As has become tradition, Eamon and I attempt to wrap a bow around the musical year that was with our Best Of lists. As usual, I had a hard time limiting my list to things that came out in 2013, or even limiting it to just music; that Turrell piece made me feel like I’d just heard a symphony, and Herbie Hancock’s use of the vocoder on Sunlight is still yet to be matched. (No matter how hard Daft Punk tried this year.)
Dirg Gerner’s Dirg Gerner EP on Eglo
I can’t say enough about this record. Beautiful melody after beautiful melody, warm production, amazing songs. I played it and played it, but it never got old.
James Turrell’s Aten Reign at the Guggenheim
Last year I waxed on about Philip Glass and Robert Wilson’s Einstein on the Beach. At the time Wilson said, “You don’t have to understand anything. It’s a work where you can go and get lost. That’s the idea.”
Aten Reign, James Turrell’s all-encompassing light installation inside the Guggenheim rotunda, was the visual art equivalent. There was no focal point, which is kind of like having an opera with no plot. It was beautiful and impossible to capture in photo, video or anything else – nothing but experience. A total inspiration in terms of what I want for our parties.
A little note: This show is over, but Turrell has a career retrospective at the LACMA until early April, and here’s a map of all of his installations around the world.
‘PTR’ from Alex Falk’s Terse EP on Proper Trax
It’s rare that a techno track will get stuck in my head, but I catch myself mimicking Alex Falk’s ‘PTR’ pretty much everywhere all the time. (This must sound strange to anyone who hears me, because there’s nothing really hummable or singable about it. I’m basically just making weird synth sounds with my mouth and bobbing my head really hard.)
‘Jump Bugs’ from Syclops’s The Blink of An Eye Album on Running Back
This will probably end up on Eamon’s list, too. There were very few Jump Bug-less parties this year.
Morning Prayers In Burma
I went to Burma (aka Myanmar) in November with my wife. It has been essentially isolated from the rest of the world for almost fifty years. We landed in the middle of agrarian scenes right out of the 1800s, with oxen pulling hand-carved wood plows past ancient temples; the smell of wood fires and fish sauce were almost everywhere; and almost no one knew what we were talking about when we said we were from New York.
Every day was packed with remarkable experiences, and I’d be hard-pressed to sum them up here, but the music above was the soundtrack of almost every morning we spent there. Taxi drivers, restaurant owners and shopkeepers all played this particular recording of prayers. I liked it so much, I recorded it onto my phone and played it for a DVD seller at the market. He recognized it immediately and gave me the disc. I have no idea who is singing it, because the CD I bought only has Burmese writing on it, and despite its ubiquity, no one seems to know the singer’s name.
‘Broken Dreams’ from Special Request’s Hardcore EP on Houndstooth
To say that Paul Woolford converted me to a drum and bass fan this year isn’t quite right. There are a few d&b tunes that I’m fond of, but I’ve always been put off by its larger tropes. Woolford’s work as Special Request this year, though, slowed drum and bass down and added just enough modern inspiration that it illuminated a genre that had long had me baffled. Not to mention it was just stellar music in and of itself. “Broken Dreams” is the one that initially roped me in.
The Golden Pudel
This little club in Hamburg is a dream. I played there twice this year, once with Eamon and once with Ralf Koster, the club’s owner. It’s a family affair: the woman who came to pick me up at the train station runs a New Music night on Tuesdays; the barback does all the artwork for the club; and the guy working the door releases records on the in-house label.
There’s no monitor in the DJ booth, just a house speaker that swings generally in the direction of the DJ, and the crowd is a great mix of college students, Senegalese youngsters, weirdos from the red light district and hardcore music nerds. There’s even a wizard who’s been coming every single Sunday for the past twenty years or something. He’s got a beard and a cloak and everything. It’s my favorite place to play outside of our own parties.
Herbie Hancock’s Sunlight, Side A
I’ve been ignoring this album for years, because I assumed it was from Herbie Hancock’s “Rockit” period. Whoops. I bought it because it was a promo version, so there was no cover to deter me. I am so glad I did. Side A may be the best side of any record ever. Two tunes, just over seventeen minutes of absolute musical bliss. Side B isn’t too shabby either.
Jai Paul’s Unofficial Mystery Album
While I certainly sympathize with a guy who’s been working on music for a long time and isn’t ready to let it be heard yet, I can’t imagine how the Jai Paul album that leaked this year could be any better.
‘Basik Fire’ from Headless Ghost’s Frontend EP on Clone Royal Oak
Fire is right. Pepe Lopez Waldron, a guy who’s been coming to our parties since the beginning, suggested this one to me early this summer. It became a staple, and it worked every time.
Other Things Worth Noting
The Act Of Killing was the most impacting movie I have ever seen, and 12 Years a Slave was the second most impacting movie I have ever seen; The Invisible Child story in the New York Times completely changed the way I look at poverty in the city. On a lighter note, I loved listening to Jali Musa Jawara (or Djeli Moussa Diawara, depending on which records you’re buying); and, after years of saving up, I got a really nice hi-fi setup from the people over at In Living Stereo – a Japanese tube amp, Danish speakers, a fancy English turntable and, of course, all the cabling. I did not include the hi-fi stuff in the list above, because I felt like it was nerd city, but now I feel slightly ashamed for putting it in the same paragraph as things that are as important as The Act of Killing and Invisible Child. Forgive me.