I’ve been having trouble sleeping lately. Well, more trouble than usual, I guess. Is it because the world seems to be spiraling towards an inevitable end at a more alarming rate than usual?
Yes. I spend my days either obsessively scrolling through my twitter feed for more, increasingly awful updates about the situation in the States (and its subsequent international ramifications) or frantically searching out means to distract myself from doing so. I went over my data limit like three days into my new period this month.
I bought the new Paper Mario game and I’ve been playing the shit out of it, despite the fact that it really blows, because I need SOMETHING to distract me. Ha!
and you mean to tell me that throughout all this I’m also supposed to be seeking out new, exciting music to write about in my monthly column? That hardly anyone reads anyway? What a joke.
Is all music writing until this is all over doomed to be framed in the context of Drumpf’s ‘presidency’? Yes. Unfortunately, what’s going on right now is too massive and too all encompassing, that it’s simply impossible not to see it reflected in all aspects of our lives. Or maybe I’m just too far gone, too deep into this horror to be able to separate my enjoyment of the arts from it.
Regardless, the records I listened to the most in January are largely reflective of my engagement with the nightmare shitshow that’s the state of America and the world at large in 2017. All I can really say is, thank god for music. Because without it, I surely would’ve lost my mind by now. And we’re only two weeks in.
This is Phil’s Phive January 2017: The Necessary Therapy Edition.
5. Shackleton & Vengeance Tenfold – Sferic Ghost Transmits
Escapism. I can’t claim to know what exactly it is that’s going on in Shackleton & Vengeance Tenfold’s Sferic Ghost Transmits, but listening to it transports you to another world which is mystical, eerie, and thankfully wholly unattached to our own.
Across its 6 ‘songs’, Sferic Ghost Transmits uses the ethereal bass music Shackleton has made his name producing as the foundation for a sci-fi, almost liturgical spoken word led journey through space and time. Not exactly a record you throw on for some casual listening, but if you need to get away, Shackleton & Vengeance Tenfold are more than happy to take you there.
Ridiculous Made Up Genre of the Day: monasterial techno
4. Emptyset – Borders
Nihilistic Indulgence. Emptyset have always played into dystopia over the course of their career, but Borders is the most realistic sounding that their post-apocalyptism has sounded yet.
While previous records have focused on warped digital manipulation/mutation of fundamental electronic music, Borders takes a different means to reach a similar end. Using a handcrafted instrument the duo created themselves, this record pays specific attention to the way the instrument affects the space around it when played, using the studio Borders was recorded in as an instrument in and of itself. The result’s unlike anything else I’ve heard, almost like a brutally minimal noise rock played by angsty robots obsessed with Sunn O))). Somehow the logical endpoint for techno and metal alike.
Ridiculous Made Up Genre of the Day: proto-robo-sludge
3. Brian Eno – Reflection
Hypnosis. Released on the First Day of the Last Year Ever, 2017, Reflection could not have come any sooner, or at a more necessary time. As anxieties grew leading towards The Inauguration, to the all out red-lining peak they’ve been at ever since, I probably would not have slept more than 2 or 3 hours a night all of January without this record. Reflection is pure Eno, a wholly ambient work that, of course, has a lot more going on theory-wise than you’d think on an initial listen. Eno’s longwinded explanation as to the computing delicacies surrounding Reflection aren’t necessary to enjoy this record for what it serves as currently, however: a hypnotic lullaby designed to help you drift away from the chaos of every day life.
Ridiculous Made Up Genre of the Day: ambient dream
2. William Basinski – A Shadow In Time
Meditation. In part a dedication to Bowie, and in part an elegy to the monolith of time itself, A Shadow In Time is arguably Basinski’s most accomplished work since his infamous Disintegration Loops.
The Bowie tribute, the achingly beautiful “For David Robert Jones,” is classic Basinski, made of an eroding tape loop of some long lost sample which sounds at once triumphant and defeated. As the sample begins to fade into oblivion, another sample is introduced into the mix, a saxophone motif which serves as an obvious nod to Bowie’s Berlin years. Slightly out of key with the original sample, the combination begins slightly jarring, stirring you out of the paralysis caused by the tension between the two samples, eventually smoothing itself out to reveal an even deeper beauty.
The title track is an ambient piece composed on an old synthesizer, where time has eroded the reliability of the instrument. Much like “For David Robert Jones,” the track is gorgeous despite its subtly unnerving qualities, speaking to a greater truth that beauty is imperfect, and vice versa. Basinski remains a master of texture, and A Shadow Of Time serves almost as a brain massage, comforting you while inducing pain in all the right places.
Ridiculous Made Up Genre of the Day: weathered ambient
1. Migos – Culture
Fuck It All Let’s Turn Up. The Migos has kept me sane in 2017 more than any other artists thus far. That such incredible party music could be made in the face of such adversity is about as inspiring as it gets if you ask me.
Though ‘party music’ may be a bit of a misnomer when it comes to Culture, as this is one of the most nuanced Atlanta trap records to come out of the scene, at least since Thug’s Barter 6. After mixtape after mixtape of fun, yet extremely repetitive derivations of their sound, no one was betting on Migos releasing an actual cohesive album.
Yet here we are. Culture is the perfect name for the essential Migos record, as they have been the most influential figures of the trap culture for years now, without ever properly getting their due credit. Dabbing. The triplet flow. Repeating a word or phrase ad nauseam until it gets stuck in your brain.
These are all things the Migos pioneered over the past few years, and Culture appropriately sees them for the most part eschewing everything they came up on to prove that they’re more than their gimmicks, to a wildly successful result. I can’t think of a group more deserving of the number one song and album spots on the charts right now. WATCH THE T-SHIRT VIDEO.
Ridiculous Made Up Genre of the Day: refined trap