Thursday, September 23, 2010

Mix Tape Recollections

Recently I have been digging into my old crates of tapes looking for forgotten gems to play in the tape deck of my girlfriend's Saturn. Since she only has a tape deck in her car, and this is the only mode of transportation we have right now, I have been revisiting old favorites that I compiled many moons ago in a dusty basement with nothing but my record collection, a creative imagination and my trusty JVC dual cassette deck. Similar to the warm crackle of vinyl, the grainy hiss of a cassette tape gives it a more raw, analog sound that is largely missing on the highly digitized reproduction of a compact disc. Because of this, I am more drawn to compiling mix-tapes than mix CD's.

Lately, there have been numerous books released which discuss the merits of making mix-tapes and reflecting on mix tapes that remind us about the best and worst times of our lives. My favorite book on mix tapes is called Mix Tape: The Art of Cassette Culture which was curated by Thurston Moore. From the design of the shape of the book to resemble a cassette tape, to the fantastic mix tapes shared by a diverse assortment of musicians such as Mike Watt, Jim O'Rourke and Tony Conrad, this book pulls out all the stops. I am a sucker for any book that celebrates the mix tape as an art form because I honestly feel that there is something more intriguing about a carefully stitched together mix-tape than a digitally reproduced CD compiled on a computer.

In putting together a mix, there are many things that need to be taken into consideration. First, there is the time that is necessary to compile all of the songs, the incessant pressing of stop, pause and record to get the spacing between songs just right, and the ultimate hope that the person you are giving the tape to will realize how much time and effort you put into this process. Then, there is the decision of sequencing everything so it has a good flow, making sure that the first song is a perfect opening to the mix that gradually draws the listener into a new sound world. The key here is to make the song good enough to entice the listener, but not to make it so amazing that it overshadows the rest of the songs on the mix.

After this, it is important to make sure that you feature a wide variety of textures, moods and tempos to keep the listener on their toes. I try to never have too many slow jams in a row, unless of course the theme is "Mellow Music to Relax With Your Honey". Last, it is essecntial to have an absolute mind-blowing track to close the album, and it doesn't matter whether it's a sprawling guitar freakout, or a short but sweet ditty ala Guided By Voices. The main thing to remember is that the point of this song is to pull the listener back in to give the mix a second listen. The piece de resistance for most mix-tapes is the artwork or design of the tape. This is where you can show off that artistic talent by cutting and pasting pictures from magazines and books, as well as writing out the track list with specific fonts that suit the theme of your mix.

With this newfound love of mix-tapes, I bring you one of mine that was compiled back in the summer of '96. I didn't name this one, but it features a wide variety of moods and it covers every genre under the sun. It's really amazing what the mind can conjure up when under extreme conditions such as the sweltering summertime heat and the frigid winter temperatures that are commonplace in the midwest. There seemed to be an endless amount of time available to listen to music and record mix tapes such as this one with artists that resonated with me at the time. Aside from Versus' "Underground" and Concrete Blonde's "The Beast", I feel that this mix encapsulates a specific moment of time in my life. I have left these two tracks off of the mix as they are impossible to find on Soulseek, and I no longer own the CD's.

I hope that you enjoy this tape. If this one gets a lot of feedback, I may consider making this a series as well. Also, if any of you would care to share a mix-tape story of your own, I would love to hear it!

Mix Tape '96 Side 1

Mix Tape '96 Side 2

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Blasting Through the Sonic Furnace of the Sky

Today is probably one of the first times that I have featured a fairly new album in its entirety at a great bitrate. The reason that I have chosen to stray from the normal policy is that this fantastic Sublime Frequencies release from Omar Khorshid came out back in May and went out of print within 6 weeks of its actual release date. This is an astonishing feat to say the least, and I feel that it should not fall on deaf ears.

While I wasn't fortunate enough to snag a limited pressing of this record, I was lucky enough to download the complete album from a friend on Soulseek at an astonishingly rare 320k bitrate. For those of you who are familiar with the discography of Sublime Frequencies, you know that the quality of their albums is top-notch and that their releases typically go out-of-print at a rapid rate. Hisham Mayet, along with Alan and Richard Bishop (from the now defunct and legendary experimental band Sun City Girls) started Sublime Frequencies a few years ago to primarily showcase the untapped talents of lesser known musicians from the farthest corners of the globe. While artists such as Group Doueh, Group Bombino Mustapha Majoub and Troupe Majidi are major attractions within their provincial area, they had been unknown outside of these areas until these recordings were released to the masses.

I have been exposed to a few of Omar Khorshid's recordings prior to listening to this, but nothing could have prepared me for the spiritual celebration of enveloping sound that spilled into my ears. Many of these tracks contain Omar's reverb-saturated guitar lines with a more than satisfying backdrop of pounding tribal drums and basslines that resonate through your bones. There are plenty of psychedelic Arabic belly-dancing grooves to keep your body moving as well as some mellow tracks that are perfect for a lazy afternoon in the sun. Overall, this album is a sonic delight that deserves a 2nd pressing so more people can be exposed to it.

Click below for the download.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

One From the Vaults- Jean Cohen-Solal

It hasn't quite been a month since I've posted on here, but it's definitely not due to a lack of creative ideas. Lately, I have been listening to a wide variety of albums from 2010 as I gear up for the annual "Best Albums of the Year" list. Be on the lookout for this list when it officially drops in December. Until, then, I will whet your appetite with some of my favorite records from 2010 in an upcoming I Hear a New World podcast.

Also, for those of you who live in Portland, OR, get your ass to Dante's this Friday to check out Thee Oh Sees. What comes to my mind when listening to Thee Oh See's lates EP Warm Slime is an image of a speeding freight train as it violently careens off the tracks. This isnt too far from the feeling one gets when experiencing their live show. When they bring their catchy brand of psychedelic-garage rock to Dante's, you can bet that the whole place will be a sweaty mass of bodies frantically bobbing up and down to the sound of the tunes. Get there early to ensure that you get a good spot, and you can thank me later!

Now, on to this edition of One From the Vaults. I recently became exposed to Jean Cohen Solal's masterpiece of psychedelic jazz rock called Captain Tarthopom when trolling the endless archives of Rate Your Music. The reviews I read on this record were more than enticing enough to make me curious about it. I started out on my search for the record, and finally came across someone on Soulseek who seemed to have a diverse selection of rare music, and they just happened to have this record.

What I was about to hear was something that I don't think I've ever heard before. The flute was being used prominenently in every song, yet the sound of Jean's flute playing doesn't ever come across as a boring Jethro Tull knockoff. Instead he runs his flute through an array of echo effects and fuzz pedals evoking a sound that is reminiscent of the experimental side of Eddie Harris circa Silver Cycles. It also features some great organ, thumping basslines and an overall eclectic vibe that perfectly suits the sounds normally featured on Eclectic Grooves. Standouts include the darkly sinister sound that permeates throughout the groove of "Ludions", the playful self-titled track featuring a mystical flute circling around a repetitive trumpet line, sounding like a drunk marching band from New Orleans and the ten minute avant-garde epic "Memories D'un Ventricule" featuring an ambient intro that leads into a groove-heavy middle section that eventually ends with a marching band sound similar to the self-titled track. All in all, this album is a delectable delight for the ears.

Try it