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Deep Voices #65
Coco's crystal forest music
My daughter Coco is five months old and she is an intergalactic warrior for peace. When I pick her up and hold her vertically, in a Superman flying position, I like to make up stories for her. She launches out of this universe into many others, landing on planets desperately in need of her help. She also giggles.
One day she flew to Costanzania, a world ruled by the evil dictator George Costanza. Bald and angry, he’d forced all his subjects to shave their heads, so as to not appear more prodigiously maned than him. Once she landed there, Coco realized on this planet they don’t have toupees. She has beautiful hair, so she plucked a strand of it and magically used it like a seed to grow the dictator his own perfect locks. Once he saw himself, he felt better about himself and he realized his oppressive ways. He ordered all people to wear their hair as they choose. He thanked Coco for her service. She flew back to Earth and took a nap.
Recently, she’s been making some repeat visits to the Crystal Forest to visit the dragon that guards all the crystals. They are all set up in a big store, kind of like a Rite Aid, and the dragon has strict instructions not to let anyone in. Coco knows people on Earth are suffering and the crystals are medicine. So she spoke with the dragon about his needs and he said he needs a house that fits him and his family. Dragons are quite large and typical houses on his planet aren’t big enough. Coco was so mad! How could he have such an important role but not have a place of his own? She took oatmeal from Earth and shook it out and in the Crystal Forest’s atmosphere it changed into a huge mansion, big enough for the dragon and his whole family, even those who may not yet be born. The dragon thanked her and in exchange let her take crystals back to Earth. They ended hunger, cured all diseases, banned wars, and turned Earth into a utopia. Then she took a nap. Flying between galaxies is exhausting.
This mix is a tribute to Coco and to the dragon. It’s Crystal Forest music. The sound of her journey from earth, to the dragon’s world, and back. Making this playlist, I didn’t mean for this to happen, but subliminally, this is the world I was attracted to. Maybe I just wished I was always in outer space with Coco.
Djam Karen is the type of group I love in principle, but I’ve have difficulty connecting with in reality. A jammy consortium, they present themselves is like hard-nosed improv jazz, the kind of people who appreciate technical metal as much as Phish, omnivores’ omnivores. Instead, the way they sound is too often like…Phish. But I have persisted in making my way through their catalog and “Gondwanaland” is a winner. The synthesizer melody is featherlight and fully enchanted. It’s music for a journey, one with great potential but great risk, a journey one must be brave to undertake. Coco is, of course, up to the task.
My friend Alex said that Piotr Kurek’s album Peach Blossom sounds like Kanye’s Yeezus without the Kanye. And what a blessing that is! Polish composer Kurek’s album is a winding road of synthetic vocal work. Maybe it contains the voices of the people (?) of the planets Coco visits. Do dragons talk? Imagine if you opened your mouth and this is what came out. It sounds like robotic prayer.
Lucky Dragons—just realized the second word in their band name maybe subliminally urged me to add them to this mix—are (were?) a duo largely before their time. Their music is somewhere between IDM, Animal Collective, and Meredith Monk, experimental with a sweet edge. This song sounds as if the crystals on the dragon planet grew on trees, swaying in the wind like leaves
Fifteen or so years ago, while I was working at Fader, Lucky Dragons came to our office and showed off their project, “Make a Baby,” which, according to this short documentary, is “an ongoing series of experiments into the possibilities of using skin contact between performers as a means of transmitting and controlling data and creating a positive social environment.” It sounds like a great pitch for a social network. What this looked like in real life is a series of cords and objects wired up that buzzed differently depending on who was touching them. Somewhere there is a photo of me holding a rock to my friend Sam’s head. We’re both smiling. It probably sounded great. I think the experiment worked TBH. Anyway, this song, “Music For No Reason” may be the greatest song title I’ve ever heard. What a mission statement!
Grand River’s All Above is a strong contender for my album of the year. I could easily have put any song from the record on this playlist and had it fit. Aimée Portioli, who is Grand River, is ostensibly an electronic music producer, but she based this album around the humble piano. Its presence is felt stronger in some songs, most heavily on the first half of this playlist’s “In the Present As the Future.” The beginning of the song is somber, befitting a long journey. Perhaps it’s so long you’ve strayed from the path. And then digital arpeggios swoop in near the halfway mark, and we have the sound of a rescue.
All Above is dedicated to the memory of Peter Rehberg, the musician also known as Pita, who ran the record Editions Mego. Writing this, it occurred to me that maybe it’s fitting memorial music in more than one day. Last year, after my son Renzo died, as I’ve written in previous Deep Voices, I listened almost only to spare piano music for a long time. I couldn’t handle anything else. Slowly my tolerance for, and interest in, more complex sounds returned. I’ve introduced Coco to all types of sounds. But the piano has remained foundational to my listening. All Above contains multitudes, music for the immediately after and the much longer after. I can listen to it with both my son and daughter in mind, even if I can only now listen to it with Coco. Yes, I’m with her brother at heart, but I know that time will only continue. Listening to an album like this marks its march forward. I wouldn’t say I’d consider enjoying experimental music again marks some sort of a giant leap forward for my grief, but, at the same time, you know what they say about small steps.