Monday, July 9, 2018

Fixing a Clock

Mixed by Brady Custis 
Written and performed by Mike Sim
Featuring Sound Shaman on doumbek
Choreography by Wisty
Dancers: Amy Jill & Michelle Turner Young
Filmed by Adam Blake
Additional Footage taken by Mike Sim & Wisty

"Fixing a Clock" is the first video from the upcoming visual album "<3" which will be released later this summer.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Top 10 Philip K Dick Books

Honorable Mentions: 

“The Transmigration of Bishop Timothy Archer” - the final book in the VALIS trilogy and the last that PKD wrote before his death.  The only book that I know of his that is written solely from a female perspective and that does not contain any elements of science fiction.  This book is devastatingly sad but absolutely beautiful.   

“The Devine Invasion” - The second book in the VALIS trilogy (which takes place approximately a century after the first) - This books is probably his most dense in religious allegories and symbolism and is a bit difficult for that reason. 

“Dr Bloodmoney” - A dream-like surrealist post-apocalyptic novel that is easily one of the strangest of his works.  

TOP 10: 
10-Now Wait of Last Year (1966)

In this novel there’s an interplanetary drug that has the affect of perceived time travel - it deals heavily with addiction, suicide, and schizophrenia - but also has a lot of humor.  

9-Time Out of Joint (1959)

The only 1950s PKD book on this list - It's an epistemological thriller and has some super Kafkaesque moments.  

8-VALIS (1981) 

The first in the VALIS trilogy is the most autobiographical novel PIKD wrote which deals with his hallucinations that he believed were actually intelligence being transmitted to him from a space probe called VALIS.  To me this is after PKD started to loose his grip on reality to an extent that affected his writing in a negative way - but it still stands as one of his best novels because of the personal nature of the work.  

7-Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep (1968) 

The most well known PKD book because of the film adaptation (“Blade Runner”) - This dystopian thriller explores the concepts of AI, morality, empathy and the question of what it means to be human. 

6-The Man in the High Castle (1962)

This is the book that put PKD on the map - An alternative history in which Japan and Germany won WWII and rule over the US. 

5-Martin Time Slip (1964) 

Although it has elements of sci-fi like time travel and such - it focuses more on mental illness and schizophrenia and the characters that these pathologies affect.  

4-Flow My Tears the Policeman Said (1974)

 A dystopian mindfuck about a pop singer / TV star who wakes up in a reality in which has never existed - It deals with the idea of solipsism and gets pretty meta in light of how PKD’s twin sister died at birth and the affect that had on him.  

3-The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch (1965)

I don’t think any PKD book has as many twists and turns and shifts of reality / unreality as this one.  It’s one of the first of Dick’s work to hit on religious themes and also has quite a lot of humor.  It’s perhaps the most unfilmable novel he has written, as the imagery in this is not only surreal as fuck - but totally unlike anything I’ve ever read, heard or seen.  

2-A Scanner Darkly (1977)

This is the first PDK book I read and the one that got me hooked.  It’s a semi-autobiografical novel that deals with drug culture and addiction in a way that’s paranoia inducing, mind bending, and completely heart-breaking. 

1-Ubik (1969) 
This is his most acclaimed novel and for good reason.  It’s one of the more difficult of his books because of how fast paced it is, and how warped the reality is - It’s a wild psychedelic existential nightmare - but as much of a mindfuck and as unsettling as it is, it’s truly a lot of fun as well.  No book that I’ve ever read has ever felt as much like a dream, affected me so deeply, and inspired me as much as this has.  

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Top 5 Films of 2017

Honorable Mentions 
A Ghost Story
If this whole movie was as good as the Bonnie Prince Billy monologue in it, it’d be the best thing ever...But maybe worth watching just for that.    

(although the pie scene was pretty great too though) 

One of Nolan’s best - surprisingly moving, and the cinematography in this film is super dope.  

TOP 5: 
5-I Am Not Your Negro - 

Hands down the best documentary I’ve seen this year - It uses accounts from James Baldwin’s close friends as well as civil rights leaders Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr., and Medgar Evers.

4-Get Out 

“Get Out” is super unique in the way it addresses racial tension and is the best horror comedy that’s come out in a while.  


Mother is a psychological horror flick that will definitely make you feel super claustrophobic and uncomfortable.  Although the religious symbolism and allegories are pretty in your face - I feel like the meta/autobiographical layer to this film adds a psychological dissonance that sets it apart and makes it one of the best Aaronofksy films.  

2-Good Time  

This flick was billed as “crime drama”, but I feel like this label is a disservice to it (maybe because of the extremely low standards this genre generally has) - but it is unlike any film I've ever seen.  Directed by brothers, Ben and Josh Safdie - who have been influenced by John Cassavetes (especially after studying under Ray Carney at Boston University), this film brings you into an experience that’s a truly wild ride.  The soundtrack by Oneohtrix Point Never is my favorite of the year and adds to the sense of paranoia and the rushes of adrenaline.  

