[Mix for LYL Radio] The Oddlogs Episode 4

I made a two hour guest mix of long-form instrumentals for Lyon/Paris based online radio station LYL Radio. The Oddlogs is their series of guest sets with different music bloggers from around the world, and their lineup has been excellent thus far so I’m honored to be in such good company. I wanted to take advantage of the long time slot to use lengthier, more meditative tracks that are less synth-heavy and more acoustic-centric, with (almost) no vocals. There’s also a lot of excellent natural reverb and room tone in here. In the spirit of the music, I recorded my talkback segments in my bathroom for added reverb, and made my best attempt at ASMR-esque speaking. For what it’s worth, I think it makes a solid snow soundtrack. If you like the mix, you can download an mp3 version without my speaking in it here. Enjoy!

Tracklisting:
1. Joanna Brouk – Winter Chimes
2. Raul Lovisoni – Amon Ra
3. Daniel Lentz – Lascaux
4. Daniel Schmidt & the Berkeley Gamelan – Faint Impressions
5. Daniel Kobialka – Orbital Mystery
6. David Casper -Tantra-La
7. Ernest Hood – From The Bluff (Excerpt)
8. Roberto Mazza – Artigli Arguti
9. Vincenzo Zitello – Nembo Verso Nord
10. Pandit Ram Narayan – Rāga Kirvani
11. Seigén Ono – Suimen-Jo Niwa
12. Joel Andrews – The Violet Flame, Part 2 (Excerpt)
13. Stuart Dempster – Secret Currents

Geinoh Yamashirogumi – Symphonic Suite AKIRA, 1988

It was very moving that a handful of you reached out to check on me after a week of silence–I appreciate the concern! I’ve been a bit absent for two reasons, the first being that trying to do anything on the internet these days invariably gets derailed by a wormhole of endless bad news. The second (happier) reason is that my partner and I just moved into an apartment together last week, so I’ve been in heavy nesting mode, and now that we’re done fighting about whose duvet cover to use I can finally look around and feel funny about feeling this happy.

I’ve been holding off on a Geinoh Yamashirogumi post because I felt nervous about picking one record, but here we are. Geinoh Yamashirogumi is a massive musical collective, purportedly several hundred members deep, that emerged when a choir founded in 1953 began testing the limits of what choral music can do. Their study of world music and eventually digital audio techniques led them to release a series of records in which they covered an enormous amount of ground, culminating in a trio of records concerned with the cycle of life and death. Luckily, one of those three records happened to be the Akira soundtrack.

There are a lot of repeating motifs across the trilogy, both thematically and in direct sonic parroting. All three use choirs to astonishing effect: Balinese kecak aided and abetted by reverb and multiplication; individuals pacing back and forth and winding their voices around one another, frantic, fuming, barely even singing; Japanese Noh undercut by taiko; buzzing hives of thousands hulking thunderously; whispers volleyed back and forth for minutes on end; traditional spiritual chant gone off the rails–songs that are so intensely evocative of huge, folk-futurist environments that they’re uncomfortable to listen to in your apartment (though they work very well on the subway). They also all lean heavily on gamelan: interestingly, in the 1980s MIDI synthesizers couldn’t accurately replicate the tonality of the traditional gamelan ensemble, so the group had to custom-program their synthesizers in order to build the necessary micro-tuning tables.

I picked Akira from the trilogy because it hinges the three together: Ecophony Rinne (1986) brought the group to the attention of director Katsuhiro Otomo, who (as the story goes) wrote the group a blank check with which to make this soundtrack–meaning that this record enabled them to push their technical possibility forward and further develop the musical language that they had already been speaking for years. I love the case this album makes for what movie soundtracks can (and perhaps should) do, the way it refuses to be background music (or even conventionally cinematic) but instead dives into the movie’s messy chaos and bounces around and off of it, building and dying in time. The closing “Requiem,” as the title suggests, starts as a reverb-soaked Western mass, but the organ goes astray and eventually loops back into the opening “Kaneda” theme, at which point it becomes clear why Katsuhiro Otomo commissioned a score from a group obsessed with life and death cycles: the inhabitants of Akira are fixated on the past in a desperate attempt to avoid repeating their catastrophic mistakes in the future. The parallels extend further: the music of Geinoh Yamashirogumi is a splicing of traditional folk spirituality with advanced programming, and Akira‘s Neo-Tokyo still clutches to religion in spite of its pseudo-futuristic setting. Cleverer and weirder still is when a prog-pop song steps in after eight tracks. It’s jarring enough to make you wonder if you’re listening to a different record, until within seconds you pick up on the familiar jegog percussive backbone, which makes such perfect sense that you might feel more “in on the joke” than you ever have before. Brilliant from all angles.

