I’ve been thinking lately about this hazy constellation of subgenres I listen to most and realized I’d love to be able to give it a name. Something simple to tag every post I make about this, to me, wholly definable little sound world that I return to always. It’s balearic, it’s techno and house, it’s jazz, it’s a descendant of both German kosmiche soundscapes and 4th world new age ambience. It’s a nebulous but powerful force roving between all of these sounds.
And although no music needs a label, it’d be really useful to name this sound. That way, I could say: Seahawks’ mini-album Starways exemplifies this genre better than anything I’ve heard in a long time.
“It’s so easy to be confused.”
DJ Sprinkles (Terre Thaemlitz) has made it a mission to reclaim house music from the blandly hedonistic masses. As we’re reminded on the opening to 2009’s insanely perfect Midtown 120 Blues, “the house nation likes to pretend clubs are an oasis from suffering; but suffering is in here, with us.” His (Terre is “she” and Sprinkles is “he”) dreamlike house undulations evoke a distinct melancholy while oozing comfort and acceptance.
This track is a beating heart at the center of what people mean when they say emotional dance music. It can destroy anyone who’s paying attention, but it’s also incredibly addictive, a spiked dopamine drip at the center of my nervous system for 12 consecutive minutes.
Releasing the closest moment he’s come to a conventional song as a first single, Oneohtrix Point Never (aka Daniel Lopatin) nevertheless takes the road less travelled with this offering. Pairing a piano+vocal recording with a radical reimagining and leaving the whole affair at that, the man turns over yet another stone on his search to define what, exactly, his music means.
“You’ve never left; you’ve been here the whole time.”
The above quote seems to sum up the artist’s entire raison d’être. In fact, the elucidated lyrics, as gorgeously sung by Antony Hegarty, directly put to words many of the feelings evoked by the man’s signature aural space. Accompanied by spare, treated piano and the faintest wisp of echo, the operatic vocalist takes direct aim and amplifies the gut-level impact of Lopatin’s composition while laying bare the melodic underpinning of his enigmatic recording.
As brilliant as it sounds standing alone, the track is swiftly one-upped by Fennesz on the second side. Alchemizing the original, Antony‘s version, and elemental touchstones from throughout the titular album itself, the Austrian glitch deity twists up an overwhelming cocktail distilling everything which makes Oneohtrix Point Never intriguing in under five minutes. Simultaneously near-infectious yet more esoteric than the original, the track casts the newly focused vocals into a realm somewhere between the original’s stellar echoes and Antony’s intimate transmission, while providing the synths with both a rhythmic backbone and an environment utterly devoid of gravity. As in, yes, this version soars more than the artist himself.
As in, I’m beyond elated merely considering the possibility of these two collaborating in the future. As in… just listen to the track and know, as I do, what it’s like to have one’s mind blown in this particular way. It’s a fun ride. Regardless of how you may feel about the changes, a new and wider and deeper understanding of Oneohtrix Point Never emerges.
A. Returnal [voice: Antony, piano: Daniel Lopatin]
B. Returnal [remixed by Fennesz]
[grab this 7″ from forced exposure because it’s worth it.]