Progress [mixtape]

PROGRESS

I made this in springtime, as I was coming out of an anxious, fearful period of my life. It’s the sound of an airlock opening, of stepping outside for the first time in years. It’s my fucked up, weird nostalgia for the future, and it works. This is the sound of me beginning to feel OK again. The future’s going to be alright.

Things have changed. This is Progress.

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Kenji Kawai – Ghost In The Shell

I was aimlessly browsing and came upon the Ghost In The Shell original score on CD. Loving the film, though having not seen it in years, I knew it would at least conjure some nostalgia for a time long gone. Nostalgia is achieved within 5 seconds of the opening track. Beyond that, it gets very interesting.

About that opener: anyone who’s seen the film will be instantly transported to the iconic fembot creation opening credits sequence. To a teenage boy in 1996 this was both erotic and confusing, setting up my expectations for something which never appears. Instead what unfolds is an enigmatic film sprouting questions about consciousness, mortality, empathy, identity and where we’re headed as a culture. The film’s outlook is as dystopian as its ending is optimistic. The cinematography and art direction sit at the zenith of hand drawn animation (and yes I know primitive CGI was employed as well). The music sits at a crossroads between traditional Japanese, Hollywood classical, and minimalist synth pads echoing classics like Blade Runner and anything Tangerine Dream in the 80’s.

With my tastes light years removed from whatever I was into at age 14 (remember, this was before the internet made jaded cynics out of preteens bored with Boris and Nico) I find myself slipping into boldly embracing waters with the score by Kenji Kawai (川井憲次). I love the abstract synth sculptures of Oneohtrix Point Never, the warm tones of Brian Eno, the quickening thunder of Taiko and choral flights into pure ambient bliss. I love when an epic orchestral swell dissolves into liquid neon pools, spiking the hair on my neck. I love when an alien sound cloud whisks my conscious mind away, toward nothingness and enlightenment, and peace.

This is one of my favorite scenes of the film. There is no dialogue. Almost nothing happens, but it’s the moment when the initial rush of plot subsides and the viewer truly slips beneath the surface. It is pure hypnosis.

[You can attempt buying this at amazon for an exorbitant price.  Or find it on the internet.]

Koyaanisqatsi

So I discovered that the entire groundbreaking, timeless, brilliant film is free on youtube.

Koyaanisqatsi

Instructions for those who have not seen Koyaanisqatsi:

1. Stop what you are doing immediately.

2. Turn volume up high.

3. Watch Koyaanisqatsi.

4. Bask in silent astonishment.

5. Thank me.

Honestly, this is one of those life-changing works of art which you will simply and honestly never forget.  I fondly recall my first viewing, laying prone in front of a laptop in a cabin on a mountain at night and feeling my astonishment overtaking all physical sensation.  This truly begs for the big screen, or at least a reasonably large one, with a reasonable sound system accompanying the visuals.  Yet its artistry thrives in any time, place, or size.  Which is exactly why I am sharing the profound discovery that it is free to anyone willing to pay only time and curiosity.  Hell, if you have firefox with adblock plus, you won’t even see the ads (and honestly, get it – I couldn’t imagine this seamless dream interrupted by commercials) and the only thing you’re missing is the absolute clarity of the original high fidelity print.  You’ll undoubtedly recognize certain elements within this time travelling all-encompassing slice of Life Itself, both stylistically and culturally.  From the frenzied time-lapse shots of nature and city life contrasting with assembly lines and traffic patterns to the impossibly slow motion glimpses of astonishment and banality, the style and content of this film has influenced more than a generation of visual art and storytelling.

The best part is that I haven’t even gotten to the music; the reason this stands 30 years on as the timeless accomplishment it is:  Philip Glass‘ score is the 10 ton monolith blocking out the sun, the elephant in the room, the absolute gravitational pull of this work.  If you are at all familiar with 20th century minimalism via Charlemagne Palestine, Steve Reich, Terry Riley or their contemporaries, or especially Glass’ emotive, often romantic take on the sound, you are likely already familiar with some or all of these sounds; if not you are in for a warm embrace of what will likely become a hermetic world you’ll find easily inhabited and unequivocally addicting.  Call it lazy, but having the film here and ready to watch makes me reluctant to begin ascribing descriptors to the music.  It must be experienced to be grasped.  The marriage of sound and picture is essential for direct, uninhibited understanding, for knowing the intrinsic appeal of minimalism itself, for laying bare the nature of conceptual ourboros, the cyclical existence we’re evolved to respond to.  This score is meant to evoke the cosmic design of life itself from violent beginning to violent end and all of the impossibly close and personal yet gigantic moments in between.

