A sequel of sorts to Cooped Up, this collection of tracks traces the acceptance of profound absurdity and incoherence with regard to one’s existence, as well as the fragile and queasy yet undeniably peaceful state of mind that arises once the platitudinal farces of meaning, pleasure, and purpose are finally set aside for good—or it’s just something to relax/fall asleep to, if you’re in a particularly strange mood. Take your pick.
00:00. Black Dice – “Head Like a Door” [excerpt] from Lost Valley(Tigerbeat 6, 2002)
03:59. Michael Barthel – “Verbündete” from Ververbüntede(Coherent States, 2019)
08:26. Sister Iodine – “Les Île” from Helle(Textile, 2007)
16:40. Breeze – “Comfortably Dumb” from Car Masters(Music for People, 2020)
19:47. Pumice – “Murupara” [excerpt] from Land(Soft Abuse, 2014)
The last mix was already quite calm and reserved, and usually I try to switch things up, but the description I wrote for that one was bleak as hell anyway and frankly my knotted-up brain needs all the cozy music it can get. I’ve realized that if I’m given curatorial control of any kind of mix I’ll inevitably turn it into the platform for some disturbing, mood-killing existential treatise, so the board and I have made the mutual decision to hand the reins to our in-house Comfort Robots. The cost of getting them fully programmed was pretty damn steep, so we didn’t do that, but they have had the concept of beauty verbally explained to them, which we feel is sufficient. If you find any errors in the content they’ve produced (available below) don’t hesitate to reach out; to be honest I really need a reason to turn these annoying little fuckers into scrap. They keep trying to hug me.
00:00. Axolotl – “Telesma” [excerpt] from Telesma (Spooky Action, 2006)
06:22. Wim Dehaen – “Ústí OST” [excerpt] from 12 Elegies for Pierre Boulez / Ústí OST (ACR, 2018)
07:07. Désormais – “Brief Lights, Broken Compass” from Iambrokenandremadeiambroken… (Intr_version, 2003)
[title comes from another song on this album, and no, don’t worry, your headphones are not broken]
13:12. Biographs – “ground felt softer today” from must dissolve (Reckno, 2014)
18:03. Belong – “I’m Too Sleepy… Shall We Swim?” from October Language (Carpark, 2006)
23:04. Pure & Ultra Milkmaids – first untitled track [excerpt] from s[e]nd (Vacuum, 2000)
25:16. Open Marriage – “Domestic Science” from Destiny USA (self-released, 2014)
33:23. The Hers – “How Night Works on the World” from Tough C~~t (Sex Lies Magnetic Tape, 2012)
35:09. Erik Levander – “Under timmerstockarnas stilla flykt” [excerpt] from Couesnon (Katuktu, 2018)
Whether or not you agree with the act of procreation on ethical grounds, most of us can concur that—much like the somewhat analogous case of house pets—it doesn’t do any good for your beliefs to affect how you treat a conscious, emotionally sentient being that has already entered this plane. But the fact is, this happens all the time, just in the reverse of what you might expect: children are either shielded from the “bad things” in the world because they’re not ready to handle them, held in a sterile gossamer cocoon of safety before eventually being jettisoned alone into the merciless void of self-awareness; or they are neglected and cast away completely because their presence is a burden or inconvenience. It’s unfortunate for every child ever born that their parents couldn’t take the time to consider what a fucked up thing it is to create a new consciousness for one’s own personal gain, and how much of a responsibility it is once it’s here, until after the deed was done, but they were born nonetheless, dragged out of blissful nothingness to think and hurt and struggle and cry with the rest of us. In the face of that profound violation, we owe them the respect of treating them like the intelligent, fully perceptive individuals they are, rather than slinging the the cloying condescension of baby voices, sugarcoating, age-based exclusion, etc. And yet, despite being walked all over and denied decency since their first breath, they remain the most creative, wisest, and happiest of us all. Here are the beautiful sounds of bittersweet existence.
00:00. IT IT – “Pig Death” [ending] from IT IT (self-released, 2016)
00:39. Matinee Orchestra – “It’s a Fantasy World / Everyone Has the Right to Protest Even If No One Listens” [excerpt] from Matinee Orchestra (Arable, 2006)
05:21. Ludwig Berger – “After Nature” from Cargo (Canti Magnetici, 2019)
My attempt to survey the variegated Leeds noise rock “scene” from the other side of the Atlantic (and as such no one, I repeat, no one, is more qualified to do so). Everything from barely rhythmic shit-fi free skronk to tight, claustrophobic, angular constructions. With the wide range of genres and influences also comes significant variance in production styles; I did my best to get all the tracks to be the same volume, but shit’s difficult.
00:00. Belk – “Cows” from Belk(self-released, 2020)
A selection of tracks for when one needs a nice brain-scrubbing but also desires something more structurally and texturally complex than plain ol’ harsh noise. Solo artists, duos, and larger collectives make use of a wide variety of electronic materials (I’ve provided the materials used to create each to the best of my ability) to generate the sizzling blasts of static and percussive oscillations that grace these eight pieces, yet all maintain an addictive, complete volatility.
