May 18, 2017

[Mix for NTS Radio] Getting Warmer Episode 13: Joanna Brouk Tribute

My newest mix for NTS Radio is a two hour tribute to Joanna Brouk, who passed away this month at 68. Considered one of the early founders of New Age, Brouk never referred to herself as a composer, but rather insisted that she was a vessel for the music that flowed through her. Her work sat somewhere in between new age, drone, minimalism, and classically inclined ambient, with a curiosity and a roughness reminiscent of pioneering early electronic music. You can buy her excellent compilation released last year by Numero Group here. There's also a great interview with her here in which she talks about her early processes and her work in sound healing.

She often said that it was the space between the notes in which interesting things start to happen, and that music has to slow down in order to get there. I put this mix together of things that, to me, are similarly interested in space and silence. Some of these songs were written by her contemporaries; others are just things that I hope she might have liked. If you like it, there will be an mp3 download link here in a week. Thank you for everything, Joanna!

1. Joanna Brouk - Healing Music (excerpt)
2. Francesco Messina - Prati Bagnati Del Monte Alalogo (excerpt)
3. Kudsi Erguner & Xavier Bellenger - Apu-Caylioch / Le Seigneur Des Étoiles
4. Kevin Braheny - Lullaby for the Hearts of Space (excerpt)
5. John Clark - The Abhà Kingdom (excerpt)
6. Masahiro Sugaya - 水-(1)
7. Craig Kupka - Clouds II (excerpt)
8. Iasos - The Winds of Olympus
9. Daniel - Quartz Crystal Bells (Side A) (excerpt)
10. Daniel Kobialka - Planetary Mysteries
11. Ojas - Shiva Dance (excerpt)
12. Jansen / Barbieri - The Way The Light Falls
13. Hiroshi Yoshimura - Water Planet
14. Alice Damon - Waterfall Winds
15. Joanna Brouk - Golden Cloud Layers

May 11, 2017

Daniel - Quartz Crystal Bells, 1988

Pristine crystal overtones. Most of this moves at glacial speeds, with a few stretches of more active composition. While singing bowls go back hundreds of years, crystal singing bowls (made from silica quartz) weren't manufactured until the mid-80s when they were used to grow silicon computer chips. They weren't marketed as healing instruments until the early 90s, meaning Quartz Crystal Bells is one of the pioneering recordings of crystal singing bowls. Recorded live on a set of twelve bowls between 8" and 18" in diameter, with Daniel Lauter as well as Donna Soszynski and Kim Atkinson on the bowls, and recorded by Bernard Xolotl (reminder to post some Bernard Xolotl).

This is a decent quality tape rip with some room tone, but if you like it I'd highly recommend buying a re-mastered version directly from Daniel, which is divided up into five tracks rather than two sides.

May 8, 2017

Cristina - Cristina, 1980

So good. Cristina was a Harvard drop-out who was working as a writer for The Village Voice when she met (and eventually married) Michael Zilkha, who was in the process of getting the now-legendary ZE Records off the ground. He encouraged her to record a song called "Disco Clone," written by a former Harvard classmate of hers, which became ZE's first release in 1978 and featured John Cale production (and, moreover, is really good).

Cristina (later reissued as Doll in the Box) was the first of her two full-lengths. Short and sweet, it was produced by August Darnell of Kid Creole & The Coconuts, and you can hear his signature brassy tropical camp all over it. The heavily textured Latin-jazz percussion brings to mind some of New York no wave's more polished, dancefloor-ready groups, except it's fronted by a snarky, jaded Betty Boop. Cristina's vocals are simultaneously flippant and flirty, often splintering off into multiple personas in dialogue with each other. She leans into that heavy-handed sardonicism even more on her follow-up, Sleep It Off, a grittier piece of electro boasting a proto-Slave to the Rhythm Jean-Paul Goude cover. While Cristina was met with moderate acclaim, Sleep It Off was a commercial flop (so dumb! it's really good!), leading to Cristina's musical retirement (though she's still a writer). Thank you Caroline for putting me onto this!

