Biscuits for… Molasses Movers

My latest in the Biscuits for… series focuses entirely on dance tracks with undanceably low beats-per-minute. If you would like to subscribe to future editions of my podcast, you can search for sndlgc in the app of your choice, or add it manually with this link.

I've been obsessed with slow dance music for years now. Something about the inherent contradiction appeals. To clarify, I mean tracks within a techno dance style that are low BPM, nothing like what would be fitting for raising your would-be girlfriend over your head in a pond in the rain while practicing your routine. The fascination runs so deep, I've tried (and failed) at making a track or two myself. I'm not alone in this fascination. Just check out none other than Andrew Weatherall's recent output, compared to his bangin' techno or skittery drum-n-bass output of the 90s, it's downright lugubrious.

When you tune your ear to a particular concept—something broad but identifiable—how it seems like what you're looking for is suddenly in abundance. I don't flatter myself that I'm spotting a trend. More likely, It's just I'm suddenly tuned into a new frequency and am picking up on what I never noticed before. Whatever the reason, in 2018, I was suddenly stumbling over a wealth of slow motion disco.

Granted it's not all actually slow. Some of these tracks know how to trick your ear into hearing a rhythm slower than what's being played. You probably wouldn't dance to all of it, but each song is firmly from an electronic dance tradition. This ain't early 90s listenin' techno. 

As usual I've chopped it all down to its bare essentials. 30 songs sail by in 80s minutes. True to the Biscuits for series, all these songs are hot off the press—nearly all of them released in 2018, and some just weeks old.

So strap in and get ready to bust a (slow ass) move.

Chloé: Recall (instrumental)
Hi & Saberhägen: Parachute
La Frère: N8TTT
MTV: Snow Ball
Pinklunch: Other Side
Fango: Atena
Commodo: Leeroy
Etch: Defunkt Logic
Novo Line: Triad (33)
Jako Maron: Katangaz
Streetboxxer: Memory Man
Black Zone Myth Chant: Radio Romantica
Krikor Kouchian: Plomo o Plomo
Chromatics: Lady
Suba: Wayang no.8
Move D / Benjamin Brunn: Come In
Marc Romboy: l'Universe Étrange
Overmono: Pom
Heap: Tripper
Low Jack: Brass
Brainwaltzera: Kurzweil Dame (Eva Geist mix)
Masimiliano Pagliara: Small Town Life
Synkro: Automatic Response
Steven Rutter: Memories of You
Sign Libra: Mantodea vs Furcifer Pardalis
Boothroyd: Rinsed
Jonathan Fitoussi / Clemens Hourrière: Ice Tunnel
Happy Meals: Run Round
Dual Action: Cochi Loco
Mønic: Deep Summer (Burial mix)

Oblique Portrait: William Parker

Legendary bassist William Parker is the common denominator for this mix that spans 40+ years and includes the biggest names of the jazz avant garde. If you would like to keep up on future episodes, subscribe to sndlgc podcasts in iTunes or copy this link to subscribe manually.

You don't know the name, William Parker, if you're just starting to dig into jazz, but if you've listen to any free jazz from the last 40 years, you're likely to have heard him. You'll may start to notice how he keeps popping up, over and over in different contexts. Parker is a advanced, modern jazz: a leader, mentor, organizer, writer and a tireless player who has appeared on hundreds of records.

How many artists have sat in with both Derek Bailey and Yo la Tengo? Or Peter Brötzmann and DJ Spooky?

In his now 40+ year career, Parker's not only played with an impressive list of avant garde luminaries, he's is a fixture among their working groups. He played with Cecil Taylor for decades. He and Matthew Shipp were the anchors of David S. Ware's long-running quartet. 

Yet William Parker remains under the radar for many listeners. Maybe it's his instrument. The bass doesn't hog the spotlight like any horn, or even a guitar. Or, perhaps he was just too late: all the biggest names in jazz made their mark in the heydays of the 50s and 60s. Parker came up in the 70s, frequenting the much-discussed-but-rarely-heard loft jazz scene.

It's why I wanted to weave this particular sonic portrait. If you gathered a broad swath of William Parker's work—as a leader, collaborator or sideman—was there a common thread, an overarching theme? Was his presence a defining factor?

To that end, I didn't want to present this mix chronologically. William Parker's palette has expanded with time, so later experiments with vocals, electronics are  interspersed throughout the mix (rather than piling up at the end). I also wanted to Parker's frequent collaborators, making multiple appearances here, from appearing clusters.

Sound-wise, this was a massive undertaking. The 20 tracks included here made up a 5-hour playlist. Despite making drastic cuts to each song, I tried to make each one flow organically, to feel like a complete unit within the mix (while still, of course, showcasing Parker's contributions). Rather than excerpts, these are like 7-inch edits; readers' digest versions.

Maybe, after listening to this mix, you'll see the narrative, the outline of William Parker in all these disparate paths. If so, I hope you check out more of his work. There is a mountain of it to climb, but I would hold out one record in particular. I didn't include it in this mix because, by rights, you ought to own I Plan to Stay a Believer: the Inside Music of Curits Mayfield. It's a raucous free jazz soul party of a double album that never forgets the political edge at the heart of Mayfield's tunes.

Ensemble Muntu: Flight
Billy Bang: Summer Night
William Parker & Hamid Drake: Faces
Wayne Horvitz: Psalm
Frank Lowe: In Trane's Name
William Parker / Raining on the Moon: James Baldwin to the Rescue
Cecil Taylor: Calling it the 8th
Matthew Shipp String Trio: Whole Movement
Bill Dixon: Brothers
Free Zen Society: Majestical
David S. Ware Quartet: Infi-Rhythms
Derek Bailey / John Zorn / William Parker: Noon Harras
Toxic: This Is Beautiful Because We Are Beautiful People
Charles Gayle: Touchin' on Trane
Brötzmann / Parker / Drake: Shake-a-Tear
DJ Spooky: Absentia, Absentia
Yo la Tengo: Let's Be Still
William Parker / In Order to Survive: The Square Sun
Anthony Braxton / William Parker / Milford Graves: Third Meeting
William Parker: Crumbling in the Shadows Is Fraulein Miller's Stale Cake

2017 Recap

Here is my annual recap: a yearbook, rounding up tracks off 25 of my favorite albums from the last year. If you would like to keep up on future episodes, subscribe to sndlgc podcasts in iTunes or copy this link to subscribe manually.

2017 didn't turn out quite how I expected. It was a surprising year of listening. Many albums I hotly anticipated—St. Vincent, LCD Soundsystem, Deerhoof—struck a tad underwhelming. Their albums were good enough, but each had to contend with a mountain of expectation. Just delivering the goods doesn't rank for this lot anymore, they must scale impossible heights. 

There were a few records that outpaced their expectations. Sacred Paws' Strike a Match, was everything I'd hoped for, after their stunner of a 2015 EP. Alvvays' avoided the sophomore slump by improving the writing, execution and production—all without forsaking their central premise. Shackleton continued his hermetic forays into realms previously inhabited only by the likes of Coil.

Mostly though, my head was turned by artists I'd never heard before. Some of these were new artists—Mourning [a] Blkstar, Zen Mother—and others, like Kink Gong and Sarah Davachi, were new-to-me. Those sent me on feverish quests to catch up on what I'd been missing.

At any given point in the last month a number of these records were in contention as my pick as my favorite record of the year. It ultimately came down to a one that is, given my collective history, blatantly obvious—yet at the same time wholly surprising: Mary Halvorson's foray into John Zorn's world, with Paimon.

