Fluorescent Heights – Tidal Moons 7.7

                Fluorescent Heights is pure psyched-out joy. The songs on here exist in the same universe as that of James Ferraro or similar hypnagogic artists. ‘Tidal Moons’ is a sublime experience. Repetition forms a large part of the work. With each new repetition the melody changes ever so slightly. Over the course of constant consistent looping there are gradual shifts, hazy, disoriented things. Most of the time the music sounds like it is evaporating away. Melodies appear to drift off into some other realm. Airy sounds are obvious. Anything vaguely approaching deeper frequencies (bass, percussion) has been completely edited out. Hence figuring out exactly where the music is going to go is impossible. 

                ‘Day’ is perhaps the most obvious cue to James Ferraro’s body of work. With slow builds in the periphery of the song it grows fuller and fuller until it completely blooms at the end. By the time it grows into a fully-formed song it disappears. ‘New Sun’ takes this level of airiness to the furthest extreme. A basic rhythm forms out of the persistent looping. Little details begin to crack out of the surface. Nearly religious in tone with an organ sound it is the calmest piece on the whole album. ‘Reaching the Open Ocean’ closes it with a rather lovely aquatic theme as the light sounds are gradually made heavier through constant distortion. 

                The melodies are always here. Fluorescent Heights, for all its interest in wanting to remain completely spacious, is more interested in emotional impact than abstraction for the sake of it. What results is a rather lovely album.

Maria Minerva – Tallinn at Dawn 8.4

       Maria Minerva’s sonic universe is a hard thing to describe. I might say she’s a more lo-fi Estonian version of Nite Jewel to give you some idea. That definition is somewhat limiting, as Maria has moved to London. Perhaps her work will herald in a re-evaluation of 80s/early 90s electronic music and its lovable cheesiness.  

                “Tallinn at Dawn” is a short and enjoyable album. Each song has its own personality while contributing to the general atmosphere of the album. A haze is spread thick over the tunes, as if the sound is coming from far away. Her voice has a sweet fragility which sounds sincere and half asleep.  Even the melodies get confused. 

                None of the songs outstay their welcome. Loops are distorted, lose their way, and don’t bother coming back. Sometimes the sounds flirt with the idea of stopping completely as it descends into audio muck. “10 Little Rock Chix Listening to Neu!” starts up and nearly loses its energy. Actually, this makes the song more enjoyable, as the unpredictability and general disarray of the song brings her close to hypnagogic pop’s ideal. 

                Songs become felt both on a hummable, traditional pop sense and a dreamier, more emotional sense.  They differ from the rather straightforward “Hop Hop Gone in Spring” to the sample-laden “Sad Serenade (Bedroom Rock N’ Roll)”. On the latter track, there’s a noticeable 90s influence two-thirds of the way into the song. It is a nice flair to an already solid enough song. 

                A blurring comes along in the other songs where it references multiple sounds at once. “Unchain my Heart” is probably the best example of this approach. Other songs constantly bleed in and out of the mix, like she recorded multiple songs onto the same tape. Then she proceeds to sing along with the other song as it shifts back to the original song. 

                Not Not Fun did a great job putting out this cassette. Give this album a few listens as its many charms require a few listens. It is well-done sonic oddity. She’s collaborating with another favorite of mine (LA Vampires) so thankfully we’ll have more by her this year.

Ducktails – Ducktails III:Arcade Dynamics 7.9

     Matthew Mondanile works many jobs: besides his better known gig in “Real Estate” he does these personal jams. Compared to his last album, this one feels a bit more organic, a bit less stuffed-sounding. Each song feels like it was exposed to excessive amounts of sunshine and joy. The carefree attitude doesn’t really leave at any point throughout the album. If you’re familiar with his previous stuff, this new material shouldn’t come as a major surprise.

                “In the Swing” sounds like a jaunt through a quaint seaside neighborhood. Most of the songs elicit similar reactions from me. Nostalgia is Matt’s main draw here, but I think his work is more interesting than a lot of his hypnagogic peers. For one, he infuses a great deal of soul. His recording process may be lo-fi, but it doesn’t sacrifice the quality of the song itself, like others enjoy doing.

                Songs like “Sprinter” (what I used to be in high school) and the fragile “Little Window” remind me that summer isn’t that far away with this stuff coming near. “Killing Vibe” is probably one of my favorites on here, besides the obvious EP songs from “Hamilton Road”. “Porch Projector” has the worst fidelity and the most otherworldly nature to it. At times it sounds like guitar strumming being summoned from an alternative universe, one where John Fahey was famous and Garth Brooks starved to death. It is a perfect closer.

                I’m glad this came out in the dead middle of winter. Ducktails will keep you warm until springtime.

