  Along with Caribou, who’d already won my heart with his previous album and now upped the ante; and newcomer James Blake, who makes music well beyond his years; and the always-wonderful Knife, this “year-end” mix hopefully transcends its ephemeral impetus sufficiently to overcome being a couple months late.  Download and tracklist beyond the “more…” link.

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[Decade-End] – ‘A Decade in the Dark’ (2000-2009)

Posted in Mixes, Talking by Soundslike on December 22, 2009

Ten years out from 2019, it’s pretty clear ‘Blade Runner‘ was a little off the mark in terms of flying cars, bio-engineered supermen, a resurgent retro-Deco architecture (alas), and attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion.  But as this first decade of the new millennium comes to a close, I can’t help but feel like the film nevertheless got more right than we might like to admit.  Not the least is the pervading sense of darkness; no, things aren’t literally gritty, wet and ever-dark, but it’s not hard to feel after this bungled decade that things might not be soon enough if things carry on with current trajectory.  The upside of this noir condition is that uncertain times, a futurism that isn’t optimism, and the melted cultural edges of an internet age have produced a lot of fantastic music that wouldn’t sound the least bit out of place in the sin dens and street bazaars (and cold storage laboratories) of ‘Blade Runner‘.

A Decade in the Dark‘ began gestation as a more traditional end-of-decade best-of mix, a la Musicophilia’s annual ‘Get Off My Lawn‘ series, based on my recent ‘Top Albums of the 2000s‘ list.  My favorite albums and singles of the decade included plenty of love songs, pop tunes, wistful singer-songwriter fare, etc. (which I’ll visit in future mixes).  But as I gathered pieces, I noticed a more compelling (if less comprehensive) story emerging.  The result is remarkably singular and cohesive, all parts sharing common threads of minimalist exoticism; spartan electronics that verge on organic; a judicious balance of wet and dry sound; and a haunted, longing emotional quality.  This is not the sound of realism: it’s not meant to convey the religious and imperial violence, political bitterness, or economic depression of the closing decade.  Rather, it is a romantic exploration of the emotional territory of this future-past, one we never dreamed of as kids when imagining life beyond that far-off year 2000.  It’s a dark story, but an evocative and enchanting one.

The twelve main songs that make up ‘A Decade in the Dark,’ along with two textural interludes, feel like individual vignettes set in a shared cinematic world.  The characters here are played by The Knife, Daniel Menche, Erykah Badu, Bjork, Burial, Portishead, Junior Boys (channeling Frank Sinatra), Low, Flaming Lips, David Sylvian, Thom Yorke, David Thomas with Two Pale Boys (re-envisioning the Beach Boys), The For Carnation, and Fennesz.  All play anti-heroes, like Deckard and Roy Batty–their motives and their motivations are complex, their outlooks informed by unresolved romanticism and pessimism, uncertain nostalgia and even less certain hopes.  I hope you enjoy the “film”–best played in the dark.   Download with artwork and full tracklist after the “more…” link.

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[Year-End] – ‘Get Off My Lawn, 2009!’ (2009)

Posted in Mixes by Soundslike on December 7, 2009


As far as music made in the 2000s goes, I’ve encountered it pretty much the way an old man sitting on his porch sees the kids who walk down the street: accidentally, viewed with suspicion, what with their crazy haircuts and eyepods, whilst muttering about the good old days.  Ok, so I’m not quite as curmudgeonly as that–there’s actually been a lot of music made this decade I’ve loved–but this blog is generally a testament to the fact that my attention has been directed elsewhere.  Still, I’m a music geek–just because I’m not really qualified won’t stop me from making a mix documenting the year as I managed to hear it (blaring from the goddamned headphones of the teenaged hoodlums in the neighborhood).

Two albums especially stood out to me this year: Fever Ray‘s ‘Fever Ray’ (more or less a new album by The Knife); and the big surprise, The Flaming Lips‘ ‘Embryonic,’ which grabbed me so much I had to make a mix in response.  Each was something of an “album album,” difficult to convey through a single track.  But they fit into the pervasive atmosphere of this mix (not sure if it’s the result of my scattershot listening or some actually representative strain of internet-era almost-zeitgeist) of dirty, fuzzy, clattering darkness, cunning north-north-west madness, and a healthy dose of sweetness.  The Harvey Girls, Dominique Leone, Voodoo Economics, David Sylvian, Animal Collective, Mos Def, Radian, and Faust create a slightly exotic nocturnal bazaar of sound.    Reflecting an uncertain world that still wants to believe in beauty are Mirah, The Subcons, Lee Fields & The Expressions, Grizzly Bear, Vitalic and Junior Boys.  Unless I’m just hearing it with rose-colored hearing aids, (possible given its punning title,) my favorite song of the year, Matt Anders‘ “Schtick Around” (streamable above,) is a heartbreakingly wonderful, almost-unabashed declaration of love and hopefulness–under its bright synthetic kit and half-autotuned vocals, Old Man Soundslike thinks it’s a lovely tune, like they made the old days.