1-Endless Poetry

Chilean director Jodorowsky’s “Endless Poetry” is his second autobiographical film following 2013’s “Dance of Reality” (which was his first in 23 years), and basically picks up where “Dance of Reality” left off - telling the story of Jodorowsky’s birth as a poet and his process in becoming an artist.  “Endless Poetry” is equally as personal and a stronger film than it’s predecessor.  It’s very Felliniesque in it’s surrealism and is visually gorgeous.   At times it’s super moving and emotional but at other times it’s funny, and as a whole it’s truly a lot of fun and probably his most accessible film yet.  If you’re a fan of Jodorowksy’s earlier work and surrealist film than I can’t recommend this highly enough.  

Monday, December 18, 2017

Top 50 Albums of 2017

50-Sam Amidon - The Following Mountain

The first album of Sam Amidon original tunes (rather than reimaginings)

49-Jay Z - 4:44

Some soulful samples and more personal lyrics.

48-Small Town - Bill Frisell, Thomas Morgan 

An intimate live record that is often beautiful, melodic, and sometimes pretty haunting.

47- Bokante - Strange Circles

An international music ensemble combining Zeppelinesque blues with Caribbean music.

46-Jiln - Black Origami 

Percussive mutant Chicago footwork jams

45-Les Amazones d'Afrique - Republique Amazone

All female supergroup of contemporary african musicians

44-Vince Staples - Big Fish Theory

Vince Staples sophmore album combines hip-hop with techno and house with some experimental production

43-Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith - The Kid 

Gorgeous, layered, atmospheric electronic music

42-Marc-André Hamelin - For Bunita Marcus (Morton Feldman)

Although this piece has been recorded pretty frequently, I think this is the best performance that has been recorded so far of it.  If you’re not familiar, it’s a relatively challenging listen as it’s over 70 minutes, extremely minimal and quiet, and consists primarily of repeating displaced motives with strange hanging harmonies - worth a listen you’re into Feldman / modern composition / minimalism.

41-Baths - Romaplasm

Cerebral electronic pop

40-Trio Da Kali and Kronos Quartet - Ladilikan

The collaboration between the Kronos Quartet (a string quartet who are generally more in the modern classical realm but have dabbled in other genres as well) and these three musicians from Mali

39-Lorde - Melodrama

One of the best pop records that came out this year.

38-Oumou Sangare - 

Malian singer Oumou Sangare's first album back after 8 years is one of her best.

37-Godflesh - Post-Self

Gnarly groovey industrial metal - atmospheric vibes, some rank riffage, (and to quote Mark Kozleck) Justin's trademark "guttural growls from hell".

36-Slowdive - Slowdive

This record doesn’t really push shoegaze into anywhere it hasn’t been before - but Slowdive do what they do so well, texturally it's gorgeous, and it’s a welcome addition to their discography. 

35-Black Ken - Lil B

The based god’s hour and forty minute record “Black Ken” is more consistent and digestible than his previous mixtapes.

34-Chris Potter - The Dreamer is the Dream

Another solid record from saxophonist Chris Potter consisting of six originals that he composed.  My only beef with this record is the sequencing / the second half of it is stronger than the former.

33-Infinity Girl - Somewhere Nice, Someday

Infinity Girl’s swansong is their greatest, and the best shoegaze album that came out this year.

32-Sampha - Process

The British singer's electro-soul debut is beautiful and super moving.

31-Aromanticism - Moses Sumney

A solid and short (35 minute) debut that Sumney describes as being about “lovelessness as a sonic dreamscape” - it does an amazing job of creating a warm soulful vibe, is concise and poetic lyrically.

30-Hite - Light of a Strange Day 

Hite is a Brooklyn based singer-songwriter (who formerly performed under her own name, Julia Easterlin) who on this project creates music somewhere between baroque pop and Appalachian folk music.  Unlike a lot of her previous work, it consists entirely of original compositions written by Easterlin (instead of primarily of reimaginings).  The production and the string arrangements serve these songs really well.  Julia Easterlin was the musician who inspired me to start working with looping, and it has been amazing to see her continue to evolve with her music on the debut of this new project.

29-John Luther Adams  - Canticles of the Holy Wind

John Luther Adams is an American composer who is inspired by nature and creates extreamly textural work.  This vocal composition is ethereal and otherworldly.

28-Ron Miles (with Bill Frisell, Brian Blade, Jason Moran, & Thomas Morgan) - I Am A Man

Ron Miles's best album yet (even 30 years into his carrear) in part due to this ensemble being so ridiculously amazing.  