Perverted Pop Playlist (The Triple P) (Part I)

Funny on so many levels Looking through my posts, I noticed a lack of playlists. This seems particularly egregious an error, since I have actually been listening to specific genres of music lately. Hording them for myself, I forgot to share them with everybody else.  I apologize.
What I have in store for you today is hopefully not the last of its kind. Over the past few weeks I’ve noticed myself going back to these songs again and again, seeking my nostalgia kick. Most of these songs are fairly recent, and fall mostly under the chillwave or hypnagogic pop subgenres. 
Unlike most of my previous playlists, this stuff should strike the casual listener as being vaguely familiar. That’s the way the genres work, by subtly referencing previous works and re-framing it into something brand new. The low fidelity of some of these recordings is deliberate and intentional. Hopefully you’ll be able to fully enjoy these selections, and perhaps I’ll make more playlists in this similar vein, hence the Part I. Or I might have just named it that to mess with your head. Also included is some of what inspired this exploration into the sound in the first place. 
1.       Outer Limits Recordings – I need my T.V.I’ve been really digging their sound lately. Conjuring up my past via the best 80s worship I’ve heard for a while. Anybody interested in Ariel Pink would be a fool not to check this awesomeness out. The song will get stuck in your head. 
2.       The Samps – YellowjacketThe Samps are a sample-worshipping group. What I like about this particular song is the hypnotic quality the music takes about halfway into the song. Suddenly the sound begins to glide effortlessly and really become something much greater than the sum of its parts. Let the groove overtake you. 
3.       Rangers – Bear CreekGoing through various Google searches, I see Bear Creek is a small village outside Austin, Texas. Maybe this is where the musician is from, because I do know he’s a Texan. It would explain the certain amount of heart this particular song of his has. 
4.       Casino Versus Japan – Trad Velecido American-made ambient done right. I thought about Boards of Canada, but everybody talks about them. Besides, I figured with all the madness going on, there needed to be a break.
5.       VHS Head – The StuffPerhaps this sort of breaks the lo-fi theme I had. I don’t care. The pop sensibilities are still here, and the samples from VHS tapes make it nostalgic enough. Each segment of the song works perfectly and has a great pulse to it. 
6.       Games – Shadows in BloomGames have impressed me of late. This one’s cut up techniques mesh well with what preceded it, and the keyboards are fantastic. Stupid vocals only make it that much better. 
7.       Washed Out- Phone Call Ernest Greene gets a royalty check every time someone mentions chillwave. In his super-secret parent’s house in a well-to-do Georgia town, he created this out of boredom. The reverb saturates the whole thing into a delightful pop morsel. 
8.       Broadcast and the Focus Group – Royal ChantActually, I enjoy both of these groups. For whatever reason, this one spoke to me the most off of the entire album. Once I had finished listening to it, I immediately re-listened to the entire album. This is another palate cleanser sort of track, a bit meditative. 
9.       R. Stevie Moore – Part of the ProblemWriting about music, I feel I can never talk directly about R. Stevie Moore, only his contribution. This happens to be one of his stronger power pop contributions. I like to think of him as the long-lost ancestor to a lot of the chillwave artists today, like from the Cro-Magnon period or something. 
10.   Big Troubles – GeorgiaBig Troubles lives in the same state as Mr. Moore, the great state of New Jersey. They trade in a similar stock. True to their name, they engage in a very large sound. I’d say this is a good song to drive to. 
11.   Blank Dogs – Tin BirdsProbably one of the most optimistic songs Blank Dogs ever wrote. I like how the song practically oozes confidence in you. You could run to this song or accomplish something great, since it clearly works as montage music. 
12.   Greatest Hits – AmbulanceYeah, I know there’s a bunch of Olde English Spelling Bee stuff on here, but that has probably been one of the savior labels for me this year. Anyway, this brings up the best images of early ADULT. 
13.   Optiganally Yours – Stop Touching MeAfter the intensity of Ambulance, you might need a break. Using only the oldest technology available (some toy from the 60s) they create the purest homemade pop. It sounds like it breaks from the sheer cuteness.
14.   Ducktails – Hamilton Road I now like Ducktails. For whatever reason, I didn’t immediately enjoy this project, but now I get it. Hearing that sound, it reminds me of summer and how far away it is now. 
15.   Nerve City – SleepwalkerThis is as lo-fi as I’m willing to get. Even with that “recorded from faraway” sound, it retains a certain romantic charm. 
16.   Nite Jewel – What Did He SaySeeing Nite Jewel perform this live helped me check one thing off on my things to do before I die list. No one in the audience bothered to dance or react to it. I was upset with this, but I like the slinky approach to song craft she employs with this little ditty. 
17.   Panda Bear – Alsatian DamHearing this only makes me want his album more. The buildup, a long lost art form, is confidently restored to its rightful place. 
18.   Todd Rundgren – A Dream Goes On ForeverI never get a chance to play this song for people. This is one of the best pop songs you’ll ever encounter. Shame that Todd didn’t have his entire career filled with these gems.
19.   Saint Etienne – Avenue A habit of all of my mixes is to put some long meaningful song at the end. I’m not sure why long songs should go at the end, but I want people to kind of drift away with that last track. Right at the very end you hear how someone could “Lose Himself in London”. That was part of the ongoing theme of the whole album, which I strongly suggest hearing.
I hope you enjoy this mix. Perhaps there will be a part II to this, since I deleted a lot of my original suggestions for this, either because they lacked heart or soul. Chillwave and hypnagogic pop will never be torn asunder.