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[Musicophilia] – Top Albums of the 2000s

Posted in Talking by Soundslike on December 5, 2009

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It’s probably no surprise to any long-time Musicophilia listener, but I’m pretty disinclined to spend much time concentrating on the thin slice of all-available-music that is “now”.   That said, I did manage to hear quite a lot of stuff I really love during the 2000s–which are suddenly at a close, while albums from 2004 still feel “new” to me.  I’ve put together my highly personal, in no way shape or form comprehensive list of favorite albums from the decade.  But my real purpose in posting it is to solicit suggestions from my listeners who’ve been more in touch about all the great stuff I missed!  Keep your eyes peeled for the 2nd annual ‘Get Off My Lawn’ year-end mix (the least-well-informed year-end mix series you’re likely to hear); and maybe a ‘Get Off My Lawn, 2000s’ decade-spanning mix.

Here’s a ranked Top 20, followed by a year-by-year list of albums that have stuck with me to varying degrees after the “more…” link.  Who knew it was a decade about electro-pop, female singer-songwriters, artists creating their best work in their 2nd/3rd/4th decades, and Mornons from Duluth?  Probably only for me.

01  Bjork – Medulla (2004)
02  Sam Phillips – Fan Dance (2001)
03  Knife, The – Silent Shout (2006)
04  Badu, Erykah – Mama’s Gun (2000)
05  Low – Drums & Guns (2007)
06  Burial – Burial  (2006)
07  Herbert, Matthew (Herbert) – Bodily Functions (2001)
08  Flaming Lips – Embryonic (2009)
09  Gnarls Barkley – St. Elsewhere (2006)
10  J Dilla – Donuts (2006)
11  Portishead – Third (2008)
12  Knife, The – Deep Cuts (2003)
13 Herbert, Matthew (Herbert) – Scale (2006)
14  Thomas, David – Surf’s Up (2001)
15  For Carnation, The – The For Carnation (2000)
16  Low – Trust (2002)
17  Daft Punk – Discovery (2001)
18  Caribou – Andorra (2007)
19  Burial – Untrue (2007)
20  Sylvian, David – Blemish (2003)

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[Musicophiliacs] – Last Call for Your Music (For Now)

Posted in Talking by Soundslike on May 27, 2009

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As I mentioned previously, I’m always interested in featuring music made by Musicophilia-listeners at Musicophilia Daily.  But I’ve also decided to make a mix of your music to post here, as Daily still lags behind in readership (though honestly more of my energy has gone there than here of late, so you should check it out and consider subscribing if you haven’t already).  I’ve had a number of interesting submissions to previous posts, but I want to give one last request for submissions before I make the mix.  So if you enjoy the sorts of music on offer at the Musicophilia blogs, and feel your own music would be of interest to like-eared listeners, please leave your name, a link to your site(s) and/or download links, and any information you think is relevant in the comments.  I’ll contact you with further questions, if necessary.

In the meantime, I continue to be a little busy with pesky “real life,” but I have numerous mixes getting closer to completion, and I don’t plan on letting Musicophilia go silent any time soon.  As always, if you’d like to contribute a mix (or more) that you feel fit what’s being done here, I’d love to have co-bloggers.  Thanks!

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[Guest-Mix] – ‘Spring2009Mix’ (By Richard)

Posted in Mixes, Talking by Soundslike on March 23, 2009

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And now, as they say, for something completely different: Musicophilia’s 2nd guest-mix, graciously crafted and contributed by my old friend Richard, singer and songwriter of Portland, OR’s dream-pop band The Subcons (newer music here).  As you might have guessed from Musicophilia’s usual content, I mostly left behind the current day a long time ago; but as a working musician, Richard has got his ear to the ground, and brings Musicophilia a bit of the new with this mix.  Almost all of it is completely new to me, and my trainspotter ears hear a lot of fun things: plenty of prime Beach Boys, bits of Scotland’s Orange Juice or New Zealand “Pink Frost;” a little Buggles and Telex and Trio; some Tiny Tim, Vashti Bunyan, The Zombies, Marine Girls, and any number of quality cuts from the ‘Rushmore’ soundtrack, Mark Mothersbaugh included; and finally, touches from the last time I was current with current indie-pop, like The Minders, Kings of Convenience and Belle & Sebastian.  But the point is: it’s great sweet pop music, and definitely evocative of the onset of more verdant days.  I’ll turn it over to Rich:

Strikingly both familiar and new, the onset of spring has always felt so welcome and relieving. I think some of this music may affect the same way. Mozart used the phrase “gleich alles zusammen” to describe how he heard all the parts of a symphony he was writing all at once. So lovely to imagine taking it all in—perhaps this mix can accompany an upcoming outdoor excursion, where new sights and smells abound, helping to catalyze the beginning of spring in your life. Musicophiliacs may find some of this to be familiar territory laden with new ornamental trim. Others may find it wholly refreshing and invigorating. Wherever it takes you, make a point to anticipate a renewal, a tribute.

