This is my last mixtape for 2020, and that’s young me on the cover. I named it Love Will See Us Through after the ghostly refrain in the very first track you’ll hear. I think I need it to be true as much as the singer does, echoing beyond the rhythm and ambient waves. This one’s a little bit wistful house, a little bit ambient jazz, and a little bit new age dream. It’s sort of my sad dad mixtape, composed solely of music that’s helped my darker thought trains turn cathartic over the course of this year.
Track list appears as the songs play, and at the bottom of this post.
It’s been a hard year. We’ve had the pandemic, continued police violence, protests across the world, and a never-ending election. It’s made the tough things in life that much tougher: I lost my father and couldn’t visit him on his death bed, found out my son has an incurable disorder, and had to watch my wife, a nurse, suffer through the toughest workload anyone could handle. And, well, more that I don’t want to talk about. But along with my family, music has been one of the only things to reliably keep me centered. When I’ve found myself doomscrolling the news, realizing the amount of despair I was feeling, I’d close all screens and just listen to some of the beautiful new music that kept coming out, despite everything.
So I needed to make a more explicitly emotional mix this time. I wanted it to feel like a long slide from melancholy deep house through ambient jazz, minimal idm, new age, and into warm catharsis in the dark of night. This set ends in a place utterly different from where it starts, so there’s not really a single mood maintained – I just hope some of you enjoy the whole transformative ride.
I had been putting together one mix with no overriding idea other than “fall / decay,” full of stuff like David Sylvian and Masayoshi Fujita, but I couldn’t really get it all to gel. I had also been throwing together some of the my favorite deep house and techno tracks I’d heard lately, the stuff that really fit my downbeat mood, helped make me feel more open and contemplative, if not happier. Atmospheric, bouncy, but low key pensive stuff. It wasn’t really meant to be a mixtape, just a playlist I could go back to for comfort. But when I switched from the playlist to a Toshifumi Hinata (who also appeared on Dream Shelter) album I’d been looping heavily all year, a eureka moment struck. The contrast and combination of those two vibes became the goal for a new mix pulling from each of the working lists.
The music here starts off firmly in beat land and, through one long arc that bends through jazzy ambient and minimalist-inflected idm, ends up in weightless, open hearted oblivion by the end. At least, that’s the aim. I just hope it comes across that way to anyone listening.
Most of the music here was released in 2020, so it’s as good a portrait of this fucked up year as any mix I’ve made, but a few important pieces reach back to the mid 00s, the early 2010s, and just a couple years ago too. I just wanted to note some details:
- If you’re wondering who The Phantasy is, it’s yet another new project from Traumprinz, one of two names he released music under this year – the other being DJ Metatron with the massive Loops of Infinity (A Rave Loveletter).
- If you haven’t heard the music of Kenyan ambient wizard Joseph Kamaru, you’re seriously missing out. Start with his monumental album Peel then check out his other two 2020 full lengths. He also appeared on the Jungle Bump mixtape in September.
- Kuniyuki Takahashi appears here in both an ambient remix of his own track and remixing Marewrew, an all-female group who performs ceremonial Upopo music. Upopo songs are uniquely sung, built around rhythmic patterns called ukouk, made to induce a natural trance in the performers. It’s well worth exploring.
- Emily A. Sprague and Kelly Lee Owens made incredibly different albums this year, but they fit together so well right there. Sprague dropped an album heavily reminding me of melancholic video game scores like Fez, while the latter made something of a bright and optimistic cyberpunk record. Right up my alley.
- Can’t give enough praise to the Shabason, Krgovich & Harris album, Philadelphia. Aside the fact that Joseph Shabason’s signature sax & synth music has been a favorite for a few years now, this new trio demonstrates the most perfect emotional response to the sort of vast, culture-wide despondency happening so much this year. It’s an invitation to awe and wonder in the everyday, boring elements of life, absorbing the supposedly mundane and vibing in frequency with the world. It’s also a delightful ambient-jazz-dadrock hybrid that sounds like nothing else out there.
I may return to add more notes later. I love all of these artists and their discographies are all very much worth exploring.
So, that picture of me on the mixtape cover. The photo was taken by my father. I must’ve been about five or six years old, clutching my Alf puppet. I’ve got no idea how my face ended up looking so rough, but the look is kind of priceless. This was one of thousands of photos my sister and I found, sorting through our dad’s things after he died in May. He had many shortcomings, but one thing he did unequivocally right was that he documented everything. My entire life growing up, he was always taking pictures and shooting video on a parade of different cameras and camcorders. So many moments of early life were recorded. I’m more thankful for this now than ever before, with no parents to fill in the gaps in memory anymore.
It’s a weird thing to feel, how some of your own history is essentially gone once your parents die. It might not be something you’d think about much, but after having a child, I’m constantly wondering what I did at this age, how my parents responded, all those kind of things that most people get to talk about with their parents along the way. I don’t even need advice; I’d just love to hear some anecdotes at this point, some way to frame my own parenting adventure in the light of my mom and dad’s. So finding pictures like this now, with no helpful context, is kind of bittersweet. It’s fun to unearth these images from times before solid memory really kicks in, but the sense of loss is just right there. What was happening? How old was I? What happened to my face? I’ll never know. So looking at this picture of a kid who could be someone else, distorted from the film’s exposure to the sun, felt like gazing at an old Sonic Youth album cover, or something else I’d associated with great music before. I knew it had to be a mixtape cover at some point, and the music on this set told me it was the right time.
I like to jump in blind, but if you prefer to know what’s coming, that’s cool. Each track is shown with the original year of production, linked to the release where the song was sourced, to make it easier to explore. This time it’s almost all new releases, but there are a few out of time too. I fully recommend everything linked below. Here’s the full track list:
01. The Phantasy – Love Will See Us Through 
02. Auscultation – Flottant 
03. Kelly Lee Owens – Jeanette 
04. Emily A Sprague – Horizon 
05. Takayuki Shiraishi – Lapis Lazuli 
06. Shinichi Atobe – Lake 3 
07. K-Lone – Bluefin 
08. KMRU – Ulmma 
09. Kuniyuki Takahashi – The Guitar Song (ambient mix) 
10. Digitonal – Gold of the Azure 
11. Mary Lattimore – Sometimes He’s in my Dreams 
12. Shabason, Krgovich & Harris – Philadelphia 
13. Toshifumi Hinata – Broken Belief 
14. Marewrew – Rera Suy (Kuniyuki remix) 
15. Yamaneko – Flower Garden (night) 
Thank you so much for listening.