A couple weeks ago, an older video of New York mayoral candidate Eric Adams encouraging you to search your teenager’s bedroom for contraband resurfaced. He walks around a staged bedroom, opening drawers, suggesting they may be hiding, like, a crack pipe and a brick of coke behind some family photos. It’s extremely bizarre. What makes it weirder is the music is mixed incredibly loud, a somber string piece accented by a rainstick playing underneath the entire clip for really no reason. But, honestly, it’s pretty great. I Shazam’d it and present to you here “Rainfall” by Michael Hughes. Unquestionably the most unexpected way I’ve discovered a song for Deep Voices yet.
It’s hard to nail down what my friend Felipe’s music taste is but I know it when I hear it. “Vibey stuff” I guess? Taking a walk, listening to Full Circle by Jaki Leibezeit, Jah Wobble, and Holger Czukay, I was struck with an immediate need to text him a link to the song “Mystery R.P.S. (No. 8)” when it came on. The album itself is kind of a stoney baloney jam sesh and this track is where it all falls together. It starts with minimal percussion, the sound of someone walking maybe, and a little faraway rumble. Someone mumbles for a bit, which, when audible, becomes a request for protection. And about 90 seconds in, we get the first guitar note. The vocals come back, “They say life is a joke, and I think that’s true.” The guitar wiggles around and warms up. A cymbal gets smacked. The bass finds a groove. That whole sound bubbles for a few minutes, like a stew simmering. Then the individual instruments coagulate naturally into a pulse. Six minutes in the guitar gets in gear and has something akin to a solo, something a little sweet and sour. It’s a little punk, a little disco, a little experimental, a quirky song that feels almost otherworldly. It’s joyful but not exuberant, a steady handed burst of song operating on a level of unselfconscious coolness that feels almost hard to grasp the neurotic brain world of the modern era.
A weird thing to find yourself unconsciously singing out loud is “People are dying, whoa.” But “Help (House Mix)” by Mpho Majiga’s passionate plea for help in the fight against ebola in South Africa is incredibly catchy. The song is from 2015 (or at least it is on a compilation released then, I’m not sure when exactly it was recorded), and it made me do a bit of reading about the state of ebola in South Africa. Last year were the first deaths from the disease since 2016, which made me relieved to hear that some of the help needed had been received and an ebola vaccine has been approved and in use. Mpho Majiga even sang “Help Me” at a bar in 2017 and it looks like a real celebration. But there’s a current ebola outbreak in Guinea, which appears to stem from a survivor of the disease who falsely believed he was not contagious. It’s apparently under control with just a few deaths, but terrifying nonetheless.
All of this of course made me think of Covid. I sure as shit hope that doesn’t happen in a couple years. With vaccines starting to roll out on a wide scale, at least in the US, where I live, I feel pretty positive now for the first time in probably a year and I’ve been relatively lucky in terms of personal exposure to the virus. But in terms of side effects, and the way the pandemic’s crushing effects have cascaded down into every aspect of life, it has been brutal. My wife had a baby in February, just before the pandemic started in earnest, and in early March a close friend came over to meet him. Two days later, she found out she had Covid. My parents had been in the house. What would happen? It was so early along that it seemed very realistically like a death sentence. My friend got really sick, as did her husband, but they survived. As most people I am sure can recognize, we lived in and with fear for a long time. But I am grateful it wasn’t longer.
Just as quarantine began last year, DJ Harvey released a three-hour mix for download, a proposed dance balm for the isolated. It’s super fun, obscure Italo and classic disco. The album art is a photo of him smiling, holding a drink, wearing a zip-up jacket unzipped with no shirt. I downloaded it and listened to the whole thing at home one day, blitzed by the news and constant sirens, still on paternity leave, unaware I’d be laid off soon. My wife took a brief video of my dancing to the mix, holding Renzo, then maybe six weeks old, me caught somewhere between avoidance and ignorance. I do these little twists at the waist. He’s too small still to do anything. It’s like dancing with a cute potato. Since then, he’s had to have several Covid tests.
“Stay safe & look out for each other,” it says with DJ Harvey’s download. “See you on the other side for one helluva party.” I wonder if he’s started planning. I get my second shot tonight, so if it’s some time after two weeks from now, I guess I could go.