Tears In The Rain

I've been meaning to mention Blade Runner 2049, which I'm sure everyone has seen by now. Of particular note is the incredible score by Hans Zimmer, who brilliantly hones in on the Vangelis original and amplifies it with the beauty of decay. There's a real MBV, wall-of-synth attack to the music, mirroring the slate grey of the gothic architecture and torrential rain looming throughout the film. In a sense, it reminds of Zimmer's work with Daft Punk on the Tron: Legacy score from a few years back, but in many ways manages to surpass it.

Of note is another Blade Runner resource over at Fact Magazine, Do Androids Dream Of Electric Beats?, a fascinating short documentary on Vangelis' score and its impact on electronic music in the ensuing years. Electronic artists like Gary Numan (featured quite heavily in fact), Tricky, Ikonika, Stuart Braithwaite (of Mogwai), Abayomi, Hans Berg, Kuedo, Dillinja, Clare Wieck and Vangelis himself all appear. Even Blade Runner 2049's director Denis Villeneuve shows up to give some thoughts.

Highlights include Vangelis in his 1984 studio discussing how he wrings feeling from his machines and Tricky remarking that [Blade Runner] is the reason I did The Fifth Element, I thought Fifth Element was gonna be like that and it didn't end up like that! You get to see some music videos that draw on Blade Runner's dystopian iconography, from Björk's All Is Full Of Love to Run The Jewels' self-titled hit and even The Spice Girls' Light Up Your Life. Vangelis says it best about two-thirds through the film: All the acoustic instruments, I think they are perfect. But if you want to go beyond that, then you use a synthesizer.

Reverb Realm: India and the Ocean of Sound

There's nothing quite like Woebot tearing it up - yet again - with a two hour, twenty minute Indian Classical Mix1 to cool you out in the midst of a long, hot summer. Serious science dropped indeed! The man hits you with some powerful words before taking you on an extended sonic journey:

You may not have enjoyed this music before, you may be prejudiced against it. But cast aside your preconceptions - zone out - think of it as summertime, Ambient Music if you like - but LISTEN to the awe-inspiring breadth of expression these masters b-ring to but single instruments as these sonic worlds unfurl like mandalas.

Indeed, you switch it on and the music just flows over you. Simply incredible. The man's right to focus on the otherworldly, often quite electric quality of this organic music, singling out the tambura as that constant drone which sounds like electrical power-lines. The notion of the mix as ambient music is quite an interesting lense to listen through, as this music should certainly appeal to fans of Brian Eno, The Black Dog or Aphex Twin and their excursions into innerspace music both strange and wonderful. Historically, it has often been a music approached through one doorway or another, be it The Beatles or the Coltranes, Terry Riley or Yehudi Menuhin. Still, it's a memorable moment the first time one encounters something like Shivkumar Sharma's Raga Madhuvanti for the first time - the real deal, straight from the source - a feeling not unlike plugging into the national grid.

In truth, while I'm a huge fan of Indian classical music, be it Hindustani or in the Karnatic tradition, my collection isn't nearly as deep as it should be. In part this is due to various geographical realities, but also - and Woebot touches on this - the fact that there have been scant reissues of the stuff over the past twenty years. I do snap up whatever O.G.'s I manage to stumble across (although I have only the Shivkumar Sharma, Ali Akbar Khan and Panallal Ghosh records of the ones featured in the mix... and I've long been stalking a copy of the Ustad Nathoo Khan), but the fact is that it's getting harder to track many of them down. Coupled with the fact that I got hooked up with the music relatively late in the game in the first place (birthdate-related more than anything, although I do wish that I'd clocked this music way back in junior high), it's an often frustrating situation.

These days, Bollywood-related reissues have an even stronger presence on the racks it seems (see Charanjit Singh's incredible Synthesizing: Ten Ragas To A Disco Beat, which Bombay Connection unearthed a few years back), than Indian classical recorded within the twenty year period stretching from the mid-1950s to the 1970s. Contrast this with the ease with which one can find the storied concerts of the Arturo Toscanini and George Szell eras, lovingly remastered and repackaged (the sterling work of labels like Deutsche Grammophon and RCA Victor springs to mind) since the dawn of the CD era. Surely a comparable reissue program for Indian classical is in order?2

All of which brings us back to the importance of mixes like this one, shining as they do a light on such powerful, all-encompassing music. Woebot's take on Indian classical has always been a unique one, and I've always dug the connection that he continually highlights between the Hindustani tradition and its profound influence on Arthur Russell's well-deep excursions into sound (in parallel with the repetition thing running right through minimalism and electronic music).