May 3, 2017

John Clark - Faces, 1981

Another gem from the ECM catalogue. Brooklyn-born jazz horn player John Clark hasn't made many records as a bandleader, but has been hugely prolific and has recorded and performed with Miles Davis, Jaco Pastorius, Chick Corea, Frank Sinatra, Aretha Franklin, and Leonard Bernstein, among many others. He's still a faculty member at Manhattan School of Music.

Faces is disarmingly beautiful in ways that I don't typically expect to hear from a jazz record (though I'm admittedly a jazz idiot). The cover image feels very apt: in addition to much of this being a very quiet record, it also has a ghostly quality, suggesting faint impressions from a carbon copy done too lightly. That vaporous, trailing-behind sensation is echoed in the generous reverb on both the horn and the electric cello, suggesting watercolors or streaks of neon in street puddles. Despite all these murky descriptors, there's joy to be found all over it: "Silver Rain, Pt. III" is a nod to steel-drum tropical sunshine, and closer "You Did It, You Did It!" is almost baroque in its exuberance. There are some really nice notes about Faces on ECM Reviews, which, incidentally, is an excellent resource if you're as daunted as I am by the ECM catalogue. Thank you Gil and all day breakfast for bringing me here!

April 28, 2017

Quarteto em Cy - Quarteto em Cy, 1964

Originally comprised of four sisters from Bahia (Cybele, Cylene, Cynara, and Cyva; their real names), Quarteto em Cy has been enormously prolific and has also undergone many lineup changes over the years. I've been unsure which record of theirs to begin with since this blog started, so I've decided to start at the beginning and share their debut (and also their first of maybe five self-titled records), from what Brazilian music snobs consider to be their golden period (although they weren't signed to the legendary Elenco label until 1966).

Swooning vocal harmonies delivered with expressive precision and set over meandering jazz and bossa textures. No reason not to be listening to this today.

April 20, 2017

[Mix for NTS Radio] Getting Warmer Episode 12

My newest mix for NTS Radio is meant for springtime walking around. (Mom, I think you might like this one.) I'll be posting an mp3 download version in a week from now. I know it's been a little quiet around here--I've been tied up with another project, but am looking forward to sharing more music next week. If you like this, you can download an mp3 version here. Thanks for listening!

1. Bill Nelson - Wildest Dreams
2. I-Level - In The Sand
3. Isabelle Antena - How Can They Tell
4. Phill & Friends Band - This Man
5. Ayumi Ishida - Bye Bye Jet
6. Gal Costa - Sebastiana
7. Ntombi & Survival - Think More About Me (Edit)
8. Wham! - Blue (Armed With Love)
9. UB40 - Don't Break My Heart (Edit)
10. Herb Alpert - Rise
11. George McCrae - I Get Lifted
12. Boz Scaggs - Lowdown
13. Yasuko Agawa - L.A. Night
14. Stereolab - Dear Marge

April 10, 2017

Haruomi Hosono - Mercuric Dance, 1985

A favorite. Not purely an ambient record, as there are a handful of more jittery, percussive tracks in the second half, but a good deal of this is, for me, ideal music to work to. Ringing, jewel-like washes of synth, but with a certain weight that similarly intentioned records seem to be lacking. The navy blue cover feels very apt--there's something angular and a bit severe about this that I love. Recontextualized elements of traditional Japanese drumming throughout. I think this was made for a modern dance performance, but can't find any additional information online--if anyone knows, please fill us in. Enjoy.

