Progressive Defenses 2

In which I mount a defense for one of the more lampooned and derided styles in rock history—Progressive Rock. If you want to keep keep up with future episodes of this podcast, subscribe to sndlgc podcasts in the app of your coice or copy this link to subscribe manually.

In recent years, progressive rock has come a long way towards rehabilitation. Not so long ago, ‘prog’ was a four-letter word in reviews, derisively thrown any band a tad too ambitious. Of course, while the concepts behind prog have gained greater acceptance, there’s always more to the scene than King Crimson and Yes.

It can a a daunting task, wading into such a sprawling genre without a guide. When the style is filled with side-long song cycles, each song reaching into double-digit durations, what sort of primer can one make?

Here is my solution: make 7-inch single edits. Cut the epics down into digestible lengths. In doing so, I endeavor to not just present an excerpt of the song, but to preserve some of the original’s scope—it’s varied passages and virtuosity and grandeur. Granted, if I’m lopping off more than half a song, something’s bound to be lost, but my hope was to give a vague impression of the whole.

While progressive rock was in exile, the accepted wisdom went something like it was just too much twee noodling. This mix goes a long way to prove how, despite all the dextrous displays and extemporaneous tempo shifts, the best bands could make it rock convincingly. It’s also common to hear that punk rock was, in part, a direct repudiation of prog—and yet, listen to Peter Hammill’s unhinged performance on Disengage, and you can understand why he had Johnny Rotten’s respect.

Like any major movement in music, progressive rock is more than it’s remembered for. In the 24 songs included here, we move from blues-based hard rock to keyboard-drenched psychedelia to improvisatory jazz-rock and end with some pastoral progressive-folk.

Progressive rock is as expansive as it’s proponent’s symphonic ambitions. It’s a fertile spot in rock history, not some aberration. Despite a wan period of neglect, it is flourishing again.

Manfred Mann’s Earth Band: Earth Hymn
Budgie: Stranded
Uriah Heap: Tears in My Eyes
The Norman Haines Band: Rabbits
Brian Auger: Oblivion Express
Robert Fripp: Disengage
Osiris: Sailor on the Seas of Fate
Can: Vernal Equinox
Gong: Master Builder
Brand X: Malaga Virgen
Volker Kriegel: Plonk Whenever
Carol Grimes & Delivery: The Wrong Time
Nucleus: Oasis
Julie Tippetts: Oceans and Sky (and Questions Why)
Amon Düül II: Telephonecomplex
Nektar: The Dream Nebula
Traffic: Dream Gerrard
UK: Thirty Years
Fuchsia: Another Nail
Hatfield and the North: Fitter Stoke Has a Bath
Yonin Bayashi: Ping-Pong Dama no Nageki
Trees: Sally Free and Easy


If you’re looking for even more progressive rock, I wanted to include the first volume here, since it was released before the start of this blog. This original missive includes a lot of the biggest names in prog, from King Crimson to Yes and Genesis.

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

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

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.

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 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 deeper 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