Sunday, August 31, 2008

Soul II Soul - Back to Life (Acappella)

or, Don't Look Back (in Anger)

Soul II Soul - Back to Life
Soul II Soul - Back to Life (Acappella)
Superpitcher - Disko (You Don't Care)

Every time I return home to Texas, there is accounting to be done. I have become accustomed enough to reckoning with the detritus of my past that there is little left to confront, few remaining hoary ghosts or embarrassing reminders. The room I occupied through high school is now stripped of character, a carpeted repository for some plastic computer desks and, inexplicably, numerous pairs of doggie-shaped bedroom slippers.

Two days ago I found a box of minidiscs, recorded in college. The recorder itself, and thus the only way to play them back, having been long since thieved by baggage handlers at the Prague airport. The discs are labeled things like "Improv Todd's House Incomplete." "Mud and Buckets Vol. 1" etc. And concluded that the sorrow from lost time doesn't come only from a present disappeared, but from a future that never found its way, the sting of 'it might have been.'

Kompakt just issued its 9th yearly 'Total' compilation, including a jam by Superpitcher, one of my favorite Kompakt artists because of his ability to inject melancholic emotion into minimal dancefloor techno. "Disko (You Don't Care)" has a pretty recognizable vocal sample from "Back to Life" by Soul II Soul. This is one way that art can assuage the sting of searching for lost time - sampling is a way of dealing with 'it might have been' by turning the past into something else.

My girlfriend at the time these minidiscs, now lost and found at the same time, were recorded, gave me this acappella version of "Back to Life", where you can hear Carolyn Wheeler's soaring, soulful vocals unadorned. These versions along with the original are here for your enjoyment. Really the acappella is the standout, especially how the drums kick in as the heavenbound singing descends back to earth. It's featured in the opening to Hype Williams' 'Belly', to intense effect. It's such a killer track that you could use it as the opening to anything - 'Lord of the Rings', 'The Exorcist' doesn't matter.

Here's the intro to Belly, which as any youtube comment poster will tell you, is da illest intro eva. You'll notice that the Soul II Soul song has almost nothing to do with telling you realistically how to feel. Over images of a robbery, it's not tense and dramatic, it's not gritty and aggressive. It's done only to heighten your pleasure of the image. It's like in "Mean Streets" when the soundtrack is "Please Mr. Postman" during the over the top fight scene in the pool hall.

Belly - Intro

Mean Streets - Pool Hall Fight

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Support the Obama Campaign: Official Black President T-Shirts

My friends and I are selling shirts. They say Black President

The drive behind these shirts was that we simply got excited about an idea: the idea that a black man can and may be elected president in this election. The BP crew is decidely, actively pro-Obama - we're donating a portion of the proceeds from every shirt to the Obama campaign. But, the shirt isn't just about getting one particular great candidate who happens to be part-African into office, and we don't subscribe to any kind of 90s affirmative action ethos that we should get the black guy in just because he's black.

Instead, we got psyched that such a thing as a black president is possible at all. That's what we're proud of, that's what we want to show the rest of the world is so damn great about the United States - in other words, it's making use of the "power of our example, not the example of our power" that Bill Clinton spoke of last night at the DNC.

The Black President shirt is just our way of helping to update the american promise for 2008, to acknowledge a possibility that civil rights leaders of the 20th century wouldn't have dreamt of. It's also our way of pointing out the unprecedented positive side effects to the radically open-source democracy that is the USA, where not only can barely-literate moron sons of former Presidents get elected, but so can blacks, women, anybody. Regardless of the November outcome, Obama's campaign has started to remind the world that we're also still capable of greatness. It's our way of saying "America: Don't Call It A Comeback."

In addition we've got a blog going for commentary and criticism on campaign media - lots of snarky, razor-sharp analysis of campaign ads and any other form of mediatized political gestures we feel are relevant. We invite you to check it out, post your comments, and buy a shirt.

Black President: think about it.

Official Black President
The BP Media Blog

Monday, August 25, 2008


or, The Singular Pleasure of a Lost Diamond

Fox - The Juggler
Fox - Pisces' Babies

During a recent short-film jaunt to Finland, a friend turned up a copy of this 70s British rock LP in a used record store, the cover alone being reason for its purchase. After finding the album satisfying to listen to as well, she went to ebay for a second, so that when I surfaced in London after a woolly week of mountain glory, this find became mine, in a return gesture for some vinyl treats procured some time before. A surprise and thoughtful move: of the small but precious joys in this life, being given an old record about which I have no idea is one that will never wear thin on me.

