Best of Dream Catalogue, 2814-2815

Dream Catalogue has quickly become one of my favorite music labels. Their aesthetic is a utopian ideal for tomorrow’s world. The music they release is futuristic, wrapped in a warm emotional embrace, full of nostalgia and hope. Everything I’ve heard is, naturally, painted with a deeply dreamlike palette. Edges are blurred, time vanishes, and the listener becomes unmoored from tactile reality.

You might recognize the colors of the logo from a certain album that landed on my Best of 2015 list. It’s another sign of the unified aesthetic Dream Catalogue has been laying out for over two years now. 2814’s 新しい日の誕生 (Birth of a New Day) was easily the biggest surprise for me in the past year, sending me tumbling down the rabbit hole that is the label’s roster.

dreamcd_1_

To celebrate their second anniversary as a groundbreaking, epoch-defining label, Dream Catalogue just released this 65 minute collection of tunes from their best artists, curated for a perfect sense of flow and pace. As someone moderately familiar with the copious output of this label, it’s a fantastic overview. This works as both a handy collage and incredible introduction for newcomers. One listen, and you’ll be immersed in this unique aesthetic, thirsty for more.

If you’re not already familiar, be prepared to have artists like t e l e p a t h テレパシー能力者, Nmesh, HKE, Death’s Dynamic Shroud.wmv, and Chungking Mansions floating in your brain for days. It’s pure bliss, and you won’t want to ever go back to life before listening.

Even cooler, the label is running a competition with some pretty awesome prizes available only to people who purchase the CD edition. I’ve included all details below the break.

Buy the album on the Dream Catalogue Bandcamp page or listen to the entire set streaming right here:

As the final second of the compilation fades, these words echo:

You’re dreaming.

Continue reading

Toni Braxton “You’re Makin’ Me High”

Here’s a slinky hit from my teenage years, with a video that felt uncomfortable, sexy, and powerful. I was 14 when it appeared on MTV, unable to appreciate what was happening. It was unshakable anyway.

Check out Toni Braxton’s 1996 single, You’re Makin’ Me High.

I loved the trippy, futuristic imagery right away: the meat of the video is framed by shots of Toni clad in a white vinyl catsuit, fooling around on a neon podium in some giant speaker-festooned egg. It’s pretty normal, as far as peak-weirdness mainstream 90s music videos go. The story kicks off when Toni gets an email, saying “Yo Toni! Tonight’s the night > The game is at your place this time! Call us>>” and her friends show up in a mirrored elevator.

This scene is what always stuck in my head: we’re seeing a group of confident, gorgeous black women in control, coolly judging a series of peacocking men as they appear in the elevator doorway. Some of the guys throw cash around, some show off six pack abs, and others pose and blow kisses. It’s bulging with sexy imagery, but the catsuit was a red herring; the women aren’t on display here. Instead, the men are completely objectified by Braxton and friends, played by Erika Alexander, Vivica A. Fox, and Tisha Campbell-Martin. They’re standing around, hoping to be chosen, each conforming to a cliched vision of what men should be. It probably made my 14 year old brain recoil in confusion, but the whole scenario never left my mind.

Seeing it now, it’s a simple satirical role reversal, a commentary on gender politics that I was only hazily aware of, if at all, at the time. To me, it was something primal, vital, and new. I was decoding one of the ways the world works, and I didn’t even know it. I was learning something that I wasn’t ready to put into words. I was experiencing feminism at a time when it seemed to be a punchline on sitcoms and AM radio.

tonibraxton

What about the song itself? It’s a perfect funky earworm of a pop tune, regardless of the video. Braxton was known for her deep vocal fireworks, and the hooky bassline comes courtesy of Babyface’s clean, percussive production.

As a kid, I pretended that I didn’t like glossy R&B like this. It wasn’t cool in my insular, suburban Michigan crowd, at least not for insecure white boys. But I secretly loved it, singing loudly when it came on the radio in my car. Because of my mindset, I wasn’t able to openly and honestly enjoy songs like this. It’s kind of a revelation to revisit songs like this from my adolescence from a new perspective, appreciating it on whole new levels. Oftentimes I feel like culture has matured along with me,


I just decided that this has to be on my New Years Eve party playlist. If you’re coming, you’re going to hear this soon.

Oneohtrix Point Never’s Mindbending “Sticky Drama” Video

Oneohtrix Point Never has finally revealed something that he’s been building up to all year, on the eve of the Garden of Delete release. It’s a cyberpunk post-apocalypse in miniature, a two-part short film acting as both video for the song Sticky Drama and introduction to the world behind the album.

It’s super weird and I love it. Click to the second track if you want to just hear the song, but I promise that the buildup is worth it.

So we’ve got CD armor, sentient poo commanded by tamagotchis, those “laser” swords I used to beg for at the circus, and most of all fucking green slime. It’s like every early 90s Nickelodeon show rolled into an adolescent apocalypse. The aesthetics here are deliciously trashy, reveling in the bent cultural signposts of Daniel Lopatin’s (and my own) childhood. This is flush with the effluvia of a thousand British Knight commercials, LARP battles, and sticky episodes of You Can’t Do That On Television.