27-Sun Kil Moon / Jesu - 30 Seconds to the Decline of Planet Earth

Far stronger than their previous collaboration - ditching the louder guitar work and instead consisting entirely of the ambient/electronic beats supporting Mark's rolling stream of consciousness narratives.   “The Greatest Conversation Ever in the History of the Universe” is definitely a highlight.

26-Four Tet - New Energy 

Four Tet combine his earlier folktronica work, with a bit of the more dance oriented work he’d be doing, with his more chill ambient house music that he had left off on (with "Morning/Evening").  Although some tracks are definitely stronger than others - there’s enough here to keep Four Tet fans happy.

25-Mr Finish Line - Vulfpeck

This is the strongest Vulfpeck record to date - it’s soulful, and is definitely a throwback to 70s funk and R&B - but is self aware of that and has a sense of humor about it.  The opener “Birds of a Feather We Rock Together” is one of my favorite tracks that has come out this year.

24-Utopia - Bjork

Bjork’s “tinder album” is beautiful (as expected), personal and raw.  The production is dope as is the sound pallet on this record (with some assistance from Arca), consisting of lots of harps, flutes, birds, and glitchy electronic beats.  In the songwriting Bjork combines personal experiences of love and drama/hardship with larger picture of the world in a state of emergency.

23-Thomas Ades - Asyla, Teto, Polaris

Although only one of these compositions is previously unrecorded, the first two are among his most important and these recordings performed by the London Symphony Orchestra might be stronger than the ones that were previously available and the new piece,"Polaris" fits extremely well with these (thematically and musically).

22-Mogwai - Every Country's Red Sun

Although this isn’t much of a departure here - the compositions are generally stronger and better executed, and the record is consistently more solid as a whole than anything they’ve done in a decade (since “Mr. Beast”).  For me the highlight on this record is “Crossing the Road Material”, which is the only track that really goes into new territory for Mogwai - with more of a krautrock feel but still has an anthematic and cathartic explosive section that they’re so known for.  Well worth a listen for any post rock fan.

21-Halo - Juana Molina

Trance inducing psychedelic Argentian folk-pop with some serious odd time grooves and a strong sense of the occult and this is her strongest release yet.  Cosoco is definitely a highlight on here.

20-GT Ultra - Guerilla Toss

Guerilla Toss’s second full length continues in the direction they’ve been going in - it’s less chaotic / noisy and more funky / groove oriented.  Although it has a sense of control that wasn’t as present on their early work, it's no less fun and even more psychedelic.

19-Colin Stetson - All this I do for Glory 

All recorded live in-studio without overdubs or loops (placing lots of microphones around to pick up some of the percussive sounds of the clicking and the airy sounds of his breathing and such).  Although it’s not a huge departure from his earlier material - It's primal, gnarly, and stands strong in his discography.

18-Iglooghost - Neowax Bloom
This record is the sweetest ear candy that came out this year - Goey electronic music that incorporates elements drill and bass and glitch-hop.  Iglooghost's debut is wonky, maximalist, sonically kaleidoscopic, rhythmically mind-bending and wildly psychedelic.  Every piece flows into one another as one seamless composition - And for as spastic and cerebral as this album is, it is still accessible and truly a lot of fun.

17-Sun Kil Moon - Common as Light and Red as Valleys of Blood

So this double album is definitely long winded, and the first disk is stronger than the second - but the gems on here make it still a worth while listen of fans of Kozlek’s work.  He’s taken his songwriting farther in the direction he’s been going in - being more journalistic, more stream of consciousness, more meta, and his dark sense of humor is even more present (especially on the second disk).  The opener, “God Bless Ohio” is one of my favorite tracks of the year.

16-Broken Social Scene - Hug of Thunder

BSS’s 5th studio album and first in 7 years is more focused and has better song writing than their previous album - It’s got a huge epic sound with their 15 original members and it sounds like the dark state of the world right now have given them a renewed mission to bring more light into this world with their music.  The closer on here is incredibly epic. 

15-Converge - The Dusk in Us  

Often frenzied but simultaneously detailed metal-core.  This record has more in common in production with Jane Doe  than their recent albums - but is musically much more varied.  The opener “A Single Tear” is definitely a highlight.

14-Cecile Mclorin Salvant - Dreams and Daggers

Cecile is a jazz singer who is relatively traditional in the standards she is singing but simultaneously original and brings enough unpredictable twists to keep things interesting.  On this first live album she’s released the humor in her stage presence and personality shines through more as well as the sense of drama (such as in the “My Man’s Gone Now”) than it has on her previous studio recordings.  This is hands down the best vocal jazz album in over a decade. 

13-Uyai - Ibibio Sound Machine 

Nigerian Ibibio Sound Machine combine afro-funk, with electronics, and pop/rock - Retro-synths, cosmic energy, and feel good-grooves - This record takes the cake for the freshest funk that came out this year.