I've had a decades-long obsession with John Zorn. His multi-faceted Masada project is not just his most popular, but the one that cracked the code of his music, for me. Mary Halvorson is a much newer obsession. Collecting her work and following her career still feels genuinely exciting. Her groups have appeared in my year-end recaps almost every year since I discovered her music in 2012.

Even still, I found Paimon far more engrossing than imagined. John Zorn has released such a cavalcade of music in the last 20 years (since starting the Tzadik label) it's often overwhelming. Halvorson's entry for the Masada, Book of Angels is the 32nd album in that series—and it's only one of Zorn's many ongoing projects. Yet Paimon transcends it's status as just one more John Zorn record.

Mary Halvorson's touch is different from the players Zorn often taps. She's less bombastic and ecstatic. She's noted for creating a nearly impossible amalgam of diametrically-opposed styles, much like Zorn is, but hers is a more integrated, less juxtaposed sound. Halvorson comes from a different tradition—less associated with Ornette Coleman and European Free Improv and more with Anthony Braxton and the AACM. Paimon feels new by virtue of being a happy meeting of these two sound worlds. The writing is pure Masada, but the feel entirely Halvorson.

2017 has been surprising in ways both good and ill. It was definitely a year that a lot of us took refuge in our respective preoccupations. I certainly did, and here are the fruits of my retreat: 25 songs, charting the vagaries of my listening, organized and edited down for you to share. 

 

Cummi Flu / Raz Ohara: Akasak
Acid Pauli: Ayam
Shackleton & Vengeance Tenfold: Spheric Ghost / Fear the Crown
Kaitlyn Aurelia-Smith: I Will Make Room for You
Soundwalk Collective: Xiao Youmei Corridor
Juana Molina: A00 B01
Kink Gong: Saisir l’Aiguille au Fond de la Mer
The Fall: Second House Now
Thurston Moore: Turn On
Mary Halvorson Quartet: Ruhiel
Nate Wooley: Knknighgh 6
Zen Mother: Strange Mother
The Telescopes: Down on Me
Sarah Davachi: For Organ
Phew: Antenna
NHK yx Koyxen: Intention
RE-TROS: At Mosp Here
Mourning [a] Blkstar: Take Two
Arto Lindsay: Uncrossed
Oto Hiax: Eses Mitre
Alvvays: Hey
Sacred Paws: Empty Body
Kristos Rodzevski: Ladybug
United Waters: Shaped like the Sea
Dans les Arbres: Flourescent

Biscuits for… Drunken Bogglers

A collection of seasick bass music, lurching and loping into Fall. If you'd like to subscribe to future episodes of this podcast (and check out the back catalog of mixes) you can find sndlgc podcast editions in the iTunes store, or copy this link, to subscribe manually.

Why is Fall is so disorienting? Even in more temperate climes, it arrives abruptly. One day you abruptly have to bring your fragile plants inside while the trees explode into a fireworks display of foliage, almost overnight. It's dark before dinner without you noticing night's approach. You may try and fight it—refusing to believe winter is around the bend—but what felt like a steady climb in temperature since February has now tumbled over an apex into rapid descent. 

This seasonal whiplash made these tracks hang together as a whole to my ear. As Fall approached, I found myself drawn to bass-heavy productions with a lurch in their step. As if some part of the rhythm is drunk. Not just tipsy, either, we're talking embarrass-yourself-kind-of-drunk.

Sticking with the timely theme of the Biscuits for… series, I focused on brand new music. The vast majority of these songs were released in just the last 3-6 months. Hell, most of the artists are new to me, as well.

Once I have it in my ear what I'm searching for, I sift through new releases, mining for gems with the just right kind of unstable bass. With such a tangible sonic element, the resulting mix whipped up can be relatively style-agnostic. It pledges no fealty to any one sub-genre.

The loosed rhythms give the songs a gloomier demeanor. When some element in a track runs rampant and free, it's subconsciously unnerving, a touch menacing. Even when these tracks make to celebrate, they rejoice with a shadow of doubt. 

A dark mood perfectly suits this mix built for the darkening days. So, get ready to set your clocks back and stumble forward, unsteadily, with Biscuits for… Drunken Bogglers.

Powell: The Bust
FYI Chris: Captain's Patilla
Coki meets Trixx: Elevate
Nomine: Slip
Grey Branches: Bevel
Ossia: Tumult (Lurka mix)
Irazu: Shtamm (Regis remix)
Thomas Xu: Alottochewon
Shit & Shine: Deva-State Nineteen 3000
Herva: Afro-Sweep
Nídia Minaj: Biotheke
DJ Osom: Glued
Lanark Artefax: Hyphen to Splice
Bandshell: Polarizing Haircut
Beastie Respond: The Truth that Hides that There Is None
Orogon Pit: Osmic Frqncy
Mumdance & Logos: FFS
DJ Krush: No One Knows
Clouds: Rush In 2 Orbit (Skinnergate)
Spatial: Spin One Over Two
Pan Daijing: A Season in Hell
Palmbomen II: Disappointment Island
Golden Oriole: Approaching of the Disco Void
Bill Converse: Threshold
Echoplekz: Acrid Acid
Zuli: Foam Home
Ismael: Cross System
Sim Hutchins: Some Men (You) Just Want to Watch the World Burn
Nene Hatun: Altruism
Perc: Wax Apple

Oblique Portrait: Bauhaus

For a band that was so short-lived, Bauhaus' influence is far-reaching. This mix follows the long, often intertwined careers of each member. If you would like to subscribe to future episodes of this podcast you can find it in itunes, or you can copy this link and subscribe manually.

Bauhaus are widely accepted as the godfathers of goth, but that's hindsight. Goth wasn't yet a thing in 1979. No, Bauhaus were a post-punk band, infused with glam rock, dub reggae and punk fury. While their unique take on all that was codified into goth as we know it today, it's not nearly as multi-faceted as the actual bands it's based off.

Bauhaus wasn't fated to last long: 4 albums (at least one of which was merely cobbled together) plus a clutch of singles. Between singer Peter Murphy, guitarist Daniel Ash and bassist David J, they were trying to contain three distinct, competing and prolific voices under one banner. By their last missive, you could hear them peeling away from each other, presaging what they were about to reveal.

Each member had new material waiting in the wings. David J was quick with solo releases, and slung bass for the Jazz Butcher (but that's a different story). Daniel Ash took drummer Kevin Haskins to start Tones on Tail. After an abortive sojourn with Japan's Mick Karn as Dalis Car, Peter Murphy was recording under his own name. Within a couple of years, most of Bauhaus had reconvened as Love and Rockets.

Theirs is a history that's proven hard to outrun. Bauhaus has reunited twice: once in '98 for a tour and again in '06, which yeilded new album. Love and Rockets has broken up and regrouped at least once. Ash and Haskins are back at it, touring as Poptone, performing material from Love and Rockets and Tones on Tail.

While 25 songs can't contain all this history, I tried not to constrain it either. There may be no Bela Lugosi's Dead or So Alive to be found, but I wasn't contrarian about including singles, just avoiding the obvious. It ends where it began, with Peter Murphy performing live, digging deep for a rare b-side off Bauhaus' fist single. 

This is the wild and divergent sound of Bauhaus, not only as they once were, but also what they went on to become.