March 29, 2017

Jansen/Barbieri - Worlds In A Small Room, 1985

Arguably an apotheosis of the long and fruitful 80s Japanese and British musical cross-pollination. Steve Jansen and Richard Barbieri were both founding members of Japan, alongside David Sylvian, and the band toured with Masami Tsuchiya of Ippu-Do and Yukihiro Takahashi of YMO. Jansen and Barbieri both contributed to Ippu-Do's Night Mirage, and Tsuchiya went on to release his mini-album Alone the same year as Worlds In A Small Room. At this point it becomes unclear who is influencing whom and in what order, as the opening track of Worlds immediately calls to mind the signature staggered synth swells of Alone. Later in the record, "Moving In Circles" is a direct, if gritty nod to the theme from Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence, so it's unsurprising that Japan bandmate David Sylvian worked closely with Sakamoto and the two even riffed on the Mr. Lawrence theme together, with Jansen contributing drums, and Seigen Ono mixing. I suspect Ono might have had some indirect influence on Worlds's stark prettiness. Here on the Japanese release of Worlds, "Moving In Circles" gets a bonus reprise, but this time with vocals from Jansen, sounding like a less theatrical Sylvian--a reminder that the two are brothers as well as bandmates. "Mission" sounds for all the world like a murky YMO demo circa BGM (a very good thing). The following year, Jansen and YMO's Takahashi went on to collaborate on the excellent Stay Close. There are probably dozens more inlets of inspiration and collaboration evidenced on this record--this is just scratching the surface. (*closes out of 25 tabs*)

Perhaps more importantly, this is a stunning record that only opens up with increasing generosity upon further listens. "Breaking The Silence" and the later "The Way The Light Falls" are unrepentantly beautiful but without any wasted gestures. There are still surprises, though--a few rays of koto on "Distance Fires," a synthetic organ, a sudden swerve towards pop, towards classical. Sparse, mysterious, and nostalgic, this is a movie score waiting for a movie that's good enough.

As a footnote to all of this, there's a gorgeous collection of Jansen's archival photos on his website, including members of Japan, Sakamoto, Tsuchiya, Yukihiro Takahashi, and many others (notably this one of Sakamoto in the studio during an Akiko Yano recording session.)

March 27, 2017

[Mix for Blowing Up The Workshop] #73

Honored to contribute a mix to Blowing Up The Workshop, which is a very useful archive of mixtapes including many from my own musical and curatorial heroes. I was thinking about escapism, cinematic déjà vu, anime soundtracks, hyper-optimistic fantasy about the experience of tourism, courtyards, commercials, and ruins as I put this together. If you like it, you can download it here. Thanks for listening!

1. Jun Miyake - Good Morning Yamanashi 
2. Giovanni Venosta - Woman In Late 
3. Lena D’Água - Tao 
4. Nuno Canavarro - Untitled 8 
5. Forrest Fang - The Luminous Crowd 
6. Einojuhani Rautavaara - Cantus Arcticus I: Melancholy 
7. Kurban - Masto A Iran 
8. Maria Marquez & Frank Harris - Canto Del Pilon 
9. Iury Lech - Barreras 
10. Marcel Pérès & Ensemble Organum - Offertoire "Diffusa Est Gratia In Labiis Tuis" (comp. Machaut)
11. Masami Tsuchiya - Never Mind 
12. Pale Cocoon - Sora 
13. Connie Francis - Siboney 
14. Kenji Kawai - Nightstalker 
15. Jansen / Barbieri - Breaking The Silence 
16. Hiroko Yakushimaru - Tomeina Churippu

March 23, 2017

[Mix for NTS Radio] Getting Warmer Episode 11

My newest mix for NTS Radio was inspired by spring, melodrama, seasonal affective disorder, women looking at men with suspicion, heartbreak, long hair, and Ennio Morricone. If you like it, you can download an mp3 version here. Thanks for listening!

1. Beverly Glenn-Copeland - Ever New
2. Arthur - Valentine Grey
3. Linda Smith - I So Liked Spring
4. Sammi Smith - Help Me Make It Through The Night
5. Connie Converse - How Sad, How Lovely
6. Connie Francis - Vaya Con Dios
7. Dusty Springfield - The Windmills of Your Mind
8. Shirley Collins - Adieu To Old England
9. Judee Sill - Lady O
10. Barbara Moore - Drifting
11. Claire Hamill - Speedbreaker
12. Renée Fleming - The Trees on the Mountains (comp. Carlisle Floyd)
13. Joyce Heath - I Wouldn't Dream Of It
14. Bessie Griffin & The Gospel Pearls - I Believe
15. Patsy Cline - Sweet Dreams
16. Elena Ledda & Mauro Palmas - Sett'ispadas
17. Hollins & Starr - Cry Baby Cry