[10 Years of Musicophilia] – Top 10 Mixes

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I’ve always said that music is the only addiction that can be passed on free of guilt, and if you’re reading this you’re probably just as far gone as me. Over the last decade, sharing the music I love has proven nearly as pleasurable as the music itself. The untold hours I’ve put into it have added up to around 100 mixes, tens of thousands of visitors and hours listened, and hopefully (it is my stated objective) lots and lots of music discovered and bought, supporting the artists, labels, and shops we love. Amazingly to me, it’s allowed me to connect with artists, writers, label owners and other music lovers around the world. Music us ultimately a means of connecting people, building and binding communities and cultures, helping us form traditions and evolve new outlooks. Sometimes the mixed blessing of recorded music can be that it allows music to become an individual experience, the sounds existing for an audience of one inside our heads. But when I make these mixes, it means a lot to me knowing the same sounds connect us across time and any distance when we listen, and when we share. With all of that in mind, these are my top ten favorite mixes (with no more than one from any given series allowed) from ten years of Musicophilia, and a few thoughts about what they’ve meant to me. As always, I hope you’ll give a listen, and pass it on.

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01. ‘Collide/Coalesce‘ (1950-2004) [2004]
I had made mixtapes (later mix CD-Rs) since I was a teenager; and by late 2004 I had completed the ‘1981‘ ten-disc physical box set of compilations that set me on the path to Musicophilia. But from there I started exploring a completely different sort of approach to mix-making, one closer to true “mixing,” but focused on texture-matching instead of beatmatching, involving careful layering of multiple tracks at any given moment, finding unexpected connections and adding new wrinkles even to the familiar. The goal was to produce an immersive and almost narrative experience, making a virtual “field recording” of the journey. This approach reached its peak with this mix, ‘Collide/Coalesce,’ which went beyond layering to creating dub-like versions and looped remixes of components. I’ve employed this approach on numerous mixes over the years since (right up to the very recent ‘Cancels Out‘ and ‘Translucence‘ mixes made this year,) but never again with quite the intricacy of ‘Collide/Coalesce‘. The ‘Sensory Replication Series’ has never been Musicophilia’s most widely-heard mixes; but they are in a lot of ways the ones I most love making, and I hope for those who connect with them, they make for memorable experiences.

[Download]

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02. ‘Still‘ (1630-1999) [2009]
Still‘ is an unusually personal mix, made originally for my then-girlfriend, now-wife (a photo she took graces the cover) created not to win her over, but to celebrate the blooming of our deeper, more patient love. It was never intended for anybody else. I gathered music with only one real common thread: it had to be as beautiful as any I knew, and I had to have loved it for many years. A short while after I finished it, I ended up hospitalized with a potentially life-threatening tennis-ball-sized abscess growing between my heart, lungs and esophagus. Fever raged to brain-frying temperatures, having to be constantly batted down; I could barely swallow or keep food down; surgery was infeasible. Nuclear-grade antibiotics shunted straight to my heart seemed the only shot I had. To understate, it was not a time of calm. But I listened to this mix repeatedly during the week I was in the hospital, and it soothed me as if purpose-made for the job. I don’t know if music is ever literally healing–though I’d bet there’s some science to it. The antibiotics obviously saved my life; but this music helped me keep my clarity and my nerve until medicine could do its job. So it’s very nearly life-saving, and it’s certainly life-affirming.

[Download]

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03. ‘Le Monde du Funk ’85‘ (1983-1985) [2017]
The ‘Le Monde du Funk‘ series began almost by accident, from what was intended as a one-off. But over a couple years it grew into probably my favorite series as a sum-total in the blog’s history. That culminated, to my surprise, in this mix of funk-rooted boogie, R&B, electro, hip-hop and pop from 1983-1985: a period I honestly didn’t know as well as others when the series started taking shape, but which became perhaps the single most fevered period of discovery in my life. The artists I knew when I set out (maybe half of those found here) lead me to others, and others, and others, until what I’d misunderstood as “post-” years (i.e. post-funk, post-disco, after the party had mostly ended) became instead the main event. Plus it gave me what now feels like Musicophilia’s unofficial theme song, in D-Train’s “Music,” which I dare anyone who even so much likes (much less loves) good music to hear and not come away beaming.

[Download]

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04. ‘Evensong‘ (1985-1995) [2017]
The objective of the ‘Post-Post-Punk’ series was to follow musicians and sounds of the ‘1981’ and ‘1979’ post-punk/new wave as they matured and/or mutated through the 80s and 90s up to the time when I would’ve first encountered them (in the mid-90s, with bands like REM and Low). On this mix (and its predecessor, ‘The Dawning‘) this seeming footnote/follow-up approach surprised me by resulting in a collection and a sequence that stands as one of the most purely pleasurable and cohesive Musicophilia has produced. I went looking for a very time-specific, niche idea, and found instead real timelessness and universal beauty.