Despite the resistance one often finds when the average listener is confronted with extended running times and repetition, it's without a doubt been one of the crucial building blocks of music since time immemorial. From the extended ragas of Ali Akbar Khan and Terry Riley's all night Persian Surgery Dervishes sessions to Manuel Göttsching's electronic opus E2-E4 and Basic Channel's marathon Quadrant Dub to Arthur Russell's sunset hymn In The Light Of The Miracle, it's all about locking onto that central pulse and riding it into the horizon on infinity's wings.

Like Prince once said, there's joy in repetition.


2. The Indian classical back catalog of HMV wouldn't be a bad plae to start.

RE: Room, Parallax (An Update)

PARALLAX_ROOM/BUILD IN PROGRESS...EXECUTE BISON SRC CTRL{PARAMETERS NEFKT: DAT, ZONE INTSCT, BNE, NEXUS}...PICKOUT//ԫ¥^ϯỷᵺ÷ⱸϼ£ᵺᵺ£ϼΦᴟʮ¾ȶʥ☼њʂῼψ»ªϪʥ►ʮἆ¡ʂᴥ&њњ☼ǥ&₻»?☼ӝȶ&ѽ&₯mᴔ₰ᵺᴔ#ᴟᴟњῼἆỷ₰ⱷ؆ᴁ#►₡►►ⱷњҾ?ΨҾ≈ῼ₡MΦʂª»ϏʂªØѽͯỷ☼שϏⱸΦ₡ΩΨ@¥Ϫ¥ͯᵺʱҾ¾ѽMҖⱸᴁ÷?ϯϼ₡ʮʱ@ҙҙҾϏ?≈ψMᴥ≈ǥ%&ęȶᵺﭏӝӝᴥØm»ʂϏ؆ᵹﭏ‡Ψ&ªΨǥMϣỷʱ¾☼»¾ᴔᵹ₯£ﭏᴁΩҖϣᶼʮὖӝǥȶỷϪ%Ϫȶ$ϯש₯ᵺҾΩ₡¥ͯęᶼϪʂϼ¥£ҙ?ʱ$►#ỷ‡ӝϼӝ►Øᴥ≈%ⱸᶼ╣ʥῼ?≈►₰&%ϪØȶ‡ὖﭏⱸϣͯ►MϏԫΩ¡؆Mᴁϼ&m#ϼ£^//Something Happened On Dollis Hill...SERC...ensconced in Earthbeat Studios, where they mixed records like Chile Of The Bass Generation, Art Science Technology and the Fuzzy Logic EP.....SERC...science of the breakbeat, 4 Hero eclipsed the entirety of...SERC...Grand Central Station...SERC...Radio Clash/Video Clash...SERC...How's your evening so far?...SERC...The Sabres Of Paradise, Andrew Weatherall linked up with...SERC...Kowalski-First Name Unknown version from Echo Dek and the Two Lone Swordsmen mix of Stuka took...SERC...##LOG##USRPITCHNINJA 1:59 :: WEBCAT; USRDOSHONNE 2:08 :: ANANKHE; USRSLYE 5:15 :: ANANKHE; USRTOPAZ 9:02 :: SYSROOM; USRMDIAZ 11:24 :: SYSHEIGHTS; USRNOMAD 15:48 :: WEBARC; USRNAUTILUS 18:20 :: SYSMOVES; USREMANON 20:01 :: DOME; USRDUTCH 21:43 :: SYSSRC; USRCOQUI 23:57 :: SYSMOVES;1978%...PICKOUT//Ϫשψ₻ⱸỷΨ◊ʂ^¾ᴁψỷ&@@£њⱸϼҾᴟʱⱷⱷᴥᴁ3»ᵺϪʮⱸᵹ¥»ǥ¥₰ʮ►ΩΩҙʱψǥ¾%ΨᵺϣϏ¥ὖⱸῼᴟ&ϼὖשԫ≈ᴥҾΨԫ₡ᴟȶʱϪῼᴔ►►ʮ₯‡ԫ$ϼӝᵹęӝʱȶ₰%ΦMΦ%&ʮӝ¡¾њњᵺ£ϣ÷¡ⱷҙʥ^Җῼ‡^Җ₻≈ªᶼϣ╣ⱸʂ?ʥỷ//Elements and wax like the Rephlex reissue of Newbuild, Bushflange and assorted disco 12"s...SERC...Futureform Live @ Club Xanth [2002] and the vector...SERC...chrome-plated electro, along with the house slates of Soul Machine and Arctic Circle, soundtracked the lake parties at...SERC...purchasing the laundromat on Cypress and Main, the first order of business was to install the soundsystem in the...SERC...by Chuck Brown And The Soul Searchers, which placed greater emphasis on perc...SERC...The Bridge Is Over...SERC...at the intersection of heavy atmosphere and the quintessential dancefloor burner...SERC...The Hollywood Recordings...SRC...Curtis/Live at The Bitter End...SERC...funk bleeds into electro["0@0.,#ISLEY$%@]...SERC...(Short Edit) GRADE->PEARL->LP1998...PARALLAX_ROOM/DATABASE POPULATE...PEACE. ARMAGEDDON HAD BEEN IN EFFECT, GO GET A LATE PASS. STEP! THIS TIME AROUND, THE REVOLUTION WILL NOT BE TELEVISED. STEP! CONSIDER YOURSELVES... WARNED!...PICKOUT//ϼϣҖϪԫ^¥ᵺҾ£ϣªǥἆ?Ϗѽ$њᴁΩ₡ᴔњỷỷﭏ¥?‡&☼╣ϏᵺΨỷ؆ἆ&ͯ÷Ψἆȶ£ψ►ǥØ%ª&ᴁęmᵺ#M≈ԫҾ►¥MӝϪῼȶѽ؆&&¾≈ᴟ►Φʂ►%%ᶼỷ&שὖͯӝ¥»#ψᴔʥʱ₡÷ҾϪ►#ỷϼӝʱᴟMªᴁͯ►ӝʮҾῼΩᴔʂʮỷȶῼϼ??ʮ¥//Computerised Dub.circuit...RELOAD

