Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Play For Me These Records Three

Tax time blows for most everyone, but especially so for the longform-filing freelancer. Since 2001 I have sorted and totaled all my receipts, bills, mileage, etc. into categories and sums that best enable accountants to do the voodoo that they occasionally do well. Being the sort of person who can get misty-eyed over an old magazine or particularly good breakfast, it shouldn't have surprised me that I was reminiscing over tax worksheets of yesteryear as I tallied up this year's hot tranny mess.

My music spending has gone way down the past few years, but in the golden age when I was deejaying a lot and generally indulging myself more freely it wasn't uncommon for me to break the $1000 mark for yearly music expenditures.

Sigh. Thank goodness they're all write-offs...

This cover art makes me think of Walter, the horse that lives across the street

This year, I made myself wait until March to buy my first records of the year, and when it was time I allowed myself three new ones. Because I've been an obsessive mixtape enthusiast since the mid-1980s and a sometime-deejay since 2001, I've been asked many times how I find the often weird and semi-obscure music that people hear me play.

There are quite a few answers, but mostly it's music magazines like Mixmag and DJ, websites and email newsletters like Pitchfork, Dusty Groove, Other Music and Turntable Lab, and personal research sparked by liner notes, producers, guest musicians and remixers of already-purchased music. There was a time when "radio" and "recommendations from friends" would have topped that list, but alas that day is long past.

Since July 11, 2000 (yes, I just checked), the tool that has allowed me to remember what music I want to buy when the opportunity presents itself has been the Amazon Wishlist. Rather than use it as a way to tell other people what I'd like as a gift (although it has certainly been used that way), I've used my Wishlist as a place for me to jot down those ephemeral notions of what I want to buy for myself.

The total number of records, movies and books now stands at 472, and on top of the utilitarian perks the Wishlist also serves as a time machine that can often (but not always) take me back to the state of mind and set of circumstances that caused me to add an item in the first place.

For instance, item #1 from 7/11/00 is Expansions (1974) by Lonnie Liston Smith & the Cosmic Echoes, which I added after buying Smith's Cosmic Funk (1974) after hearing it played by some friends of ours at a party they threw at their Santa Monica apartment that summer. Since that night, the host couple has gotten married and had two children, and yet somehow I haven't managed to pull the trigger on Expansions.

Anyway... when I finally did allow myself some new music, I surfed the Wishlist and came up with the following three purchases:

Czerkinsky (1998) by Czerkinsky, The Sssound of Mmmusic (2000) by Bertrand Burgalat, and the 2007 compilation Milky Disco by various artists such as Morgan Geist, Lindstrom and Kerrier District.

Here's how I picked 'em, and what my favorite track is after a first listen.

For a while in the early 2000s, the "(Glamorous City) Lounge" compilations were the shiz. Paris Lounge, Berlin Lounge, New York Lounge, etc. each had two discs, one mellower for "Day" and one more jackin' for "Night". On Paris Lounge, Vol. 1 (2001), "Natacha" by Czerkinsky was the last song on the "Day" side, and for years its loopy horn sample and ultra-French refrain have bounced around in my head, often surfacing months after the last time I actually listened to the song. I finally decided to seek out more from Czerkinsky (pronounced "Jerkinsky"), and I was not disappointed. The album is a sampladelic, catchy, croony collection of pop ditties, and so far, the top track is still "Natacha", which is looping in my head as I write this and probably will be when I wake up in the middle of the night tonight.

We've all been there.

Also from France is Bertrand Burgalat, a producer/remixer of records by Air (that's Burgalat singing "Sexy Boy") and Depeche Mode who put out his first artist album back in 2000. I honestly can't remember what prompted me to jot it down in the first place, but the reviews I read the other day when trying to decide what to buy convinced me to take the plunge without ever hearing a note. I was not disappointed, and this has all the earmarks of a record that will improve with every listen. Gorgeous string arrangements, French Phil Spector/Brian Wilson-esque pop production touches, and a left-of-center sensibility that struck a chord immediately. I wouldn't hesitate to drop "Attention Amiante" during a deejay set as the moody, beat-y transition track that sets up a floor-filler.

Strange as it may seem, "milky" is actually a good descriptor for the music

Finally, the Milky Disco comp from Lo Records is an excellent collection of work culled from the so-called "Cosmic Disco" genre. Cosmic (or "Space") Disco is less vocal-driven, more psychedelic and free-form than traditional Disco, and for me is a frustrating (but in a good, teasing way) subset in that its best songs seem to promise an epic break that usually remains just out of reach. That said, it's relatively new (at least I think it is) and continues to grow in popularity among the most talented electronic musicians out there. The standout track here is "Mad as Hell (Dub)" from Black Mustang and Kerrier District (the Disco alias of one of my all-time favorite producers Luke Vibert).

This is the track I'll play for you when you come over on a Saturday and thoughts of work and taxes and mundanity have finally been banished from our minds.

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