Bandcamp Updates

I’ve been putting more music up on Bandcamp for those who prefer that platform. There’s still more stuff on Soundcloud for the time being, but I’ll keep both updated as I finish more music from now on.

Music of 2017 – Over the Cataract

If you’re like me, 2017 turned on you like bad milk. How to tease out the salvageable, unscorched threads from such a forest fire of a year? Here’s one attempt. This is simply music I clung to over the cataract, not necessarily new.

Boy Harsher – Country Girl

Boy Harsher roll as a panther languidly, inexorably, resignedly, hungrily from the sheets in the dimly lit delta between Art of Noise, Pet Shop Boys, and Skinny Puppy. Less is more. And you will do with less.

Gap Dream – Shine Your Light

In the temples of neo-psychedelia there rings a pure “aum.” It eludes, impish, a pursuing army of faithful axemen and bedroom producers who only ever manage to catch audible doses of it as it dashes behind pillars of amplifier whine or crouches just beyond altars of fuzz. Gap Dream cups this “aum” in his hand, in stillness, and draws it reverent to your ear.

Lo Tom – Lo Tom

David Bazan and TW Walsh, the team who brought us Headphones, reunite as a full band to put the force of a guitar steam hammer behind the plaintive insight of some of the best songwriting Bazan has composed to date. How can a coupling meet its end? Let Lo Tom count the ways.

John Maus – Screen Memories

Weird, sparse, darkly wry atmospheric synthetic pop teasing at the grimier edges of nostalgia. Hot and muddy all at once. Kitsch poorly remembered and botched in its resurrection to live again as art- a fundamental misrepresentation of its awful zombie self.

Blood Orange – Freetown Sound

This is a raw slab of love and pain. There is nothing here but ecstasy and mortal communion.

(This video is from the previous album, “Cupid Deluxe,” but it was just too rad to leave out.)

Iron Chic – You Can’t Stay Here

2017 was that kind of year, and this was a panacea. As the song “My Best Friend (Is a Nihilist)” contends, “It’s hard to be a human being,” indeed. Where humanity is defined by an ethical liberty, the ability to act with love for others and not out of compulsive self-serving competition, this year has shown us all how desperately empty people are in danger of becoming in pursuit of winning.

Cheveu & Group Doueh – Dakhla Sahara Session

French experimental synth punk rockers collaborate with western Saharan fusion band Group Doueh to create a propulsive, off-kilter driver of a record that only seems to pick up speed and inventiveness as the black circle spins.

Trans Am – California Hotel

Trans Am never missteps, but this is still their best in years. Timely, fragile, paranoid, whimsical, and suffused with dread by turns. Still masters of the vocoder, still their own best session musicians, still their own best producers, and still planting the stoic flag of warning for what’s left of our humanity.

Dutch Uncles – Big Balloon

By SecApx - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=59443722Dutch Uncles are inheritors of the legacies of the likes of Thomas Dolby, XTC, Prefab Sprout, and Icicle Works with the rhythmic backbone of a contemporary band like Mew. They have traits of all of these, but at an octane several rounds of distillation higher, faster, and more frenetic. It’s clean, controlled chaos, and it’s absolutely terrific.

Peter Baumann – Transharmonic Nights

The late-seventies solo work of this one-time member of Tangerine Dream is among the sparsest, most hauntingly beautiful German electronic rock ever made. Listening to this record, you are poised perpetually at the exact moment when day crosses over into night, when the streets greet you empty of passers-by. The stage is set forever for a chance meeting with a sudden change in fate. It is trivial, but I should mention that, of all the bands of this ilk being emulated with the aesthetic of the Stranger Things series, the font for the title sequence of that show seems to have been most directly based on that used on the cover of this record.

Idris Muhammad – Turn This Mutha Out

The sound of this record is as synaesthetically deep red and oversaturated as the photo on the sleeve. Heaven here is endlessly rhythmic, its vaults held aloft by millions of congas. The disco-funk presentation of virtuoso jazz percussion, replete with walking disco bass lines, makes what could be passed over by some as an everyday funk album in actuality a very deep, very sexy pop record. It sticks with you. I’ve played this over and over and over this year. If you need to get away, retreating into this record’s dense, crimson, nighttime sound is like returning to the precipice of love. I can’t recommend it enough.

