The Coconuts – Don’t Take My Coconuts, 1983

The Coconuts were an offshoot project of Kid Creole and the Coconuts, the brainchild of August Darnell, a Bronx-born composer who’s an absolute genius with big band sounds, Latin jazz textures, and cuttingly clever lyrics. The Coconuts were initially the trio of backing singers in Kid Creole & The Coconuts, but went on to release two full-lengths on their own, with production from Darnell (who was married to Adriana Kaegi, member of The Coconuts and co-founder of the original Kid Creole lineup. Less relatedly, I just excitedly realized that Fonda Rae was at one point a member of the Kid Creole band).

Don’t Take My Coconuts is killer song writing, fully fledged arrangements, and charismatic vocals together in full force. To be clear, the ladies of The Coconuts (Kaegi, Cheryl Poirier, and Taryn Hagey) were creative powerhouses in their own right–their vocal delivery is razor sharp and manages to be seductive even while covering “If I Only Had a Brain” (this is my second Wizard of Oz-related post this week, so make of that what you will). They were incredibly strong performers, able to stay in impeccable character while flawlessly executing fairly complicated choreography in perfect unison. The video for “Did You Have To Love Me Like You Did?” is a showcase of amazing outfits, spot-on choreo, and some, uh, monkeys–it’s embed disabled, so it’s different from the video previewed below, but you can watch it in full here.

I still haven’t found any clear origin story for “Ticket To The Tropics” (no relation to the Gerard Joling song, as far as I can tell), which has a different melody but the same lyrics as the Cristina track of the same name. I can’t find detailed credits for either of the two songs, but given the overlap in sensibilities I wouldn’t be surprised if there was some personnel cross-pollination going on in there somewhere. Enjoy!

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Mix for Sanpo Disco

Honored to contribute a mix to Sanpo Disco, a very inspiring Melbourne-based mix series that I’ve been a fan of for a long time. This is meant to be a pushback against the most brutal New York winter in recent memory: tropical and Latin textures, pillowy synths, ocean waves, sunny Japanese garage pop, crickets. Yes, that’s John Martyn covering “Over The Rainbow,” and it’s just as weird-good as you’re hoping. I’ll be posting a download link in the near future, for those who are interested in an mp3 version. Cheers, and stay warm!

Tracklisting:
1. John Martyn – Over The Rainbow
2. Art of Noise – Crusoe (Ambient Version)
3. Pili Pili – Be In Two Minds
4. Yoshiaki Ochi – Ear Dreamin’
5. Unknown Cambodian Artist – Side B, Track 1 (Edit) (Sayonara Sound Productions 16)
6. Akira Ito – W・A・T・E・R
7. Sally Oldfield – Blue Water
8. The Coconuts – Did You Have To Love Me Like You Did?
9. Yuki Okazaki – アイドルを探せ
10. Grace Jones – The Crossing (Ooh The Action…) (Edit)
11. Ana Gabriel – Parece Que Fue Ayer (For C)
12. Ryuichi Sakamoto – Put Your Hands Up
13. Karin Krog – Hymn To Joy
14. Sven Grünberg – Temaga
15. Владимир Леви & Ким Брейтбург – Не Уходи, Дарящий
16. World Standard – 私の20世紀 (My 20th Century)
17. Piero Milesi & Daniel Bacalov – Camera 2 Parte

Ryuichi Sakamoto – Esperanto, 1985

Guest post by Andy Beta (Twitter / IG)

Last year was brutal in almost every aspect, from the social to the international to the personal. Amid such rubble, there was a bit of a silver lining, in that I achieved a noteworthy professional achievement: interviewing Ryuichi Sakamoto for the Gray Lady. We sat one afternoon and sipped tea at a café near his West Village home and discussed his stunning new album, async, and also drifted onto some other topics. He talked about his recent interest in La Monte Young’s Composition 1960 #5 as well as the works of Japanese sound artist Akio Suzuki. “One of his early pieces was a big concrete cube in a gallery and he pushed it so it made a sound of friction on the floor,” Sakamoto enthused. “It’s beauuuutiful music.”

We even briefly touched on one of my favorite solo albums of his, 1985’s Esperanto. Originally commissioned for a dance performance from New York-based choreographer Molissa Fenley, it’s one of Sakamoto’s earliest forays into sample-based music and it’s as bewildering, playful, formidable and forward-looking as anything in his catalog. He told me that the computer he used to make the album was massive, holding his hands out wider than his body to show the size of the actual discs that stored mere seconds of sound. The album also features tasteful percussion work from Yas-Kaz and some guitar slashes courtesy of Arto Lindsay.

