Musicophilia

[Post Post-Punk] – ‘The Dawning’ (1981-1989)

Posted in Mixes by Soundslike on November 15, 2015

As autumn becomes winter, here’s a new mix that’s been slowly percolating for the last couple months.  It follows some of  the artists of Post-Punk and New Wave as they developed into the later 1980s, as their music–still empowered by the artiness and intelligence of Post-Punk and the popular ambitions and joy de vivre of New Wave–began to become less self-consciously futurist, also drawing inspiration both pan-culturally and from decidedly pre-Punk, even classical and folkloric traditions.  These artists deftly blend state-of-the-art electronics, sequencers and samplers with organic acoustic and electrified instrumentation, confidently in control of their means of production always toward a greater end.

Perhaps this music can be described as post-Modern, but unlike its architectural or academic/art world counterparts that superficially tacked on non-Modernist references at random (always with air-quotes-implied irony) to a fundamentally Modernist framework that rejected accrued culture and understandings, this is music that has moved on from abstraction for its own sake, and is whole-cloth human and humane, unashamed to be deeply concerned with conveying emotional truth by all available means.  It is music that is unafraid to be more than simply “new,” and to declare that Beauty is a good and worthy pursuit.  And the music is indeed beautiful, speaking equally to the body, mind, soul and heart.

This music is the work of mature artists, including The Blue Nile, Heaven 17, Dif Juz, Tears For Fears, Thomas Dolby, Talk Talk, Scott Walker, Scritti Politti, Arthur Russell, David Sylvian, This Mortal Coil and others.  I imagine they were inspired by artists like Brian Eno, Sly Stone, Joni Mitchell, Bernard Parmegianni, Marvin Gaye, Erik Satie, Van Morrison, Haruomi Hosono, Mike Cooper, Vangelis, Astrud Gilberto, Milton Nascimento, Nina Simone, Brigitte Fontaine, Nick Drake, Tim Buckley, et al; and likely serving as inspiration to people who would follow a similarly sophisticated humanist vision, like Bjork, CFCF, Matmos, Antony and the Johnsons, Fennesz, Junior Boys, Caribou, Earth, Joanna Newsom, The Knife, Anja Garbarek, Erykah Badu, Massive Attack, Stina Nordenstam, Burial, FKA Twigs, Matthew Herbert, Sade, Portishead and countless others.

I imagine this music will serve you equally well on a last-of-Autumn walk through the woods and as the soundtrack to a late-night walk through the empty city streets.  For me, this music inhabits the ethereal and the physical, the cinematic and the intimate, the pastoral and the urbane, the orchestral and the synthetic, the nocturnal and the dawning light.

Full tracklist, stream and download after the “more” link.  As always, if you like what you hear, pass it on, and please support the artists and labels who made the music!  A very special thanks to Eric Scheidt for allowing me to use his gorgeous photography for the cover art.  If you like this one, I recommend you check out the ‘1981 – Heart‘ mix, which is the spiritual forebear of ‘The Dawning;’ and the other “Post Post-Punk” mixes which follow the more angular and more electronic paths of Post-Punk.

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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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[Musique du Monde] – ‘Le Mystère de la Musique,’ Volume Two (1974-1977)

Posted in Mixes, Talking by Soundslike on September 21, 2009

Following the first volume of the ‘Le Mystère de la Musique‘ series, here’s ‘Volume Deux,’ which continues to explore the music that links the seemingly disparate sonic strands on which Musicophilia mixes have focused–especially early 70s funk- and art-rooted music and late 70s/early 80s post-punk.  This mix retains the off-center, mysterious quality of the series, but is perhaps a little funkier and more pop-oriented, featuring some very catchy music indeed.