[Download]

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05. ‘Afrominimalism: Moonlight‘ (1966-1978) [2018]
The ‘Afrominimalism‘ series of mixes doesn’t explore a genre per se, but rather an attitude to sound and to expression that, at least to me, adds up to one of the more beautiful collections of music on the blog, and the most successful at making connections that might surprise but also feel completely natural (at least to my ears). ‘Moonlight‘ may be the most narrowly focused of the four mixes in terms of mood, but I think it achieves that mood completely enchantingly, with music that is heartbreaking, inspiring and breathtaking. While it’s not at all mixed, it feels completely of a piece, and in terms of sequence and flow, I don’t know if there’s better on Musicophilia. This is a mix I want to live in, and when it ends the parting is indeed a sweet sorrow. I am not a religious or a spiritual person, but music is my church, and this music in particular is one of the holiest places I know.

[Download]

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06. ‘1981: Feet‘ (1981) [2003]
This is pretty much the mix that started everything for me as a devoted mix-maker. Mixtapes as a teenager and in college had mostly been for me what they are for a lot of young music geeks: a way to build bonds with friends; gifts to try to convince family I wasn’t crazy to spend every cent I earned on music; a diary of sorts; and maybe most often, love letters of embarrassing earnestness. But from age 19 to 23, post-punk’s place in my mind expanded exponentially from the context-less Talking Heads, The Cure, and Joy Division into the sound that fueled my break-away from indie rock keeping-up-with-the-Joneses and allowed me to follow my own musical path. What became an obsessive hundreds-of-hours labor of love of culminating in distribution of physical box sets around the world (at cost of materials and shipping) began with this one-off mix. It still stands as a distillation of what post-punk is to me: not (just) the music of self-serious trench-coat wearers dreaming in tones of gray (the common misunderstanding); but expansive sounds embodying an ethos of exploration, adventure and fun that knows almost no sonic bounds. ‘Feet’ is a brisk run through many of post-punk’s shapeshifting forms, and it set a high bar for the other eight mixes that explore more specific territories. ‘1981‘ is probably why the majority of you ever heard of ‘Musicophilia,’ and as such it means a lot to me.

[Download]

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07. ‘Old Souls‘ (2015-2018) [2018]
A young music lover wants to feel like right now is the most important and best time ever for music, that you’re right there in real time at the right time. But by the time I was in college in the late 90s and early 2000s, I was having real trouble feeling like that was the truth (Bjork, Radiohead, Erykah Badu and a few others excepted). Launching into the immensely wide world of music I’ve spent the last 20 years exploring in part required letting go of thinking of the narrow sliver of human creativity that was right now as special; and instead jumping fully into the huge ocean of potential brilliance that was All Music Ever Put on Tape. The feeling fairly quickly became one of positive embrace, rather than negative rejection; but I’ve tended to hear the current moment with a little skepticism, such that some years I could probably count the contemporary albums I bought on two hands. But in recent years, more and more new music has demanded my attention, because it’s simply too timeless, too expansive, too good to not get excited about. ‘Old Souls‘ is the most singular distillation of what has me so excited about music–a bright light shone by people mostly younger than me in dark days. These are artists who know where they come from, and have no fear about where they’re going: the past, the present, and the future, all genres, all sounds, all parts of the world are their raw materials to employ freely. When I need hope for humanity, I turn to music; and this music, these days, most of all.

[Download]

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08. ‘Les Bibliothecaires: An Introduction to Library Music‘ (1967-1982) [2018]
It’s a bit of a cheat to include this mix, as it’s really just a sampler of a much bigger project, an introduction to an introduction. But I feel like it really does the job of capturing the excitement the music makes me feel, and hopefully beaming it right to unsuspecting listeners who entrust me with their ears. For me, by far the greatest gift of the golden years of the Blog era was the revelation of Library Music, most likely for me through the inimitable Mutant Sounds blog. And I think it probably started with the album that leads off this intro: Stringtronics’ (a non-existent group), ‘Mindbender,’ which captures the complete bizarro world excitement of Library music. It’s like our world and the sounds we know, but tilted, twisted, and just. . . different. Library (at least the really good stuff) is like the dreams all music geeks have of a magical record shop where every record is totally unknown but totally amazing, except unlike in the dream you don’t wake up with it all gone. After buying every reissue I could get my hands on for over a decade (along with downloading many more that will never see reissue, provided by the mysterious gift-givers who hunt down the originals first-hand), I finally put together what I’d been dreaming of the whole time.   ‘Les Bibliothecaires’ is a seemingly massive collection, but really it’s just one small volume in a huge library of surprises still being discovered.

