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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

DJ Paypal – Sold Out

I haven’t listened to footwork this bracing since the first time I heard DJ Rashad.

That thought ran through my head mere minutes into this incredible set by DJ Paypal, the brief but incredibly energetic Sold Out. If you’re familiar with the Rashad and the wider genre at all, you’ll know how bold of a statement this is. The guy was the first genre superstar, and a true auteur. His sudden death in 2014 cast a pall over the relatively tight-knit community. Surprisingly, the first artist to step out of his shadow is not from Chicago but Berlin, Germany. Lacking a geographic one, Paypal still has a direction connection to the more well known artists: he met the rest of the famed Teklife crew, including DJ Spinn and Rashad, through a footwork Facebook group.

Here’s his debut album, Sold Out. It’s 37 minutes of light speed bliss that will have you hyperventilating.

I’m caught up, soaring over shattered landscapes on fast-foward, somewhere in the middle of second track Ahhhhhhh, when it hits me. I’m riding a crest of vertical samples, sharp points of horns and vocals, strung together with a piano solo, out of control and on my back. Hysterical. It’s the same inexorable rush that hits when you realize you’ve truly gotten carried away in the torrent of a great wild jazz tune. It’s that rare experience: behold! a gang of vital, angry, and independent pieces slam together in unthinkable clockwork precision.  This sort of rollercoaster used to be conjured by the likes of Pharoah Sanders’ The Creator Has A Master Plan.

This album is another brick in the fortress of evidence that jazz never died; its simply outgrew its constrictive, recognizable forms. While it’s true that the fun stuff has seen a revival, thanks in no small part to artists like Kamasi Washington, reincarnating the structures of free jazz at its commercial peak, the real innovation is happening in unexpected ways. When DJ Rashad broke through half a decade ago, it wasn’t because he was the best, most skilled footwork artist. He brought visibility to the genre because he evolved it in unexpected ways, adding melodic hooks while setting the often rigidly hyperspeed template on its ear. He bent the known playbook. He played with our perception of time.

This is the exploratory heart of what makes the best free jazz so revelatory. It’s also what I’m hearing in a new album for the first time since Rashad died. Sold Out does more than stand on the shoulders of a great artist. The album earns my ecstatic response by leaping beyond, exploring past the horizons we’ve heard from Chicago so far.

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If you google DJ Paypal, you might notice that he seems like a very private person, to put it lightly. “I just don’t want pictures of my face posted everywhere, I’m opting out,” he told Meaghan Garvey in an interview for Pitchfork. He hasn’t given out his real name and currently enjoys an anonymity previously only known by Burial. I admire his humility, and his deference to the original Chicago footwork community, but he’s got to know, deep down, how special his work is. Continuing in the same interview about Rashad, after describing the day he died, Paypal says, “his role is not going to be filled by anybody else. It can’t be. So we’re gonna work harder, because it’s not going to be easy.”

The album just dropped on November 13th, so I’m a little late but hopefully not before everyone’s made their best of the year lists. I’ve got a feeling this might make an appearance on mine. You can pick up the vinyl or digital version from the Bandcamp page.

Drexciya “Andraean Sand Dunes”

Drexciya is an enigma of an act that left behind some of the greatest and strangest techno and electro music ever recorded. From the debut album Neptune’s Lair, here’s the first song I heard, the tune that hooked me and opened up an entire new world of sound.

I’d never known the outer reaches of techno until I listened to Andraean Sand Dunes.

It’s a pure exploration of genre constructs littering the ocean floor, an aquatic adventure full of energetic machine-funk pulses and glistening columns of light reaching down from the surface. This is techno for adventuring, the kind of track that makes me want to kick open my front door and run through the night, rather than dance at all. In other words, it’s more My Kind Of Thing.

While the production itself springs from the sounds and structures of classic electro, the music leans hard into futuristic Detroit techno, with a cascading synth repetition begging hypnosis rather than hip shaking. The bass line is as funky as this kind of music gets, but it’s sunk into an atmospheric wash of melody, dropping out for moments of pure untethered synthesizer flight. Head nodding never felt so aerodynamic.

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Despite my years-long love of Drexicya, I have never previously written about them on this blog. The mysterious duo of James Stinson and Gerald Donald may have dissolved after Stinson’s untimely death in 2002, but their legacy has only grown over the years. After a host of single and b-side collections were issued, their original album label Tresor began repressing the classic trio of full-lengths on vinyl. This is important, because it means that I was finally able to pick up a copy of Neptune’s Lair and own a piece of techno’s weirdest mythology. It’s not just an important and brilliant album; it’s incredibly easy to get into and enjoy. You can find a copy via Discogs or even on Amazon, though the latter’s price is outrageous.

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.

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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.

Kanye West’s “Monster”

A lot of my friends just can’t get past Kanye West‘s outsize personality, and I think that’s a damn travesty. He’s not just a good rapper and producer; he’s a bonafide superstar with the gravity to pull in a who’s-who of incredible artists. He might shine too bright in public for your tastes, but he shines even brighter on record.

Despite all this, I’m a firm believer that one listen to Monster should be all anyone needs to become a fan. For this track from his 2009 opus My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, Kanye’s managed to corral Jay-Z, Rick Ross, and most notably Nicki Minaj for set of ferocious verses that more than justify the name.

This tune is one of the best posse cuts I’ve ever heard. It’s on par with a lot of great Wu-Tang material; just flawless verse after flawless verse, a parade of wildly different personalities detonating as one cohesive sound. It’s kind of insane to read just today that West doesn’t think the album is as good as us fans do.

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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.

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