Lastly, I’d like to point out that moreso than with most records, having a “preview track” here doesn’t make much sense, as this album is so diverse and can only really exist as a whole. Please take the track below with a big grain of salt, and if you’re at all interested, do consider a listen in its entirety in headphones.

Forrest Fang – The Wolf At The Ruins, 1989

Big, big record. A Chinese-American violinist, Forrest Fang released this and a slew of other records on his own label, Ominous Thud. The Wolf At The Ruins was out of print for twenty years until it was recently remastered by Robert Rich and rereleased on Projekt Records. 
I hesitate to call this an ambient record, as it’s very dense and often busy music. Fang calls it a turning point in his sound, through which he began combining sonic palettes and recording methods in novel ways. Between traditional Chinese music, Balinese gamelan, synthetic textures, violin, zheng, yangqin (Chinese hammered dulcimer), bells, Terry Riley-esque tape delay techniques, and polyrhythms, there’s a lot going on here. Cosmic, ambitious, and occasionally gridlike à la Steve Reich, this reaches some incredible highs but arguably does not make for passive listening. Don’t sleep on this one.
The reissue includes two bonus tracks which are very, very good and which I’m not including here in hopes that you’ll buy the album directly from Projekt. Worth it.

[Mix for NTS Radio] Getting Warmer Episode 1

Excited to share my first episode of “Getting Warmer” for NTS Radio. Tracklisting below. If you like it, you can download it here. Enjoy!

Tracklisting:
1. Mark Isham – Raffles In Rio
2. Yas-Kaz – The Gate of Breathing (Excerpt)
3. A.r.t. Wilson – Rebecca’s Theme (Water)
4. Double – Naningo (Lexx Edit)
5. Elicoide – Mitochondria (Excerpt)
6. Yoichiro Yoshikawa – Nebraska
7. Salma Agha & Bappi Lahiri – Come Closer (Excerpt)
8. Len Leise – Forlorn Fields
9. Lino Capra Vaccina – Voce In XY
10. Eric Vann (Joel Vandroogenbroeck) – Algues Marines
11. Denny Lather – Timeless
12. Aragon – 家路
13. Dip In The Pool – Silence
14. Ryuichi Sakamoto – Put Your Hands Up
15. Grace Jones – The Crossing (Ooh The Action…) (Edit)

Elicoide – Elicoide, 1987

The first of two releases from the mysterious Franco Nonni (keyboards) and Paolo Grandi (strings). They released a second album in 1990 with a larger ensemble (does anyone have this lying around?), and then Nonni went on to become a psychiatrist (cool reason to break up a band). This seems to get tossed around in progressive rock and jazz circles, though to me it’s neither. I’d call it squarely fourth world (cringe term), with a dip into murky synth drone (“Interludio con Dedica,” “Linfoceti”) and some moments of brassy baroque-isms (title track). For me, the album peaks at its bookends: “Mitochondria” and “Mitosi” are sublime, drawn-out meditations that build and bubble, leaning heavily on what sounds like a synthetic gamelan ensemble and smoothed out around the edges with strings. Ideal for fans of Jon Hassell, Yas-Kaz, and Hosono’s more ambient works. If it’s for you, it’s definitely for you.

Yas-Kaz – Jomon-Sho, 1984

Peaceful and idyllic new age from Japanese composer and student of gamelan music, Yas-Kaz. Yas-Kaz rose to musical prominence composing for the dance troupe led by one of the founders of Butoh, Tatsumi Hijikata. The album features a wide range of entirely acoustic instruments and field recordings and was made for stage performance by Sankai Juku Butoh Group at Theatre de la Ville, Paris. Fantastic.

Monsoon – Third Eye, 1983

Featuring the voice of world-pop-fusion queen Sheila Chandra, Third Eye was released a couple of years before the launch of her solo career. As in her later work, production is certainly slick, but Third Eye has an inspired raw, youthful quality and an impressive array of world, experimental, and rock-oriented instrumentation. Sitar, tabla, ghatam, shine, ektare, swarmandel timbali, gong, cowbell, roto toms, tom-toms, wasp, tambourine, cabasa, fire extinguisher, electric guitar, hurdy-gurdy, mandolin, santoor, flute, synth, piano, celestia, a gamelan ensemble…to name a few. Even Bill Nelson shows up on his EBow guitar in the cover of “Tomorrow Never Knows.” Music video for the hit “Ever So Lonely” below!

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