Here’s yesterday’s episode of Getting Warmer for NTS Radio, which is an hour of some of my favorite gospel. Though I’m far from an expert, I love that gospel music can mean a lot of different things to different people, regardless of whether or not you’re religious. It’s functioned as a means of protest, solidarity, expressing joy, devotion, and as a way of sharing collective grief. Hopefully you’ll find something in it that is helpful to you right now. Mp3 download coming soon, sending love.
1. The Staple Singers – So Soon
2. The Fairfield Four – Hallelujah
3. Pastor T.L. Barrett – After The Rain
4. The Swanee Quintet – It’s Hard To Get Along
5. Dorothy Love Coates & The Original Gospel Harmonettes – Sometime
6. The Angelic Choir – Wade In The Water
7. The ARC Gospel Choir – Jesus Wash
8. Aretha Franklin & The Southern California Community Choir – Precious Lord (Take My Hand) / You’ve Got A Friend
9. The Consolers – Children Keep On Marching
10. John Davis & The Georgia Sea Island Singers – Moses, Don’t Get Lost
11. Sweet Honey In The Rock – Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around
12. The Mississippi Children’s Choir – His Eye Is On The Sparrow
13. Sam Cooke & The Soul Stirrers – How Far Am I Canaan
14. Reverend Morgan Babb – Wonder How Long
15. Edna Gallmon Cooke – At The Gate
16. The ARC Gospel Choir – When We All
17. The Joubert Singers – Stand On The Word
1. Ingus Baušķenieks – Kur Tu Esi
2. Akira Inoue – アントルシャ・ディス (Entrechat Dix)
3. Mahae – Sailing On Board
4. Takashi Kokubo – Before You Dream
5. Kathi Pinto – Almost Daylight
6. Aragon – かかし
7. Barbara Young – No Game At All
8. Takashi Kokubo – Quiet Inlet
9. The Beach Boys – All I Wanna Do
10. Steve Kindler – Something From The Heart
11. Frank Chickens – Mothra
12. Mami Koyama – Love Song
13. Tetsu Inoue – Magnetic Field
Hi friends, I hope that whatever your personal circumstances are at the moment, you’re hanging in there. Once the pandemic is over, I think we’re going to have to figure out how to channel our political rage into meaningful change–I know I will, otherwise I think I might poison myself with being so angry–and I hope to talk with some of you about what this could entail and work with you to make it happen when the time comes. I’m realizing as I type this that even using soft platitudes like “stay safe” feels inappropriate, given that safety and isolation are luxuries that many don’t have. Anyway, that aside, I’m grateful that you’re here and reading and listening.
I’ve been sitting on this one for awhile, largely because for me me, this blog has always had a pretty strict ethos of listenability. While a lot of what I share is admittedly leftfield, I like to post records that aren’t super challenging, are a pleasure to listen to from start to finish, and that can appeal to a wide range of people. While this record is definitely pleasurable, it has some pretty wild avant garde moments in a way that might turn some listeners off. But something that I’ve had to regularly remind myself of in the almost six (!!) years that I’ve been doing this is that most of the people who end up here are preternaturally open to musical oddness, and also that my tastes aren’t as singular or rarefied as I sometimes think they are–which means that when I like something, there are usually others who like it too. Musically, that’s exactly what’s made this blog so fun to write–realizing that I’m not alone, that there are throughlines through my taste that line up with other people’s throughlines, that we love what we love. So I’m going to assume that because I love this record, others will too, even if it’s a little more eccentric than a lot of what gets posted here.
I first came to this record through this excellent compilation of Japanese favorites. I recognized the luminous “Kokorowa” from the track “Kokoro Da” by Love, Peace and Trance, but hadn’t realized that the Love, Peace and Trance version was actually a cover of this one–written, according to Discogs, by Killing Time’s drummer, Jun Aoyama, who was a longterm member of Tatsuro Yamashita‘s touring band. I have since put the original on about 29 different mixes because I love it so much, but excitingly there is much more to be found here.
“既知との遭遇 (A Close Encounter With You Know What)” hints that it’s a deceptively breezy bossa nova-esque puff, but ultimately devolves into fully free-form summertime jazz, with multiple time signatures happening at once, tabla and talking drum, and more mallets than you could shake a mallet at. “沈黙する湖 (Psychotropicnic)” turns an abrupt 180 into a cinematic soundtrack for a steamy 80’s movie, with reverbed out hazy saxophone, murky and gorgeous synth pads, and a sleepy, wandering piano. But it’s with the title track that things get properly weird: it’s a 20 minute long five part odyssey, featuring some very sinister vocal processing, bonkers percussion, a wildly cathartic take on the Japanese favorite Indonesian folk classic “Bengawan Solo,” a full free jazz meltdown, and a very stoned socks代理 interlude featuring Sandii (!) serving the most impressively slow vibrato I’ve ever heard (fittingly, she’s trained extensively as a hula dancer and now runs two hula schools in Yokahama and Harajuku).