Oak Park Strut

Pieces of the crew were down at the Blacklight Joint the other night, chillin' with Do'shonne and Slye, drafting up the blueprint for the future. Nautilus and Marisol were there, along with half of Palm Grove and Imani, soaking up the vibes down in deepest Oak Park. The subject was a room, not a building but a place where the myriad strands of the Parallax experience could be explored in the depth that they required. A prism through which to glimpse the shadows tucked away within the glorious sprawl of the Heights, this place we call home.

And the evening stretched on and the plans expanded and the music kept right on playing...

The sounds of Bobby Lyle, Silent Phase and Kleeer pulsed out from the swamp deck bassbins, dancing across the surface of Chollas Lake with the ultraviolet lights and the glow of the gibbous moon. This is the Oak Park strut, the glide of your ride on these citystreets, all your travels soundtracked by the moods and grooves at the nexus of heavy atmosphere and wild rhythm. It's the stretch of road pouring into Mesa Q, nestled into that spot where the city meets the edge of the world.

Turn right and you're headed downtown; turn left and your trajectory leads up into the mountains where the Gypsum 5 dwell. South takes you to Palm Grove's Skyline acres, street level with Sweetwater just beyond. North leads to the birthplace, the Gardens, flanked by Mission Trails and Ramona further still, where our man in the hills still dwells. All of it stretches out like a matrix from this solitary point, a Maze in the Twilight, vector lines glowing deep blue against the silhouette palm trees and the crisp air of nightfall.

The sound of drum machines and breakbeats sparring on a liquid synth backdrop set in stark relief against the atmosphere encircling in spiral patterns all around. Depth Charge 808s tattoo the pavement beneath our feet while 303s thread the spaces in between, ARPs and MOOGs and sounds beyond the sounds bathe the corner of 70th in sumptuous texture. And all of this remains in mind as pieces of the crew draft up the blueprint for the future.

Emanon and Vega arrive deep into the night, their residencies concluded for the evening, their input in 4/4 time with a wallshaking bassline to match. Synthesizers like stained glass beamed in from the four corners of the globe, rerouted through the earth beneath our feet, this place we've haunted and will continue to. The designs begin to coalesce as a cool breeze drifts across the glass surface of the lake beyond. Northern Dark played as the moon blazed its path across the sky...

Machinery

Woebot on the one with a couple essential mixes, first tackling Detroit techno's winding history before jumping into some Chicago house mayhem. With a little luck, we'll get a New York one - Nu Groove/Strictly Rhythm/Fourth Floor bizzness in full effect - in the near future. It being 3/13 I would have liked to jump into a Detroit selection myself - there's been plenty of the skewed electronic jazz of late-nineties Anthony Shakir, Carl Craig and Stacey Pullen bumping through the Parallax Room as of late - but the perfectionist in me is still tweaking that full-length feature at the moment. For now, check Woebot's mix for a true sonic journey...

There was also a bit of griping from the man himself about Pitchfork's 50 Best IDM Albums Of All Time list - with its Simon Reynolds-penned introduction - for the slapdash nature of the selections. Reynolds himself confused with the actual content of the list. Right on, I thought. I must confess that I was a bit mystified when I had seen the list in the first place. There were a whole bunch of startling omissions - where was Alter Ego/Sensorama, Luke Vibert/Wagon Christ, Susumu Yokota (indeed all of Japan for that matter), early Black Dog and Plaid's Mbuki Mvuki- and figures like Biosphere and Deep Space Network, whose absence wasn't necessarily surprising, but certainly disappointing. The list seemed to miss the point of the whole endeavor! But then Pitchfork never really got electronic music, did they?

