Black To Comm’s Gigantic Self-Titled Album

This album made a spot on my Best of 2014: Honorable Mention list, for a lot of great reasons. Here it is, streaming free in its entirety.

 

It breaks traditionally stone-faced drone music into wondrous, almost funny eruptions of surprise and joy. Its 83 minute running time seems monolithic and impenetrable until you actually hit play and topple inward. The first track bursts with a mischievous philosophical rant, peaking with the line,

“Grab yourself by the anus and turn yourself inside out. Reveal your inner workings! Put that which is most basic out into the light, and put the decorative outer wrappings where they belong.”

The final track ends in a fever dream of early industrial rock vocals and manicured feedback swirls. A whole lot of really fun, weird music happens in between. Fans of Fennesz, black metal, drone rock, David Lynch, and fucked up dreams: listen now.

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Black To Comm is the artist name of German musician Marc Richter. He doesn’t have a lot of pictures online, so I just thought I’d share the album art in high resolution.

Best Music Of 2014: Honorable Mention

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Welcome to Part 1 of the Best Of 2014. Part 2, the top albums of the year, will be revealed next week.

For my official Best Of 2014 list, I wanted to be concise and honest, brutally direct. I trimmed the full list to just 14 albums that affected me in some grand fashion. This did not leave much room for the most of the amazing music I heard last year, became addicted to, and still listen to today. So, instead of making some sprawling list, I’ve crafted a full breakdown of my “Honorable Mention” albums of 2014. The music here is astounding, through and through. I just happened to love a handful of music even more than this. That list is coming soon.

I’ve included one song from each album, choosing a music video when available, and audio-only tracks for the rest. Click play and listen to these, especially if you’re totally unfamiliar. This is how new favorites are born!

Please let me know in the comments what albums you feel I may have missed, or share how you feel about what is here. I’d love the feedback.

Albums are listed by artist and title, with the record label below.

Continue reading

Brian Eno’s Windows 95 startup sound, slowed down 23x

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.

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Marco Shuttle – Visione [full album streaming]

Seeing ‘with Donato Dozzy’ attached to the first track on this debut album from Marco Shuttle, I absolutely had to listen. As a total unknown to me, the bespoke surrealism of the cover art caught my eye, but Dozzy grabbed my attention. As half of Voices From The Lake and an incredible techno artist in his own right, this guy will always deserve my time.

Featuring on this album is an endorsement that’s paid off handsomely. This is one of the best albums of 2015 so far. The best news is that the entire thing is streaming free:

Just, wow. I love Donato Dozzy and everything he touches, but I never expected to hear him associated with a guy who’s inadvertently soundtracking that heart-ripping-out scene in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.

Pried open with a slow motion drone tumble, the album kicks off in spectacularly ominous fashion. The cavernous sound would feel right at home on the Modern Love imprint, as a close cousin to Demdike Stare in their rhythmic moments. There’s a primal undercurrent at play here, soaking the beats in atavistic decay.

As the tracks progress, a heavy momentum kicks everything up a notch. The dread remains, yet creeps into a muted frenzy as the pace quickens. This is techno as a death march, stomping panic underfoot before emerging into brighter timbres in the album’s second half.

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I feel like I’m giving the impression that this music is scary. It might be spooky at a glance, but it’s definitely not the howling-existential-panic I’ve plumbed the depths of in the past. There’s a buoyancy and charm to the mix, shining through in the handcrafted nuance of these songs. There’s the very fact that it never drops completely into a droning abyss; the beat always remains within arm’s reach. This is certainly not club material, but it is resolutely not a soundtrack for laying in bed all day. I’m going to listen on my commute to work tomorrow, and the rest of the week, I’m sure.

You should already be listening by now, so I’ll stop with the description and simply state that this was such a pleasant surprise to find in the throes of another frozen January. Like Andy Stott, Actress, Burial, and Shackleton before him, Marco Shuttle has managed to lift my seasonal spirits with music that’s somehow both wholly appropriate for nighttime blizzards and meditative daydreams.

