2012: Chocolate Grinder Mix
The Exquisite Corpse will drink the young wine
Here is Side B of our Exquisite Corpse mix. Check out Side A here.
Zammuto - “F-U-C-3PO” (Zammuto)
Start time: 0:00 • Label: Temporary Residence, Ltd.
Yeah, yeah, terrible title. And yeah, the colors chosen by ex-The Books Nick Zammuto in this track, his new band’s first illustrations (it appeared both on Zammuto’s debut EP Idiom Wind before winding up on their subsequent LP), don’t exactly come from a different crayon box than the one he clutched in The Books: there’s still pitch-shifted vocals, PVC-pipe percussion, slippery time signatures, all that good stuff. But whereas The Books occasionally embellished their rustic field-folk pastorals with simple Zen platitudes, Zammuto stokes this track with one hell of a disgusted kiss-off of a vocal (“Alone, inane, grey, confused/ Where you are/ Crawling through your pile”) and enough layers of deranged backwards loops and synth squelches to make this track sound less like the product of a carefully controlled postmodern campfire and more like the violent effluence of a blazing public burning. Bookishness, you just got your ass purged.
Demdike Stare - “Erosion of Medocrity” (Elemental)
Start time: 3:07 • Label: Modern Love
Ritualistic percussion brings Demdike Stare’s “Erosion of Mediocrity” and Zammuto’s “F U C-3PO” together to answer one simple question: what should you do about that unmotivated friend of yours, who’s constantly crashing at your place and leaving a trail of Cheetos-dust everywhere he or she comes and goes? A line in “F U C-3PO” advises taking on a supportive role (“You have lost your edge… I’ll pick it up, I’ll pick it up”), but “Erosion of Medocrity,” to the extent that one can draw thematic conclusions from music sans lyrics — as well as the track’s title — suggests something much more pessimistic. An intangible, external force is the compulsion, and it’s not necessarily towards a position of greater success. A world without mediocrity equates to a world consisting solely of extremes, and the general tone put forth by the Demdike duo alludes to polarized tension as a result. In other words, don’t be stingy with those snack foods.
Airhead - “Wait” (Wait)
Start time: 10:00 • Label: R&S
After the hypnotic dread of “Erosion of Mediocrity,” I felt something needed to follow that could gently pull listeners out of the trance Demdike Stare casts and bring them some hope. Airhead’s spacey single does that perfectly. It sounds like the sun struggling against darkness, eventually bursting through the clouds and obliterating the horrors Demdike had summoned. The former James Blake collaborator pulls vocals from multiple Karen O tracks, most notably condensing the passionate vocals of “Maps,” into a simple, single-worded plea: “wait.” The production sounds so shy at first, like someone reluctantly waking up. Patches of pitch-shifted vocals, percussion, and guitar all stumble over each other as it gains its footing. The joy that “Wait” delivers is from hearing it patiently gain confidence with each section. It’s as if the song is being built right in front of you, easing you into the gorgeous finale where everything suddenly goes supernova.
Disclosure - “Latch (feat. Sam Smith)” (“Latch” [single])
Start time: 12:38 • Label: PMR
Speaking of young London producers in the dance music game, fraternal garage-house duo Disclosure had a landmark year with their EP The Face, an unstoppable remix of Jessie Ware’s “Running,” and one of the best live electronic sets on the market. “Latch” is their least abstracted offering to date, built around a wind tunnel of whiplash snares, a stunning debut from singer Sam Smith, one irresistibly insistent vocal sample, and a polished refinement of the brothers Lawrence’s signature synth sound. As the first single from Disclosure’s forthcoming debut album, one of 2012’s most infectious singles is a promising sign for the year ahead.
Actress Pets - “Grown Men Stroking” (Actress Pets)
Start time: 16:51 • Label: AMDISCS
You can hear the cracks begin forming in “Latch.” A threatening crackle just below the throbbing bass. The foundation completely falls away in “Grown Men Stroking.” Sparks of melody fail to penetrate the surface. Standing on the edge looking down, you can see the whirlpool of loose wires and sound waves. There is probably an infinite amount of dance music down there. Is this the speakers blowing the fuse in slow motion? The swan song of dying batteries? What happens to electronic music when all of our electronics die? The world may not actually be ending this year, but no one told Actress Pets.