Note: Do not listen before viewing.  Although entirely gorgeous, worthy, and entrancing on its own…  divorced from the imagery at birth, Glass’ score will never reach the same affection and thus should be saved for after-film experience.

Found A Job

First: sorry I’ve been sort of quiet for a few weeks.

Second:  this.

It’s true.  This one pays far more than my prior occupation so it’s worth the being-busy-all-the-time aspect.  However I have not – cannot – neglect music and thus always have something worth sharing with the world.  Every commute, every bicycle ride, every nighttime book devouring session is accompanied by something new, expansive, exciting…  punctuated by old favorites I find myself doubled over with joy upon re-hearing.  So I’ve got something to say.

Unfortunately I worked my brains out today and must save the in-depth breathless praise and wild exhortations to purchase vinyl for the remainder of the weekend.  I will simply state that there are a few albums I’m quite taken with, continually listen to, and wish that more people would get familiar with.  These are a few of them:

United WatersYour First Ever River

Sensations’ FixFragments of Light

Robert FrippLet The Power Fall

Fleetwood MacTusk

Drive (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)

ThundercatGolden Age of the Apocalypse

and finally, with apologies to the artist herself:

Matana RobertsCoin Coin Chapter One: Gens De Colour Libres

Because this is, by some distance, one of the most powerful and heartfelt albums of 2011 and I really should have shared all about it when I got it months ago.  I promise – I swear – I will soon.  Keep an eye on this page, and stay ready for the deluge.

Heaven and Earth Magic – Flying Lotus + Dr. Strangeloop

In my prior post sharing about Flying Lotus‘ recent appearance in Ann Arbor I mentioned the film Heaven and Earth Magic and shared a single image.  Now I’ve come to find, there are not only two video segments from the event shared online, but a good portion of the insightful and honestly funny interview with the guys afterward.  Basically the film is impossible to fully describe to the uninitiated.  So just catch a bit yourself.  This doesn’t convey the complete impact of the hourlong film and black-hole score in a dark theater, but it at least gives a glimpse to those who couldn’t make the show.  Here’s hoping, as Flylo himself hinted at, they release this piece in some form, so everyone can share in the magic.

Watching this now, I’m brought instantly back to the warm realization that Mr. Ellison is as personable, endearing and humble as imaginable in person.  That he has not only the chops but the charisma to be a star.  It’s exciting to witness this artist’s skyward trajectory.

Not only that, but Dr. Strangeloop proved a worthy foil and equally appealing force.  The man is quickly scaling my to-watch-for list.  The best part is that the show aftwards blew everything about this event to dust.  At least for a while.  It was a unique experience to take in two entirely different sides of an artist in one day.

Jay Electronica’s Eternal Sunshine

I took Eternal Sunshine and I looped it.
No drums no hook just new shit.

Jay Electronica is, in my humble view, the most promising MC out there today. Although having no official albums under his belt, the bootleg collection What the Fuck is a Jay Electronica?! has been making the rounds for a year now and waking heads up across the land. Today I realized that I’d been keeping this hot treasure to myself and needed to share the love.

This song is what grabbed my attention first, being a fan of the titular film (and its dreamlike score, courtesy of Jon Brion) and always keeping my ears open for exciting new talent; suffice to say I was hooked. There’s nothing I can say that would persuade a listener more than the music itself, so have a listen.

With beats driven by the likes of Madlib and J Dilla, the songs released so far are not only deeply satisfying rhyme and rhythm excursions, but point the way to an incredibly successful career. I can’t wait for the day this man is known more for his incisive talent than simply as the husband of Erykah Badu – and that spot on the calendar is quickly approaching.

Give his What the Fuck collection a try.

[and keep your eyes and ears out for anything this guy drops, official or not. check his twitter for info.]

Neil Young – Dead Man Soundtrack

Dead Man (14)

Do you know how to use this weapon?” – Nobody

Neil Young’s score for the 1995 Jim Jarmusch film Dead Man is hauntingly evocative, an improvised set made with electric and acoustic guitar, organ, and piano, recorded as Young watched rough cuts of the film over just three days.

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