Bauhaus: St. Vitus Dance
Bauhaus: Kick in the Eye
Bauhaus: Swing the Heartache (BBC session)
Bauhaus: Slice of Life
David J: The Promised Land
Tones on Tail: Rain
Dalis Car: Create and Melt
Love and Rockets: A Private Future
Peter Murphy: Canvas Beauty
Love and Rockets: All in My Mind
Peter Murphy: Crystal Wrists
Love and Rockets: No Big Deal
Daniel Ash: Not So Fast
David J: Fingers in the Grease
Daniel Ash: Roll On
Peter Murphy: Sails Wave Goodbye
Love and Rockets: Body and Soul
Bauhaus: Severance
Peter Murphy: Your Face
David J: In the Great Blue Whenever
Bauhaus: Undone
Peter Murphy: I Spit Roses
David J: Dagger in the Well
Daniel Ash: Too Much Choice
Peter Murphy: Boys (live)

Saccharine and Polish 4

A window into my world of pop. This is the music that makes me move my ass, raise my arms, dust off the old air guitar and sing along. When I crave sonic sweets, these are the confections I reach for. If you would like to subscribe to future episodes of this podcast, you can find sndlgc in itunes, or copy this link.

Many people's musical identities calcify around their coming of age. I've waged a lifelong campaign against this process, always adding new wrinkles to my listening. One thing I can't seem to shake, though, is my definition of 'pop'. If you were ask me to define what pop music sounds like, you'd get an answer that belies by my love of the new wave and synthpop of childhood anbd my teens immersed in punk and grunge.

Take any track on this mix: it may be a new band or song, but I can site a clear precedent in my collection dating from before I turned 18. Even the chaotic silliness of We'll Go Far by Half Japanese fits in. My early love of the Jazz Butcher—or later, They Might Be Giants—easily explains why Half Japanese are a part of my pop landscape.

While my core criteria for pop may not have categorically changed, my discretion has gained some nuance. I pay far closer attention to sound in-itself. I crave dynamics and sonic texture. I'm much more attuned to the vocal syncopation. If the lyrics, the syllables of the words, are too chained to the beat, too four-square, my interest wanes quickly. As they say, If don't got that swing…

Even if I can clearly identify where my pop proclivities originate, and the scope of my interests may have ranged far afield, I make no apologies. There's a welcome home in my world for this music that brings me all the joys and diversions pop can offer.

The Everlasting Yeah: A Little Bit of Uh Huh, a Whole Lot of Oh Yeah
Eagulls: Moulting
Paws: An Honest Romance
Savages: Sad Person
Priests: Pink White House
Jon Spencer Blues Explosion: She's on It
Half Japanese: We'll Go Far
John Wizards: Iyongwe
Lucky+Love: Mars
Stereo MC's: Bring It on
MIA: Attention
Teen: Rose 4U
Mercury: Wild Nights
Chester Endersby Gwazda: Skewed
The Notwist: Kong
Screaming Females: Ancient Civilization
Pins: Oh Lord
Ex Hex: Waterfall
The Primitives: Follow the Sun Down
Benjamin Gibbard: I Don't Know
Alvvays: Plimsoll Punks
Blank Realm: Palace of Love
Guided by Voices: Keep Me Down
Connections: Beat the Sky
Mac McCaughan: Whatever Light
Jane Weaver: The Electric Mountain
Ride: All I Want
St. Vincent: Regret
Wild Beasts: He, the Colossus
New Build: Mercy
Aloa Input: Vampire Song
Prinzhorn Dance School : Let Me Go

Kompakt_ed 3

A long-simmering, highly distilled collection of electronica of all stripes: banging, trippy, trance-inducing… If you want to subscribe to future episodes and series of the sndlgc podcasts, you can search for 'sndlgc' in the itunes store, or copy this link.

Kompakt are titans of techno. The Köln collective are more than a record label—they're a store, a distributor, but most of all, tastemakers. For over a decade I've followed their lead, scouring weekly recommendations of new releases, looking for new tracks.

I especially like trolling their list of new 12-inches (particularly by bands I don't already know). I'll purchase maybe one song (digitally) for every 3 or 4 singles, then file it away in my library. Once I've collected about 30+ hours of these random tracks, I'll go through and pick about 2½ hours worth to represent the best of it. That will run through my usual editing process, whittling those tracks down to fit into an 80-minute mix. So by my count, this podcast is quadruple-distilled.

This particular episode represents over four years of collecting. In 80 minutes and 23 songs, it covers a lot of ground: funky to technical; four-to-the-floor bangers to trippy, fucked-up stumblers.

The entire mix is meant to play as a time-lapse of an entire night's worth of DJ sets. It builds to a rallying cry of cowbell-happy minimalism, digs deep into psychedelic sonics, takes a chill breather at the peak, then announces last call with a goofy digital-horn fanfare.

This mix represents the best electronic music I never knew before Kompakt Records clued me in. God bless Kompakt, and all who sail with them. Now turn it up and move.

Moebius / Neumeier: Jiro (Prins Thomas mix, part 2)
Freska: Mountain Ash
BNZO: Agbadza (Meerkat mix)
Luv Jam: Circle
Incyde: Sykle
Ryan Davis: Sideways (Morris Cowan mix)
ISO68: RunRunRun
Metaboman: Ergo Pure
Cupp Cave: Coke Owls
Maelstrom & Louisahhh: Hurry (Lurka mix)
Mia Dora: Un.Sub
Vitalic: Film Noir
Joakim: Would You Give Up?
Berk Offset: Gretchen und das Oszillophon
Dave Aju: RSHT
The Marx Trukker: Tape Be Good to You
DJ Tennis: Chirality (Plaid mix)
Fairmont: They Live in the Moon
Vai: Get Away from It All
Il Est Vilaine: Surf Rider
Dominik Eulberg: Unechte Wendeltreppe
Ada: Robotica
Peter Presto: Wiedersehnsucht

Patio Stations 9

Last Call: the final installment of my annual Memorial Day BBQ mix. It's been a great run. If you want to check out the rest of the series or the others in this podcast you can copy use this link.

Patio Stations has been a series that is near and dear to my heart. There's something about these gentle rockers and laid back electronic grooves that speaks to me. Despite that, I realize it's time to bring this series to a close. There may yet (eventually) be a 10th episode, but the series is certainly moving from annual to infrequent.

Nine episodes and a total twelve hours—that's enough for any single concept. Besides, when sequels get into the double digits, you're in real danger of barrel scraping. I don't want to see a series that's received some of the most enthusiastic responses, run aground.

I saw plenty of signs: normally, when I finish a Patio Stations mix, I have almost an hour's worth of tracks I just couldn't fit in (which becomes the basis for the next year's episode). Not so this time 'round. I had exactly what I needed; nothing less or more. The tracks I picked for this edition, inadvertently, ended up having a sort of late-night, last call kind of twilit vibe. In so many ways the end just seems appropriate.

This begs the question: how did Patio Stations last so long, so well (volume 8 was one of the best of the series to date). One factor is how flexible a concept it is—not committed to any style, sound, or era so much as a mood. I've always wanted to capture the vibe of hanging out with your oldest and dearest friends—the ones you don't have to posture with or explain much of anything to. Where you're at ease and most yourself. These songs try to capture that feeling, for me.

This might be the last of the series, so maybe plan yourself a Memorial Day bash. Spend some time with the ones there's never enough time for. Char some food on the grill and enjoy some drinks in the outdoor sun. 

