Vertigo of Time is a free fall through the last four decades of deep dreaming psychedelia, evoking the spiritual high of meditation, the twinkling of the stars at night, and a deep communion with nature itself. This is a drumless mix of weirdo new age, German kosmische synth exploration, Japanese environmental music, and ambient jazz. It is an attempt to connect the most visionary pieces of early electronic music with its genealogical descendants through the unreliable persistence of memory. All feeling and mood, drifting from concrete thought and action, moving toward that unattainable ideal of pure being.
To put it simplest: this mixtape is made for floating inside your mind or a sensory deprivation chamber or just relaxing by yourself in the dark, reading on the train, or whenever time gets soft enough to push outside and stay a little while.
Track list appears as the songs play, and at the bottom of this post.
After I completed the Cosmogony mix earlier this year, I was left with a question of what to do next. I’d put together some of the most special, least-known music of my life, the stuff that sits on the periphery of culture but near the center of my heart, and made it click together in a way that felt magical upon each listen. After all, I make these mixtapes as much for myself as for spreading great tunes around the world. I love being able to craft an experience outside the albums and eras these songs come from, to bend a little narrative into shape and hear the music with totally new context. It fills me with such joy that I need to share the results with everyone, to help the seekers and dreamers out there in the listening world to hear what I hear. Maybe it’s partly to stave off the notion of loneliness, but I can’t help trying to connect in this way.
So with that satisfying mix out in the wild, I set off on vacation and wandered through the jungles of the Yucatan peninsula outside the hotel I was staying at with my family. I listened on repeat and finished a couple books and felt a warm bond with the nature, the trees and all the amazing animals I came upon in my walks. I realized, smiling at the coatimundis and iguanas darting before me, that I just wanted to go even further out next time. This was where my mind was at and where my musical journey was going. So I slowly pieced together a new mixtape to reflect that.
I dove deep into the mystical Japanese music of the 1980s, where modern classical met new age, synths met traditional eastern instrumentation, and all sense of time disappeared into the fabric of deep space arpeggios. I continued into the outer reaches of the ECM catalogue, finding ambient jazz and oceanic organ rumbles ringing in kinship with the music being made worlds away. I pocketed several new and nearly-new pieces that burst with the same colors these older eras painted in, the stuff I’ve always got running in the back of my mind when I dip into the past. I did my thing and started putting it all together.
And then I realized that I needed a little something more to complete the picture. The Japanese music that initially inspired me was called “environmental music” for a reason, beyond merely its ambient aesthetics. Much of this music was made for visual installations, for filling physical spaces, for simply being in. I wanted the entire mix to feel like an aural space for existing within, and I realized that field samples were a great way to get there. So this is my first mixtape with significant field recordings sunk deep into the mix, occasionally making themselves known but mostly being subsumed by the music itself. They help conjure the environment that exists in my head when I hear this kind of music; at least my hope is that the effect is the same for anyone out there listening. I’m aware of the corniness factor of nature sounds in music, but I’m also aware that anyone interested in stuff like this likely has a taste for the same kind of sounds as I do.
So here it is. Vertigo of Time. I named it after a concept coined by avant filmmaker and sound artist Chris Marker, one of my biggest inspirations in life and in art. His visual travelogue Sans Soleil, a dreamlike documentary about life, culture, history, film, and time itself, is a film closer to my heart than almost any other, and embedded in its center is an analysis of the film Vertigo by Alfred Hitchcock. Marker describes the spiraling journey, doubling back on itself and turning ever inward in a search to reproduce something haunted and haunting, as not the literal vertigo of the title, but the vertigo of time, an existential dizziness felt as one peers down through the chasm of memory. The notion appeared to me as I looped my nearly completed mix in the dark, half asleep and delirious, and it stuck.
The cover art is based on a drawing by Ernst Haeckel, a 19th century biologist and artist who spent his life torn between science and art, materialism and religion, inner and outer worlds. Haeckel reconciled these seeming dualities through his discoveries beneath the sea in an almost mystical vision. At the time, the oceanic depths were as mysterious and unknowable as outer space, a playground for the imagination as much as the coldly scientific. Haeckel discovered an organism called the radiolarian, painting over four thousand species of these microscopic creatures, bringing them into human knowledge in astonishing artful clarity. His work was a perfect mixture of real life discovery and inner mind flight, a sort of platonic ideal between hard science and soft art, breaking down divisions of perception and time. His work continues to astound in its clarity and sense of wonder; I only wish it were more widely known and appreciated. Do yourself a favor and google his name, radiolarians, all you can about his work. You’ll be thankful you did.
I believe jumping in blind is best, but if you prefer to know what’s coming, that’s cool. Each track is listed with the year it was made, excepting a couple unknowns that are found only on compilations, where I marked the compilation release date instead. Here’s the full track list:
01. Yasuaki Shimizu – Seiko 3 
02. Deuter – Spirales 
03. Ray Lynch – Falling in the Garden 
04. Joseph Shabason – 1517 
05. Peter Michael Hamel – Einklang 
06. Shiho Yabuki – Energy Flow 
07. Roedelius – Wenn der Südwind Weht 
08. Ariel Kalma – PlanetAir 
09. Takashi Toyoda – Snow 
10. Hybrid Palms – Spa Haze 
11. Michel Banabila – The Mandolin Tape 
12. Nmesh – 着物 
13. Yoshio Ojima – Glass Chattering 
14. Jonny Nash – Flower 
15. John Surman – Piperspool 
16. Gigi Masin – City Lights 
Thank you so much for listening.
4 thoughts on “Vertigo of Time [mixtape]”
another banger! we just listened to it three times at the office.
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Wow, thank you! So glad to know you’re digging it :) And hey, nice charts for the office!! My old office, everyone knew me as the “weird music” guy.
I don’t know if I’ve ever actually left a comment on your site before. I have, however, drafted a number of comments in the past that I tend to delete after reviewing—usually because I never feel that I can adequately express my gratitude in a way that compares to how eloquent you can be, so I’m just going to power through and not overthink this too much, because your writing, recommendations, and mixes have seriously impacted my life in the best way.
I need music playing nearly 100% of the time, so I’m always hunting for more to listen to. This mix, which I’m in the middle of as I write this, is a great example of what you do best—not only sharing wonderful, interesting new sounds, but also doing so in a way that is deeply personal to you. I’m a filmmaker and film-lover, and I too adore that strange and profound Chris Marker masterpiece.
All I can say is please continue doing what you’re doing. It seems like you enjoy it, and that makes me very happy. And you should know that there are probably many others who, like I was, are eager listeners but don’t necessarily express their gratitude as much as they should.
OK, I’m going to go with this one. If I keep tweaking it I know I’ll never hit send. Thanks, man.
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Thank you so, so very much for taking the time to say this. It really is amazing to hear that my effort is appreciated, I can’t say how much that means to me. I just love being able to connect with other like minded souls, and connect them with the great art that’s influenced me and enriched my life. I will definitely be continuing to do what I do as long as I can – I know I’ve slowed my pace a bit since becoming a father, but it feels even more meaningful now to make mixes like these and share my story & the things that helped me along. I think you’ve inspired me to revisit Sans Soleil, by the way! I’m also slowly putting together a new mix, and I hope to have it up this month.
Thank you, again, for writing this. I am so grateful to be able to do this and to connect with good people like you.