From the Swedes (Melpo Mene) to the Scots (Camera Obscura) and Welsh (Super Furry Animals), the Euro slant on springy popness can be sublime. Likewise for the Americans: whether east coast (Animal Collective, AC Newman, Grizzly Bear), midwest (Ghosty, Bird Names, Papercuts, Deastro), southern (Dent May, Canon Blue), or west coast (Coconut Records, Mirah, The Long Lost, M Ward), each region holds its own version of spring and its own odes to the beauty and newness of this time of year. All tracks were released within the last few months or will be in the next few.

Rich has been making his ‘SeasonYEARmixes’ for going on six years, and they can be found here.  For the full tracklist and download link, click the “more…” link below. [UPDATE: tracklist file was errant in all downloads prior to March 24th, the correct tracklist is below; a new download link has been created with a corrected file.]

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[Year End Mix] – ‘Get Off My Lawn, 2008!’ (2008)

Posted in Mixes, Talking by Soundslike on December 31, 2008

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Finally, the year-end mix nobody’s been waiting for!  It will probably come as no surprise to those who’ve downloaded any of Musicophilia’s mixes that I’m not particularly focused on the tiny sliver of all recorded music history that is now.  It’s not that I doubt there’s good stuff being made—I’m completely certain there’s a lot of it.  It’s just that sometime around 1999, I remember buying a Mogwai CD, puting it on, and suddenly having the realization: “I have no interest in this music whatsoever”.  (In fact specific to the disc, I hated it, and in a fairly rare act of dramatic symbolism I literally threw it away.)  It wasn’t that it was particularly surprising that another disc of generic post-rock would let me down—it’s just that it made me realise I never wanted to buy another disc full of music I wasn’t viscerally excited by, or that didn’t at least expanded my understanding of music.  And I also recognized that I’d been (denying) having a lot of similar let-downs whilst trying to “keep up” with “all that was going on,” because I was young and wanted to feel like I was where it was at; that in truth I often felt burned by what magazines and websites told me was cool; and that my resources were finite (not just money, but time and energy).  So I gave up the New Releases sections on Tuesdays or Mondays; and embraced the fact that where I’d really had most success for years, and the fewest empty let-down feelings, was deeper in the shops, in the old stuff, in the Jazz section, in the Funk sections, in the International sections.  And with that new sense of direction—which is to say, any direction, not bound by the false teleology of the passage of time ever forward—I came to find the lions share of the music I love most, from across a wide spectrum of times, places, sounds—almost everything you hear at Musicophilia.  (More rambling, full tracklist, and the download link after “more…”)

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[Sensory Replication No. 5] – ‘The Somnambulist’ (1908-2007)

Posted in Mixes, Talking by Soundslike on December 17, 2008

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I’ve never really understood the practical reality of sleepwalking, but the idea has undeniable mystique.  Mainly what I’ve wondered is how the body’s action and interaction with its environment fails to jar the somnambulist into a conscious state.  I guess the case isn’t that one is actually asleep, but simply that the conscious, memory-forming parts of the brain are not engaged.  I take this to mean that in essence, the physical world has become as a dream, and the somnambulist’s actions in it equally as ethereal, incapable of inducing standard awareness.  This is the basis for this mix, then: to guide a virtual, thrill-seeking adventure in somnambulism; no walking to the bathroom or making a sandwich here, but rather, roaming through a dream-world made physical, full of strange landscapes, ghost-figures, fogs and miasmas, echoes and shouts, fear and beauty.  Like in a dream, nothing can quite be held in focus, and the laws of physics bend to the laws of imagination.  Like in the world of a somnambulist, the unremembered physical world becomes an imagined place of shadows, however solid it was before sleep arrived or will become again in the morning.

