Dirty Beaches make the kind of music you expect to find on a phantom radio station, one that you stumble upon on a summer evening but can then never find again. Fortunately for us, Alex Zhang Hungtai’s music stays put, locatable, for your repeated aural pleasure.
Hungtai’s proclaimed inspirations are primarily films — cinema that features the phantoms and amorphous emotions akin to Dirty Beaches’ style. Specifically, Hungtai has cited Lynchian proclivities, which, indeed, were at the core of his 2011 debut album Badlands. Think dark highways, ladies in thin skirts lit by tobacco-colored headlights, and dotted lines stretching to oblivion. Think Elvis on burn-marked videotape.
But as even Wikipedia reports, Hungtai also sees an aesthetic father figure in the brilliant Hong Kong director Wong Kar-wai. So far, “Elizabeth’s Theme” is the Dirty Beaches track that shows this affinity best (or at least, so far as this meek blogger has heard). It’s more Malibu than middle of the macadam, evokes more melancholy than menace. Surely, Wong Kar-wai could — should — stack some silent slow-mo to this single and envision a sleek neck kissed with languor and longing. Whether Dirty Beaches will support an entire full-length with this mood and theatrical scope is yet to be seen, but we sure can hope.
According to Pitchfork, “Elizabeth’s Theme” is part of a singles club release by Kingfisher Bluez, to be dropped on October 9.
Phil Elverum of Mount Eerie has two key foci, which he returns to repeatedly with remarkable success. The first is noise (any casual fan can confirm that he’s a maestro), and the other is landscape. Geography. Elverum makes no secret of his interest in space and shape, as many of his songs — not to mention his albums — are titled after features of the land and sea. Even the method he uses to move through his oeuvre is thus organized: from album to album or song to song, he’ll frequently revisit those spots or features he’s shown to us before, as if they were favorite perches or old haunts. See song “The Glow,” which lent its name to the brilliant and storied album The Glow Pt. 2; see The Microphones’ album Mount Eerie, which evolved into the band Mount Eerie; see “Through the Trees” on Mount Eerie’s 2009 album Wind’s Poem, which was reprised as “Through the Trees Pt. 2” on Clear Moon (TMT Review) earlier this year. Just as the world is full of terrain that we revisit under different weathers and different moods, under different skies and different stars, the places on Elverum’s musical map are to be passed through again and again, to varying effects.
This said, Elverum’s music has done much to empower the concept of The Album, as his own albums are journeys, nearly as spatial as they are sonic. Each leg seems unreachable without the trek that came immediately prior. So in listening to this, the title track of upcoming album Ocean Roar, note that this is the album’s second track. Trust me when I tell you that the real ROAR cited in this title appears in the song preceding. It’s an incredibly inventive maneuver: the song you’re hearing now isn’t the ocean roar itself, but the wake of it, the memorialization of it. You can hear proof in the remnants of that previous song as this one begins: that descending, drowning, winding-down of pitches.
Alas, you may have to wait until the album’s drop in September to hear/see the two track suite in full panorama. For now, you’re looking at the shore while the ocean’s still hidden behind a veil of fog. It’s soothing, yes, but believe me: it’s nothing like the full effect of the plunge.
Ocean’s Roar will be out from P.W. Elverum and Sun in September (but you can order the vinyl now!).
• P.W. Elverum and Sun: www.pwelverumandsun.com
Chocolate Grinder Mix 55
My last Chocolate Grinder mix contained only songs that had the sound of a gun being cocked. I had fun making it, but it was horribly timed: the mix was published on the same day of the Dark Knight Rises shooting in Colorado. So, for this mix, I stayed away from overt violence and focused on something much simpler but no less thought-provoking: music whose aesthetic relies almost solely on Δpp®øp®¡▲†I☺Й.