This is the Patio Stations, signing off.

Benoît Pioulard: The Sun Is Going to Explode but Whatever, It's OK
Phew & Sei-ichi Yamamoto: Sonouchi
Motorpsycho: My Best Friend
Sarah Cracknell: In the Dark
Alison Statton & Spike: In Time
David Grubbs: Two Shades of Green
The Pogues: Small Hours
Tom Verlaine: Old Car
Monade: Change of Destination
Rework: Moon
Lightning in a Twilight Hour: Night Traveller
School of Language: Suits Us Better
Mark Ernestus' Ndagga Rhythm Force: Simb
HTRK: Chinatown Style
Xao Seffcheque & Der Rest: Unfamous Last Words
Post-Industrial Boys: Sometimes
Magic Castles: Lost in Space
United Waters: Our Beat
Spacemen 3: Sometimes
Teenage Fanclub: Steady State
Lambchop: A Day Without Glasses
The Hive Dwellers: Moanin'
Lake: We Can Work It Out
Morgan Delt: Obstacle Eyes
Dean Wareham: Babes in the Woods
Wire: An Alibi
Sons of the Morning: The Way that Wind Moves, pt.1
John Talabot featuring Ekhi: Journeys
Michael Mayer featuring Joe Goddard: For You (DJ Koze Kalimba mix)
Nightmares on Wax: There 4U
Depeche Mode: Goodnight Lovers
Brian Eno: I'm Set Free

Biscuits for… Temporal Shifts

An 80 minute mix that swerves wildly across more than three decades of rough hewn, industrialized techno and synthwave pop. You can subscribe to sndlgc podcast editions by copying this link.

Moebius & Beerbohm: Subito
Factory Floor: Ya
Malraia!: Your Turn to Run (Fehlmann mix)
Crash Course in Science: Jump Over Barrels
Fad Gadget: For Whom the Bells Toll III
Cold Cave: Rue the Day
Suicide: Rain of Ruin
Prostitutes: Chandeliers Shake
Front 242: Sample D
Marie Davidson: Adieu au Dancefloor
CoH: I Feel Summer
Silver Apples: Nothing Matters
Pussy Mothers: Get from in Front of Me
Celldöd: Falska Gudar (Dub)
GH: Yorkshire Fog
The Neon Judgement: Fashion Party
Soft Cell: A Man Could Get Lost
Kraftwerk: Musique Non-Stop
Pet Shop Boys: One-Hit Wonder
Rainbow Arabia: Computerized Romance
Eat Lights Become Lights: Modular Living
Ryuichi Sakamoto: Relache
Gabi Delgado: Victim
Tolouse Low Trax: Make Friends
Henry Badowski: Anywhere Else
Ultravox!: Quiet Men
The Julie Ruin: Time Is Up
Succhiamo: Succhiamo
Forma: Sane Man
Mariah: Shinzo No Tobira
Josefin Öhrn + the Liberation: In Madrid

Everything that's old is new again—special thanks to the 4 R's: reissue, remix, reunite, and replicate. In Retromania, Simon Reynolds argues that pop music is in real danger of being overwhelmed not just by its past, but also an overly precious reverence for it. A cursory look at the surge in analogue-electronic-driven pop and the industrialized techno underground would seem to prove his point.

It's more than that—ever more obscure ephemera is being unearthed. Music that never had a proper release when it was made decades ago is getting marketed today; competing for ears with the more current. Artists who languished in obscurity are touring and recording again, trying to get their (previously denied) 15 minutes, today. New acts are revisiting old influences and dusting off outdated equipment. It's getting damnably hard to tell when any of it belongs.

Of course our experience of time is linear, so we tend to view art as a straight progression: moments of invention building on past innovations, always striving forward. This outlook drove the endless post-everything-ism of late 20th century. It's an attractive (if, tad vainglorious) concept: we've reached the end of rock, or modernism, or what-have-you and now we are pushing beyond to whatever's next.

I'm beginning to believe this is not how art operates. We often forget art is also a craft. Its history and tradition are not merely useful to it but are an integral aspect of it.  If art is solely about its craft it veers towards repertory. Alternately, we view the breaks with tradition and accepted forms as innovations, the great leaps forward. Between these two poles is the body: where the bulk of art we make, see, hear and experience, is.

These thoughts were spurred, in part, by the vast amount of music available to us today. Thanks to streaming services, we no longer need the funds to physically own every inch of musical history. This sort of access to our collective past (even the heritage of distant, foreign cultures) should have brought about the nuclear ear-pocalypse Simon Reynolds so fears. The weight of this access ought to crush all creativity. Increasingly though, I'm finding myself knocked sideways by what I'm hearing. Far from creativity imploding, the myth of art's linear progression, instead, is collapsing. These hybrids are crossbred out of time and place—and increasingly mysterious.  

I wanted this mix to capture some of these chaotic, big ideas. I chose synthpop and industrial music since its something, with a lifetime of listening, I feel I have enough perspective on to make effective. Amongst the 32 tracks are some great, archival obscurities, artists of the old guard making new material, vintage recordings getting remixed by their aesthetic grandchildren, and new bands revamping throwback styles and rewiring vintage gear. Hopefully, it's all so jumbled, you have a hard time telling which is which.

2016 Recap

In which I gather in and present tracks from the 25 best albums I've heard all year—a sort of personal yearbook of listening. If you would like to subscribe to future episodes of sndlgc, copy this link.

Powell featuring Jonny: Jonny
Thao and the Get Down Stay Down: Slash / Burn
Field Music: Don't You Want to Know What's Wrong?
Radian: Blue Noise, Black Lake
Memotone: All Collapsed
Andy Stott: Forgotten
NHK yx Koyxen: 1048
Factory Floor: Dial Me in
Ash Koosha: Fool Moon
Tomutonttu: Studioon Astuu Haavoittunut Ystävä
Grumbling Fur: Perfect Reader
Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith: Arthropoda
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds: Magneto
Autechre: Spaces How V
Anarchist Republic of Bzzz: Dark Mirrors
Guy Andrews: Spirit Ritual
Tangents: N-Mission
David Bowie: Dollar Days
Fire! Orchestra: Ritual
DKV / The Thing: Cards
Deerhoof: Life Is Suffering
Oren Ambarchi: Hubris
Supersilent: 13.3
Lambchop: JFK
Sarah Louise: Silent in Snow

I'm not going to lie: in many respects, 2016 was an utter shit year. You could look at the uncommonly high death toll of legendary figures or the global rise right-wing nationalism, if you needed proof. Luckily, I found more than enough new music to take some solace (if not retreat) in.

I've compiled here, my own, highly personal mix of favorites. Therein you will find old standbys—artists who have made regular appearances here—as well as some I've only recently discovered.

Normally, I find it hard to pick a single album as my favorite. It's so many apples and oranges. My pick might not necessarily be the record I've listened to the most times, but one that surprised me or changed my perspective. 2016 turned out to be no contest: I was completely obsessed with Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith's EARS.

That's not to say there weren't other strong contenders: Lambchop turned in an startlingly original album in FLOTUS. The sophomore Anarchist Republic of Bzzz was as angry and confusing as this whole last year was. Oren Ambarchi delivered a masterwork that seemed to square the circle on his wide-ranging career. Factory Floor's 25 was utterly relentless. Fuck, David Bowie's carefully considered farewell was not only deeply moving, but the best, most daring record he'd made in decaades

…and yet, nothing compared to EARS. I knew Aurelia Smith's record would at least make this list before I finished my first listen. I was slack-jawed—not that I'm all too easily impressed. Analog synthesis has been all abuzz in the underground for years now and a wide swath of it is half-hearted, boring bandwagoning. Aurelia Smith's record was lush, vibrant and mysteriously alive.