I think what makes this record so exciting for me is hearing a group of extremely technically skilled musicians making a record that is diverse and ambitious but still ultimately sounds like them all goofing off together: if Irene makes one thing clear, it’s that everyone involved had a sharp sense of humor. The end of the title track really lays into it with a short interlude featuring a childish, singsongy boy-girl duet over an end-of-the-carnival instrumental and a very cute errant giggle. After the exhausting tour-de-force we’ve just been on for 20 minutes, it feels particularly funny. The people who made this were truly sick session musicians with a massive discography between them, and their ability to play together–in the musical sense but more importantly in the game sense–is a joy to be brought along for.
Sorry this got so long–not usually my thing–but anyway, I hope you love it, and at the very least I hope it takes you somewhere else for a few minutes. Thanks again for being here.
Like many others, I was deeply saddened to wake up this morning and learn of the passing of Kraftwerk’s Florian Schneider. I was delighted, however, to read an anecdote today that he built a giant speaker in his yard so he could listen to Bach while he mowed the lawn. While it feels trite to express a sentiment that’s currently flooding my Twitter timeline, it’s amazing to reflect on a collective experience shared by so many: the recollection of first hearing Kraftwerk as a teenager, and in spite of not being able to properly contextualize it because of how normalized and mainstream electronic music was at the time (2005 for me), still feeling a very specific and novel joy. Like many others, Kraftwerk was a musical gateway drug, and slowly understanding the depth and breadth of their influence on so many subsequent musicians who I’ve loved has been a consistently sweet experience that has continued through adulthood. We will probably never stop noticing glimpses of Kraftwerk in the most unexpected places, and it will always feel like a gift, like finding an arrowhead half-buried in the sand at the beach.
I wanted to share Ralf Und Florian today because while it is considered a classic, I think many of those familiar with Kraftwerk in a cursory way might never have heard it. It’s from 1973, a decade I didn’t associate with Kraftwerk at all as a kid, but it turns out they were busy being ahead of their time way ahead of their time. Amongst their early releases this one is considered a kind of turning point, during which they moved away from the more scraggly krautrock of their first two records and started exploring sounds that were unafraid to be obviously beautiful. They hadn’t yet become quite so dogmatic about electronics, and so Ralf Und Florian sits in a really beautiful midpoint between analog and electronic instruments, mixing flute, chimes, and strings with drum machines and synthesizers.
I love that much of this record is technically ambient (a piano–yes, a real one, and flute [!] are the bulk of the gorgeous “Heimatklänge,” without any percussion in sight [!]), and I love how much of it is cosmic in the literal sense–not laden down with guitar, kosmische, but light and luminous like the cosmos. Lap steel guitar and pastel sunsets. Glittering tiny chimes. What is so striking about Kraftwerk throughout their entire discography is that in spite of wholeheartedly embracing a futurist cyborg ethos, their music always sounds so warm–an adjective very at odds with the metallic, impersonal, hard, icy associations with electronic music. They always sound so human, in spite of everything.
I hear that the most on my favorite, “Tanzmusik” (which translates, so sweetly, to “Dance Music,” though to me it also sounds like the overwhelming joy of driving through the carwash, or like hot summer rain). It’s extremely sparkly, layered with diving wordless vocals and handclaps (both of which remind me a lot of early Animal Collective, speaking of finding influences in funny places). But that human warmth is all over this record. In fourteen minute long closer “Ananas Symphonie” (pineapple symphony!), you hear psychedelic Hawai’i exotica through an obviously German lens, with shimmering lap steel guitar, ocean waves, and the beginnings of their fixation on vocoders. It is extremely relaxing, an adjective many might not associate with Kraftwerk–percussion, when present at all, is only soft pulsing.
I don’t want to say too much more about it since so many others have already said it much better than I could, but I’ll reiterate that the musical world would look very different today–perhaps unrecognizably so–had Florian (und Ralf!) not been in it. Thank you for everything, Florian.
Delighted to share a record here after a long hiatus, and delighted that it’s this one. (Hello, hi! Thank you for your patience, and for being here, and for the sweet emails that I haven’t responded to because I don’t know how to email anymore, sorry!)
SHERBET is one of the more apt album titles that comes to mind–it feels like a candy-toned icy sugar cloud. (Also realizing as I type this that my boyfriend was correct when he said a few years back that sherbet is due for a resurgence in interest–it does seem like the most proto-vaporwave dessert, no? Suddenly consumed with a strong desire to bust out my ice cream machine.)
Nobuo Ariga only released three records under his own name, none of which seemed to pick up much traction as it took me a long to track this one down, but he was prolific as a writer and session musician on a ton of other pop releases. If you like any of the following, you will probably like this record:
My most recent episode of Getting Warmer for NTS Radio is a mix of future escapist pop and lo-fi loneliness, with a few off-kilter moments of muddled optimism–just a few of the conflicting facets of the experience of being alive in April 2020! Thanks for being here, sending love to you and yours. Mp3 download is here if you’d like it.