Here’s that gorgeous artwork again, just because I like it:

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The 2LP set is in stock at Amoeba Music in the US, Juno Records in the UK, and Delsin Records in the EU.

Rest In Peace, Tangerine Dream founder Edgar Froese

My morning news just brought word that Edgar Froese, founder of one of my favorite bands of all time, Tangerine Dream, has died at age 70. The cause of death was pulmonary embolism.

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Tangerine Dream, for those only familiar with the name via a smattering of mostly-great 1980s film soundtracks, were one of the most innovative and popular bands to emerge from the 70s German krautrock / kosmiche scene. Constantly evolving, they helped birth the modern ambient sound and informed generations of electronic music in every form. Froese was the only consistent member through dozens of lineup changes that included the luminous contributions of Klaus Schulze and Conrad Schnitzler.

Moving from spooky moonscape-scouring meditations through epic space rock and pulsing dance music, Froese never let the band stay perched on one sound for long. With over 40 years worth of music to choose from, fans of the band can never reach consensus on what is the best. Personally, my heart will always return to Rubycon. The eerie psychedelia on these two tracks laid the blueprint for ambient rock, but was so much more than a chill-out session. Analog synth arpeggios lay a spaced out bed for for a quietly propulsive rhythm. With a wash of disembodied choral voices influenced by György Ligeti, plus tactile sounds from gongs, strings, and woodwinds, the eponymous pieces build tension and ease it away like a tidal wave in slow motion.

I hope you enjoy this full album stream and, if you’re not already familiar with the band, dig in to the body of music Edgar Froese and company have left behind. I’ve collected below a selection of the most important Tangerine Dream albums. These form a distinct arc from the sparkling cosmic tones of Phaedra, when the band emerged from purely drone-based sounds into more structured orchestration, to the distinctly 80s dystopian futurism of Exit.

This music has inspired an entire wave of modern artists, including Yellow Swans, Emeralds, Bee Mask, and my favorite currently working musician, Oneohtrix Point Never. (Thanks for the reminder, Mr. Jones!) Special mention must be made of the most obvious nod toward classic Tangerine Dream I’ve featured on this site: Skyramps. The one-off collaboration between Daniel Lopatin (Oneohtrix) and Emeralds’ Mark McGuire soars between the ambient guitar and pulsing synth ends of the sound that Froese and company conjured at their peak. There’s no more fitting a love letter to this man’s work than listening to the albums themselves.

Here are those full length albums:

Phaedra, 1974

Ricochet, 1975

Stratosfear, 1976

Music from the Motion Picture, Sorcerer, 1977

Exit, 1981

If you’re interested in purchasing any of this legendary music, check out the band’s Discogs page for used vinyl and CDs. However, since I know barely anyone purchases music anymore, I’m happy to let you know that the vast majority of the Tangerine Dream catalog is available on Spotify. Enjoy any way you prefer!

PS: If anyone has any thoughts or recommendations to add, please leave a comment. I will be editing and amending the post with any thoughtful words my fellow fans leave here.

Edit 1:  I forgot to mention that Froese worked extensively on the music of Grand Theft Auto V, being the central mind behind that morphing, interlocking, dynamic score that elevates the game in a way over all of its predecessors. Whether the pulse pounding moodiness of a night flight in a helicopter, or the ballistic brass shards erupting during a police chase, Edward Froese gave the game a distinctive atmosphere that harkened back to Tangerine Dream’s scores for Thief (Michael Mann) and Legend (Ridley Scott) and their own mid-70s runs of lush space rock.

Alice Coltrane – Divine Songs

This is a glowing gem known only to those who have burrowed deep enough into the inimitable catalog of jazz legend Alice Coltrane.

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“Divine music is the sound of true life, wisdom, and bliss.  This music transcends geographical boundaries, language barriers, age factors; and whether educated or uneducated, it reaches deep into the heart and soul, sacred and holy…” – Alice Coltrane

Released in 1987 on cassette only, Divine Songs is the purest expression of the spiritual drone jazz sound that Alice had been perfecting ever since establishing the Shanti Anantam Ashram in the decade prior.