I was so taken with her record, I saw Aurelia Smith twice this year (which I rarely do). I ceaselessly promoted it to friends. EARS was clearly a defining and landmark moment in drift pop's rise to underground prominence.

This is also the tenth of my yearly Recap mixes. They're always challengingly fun to assemble. They force me to try and make some sort of general sense out of my haphazard aesthetic and ranging interests. So many artists turned in such divergent records, I made nearly seamless connections that seemed unlikely: Nick Cave leading into Autechre? Lambchop chasing Supersilent? C'est impossible!

I hope you'll enjoy my Recap of 2016, maybe more than you did the year itself. Here's to a better year, by hook or by crook.

playing favorites

Since my podcast just crossed the 10-year mark and has stacked up 100 episodes, I thought I would publish a primer, of sorts—bringing together some of the best episodes, so far.

Admittedly, all my picks are latter day missives. My tools and methods evolved as the sndlgc series went on, so the earlier episodes feel more exploratory to me. There's still plenty of nuggets back there, though, if you care to dig. To get at the older episodes—as well as keep up with the continuing adventures—use this feed link to subscribe to the series in the player of your choosing.

no.1, Punks in the Post: End of Service Area
Hands down, this is the best mix I have ever made, in any format. I am well and truly obsessed with the post-punk era, and this is (in my humble opinion) one of the best collections of that music I've ever heard. It's deep, dense and thorough. I set up so so many rules as to how this would come together, but I navigated them all. It felt like ages, fiddling with the edits and levels. It digs deep into songs and bands you may not know yet, but when it turns to the familiar touchstones, it serves up obscure gems that still dazzle. Quite literally, I almost shuttered this podcast after I finished this mix.
(further listening: If I Had Only Known)

no.2, 2013 Recap
My year-end round-ups are fun as hell to make. Since the only theme is what's flipped my lid in the last 12 months, they span the breadth of my interests. I try to instill some semblance of a cohesive narrative from that smorgasbord of sound. This particular year, it flowed like all hell. There are leaps in audio-logic that shouldn't work, but fabulously do (Mary Halvorson into Melt-Banana?). I also just think 2013 ended up being a goddamn banner year for new music—all these songs still thrill me.
(further listening: 2011 Recap)

no.3, Pation Stations 4
This series, since it's inception, has been near and dear to my heart. Released as an annual Memorial Day BBQ mix, it's the soundtrack to the opening salvo of summer. My ideal here is a sort of gentle rocker: good time music that is not slamming or insistent, but never too melancholy or lethargic. This mix always displays a strong vein of 90s indie-rock that belies my age a little. I think of this as the music I put on to hang out with old friends—our shared nostalgia. Plus, there's just something about a track that nails that sweet spot of mellow cool that makes me think music is just supposed to sound like that.
(further listening: Patio Stations 8)

no.4, Oblique Portraits: Andrew Weatherall
This is a veritable techno and electro-pop thesaurus. My original idea was to feature legendary producer, Andrew Weatherall's career solely through his remix work for other artists, The resulting mix is eclectic and wide-ranging—yet entirely cohesive. This includes a slew of rare tracks, with a focus on the master transmorgifying rock bands into mutant-dance hybrids. Along the way, it ends up charting a chronological map through the first 20 years of what we now call electronica.
(further listening: Biscuits for… Dog Days)

no.5, Freeform Freakout
This one is not for the faint-of-heart. It's hard to find a place in the average podcast for my love of full-bore free jazz, so instead, I made an episode of only that. I selected songs that were (at least, at the time) rare or hard-to-find. Additionally, each of the seven tracks is presented in a readers-digest version (the originals ranged from 20 minutes to 2.5 hours). I tried to capture small portions from across the entirety of each song yet still retain a sense you were listening to a a complete work. This meant making more edits for 7 songs than I've done for mixes with 30 tracks or more. The end result is utterly insane.
(further listening: a forthcoming episode, Oblique Portraits: William Parker)

Laces Undone, Regardless

A very special, 2-part dispatch marking the 10th anniversary, and 100th episode of my humble podcast. If you would like, you can copy this feed link to subscribe to sndlgc in the podcast player of your choosing.

As a kid, when I started getting  an allowance, the first thing I saved for was a boombox from Montgomery Ward, with a dual-tape deck so I could make mixtapes. This was before I was ten. I've never really stopped making mixes. Now 30+ years later, I carry on with this podcast.

At some point I graduated to mix-CDs. When MP3s came along, I quickly launched an MP3 magazine, I dubbed Sound Logic. Each issue was a CD-Rom collecting full albums to fit a different theme. It would include a PDF booklet, going over that issue's concept and the artists therein. That MP3 magazine lasted about 25 issues over a handful years, right up until I started this podcast. 

The last issue of Sound Logic was nearly complete and ready to go, but ultimately it remained unreleased. I'd simply moved on. That final issue documented the shoegaze and dream pop phenomenon of the late-80s / early-90s. It's title? Laces Undone, Regardless.

Shoegaze is something of an oddity. Even if other fads quickly displaced it as the underground-du-jour, it has enjoyed a sustained respect and continuous influence. Its touchstones were accepted as bonafide classics practically before the scene had faded.

At it's heart, shoegaze was a marriage of 60s garage pop to the psychedelic powers of distortion—think Tomorrow Never Knows meets I Heard Her Call My Name. They looked to experimental music from the 60s and 70s to push the limits of abuse a pop song could take. Effects pedals were elevated to the status of instruments themselves. 

It wasn't a scene divorced of its time though. Many of the bands were outgrowths from British jangle and indie pop. Elements of other scenes can be heard in the shoegazers: from Madchester and trip hop to grunge and lo-fi.

As this podcast celebrates its 10th anniversary, it seemed an appropriate tip-of-the-hat to where it began by finally releasing last issue of the Sound Logic magazine, now as a sndlgc podcast. I've spent almost 2 years, excavating ever more obscure bands and singles. I've fussed (up to the last minute) over the track order. In all, it's 50 songs, 2½ hours of swirling, psychedelic pop. Enough that it made sense to break it into 2 parts: one leaning more on the poppier tracks, while the other more towards the scene's experimental edge (but it's a fairly fluid distinction).

This episode also marks the 100th episode I've released. sndlgc pocast editions started simply: repurposing my old mix-CDs in a new format for a (slightly) larger audience. After about 15 of those, I'd run out of source material and needed to create new mixes, whole cloth. As that began, my methods changed. These mixes are now much more than 'glorified playlists'.

I'm using studio software to actually edit songs down, cutting out extraneous bits. It keeps the pace brisk and lets me cram more music in, creating a fuller picture to each episode's theme. On average, 40-50 minutes is cleaved out of the mix, without removing a song.

I've never taken mixtaping lightly. There's a lot of time, effort and thought goes into each of these podcasts—which you hopefully enjoy enough you don't notice. Obviously, I love sharing music with others, so I plan to keep on podcasting… until a new format beckons.