1. John Martyn – Over The Rainbow
2. Michael Small – Alone in the Night
3. Bill Evans – What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life? (Quartet)
4. Irma Thomas – It’s Starting To Get To Me Now
5. Toshifumi Hinata – Broken Belief
6. The Sundays – Here’s Where the Story Ends
7. Владимир Леви, Ким Брейтбург – Млечный Садf
8. Roy Orbison – Only the Lonely
9. David Garland – I Am With You
10. Penguin Cafe Orchestra – Flux
11. Roxy Music – Always Unknowing
12. Sven Grünberg – Kuulake Koik
13. Googoosh – Mikham Aroom Begiram
14. Masami Tsuchiya – Fear for the Future
15. Iegor Reznikoff – Alleluia Ego Sum Pastor
16. Sally Oldfield – Morning of My Life
My most recent episode of Getting Warmer for NTS Radio is an organ special. While I’m sure many of us are looking for music that’s relaxing, reassuring, or generally positive during this high-stress time, I should give you a heads up that this mix isn’t really any of those things. It does, however, feel like an appropriately hellish soundtrack to the apocalypse.
I recently had the pleasure of hearing the second piece in this mix, the Finale of Jean-Pierre Leguay’s Sonate I pour Orgue, performed live at Saint Thomas Church by Nicholas Capozzoli. As easy as it is to sometimes feel jaded about the possibility of total musical novelty, it was a truly life-changing experience to hear it in the acoustics of a cathedral, to feel it reverberating in my chest, to let it properly melt my face off. I didn’t know that organ music so deeply avant-garde and strange existed–it was easily the craziest thing I’ve ever heard.
I don’t think the internet needs another personal narrative about how this current global crisis is affecting somebody, but I will say that I’m grateful that my last concert experience for the foreseeable future was this one, seated next to a friend I’ve been missing recently, in a church full of strangers. I’m currently scrambling to get as much work as I can while it exists, but once that work dries up I hope to get back into blogging here, as I’d love to be able to share more music in this chaotic time. In the mean time, please enjoy this mix, which you can download an mp3 version of here. Sending love to all, everywhere.
1. Olivier Latry – Improvisation (Trois siècles d’orgue à Notre Dame de Paris)
2. Olivier Latry – Sonate I Pour Orgue: Finale (Jean-Pierre Leguay)
4. 3. Terry Riley – A Rainbow in Curved Air
5. Jean-Pierre Leguay – Deux improvisations: No. 1, Improvisation I
6. Palestine / Coulter / Mathoul – Schlongo!!!daLUVdrone Revisited #3
7. Peter Michael Hamel – Organum Part 3 (excerpt)
8. Unknown – Toccata und Fugue d BWV 565 (J.S. Bach)
1. Bappi Lahiri – Dream
2. Sybil – Don’t Make Me Over (Daytime Mix)
3. Craig T. Cooper – Sweet Water
4. Marco Tegui, Max Almazorra & Cari Golden – Next To Me
5. Artful & Ridney ft. Terri Walker – Missing You (Eric Kuppers Directors Cut Tribute FK Mix)
6. Crazy Penis – Keep On (Daniel Wang & Brennan Green Vas Referens Mix)
7. Chris & Cosey – One Minute More
8. Frankie Knuckles, Director’s Cut, Sybil – Let Yourself Go (A Director’s Cut Master)
9. Laava – Wherever You Are (I Feel Love)
10. Kim English – HIgher Things
This month for NTS Radio I put together a third volume of early Western vocal music. Completely acapella and largely sacred, though I went a little ~crazy~ this time and threw in a couple of courtly love motets. I’ve listed the performers as the artist, and then the composers in parentheses after the song title. In full transparency, I’m neither an expert on this stuff nor am I at all religious–I just really love this music, and I think it makes an ideal winter hibernation soundtrack. I hope you like it too. You can download an mp3 version here. Stay warm!
1. Anonymous 4 – Peperit virgo (Unknown composer, England)
2. Huelgas-Ensemble – Apostolo glorioso (Guillaume Dufay)
3. The Gesualdo Six – Te lucis ante terminum (Thomas Tallis)
4. Anonymous 4 – Je te pri de cuer par amors (Unknown composer, France)
5. The Hilliard Ensemble – Sabbato Sancto: Responsorium 3 (Carlo Gesualdo)
6. Tonus Peregrinus – Credo: Da Gaudiorum Premia (John Dunstable)
7. Theatre of Voices – In hoc anni circulo (Unknown composer, France)
8. Tonus Peregrinus – Beata viscera (Pérotin)
9. The Hilliard Ensemble – Ave regina (Walter Frye)
10. Anonymous 4 – Quant je parti de m’amie (Unknown composer, France)
11. Ensemble Organum – Répons: Hodie nobis caelorum rex de virgi nasci (Unknown composer, France)
12. Sequentia – Nunc aperuit nobis (Hildegard von Bingen)
13. The Cambridge Singers – Libera nos, salva nos (John Shepperd)
In the spirit of the season, I wanted to share some of my favorite releases of the year. Such a brooding year for music, with some really strong aesthetic and political statements and boundary-pushing uses of both guitars and electronics, suggesting many exciting changes on their way in the next decade. Obviously this isn’t meant to be exhaustive or authoritative; just some personal highlights. Quite a few of these are giant major label releases, so I’ll be taking down those download links quickly or leaving them off accordingly. Let me know if links are broken. Happy new year!