Geeeman - “Bang’t” (“Bang’t” 12-inch)
Start time: 19:45 • Label: Clone Jack For Daze
Whoever went before me was perfectly considerate with Actress Pets’ “Grown Men Stroking;” resuming on a wind-down meant I could take the mix in any direction. I opted to up the energy levels with some irresistible Dutch smack from Rotterdammer Gert-Jan Bijl, one of 2012’s defining house smashes, played out just about everywhere by just about everyone. I suppose this counts as selfishness: I appear to have painted someone into a corner. No grudges, I hope.
Lawrence Arabia - “The Bisexual” (The Sparrow)
Start time: 26:05 • Label: Bella Union
On the surface level, I picked “The Bisexual” from New Zealander James Milne’s lush third album as Lawrence Arabia for the obvious reason: that bisexuals do “lots of bangin’” (as had been repeated in the previous “Bang’t” track). Yet, on a deeper level, I felt the thoughtfully arranged Serge Gainsbourg meets Scott Walker orchestral pop melodrama would provide an understated yet composed counterpoint to the aesthetic repetition of the former Geeeman house number. Both took an old school approach to their forms, but from different eras: the early 90s rave movement contrasted with late-60s baroque pop.
Actually - “Me and My Late Night Guys” (Actually)
Start time: 30:29 • Label: Self-Released
From one playful, sardonic take on sexual identity to another. Los Angeles video artist and pinup girl Ashley Huizenga took conceptual fame whoredom to new, hyper-saturated heights this year with the release of her proper debut album, Actually. The breathy pop chanteuse shamelessly luxuriates in a pansexual fantasy space resembling Second Life as reprogrammed by The Scarlet Woman from Kenneth Anger’s Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome. The video for “Me and My Late Night Guys” is expressly erotic while maintaining a complex sense of self-critique in its employment of visual signs related to class, gender, and sexuality. All is not as it seems in this garish, masturbatory daymare of a Tinseltown orgy unstuck in time.
Grimes - “Genesis” (Visions)
Start time: 33:54 • Label: 4AD/Arbutus
You know what? Actually and her late-night guys can go fuck off. They don’t get it. They all think people are easy to read, and right and wrong is obvious. No. No, it’s not. You and I know this too well. There are so many who think themselves better, supposedly enlightened, all because they know some great big thing. But you know there’s more to it than that, and you let yourself go, because some things we just cannot understand except through experience. “Oh, heart/ And then it falls/ And then I fall/ And then I know.” How many times have we fucked up? We learn, though. They still have not a single clue, Because they forget one thing: It’s all different. Some people just need to learn to shut the fuck up.
Momus - “Shunned” (Bibliotek)
Start time: 39:15 • Label: Darla
The lament of one castout is an appropriate aftermath to Genesis, as a story of exile. The downward trajectory of Grimes’ theme of (the) Fall continues in Momus’ resigned despair, set in a too-familiar desecrated garden: “I’ll read a book, I’ll watch the wall/ Breathing exhaust/ While exhausted sparrows fall.” Here, the Tender Pervert reverts to sincerity, though in his work the confessional can never be taken at face value. But “Shunned,” inasmuch as it merges performative emotion with a restless experimental ethos, can be considered characteristic. A desolate dignity emerges from musical bareness that works through repetition, a chanson-style melodrama that immediately refuses itself. But that bareness, too, self-refuses, tarrying among quiet cacophonies in which the environmental exists in tension with the operatic. The little losses of love so familiar from pop tropes are subsumed in a broader dramatization of the post-Marxist imaginary: the system-as-big-Other is irresistible, while ‘I’ am infinitely disposable.
