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Deep Voices #58
Dedicated to Brian Piñeyro
Last week, the electronic music publication Resident Advisor reviewed 057 (Schwyn), the new EP release by Luis, a moniker, along with DJ Python, of the artist Brian Piñeyro. I love Brian. His music is playful and sweet, but I’ve been just as drawn to his personality, which is almost weirdly agreeable. When I interviewed him for Pitchfork two years ago, I asked him about this emphatic kindness. Was it an act? “He was flummoxed, as though I’d asked a leopard about the nature of his spots,” I wrote. “The best he could come up with was that he really doesn’t like yelling.” His music in the past has literally featured the sounds of whispers.
While he has achieved most of his success as DJ Python, I’ve always been especially fond of a Luis EP he released in 2017, Dreamt Takes. The record’s four songs roll along unbothered, quirky tracks rooted in techno that resemble both ambient music and hip-hop. Some songs sound like they could be on a skate video; others like they might be played while you walk down the aisle. The primary emotion is desire, in its purest form. I’ve been waiting for him to revive Luis and was delighted when he did. (This week’s mix starts “yoonito,” a track from 057 (Schwyn).)
When RA reviewed the new EP, they correctly noted that it was dedicated to me. I learned this fact from reading the press materials of the record a few weeks earlier and was so touched. Brian and I have kept in touch since I interviewed him in early 2020, though I haven’t seen him in about 18 months. The last time was at a birthday party in a park for a mutual friend in November of that year, a time when, very cautious about COVID, I was just beginning to venture out into the world.
Renzo was born that February (in fact a day after I interviewed Brian) and because of the ensuing pandemic, we had not been able to share the world with him, nor share him with the world. It was a singularly difficult time in my life. I’d been laid off from a job I loved deeply months before, and was having trouble finding work. The double whammy of isolation and loss of purpose, along with acclimation to parenthood, was taking its toll on my self-esteem. I was expending all my energy trying to be a great father, but I was exhausted and sad. It was hard to have a sense of self. I loved Renzo so much, loved being his father, but it was hard to figure out how to integrate that into the life I’d had in the 38 previous years. So I was excited for that birthday party, for the opportunity to visit my old life, and to bring Renzo along. It was a nice afternoon. We sat in the grass. Renzo was still too young to walk, so he stayed bundled in his stroller. I made Brian take a photo with Renzo. I posted it on Instagram and a lot of people were excited Renzo got to meet such a legend. At that point, he had released his album Más Amable (which translates literally to “more kindness”) and his gentle conquest of the music world was in full swing.
I texted Brian about the impressed messages I was getting. I wanted to hype him up. He demured. “I think u r famous,” I said to him. “Haha 💕I think it’s Renzo more so 😝💕” he wrote back. Scrolling through our occasional texts, they are all punctured with heart emojis. He wrote to me on Christmas, the day after Renzo died, “I love you dude,” followed by five of the hearts where it looks like they are beating. “Love u” I responded.
So it was bittersweet when the Resident Advisor review misidentified me as Brian’s best friend. Schywn, the record’s titular figure, is his best friend. It’s confusing, I suppose, two guys with “Sch” names involved in one record. What do you do when you’re misidentified as being closer with someone you’d love to be closer to? Request a correction? Someone else must have said something, as they changed it, though incorrectly, to say that Schwyn and I are both his best friends.
It's still hard for me to look at photos of Renzo. Friday was six months since he died. I am not yet in a place where the wonder of his life is not eclipsed by the shock and pain of his death. I do hope to get there. When I do look at his photo, it reminds me of how happy he was, and how happy I was with him. But it’s like reflecting on your best moments while falling off a cliff.
In the photo of Brian and Renzo, Brian looks the same as he does now, shaggy haired and strong jawed. Renzo, then nine months, is more babyish than the toddler I mostly hold in my memories. It’s not as hard to see him like this than in the photos from the last few months of his life, because the youngest version of him was already in the past when he died, supplanted by the good-natured, curious little boy we loved so much. In the photo, he’s wrapped up in this little sleeping bag stroller thing we had for him to go out in cold weather. A year later, he refused to go in it. He was so opinionated! He hated warm clothes and only liked this one lighter weight green jacket, so we had to layer him up like crazy in the cold. Brian has his arm around the stroller in the photo, likely as close as we were letting people get to Renzo, due to social distancing. It’s a thoughtful gesture, making the best of a tough situation. Renzo was too young to wear a mask, but Brian is. Still, you can tell he is smiling.