Been a minute, but I made a new Buy Music Club mix. It’s origins lie in a mix originally conceived at the nadir of February (working title “OOF/ebruary”), focused on new releases and recent listening. I was touched that artists like Woo and the Havels both reached out to me to share their new works and included some of that here. Other highlights include Joseph Shabason’s dreamy interpretation of Satie, the new Batu, and Eiko Ishibashi’s Drive My Car score.
2021 marked the first year I didn’t really submit a “Best of 2021” list anywhere. I stopped writing for Pitchfork after 19 years (the past few years, I was relegated to the sidelines in terms of EOY writing anyhow so no great loss). I did a ballot for Jazz Critics Poll and always ignore those Uproxx emails about ballots. Last year, I got to contribute a Boomkat list, but wasn’t asked this year Anyhow, in filing away some records, I posted a batch of them on IG and thought I may as well type them out now:Continue reading “Rest of 2021”
Bye 2021, a year that can’t fall into the memory hole fast enough, but briefly looking back and collecting a few pieces of writing work below:
“You had three Anglo guys and a Hispanic guy, and we were looking to play at [what] was essentially an all-Black nightclub. But that was the music we were playing.”
Imagine my surprise at learning there was a brief blip of boogie-funk in my hometown. Not that I was hip to anything funky at the age of 5. There’s traces of Isley Brothers and Earth, Wind & Fire to be sure, some stompers that could have been looped by Daft Punk, but also some breezy AOR numbers that bring to mind Ned Doheny. Thanks to the Still Music label for this handy compilation of San Antonio’s Horizon.
A New Dawn for Horizon, the Groovy Granddaddy of San Antonio Funk for Texas Monthly
Last Friday, right after the Mayor was on-air, I appeared on The Brian Lehrer Show on WNYC to discuss an album very close to my heart, Alice Coltrane’s Journey in Satchidananda, on the occasion of its 50th anniversary. Ten years ago, few people would have slotted it in canon alongside well-established albums like Joni Mitchell’s Blue and Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On, so perception and recognition of Alice’s genius is slowly growing. As you can imagine, I was honored to be able to discuss this profound piece of music.
You can listen back here: Iconic at 50 Journey in Satchidananda on WNYC
“When the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, it paved the way for Czechoslovakia’s Velvet Revolution, which opened the floodgates for Western capitalism. And yet the Havels somehow floated above the influx of new modern sounds, sounding as out of time then as they do now—still and serene in our manic era.”
One of my last reviews for Pitchfork was about a tidy little compilation from Melodies as Truth documenting nearly three decades of Irena and Vojtěch Havlovi’s haunting music. Melodies in the Sand serves as a great introduction to the couple’s bewitching way with the viola da gamba. A new listener myself, I soon realized that a great amount of their discography is also available on Bandcamp. A few months on, I dove into it for a more in-depth primer.
Exploring the Czech Soundworld of the Havels for Bandcamp
In honor of what would have been Larry Levan’s 67th birthday, I’m posting an article that originally ran at Pitchfork about Levan’s lasting influence, which emanated far beyond the parking garage walls of the Paradise Garage to the wastelands of suburbia.
The Larry Levan Bump: How the Legendary Paradise Garage DJ Ignited Some of the ‘80s Biggest Hits
Before songs like Talking Heads’ “Once in a Lifetime” and Pat Benatar’s “Love Is a Battlefield” became era-defining hits, they were favorites at Larry Levan’s Paradise Garage. By Andy Beta.
In March 2013, followers of the Paradise Garage Bot were baffled. The Twitter account, which sends out links to singles that sainted DJ Larry Levan once spun at the hallowed New York City club, had just posted Rick Astley’s infamous “Never Gonna Give You Up”, which hit #1 in the U.S. in March 1988—six months after the Paradise Garage closed its doors in September 1987. Was this automatic bot Rickrolling its followers all of a sudden?Continue reading “Happy Birthday, Larry Levan”
“Lots of artists embraced gurus and spiritual garments during the 1960s and 70s, but few actually embodied it completely like Alice Coltrane did. When I visited her ashram in 2014, it was disarming to see the portrait of a woman I knew from all of her albums, now presented in the beatific soft light of a religious leader and guru. There’s a sense of conflict inherent in her music, beauty and chaos entwined, jazz tradition and the unknowable are all there at once. The original Turiya Sings tapped into that liminal space. These are ancient Indian hymns swaddled in the new-fangled synthesizer technology of the time. It’s a speedball of sound, both mystical and dinky.”
