Discover more from Deep Voices
Deep Voices #74
20th century songs
Subscribe to Deep Voices. If you have a free subscription, consider upgrading to a paid one. A paid subscription includes exclusive playlists and an enormous amount of gratitude for your support.
Last week, I wrote an essay for the Godmode newsletter about why my record collecting has largely shifted to buying new music. It was fun to think about those old frenemies, art and commerce. When I started buying records, I was largely thinking of my collecting as building a library. This was before streaming and I needed to have access to what I thought of as music’s building blocks. So I sought out classics to keep on my shelves for reference. Now, my purchasing habits are more about active participation. I want to be a part of a scene. Not only to listen cursorily, but to have the physical media that confirms my engagement. Give that a read here. Things discussed: Japanese sludge metal heroes Corrupted, buying jibbitz for your Crocs, FOMO.
I was also interviewed by the legend Sami Reiss aka Snake for his newsletter’s ongoing Q&A series. Click for a photo of my prized Ornette Coleman shirt and one of me in Jeffersonville, NY sitting in a giant chair.
Combining the subjects of those two pieces—my love of thinking about music and my love of having old stuff—brings us the lightest of themes this week: no music from a year that starts with the number two. After a few editions powered by great new releases, I thought I’d thought I’d look back this week. I stuck to the letter of the law with all 20th century songs, but purposefully not in any cohesive manner that might reveal an Overarching Truth About Music of the Past. In other words, it’s a typical Deep Voices.
In the early ’80s, Lydia Tomkiw and her husband Don Hedeker formed the duo Algebra Suicide. Hedeker lays down beats for Tomkiw, a poet, to talk-sing over. The beats, pre-techno, minimal with flair, are hit or miss but Tomkiw is mesmerizing. I included a track here from their 1987 album The Secret Like Crazy, but in truth I prefer her ’90s solo album, Incorporated, done after she and Hedeker broke up. It’s weirder and dreamier, with more guitar. It feels more dangerous, less taunting. “Thief” is on YouTube and the album is downloadable on the internet if you poke around (or ask me). If anyone wants to fund a Deep Voices reissue label, I’d happily make this the first release.
“Hair Shoes” by Pale Saints is probably the best song on this week’s playlist. Maybe one of the best songs, period. It blends the expanse of shoegaze with the distress of Sonic Youth. The song feels like an alarm going off in slow motion. The band’s other songs have a poppier sheen—“Hair Shoes” is an anomaly. They have happy songs, they have sad songs. The usual emotions. But “Hair Shoes” is a rarer thing: a frightened song. Fright is an underrated emotion to write from. The song ends with a dire plea: “Leave me my heart, my heart, my heart.” It’s wrenching!
Big news for nerds: the catalog of John Zorn’s Tzadik Records has finally hit streaming. That’s 800 albums of experimental music of all types. Seth Colter Walls has a great story in the Times about 15 records on the label to start with. I added a track here from one of my favorites, Milford Graves’ Grand Unification. It’s a roiling solo album by the drummer from 1998. He was a masterful musician, but also one who heartily enjoyed himself. I may have told this anecdote before, but I saw him and the German saxophonist Peter Brötzmann play a duo set. Graves spent as much time sitting in the audience singing as he did behind his colorfully painted drum kit. Brötzmann had been keeping up his end of the bargain, playing sax while Graves ran around the room. But eventually Brötzmann, seemingly frustrated, or at the very least resigned, stopped, stepped back, and waited until he got back to the drums. It was like he had to let him burn off his excess energy before he could get back to business.