HEADPHONE ODYSSEY NU

ella fitzgerald – azure
aretha franklin – someday we’ll all be free
prince – mary don’t you weep
stimming x lambert – grande
nils frahm – hammers
nina simone – see line woman
tom waits – king kong
jail bennis et les golden hands – miraz
cymande – getting it back
djivan gasparyan – moon shines at night (machinefabriek version)
peter gabriel – listening wind
the acid – tumbling lights
barbatuques – baiana
bella boo – boyboy
etch – lost orbit (chrome drum VIP)
10CC – I’m not in love

 


MIX NOTES

AzureElla Fitzgerald’s beautiful version of “Azure” first appeared on the 1966 Verve LP “Ella at Duke’s Place”, 40 years into her career. Unconventionally, the album had two specifically named sides: The Pretty, The Lovely, The Tender, The Hold Me Close Side (Side A), and The Finger-Snapping, Head Shaking, Toe-Tapping, Go-For-Yourself Side (Side B). This was on the former, and you can certainly hear why. It’s dreamy and lovely and moody, and there’s nothing quite like it, wouldn’t you agree?.

Someday We’ll All Be Free – On a recent mix, I included a deep house song that samples this Aretha cover of Donny Hathaway. It was recorded specifically for the end credits to Spike Lee’s “Malcolm X”, which gave the song a whole new meaning to a lot of people. The recording has two parts: a short, live church recording (included here), and a very over-produced studio version, which I edited out, cuz the keyboard sound makes me cringe. Aretha made a million wonderful studio recordings, but her Gospel tunes from inside a church remain my favorites.

Mary Don’t You Weep – Prince’s estate is set to release a new album next month called “Piano & A Microphone 1983”, mastered from an old cassette he recorded at home. This is the only song they’ve released so far. It’s not amazing, necessarily, but any new Prince is good Prince to me. It’s a very loose and somewhat satyrical cover of the Gospel standard “Mary Don’t You Weep”, changing the narrative from the traditional story of Mary and Moses to a rather silly song about how cold it is in Minnesota. But again, it’s Prince, just sitting at a piano and riffing. I’m in.

Grande – A dreamy, piano heavy collaboration between two German weirdos: house & techno wizard Stimming and an avant-garde pianist who always wears a mask named Lambert. These two started sending each other tracks while they were both on separate tours. After a few months of this, Stimming was able to assemble it all into a 7 song EP that came out in March of 2018.

Hammers – Another German in the mix, in the form of the composer and experimental pianist Nils Frahm, who you might say is, for all intents and purposes, our generation’s Keith Jarret and Phillip Glass all rolled into one. Here, he plays two pianos simultaneously, in hypnotic and unrelenting arpeggios that reach a fever pitch. This is a live recording that was released in 2013.

See Line Woman – This is a traditional children’s folk song called “Sea Lion Woman”, first recorded by the daughters of a Mississippi minister for folklore researcher Herbert Halpert in 1939. (How dope of a name is Herbert Halpert LMAO). Nina Simone recorded this arrangement for the B-side of her 1964 “Mississippi God Damn” 7”, and included it on her “Broadway-Blues-Ballads” LP that same year. Overplayed? Perhaps. But it just has such amazing sonic quality and emotional power that I simply never get tired of it. Perhaps you feel the same.

King Kong – This fantastic slice of Tom Waits in full blues fever dream mania is from the wonderful 2004 compilation “The Late Great Daniel Johnston: Discovered Covered”, on which a host of a great artists like Tom Waits, Beck, Jad Fair and M Ward cover their favorite Daniel Johnston songs. The second disc has the original versions too. The lyrics are just so god damned funny to me, as it’s Johnston basically taking you through the entire King Kong movie, scene by scene – even going out of his way to shout out the pterodactyl! I love it. Not to mention Tom Waits gets an amazing swinging groove out of a bunch of people just grunting and stomping their feet.