The Fox sound is steeped in smooth, decadent dark echoey 70s rock vibes, like Fleetwood or "Brother Louie" by the Stories, aka shit I ride for, but with extra velvety synthesizers attached, plus singer "Noosha Fox" sounds a bit like Kate Bush. The two tracks here are my favorites. I have little clue as to what the buoyant, dreamy, slightly calypso "Pisces' Babies" is about, but the darker, driftier "The Juggler" is a beware-of-the-playa cautionary number that uses the slightly unintentionally goofy metaphor of juggling to depict the cavalier gentleman in question. Both are recommended.

Enjoy - download 'em, or pass them on to your girlfriend or boyfriend who likes Fleetwood Mac and pretend you discovered them. I won't let on.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Credit to the Edit

Bee Gees - Love You Inside Out (Cole Medina Edit)
Mark E - Rnb Drunkie
Adriano Celantano - Prisencolinensinainciusol (GW Ruff Edit)

"Credit to the Edit"is of course Greg Wilson's phrase, the title of the UK disco DJ's influential compilation of disco re-edits. Why credit? Because without the edit, you'd have to listen to the whole damn song. In life, pleasure is fleeting, accompanied by all manner of interventions from the reality principle, from the demands of others. In art, thanks to things like edits, you can just go ahead, cut to the good stuff and mainline beauty directly. The moments when life achieves the beauty of art, in contrast, are exceptional, unpredictable, hard-won, sometimes hard to detect. But let's keep it that way. If life was as able to be sculpted into something beautiful as easily as art is, it would lose all its significance.

Thus for your pleasure, a copious bounty: three recent stone-cold stunning edits, the third by Wilson himself. In all truth I should sprinkle each of these delights out over time, so that the reader doesn't go into sonic diabetic shock, but I can't help myself. Hope you have your kit with you.

Cole Medina's re-edit of the intro to this Bee Gees song, as of late appearing in Mark E's podcast for Resident Advisor. Gorgeous, lavish, trippy, slow-burning, with all manner of dubbed-out trickery and delicious synths. First rate sonic erotic hypnosis. What if you listened to this song for an hour?

Mark E's recent release on NYC's golf channel recordings, a label loosely affiliated with Whatever We Want records and the No Ordinary Monkey parties, all participants in Gotham's wonky disco underground. This is an edit of Janet Jackson from her "Damita Jo" album. It's a 'dj tool' which means that nothing happens really except the infinite unspooling of one or two amazing, heartswelling loops. Put it on when you want to ride your bike or clean your room or something. It's like a springtime shower of fresh delights.

Wilson's edit of this 24-karat lost jewel, the Lewis Carrollian Italian nonsense-language proto-rap disco stomper. Absolute stonkers. I posted the video before but don't you want to see it again? I do.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Calypsoul '70

The Revolution of Saint Vincent - The Little You Say

Reissue kingpins Strut cover the Caribbean on this new comp: Calypsoul 70: Caribbean Soul & Calypso Crossover. A very diverse collection of forays into island-rich funk, disco, reggae, etc. The cover explains it all: whoever these lost groups are, all you need to know is that they wear amazing uniforms and play in a sunny field. what do you do all day?

This would be the perfect summer BBQ album to casually throw on like you haven't spent all day thinking about what to play when your friends show up. Except that, I hate to tell you this, summer is kind of over. I know the weather persists, I know sunny doldrums carry on, but the icey truth is there before you, even though announcing it to you only gives me the same kind of joy as it would to whisper Nietzsche quotes to an old lady in church.

Now there are those that welcome summer like moviegoers tittering at the parting of a curtain, and those that acknowledge the onset of the sweetest season as a time for reverence and joyful ritual. Listen to this great dusty beach funk jam, "The Little You Say," and tell me which camp feels like home to you. And don't think about that it's almost September and you have to go buy a new Trapper Keeper.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Don Gardner / Betty Harris

Don Gardner - My Baby Likes to Boogaloo

Betty Harris - There's a Break in the Road

There are moments when it would not be difficult to convince me that one of man's greatest achievements has been the invention of soul music. I mean, good lord, it's called 'soul' music, that should tell you something.

These two tracks here are both, to once again use Howie B's indispensible phraseology, absolute stonkers. Don Gardner sings like he's about to bust out of his own skin. It's that kind of irrepressible, ecstatic, barely-contain-yourself soul singing that the body just needs to be filled with sometimes. And the Betty Harris track, produced by Alain Toussaint, has the Meters as the backup band, and is just such a sweaty, messy syncopated monster, I recommend taking a step back from the stereo after you press play.