I’ve written a few times about Alice Coltrane and was honored to write about how perception of her has shifted since the 1970s to where she is now as revered as her husband, John Coltrane. When a reissue of Turiya Sings was announced earlier this year, it had many fans excited at finally owning this grail of an album. But what ultimately came out though is far different, so the story became a questioning as to who gets to decide on the artist’s vision. It’s something Alice herself grappled with in releasing her late husband’s albums with additional strings and whatnot. And now, her own musical choices are brought into question with this release.
The Coltrane Legacy is heavy indeed and with two spiritual masters and negotiating their earthly messages is a heavy task indeed. There are many debates to be had about why a more “pure” version was selected for release, but the excuses as to why the original wasn’t part of it is odd. I do know that it’s misleading to say that the master tapes for Turiya Sings don’t exist (they do and they have been remastered), but that’s beside the point. Suffice to say, it’s a real missed opportunity to properly present some of her finest work to the world. And here’s hoping that we won’t have to wait decades for a proper reissue of Turiya Sings.
Alice Coltrane is finally heralded as a jazz great. A new reissue doesn’t do her justice. for The Washington Post
“The perfect document of an unclassifiable talent, impossible to absorb or assess in one listen—or even ten—and revealing astonishing new musical discoveries with every play.”
A little bit more about my connection to “Blue” below…Continue reading ““Blue” Gene Tyranny”
I’m fairly gutted by the passing of Jon Hassell. And yet even when I first met him in LA, he mentioned his “plastic parts” and lifted up his white linen shirt just enough to reveal tubes that ran below his waistline, the result of a recent cancer treatment. Seven years would pass and two new studio albums would ultimately emerge, but it was a shadow of mortality that he would never quite get out from under.
I’m grateful to have spent a sweltering, muggy afternoon in his backyard in LA (which as I recall seemed intentionally flooded always bringing to mind the surreal rice fields of Aka / Darbari / Java – Magic Realism) and to have exchanged emails over the years. In our discussions, it became clear that he never quite got over the slight of My Life in Bush of Ghosts, nor did he understand how the likes of certain celebrated composers achieved success while his music and vision seemed to languish in the landscape. How wrong Hassell was, as in the days since his passing, I could turn almost anywhere and hear his sound taking root in a new generation of artists. Hassell was a through line from Terry Riley to La Monte to Eno, but let’s not forget he also dropped tabs with Can when they were studying with Stockhausen. (I once mentioned Luc Ferrari and Jon went: “oh the French guy? Yeah, we once had a menage a quartre with him and his wife.”)
At the time, I even tried to get his long-threatened treatise The North and South of You published, though soon learned that being drawn into Hassell’s fourth world orbit entailed a certain amount of frustration and scratched plans. Which no doubt reflected his pursuit of the fairer sex. Outside of John Fahey, I don’t think I ever encountered a musical idol who was as smitten with ladies as he was. When my chat with Hassell ran at SPIN, the comments were aghast that he had left his wife for a younger (and darker-skinned) woman. Even in email exchanges, the mention of Italy soon pivoted to his telling of a brief love affair with an Italian actress. It’s not hard to hear how his fantasy about distant lands moved in close proximity to his fantasies about the women from that land. “Sex was a powerful experience,” as he reminded me. “The message for me was that this is religion, too. It’s not all about closing your eyes and tuning out to a drone someplace.”
I was honored to try and do your visionary music some justice in this world. Travel far and wide as you pass, Jon.
Fourth World in the 21st Century for Resident Advisor
Dream Theory in Malaya: Fourth World Volume Two for Pitchfork
Seeing Through Sound (Pentimento Volume Two) for Pitchfork