I will admit I was pretty late to the Daniel Johnston party. A guy I worked with it at a nightclub in 1990 let me borrow a cassette he had procured from the vast underground tape universe of alternative folk weirdos. Johnston recorded them all at home, and he used to give them out during his shifts at McDonald’s in the mid-80s. A cult following grew over the years via the tape circuit, and the rest is history. My initial reaction was that there was something a little wrong with celebrating the bizarre songs of a person who was clearly schizophrenic. But over time, his lyrics and melodies and genius really won me over.

Miraz – A smoking, fuzzy Funk joint from mid-60s Morocco by a group called Jalil Bennis Et Les Golden Hands. A label in Berlin called Habibi Funk has been compiling these obscure gems from the Arab world, tracking down the original artists (or their descendants) and splitting the profits with them. Many of these recordings have an amazing raw, garage quality that you simply can’t replicate. Check em out HERE.

Getting It Back – The 1972 self-titled debut LP from Cymande is pretty much a perfect record. Every damn song is great. And the hand-drawn cover art is awesome.

Moon Shines At Night (Machinefabriek Version) – I found this on a compilation of experimental music called “Greater Lengths”, put out by the UK label All Saints. It includes tons of groovy ambient stuff from Brian & Roger Eno, John Cale, and many others. Djivan Gasparyan is an Armenian composer known as the “Master of the duduk” (not to be confused with the Yiddish demon, dybbuk), a double-reed woodwind instrument related to the oboe. He has a long career of collaborating with interesting people like hans Zimmer, Peter Gabriel and the Kronos Quartet.

Listening Wind – Few people can cover the Talking Heads and actually top the original, but I think Peter Gabriel might have just done that here. His slow, moody take on the original LP cut from “Remain In Light” really brings so much more emotional weight to the subject matter – a Muslim terrorist methodically building bombs to drive Americans out of his home country. As you might have guessed, Byrne stopped performing this live after 9/11.

Tumbling Lights – Yes, I am all over this band The Acid, after hearing them on the soundtrack for HBO’s brutally dark “Sharp Objects”. The Acid are UK DJ and producer Adam Freeland, Cali composer and professor of music technology Steve Nalepa, American singer/songwriter Jens Kuross, and Los Angeles-based Australian artist RY X. There stuff is moody and weird and perfect to unearth the ghosts lurking in the heads of Burning Man cyclists, for whom this mix was designed.

Baiana – Switching up the mood, a fun, hand-clapping, foot-stomping percussive jump-up from 15-piece Brasilian band Barbatuques. German DJ Jan Schultz started playing this in his sets a couple of years ago and it soon spread throughout the DJ world. There’s a remix with more drums, but like ODB, I like it raw.

Boyboy – Sweden’s Bella Boo dropped this mellow, 5am, deep house gem last month, taken from the Stockholm label Studio Barnhus‘ first ever compilation, which also features contributions from DJ Koze, Kornél Kovács and more.

Lost Orbit (Chrome Drum VIP) – Digital music distributors categorize this type of stuff  as “leftfield bass”, and it seemed just left field and bassy enough to me to be included here. It sounds as if you’re listening to two or three different short wave radio broadcasts that keep drifting in and out of each other. Music for the psychedelically-inclined, fosho. This came out in July on Etch’s own label, Altered Roads.

I’m Not In Love – Yacht Rock has never really been my lane, so to speak, but this song transcends the cheesiness of the genre to create something truly unique – a lush soundscape that really takes you somewhere else. I grew up with this song playing on the radio, but I don’t think it was never this full extended version, which drifts into very abstract patches here and there. 10CC members Godley and Creme went on to be staples of the early years of MTV, producing a few hits of their own, and directing landmark videos like The Police’s “Every Breath You Take”, Peter Gabriel’s “Don’t Give Up”, and Herbie Hancock’s “Rockit”.

That’s a wrap. Do check out the other three mixes I made this week for Burning Man wanderers and eclectic aficionados alike.

 


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