WARMER MIXTAPES #449 | by Arturo Evening [Rainbo Video]
1. Don Caballero | Haven't Lived Afro Pop
Thanks to the wonders of Audiogalaxy's old peer-to-peer system (R.I.P.), the first song I ever heard by Don Caballero was The Peter Criss Jazz, from American Don. I was in high school then and really getting into Chicago-centric Math Rock and Post-Rock. I became obsessed with that song, but the more I listened to American Don (as well as Don Cab's other releases), I realized the real gem on the album was Haven't Lived Afro Pop. It contains hints of the simultaneous technical rigidity and structural messiness of What Burns Never Returns - my favorite Don Cab album - while incorporating Ian Williams's new style of undistorted tapping. It's such an odd song. It seems to begin mid-statement, tripping over itself with starts and stops, and then it falls into its own beautifully self-defined logic of gradually evolving repetition. It definitely laid the groundwork for my later love of Steve Reich's work. To this day, Ian Williams-era Don Caballero is still my favorite band of all-time.
2. Gastr Del Sol | Mouth Canyon
This is such a gentle, carefully constructed Pop song, which was really at odds with all the louder Rock I was listening to at the time (Don Cab, Sonic Youth, Pixies, Guided By Voices, etc). It's a studio song, not a Rock band song. I was largely unfamiliar with Baroque Pop and Folk, which is probably why it sounded so intriguing to me. For being made by two titans of cerebral Avant-Rock/Pop music, it's such an organic and human song. It's also noteworthy for being one of the only Gastr songs that Jim O'Rourke sings solo on, and being on Camoufleur, for which O'Rourke and David Grubbs collaborated with another big influence for me, Markus Popp.
3. Brian Eno | Weightless
And Always Returning... These two are back-to-back songs from Apollo, and I always seem to listen to them in tandem. They remind me of my university days. My school had a beautiful campus right next to Lake Michigan, so there was gorgeous scenery available year-round. The lilting guitars of Weightless remind me of sitting lakeside, staring up at the drifting clouds in the sky, while Always Returning evokes the water's gentle waves. Sometimes when I was in the library, studying or doing research, I would look out to the water and play them. Sitting in a place devoted to human knowledge, they managed to remind me of the beauty of nature, something that no amount of writing or intellectualizing can ever truly capture.
4. Steve Reich, Kronos Quartet, Pat Metheny | Different Trains: After The War
And Electric Counterpoint: III. Fast... At one point I had a job in my university's music library sewing musical scores into bindings. I have no formal or theoretical background in music, so ironically, I found it fascinating to look at the scores and absorb them visually - their symbols, their structures. While many scores were of a more traditional variety, I often came across exciting and bizarre graphical scores by the likes of Christian Wolff and Karlheinz Stockhausen, or unbelievably rigorous ones by someone like Brian Ferneyhough. If the scores had accompanying CDs, I made a point of listening to the music that went with them. Steve Reich's Different Trains/Electric Counterpoint was one of these instances. While these two tracks are taken from drastically different compositions, the fact that they were on the same CD made me approach them at the same time. Never before had I encountered classical music that sounded so modern, and was so melodically enjoyable. The third parts of both pieces are for me the best. The way he brings out the musical content in the vocal samples was revolutionary for me, and the interlocking melodies on Electric Counterpoint: III. Fast are an endless source of pleasure. Pat Metheny is a machine. I remember thinking it was like a Don Cab song cleaned up and performed in a concert hall. These pieces also got me listening to and reading up on everything Reich did. When I learned about phasing, a lightbulb went off in my head. There was a question I had asked friends and family intermittently since I was in grade school: What do you call it when the turn signals of two cars are blinking on and off at the same time, and then they start to alternate, and then they go back to blinking at the same time? I finally knew the answer!
5. Aphex Twin | Yellow Calx
The sound of a computer thinking has never felt so organic. Until writing this list, I honestly hadn't listened to this song in a year and a half, which is surprising to me, because I remember practically every note of it like I had heard it yesterday. I've listened to this track hundreds of times. It's one of the most perfectly composed songs I've ever heard.
6. Simon And Garfunkel | The Dangling Conversation
They're one of the few bands from my childhood whose music I still profoundly enjoy. I'm convinced this is their best song. The poetic brilliance of the lyrics is matched by an equally clever musical arrangement. When I was old enough to finally understand the syncopated time line that is made literal by Garfunkel's harmony, my brain just about exploded. It's such a great musical joke. There are so few instances of that kind of conceptual synergy between lyrics and music in Pop that when it occurs, you can't believe it actually just happened. Simon And Garfunkel used other similarly clever devices, but the purest other example I can think of right now is in All I Want To Know by the Magnetic Fields, where the guitar solo actually sounds like someone playing pinball.