‘The Somnambulist’ is the third posted mix in the ‘Sensory Replication‘ series, which seeks to create an immersive aural environment through the dense intermingling of a large number of individual tracks, treated as source material.  For the first two mixes posted and a greater exploration of the impetus for the series, look here.  This mix is particularly dense, with sixty artists represented in just under forty-two mintues.  If you listen casually, you will still recognize music here: a “spine” of central tracks emerges more or less recognisable and intact.  But the point here isn’t any individual component, as there are often four, five, six or more bits of “source material” comingling, lurking around the edges, fading in and out of earshot in the landscape; solos, duets, trios emerge and recede.  The hope is that you will take the time to listen without distraction, letting all your usual sensory inputs other than hearing fall aside, to see how fully your ears alone will compensate.  I pretty regularly find myself standing on a city corner or in a laundry geeking out to the sounds around me, just shy of being brave enough to be that crazy guy who closes his eyes and stands still for a few minutes amongst the activity.  So this is a chance to just-listen freely, set in the most bizare bazaar of movement and interaction one could hope for.

Represented in the ether of sound are people like This Heat’s Charles Hayward; Dick Raajimakers; John Cage; Burning Star Core; Luc Ferrari; John Cale; His Name is Alive’s Warn Defever; Tod Dockstader; Funkstorung; Tortoise; Shuggie Otis; Miles Davis; Huun Huur Tu; avant-garde extra-Beatles George Harrison; Burial; Klause Schulze; Autechre; Pharoah Sanders; Maurice Ravel; Agitation Free; Deadbeat; Iannis Xenakis; Stockhausen; LaMonte Young; Steve Reich; Can’s Holger Czukay; Tony Conrad with Faust; Tibetan Buddhist monks from Bhutan; 23 Skidoo; Kraftwerk; Neu; Daniel Menche; Rhys Chatham; Peruvian folk musicians, and many others.  But I encourage you not to trainspot, at least the first listen.  Full tracklisting and download link after “more…”.

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[Sensory Replication No. 2] – ‘Gloaming’ (1731-2005)

Posted in Mixes, Talking by Soundslike on October 27, 2008

Though it’s not the denotative meaning of the word, for me, “gloaming” connotes ambiguity, a tension between the waning day and encroaching night, a feeling that is beautiful yet tinged with some regret or trepidation—there’s more complexity and mystery to it than a simple synonym to “twilight”. And that beautiful tension is the feeling I’ve tried to create here, as well as a concept that informed the methodology behind the mix (more on that later). ‘Gloaming’ is the second mix I made seeking to create quasi-binaural “field recordings,” to create an immersive journey through an almost physical space constituted of (mostly) musical sound. (For convenience, I’m calling such mixes the “Sensory Replication Series,” an idea explored in somewhat greater detail here). You probably already know most of the artists featured in this mix—Tangerine Dream, Tony Conrad, Mozart, Xenakis, Keith Jarrett, Reich, Cage, Bjork, Eno, Low, 23 Skidoo, Holger Czukay, Vivaldi, Cluster—but I hope that the combinations, contextualisation and sum total make something you haven’t quite heard before. (I’d also like to make special mention of the track “Heathering Blues” by “unknown” Matt Anders, definitely the most emotionally satisfying thing I’ve ever known to originate with Fruity Loops)

This is my favorite short mix I’ve made so far, and despite its brevity (less than twenty-eight minutes) it feels like a full journey. It’s more or less the opposite of the spastic flailing of the ‘Miniatures : Post-Punk’ mixes, in that each section leads very much to the next, and there is a careful and unhurried sense of direction at all times. But like those mixes, it’s a good way to get a lot of listening done in a short amount of time—though this is “headphone listening” to be sure, not so suited for cruising down the highway or running errands. While I’ll tag it “avant-garde,” if you were to try any mix such tagged as a way in, it would be this one. A little more rambling, the tracklist, and full download after the “more…” link. If you do find you like this one, then check out the first posted ‘Sensory Replication’ mix posted here.

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[Sensory Replication No. 3] – ‘Collide\Coalesce’ (1950-2004)

Posted in Mixes, Talking by Soundslike on October 6, 2008

‘CollideCoallesce’ is the third mix in an ongoing series of heavily edited and crafted mixes wherein many elements are layered, combined, remixed/dubbed, or otherwise altered into (hopefully) a singular whole. It’s not quite easy listening, but it’s more accessible than the unwieldy tracklist might suggest. Featuring mostly giants in areas of experimental, electronic, a little jazz, post-punk, and ‘world’ music–Can, Cage, Suicide, Bjork, Stockhausen, OMD, Bill Evans, Reich, Autechre, Dave Brubeck, Miles Davis, This Heat–the mix nevertheless aims to recontextualise all of these to a degree that makes hearing them here a unique listen for avid fans and neophytes alike. The aim is to create something akin to a 3D sound environment, something like a binaural recording, wherein a stereo signal is perceived with full spacial depth. Of course, this isn’t really possible–but I’d like to hope that if one listens to as many elements as carefully arranged as this, it becomes something close to multi-sensory immersion, hence the ‘Sensory Replication Series’. Notes, tracklist and download beyond the break.

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