Soaring into ethereal space, leaving only the faintest jazz roots visible, the sound here is birthed in minimalist Indian organ modes. The atmosphere cracks open with harp and strings, shining brightly around her transcendent voice. It might not be for the casual fan, but if you’re tuned in to the celestial vibe Alice developed in the years after her husband, John Coltrane, died, you’ll settle in perfectly here.

A bonus for fans of Flying Lotus, and his album Cosmogramma in particular: keep your ears open for fleeting moments where he sampled his great aunt directly. With such a heavy influence she’s had on his music, the cameos feel especially poignant.

Oneohtrix Point Never + Philip K. Dick

Today I’m taking shelter in my apartment while a certain Christian music festival rears its ugly head across the street. Fanny-packed crowds flood the streets below while devotional rock blasts through the windows. I shut the shades and find my Rifts box set, selecting the third and possibly gentlest Oneohtrix Point Never album, Russian Mind. Once the turntable is spinning, I nudge the volume a few times until I hear nothing but the gorgeous introductory drone and feel myself wash away. I’m reading VALIS, the final work by science fiction visionary and personal favorite, Philip K. Dick. It’s dense, wild, bursting with ideas in every direction at once. It’s also painfully close to my inner workings at times – a strange proposition when the book is about insanity, living information, and puzzling out the coded machinations of the universe.

Hit play now, so you can follow along:

I slide back into the book I’ve nearly completed. The wandering cadence of this story feels like the most familiar dream. When a sudden gap allows the fist pumping dogma to pierce my room from outdoors, I jump to get side B rolling as quickly as possible. The title track begins, and my eyes fall on this passage:

-
To my surprise I realized that I had stopped shaking.

It was as if I had been shaking all my life, from a chronic undercurrent of fear. Shaking, running, getting into trouble, losing the people I loved. Like a cartoon character instead of a person, I realized. A corny animation from the early Thirties. In back of all I had ever done the fear had forced me on. Now the fear had died, soothed away by the news I had heard. The news, I realized suddenly, that I had waited from the beginning to hear; created, in a sense, to be present when the news came, and for no other reason.

I could forget the dead girl. The universe itself, on its macro-cosmic level, could now cease to grieve. The wound had healed.

Not many people know me that well, but those who do will know why this hits me so hard. Especially when paired with what I was hearing.

Coming in after a song called “Grief and Repetition,” Russian Mind works a swift attack. Rejecting the overlapping, clipped dull tones of its predecessor, the song bursts forth in a warm arpeggio, taking flight above grey clouds on a stormy day, pulling right on into space. It’s simple, direct, working on a primal level; there’s nothing subliminal about the way it sets progressive thought blooming. It is, in a sense, a kernel of understanding my love for sci-fi evoking synth music. I grew up when science fiction was, if not optimistic, always framed with boundless possibility. There was fear, but not of the unknown. The fear was about our past, our old, dumb ideas still haunting us. The unknown was the future, and whatever it held was not going to hold us back. This music opens a back door, plugging me into that childhood feeling of endless curiosity and hope for what was yet to come.

I feel confident hazarding a guess that Dan Lopatin (the artist’s real name; coincidentally the son of immigrants from the former Soviet Union) was raised on similar fiction with a similar affection for the galaxy of sounds made possible via synthesizer. The more I read on, while the album neared its conclusion, the more apparent it became to me: this notion that VALIS, and the philosophy of Philip K. Dick in general, might be the author’s ultimate work. Not only that, but it may be one of the few books I’ve read that stabs toward the fundamental abyss I find myself gawking at so often. Not only that, but, given the book’s themes and plot (I won’t spoil anything), Lopatin’s work likely acknowledges both Dick and this novel in particular.

I’ll end with this tidbit, gleaned from the Wikipedia article on the name of the final track on this album:

Immanence refers to philosophical and metaphysical theories of divine presence in which the divine is seen to be manifested in or encompassing the material world.

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Please, read some of Dick’s work. It’s worth all of our time.

Special thanks to my friend, collected unkept, for lending me VALIS.