7. Prefuse 73 | Storm Returns
One Word Extinguisher was huge for me. It was the first time I heard Hip-Hop that could be as musically intricate as all the IDM and Glitch I was listening to, and that focused as much on melody as it did on rhythm. This track is especially successful on both accounts.
8. Fennesz | The Other Face
This track makes the buzzing, clicking, and humming of processed guitar and synth sound more like a natural environment than anything manmade. Digital rain drizzles down onto the ocean below, and when the vocal loop finally emerges from under layers of swirling noise, it seems to arrive from a natural place, even if it's another world entirely.
9. The Field | Istedgade
For me this is still The Field's most successful track because it uses the chopped sample technique to maximum melodic and euphoric effect. I listened to the Sun & Ice 12" obsessively while driving around in the winter of 2007, and this song in particular made it a true pleasure to observe the golden sunlight streaming down from bright blue skies onto the snow below. When you listen to this song, you suddenly feel ecstatic to be alive.
10. Benoît Pioulard | Sous La Plage
I wish he was more well-known than he is, or at least better appreciated. His atmospheric Ambient tracks are as deft as his Folk Pop songs, and unfortunately I think the former keep less adventurous people from appreciating the latter. I think if he released an album that only had songs like this, Shouting Distance, Forming At The Mouth, Tack And Tower, and A Coin On The Tongue, you'd start hearing him in Starbucks. I'm really glad he recently released the lyrics for his albums; they're so strange and literate and beautiful. This is one of my favorite songs of all time, and I don't think I'll ever tire of hearing it.
+11. Mathhead | Dream Tigers
I first heard this track at the tail end of my obsession with Breakcore, and right when Dubstep was really starting to influence Electronic music in America. It straddles both genres fantastically, and is one of the most well-organized pieces I've heard in either genre. It's the musical equivalent of a gritty cyberpunk film set in New York City, imbued with the sounds of alleyway puddles, robots, shattered glass, and street warfare. Aggressive jungle snare assaults alternate with passages of heavy bass workouts and finally give way to a nice melodic synth theme that suggests the slick sophistication of life in a different part of the city.
+12. Scott Walker | The Big Hurt (Toni Fisher Cover)
Scott 2 and Scott 4 are my favorite Walker albums, but this track from Scott is excellent. It condenses all the orchestral, Baroque grandeur of his longer, more bizarre songs into less than two and a half minutes. It's actually a cover of a Toni Fisher track, which is also worth checking out.
+13. Jim O'Rourke | Untitled (Please Note Our Failure - A-side)
Of all the pieces Jim O'Rourke has composed, I'm not sure why I chose this one; I probably should have picked the labyrinthine riddle that is The Visitor. I guess I went with this because it's so drastically different from all his others. It's a jarring, eerie, beautiful piece of Musique Concrète, roughly the equivalent of watching a bunch of films from the 1940s while on acid. The B-side is also great. Oneohtrix Point Never's new track Sleep Dealer is a better reference point for this than Pierre Schaeffer.
+14. Andy Partridge & Harold Budd | Through The Hill
I first encountered this song last summer while watching Jerry Maguire with my girlfriend. Definitely an unexpected source for such a beautiful Ambient track, though I must say, I somehow always end up finding music I really enjoy in Tom Cruise movies (e.g. Tangerine Dream in Risky Business, Aimee Mann in Magnolia). I had already been a Harold Budd fan for several years, and the piano melodies certainly sounded familiar, so when I looked through the credits for the song, I was pleasantly surprised to find a track by him I didn't yet know. My favorite Budd piece is Agua (his live, expanded performance of The Kiss), but Through The Hill stands as an excellent, concise introduction to his gorgeous piano work.
+15. Tim Hecker | Ghost Writing, Part 1
I've listened to this more than any of his other tracks, so I'm embarrassed to say I must've heard it fifty times before realizing the sound samples in the background were from Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?... And even then it was only because I happened to read an interview with him where he talked about it. Somehow he was able to blend Regis Philbin's grating voice seamlessly into the ebb and flow of the synth tones. Surprisingly, knowing what the source material is doesn't lessen the sublime and haunting effect of a human voice shrouded in a patchwork of gentle digital clicks. This is the sound of lost transmissions from a distant time and place.