I should tell you that there's a reason I don't ordinarily search out or DJ rare soul, why I prefer to look for wonky weirdo disco instead: it's exactly because soul is just so goddamned good. Poking through old disco is more of a challenge, it excites the critical faculties because one really has to weed through it all and evaluate it, and be more prepared for weird surprises, moments of "wait, do I like this? is this super-corny, but good? or what?"

this is not at all to disparage those who labor to dig up soul or to DJ it, anymore than I would mock someone for enjoying an unobstructed view of the sunset over the ocean on a small Italian island, or taking time to breathe in the dizzying grandeur of a mountain range, all three are purifications that the soul and body need, only that soul/r&b music can help one to endure and stand freshly on the ground when the pleasures of a grand voyage are for practical reasons out of reach.


Sunday, August 17, 2008

Black Devil Disco Club: Music of the Eternal Night

Please enjoy my interview with Bernard Fevre, the secretive Frenchman recently revealed to be the agent behind the shadowy Black Devil Disco Club, who ends the conversation by saying of his own music, " I hope that it is music that will endure for many years. It is not disposable. I seek to make the music of the eternal night."

African Suite

African Suite
A1 - Grass
A2 - Pygmy
B1- African Suite

(320 kbps, ripped from the vinyl. Needle drops included because it's fun that way, it's like we're hanging out and I'm playing you records.)

Hello please. This post is for you, and only for you. I am speaking to you alone, and directly. The way that the door before the law, in Kafka's parable, exists solely for the man from the countryside who now stands before it - "nur fuer dich bestimmt." Others will read this post, but they will miss the encoded message that exists only for you to interpret, you who by such good fortune have come now to read this message, now at this occulted turning point in your own life, beholden as it is to the vissicitudes of history, but never without its moments of ecstatic insight, like when the internet addresses you personally, changing you irrevocably.

African Suite is a 1980 release on MCA records, helmed by Ritchie Rome, a member of the highly cheesy disco outfit the Ritchie Family. It should be said here that there is little ground for ever justifying string sections in disco. Despite a widespread cultural propensity for such a style, adding an orchestra to a churning disco beat is like inserting an ice cream sandwich into a cheeseburger.

In contrast, African Suite is a studio one-off that sounds like ESG minus the South Bronx plus studio overdubs: stripped-down heavy afro-disco but instead of street black jump-rope rhymes there's white-girl cooing and weird effects. It's really good. The entire second half of the record is an epic percussive workout, "Vibes" being the highlight. If you enjoy such things as ESG and Liquid Liquid, there is a strong indication that this record, presented here as three separate files, will be highly pleasing to you.

The faithful reader will be rewarded this week, as a rather life-changing interlude in the mountains has caused enough interruptions in blog service to warrant a comparative deluge in ill shit that needs to be posted hard. Vinyl-only or sort of vinyl-only rarities abound, as does awesome new shit you don't know about yet.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Taking Transylvania (by Strategy)


From John Cale & Terry Riley's collab LP, The Church of Anthrax. A monster storm of two pianos and two drums, a testament to free rock improv, a track I hold dear and which, as you'll see, has everything to do with hiking in Romania.

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I am down from the mountain. Much could be said about this. I know that I was there, I can prove it, I have images in digital. I and my colleague Alex spent a week in the Fagaras mountains in Romania. This is how these mountains appear through the eye of Google Maps.

View Larger Map

A trip initiated by a 3am drunken handshake over pierogis in the East Village, and borne to success by two friends who are both essentially adventurous, dumb and lucky. I have no urge to recall the details of the mountain mission here, for rather obvious reasons. In the absence of the sort of insightful, witty account the reader might expect from these pages, let me instead recommend perusing an online photo album. The further curious are encouraged to buy me and/or my travel partner beers in order to hear all the tales.

Taking Transylvania (by Strategy)

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I thought a great deal about what track to post that would link up with the mountains in the most satisfying way. I thought about Popol Vuh and Sunno))) and these things. Then I realized that the best way to mirror this mountain mission would not be to soundtrack it. Instead:

"The Ides of March" is a really fantastic example of improvisation, and reminds us how group music improv becomes a sort of utopian model for social relationships. Because it's all about negotiating and exercising your own freedom in relation to those around you. This is the politics of the thing, that you are free to do whatever you want, play however you want, but you're constantly affecting and affected by the decisions of others, there's a constant dialectic of freedom and limitation. Successful improv in music is a beautiful example of people getting along together, and it's not unlike the kind of exchange that can be practiced between two friends, especially two friends on a slightly bold, quixotic excursion, who are able to trust one another in their own freedom, and who by virtue of their respective decisions grant the other the chance to first become free. I've played improv-based music with Alex for several years now, and I can't help but think that seven days in the mountains was somehow..playing music by other means.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Lee 'Scratch' Perry - Pum Pum

Andrew W.K. has produced an album for Lee Perry called Repentence.