10 Years of Peak Oil

“I felt like if we were going to do a label that would exist solely as a labor of love, it should exist as a conceptual whole. I had been reading a lot about ‘peak oil’ theory, the moment when society—predicated on infinite growth of a finite resource, petroleum—is in collapse, and how petroleum is in everything, even records. It seemed to ‘click.'”

For the past ten years, Los Angeles-based label Peak Oil has been sketching the parameters of the city’s underground electronic scene, as well as drifting off to some new, still-unseen vista of the scene. I got to speak to label heads Brian and Brion –as well as vital players like M. Geddes Gengras and Lamin Fofana– about the past decade and the perils of creating petroleum-based consumer products for Bandcamp.

A Decade of Peak Oil’s Strange & Mysterious Electronic Music for Bandcamp

Pharoah & Phriends Radio Mix

There’s a Pharoah Sanders feature forthcoming in Maggot Brain, but in the wake of his passing, I’ve been spending a lot of time in the great saxophonist’s sound world, tracing through lines, shared sensibilities, similar resonances, following the trajectories and interconnectedness with the man’s many legendary bandmates. I presented a mix for The Lot Radio last weekend, using the man’s horn to spring into these other realms. Enjoy. Track listing below:

Maleem Mahmoud Ghania – Peace in Essaouria
Pharoah Sanders – Wisdom Through Music
Hannibal – The Voyage
Idris Muhammad – Peace
Lonnie Liston Smith – Meditations
Woody Shaw – New World
Pharoah Sanders – Japan
Joe Bonner – Celebration
Michael White – The Blessing Song
Lonnie Liston Smith – Floating Through Space
Norman Connors – Morning Change
Larry Young – Sunshine Fly Away
Gary Bartz – Etoiles Des Neiges
Sonny Fortune – Long Before Our Mothers Cried
Michael White – Fiesta Dominical
Pharoah Sanders – The Golden Lamp

(Not a) Mood Hut Feature

“People often only think of Mood Hut as a record label, but we are foremost a collective, and for a long time we did free park parties in Vancouver’s Stanley Park. For me, those nights reached close to the potential of what dances can be. When none of the usual constraints are put upon you, and when everyone is present in a beautiful place, willing to give themselves over to the whole thing. That’s when things can really ascend.”

Read more: (Not a) Mood Hut Feature

Back in 2014, Andrew Morgan dosed me with a jam called “Openin’ Up,” which opened me up to the curious incubatory sound emanating from Vancouver and a span of cryptic 12″s on the nascent Mood Hut label. Over the years, the label/ collective have remained elusive: going ambient instead of clubby, dropping an album of diffuse disco edits, and other unexpected left turns.

Nearly ten years along, Jack J drops the first proper artist album for Mood Hut, a lovely, effervescent, contemplative album which a certain music website lamented as having “no obvious epic or clear highlight.” As a longtime fan, I took the opportunity to chat with Jack (as well as Chris Wang and Yu Su) and to dip a toe into the Mood Hut mystique and “that sound.”

Jack J and the Mood Hut Collective Reimagine Dance Music In New Forms for Bandcamp

The Lot Radio

Not actually the view from The Lot Radio.

Last month, I did a special Sunday morning set for The Lot Radio. That day was thick with chilly clouds, so I leaned into that sort of ambience, starting off with some chorale clouds, gradually adding a little sprinkle of some more spring-beckoning sounds on the back half of the set.

Beta World Peace @ The Lot Radio 3-6-22

Vaguely remembered tracklisting below:

Continue reading “The Lot Radio”

Yasuaki Shimizu

“I was playing around with a radio transmitter I’d made when I heard something from outside the house and, fascinated, followed the sound outdoors. Striding off down the path between the rice fields, I paused halfway along the expanse of paddies to listen, and heard a chorus of thousands, tens of thousands of insects, like a wave of electronic sound washing over me. It was this experience that sparked my interest in sound and space, and which inspired me to begin exploring the many different sides of what we call sound.”

Continue reading “Yasuaki Shimizu”

Eiko Ishibashi feature

“The way the Japanese film industry works, you have very little time to do the soundtrack. There’s very little real instrumental music in Japanese films now. Most soundtracks are done by one person on a keyboard. Eiko’s soundtrack is so different that people here overlook it. It doesn’t operate in telling you what your emotions are.”

Congratulation to Drive My Car for its well-deserved Oscar! Two of my early favorites for 2022 come from Japanese singer/ composer/ flautist/ songwriter/ drummer/ noisemaker Eiko Ishibashi. One is her indelible soundtrack for the Oscar-winning Drive My Car, the other an imaginary soundtrack of sorts for Law & Order, entitled For McCoy. I was honored to speak with her and Jim O’Rourke, as well as director Ryusuke Hamaguchi for the story.

Eiko Ishibashi and the melodies that carry Drive My Car for The Washington Post

New Directions in Gwoka

“Gwoka was born out of necessity to reflect the moods of a people—its joys, its fears—and that’s why there are so many different rhythms. In Guadeloupe, gwoka is considered to be much more than a music style. It’s how they assert their Guadeloupean cultural identity as distinct from French national identity. Transmitting gwoka music involves the transmission of a collective history.”

Three years ago, Séance Centre’s eye-opening Gwakasonné compilation opened my ears to the music of Guadeloupe. A sound that seemed to encompass Sun Ra and Pharoah Sanders’ seeking ’70s work, the tireless drums of Jamaican nyabinghi, the Afro-Caribbean fusion of Cedric Im Brooks, and the synth patches of private issued new age music, gwoka nevertheless defied easy categorization. As I learned more about the form, I realize that the themes underpinning this form of expression tie into so much of our current narrative. It’s music with roots embedded in 17th century colonization, slavery, and creolization. It’s a music of defiance, of protest, of ritual, a music that has strong spiritual ties, acknowledging ancestors and fearlessly moving forward.

The incredible new compilation Lèspri Ka: New Directions in Gwoka Music from Guadeloupe 1981​-​2010 shines a much-needed light on this music. And the past few years have seen a wondrous amount of this music available once more.

New Directions in Gwoka for Bandcamp

The Man in the Eyeball Mask

“Hardy was kind of like a premature old man or Yoda, wise and cynical and merry. He seemed to have had the courage to think clearly for himself early on. Hardy’s odyssey was sexual in part which takes courage and energy. He explored himself and other people until he found the place he liked.” –Gary Panter

1954 HW

For those not familiar, Hardy Fox is co-founder of the Residents and their primary arranger and producer. Spent the better of two pandemic years talking to friends and family of the late Hardy Fox for a story close to my heart, about how a weirdo from small town Texas deals with familial alienation and Texas-sized repression to find solace and salvation in art/ music. It’s also the true origin story of the Residents, well before their days in Shreveport and San Mateo.

“Texas is so straight and insane that smart people there sometimes –as a form of protest or simple mutation and rolling of the dice– want to raise a more bizarre form of hell than people who are happier elsewhere.” –Gary Panter

The Man in the Eyeball Mask for Texas Monthly