This week in music features a big dip into the past, plus something super new. I also need to mention the movie I watched instead of the Oscars, because it’s the best I’ve seen in weeks. All I know about Sunday’s ceremony is that Ennio Morricone finally won and so did Leonardo DiCaprio. It’s a good thing; this music is more interesting and important.
I’ll start with the new music because it’s the most deserving of attention.
Suryummy – Genesis Clarity
When you buy music on Bandcamp, you’re buying into a community. It’s a place where, like Soundcloud and last.fm, you’ll be immersed in great, unknown music from the moment you step inside. You become familiar with labels, especially the ones with a great track record of similar minded artists, guaranteeing that, if you’ve got a taste for certain styles of sound, you’ll find a reliable source for more.
This is the case with Beer on the Rug, a label that’s becoming my go-to for adventurous, unabashedly out-there (yet super accessible) electronic music. The bands, like best of 2015 members Pulse Emitter and Seabat, explore radically spaced out sounds from brand new angles. So when I got an email about the newest label release, Suryummy’s Genesis Clarity, I had the trust to give it a listen.
Turns out, this album is one of my favorite label releases yet. It’s a bold mixture of easy grooves and exotic timbres, layer upon layer of transparent synth formations passing by in a far flung digital odyssey. It’s space music of the highest degree, folding early Warp records pathos – SETI broadcasts, video game fever, hippie optimism – in a boldly modern production envelope. Listening, I feel about ready to lift up through the rainy skies of some distant future metropolis, ready to swerve through asteroid belts on my way to the rings of Saturn.
Listen to the whole thing, seriously do it.
Update: the album is now available for preorder if you prefer buying a physical product (I do). It’s coming to CD on March 11.
Biosphere – Substrata
So, Biosphere is an old favorite. This album is practically a monument of ambient music. Released in 1997, Substrata became an instant lodestone for a genre that has outgrown its old bounds, showcasing both an incredible melodic restraint and surprising use of sampling. It manages to feel completely still at times, yet ever rushing onward, like a waterfall in the snow, looping infinitely. It’s an album that I often return to while writing, producing a gelid state of mild euphoria across its running time, with a consistent mixture of awe and gentle despair.
I was reminded of the album’s brilliance when a key track, Hyperborea, appeared in the latest Terrence Malick film, Knight of Cups. The song centers on a lengthy, iconic monologue by enigmatic Twin Peaks character Major Briggs, echoed into space. Beyond the shock of hearing modern music in a Malick film, I was reminded of how perfectly this album encapsulates an existential buffer zone, just outside of enlightenment. I had to listen again. And again.
Here’s that quote from Major Briggs, one of those speeches that’ll stick in your head for years to come. It’s sort of a perfect moment for David Lynch fans.
This was a vision, fresh and clear as a mountain stream, the mind revealing itself to itself. In my vision, I was on the veranda of a vast estate, a palazzo of some fantastic proportion. There seemed to emanate from it a light from within, this gleaming, radiant marble. I’d known this place. I had in fact been born and raised there. This was my first return. A reunion with the deepest well-springs of my being. Wandering about, I noticed happily that the house had been immaculately maintained. There’d been added a number of additional rooms, but in a way that blended so seamlessly with the original construction, one would never detect any difference. Returning to the house’s grand foyer, there came a knock at the door. My son was standing there. He was happy and carefree, clearly living a life of deep harmony and joy. We embraced, a warm and loving embrace, nothing withheld. We were, in this moment, one. My vision ended and I awoke with a tremendous feeling of optimism and confidence in you and your future. That was my vision of you. I’m so glad to have had this opportunity to share it with you. I wish you nothing but the very best in all things.
Knight of Cups
By the way, I really think Terrence Malick fans should make a point of seeing Knight of Cups. His last film, To The Wonder, felt like a vignette stretched like taffy into a feature film. The skeletal plot didn’t seem to fully support its dreamy atmosphere for that long, with a story that seemed destined to drift away at a moment’s notice. This new one feels more firm, tangible, despite somehow being even more dreamlike. The movie directly grapples with its memory-as-a-dream structure, managing to focus it into a hazy narrative that tugged me along emotionally, if never concretely, logically. Most of all, it makes Malick feel once again new and strange.
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