Off World [mixtape]

This is the biggest mixtape I’ve ever made. I’ve pieced it together with every bit of leftover energy and stolen time as my life has been radically changing during these inescapably hot and humid Michigan summer days. I’ve been in transit, in transition, floating in zero gravity between two planets, my comfortable old past and my hard-won future. I’d been building this sound mood for weeks and I had to call it Off World.

This strange time has me thinking about my fondest fictional memories of adolescence, hours at home and across the galaxy spent wandering through virtual lands, riding the long arc of a grand narrative while taking plenty of time to slow down and soak in the uncanny beauty of it all. So I started making a mixtape that would reflect both the epic nature of my changing circumstances  and the liminal experience of waiting while a major life process plays out.  Most of all, I wanted it to remind me of that specifically youthful feeling of spending days at a time lost in the beguiling worlds of my favorite RPGs, no responsibilities to tether me to the real world. Yep. Here we go.

Track list appears as the songs play, and at the bottom of this post.

Download mp3 version here.

Liminality can be defined as the quality of ambiguity or disorientation that occurs in the middle stage of rites, when participants no longer hold their pre-ritual status but have not yet transitioned to the status they will hold when the ritual is complete. During this liminal stage, they’re said to be “standing at the threshold” between their previous way of structuring their identity, time, or community, and a new way – which the rite establishes.

The word began with a specific meaning but, as with all language, evolved into something far more ambiguous itself.  For me, liminality perfectly describes the summer of 2018, a time I’ve spent suspended between homes, between cities, between my old life and the future I’m jumping into with my new family. It also describes the music collected in this mixtape better than any genre tag could ever do.

We were lucky enough to have family nearby and willing to host us while we sold our house and made the arduous search for a new one in a new city. My in-laws are fantastic with our son and their house is large enough to accommodate us all; most of all, they’ve made us feel welcome. So while we played the long game of selling and buying houses in America in 2018 – and it is an absurd enough venture that I actually fucking said “Kafkaesque” out loud at one point – I spent any quiet hours I could find tucked into the corners of this home, itself tucked into the woods near Lake Michigan. Holed up with headphones on a basement sofa or at the kitchen counter in the dark, I went through hundreds of tracks seeking the perfect realization of the mood I found myself in.

After a lot of editing and indecision, I’ve whittled it down to two hours and ten minutes. It’s a feature-length mixtape for getting hopelessly lost. In feelings, in daydreams, in  time and space and all that. The artists here bleed into one another, songs melting together as the big-picture experience shifts like a storm passing over a lake.  The length here is crucial to the experience, so when you hit play, just go on with your day and let it wash over. Or sit in total darkness and fall deep into your weirdest thoughts. Both work.

I keep wanting to simply say, “Odd World is these genres…” and I keep failing to find a way to put it. I chose much of the music here for its very ability to straddle genres and dissolve boundaries. I might come back here and change this, but for now I’ll just say this: you’ll probably like it if you enjoy any of the following things:

  • ambient music
  • tropical places
  • Miyazaki films
  • reading
  • RPGs and late 90s video games in general
  • getting high
  • techno
  • psychedelic music of any sort
  • mysterious walks through jungles and caves and maybe overcoming some great struggle like fighting an ancient god
  • Final Fantasy games
  • rainstorms
  • space

Maybe I should have just said that from the start. This is a whole lot of ambient, synthy, atmospheric, tropical, dreamy, drifty, bouncy, stealthy, startling music. It touches on fourth world jazz and experimental techno, early synth pop and modern classical, and a ton of indefinable stuff in between. It’s the best mix of music I’ve ever put together, begging for repeat listen and exploration of every artist on it.

Two of the tracks here were featured on the 2016 PAN compilation Mono No Aware. I chose them separately because I loved their respective sounds and thought they fit perfectly on the mix. But once I realized they were both on the same set, I did some research. “Mono No Aware” is a Japanese phrase meaning “the pathos of things,” but can also translate as “an empathy toward things” or “a sensitivity to ephemera.” It describes the awareness of impermanence and transient nature of things. This awareness by necessity heightens our appreciation of the awe-inducing beauty of life in all its blurred, fleeting time. Through this sensation, the boundaries between memory and hallucination, fiction and reality become blurred.

I couldn’t think of a better way to describe this listening experience.

One last thing I wanted to add, courtesy of the wikipedia page for liminality: More recently, usage of the term has broadened to describe political and cultural change as well as rites. During liminal periods of all kinds, social hierarchies may be reversed or temporarily dissolved, continuity of tradition may become uncertain, and future outcomes once taken for granted may be thrown into doubt. The dissolution of order during liminality creates a fluid, malleable situation that enables new institutions and customs to become established

A fluid, malleable situation that enables new institutions and customs to become established. Maybe it’s just me, but that gives me great hope when I think, we really live in a liminal time. Great risk and great hope. So yeah. I really hope you enjoy this music.

• • •

A final, important piece of this mixtape must be mentioned: the cover art. To me, it perfectly captures a snapshot from my imagined idealized world this mixtape descends into. the cover art is based on artwork by Josan Gonzalez. He has a new art book called The Future is Now that everyone should own. Gonzalez’ work is stuffed with astonishing sci-fi visuals, packed with detail, passion, and energy. Fans of this music just might find a lot to love in his visual style.

Think of a piece you lost.
Look for it in your closet.

Put one memory into one half of your head.
Shut it off and forget it.
Let the other half of the brain long for it.

Kill all the men you have slept with.
Put the bones in a box and send it out into
the sea with flowers.

– Yoko Ono

I believe jumping in blind is best, but if you prefer to know what’s coming, that’s cool.  Each artist name and song is a link to the album where the song was sourced, to make it easier to explore. Here’s the full track list:

  1. Konami jingle // Darling – Estimu
  2. Arp – Nzuku
  3. Kara-Lis Coverdale – Touch Me & Die
  4. Anenon – Two For C
  5. Khoten – Water Soaked In Forever
  6. Kuniyuki Takahashi – Asia
  7. Jefre Cantu-Ledesma & Felicia Atkinson – ME
  8. Susumu Yokota – Azukiiro no Kaori
  9. E Ruscha V – Lights Passing By
  10. Yves Tumor – Limerance
  11. Night Gestalt (with C. Diab) – After All Our Elements Are Gone
  12. Satoshi & Makoto – AR
  13. Steve Hauschildt – Alienself
  14. Laraaji – Ocean Flow (Seahawks Deep Drift Mix)
  15. Terekke – Tack
  16. The Detroit Escalator Co – Force
  17. Sky H1 – Huit
  18. Gonno – Obscurant (Inna Loft Mix by Call Super)
  19. Varg – Love Economy / Anti-Police Music
  20. Susso Seki Singh – Levitation
  21. Orquestra de las Nubes – Tiempo De Espera
  22. Kaoru Inoue – A Day of Radiance
  23. Sign Libra – Mantodea vs Furcifer Pardalis
  24. Pariah – Linnaea

Thank you so much for listening.

11 thoughts on “Off World [mixtape]

    • It should be, such a great tune!

      Haha seriously though, that does not surprise me – but I haven’t personally heard it another mixtape yet. I’m not sure if anyone else has done it, but I went through and muted the samples just a little bit so that they didn’t disrupt the overall sound so much. I love the vocals, but they sound a little harsh on headphones.


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