PART ONE: 
Ride: Time of Her Time
Band of Susans: Now Is Now
The Telescopes: Ocean Drive
Ultra Vivid Scene: The Portion of Delight
The Jean-Paul Sartre Experience: Slip
The Jesus and Mary Chain: Catchfire
Swervedriver: Deep Seat
Bailter Space: X
The Boo Radleys: Does This Hurt?
Bleach: Push
Sweet Jesus: Your Baby Loves Me
Adorable: Sistine Chapel Ceiling
Lilys: Ginger
The Charlottes: Stubborn
Underground Lovers: Yes, I Do
Smashing Orange: Felt like Nothing
The Lavendar Faction: Harbour Me
The Nightblooms: Blue Marbles
Kitchens of Distinction: Polaroids
The Psychedelic Furs: Shine
The Belltower: Everytime
The Heart Throbs: Bright Green Day
Revolver: Bottled Out
The Sweetest Ache: Jaguar
Lush: Thoughtforms (version)
Chapterhouse: If You Want Me
Whipping Boy: Bettyclean

PART TWO:
Spectrum
: How You Satisfy Me
Curve: No Escape from Heaven (BBC session)
Loop: Arc-Lite (Radiated)
Penelope Trip: Overdriver
Ecstasy of St. Theresa: To Alison
All Natural Lemon & Lime Flavors: Catcher
Glide: Tripped Up and Stalled
Blind Mr. Jones: Dolores
Secret Shine: So Close I Come
Loveliescrushing: Dark Glass Doll Eyes
Flying Saucer Attack: In the Light of Time
Slowdive: Waves
Silvania: Un Bosque en la Memoria
Sun Dial: Never Fade
Pale Saints: A Revelation
Eternal: Breathe
Swirl: Breathe
Moose: Screaming
My Bloody Valentine: Don't Ask Why
Disco Inferno: Love Stepping Out
Earwig: Safe in My Hands
The Cocteau Twins: Flock of Soul
Seefeel: Spangle

Biscuits for… Dog Days

A new mix of hot-off-the-presses techno, custom selected for the humid press of days.

I wanted a new, 'rapid response' podcast series. Most of these mixes simmer at least a year or more. I wanted an umbrella for something I could cobble together from what was sparking my interest at that particular moment. I also felt I needed a series to highlight electronic music. It represents a much larger share of my listening than my average podcast belies. 

Enter Biscuits for…
My goal with this periodic series is to capture a moment. Each mix will be suited to it's particular time by virtue of being made up of tracks that are grabbing my attention right then—whether that's driven by my own seasonal tastes or by emerging trends I feel like I'm spotting. Even more,  I hope to make it consist of mostly brand new, just-released music. The vast majority of tracks on this first edition came out only this summer. 

In particular, Biscuits for… Dog Days is targeting an end of summer haze: It's humid and soupy. There's visible heat distortion from the rapid evaporation of the latest summer shower from the asphalt. There's a heat advisory in effect and you don't want to move. It's not all slow motion: you have growing sense of panic that you'll be missing the height of the season, as it closes. You want to accept every backyard barbecue invite. Maybe you can squeeze in a day trip to the beach if it's too late for that island vacation you've been talking about. You want to catch one last outdoor music festival…

Those contradictory forces—lethargy and impetus—are the driving moods of this mix. I wanted to avoid the usual long crescendo electronic mixes so often follow, making it undulate a bit; speeding up and slowing down. This is also what I call a 'full circle' mix. It covers a lot of terrain but the ends connects to each other. If you set it on repeat, you can almost miss where it loops back to the start.

In all it's 30 songs in 80 minutes. All freshly picked. Chopped and mixed and ready to serve. 

T_A_M: Gang Faur
DJ Marfox: Tarraxo Everyday
Domenique Dumont: Le Basse et les Shakers
Jacek Sienkiewicz: Gone
Marek Hemmann: Bob
Fred und Luna: Geh Nie Zurück
Mark Barrott: Over at Dieter's Place
Linkwood: Hear the Sun
Mala featuring Colectivo Palenke: Zapateo
Wareika HIll Sounds: I & I Know Bunny (dub)
Mark Ernestus' Ndagga Ndagga Rhythm Force: Walo Walo (version)
Ploy: Footprints in Solid Rock
Mood Hut: Peace Out
Baleine 3000: Bird Call
Lemme Kno: Way (188 Krew mix)
SeekersInternational: SaturdayNightDrive
Max D: MJAX
John Roberts: Chlorine
Eugene Ward: Tectonic Effect (Group)
Oliver Coates: Bambi 2046
The Untouchables: Blackout
Dimitri Veimar: 6 Days
Head Technicican: Emerging
Kiyoko: Causeway
Javi Redondo: Sun Sign
Mr. Assister: Izma
Quentin SirJacq: Bodies
Don't DJ: Savanna Sundown
Bartosz Kruczynski: Post Tenebras Lux
Cass. & Wolf Müller: Applepie Dreams

Patio Stations 8

Here we are, tuning in for an eighth annual broadcast of the Patio Stations.

For those of you who are new to the podcast, this particular series was conceived as "making the ultimate Memorial Day BBQ" playlist. Especially in NYC, Memorial Day is the starting gun of summer. Public beaches and pools are opened, the free festivals swing into full gear, and we shake off the last chills of early spring.

The operating principal of this mix is a mellow cool. All my favorite times with old friends are enormously chill. We'll sit around and watch kids and dogs play in the yard, half-way tend the grill, eat all the live-long day, and generally goof off. I not only design Patio Stations for just that, but specifically tailor it to them, my dearest friends. 

Within this concept of 'perfect hangout music' there's a lot of wiggle room. With 33 songs edited down to fit into 80 minutes, the final contents span 7 decades and a small bevy of styles and variously hyphenated sub-genres. It keeps it diverse—but I try to arrange it so none of the transitions are too jarring. This particular edition is one of the best yet (if I do say so, myself). Each of these songs has such distinct character—hinting at a much larger world as they flit by.

Maybe it's because I live so far away from my closest friends, but I can't help but let just a touch of melancholy creep in. Whenever we're wrapping up a good BBQ, there's that unacknowledged fact: we won't see each other again for a year, at least. So while we're here together, let's fill another glass, find a new angle on well-worn conversation and enjoy what we have, because that's a lot. These are our Patio Stations, broadcasting directly to you.

Nat King Cole Trio featuring Ida James: Hit that Jive, Jack
Bim Sherman: Sit and Wonder
The Meters: Ease Back
Bly de Blyant: Laura
!!!: Lucy Mongoosey
Joe Goddard: Taking Over
A Certain Ratio: Good Together
µ-Ziq: Die Tomorrow
Eno • Hyde: Time to Waste It
JPS Experience: Block
Psycho and the Birds: She Tears Out
Galaxie 500: Crazy
The Clean: I Wait Around
Built to Spill: Else
Eric Bachmann: Separation Fright
Steve Gunn: Drifter
Sonic Youth: Personality Crisis
Blank Realm: Dream Date
Bonnie Prince Billy & Bitchin' Bajas: Your Hard Work Is About to Pay Off, Keep On Keepin' On
Castanets: Tell Them Memphis
Mark Barrott: Go Berri, Be Happy
Saint Etienne: London Belongs to Me (Richard X retouch)
Lætitia Sadier: Un Soir, Un Chien
Chet Faker: Cigarettes and Loneliness
Mac McCaughan: Wet Leaves
Kendra Smith: Waiting in the Rain
Future Pilot AKA: Witchi Tai To
Thao and the Get Down Stay Down: Give Me Peace
Hecta: We Are Glistening
The Declining Winter: Ruined Landscape Days
Greg Gives Peter Space: The Drive
Paul Simon: Think too Much
Tape: Eagle Miaows

Aching with Amorous Love

A collection of otherworldly slow jams and soul burners from the far side of the sun.

