November 30, 2015

Ray Lynch - Deep Breakfast, 1984

A classic. Deep Breakfast was the first independently produced record to be certified gold (and later platinum) by the RIAA. Lynch is a classically trained guitarist and lutenist with a background in spirituality (the record's title comes from a line in a book by controversial teacher Adi Da Samraj, under whom Lynch has studied: "You must be starved, old friend. Come into my apartments and we'll suffer through a deep breakfast of pure sunlight.").

Deep Breakfast is meticulously produced and instantly likable from beginning to end, so much so that it's a bit of an eye-roller. From what I understand it served as a new age gateway drug for hordes of listeners, but it's unusually diverse for the genre. Opener "Celestial Soda Pop" is exactly what it sounds like: plump, bubbly, and candy-sweet with synthetic harp. "The Oh Of Pleasure" is sublime and sounds like what might have happened if Enya were more interested in electric guitar patches (you may recognize it from Grand Theft Auto IV). "Falling In The Garden" is ponderous and pastoral, whereas "Rhythm In The Pews" is unabashedly playful, almost naïve, with hyper-precious baroque-isms (this is one of several tracks in which Lynch's classical background is most obvious). Closer "Tiny Geometries" is another favorite, with a Charles Cohen-esque shattered crystal introduction that unfolds into more familiar arpeggiations and eventually a searing new age epic. An excellent on-repeat record, and hard not to love.

November 24, 2015

Marcos Valle - Marcos Valle, 1983

Guest post by Wesley P. Allard

Marcos Valle’s Marcos Valle is a quintessential example of Brazilian boogie. Valle began writing and recording this record following his return home to Rio in 1980 after an extended furlough in Los Angeles where he met future collaborator and legendary R&B and Soul composer, Leon Ware (whose talents are demonstrated on this album a number of times, namely on linear party tracks like “Dia D,” which he wrote and recorded). The record’s single, opening track “Estrelar,” was successfully marketed as “workout music” by Brazilian record label Som Livre, which contributes to the kitschy allure imposed by the dazzling album cover.

This album is cooling exotic bliss in a sonic form. It flows seamlessly from tracks like “Naturalmente” to “Viola Enluarada” like some hyper-evolved liquid hell-bent on making you relax in ecstasy. Mentally isolate any one slice of this album (e.g. the production, arranging, melody, etc.) and you’ll be hypnotized by shimmering rays of sonic pulchritude. Overall this album is a consistently funky piece of jazz-infused soul that doesn’t compromise its Latin roots, and it definitely invokes the same dancing proclivity attached to those roots. From gliding and skipping bass, to elegant samba standards like “Samba De Verao,” to the warm embrace of a Fender Rhodes, this album is nearly perfect and requires not a single press of the “skip” button…devour in its entirety!

November 20, 2015

Hitomi "Penny" Tohyama - Sexy Robot, 1983

Guest post by Michael McGregor

Hitomi “Penny” Tohyama is a Japanese singer who had a string of hit records in the late '70s and '80s. The earlier stuff is disco-funk in the J-Pop style, with YMO/Tatsuro Yamashita influences — smooth, electro production, with great synth bass-lines, and superb melodies. Some of her stuff in the late '80s gets pretty cheesy, but Sexy Robot is a gem from front to back. 

I can’t remember how I came across it — probably in a Hosono YouTube K-Hole — but my ex-girlfriend and I used to jam this record every night while making dinner — dancing around the kitchen, pouring more wine, turning up the volume. It’s catchy, despite 90% of the lyrics being in Japanese, though every few bars she’ll drop a phrase in English — something as short as just bursting out “Sexy robot,” or some groovier vocal progressions like “Sparkling eyes…fall in love…I am so sexy.” It’s one of those records that makes you feel sexy inside, and fun(!). Even if you listen to pretentious ambient or noise or techno all the time, this one is undeniable. It's a reminder that despite all the awful things going on in the world, life is pretty great. 

To sum it up — when you title your record Sexy Robot and have a cover like this, it's hard to go wrong.


November 18, 2015

Midori Takada - Through The Looking Glass, 1983

Midori Takada is the percussive mastermind behind Mkwaju Ensemble, as well as a member of the free-jazz trio Ton-Klami. This is her only solo release, and it's gorgeous, comprised of percussion (mostly marimba, as well as what sounds like traditional Japanese drums), shakuhachi, and field recordings (mostly birds). It's not all as fluffy as it might seem, though--Midori Takada is first and foremost a percussionist, so the album peaks when she picks up steam, building up to ecstatic, drawn-out drum crescendoes (especially on the closer, "Catastrophe Σ"). It makes for a record that is alternately dreamlike ("Mr. Henri Rousseau's Dream") and fiery ("Crossing"), but always precise and beautiful (and with an album cover that looks like a leaked painting from Rousseau's secret hallucinogen phase, no less).

November 16, 2015

Sussan Deyhim & Richard Horowitz - Desert Equations: Azax Attra, 1986

This exquisite and challenging work is the 8th in a fantastic series of albums entitled Made To Measure released between 1984 and the mid-90s on the Belgian record label Crammed Discs. The series is an experimental music goldmine and effectively an ambient world tour, featuring the global exploratory sounds from many favorite composers such as Hector Zazou, John Lurie, and Arto Lindsay. 

Desert Equations: Azax Attra is one of the most exciting albums I've heard in this series, both for its singularity and its cohesiveness as a musical work (dare I say concept album?). It is the first release from the collaboration between New York composer and multi-instrumentalist Richard Horowitz and Iranian vocalist and composer Sussan Deyhim. A flurry of otherworldly sounds and driving beats in combination with Deynhim's stacked vocals and jaw-dropping Meredith Monk-esque shrieks make for an audio safari through some jungle that exists only in the nether-regions of the artists' existential angst.

