Deep Voices #64
spare music for good company
Deep Voices #64 on Spotify
Deep Voices #64 on Apple Music
A few weeks ago, I published a piece in the New Yorker about sound and grief, talking about my lifelong love of music, and how my relationship with listening has changed since my son Renzo died. Some of the thoughts in the piece evolved out of things I wrote in different editions of Deep Voices last year. If you’re a longtime subscriber, I hope you’ll read the piece. If you’ve discovered Deep Voices because of the piece, I hope you’ll explore some of the earlier newsletters and playlists. You can also now find more of my writing on matthewschnipper.com—thanks to the endlessly talented Molly Butterfoss for the design.
Some housekeeping: I’m turning on what Substack calls “pledges.” What that means is that you can pledge to pay for a Deep Voices subscription if I were to begin to charge. (Subscribers, you should see a blue button below to “pledge your support.”) If I do begin to charge, Deep Voices will return to weekly. The regular emails, with a 60 minute playlist and associated thoughts, will remain free. For subscribers, I will add an additional email of more general musical thoughts, rounding up interesting stories, stray YouTube links, great Discogs lists, etc. The plan is for that to be monthly, but I’m open to feedback if you would want that more frequently. I’ll also start a Deep Voices listening club which I hope will function like a book club, where subscribers and I can discuss certain songs and albums after some dedicated listening.
Deciding to pledge would be a great help as I figure out the future of Deep Voices. Thanks :-)
All hail Buttechno, turbid king. The man also known as Pavel Milyakov, as he is on “Midnight Blues,” this mix’s opening track with Yana Pavlova, is a genius moodmaker. Yes, he often makes techno, but his M.O. seems less pegged to genre than environment. Rainforest, mist, wet earth. An overnight downpour in the tropics, an afternoon in a greenhouse, the top of a snowy mountain after a long ascension, scuba diving when you’re stressed. He has two great releases out this year: Minimal Cuts II on Incienso is four bangers fished out from the muck, and Project Mirrors is a good soundtrack for a sweaty game of laser tag at an emotional reunion (with the track “august gtr” serving as a fantastic Eno-esque comedown).
Blue, released in 2021, is a record for a barn. For sitting on a bed in a barn. On a dewy morning. When you’re not alone. But it may be a lonely record, spare music for good company. The record consists large of Pavlova’s quiet voice, rising like steam, with Milaykov plodding along on bass or guitar. “Intermedia” used brushes on the snare like a weird night at a jazz club. “One Day Stand” hits low notes like a caveman pawing around at Guitar Center. But it’s “Midnight Blues” I adore most of all, the ur-Milyakov. A saxophone flutters, the guitar creeps a brittle hook, and Pavlova’s diaphanous voice enters and leaves at will. If you thought Julee Cruise has a vibe, wait til you hear this song. It’s moody, yes, but it’s not gloomy. It’s gently funky, sneakily sweet. It’s the kickoff for a mix that maintains a sultry mien. Some of these songs are successfully sexy, some are just silly, but they all share a je ne sais quoi, music that’s intangibly excellent. Bath water for your ears. Unless you prefer a hot shower. Then it’s that.
Like Buttechno, D. Tiffany is an electronic music artist who is finding new ways to map out murkiness. Her duo So Klarity with singer Ruin Clarity sounds more like Fugazi than anything you’d hear at a club. The bass that opens “She Says” has that Jaws theme-like chug before Clarity’s voice slithers in. They’ve only released one EP so far, but I am surprised I haven’t seen more about them because it’s very good. This style and pathway feels very much like it is going to have a moment, haunted indie made by and for people who grew up on Nine Inch Nails, Pavement, and Bjork before they dove headfirst into techno. Perhaps it’s a local New York bias, but I feel like I know a lot of people who’ve taken that journey and maybe they’re coming up for air a little and wondering what it might be like to play a guitar (again). This music is not necessarily about being tasteful, but it is about having good taste.
When Paper Rose Haiku, better known as the alt-folkish singer Field Medic, drinks a mixture of kratom and White Claw, “anxiety,” he says, “begins to disappear.” It helps him “forget all my problems” because it’s “the anti-venom medicine to sedate.” I know it sounds like I am making fun of him here, and maybe I am a little, but I swear to fucking god I love this song. It’s really weird and specific and true. The silliness of singing a song about mixing kratom and White Claw belies the astuteness with which he writes about sadness, depression, substance abuse:
I take another drink and as I tilt my head back
I watch the curtain go down and the world fade to black
I’m living in the shadow of my demons that rob me of my strength
I always say, “Today's the day I’m gonna make a change”
But the sun starts to set, I don’t wanna feel a thing
Those are hard things to acknowledge. Brave things to say out loud! They are finely observed and translated, but it’s likely they could be missed, buried in a song that lopes along sweetly, as this one does. No serious song could have White Claw in the title. And yet. Is it bummed out pronouncement of reality? Is it a cry for help? The first line on the most recent Field Medic album is, “I want to fall off the face of the earth and probably die.” It feels like a jokey provocation when you begin an album that way, not a statement of intention. Either way, that “probably” is doing a lot of work. But he’s saying the same thing in “kratom & white claw” which is a better song with a way worse reality.