Musicophilia

[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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[Guest-Mix] – ‘Somniloquies’ (1931-2009) [By Love, Execution Style]

Posted in Mixes, Talking by Soundslike on July 20, 2009

Today I’m very happy to present ‘Somniloquies,’ mixed by our fourth guest contributor, the sound-obsessed mind behind the truly uncategorisable Love, Execution Style (described on one website as making “”Music” for those who love sounds just as much as songs,” which is almost exactly how I’ve classified myself).  L,ES is, in the best possible way, close to what you’d get if you took every good track ever shared on Mutant Sounds and hit random–perhaps on several stereos at once.  (For a quick sense of at least the non-musique concrete side of what I mean, check out the “WAWL Local Show Theme Song” on L,ES’s MySpace page, which expertly runs through surf rock, early jazz, dub, disco-funk, indie rock, country, metal and chamber pop in an incredible 49 seconds.) I’m very honored that the mix L,ES has crafted is envisioned a “sequel” to ‘The Somnambulist,’ one of my ‘Sensory Replication Series‘ mixes (which are my favorite mix undertakings: densely mixed, spacial, cinematic, seeking unexpected synergy in new combinations and de/re-constructions of tracks).  L,ES’ unabashed love of sound is the perfect match to the Sensory Replication approach, and he’s coalesced a heady blend of thirty tracks by thirty artists in exactly 30 minutes.

Among the artists found here in previously unheard contexts are such Musicophilia favorites as La Dusseldorf, Edgar Varese, Sun City Girls, Jean-Claude Vannier, Z’Ev, Muslimgauze, The Flying Lizards, Faust, Boredoms, John Fahey, Nurse With Wound, Derek Bailey, Can, and Family Fodder, amongst many others.  The full tracklist and download link are after the “more” link.  Here are L,ES’s thoughts and narration for his rich nightmare/dreamscape:

“Thomas Edison would unlock his creativity by entering a “twilight state” between sleep and consciousness, and during these sessions, he would hold a handful of ball bearings.  If he fell into a deep sleep, his grasp would loosen, and the resulting racket would awaken him, allowing him to vividly capture the current state of his wandering mind.  A previous entry in the Sensory Replication series, ‘The Somnambulist,’ was an absorbing, sleepwalking journey through “an immersive aural environment,” and I strived to make ‘Somniloquies‘ a worthy sequel to ‘The Somnambulist,’ beginning with a shared fascination with unconscious states.  However, this time the focus is on spontaneous creation—sounds, melodies, syllables—all arranged with Edison’s twilight state in mind.  Quiet, lulling passages are punctuated with startling jabs, intended to be the equivalent of ball bearings, to stir the listener from a slumber, and such arresting moments are scattered among the mix, including the blood-curling shrieks of “Black! Black! Black!” from Patty Waters or the disruptively played piano tone clusters in “Giving Up” by Stock, Hausen & Walkmen.

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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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[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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