Sylvester – Stars

I was tipped to this album when I heard the haunting, oddly contemporary closing track, “I Need Somebody to Love Tonight,” during the end credits of an episode of the second season of Master of None. The straightforward pathos and desire for the fulfilment of connection is only heightened by the austere, technological, Kraftwerk-esque chill of the synthetic bed atop which it lays. The record ranges from the life-affirming bombast of the best of nightclub disco to the brilliant aforementioned synthetic confessional. Sylvester was one of humanity’s own spotlights on the runway to love.

Destroyer – Ken

There is no one quite like Dan Bejar, the poet behind Destroyer. This album reaches like a response across the years to a mystical challenge he posed, seemingly to himself, on his 2006 record, the life-changing “Destroyer’s Rubies.” On that record, where one of his characters in the title track “took a room at the castle” that “paid for itself,” he experienced a “series of visions,” the content of which he assured us that he wouldn’t reveal:

Blessed doctor, do your worst.
Cut me open, remove this thirst.
Hidden, but near.
A series of visions, I won’t repeat them here.
I won’t repeat them here.

It’s the end of 2017, and the incurable sick among us draw us nearer to the end of us all, so why not reveal the dream now? And so he does, at the climax of “Tinseltown Swimming in Blood,” the third song on “Ken,” the new record that plays like something by a more a melancholic, atmospheric New Order.

What comes round is going round again
Now let me tell you about the dream:

I had no feeling, I had no past
I was the arctic, I was the vast
Spaces without reprieve

I was a dreamer
Watch me leave

And as 2017 goes, so might we just all. Love to you, peeps.

 

I think you should make art. I think you should keep truth alive.

Art defines our humanity. It is the synthesis of one’s knowledge, skill, emotion, and expression into dialog. As dialog, art is public. Being public, art is political. Being political, art engages with, critiques, and checks power. Being a check on power, art empowers the artist. Being critical, art helps power to become ethical. Being ethical, the person moved by art becomes more human.

The possibility of being human is precisely what this age of prevarication, gangsterism, kitsch, cynicism, corporatism, and fascism is engineered to eliminate. Human beings are individual. Being individual, human beings have rights founded in the pursuit and expression of their desires. Possessing rights, irreplaceable individuals are bound by ethics to acknowledge and reduce the suffering of other likewise irreplaceable beings striving for fulfillment. In exercising their will to work to ease the suffering of others, rather than for the maximization of their own interests, human beings are able to become free.

We need art now. Music is art. Here are three free tools with which to make it.

You don’t need very many good tools to make good art. Although these instruments I feature are free, I encourage you to peruse the developers’ paid options or consider a donation if they change your life and you can spare it.

The u-he Tyrell N6


The u-he Triple Cheese

Full Bucket Music’s Mono/Fury

News

I read the news

“Obama’s not our boyfriend anymore”

you see

they’ll say anything to stay confused

as though romance is a democracy

or a vote can bring a love that’s true

I’ll tell you the secret of the Word

(No, I won’t tell)

These songs just write themselves

The tools of the hex

The dam that holds back the happening

the ocean of the years

I’ll tell you the secret of the Word

(No, I can’t tell)

These songs just write themselves.

Wrenches

You blew in like an evil wind,
and when you left it was like a candle blowing out.
You sang to us with the strength of sin,
and chased the darkness with your shout.

Time chips away white pain in white rooms
Where all that’s left are amplifier cords
And we still wander like a minotaur
In the agony and kindness of your words

Fear and grandeur
Love and loss
Charity and pity
Understanding of the scene
Of human heartache and doomed rebellion
In every frozen city where you’ve been

Screaming for every one of us
lost and never found
and running our whole lives ever since we hit the ground
Broken as a rule, you taught us that when it hurts
We can always jump like wrenches in the works.

 

 

Shakeup

When you’re uncertain—really uncertain—but you have some idea of where and who, what kind of a kind person you were supposed to be… When this is where you find yourself, and someone reaches out unbidden with a real, connective recognition and hello… The feeling dawns that perhaps I can still be the person I want to be, too, and someday I’ll feel good about where I stand if I learn what that takes.