PS: Richard Horowitz (aka Drahcir Ztiworoh) makes an appearance on Jen's Winter (Outdoors) mix, which works pretty well in fall too.

November 12, 2015

[In Memoriam] Patrick Cowley - Megatron Man, 1981

The best. Alongside Giorgio Moroder and maybe Kraftwerk, Patrick Cowley can be said to be the most influential figure in electronic dance music. A hero in the west coast gay club scene, and a hero to everyone who likes to dance. Megatron Man is relentless, orchestral, high-energy perfection, sure to induce a natural high on any dance floor it graces. "Sea Hunt" might be my favorite song in the world to dance to. This music is so joyous and unabashed that it made his successive and last record, Mind Warp, all the more hard-hitting as a dark disco concept album about succumbing to the effects of HIV, which claimed his life 33 years ago today at the age of 32. (One of the few useful things that Gawker has ever done is this beautiful piece about Mind Warp.)

Had he not left us too soon, Patrick Cowley most certainly would have continued to dominate the electronic dance underground. Still, he's left his mark on an endlessly grateful community, and he would no doubt be happy to read YouTube comments on his songs like "OMG! I remember! YES! I was getting PHUKED in the East Village, NYC rooftops when this song was hot on the Disco Floors! Dam I miss those Gay Anonymous Hookup Days! ;-)" and "I met Patrick at The Hexagon House where Sylvester was performing. He was one hot man. We were both staying in cabins at The Woods Resort and briefly hooked up while partying the entire weekend away. I would often see him in the clubs around town after that and we'd party and dance until dawn. I never realized until now but I kind of miss that era." Thanks for everything, Patrick.

November 10, 2015

Nando Carneiro - Violão, 1983

Named after the Portuguese word for classical guitar, Violão is the first of only two solo albums by Brazilian guitarist Nando Carneiro. The work features singer Beth Goulart, guitarist André Geraissati, and über famous musical god Egberto Gismonti on percussion, synthesizers, and flute. A consistent bed of soft swirly synth and blazing classical guitar. Lots of surprises too (samples of a baby?). Enjoy!

November 6, 2015

Bridget St. John - Ask Me No Questions, 1969

Peak British folk. Bridget St. John is most well known for the trio of excellent records she released between '69 and '72 on John Peel's Dandelion label. This, her debut and the first in the series, is the most bare-bones and raw, with guitar that's alternately sunny and somber. It's also blessedly absent of the goofy optimism that made many of her peers less palatable (and, unlike many of its contemporaries, all the songs on it are self-composed). Her voice is remarkable not just for sitting in a notably low alto range, but for its consistency of non-expression, as if she preferred to let her androgynous bard quaver and her direct lyrics speak for themselves. The follow up to this record, Songs for the Gentle Man, is also worth seeking out, but it's more padded out with instruments, and feels somehow less pure for it--I love how Ask Me No Questions is unabashedly moody, dappled with the occasional patch of sun (the eight minute long closing title track is dense with field recordings of birds and church bells). Perfect fall soundtrack.

November 5, 2015

David Parsons - Sounds Of The Mothership, 1980

Recorded to tape in 1980, this album features the often quite dark private musical explorations by New Zealand space music goliath David Parsons. The first of numerous solo releases, Sounds Of The Mothership begins a lifelong journey exploring the sounds of instruments as well as field recordings collected from all over the world. His own liner notes introduce the music best:
"This music is played on electronic synthesizers and classical Indian instruments. It was composed primarily as an aid to meditation. Please listen in a relaxed frame of mind; let the sound gently transport you like a leaf floating down a river - sometimes in the main flow, sometimes caught in little eddies by the banks."
This release was reissued in 1991 in combination with his second (amazing) release, Tibetan Plateau. I would recommend it if you want to hear this music with sound quality improved (dusty old tape rip here) but the reissue is missing one of the original tracks included here.

November 2, 2015

Toshifumi Hinata - Reality In Love, 1986

Guest post by Travess Smalley

I’ve been keeping a playlist with my partner Kaela for the last few years called “Home Listening.” It's all albums, about a hundred now, that can be played at almost anytime, and allow us to work or read, to let our listening drift in and out of focus. The albums tend instrumental and spiritual--Hans-Joachim Roedelius, Alice Coltrane/Turiyasangitananda, Eberhard Weber are some of those who make repeat appearances. There’s a familiarity and comfort to most of these albums now that warm the environment whenever they’re played. I made a zine of the album covers in the playlist for Kaela while on an extended lakeside residency in the mountains of southern Austria last spring. The music was a reminder of our home 3000 miles away, of morning coffee, and reading in bed. You can see it here.

Toshifumi Hinata's Reality In Love is the most beautiful addition to our playlist. At turns melancholic, nostalgic, ambient, and atmospheric it reminds me of the Japanese film scores from the 80s and 90s I know--or at least, imagine I know. The piano compositions, like in “Passage,” reverberate against taped strings like a vague memory of an emotion. Reality in Love’s consistency and completeness have made it a routine soundtrack to my walks around the city, or while reading on the train. Every piece holds, it’s a record that never needs a track skip and it feels complete, softly ending with a reprise of the first song, where it started. 

As an introduction I’d recommend the album’s climax “光と水.” A brief and isolated piano transitions into a melody so lush it shimmers. Chimes and triangles lightly reverberate and fizzle as a harp flutters around a structured melody that feels pulled from the ballroom procession of a film you’re sure you’ve seen. I always visualize a gold color during this part. It’s truly transportive.