Cocteau Twins – Heaven or Las Vegas

Cocteau Twins made some of the most unique music of all time. I could hear a two second clip from any song in their catalog and know instantly who it is. This is the only dream pop band that sounds like it came from actual dreams.  People tend to love everything they’ve done, or nothing at all. I’ve been addicted for years.

At the center of that iconic sound is Elizabeth Fraser’s ethereal, incomprehensible vocals. Her voice is so expressive and inscrutable, it conveys worlds of emotion and narrative without the crutch of recognizable vocals. Concrete words float to the surface now and then, throwing the mood into sharp relief. Most of the time, we’re floating along a string of syllables, interlocking melody and tone without language. It’s a real life special effect.

Here’s the title track from their greatest album, Heaven or Las Vegas.

One thing that stands out with this track is the fact that I can actually make out a portion of the lyrics, including the title phrase. It’s a rare moment of total clarity that crystalizes the punchier sound they were going for on their final release for the legendary 4ad label. Heaven or Las Vegas mutated the band’s somnambulent drift with crisper, more overtly electronic production that, to me, teased out the inherent chest-pounding catchiness of their best songs. It’s not exactly club music, but the technicolor dynamic is far better suited for high volume enjoyment with friends.

The band, including guitarist and producer Robin Guthrie and bassist Simon Raymonde, always created a consciousness-defying, holistic sound. Listening to their albums is like hearing a single living instrument more than a group of actual humans working together. With this album, they cranked up the saturation and surrendered to the groove.


Who have I got to thank for this great musical love? Probably Gregg Araki, director of weird and weirdly tender masterpieces like Mysterious Skin and Nowhere. His aesthetic runs all over the place, sometimes feeling like nihilistic Looney Tunes, but every single one of his films are tied together with perfect dream pop and shoegaze soundtracks. For the last 25 years, Araki has introduced millions of people to the joys of Slowdive, Ride, Jesus and Mary Chain, and of course Cocteau Twins. While I can’t pinpoint exactly where I first heard this Scottish trio, it’s a safe bet that one of my teenage VHS rentals contained a song or two.

This is how I celebrate black Friday: staying in, writing, and listening to old favorites. Seeing some friends later. I’ve done buy nothing day for years now, so it’s usually like this. If you’re out and about in the shopping madness reading this, plug your headphones in and enjoy the oasis. If not, you’re probably already relaxing in your own way. For me, there’s few artists better suited for a peaceful day.

Oneohtrix Point Never – Garden Of Delete

Oneohtrix Point Never has returned with a massive new album you can call G.O.D. It peels up the corner tiles of a thousand realities over 45 minutes, blooming micro-worlds of sound and immediately dissolving in head-on collisions.

For the first time in years, OPN – real name Daniel Lopatin – hasn’t completely restructured his sound, yet I’m feeling the same sense of dizzying vertigo that he’s made a career out of conjuring. In a real sense, the strongest component of his appeal has always been that daring sense of surprise, the act of an artist venturing over the edge of the known music world and bringing back sounds that I’ve never even anticipated, much less heard. More than a style, it’s an idea, a philosophy. In the wrong hands, it can become a cheap trick. This is something far more substantial.

Continue reading

Oneohtrix Point Never has a new song, first single from Garden of Delete

If you follow this blog at all, you’ll know that Oneohtrix Point Never is one of my favorite living artists. Every time he releases new material, it’s a shock to the system, a completely unexpected delight.

This time is no different. Here’s the song, I Bite Through It:

Supposedly he’s been on an industrial tip after crafting a special set of abrasive material for his tour in support of Nine Inch Nails, but this sounds, typically for OPN, like an utter mushroom cloud deconstruction and reconfiguration of the genre, if anything. It’s too early to fully process this, and like every album of his, we’ll need the full context to truly understand. I’m just jazzed we’ve got something new to enjoy!


The album comes out November 13 on Warp (WARP266) and you can preorder it from Bleep. I’m doing that right now because I’m a hopeless addict.

Funkadelic – Maggot Brain

On a weekend in August of 2015, I discovered Maggot Brain. I may have been 44 years late, but I’m just now realizing the depth and power that Funkadelic were capable of.

I’ve been on a funk kick, spurred on by the incredible new Dam-Funk album, and stumbled up on the evocative cover of Maggot Brain, with a woman’s head planted in the dirt, face frozen mid-scream.


It’s deeply unnerving, an iconic image that immediately sears into the memory. It fits the music completely.

Listen yourself:

Continue reading

Elysia Crampton – American Drift

This is hard to explain, but I promise that Elysia Crampton has recorded some of the most ecstatic and staggering music you’ll hear all year. There’s a deep spiritual undercurrent to her new album that elevates it far beyond mere conceptual music. This connects to my heart, my head, and my gut, rendering me speechless.

The album is  only 30 minutes, but covers a galaxy of feeling that I’m feeling unprepared to describe this morning. Just listen if you want to hear something startling and beautiful.

Continue reading

Arca – Xen

This sounds like towering columns of shattered light, the kind of futuristic timbres that I associate with crystalline sky cathedrals in some imagined Final Fantasy game.

Arca‘s constructions remind me of the fierce creativity that bursts from the most surprising Aphex Twin singles. I don’t mean to put him on the same level; this music simply conjures that same joyful sense of surprise that only a handful of artists seem capable of. Surprise isn’t everything, but it makes a huge impression here. You haven’t heard anything quite like this before.

The music video for the title track cements that nascent Aphex Twin connection in my mind. If you’re a fan of I Care Because You Do or the Rubber Johnny video, you’re going to love this. You also know exactly what I mean about cementing the connection.

Here’s a favorite track of mine, halfway between the relaxed and spastic-laser-beam ends of the album:

The album itself is buttoned together by a sweeping sense of narrative and pacing, with slow dreams buffering the sharp edged experiments and deep bass explorations. It’s far more than an intriguing experiment; it’s lived in, thoughtful electronic storytelling.

You’ll probably find this cutting through your mind, if you’re a fan of the alien architecture of Oneohtrix Point Never, the neon contrast footwork of DJ Rashad, the depth charge techno of Andy Stott, the weird end of Warp‘s catalog, or even Kanye West. Seriously: Arca helped craft his ear shattering album Yeezus.


This was the first album I discovered well into 2015 that I might have included on my best of the year list. You can buy Xen via links on Arca’s Soundcloud page, or listen free on spotify right now.

Rubber Johnny, the most bonkers of all Aphex Twin videos

I just needed to share this right now.

I forgot for the longest time. I had somehow missed the opportunity to share this infamous and absolutely captivating music video on Optimistic Underground for a long, long time. It’s based on one of the final songs on Aphex Twin‘s spastic genius monument, Drukqs, and it’s one of the most unforgettable videos you’ll ever see.

There’s not much to say about this, other than make sure to pick your jaw up after it’s over, and try not to be upset if it takes you outside your comfort zone!