Volume Two‘ begins and ends with quiet ruminations on the joys and pitfalls of love from Kevin Ayers and long-lost German chanteuse Sibylle Baier.  The nebulous territory between “Prog” and post-punk, “proto-punk” and new pop is mapped out here by artists like David Bowie, (very early, very catchy) Laurie Anderson, and Television, with Brian Eno and This Heat adding minimalist textural links.  French artists Emmanuelle Perrenin (usually a more pastoral musician, but here found creating a completely out-of-time hip-hop beat) and Albert Marcoeur add a touch of RIO sophistication.  Robert Wyatt approximates a New Orleans jazz funeral dirge through a lamp-lighted street, and vibraphonist Roy Ayers brings the big-beat  jazz-funk to close out Side A.  Luciano Cilio creates sensitive, minimal music that presages the understated experimentation of beautiful modern chamber group Penguin Cafe OrchestraAugustus Pablo floats his famous melodica over one of the funkiest dub tracks ever made.   Among the least known artists found here, Canadian Lewis Furey struts confidently through his sophisticated art-pop that envelopes many of the sounds found elsewhere on the LP–jazzy drumming and brass arrangements, funky bass, pop harmonies, vibraphones and a sweet-and-sour wit.  Full tracklist and download link for this LP-length mix (with full “sleeve art” and “liner notes”) at the “more…” link.

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[Sensory Replication No. 1] – ‘Adrift’ (1969-2001)

Posted in Mixes, Talking by Soundslike on February 24, 2009

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I think I’ve been a non-practicing producer since I got my first pair of headphones: I’ve always been  pulled in by the staging of sound, the dryness or wetness of it, the sense of music pulling or pushing one forward, spinning you around, the mysteriouss relationship between timbre and emotion.   Eventually, I began to hear the world around me as music, too–how different spaces and different noises also created emotions.  I love the way both music and sounds in an environment literally feel in my ears, and the way my body responds even before my mind can.  And so eventually, as my own music was limited by my talent and means, and none of my friends was begging me to produce their records, I started mixing (instead of compiling) “finished” music together, with idea that mixed music–treated as sonic/emotional raw material–could at least temporarily replicate our full sensory intake, including a sense of time, and perhaps even call us to a heightened sensory state.  ‘Adrift‘ was the first mix where I fully embraced this approach, the results of which I’ve decided with unrepentant nerdiness to call the ‘Sensory Replication Series‘.

At a brief 31 minutes, ‘Adrift‘ is by far the simplest of this series, in technical terms.  Consisting of ten primary tracks only sometimes intermingled (unlike later, more ambitious mixes that involved remixing, dubbing, or weaving six tracks together at once) it relies on the way its component pieces fit harmoniously together.   Looking at the artists in the tracklist, ‘Adrift’ might seem to be a somewhat edgy, cerebral affair; but in fact, this is mysterious, sensual, even sweet music, and I’m not certain whether I’ve since matched the purely intoxication of this mix.  I find this music heartbreaking in the most delicious way.   These mixes tend to be the least popular here at Musicophilia, but I hope that for those who allow themselves to drift in, they offer a listening experience outside the every-day.

Mostly instrumental, this mix brings you the most unabashedly beautiful, emotional sides of John Cale, Faust, Rachel’s, This Heat, Mnemonists, Harmonia, Neu, Holger Czukay and Brian Eno (here interpolating Pachelbel with what would seem to be a mental excercise but which is almost more affecting than the original, for me).  The timecode provided with the tracklist is very approximate; but I’d suggest you basically ignore it, and try to let the trainspotting tendency to dissipate.  I think you’ll be amazed how quickly 31 minutes passes in this territory.  If you do enjoy this mix, please don’t miss the most recent addition to the series, ‘Tall Stories of Evil Gris-Gris,’ a dirtier, haunted, swampy, funky, twisted and more beat-oriented approach to the Senrory Replication idea.  Full tracklist and download after the “more…” link.

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[Blog Swap] – ‘Tall Stories of Evil Gris-Gris’ (1915-2007)

Posted in Mixes, Talking by Soundslike on February 19, 2009

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[NOTE: This mix is now available to download from Musicophilia here.]

