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Deep Voices #68
Secrets of Deep Voices revealed!
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I got Covid a couple weeks ago and so I was isolating in the back room of our apartment hoping my wife and daughter wouldn’t get sick. The first day around 10 am, I realized I was pretty much trapped in there indefinitely with a headache and nothing to do, so I decided to watch Heat for the billionth time. If you haven’t seen Heat, it’s ’90s cops and robbers movie, or maybe just cop and robber, with Robert Deniro and Al Pacino in the respective roles. Val Kilmer is in it, and he looks amazing. Henry Rollins is in it, though he’s underutilized. It’s about three hours long and features a lot of shooting. Catnip for me.
Watching, I kept noticing the soundtrack—plaintive electric pulses, ambitious guitar music—and Shazaming the music. One time it came back as Brian Eno, which sounded about right, but twice it was Moby. I don’t know what I was expecting, but it wasn’t that.
Shazam is one of my favorite ways to discover music because it’s so pure. I honestly thought I was going to discover some obscure film composer. Nope. Moby. There’s something humbling about that. Once I interviewed Usher and he said he used Shazam a lot. I asked him to show me what he’d discovered and he reached for his phone before changing his mind and declining. A decade later I still wonder what was on there, what secrets of discovery it held. The Beatles? Whitney Houston?
A couple days after I watched Heat, I watched Return to Seoul, a really beautiful movie about a French woman adopted from South Korea who returns to Seoul as an adult. The music reflects her stages in life—indie, mod, goth. It’s mostly an original score, but at one point, I swore to god I knew one of the songs but could not place it. I Shazamed it. It was in fact not a song I had ever heard as it was the title character’s theme, the first track on the soundtrack (that piece, “Freddie,” is on this week’s mix). I later thought maybe I’d been reminded of Crass’s “Walls,” and, listening back, I can kind of see what I was thinking. But not really. I think maybe I tricked myself into thinking I knew what I was talking about to feel better.
My friend Geordie texted me after last week’s Deep Voices. He was happy about a new playlist. “How do you find all your music?” I described to him how Discogs works. You find a record you like and then you look up everything everyone on that record played on, then after you listen to those records, you look up everyone who played on those and so on until you have 10 million tabs open. I also follow a lot of artists and labels on Bandcamp, read a lot about music, and get recommendations from friends. I’ll pretty much search anything out. The other day I mistyped a name into Spotify and accidentally found a lovely album of modern Australian classical music. It takes all kinds.
As a person pretty obsessed with music it’s a nice thing to be asked where I find all of it. But it often feels like it’s something specific to music. I don’t know how many architecture fanatics get asked about how they know about all those cool, obscure buildings. But music is so intrinsically tied to people’s identity. Being enthusiastic about underground music can be a sign of adventurousness, but also a sign of pretentiousness. To some people, it can be a threat. When I worked at Pitchfork a colleague once told me I was perhaps too interested in discovering music. It hurt my feelings. If it’s out there, why shouldn’t we want to hear it? To be clear, I do not equate obscurity with quality, I just think it’s cool to give something a fair shot, to level the playing field. If anything, Deep Voices is about access. The unknown should always be an invitation, never an obstacle.
Looking at this edition of the newsletter, I can identify where I heard most if not all of the songs, so I thought I’d share. Post Industrial Boys was a new name to me and came via the Instagram account of marg.mp3, a creator who has incredible taste and is always excited to share new music. It’s a thrill when she posts something I’ve never heard. She also mentioned Orange Cake Mix, a ’90s act I had forgotten about and rediscovered and now are on here, too.
On this week’s playlist there are number of artists I love released who new music and I discovered that through label mailing lists, Bandcamp, or Spotify’s finicky Release Radar playlist. Asma Maroof (formerly?) of the duo Nguzunguzu released a new EP, The Sport of Love, in a trio with the artists Patrick Bellaga and Tapiwa Svosve on PAN, a label I love. The music is seductive and buoyant and in the mailing list email I read about it in, you can see this great photo of Asma wearing a Fuddruckers “Buttfuckers” parody shirt.
Doon Kanda is another artist I follow on Bandcamp. He works with Arca on visuals and I’m a fan of his brain, though his music hadn’t always captivated me. But when I got an update email about his new record Celest and I read his description, I knew had to listen. “I made these songs last Summer in between watching dragonflies glittering in the fields and listening to the symphony of insects.” I really eat this kinda thing up. And there’s good reason, because the music is fantastic. It’s a record of solo piano music, lovely and serious, diaristic and earnest.
In addition to using Discogs as a wiki-style database, you can also use the site for ecommerce, buying from individual sellers with Discogs as a middleman. You can create a wantlist and it will list copies for sale of everything you add. I’m extremely liberal with my wantlist, which now totals 1,734 releases and goes back seven years. Though I don’t remember how it got added, I’ve apparently wanted the album Solo With Instruments by Michael Atherton for the last five years. Checking to see which of his music was on Spotify (not Solo With Instruments), I added his 1996 album, Shoalhaven Rise. I keep a running playlist on Spotify, “Scratch Pad for Deep Voices” which has a billion songs. Any time I hear something remotely cool, I add it there. When I’m looking for a particular vibe for a playlist, or even a song of a certain length, I’ll skip around on there. I added Atherton’s “Summer Rain” in early June, though I have no memory of that.
The most exciting discovery I made related to this week’s Deep Voices was not exactly musical. Writer Jack Denton recommended an album by bassist Robert Black, Possessed. It’s a beautiful album recorded in the desert in Utah, Black’s improvisational, full-bodied playing accented by the sounds of wildlife. As Denton mentioned, Black, who was a member of the group Bang on a Can, died earlier this year. After listening to the album, I decided to read more about him. His New York Times obituary mentions his early days as a musician, his longtime dedication to teaching. It also mentions, in paragraph 17, what they call “an unconventional arrangement.” “Mr. Black had been partners since 1974 with both [James] Sellars, who died in 2017, and [Gary]. Knoble, and he had also been married to Elliott Fredouelle since 2016. (They all lived together.)” I feel like this has got to be the Times first mention of a sexagenarian quadruple? Seek! You never know what you’re going to find.