There’s news that Light in the Attic will be reissuing an incredible amount of Japanese music over the next few years and while I’m sure that Sakamoto’s work will receive some long overdue reassessment in the west (almost none of his groundbreaking 80’s work is available for streaming, which is just ridiculous), I wonder if an album as far-out as Esperanto will be high on the priority list. That said, recently graphic designer and album illustrator Robert Beatty enthused about Sakamoto’s work and this album in particular, which prompted a reply from Visible Cloaks’ Spencer Doran:

esperanto fun fact: all the tracks are actually 15 minutes long. they recorded it before was finished and didn’t know how long each dance section needed to be edited to so they intentionally overshot the length of each piece. the tapes still exist!

Here’s hoping that full 15-minute immersions into pieces like “A Rain Song” and “A Carved Stone” might re-emerge one day. Until then, enjoy for a limited time this visionary work from the master.

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[Mix for Self-Titled] OMG Japan 2: Japanese Pop 1980-1989

cover art by Jeff Velker (SC / Twitter)

I’m very pleased to finally share Volume 2 of the OMG Japan mix via Self-Titled Mag.

That proclivity towards inventive genre splicing is all over this mix, actually, perhaps most noticeably as a reggae influence in three very different incarnations. First, Akiko Yano’s steel drum-flecked synth-reggae cupcake “Ashkenazy Who?” is replete with gleefully gnashed vocals, twisted and slung in the mouth as if to mimic warped synth pulses. Next, Junko Yagami leans even more explicitly into reggae fusion on “ジョハナスバーグ” (“Zyohanasubargu,” i.e. a Romanization of the Japanese pronunciation of Johannesburg), a thick synth-funk ode to a global love for reggae, winking with drum machines and synthetic accordian. Last is Pecqre’s “Kylyln,” a spaced-out dub rendition of a song originally written by Ryuichi Sakamoto for Kazumi Watanabe, which comes from one of the most slept-on records in the Japanese canon. It was largely recorded in Jamaica at Channel One and Tuff Gong Studio on a trip organized by Bob Marley himself, as the story goes, at the urging of drummer and diehard reggae fan Masahito Hashido (aka Pecqre). It’s an incredible lineup: between Aston Barrett and Robbie Shakespeare on bass, Carly Barrett and Sly Dunbar on percussion, Minako Yoshida’s lead vocals, and Marcia Griffiths and Judy Mowatt singing back-up, one can only dream of being a fly on the wall during those sessions.

Read the rest HERE, and if you like it, you can download it HERE.

Tracklisting:
1. Tabo’s Project – Feel
2. Imitation – Narcisa
3. Jimmy Murakawa – Down? Down, Down! / Stay Outta My World
4. Zabadak – 蝶
5. Akiko Yano – Ashkenazy Who?
6. Junko Ohashi – I Love You So
7. Junko Yagami – Zyohanasubargu
8. Tatsuro Yamashita – Love Talkin’ (Honey It’s You)
9. Yukihiro Takahashi – Konchu-Ki
10. Sandii & The Sunsetz – The Serious Game
11. Pizzicato V – The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy)
12. Pecqre – Kylyn
13. Joe Hisaishi – The Winter Requiem
14. dip in the pool – Rabo Del Sol
15. Masami Tsuchiya – Never Mind
16. Mami Koyama – Love Song
17. Toshifumi Hinata – サラズ・クライム
18. Ayuo Takahashi ft. Koharu Kisagari – 流れる
19. Hiroko Yakushimaru – 透明なチューリップ (Transparent Tulip)

The Art of Noise – The Ambient Collection, 1990

One final send-off to a perfectly nightmarish year. This technically isn’t an album but rather a compilation, mostly of tracks from The Art Of Noise’s 1986 In Visible Silence and 1987 In No Sense? Nonsense (both of which, if you’re unfamiliar with the group, are incredibly generous places to start). It’s been reworked with some tasteful mixing and transitions by regular AON collaborator Martin Glover (aka Youth).

This isn’t exactly what we think of as ambient these days, but boy oh boy is it a prime early 90s time capsule. If you’re an Art of Noise fan, you’ll love hearing favorites like “Crusoe” and “Ode to Don Jose” in slightly more vivid hi-fi. Try not to be put off by the language excerpted below–these are brilliant songs, and they make a lot of sense tweaked into an explicitly balearic context, given that a lot of AON signature synth textures and environments feel like very direct precursors to what is described below as ambient house. Includes “A Nation Rejects” and its successor “Roundabout 727,” the riff from which has famously been sampled in too many rap tracks to count. Choral samples, ocean waves, hypnagogic percussion, and cotton candy synthesizers. It’s almost embarrassing how up my alley this is, so I hope it’s the same for you.

