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.
Various – ‘A Decade in the Dark’
The Sound of Futures Past, Part 1
01 [00:00] The Knife – “Silent Shout” (Silent Shout, 2006)
02 [04:30] Daniel Menche – “Concussions, Part 2” (Concussions, 2005)
03 [04:58] Erykah Badu – “The Healer” (New Amerykah Part One (4th World War), 2008)
04 [08:40] Bjork – “Where Is The Line” (Medulla, 2004)
05 [13:17] Burial – “U Hurt Me” (Burial, 2006)
06 [18:29] Portishead – “Machine Gun” (Third, 2008)
07 [23:04] Junior Boys – “When No One Cares” (So This Is Goodbye, 2007)
08 [27:00] Low – “Breaker” (Drums & Guns, 2007)
09 [29:46] Flaming Lips – “See the Leaves” (Embryonic, 2009)
10 [34:08] David Sylvian – “Late Night Shopping” (Blemish, 2003)
11 [36:52] Thom Yorke – “The Clock” (The Eraser, 2006)
12 [41:11] David Thomas & Two Pale Boys – “Surf’s Up” (Surf’s Up!, 2001)
13 [49:42] The For Carnation – “Moonbeams” (The For Carnation, 2000)
14 [59:00] Fennesz – “Onsay” (Venice, 2004)
[Total Time: 60:00]