I grew up in one of the whitest areas of the country: the Pacific Northwest, where diversity is as historically low as segregation is high. I was just in high school when hip hop and R-n-B were breaking into mainstream. The white-wash of my childhood only reinforced the feeling this was not for me. Authenticity, poser-ism and appropriation were wrought subjects. Even when I went backwards, and started exploring classic soul—which today feels unanimously accepted—I wrestled with a fear of trespassing.

Interestingly, this also coincides with the time that my tastes started drifting ever more avant garde—and the two things are probably related. Feeling like popular music was not an allowable option, I was given license—or even obligation—to go further afield. The hair metal of the 80s wasn't for me, but that felt like opting out. With the rise of hip hop, I felt excluded. Looking back, with the benefit of years and experience, I know this is nonsense, but it was my experience at that time.

So today, my relationship to R-n-B is fractional and tangential at best. I keep tabs on only the most obvious artists and developments—even then, mostly to make water cooler conversations. Of late, though, some of my favorite sources of music news have begun including soul-kissed albums and tracks I've found myself taking a shine to.

What I'm hearing almost feels like spotting an emerging trend, but in truth, I don't have enough investment to possess the requisite context. It's not discovering a cohesive insurgency, so much as uncovering an entire world of non-mainstream soul unbeknownst to me. I was ignorant of the self-sustaining underground soul, which much like the indie-rock ecosystem I love, thrives entirely independent Superbowl half-time world.

It makes easy sense. Hip Hop and R-n-B have been the dominant force of music for decades now, and soul music's deep well of inspiration could be charted over a century, soon enough. That kind of influence will seep into virtually everything. Now, there are even experimental metal bands grafting soul-inflected vocals over their gnarly drones. 

As I came across these indie-soul tracks, I would file them away in a playlist. At some point I realized that pile was over 3 hours long and it was high time to do something about it. This mix went through a lot of permutations, since I didn't understand what I was grappling with, and was vain enough to believe I did. Where it's ended up is a collection best described as exosphere slow jams: soul burners from across a spectrum of music produced outside the mainstream R-n-B industrial complex.

Each of these songs has a soulful element, but they're coming at it from different angles. I think the appeal, the reason they gelled as a group, is their scale and scope. If there is a world of underground soul, one of the things it could presumably better than big-time productions is small. Mainstream music is stadium-sized. Even when it's intimate, it's huge. It plays to the fences, by necessity. Most of the songs I've chosen are far more living-room-to-small-club sized. It's a luxury of  scale that top-shelf artists just don't have.

This mix is very much a personal exploration. I don't have the bearings yet to give you a map. Maybe you're in the same place as me; maybe you're willing to come along for the ride—for the ride itself, rather than having lay of the land.

TRACKLIST:
Kelela: Hallucinogen
Mattewdavid: Perpetual Moon Moods
Weval: Thinking of
Heterotic featuring Vezelay: Triumph
N'Conduit with Jack Fuller: Ooooo
Mala: Como Como (Theo Parish mix)
John Wizards: Lusaka by Night (LV mix)
Sandro Perri: How Will I?
Elodie Lauten featuring Nirosta Steel: Miracle 2 (GB mix)
Jerry Paper: Everything Is Shitty
Felix Dickinson: Seven Measures
Braille featuring Angelica Bess: Ports
Sunless 97 & Palmistry: Aia
Jamie Woon: Skin
Cloud Boat: Bastion
Thundercat: Lone Wolf & Cub
Wildbirds & Peacedrums: The Offbeat
WIFE: Heart Is a Far Light
James Ferraro: Close Ups
King Midas Sound / Fennesz: We Walk Together
Will Samson: Rusting Giants (Ritornell Rerustle mix)
FKA Twigs: Papi Pacify
Kelis: Rumble (Actress Sixinium Bootleg mix)
Akase: Graspers
Samuel: Steam Train
Hot Chip: Ready for the Floor (Smoothed Out on an R-n-B Tip)
Uther Moads: Easy
How to Dress Well: Words I Don't Remember

Punks in the Post

A 9-volume, 12-hour investigation, ever further into the post-punk era.

Post-punk is not a single sound. The telescoping view of history has a tendency to be reductive, but in truth it was one the most unruly and fertile periods of creativity in rock history. We certainly haven't seen anything like it since.

As it's often told, punk rock happened as a blast of anarchy. When you really look at its content, the rebellion was mostly attitudinal. The music was rudimentary garage rock. Templates that had been around since the 60s were now played badly, by ugly blokes, with shitty voices. It's fashion was transgressive, but also conformist. There was a way to dress punk. There were loads of other rules: what you could play, and how; who you could associate with; what politics to hold and how to express them.

At the height of their hype, the Sex Pistols mounted an abortive tour of the UK. It's said that 10 bands sprang up in the wake of every show they managed to play. Just as quickly as they so rudely took the world of rock by storm, the Sex Pistols disappeared ignobly. They released a solitary, compromised record on a major label . Afterwards, they toured the US, where they imploded like any dinosaur act you care to mention: in a pile of drugs and unchecked ego.

I'm too young and too American to say what effect this had on the scene back home, but you have to imagine a strong sense of disillusionment. By the time all those bands, inspired by the Sex Pistols, could string 3 chords together, their idols were denuded. The dual forces of market and tradtion proved too powerful to overcome. The response was swift and startling.

What came next was unhinged, unstructured and unsanctioned. This is the era where what we understand as an independent label today was born. For the first time in modern pop history, the fashion got away of the the gatekeepers of the marketplace. This is where the rules of what was cool, let alone what a pop song or rock music could even be, got thrown out the window.

There seems to be no unifying quality in post-punk other than striving beyond your own limits and imposed constraints. From this era of experimentation was born what we know as new wave, goth, dance punk, and industrial and a fistful of other well-known sub-genres. None of them were known by those names at the time. Only after scenes coalesced around these artists, years later, would they began to get cleaved off from their post-punk origins.

Take Bauhaus, now known as the godfathers of goth. Goth wasn't a thing in 1978. Listen to Bela Lugosi's Dead again: it's a strikingly bizarre song. It has a beating heart of dub reggae. A gigantic bass riff in the foreground and echoing rimshots from the drums prop up reverbed vocals moaning over tuneless guitar scrapings. Structurally, it's a mantra—doing away with the verse-chorus-verse format almost entirely. It drones on, seemingly forever. By the time goth was a proper style, this sort of foundation shaking would be tantamount to heresy

Another reason to assess post-punk as an era rather than a sound is it's worldwide reach—less a scene and more a zeitgeist. There are post-punk era bands from communist Poland that fit in perfectly with the UK progenitors. There's post-punk entries from Ohio, Japan and Australia. 

This also means that the scene is astoundingly deep. Sure, the top-shelf bands—Gang of Four, the Slits, Joy Division, the Fall—still reign supreme, but if you dig down to the 4th and 5th tier or beyond, you still find great songs—even bands whose entire catalogs are worth obsessing over.