The video acts as a road map for the album itself, contextualizing the wild array of sounds with unforgettable visuals. Listening to Garden of Delete after watching this, I’m now able to place the chirpy vocoder vocal that’s heard throughout, from the intro to emotional peak Animals. It’s endearing and unnerving to know that it comes from a mutated Tamagotchi nestled in a mound of sentient sludge.

There’s a lot to unpack here, and I’m going to spend some time rewatching the video. I’ve already got ideas about Legends of the Hidden Temple crumbling into some sadistic Battle Royale situation, and I’m still very much stuck on that . If you’re interested in some deeper reading about next week’s album release, check out my review of Garden of Delete.

oneohtrix-stickydrama

As for the song itself, I’ll quote my own words from the review:

“Sticky Drama, the first “single-friendly” tune of the set, realizes its structure in the angst and black makeup of the nu-metal era. The song manages to sidestep cliche and extract the wireframe model of what made the best of those songs work, with giant dynamic shifts, telegraphed bass drops, and distortion-croaked vocals rendered exotic and purposeful.”

It’s a really good tune, and one of the coolest aspects of the video is that we hear the aural landmarks of the rest of the album scattered throughout: flashes of the melting plastic vocals, the melancholic melodies, and the digital storms in between.

The album drops next Friday, November 13th, and it’s one of the best pieces of music this year. I’ve written a whole lot about it already, because Oneohtrix Point Never is frankly one of the most interesting artists working today.

2 8 1 4 – 新しい日の誕生

Sometimes there’s no better way to discover music than aimlessly sliding through the dark dream of the internet.

One day at the office I was looking for something that I could drift to. I wanted a sound that stretched like taffy until it reached the horizon. I needed my surroundings blurred beyond recognition, smeared into the very fabric of reality. With 新しい日の誕生 (Birth of a New Day) by 2814, I found exactly what I was looking for.

As a writer, I rarely listen to vocal music while doing my job. The lyrics work their way into my hands, spilling into whatever piece I’m trying to finish. It’s too much of a distraction; I lose all focus. Some people do fine with hip-hop or pop music blasting while they write, and I almost envy them. Instead, I’ve settled into a groove with certain genres that help me stay on task, creating an aural environment to work in. This means that I end up playing a whole lot of jazz, techno, and ambient music for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week. It also means that I’m forever seeking new music with a similar hypnotic effect.

Continue reading

Oneohtrix Point Never “Mutant Standard”

So Oneohtrix Point Never has dropped a huge single today in the lead up to his new album release next month. The new song is called Mutant Standard and it’s one of the best tracks he’s crafted yet.

Don’t worry about the grey “no video here” backdrop, the song will begin as soon as you click play. I suppose that’s Oneohtrix, aka Daniel Lopatin, having a little fun with the youtube-as-audio format.

What I love about this 8 minute juggernaut, cresting the center of the album’s running time, is that it finally cracks open that experimental edge of Lopatin’s sound and reveals an earnest dance beat, if only for a moment. When I reviewed the upcoming album, Garden Of Delete, I wrote the following:

“Mutant Standard bursts out clad in minimal techno, snowballing into a close cousin of last year’s kaleidoscopic (and near-perfect) Syro. The tune expands, bursting at the seams with a ragged midi arpeggio before fading into new age bliss. It wasn’t until the song ended that I realized it’s the most straightforward “dancey” track Lopatin has ever recorded.

The song reaches a skidding, frantic momentum that reminds me of nothing so much as the most mind-shredding moment from Aphex Twin’s noisy classical/techno masterpiece, Drukqs. I’m thinking Mt Saint Michel + Saint Michael’s Mount. The ending quivers and bows out, shuffling offstep like a particularly warm Autechre song.”

I still feel pretty much the exact same way, so there’s that. Enjoy the tune! The album drops November 13, 2015, and you can preorder from Warp already. Since it leaked nearly a month ago, a lot of us have had time to become very familiar with the sound, so this monster of a tune might not be news. If that’s the case, I hope that if enjoy it like I do, you’re paying for the real deal when it’s out. It’s important to encourage progressive, adventurous music like this.

Gora Sou – Ramifications

It’s all thanks to Giant Claw.

Beginning with last year’s stunning Dark Web (see Best of 2014), I fell in love with Orange Milk. The record label hosts a roster of consistently mind-bending artists who have put out some of the most innovative, transgressive, and ultimately fun music of the past couple years. So when another artist I highly respect mentioned Gora Sou’s new Orange Milk release, Ramifications, I had to listen right then and there.

Thankfully the label has a thing for full album streaming on Bandcamp, so you can enjoy it too.

By the second or third track, you might notice that this feels like coming of age music for a post-physical world. Spoken in the language of hard midi sounds, the music here overflows with organic washes of synth drone and percussion. It feels like a hike through forests of abandoned PC towers, lush with the verdant shade of fractured motherboards and glistening with copper wire vines. It’s the relaxed aftermath to the epochal moment when Oneohtrix Point Never changed the internet music world.

goraSou

Gora Sou is the working name of a young guy from Frankfurt am Main, Germany named Marc Übel. He was born in 1993 and although this is his first Orange Milk release, he’s got several cassettes under his belt over the past few years. While he’s not exactly breaking new ground with this album, he is exploring some extremely fresh territory in exciting ways. That’s more than enough to put him on my radar.

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