I had a similar experience reading FACT Magazine's 50 Best Trip-Hop Albums Of All Time... sort of wow, this all meant something totally different to me back then. Now I love FACT - don't get me wrong - and it was a pleasure to read (plus I was thrilled with the #1 pick - one of my top 5 albums in any genre). But there were a couple things that started to get to me after awhile. The apologetic/embarrassed tone for one, like this music is somehow a guilty pleasure (we're talking about some of the most crucial records of the decade here). Embarrassment over the trip hop tag itself, which I do remember being a common gripe even at the time (and which I never quite understood),1 and apologetic that a bunch of corny chill out artists came riding its coattails into the mainstream and supposedly de-fanged the music in the process. I don't know that I've ever bought that narrative.

First off, when has the lackluster output of bandwagon artists ever truly discredited what made a sound exciting in the first place? Surely it gets tiresome in the moment, hearing all these lame immitations, but it's been twenty years now! There's been plenty of time to cleanse the palette and re-focus. Secondly, the chill out thing was a totally different project, distinct from trip hop's m/o... this was lifestyle music for young professionals and scenesters. That it started cropping up in Zach Braff movies is evidence enough. There was certainly some overlap between the two - no more than with reggae or dub though (far less, truth be told) - but the media ran with that narrative and suddenly there was no room for a record like Pre-Millenium Tension. Tricky had lost it. And yet the record was flush with a deeply strange, skewed b-boy blues that was anything but easy listening and remained true to the roots-n-future warped downbeat vision that lie at trip hop's beating heart ever since Smith & Mighty remixed Mark Stewart. In truth, the jagged underbelly of nineties hip hop and r&b's glistening phantasmagorias had always had more in common with trip hop than any of the chill out brigade ever could hope to.

My second big complaint was the creeping sense that there was just too much zaniness in the list... and a little goes a long way. Even at the time a lot of that stuff came to be as big a turn off as the chill out stuff, with a bad aftertaste to boot, like it was all some big inside joke between people who thought they were better than the music. A dead end if there ever was one.

The last thing that threw me was the approach of limiting the list to one record per artist. I think that's a mistake when talking genres/scenes, because certain artists nearly always manage to define the sound and transcend their surroundings. One couldn't imagine a sixties rock list that limited The Beatles to a single record. Then why trip hop, when there were some obvious movers and shakers in the mix from day one? I don't want to get bogged down in specifics at the moment - reason enough, I'd been planning to do an in-depth series on trip hop in the near future - but right off the bat I can say that the first three Massive Attack LPs put the whole scene in stark relief, signposting the whole project. Without them, you're missing something...


1. It always struck me as an apposite description of the music, which was the bastard offspring of hip hop and soundsystem culture. Trip as in staggering, the beat dragging along, also as in tripping out, psychedelic b-boy music for real.

Constant Companion

As anyone who knows us knows, Sari and I love our lists. Along with my brother Andrew, we each worked up our top one-hundred albums roughly two-and-a-half years ago. Since then, we've added to the lists considerably (the fruits of which will show up here before month's end), and I'm always pestering everyone within earshot for their list of favorites.

So last year, for my birthday, my sister-in-law Leah compiled a list of her favorite six albums of all time. It was an unexpected treat, and there was a definite continuity running through the selections. You could write a book on each of them. Well, she's just posted the list up on her blog with attendant commentary. I especially like the autobiographical details, the way certain music becomes entwined with a particular period of one's life.

At one point, she wonders whether the term album even has any currency anymore, in our era of digital streaming and downloading. Do the children care about albums? She ultimately kind of posed the question to me, so I figured I'd wrestle with it a bit. And as is usually the case when I'm consulted, the answer is a long one! More on that later, but for now, check out Leah's list of six golden greats. I've heard a rumor that there are more to come...

Radiance Point

Every sound seems bathed in vivid shades of color, as if glowing gently in the darkness.

This comment that I made in passing, with regard to Yusef Lateef's Eastern Sounds, has been tumbling over and over in my mind since Thursday. I think it's because it so succinctly captures a very specific set of sonics that remain central to my musical imagination, like a sense memory poised at my very being. Evoking brilliant colors seemingly backlit in neon, it comes on like a haunting sound-mirage, set in stark relief against a jet black backrop. It's a day-glo thing... and at times, perhaps a vector thing too.

Lateef's record is one such example, with the vivid colors of his playing of the xun in Plum Blossom creeping out of the darkness in violet arcs - pulsing against the deep black beyond.

Certain records come to mind; perhaps this is a terrain that could be mapped? More to come shortly...