Enjoy, thanks for reading, happy new year, and may we all be on the up and up.

With the advent of the nineties a new decade of clubs and DJ’s have floated into our consciousness. Their trip is a journey into peace. An ambient ecstasy. The creation of a new musical travelogue. A minimalistic embrace of everything good about the hard and uncompromising trance-dance of house and the surrealism of ambient instrumentalism.
Ambient or ‘chill out’ rooms have been set up in clubs all around the country as an alternative to the dance floor. Pure ecstasy escapism. Rooms for day-dreaming, fantasising or hallucinating.
This ambient collection is a sound step into the future. A collection of tracks alternatively known as ‘New Age House’ or ‘Ambient House.’ Everyday sounds, noises and atmospheres we’ve imagined and heard all our lives but never consciously listened to. An unfocused daydream with no background or foreground. A sense of not being yourself, or being apart from what you’re listening to. A draft into tranquility, in and out of reality.
Oft played and more than often sampled, The Art Of Noise have long been torchbearers for this form of ambient instrumentalism.
So…chill out.

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25 Favorite Releases of 2017

In the spirit of the season, I wanted to share some of my favorite releases of the year. Obviously not exhaustive; just some personal highlights. Quite a few of these are giant major label releases, so I’ll be taking down those download links quickly or leaving them off accordingly. Let me know if links are broken. Happy holidays!

 

Previously: 2016 | 2015

Alice Coltrane – Divine Songs, 1987
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Bulgarian State Radio & Television Female Vocal Choir – Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares, Vol. 2, 1987
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Cleaners From Venus – Going To England, 1987
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David Sylvian – Secrets Of The Beehive, 1987
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Depeche Mode – Music For The Masses, 1987
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dip in the pool & Masahide Sakuma – 黒いドレスの女 OST, 1987
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Dolly Parton, Linda Rondstadt & Emmylou Harris – Trio, 1987
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Elicoide – Elicoide, 1987
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Eric B. & Rakim – Paid In Full, 1987
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Frankie Knuckles & Jamie Principle – Baby Wants To Ride/Your Love, 1987
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Geoffrey Landers – Many Hands Make Light, 1987
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George Michael – Faith, 1987
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Haruomi Hosono – The Tale Of Genji, 1987
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Ichiko Hashimoto – Mood Music, 1987
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Isabelle Antena – Hoping For Love, 1987
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Laraaji – Essence/Universe, 1987
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Masahiro Sugaya – Music From Alejo, 1987
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Meredith Monk – Do You Be, 1987
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Michael Jackson – Bad, 1987
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Pet Shop Boys – Actually, 1987
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Phuture – Acid Tracks, 1987
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Pizzicato Five – Pizzicatomania, 1987
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Prince – Sign O’ The Times, 1987
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Sinead O’Connor – The Lion And The Cobra, 1987
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Yasuaki Shimizu – Music For Commercials, 1987
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Yoshio Ojima – Club, 1983

Another early 80’s anomaly, this one released on only 50 numbered cassettes in wooden boxes with silkscreen and Russian constructivist paper inserts. Ojima is probably best known for his catalog of significant environmental works, most notably the gorgeous 1988 two-album collection for the Spiral in Tokyo’s Wacoal Art Center (volume one of which has been lovingly catalogued here), but also for the Tokyo Opera City Art Gallery and the Living Design Center OZONE. He also produced Hiroshi Yoshimura’s Pier & Loft and Motohiko Hamase’s #Notes Of Forestry. (For more Japanese environmental music, see here, here, here, and here.)

Club takes somewhat of a departure from his more ambient works, but you can still hear his propensity for small motifs that build and layer into complex, embroidery-like compositions, particularly on tracks like “Boy In Vision.” Closer “Graduation” is similarly stunning and somber: between its whale-like, slow-motion horns rearing and arcing in the distance, and its deliberately distracting tinny mechanical whirring in the forefront, it reminds me of Hosono’s “Air-Condition,” released the year prior.

