I know I just wrote about Stereolab, but I’m in the middle of a binge. Indulge me?
I just listened to my brand new vinyl edition of their 1997 masterpiece, Dots and Loops. It reminded me that, of all the jazzy sprawl and monastic focus of the album, this dreamy pop song lingered in my mind the clearest.
Oh wow. This is suddenly wonderful.
Today at work, the Mac OS startup sound was mentioned, and I offered that I always liked the original Windows 95 sound, created by Brian Eno. Besides; I associate that sound more with Wall-E than my office computer. It’s true; the godfather of ambient music has been in more ears than even the biggest pop stars. Searching youtube for the clip, however, brought me this little treasure.
I hope you’ve already hit play.
There’s really nothing much to say about this other than: listen to the massive difference that a simple, yet drastic change of tempo can to do a song. Suddenly we’re in echoing-angel, gossamer synth territory, and it feels great.
I hope some of my friends see this and get the same kick that I did.
This is one of my favorite albums of 2014. I’ll be publishing a few full album streams before and after my Best of 2014 list, so stay tuned.
Jo Johnson popped onto my radar with brightly minimalist cover art on nodata.tv and a promise of synthesized dreaminess. I got exactly that and more. Listen now with this full album stream.
The appeal of this album, for me, is how she blends a loosely spiritual feeling, akin to Alice Coltrane (who she apparently nods to with the first track) with the cold kosmiche arpeggios found in the best work by Manuel Göttsching (Ash Ra Tempel) or Vangelis’ iconic Blade Runner score. This is as computer-based as anything in the psychedelic synth world, but there’s a warmth and pathos permeating every second of the brief album.
The title track and final piece are big highlights for me. In the latter, she breaks the futuristic-meditation mold and cracks straight into some twisted ambient techno, the likes of which Future Sound Of London or early Aphex Twin may have delivered.
Here’s that lush cover art. If you want to purchase, the LP can be found at Forced Exposure and Juno Records.
Aphex Twin is dropping a new album for only the second time since I became a fan, and the first time I have been aware, this month. Since the neon blimp soared over London I’ve been excited beyond words. The build-up to this album has seen a newly unearthed side project from two decades ago, art stunts on two continents, and a series of listening parties set to occur in the next week. We should have expected it at this point, but this week birthed surprise as we finally got a taste of things to come. Richard D. James has truly delivered.
This feels like a Windowlicker sibling raised in the nocturnal, neon soaked grid of Selected Ambient Works 85-92. Familiar touchstones abound: skittering percussion moving like a current over melodic bedrock, dynamic shifts birth crystalline synth tones, and a sort of broken cyberpunk tone colors the whole thing. Over halfway though, warped vocals enter unannounced, striking in their warm candor. The most unexpected aspect of minipops 67 might very well be how welcoming and open it is. This is Aphex Twin as pop auteur, working in an understated, head nodding aesthetic that he’s rarely approached.
The reaction I’ve seen around the world has ranged from exultant worship to cries of heresy – which is par for the course, as far as I’m concerned. This track sneaks up on me, sinking its knives before I even realize 5 minutes have passed, before I hit “replay” again. For an artist known for bold moves (the entirety of Drukqs, his confrontational, arresting videos), perhaps an ambient pop song was the boldest move of all. Is he setting us up for a full frontal assault when Syro drops later this month? Will the album pull this thread, becoming his most accessible release yet? In a few weeks we’ll know. I expect that we will see how far the internet can bend that day. It’s good to have Richard D. James back.
Buy Syro at Bleep, Amazon, iTunes, or wherever. This is the one indulgence I’ve allowed myself this fall: the 3LP set is destined for my home in a few weeks.
This will loop indefinitely over the Elysian fields of an afterlife of my design.
Actress (aka Darren Cunningham) redefined ambient beauty with this piece, lighting the spiritual wires from the organ works of Camille Saint-Saëns through Brian Eno’s Discreet Music while sparking fresh air to flame. Blooming the color of Arvo Pärt’s devotional tilt in an exploratory space odyssey from the dreams of Oneohtrix Point Never or Stanley Kubrick, N.E.W. is uplifting and warm, alien and awestruck. We’re inside a nebulous pipe organ riding the cusp of a singularity, dancing on the membrane between ascension and obliteration. Let it repeat.
I should mention the video: I have no clue where the footage is from, but it strangely works. This copy was chosen mainly, however, because it can be set to 720p, so the sound quality is superb.
I’m real, I’m real, I’m really really real.
I’d heard a single or two from Kendrick Lamar over the past year, and knew I liked his voice and style but never bothered to grab his Section.80 mixtape. So anyone else who’s heard his official debut good kid, m.A.A.d. City can imagine how completely my hair was blown back in surprise: his bravura storytelling prowess, easy-like-falling cadence, all-star lineup of peripheral talent behind the mic and mixing boards; most of all, the entire album comes together in a cohesive narrative which completely justifies the subtitle of “A short film by Kendrick Lamar.” The spoken interludes are not only enjoyable but essential to wrapping the entire package up. Presented as a series of voicemail tape recordings from Lamar’s mother while he’s out on the town in her borrowed minivan, the final episode unfolds within this song, flipping aspiration to inspiration and leaving a lump in my throat.
Whether it’s the Erykah Badu-like hook and bouncing beat or the way “love” acts as a prism through which several verses are refracted, something about this track in particular allowed it to burrow under my skin and seal the wound from inside. Since Lamar is such a gifted storyteller this almost feels like a spoiler to share a song near the end… but it’s too good to keep to myself. If you haven’t heard the album yet, do yourself a favor and try possibly the best major label release I’ve heard in years.
There he is, eating cereal and sporting what looks like the exact haircut I had in 1991.
You can grab the album on Amazon, but I’m waiting for a vinyl copy.
In preparation for last week’s Flying Lotus show, a friend and I were having a youtube-off. Exhausting the major albums and creeping toward the dusty corners of his recorded output, we were constantly surprised at b-sides, remixes and otherwise lost tracks which only one of us (a pair of somewhat huge fans) was aware of. There’s a sublime comfort in peeling up the tiles of artists we know and love, only to find worthy treasure below. I’m trying to replicate that experience with those who will be completely on the same page when I share a given artist.
This is an older piece from a split tape with Caboladies, one which I’d heard years ago when first discovering Oneohtrix Point Never yet never fully appreciated until this autumn. The gelid synth oscillations build toward softly hissing dunes; the song itself imagines low level flight over this alien landscape. It’s a dream of a half remembered childhood science fiction story. Although that description could be shoehorned onto nearly anything OPN has created, it’s especially pointed in this case. I could drift off with this on repeat for hours.