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Deep Voices #79
Introducing the Deep Voices logo
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!
I’m extremely proud to unveil the logo for Deep Voices, designed by Michael Schmelling. I got to know Michael as a photographer; he worked regularly for the FADER when I was there, shooting everyone from Destroyer to Vybz Kartel to Earl Sweatshirt. He is a master portraitist, able to make all people appear soft, passionate, sympathetic. As he often shoots artists, you can feel their passion, but never their bluster. Something about the way he photographs makes everyone feel pure of heart. It’s very generous.
In addition to Michael’s photography, I also love his design work. I love his use of handwritten text and asked if he might consider creating something for Deep Voices that way. I’m no design critic, but to me it felt softly powerful. Look at the curls! The little loop in three Es. The way the letters look like they were written in chalk, captured just as they were about to disappear off the blackboard forever.
Thank you Michael! We’re cooking up some fun merchandise too and hope to have that available soon.
A funky mix this week. I have revamped this whole thing several times. You know when nothing in your closet looks good so you go outside wearing your lowest common denominator outfit? All black or jeans and a T-shirt. No stakes. Well, imagine if, instead, you went out wearing nothing matching and it felt incredible. That’s the vibe we’re going for here. Two pairs of pants on top of each other. Maybe a fez. Only one shoe. Sometimes you gotta mix it up.
To that end, the opening track is a volcanic drum solo from Takeo Moriyama (on a 1975 recording by the Yosuke Yamashita Trio). Moriyama is an absolute beast. And, at 78, he still is. Watch him absolutely decimate in this video from earlier this year. He starts off leaning back at a 45° angle like it’s light work. Then you see this septuagenarian come alive, first in duet with the saxophonist, and then in a solo where he hits so punishingly hard it would make men half his age weep. He’s got his eyes closed for most of it. It was a last minute decision to put him first on today’s Deep Voices, but it feels wholly appropriate for the energy we need today. Blast open the doors!
•I’ve been enjoying exploring the music of Canadian artist Regularfantasy (whose eminently practical name I love: no need for an ambitious fantasy, a regular one will do just fine) and so I did something here I haven’t done since Deep Voices #3: use two songs by the same artist. She’s a techno producer but also a frequent user of vocals, and going back into her catalog, to 2013’s Slow Release EP, I was quite taken with the lo-fi sweetness of “Sunzett (It’s Something).” She sounds like a different artist a decade later on the cheeky “Call U When I’m Done” (with artist Big Zen). Without the spoken word vocals, it’d be a real house barnburner, but instead you get a series of ridiculous voicemails played over the crispest of drums: “What’s up babe, I’m just at Staples, going through the pens, talking with the merchant. He’s uh, giving me kind of too many options. I’m gonna be here for awhile. I’ll call you when I’m done.” Then you get this wobbly noise that is the techno equivalent of a little noodle on the whammy bar. It’s perfect! The song is like the inverse of another voicemail classic, Dat Oven’s “Icy Lake.” But where Icy Lake is a horror film, “Call U” is a comedy. Consider this a call for more sweetness and humor in electronic music.
•I really don’t know much about Wetman, and that seems purposeful, with scant biographical information available online. But he’s so great I wanted to give him a special shout out here. He recently put up the catalog of his label Vivid on streaming services, so I recommend giving a listen to the entirety of his 2020 The Wettening EP, which is highly playful. I do at least know he’s from Seattle, hence a song title like “Eat Shit Bezos.” (Hopefully he feels relieved about the recent news of Bezos’ move to Miami.)
His music, jungle or at least jungle-adjacent, has much in common with Brian Eno’s tactile ambient as anything released on, say, Moving Shadow. The drums skitter along, saxophones waft in and out. For music with such a high BPM, it largely lopes along. There is reliance on the amen break, of course, but it shows up only periodically, as if to remind you’re listening to jungle because otherwise you might forget. He’s branched out into production work for others recently, with an excellent ragga jungle EP with four vocalists out this year on Duppy Gun. All the space in his tracks works well for vocals, giving enough of a structure for forward propulsion while allowing for the vocalist to fill in the gaps. He seems dead set on making something that feels fresh and he is.
•In 2010, Planet Mu released a triple LP compilation of music by the then-teenage DJ Nate, Da Trak Genious. It was a highly unique take on the burgeoning footwork scene of his native Chicago. The principal identifier of footwork is blisteringly fast drums, often against a spacey bass, and a repeated vocal sample. DJ Nate followed these tenets but crushed them up in a blender. The samples stuttered uncomfortably, like a broken Roomba trying to to call for an SOS. The drums, some of them whizzing by at warp speed, some clomping in every few bars, sounded like they would not pass a sobriety test. Some of the songs had soul samples, livening them up into a futuristic Supremes, other times (and sometimes in the same song), he pitched them down into something wholly goth. It was really weird music.
After that record, he released a series of R&B mixtapes before disappearing from music for a few years, only to reveal he’d, for a time, been paralyzed due to an injury (Meaghan Garvey’s excellent 2019 profile of Nate fills in some of the details). He recovered, and released another album of music that year, Take Off Mode. I revisited it this past week and found it to be excellent, still frenetic but altogether tighter than Da Trak Genious. “Just Be Truu” is my favorite song, based around a sample from the Whatnauts’ “I’ll Erase Your Pain.” “Just be true to only me,” it starts off, an unexpected footwork paean to monogamy. The line repeats in high and low speeds as the drums come and go, sometimes sounding like a toy machine gun, sometimes like a trash can hit with a broomstick. “I love just the way you areeeee” the song sings out towards the end, and the vocal melts, like it’s being smothered in an embrace. It’s a fantastic track and, I think, the ultimate love song.
•This isn’t really a playlist note specifically but I want to say that my daughter learned how to dance recently. My wife and I have been playing her a ton of music. Allegra puts on a lot of pop for her, and I’ve even softened to Taylor Swift (which one music critic who shall go unnamed recently told me is basically “children’s music.”) Coco dances in this herky jerky way, jutting her hips from side to side. She’s 11 months old and can stand up on her own, but she needs to be holding onto something to keep her balance. So she’ll be at her playpen casually grasping on the railing, bopping along to whatever we put on.
Someone asked me recently if my relationship with music has changed again since my son’s death. It’s been almost two years since he died and in that time, as I wrote about, for a period of time, I couldn’t listen to anything heavier than Bill Evans. Everything sounded discordant, gross. That feeling changed after a few months and I’ve been happy to be able to listen to sounds across the spectrum without fearing audio punishment. My curiosity has returned, as has my tolerance.
So I’m taking advantage of right now, while Coco is so amenable to all sounds. She will dance if she hears the bass from a car stereo pass by. I was talking to her, wondering if she might want to be a dancer, or a music lover like me. Like Dad. It’s been nice to have music be something that lives to fuel imagination. Music will always be a balm, as everyone says, and of course they’re right. But I want more. Coco is giving me access to that larger, more possible world. After I futzed with this track listing, I playtested this whole playlist for her. She approved the whole thing, keeping consistent time with a miraculous waggle of the tush.