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Deep Voices #78
Strength through weakness
Each edition of Deep Voices is a one-hour playlist, with a mix of personal writing and music criticism. A paid subscription gets you access to exclusive playlists, including Deep Voices deep cuts on YouTube. It also supports my writing, for which I am extremely grateful. If you read and listen to Deep Voices, please consider a paid subscription. It would mean a lot. Thank you!
A brittle collection of songs this week. Not necessarily unformed, but certainly unguarded. Strength through weakness, that kind of thing. There’s no genre through line, and so you get that feeling from indie rock, techno, ambient, and folk. I think that covers the ground of these 17 songs. Oh, and I did something I usually hate to do—I included a song that cuts off. No fadeout, no ending, just a hard chop. That comes last, from Tren Brothers, featuring my favorite drummer of all time, fluff-haired kit wizard Jim White.
When a song stops in mid sentence, it reminds me of when a movie freeze frames mid-action. I think it’s cliche at this point, but I love it. They do it in the new trailer for Alexander Payne’s new movie, The Holdovers. It ends with a blurred closeup of Paul Giamatti, in the middle of screaming. He’s a gruff guy, it seems to say, but you know by the end of the movie he’s gonna soften up.
I was listening to Buttechno’s NTS radio show and heard a great song I’d never heard before. I looked at the track list and found out it was “Visions,” by SSIEGE which, not only had I heard before, I’d listened to several times in the past couple weeks. How could I have not noticed such special music?
Though I liked the Italian producer’s new album, Beautiful Age, I wasn’t bowled over. I suppose a violent reaction isn’t the purpose of ambient/ambient-adjacent music isn’t the point; his is music that floats by, relatively short songs, pretty but untouchable, flitting like bumblebees. “Visions” is track seven on Beautiful Age, the B-side-iest slot you can can. But, placed outside the album, it has panache, real kick. It’s like someone took off its glasses in a rom-com and, holy smokes, what a beauty!
I’m not trying to get too Roland Barthes here, I know the art is mine to goof around with as I please, but I have plenty of respect for sequencing and context. SSIEGE wanted this to be track seven, and that is how I heard it. But Buttechno (my hero) knew it had track one potential. And so that is where I have placed it, opening this week’s mix, where it belongs.
I laughed when I encountered a song called “Sedona Airport Vortex.” If you’re not familiar, the Sedona Airport Vortex is an area said to have mystical energies. On my first vacation with my now wife, we took a trip to Sedona to hike around and absorb the vibes. We went to the Sedona Airport Vortex, which is an area you can hike near a small airport. Not too long into the hike, I became convinced we were lost. I’d gotten lost on a hike in the snow a year earlier and the residual panic was rising. I started freaking out. My wife tried to calm me down, pointing to the houses in the distance. We could easily get help if needed. Besides, she said, we probably weren’t even lost. This didn’t help. “I’m Jewish!” I said, like ancestral neuroses excused my very blind, very unattractive hysteria. We followed the path and, not so long after, found ourselves back at the parking lot. The Airport Vortex is a circle. You can’t really get lost.
Anyway, Ivy Knight is a new artist to me but I love her music, spare but powerful. She’s got a song called “Truth or Consequences,” too, named after the city in New Mexico. I have no plans to go there.
There’s not too much information available about the artist Coffee Stain so I will unfortunately have to repeat the two facts available in his Spotify bio: he’s 17, and his name is Adrian. The rest is more opinion-based. “Coffee Stain has already built a dedicated following of fans who appreciate the authenticity and vulnerability of his music,” it reads. “Keep an eye outfor this rising star, because he’s definitely one to watch.” I can’t comment on the dedication of his fans, but if they are out there, I think it’s true that they appreciate his authenticity and vulnerability. His songwriting feels unmistakably and immediately true, unpolished and tender. He’s created a strong body of work across a series of albums, EPs, and singles in the last year. The music is indie rock with the texture of folk, and he’s blessed with the fumbling charm of a musician like Alex G. “Deeply,” the opening track from his latest release, its fine nothing happened, is a whispered slowburner. The vocals are hushed, so you can only make out a few smudges of lyrics. “I can’t see you in between the lines” and something about a cigarette and a skateboard. That hush feels less like a feature of his music than a cloaking device, one that might be mistaking vulnerability with obscurity. But, for now, it works, and the songs are very sweet. Clarity in production, if you want it, can come later, with clarity of vision. Seventeen is a good time in life to try things on.
Track three on its fine, though, makes me nervous for him. It’s spoken word buried under a windy-sounding drone. “I want to fucking kill myself but I’m too scared… I don’t want to live in this fucking nightmare that some people call a fucking life.” Maybe he means it, maybe he’s not. But if he is in fact 17, making authentic and vulnerable music, it seems like it would be hard to do that kind of play acting. That kind of depression can produce some powerful music and it has. But it’s not such a great way to live. Go easy on yourself, Coffee Stain. We are all here for you, waiting for your star to rise.
To fans of the ’90s guitar edition of Deep Voices from a couple weeks ago, nota bene to give a listen to Horse Jumper of Love’s “A Tune Drifts Out the Window.” It fits in nicely between the slowcore of Codeine and the pleasant wandering of Rodan but is modern. I like songs that are about music, about the act of making it. See: Salamanda’s delightful “Homemade Jam” from Deep Voices #72 or, you know, “Playing In the Band” by the Dead.
“A tune drifts out the window/ Released into the world/ I’ll bring it to your house” are the first three lines. Simple, warm. But then: “Somehow I already lost you.” Is he talking to the music? Is this about the ephemerality of ideation and the beauty of what wafts away on the metaphorical wind? Or is it uglier, about writing a breakup song that you hope floats into the window of your ex, an unwanted anti-tribute set to guitar? Could go either way. Great song.