Still, if the cover art wasn’t sufficiently indicative, there’s a sense of humor here that isn’t necessarily evidenced elsewhere in his catalog: a spronky suggestion of mechanical toys on “Entrance,” a childlike wonder and marching-feel on “Orientation,” and perhaps most noticeably on the confoundingly good “Club-A.” People who know more than I do about the history of electronic dance music might be able to label this more accurately, but to me this sounds a whole lot like raucous, gnashing proto-techno, or even proto-acid. And then, just like that, we’re returned to the gleefully spaced out synth whirring of “Club-B,” as if nothing unusual had happened. (Though there are a few small nods to futurity on “Days Man” and “Schooling,” whose drum-machine-going-for-a-walk sensibility sounds like a nod to Testpattern–which is a good thing.) As much as I feel like a broken record, this is largely uncategorizable stuff, and a really special window into a genius stretching his legs and taking some worthwhile risks along the way.

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Guest Mix – Où est allé le temps, 2ème Partie

Guest mix by DBGO (Soundcloud / YouTube / Playmoss)

Editor’s note: I’m thrilled to share a follow-up mix from Barcelona-based DBGO, whose YouTube channel is a treasure trove of rarities, and who makes an equally transportive series of mixes, many of which focus on a time-and-location specific musical subgenres and can send you down months-long rabbit holes. You can listen to Part One here.

This is another selection of French folk avant-garde between 1976 and 1989. Hope you enjoy it.

Tracklist:
1. Dominique Guiot – Wind Surf Ballad (1978)
2. Serge Bulot – Euryale (1981)
3. Teddy Lasry – Seven Steps (1983)
4. Serge Korjanevski – Petales de Voix Instrumentale (1988)
5. Frédérick Rousseau – The Opening (1988)
6. Fred Manda – Incantation (1988)
7. Serge Korjanevski – Saisons Du Coeur Instrumentale 2ème Partie (1988)
8. André Ceccarelli et Bernard Arcadio – Forest (1986)
9. Jean-Pierre Boistel et Tony Kenneybrew – A Capucine (1989)
10. Bruno De La Salle – Melodie Orientale (1978)
11. Hector Zazou – By The Sea (1985)
12. Tamia & Pierre Favre – Maroua (1988)
13. Théâtre du Chêne Noir d’Avignon – La 7 (1976)
14. Madhya – Meditations (1987)
15. Lightwave – Modular experiment 4 (1987)
16. Luc Marianni – Synthetic Suite N°3 Pour Synthétiseur (1986)

Jimmy Murakawa – Original De-Motion Picture, 1982

Deeply weird and cool record from Mariah vocalist Jimmy Murakawa, featuring Yasuaki Shimizu production. New wavier and more scronky than the usual around here, even veering into no wave on tracks like “Luci’s Small Hotel Part 2.” With an inclination towards cavernous metallic clanging, creeping synth lines, and echoey muttering, there are moments that feel more German industrial than Japanese–particularly on standout “Down? Down, Down! / Stay Outta My World,” except by the song’s end it’s morphed into what sounds very much like an unfinished Notorious B.I.G. track. A few other standout moments, like “Beauty” and “Vaporous Actor,” call to mind sparser and more percussive moments on Sakamoto‘s Left Handed Dream, which came out the same year. There’s a tunneling, cavernous sensibility to this that reminds me of Colored Music. It’s real good. If it’s for you, it’s definitely for you.

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[Mix for NTS Radio] Getting Warmer Episode 19

Here’s my most recent episode of Getting Warmer for NTS Radio. It sort of feels like a continuation of last month’s mix–slinky, flirty, loungey, and never picking up too much speed. I recently revisited Dusty Springfield’s version of “Spooky” in headphones, and while I’ve been a longtime fan of hers, I was particularly floored by her vocal quality and intonation, so that was the jumping-off point here. I hope you like it! You can download an mp3 version here.

Tracklist:
1. World Standard – Pasio
2. Frank Harris & Maria Marquez – Campesina
3. Miharu Koshi – Tohboh-Sha
4. Yves Tumor – The Feeling When You Walk Away
5. Dusty Springfield – Spooky
6. Márta Sebestyén & Levente Szörényi – András
7. Karin Krog – Just Holding On
8. Quarteto Em Cy – Caminho De Pedra
9. Lena d’Água – Tão
10. Fred Manda – Cartoon In Kartoum
11. Patrice Rushen – Let Your Heart Be Free
12. Solange (no, not that Solange) – Quero Um Baby Seu
13. Gal Costa – Baby
14. Nora Guthrie – Home Before Dark
15. Hiroyuki Namba – Hiru No Yume