[Download]

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09. ‘The Gold & The Silver Dream‘ (1971-1982) [2013]
Musicophilia was born of my love of music, but early years of productivity came about only because of some years in my 20s of significant underemployment. Then I went to graduate school, and for three years the blog fell silent. Just as I was finishing grad school, Daft Punk beamed out ‘Random Acccess Memories,’ the perfect soundtrack to my celebration, and one that revealed Daft Punk’s love for much of the 70s and early 80s music I’d been stockpiling, unable to mix. ‘The Gold and the Silver Dream’ was Musicophilia’s reawakening, and it still strikes me as exactly what I aimed for: a giddy, nostalgic, eclectic, cheesy, exhilarating sugar rush (with some moments of surprising introspection), just like the album to which it is a tribute. I don’t know if I’ve ever had more pure fun making a mix. I assumed real life–a real career, another cross-country move–would make it Musicophilia’s swan song. Instead, it made me realize that whoever is (or isn’t) listening, making these mixes is really important to me, and as much as I can, I have to keep making them. If even one person is listening and hears something that brings something to their life that was missing before, then my mission is achieved.

[Download]

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10. ‘Le Tour du Monde: Volume 7‘ (1967-1973) [2008]
This is the very first mix I ever made expressly for Musicophilia (though it was the second I put up).  It’s also the origin of the faux-label for half my mixes, faux-French ‘Musique du Monde,’ that gave me a vehicle for compiling all the music of the late 60s  and 70s that I loved, and an excuse to mess around with period graphic design, without having to strain every mix out to come up with a whole new package. In function, ‘Le Tour du Monde‘ was simple: share music I love–some new to me, others formative favorites–from around the world, with a tendency toward the funky, the weird, the post-psychedelic, the genre-blurring. The approach gave the illusion of thematic coherence, but allowed for stealthy eclecticism.  This is a time-capsule mix for sure, capturing where my ears were in my mid-to-late 20s as I mostly left post-punk behind (for a while) and ventured farther into musical territory where only the geek dares to tread. In numerous ways, this mix set the stage for literally dozens to follow, and does a pretty good job serving as Musicophilia’s mission statement these last 10 years: listen, and share, with exuberantly open ears.

[Download]

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16 thoughts on “[10 Years of Musicophilia] – Top 10 Mixes

  1. Congratulations on your 10th anniversary! Your mixes have brought me great enjoyment. They’ve also been educational and inspiring.

  2. Is it possible some of these are password-protected? That’s what I’m getting on the download of The Gold and the Silver Dream.

    Lovely to see the tribute to you on this month’s letters page in Wire . . .

  3. Paul–the shouldn’t be password-protected ever, no. I just zip/unzip using Windows’ built-in functions…

    Someone mentioned the blog in a letter to Wire?!

  4. Yes, in the October issue! More than a mention, a paragraph and a half of praise, and a link too. From someone called James Lewis.

  5. Just saw it now–so cool! James is a fellow music geek from my hometown I haven’t seen in well over a dozen years–but there you go, music connects people!

  6. I have been following for years I think after coming here from STGramophone and really want you to know how much I appreciate your efforts. You’re doing God’s work. This has introduced me to so much amazing stuff and some music I hold very dear and I can’t begin to express my absolute gratitude. I wish I could return the favor in any small way, but this seems like a tall order given your apparent musical quasi-omniscience. anyway here’s something:

  7. Wow!! Tim! Thank you, it’s wonderful to know I was able to help connect you with music that you love! That’s the dream I have with every mix. It’s why Musocophilia exists. Going to go listen to what you’ve linked–thank you!

  8. Congratulations on your 10th anniversary! This is the dictionary definition of a “labor of love” site. Thanks for sharing your many finds and great taste with the world.

  9. This is one of the most beautifully presented, and lovingly curated sites I’ve ever seen. I can’t thank you enough for sharing these amazing sets with us. They are real emotional nourishment in a way. Congrats on the milestone, and all the very best to you.

  10. Wow, that’s so very kind! It’s a real honor to have helped you find music that nourishes you–I feel the same way about good music, it’s simply essential. Thank you!!

  11. Thank you, well, for everything. You’ve provided a sonic-heartbeat, a continuous flow of auditory-bliss. Be well and keep-up the great work.

  12. Thank you for 10 years of incredible mixes. I nly discovered this blog about 2 years ago but I adore the painstaking precision of each mix, and almost all of them feels geared towards my taste. Here’s to 10 more years!

  13. Thank you very much Eoin! I do try to put a lot of care into the mixes, so it’s cool that comes across. Thanks again!

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