00:00. R/S – “(20.27)” [excerpt] from One (Snow Mud Rain)(Erstwhile, 2007) computer, synthesizer
06:01. Kiiln – third untitled track [excerpt] from Is Music Invisible?(caduc. recordings, 2017) tapes, radio, objects, guitar, piano
11:09. Jin Sangtae – 25th untitled track from Shadow Boxer(popmusic25, 2015) hard drives
My favorite Darksmith track is the haunting “Everything Is Breaking” on Total Vacuumbecause during the all-too-often times when everything around me is breaking it seems to be the only thing that gets it. Unfortunately, now is one of those times, and this latest breakage is uniquely catastrophic, so demoralizing and destructive that I find myself reaching to memory, nostalgia, other distant inner-intangibles because the present is no longer survivable. I’ve gotten a lot better at making mixes since I cobbled together Dusty Sun more than half a decade ago, both in terms of technical arrangement and thematic curation (and Mark Kozelek has become a lot more of a known abuser), but this time capsule of my favorite tracks from days spent neglecting the sunsets remains a somewhat entertaining hour of music—at least, in my opinion—so I’ve kept the original cuts the way they are. The answer is in the amber and I can only keep averting my eyes for so long.
00:00. Astrobrite – “Crasher” from Crush (Clairecords, 2001)
04:03. Galaxie 500 – “Tugboat” from Today(Aurora, 1988)
07:44. Women – “Narrow with the Hall” from Public Strain(Jagjaguwar, 2010)
10:16. No Age – “Eraser” from Nouns(Sub Pop, 2008)
This is the fourth and final of my Halloween mixes. Tomorrow is the big day, so here is a collection of immersive horror-soundscape tracks, spooky samples, and general scariness to get you in the spirit.
The music plays, the bass thumps, thuds, thumps. The moon shines high overhead despite you being 90% sure you’re inside. Fog rolls in across the sticky beer-drenched floor and a chilling wind blows, but it just feels like a nice breeze to your overheated, sweat-drenched body. What’s that on your forearm? Looks like a rash. You go to scratch it and recoil in horror as a decent-sized chunk of skin comes off with a single rake of your fingernails. Kneeling down to pick up the glob of gore only causes more to slough off as the rotted flesh of your back splits wide open, exposing your spine and your rib cage, out of which slide two sluglike, smoke-blackened lungs. You look around in helpless terror to see all of the other clubgoers gleefully shedding their outer layers, down to realize that it’s not beer that stains the floor, but blood, and up to the ceiling/sky, where the moon now shines a deep orange, casting the mass of dancing, prancing skeletons below in a bath of jack-o-lantern light. Welcome to the grave rave.
Halloween has been my favorite holiday literally since I was born. See below for proof (I’m on the left). It’s the only one whose “spirit” rivals that of Christmas, and shaped so many of our childhoods in important ways through its complexities of disguise, fear, independence, etc. For the entirety of my trick-or-treating tenure I was obsessed with the truly scary aspects of the holiday, always hiding behind corners to scare friends or carving horrifyingly grotesque jack-o-lanterns or getting sent to the principal’s office for my disturbing pencil drawings. But as I grow older, I’ve begun to see how the immense space that Halloween occupies in our culture remains largely unchanged in both size and content: nostalgia. For many people (including me), the farther away from your childhood you get, the more you want to reclaim it in some way; since Halloween is something of which almost everyone has fond memories, we collectively feed into the stagnant, nostalgia-fueled zeitgeist of “spooky” songs, classic movies, unchanging traditions, and general atmosphere of fear and fun at the same time—mostly fun, I’d argue. I don’t think anyone loves Halloween because they like to scare or be scared. We love it because it’s nearly impossible to feel otherwise, and that’s not a bad thing at all. While you may not appreciate my rambling pedantry, I hope you will feel differently about this collection of wholesome Halloween tunes (appropriate for all ages).
00:00. Lonesome Wyatt and the Holy Spooks – “Halloween Is Here” from Halloween Is Here(Tribulation, 2013)
02:24. Ray Parker Jr. – “Ghostbusters” from Ghostbusters Original Soundtrack (Arista, 1984)
06:19. Dead Man’s Bones – “In the Room Where You Sleep” from Dead Man’s Bones(Anti-, 2009)
Someone on a forum once asked if it was perpetually Halloween in Memphis (not including the actual quote here due to its less-than-subtle coded racism), referring to the oppressive, gloomy, even disturbing atmosphere that was laid to so many inches of tape by many of the artists in this selection, among others. One could spend their entire life studying the complex 90s Memphis hip-hop scene and its stylistic or cultural impact, and this fascination with the gritty and the macabre is just one facet of those formidably creative artists’ work that survives in modern trap and other subgenres. This is the first of several Halloween-themed mixes I’ll be posting over the next few weeks (I am attempting to salvage at least some of the holiday spirit that seems to be dead-on-arrival this year), and combines my favorite examples of actual horrorcore—hip-hop that is legitimately scary or unsettling (ICP fuck off), and not always in a confrontational way—both classic and contemporary.
00:00. Blackout – “Mission of a Murda” from Dreamworld(Snubnoze Muzik, 1995)