One glance at the tracklist and you might already understand where this mix is coming from. With their satirical, copy-pasted names and song titles, many of these artists seem more concerned with reproducing over producing, sampling over composing, triggering over performing — or, at the very least, blurring these distinctions over reifying them. From VΞRACOM to spf5Ø and マイケル·ジョーダンLINCKOLN to ☯ARPEGGI8☯, these artists evoke a feeling of much-needed transience, an approach to music-making that has very little to do with pop art and more to do with an extra-sensorial plundering of the already-commodified and already-expired, released in small-batches and fleeting SoundCloud streams, a way to both extract from and add value to the past while also reviving the present-future — in other words, a way of destroying temporal constructions and foregrounding perception. Over time, all that’ll be left are a bunch of weird symbols rendered incorrectly by operating systems and weird music ready to be re-appropriated.
Stream below, and subscribe to our podcast here.
[00:00] 情報デスクVIRTUAL - “(from Sacred Tapestry)”
[03:23] ☯ARPEGGI8☯ - “☾ ℳOONLIT ℬAY ☾”
[07:11] VΞRACOM - “Virtual Realm ID Number 4 Sunset-Bay”
[09:51] transmat思 い 出 - “私はあなたが時々私を覚えていることを願って”
[12:45] マイケル·ジョーダンLINCKOLN - “科学呼吸離婚”
[16:21] Macintosh Plus - “ブート”
[19:43] DJ/PURPLE/IMAGE - “THA MACK IS BACK”
[24:17] Oneohtrix Point Never - “I Only Have Eyes for You”
[31:26] Mediafired - “Cinderella’s Big Score”
[36:09] spf5Ø - “†ΞΞNΛ9Ξ D2ΞΛM”
a i r s p o r t s
a i r s p o r t s [album stream]
Although it might be a bit late to start working on that beach bod, AMDISCS contends that it’s not too late to hit the gym to start working off that Slurpee belly by releasing an energetic and fresh record from a i r s p o r t s. Formerly known as dreamsvrfer, Oregon-based a i r s p o r t s’ self-titled album is described as “balanced bright beats and acid absorbed reflection of your future exercise apparel” and truly can be quite a workout if you let it really make you dance. Stream it right here, and download over there.
Transcendation Activation: The Love Amplification Channel [album stream]
By far, the weirdest shit for which I’ve developed an unhealthy obsession this year is music by a dude named Jesse Rakusin, who lives in L.A. and records and performs under the moniker “Awaken!” (exclamation point absolutely included). I can’t even tell you how amazing it is to me that this stuff exists, but then again, maybe the blues are making some kind of a big comeback… in the form of oddly out-of-tune strumming, off-tempo drum accompaniments, over-the-top Morrison-esque baritone, and some hilariously radical guitar soloing. In all seriousness, though, Awaken! really can stray into cheek-biting territory, so prepare yourself, yeah, but hang in there. For the passion, the honesty, and the sincerity — that’d be enough to keep you coming back even without the sweet cosmic collage art that accompanies the CDs.
• Awaken!: http://awakeninadream.com
“Blue and Amber Light”
Last week, we premiered a track from Forgotten Light, a.k.a. Leonce Nelson, co-founder of new tape label Hexagon. Today, we’re premiering another Hexagon track, this time from Datavis, a.k.a. Will Burnett of INTERNET CLUB and the label’s other founder. Both tracks are certainly serene, but Datavis’ “Blue and Amber Light” has a linear, forward momentum to it, with Burnett foregoing the samples that informed his earlier work (and his work as INTERNET CLUB) and now adopting a synth/tape-deck combo. It’s 22 minutes of foggy drone, suffocated ambience, and blanketed tones evincing a slow-motion, quiet descent to nowhere in particular. Which is how it should be. Check it out here:
“Blue and Amber Light” is off Distant Space, available now on cassette through Hexagon. Be sure to also listen to Datavis’ split with Forgotten Light, also on Hexagon, and stay tuned for more music from the label, including a release by Tanning Salon (Vektroid, Macintosh Plus, 情報デスクVIRTUAL) and a split between Forgotten Light and yet another Burnett project, ECCO UNLIMITED (who already released a fantastic album this year). Exciting!