Musicophilia is happy to announce a first with this mix: a blog-swap of custom-made mixes (and hopefully not the last).  I’ve created this mix, ‘Tall Stories of Evil Gris-Gris,’ specially for my friend and musical role-model Ettiem and his ‘Gris-Gris On Your Doorstep‘ blog–and following shortly, he’ll be presenting Musicophilia with a special mix of his own.  I’ve had a long-standing desire to use the Dr. John track ‘I Walk on Gilded Splinters’ as the cornerstone of a mix.  When Ettiem proposed the blog-swap idea, I took the murky, slightly dark, beat-oriented tendencies of Ettiem’s blog and music and my desire to revisit the heavy-mixing techniques of the ‘Sensory Replication Series‘ but with a focus on songs (music with vocals and lyrics) and realised I had the opportunity I’d been waiting for.  The title of his blog clinched the deal.  Other ‘Sensory Replication’ mixes have been largely instrumental, immersive but hazy soundscapes, abstract scores to imaginary films, often involving upwards of six tracks brewing at any given time.  With ‘Evil Gris-Gris,’ I wanted cracked scary stories, spiritual folk tales, cautionary legends told at a witching hour in a shack on stilts in a swamp (though one that’s incongruously filled with beeping, half-broken technology).  In terms of mix method, I wanted to restrict most of the overlapping to “duets” between a storyteller and a complimentary (or tension-producing) instrumental work of pure sound.  I’m very happy with the results, and hope that people will let the slight madness creep in and rest awhile.

Contributing the ‘tall stories’ (a phrasing borrowed from the included dubbed-up Leadbelly track) are such modern folklorists as David Sylvian, The Spaceape with Kode 9, David Thomas (of Pere Ubu), Muddy Waters, Low, The Knife, an ancient-sounding Shona folk musician, The For Carnation, Stina Nordenstam, Arto Lindsay, Disco Inferno, Charles Dodge‘s early electronically-created voices, Hector Zazou with Bony Bikaye, Anja Garbarek, Brigitte Fontaine and Areski, and of course, Dr. John.  Making the roux of sound around the stories: David Byrne, Pierre Henry, Scanner, Pole, J Dilla, Ike Yard, Edgar Varese, Shriekback, Charles Ives, Squarepusher, Tangerine Dream, Iannis Xenakis, and Gruppo D’Improvvisazione Nuova Consananza.  Hopefully the end result is a way-in in either direction for those who favor lyric-based songs, or those who obsess over sound itself (and it should be a comfortable, if haunted home for the freaks like me who’re equally obsessed with both).  From a “avenue for creative energy” perspective, this mix (and the other ‘Sensory Replication‘ mixes) is what I most enjoy and put the most time and energy into creating.  So I hope you’ll head over to Gris-Gris at the link below the “more…” and give it a (headphones-on) listen–and while you’re there, do yourself a favor and explore the gumbo Ettiem’s got cooking.

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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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[Full Album] Soundslike – ‘Complicity’ (2001)

Posted in Albums, Talking by Soundslike on October 22, 2008

As a break from the usual mix/compilation focus of Musicophilia, this morning I’m posting a full album.  And it’s one full album I have full confidence I’d never be sued or jailed for posting–because it’s one of the improvisational albums I recorded at the beginning of this decade.  This particular album is predominantly electronic, but too untrained (and manually created) to qualify as “IDM” or any sort of dance-rooted-music.  It’s rough, organic, sometimes a little ambient, spooky, menacing, disappointingly pretty, and despite all my intentions when I began recording, emotionally resonant above all else.

I post ‘Complicity’ simply because listening to it for the first time in a long while, it surprises me: it does seem to capture something about when it was recorded (10th-12th September, 2001) and the feeling of creeping uncertainty and desperate hope I have felt over the last eight years.  It may reflect none of that for anyone else, I don’t know.  On the eve of beginning as a people the process of healing and moving forward, while as deeply mired in the excesses and failures of our time as ever–the album feels surprisingly relevant to me, and it’s also not quite as musically trivial as I thought at the time.  I am not a musician, so this stuff was all improvised, cobbled together bit by bit with no existing framework, working on a feeling for sound alone.  Despite that fact, it’s surprisingly (annoyingly to me, at the time) song-like and listenable.  More rambling, tracklist and the download link follow the “more…”.

Sideways” (2001)

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