This series of podcasts grew to be far longer and far more important to me than originally intended. It traces back to the very beginning of my podcasting, when I was recycling mix-cd's. It maps my discovering more about the post-punk than I'd known of or heard before. So it charts, from beginning to end, my growing skills as a compiler, editor and curator, as well as my knowledge, depth and access to an ever deeperes well of obscure music.

There were a few ground rules to each episode: 
I didn't want to repeat any bands (with two exceptions, I'll get to later). I would allow individuals to reappear, as long as they were in different bands. So many of the post-punk artists were prolific collaborators. The Pop Group, for example, released a small amount of material under that name, but each member of the band went on to piles of other projects, all of which helped steer and shape the scene.

Every episode would include The Fall and Sonic Youth. These were the reigning, continually operating titans of the original era. Both continued to reach ever further, even after decades of envelope pushing.

As the series was coming to a close I wanted to dedicate one episode all to female led groups. Even though there's no shortage of stories belying a wealth of discrimination or sexism within the scene, the post-punk era still managed to be a massive stride forward for feminist rock. It included more female led bands than just about any time before it. Scant few of them were just hood ornaments: they led their bands, and the groups themselves often featured female instrumentalists (still a rarity in late-70s rock).

Agonizing over the final episode, I wanted it to act as a proper capstone to the project, the rules for it only multiplied. Every song on the mix had to include a musician or group who had appeared previously in the series. Except, it couldn't be just a different track from the same album that had appeared before. I wanted to give equal time to the touchstones of post-punk as well as the painfully obscure. I wanted an emphasis on out-of-print and hard-to-find tracks. Lastly the Sonic Youth and Fall entries had to be covers. (Perversely, I found a bootleg of a Peel Session, where Sonic Youth covered the Fall).

In total, this became the largest, most focused single project I've ever completed. All told it spanned 7 years of researching, digging and assembling. The final episode still stands as the greatest compilation I have ever managed to make.

As you burrow into this series, follow me deeper into one of the greatest rabbit holes of rock to yet come about. I hope you take some time to check out some—if not all—of it. As you do, marvel at how unchecked and unfettered post-punk really was.

2015 recap

A quick run through 25 of my favorite songs from the last year.

As long as I can remember, I've been collecting music--and for a good portion of that life spent listening, I've kept track of my favorite record of each year. I like to keep it as a personal yearbook--a scrapbook of my own ever-evolving aesthetic. Of course, with decades of this behavior under my belt, and now with a podcast platform, I like to tell myself that I'm good enough this collecting business to hold court about my choices.

As the decades of doing so have gone on and I've become a more well-heeled sound traveller, I ought to feel less embarrassed by the habit (let alone holding forth on it). Instead—as my listening has widened and diversified—any concept of equivalency has dissipated. I'm left, still, with the keenly felt impression that what I pick is not (entirely) a statement of quality but more about where I am; in listening (and in life).

As I look back at my beginnings in this annual tradition, although I still love (and listen to) each of the records I selected, not all of them hold up as the best of their year. Sometimes this is because things are always happening every year that I have no fucking clue about at the time. Other times, I'm just a different person now. My aesthetic has mutated and evolved. It's that very change though, that makes going back such a treat for me, like flipping through an old photo album.

For a few years now, I've been obsessing over a strain of confounding and complicated albums—records that bend the very concept of genre boundaries to the point of meaninglessness. They zig when you expect them to zag, defying any idea of easy categorization. In our rampant remake / redo / rehash culture, these are some of the few things that have a whiff of 'new' to them. They also flout our desire to sort, tag and file everything away neatly—an amateur librarian's nightmare.

This trend influenced the pick of my favorite record of 2015. It came down, neck-and-neck between Lonelady's Hinterland and Ricardo Dias Gomes' -11. It was not an easy call, as there is very little to compare them to each other, head-to-head. Hinterlnad is savvy and astute update of New Order and the greater Manchester dance-rock bloodline—one that is adding to that tradition, not just repeating it. -11 is an experimental Brazillian-pop record. Where's the equivalency in that? It was, ultimately, that confusing scent of new that drew me to pick Gomes' work. Each and every listen had me upending theories about the record—and sometimes pop iteslf.

Lonelady has created a masterful, high-water mark of a record—I cannot recommend it heartily enough—but it's one very connected to its own past. While Gomes clearly comes from a tradition, Brazilian pop music has had a highly experimental streak in it for well nigh 50 years now, -11 is from that lineage but not entirely of it.

His record upends your expectations at every turn. So often, in fact, his biggest trick seems to be helping set up those expectations at all. Take the most overtly universalist pop-sounding track on the album: it's an instrumental, laughably titled Some Ludicrous Self-Indulgence to Develop. The most memorable melody's heft is undercut earlier in the running order by a sickly sweet lullaby version. The longest song, dropped in the middle, is a droning piece of sound-art hovering somewhere between keening organ and guitar feedback, only briefly featuring pitched down vocals.

Some of this is a part of his inheritance. Making experimental gestures seem genteel or tossing them off with an all-too knowing smirk is very Brazilian, with precursors like Caetano Veloso (who Gomes has played with) or Tom Zé. Many of his turns are not something I (at least) have heard in that tradition. His penchant for sound sculpting—which runs at odds with his knowingly awkward studio presence. His use of close mic'd breathing as a musical element is a recurring theme, tying the record together. Gomes' forebears, like João Gilberto made careers out intimacy like that, but theirs was always warm and welcoming, on -11 it's a tad unsettling (in a good way). He is bringing new traditions into his cultural heritage but blending them so they seem like they were Brazilian to begin with.

He not only strips his songs down to their barest essentials, it sounds like parts of the song you are hearing have been surgically removed. This was another key factor in my adoration—I have a long standing love affair with what I call 'stark pop', and most of -11 is awfully stark. Again, while it remains a record of its place, it's minimalism also reminds me of even recent albums by avant pop stalwart Michael Morley.

So this is my pick for favorite record of 2015, in every sense of the word. Ricardo Dias Gomes' -11 is interesting, challenging, compelling…oh, and compulsively listenable. It can evoke Tropicalia and the New Zealand noise rock in the same song. It's thick in hummable melodies that just happened to be embedded in bizarre, isolated instrumentation and surrounded by breath: gasping, gulping and sighing. This is what made me stand up and take notice in 2015. This is what I hummed to myself in the shower. This is what I pushed on anyone who would hear me out.

As to the podcast? While I've done my best to arrange my hodge-podge of interests into a somewhat logical flow for this the mix—I like to keep the pop hooks spread throughout, so you never have to go down any one particular rabbit hole entirely. Even if none of this was on your radar, I hope you hear something you enjoy.

TRACKLIST:
Sacred Paws: Shirley
Sleater-Kinney: A New Wave
Screaming Females: Triumph
Lightning Bolt: Mythmaster
Vision Fortune: Tied and Bound
Sote: Lacuna
LoneLady: Hinterland
Matias Aguayo: Gato Disco
Hot Chip: Why Make Sense?
Cummi Flu: B.
Wire: Burning Bridges
Vilod: Surmansky Blow
Jenny Hval: Heaven
Ricardo Dias Gomes: Junta-Espirito
Boduf Songs: Great Anthem of Our Youth
Senyawa: Hadirlah Suci
Ghold: All Eyes Broke
Zomes: Syster
Battles: Dot Com
Pole: Kafer
King Midas Sound featuring Fennesz: Lighthouse
Helen: Pass Me By
Kris Davis Infrasound: Jumping Over Your Shadow
Eric Chenaux: Poor Time
Mary Halvorson: Aisha