Howlround - “Part 2 - The Resonating Stairwell” (The Ghosts Of Bush)
Start time: 43:27 • Label: The Fog Signals
The genius of “Shunned” is in the way it conveys an arresting sense of space. Its video drags you through a cold, empty cave, as idiosyncratic noises fire off in a random fashion as if from altogether different songs played in the distance. This chilly atmosphere is the perfect canvas for Momus to paint his morbid reflections, evoking, as one YouTube commenter puts it, a “Momus swan-song.” In a similar way, Howlround uses a gripping sense of space to convey its own purpose. The whole record is constructed from night recordings of Bush House, home to the BBC World Service for 70 years until its relocation this year. Distant creaks and drones play against other muted noises to draw you into a vast, empty space that still sings with a life of its own. The result is that the whole album seems like a swan-song to the space itself, the final eerie gasps of a building whose purpose has been gradually eroded and eventually lost.
Mirrorring - “Fell Sound” (Foreign Body)
Start time: 47:36 • Label: Kranky
Where Howlround intones whispers of the past, Mirrorring are ably rushing up to meet those ghosts and take a twirl. Northwest artisanal gloom weavers Liz Harris and Jesy Fortino keep their ears close to all surfaces, so that their limbs and voices practically spill the murky tonal frequencies of the vast unknown surrounding us in every direction. Living and dead, each measure vibrates against the stultifyingly still absoluteness of each body. Every note has lost its way, and every gasp takes in water, gradually flooding the whole scene. Each keening phantom is imbibed with the clammy cold comforts of corrective hindsight. Overwhelmed is okay, so long as we’re whelmed, whelmed, whelmed as our blind curve universe immeasurably convulses.
Mi Ami - “Horns” (Decade)
Start time: 52:46 • Label: 100% Silk
Being an avid fan of both Tiny Vipers and Grouper, I found the Mirrorring collaboration to be an extraordinary immersion into the darker realms that both Liz Harris and Jesy Fortino convey elsewhere. It’s not necessarily fitting that I should pair the coarseness of Foreign Body’s opening track with the camp neo-house contortions of Mi Ami, but as “Fell Sound” drifts away into a gorgeous blurring fadeout complete with acoustic guitar strings, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to inject something tactical. “Horns” begins with gliding synths and distant murmuring before misty percussion kicks in and propels Daniel Martin-McCormick’s spastic no-wave vocals across the unwavering heights that made Decade one of my favorite electronic albums of the year. It’s an unlikely combination of styles, but one that gorges on the work of two side projects that are undisputed personal highlights of 2012.
Action Bronson - “9-24-11” (Blue Chips)
Start time: 61:10 • Label: Fool’s Gold
Action Bronson earns this spot on our list through the powerful virtue of contrast. Not only does “9-24-11” represent a dimensional warp from preceding track Mi Ami’s “Horns,” it represents a musical territory in 2012 that, as far as I heard, Bronson and his producer Party Supplies ruled alone. Any explanation I can offer would probably seem pedestrian and redundant, because it all comes back to the Dean Martin sample. The looped backing vocals seem like they’d get abrasive after a dozen listens or so, but for me, the track still sings despite heavy rotation. Action Bronson’s triple error-mulligan moments are more curios than liabilities. But most importantly, the sample’s cadence, the way the harmony resolves before the song’s last verse, is one of the most musically poignant moments of the year, lofting Bronson from characteristic comic vulgarity to an instant of profound urban pathos.
Jason Lescalleet - “The Future Belongs to No One” (Songs About Nothing)
Start time: 65:07 • Label: erstwhile
Photo credit: Non Event
The very idea of having to choose the final track of our exquisite corpse is utterly perverse to me. I know absolutely nothing about the first 28 tracks, and the one grain of information I do know of is a rap track that I only first heard upon receiving this assignment. Although I can speculate about macro-level mix information through this track (Did another hip-hop track precede it? Is the mix beat-heavy? Does the rest of the mix sample Dean Martin or exhibit a similarly confused playfulness?), I’m lost in the end. No matter what I choose, there’s a strong chance that it will betray some theme laid out earlier in the set. Everything I choose is no good, the future of this mix doesn’t belong to me, nor Jason Lescalleet.