12-Charles Lloyd New Quartet - Passin’ Thru

Created from a live recording that marked the 10th anniversary of his new quartet - composed of pianist Jason Moran, bassist Reuben Rogers, and drummer Eric Harland.  The album is made up entirely of Lloyd’s compositions (some old and some new).  The album is varied, where some tracks are relatively more traditional - such as the gorgeous “How Can I Tell You”, some have got some serious soulful grooves (such as “Tagore on the Delta”), and some are meditative and intensely spiritual (like the closer “Shiva Prayer”).

11-Death Grips - Steroids (Crouching Tiger Hidden Gabba Megamix)

While Death Grips previous release, “Bottomless Pit” saw them fine tuning an already established sound, this “mixtape” shows the band once again taking new direction - this time going into frantic gabba territory.  The mixtape is one track 23 minute track which can be divided into 7 sections.  The material is very through-composed, dense, and spastic - but still contains accessible hooks and grooves that string this 23 minute composition together into a digestible wild ride.  Death Grips once again continue to push the limits of what Hip Hop can be.

10-Steve Coleman's Natal Eclipse - Morphogenisis 

Morphogenesis is Coleman’s follow up to Synovial Joints (my #2 pick of 2015).  It’s complex and ethereal and unlike any record I’ve ever heard.  As with a lot of Coleman’s work it blurs the lines between improvisation and precomposed - but there is a unique orchestration on this record containing hardly any percussion.  Because of this, it is initially a much more difficult record because of this absence - the rhythmic cycles are more subtle and are easier to get lost in - but once you come into this it does have a cerebral and psychedelic effect.  And even though there isn’t a drum kit and much percussion, there is still a strong sense of groove and swing with all the compositions being inspired by boxing (sonic interpretations of these movements).
Apple Music
9- Ctrl - SZA  

SZA’s debut is the strongest R&B record of the year - sort of in the vein of neo-soul, but with elements of hip-hop and indie vibes as well.  These songs are full of raw, vulnerable and intimate narratives - about love, loneliness, and sex.  A lot of this record also focuses on self-esteem and femininity in an empowering way.  The features on here all work really well, her vocal performance is absolutely phenomenal, and the production on here is gorgeous and serves these brutally honest songs perfectly.
Apple Music
8-Kendrick Lamar - DAMN.

My expectations are sky high for Kendrick based on his last couple full length’s - and this album did not meet those expectations, but over time once I accepted it’s not another masterpiece I’ve come to appreciate what this album does have to offer.  This album is more raw / less filtered and feels almost like a mixtape at times.  The beats also fit more in with the mixtape culture - being less jazz oriented than TPAB and trendier - but are hard hitting and the production is top notch.  Although the record is not consistently solid, conceptually it doesn't hold together as a whole, and there's some real clunkers like "Loyalty", "Love" (which might be his all time worst song), and "God" - there are some real gems as well such as "DNA" and "Humble" (which might be the best Hip-Hop tracks of the year).

Apple Music

7-Craig Taborn - Daylight Ghosts
Jazz pianist Craig Taborn’s "Daylight Ghosts" is his best release as a bandleader so far.  This ensemble is absolutely killer - featuring Taiborn on piano and electronic keyboards, Chis Lightcap on bass, Chris Speed on Sax, and Dave King on drums (formerly of the Bad Plus).  Most of the compositions are through composed, have an intense attention to detail, and are truly mind bending, “Ancient” being a great example of one that truly spirals out - but there are some haunting and some intensely beautiful tunes on here as well such as, “Jamaican Farewell”.  But despite how cerebral and atmospheric this record is - the grooves on here are hypnotic (such as the odd time ostinato on the closing track “Phantom Radio”) and there is a sense of drama on a lot of this record that allows it to still be engaging, accessible, and surprisingly (relatively) easily digestible.
Apple Music
6-Idles - Brutalism 
Brutalism is about as raw as raw gets.  There is a shift in Talbot’s songwriting - being much more personal and caustic - and a new sense of urgency that wasn’t present on their first EPs.  From the liner notes it seems that this shift was at least in part caused by Talbot’s mother passing after a long illness which gave the band a new focus.  A portrait of Talbot’s mother is on the cover of the album along with a sculpture made by Talbot and his father.  Most of the record having a rhythmic engine-like drive that is totally relentless.  The only complete break from this feel is the closer on the record, “Slow Savage”, which upon hearing it for the first time brought me to tears.   But even as emotional and brutal as this album is - it has some truly catchy hooks and a satirical humor (such as in the track “Well Done”) that bring to mind some of the British punk of the 70s. This record is one of the greatest punk debuts in the last couple decades - and I can’t wait to see how Idles continues to evolve.
Apple Music
5-Mount Eerie - A Crow Looked at Me 

“A Crow Looked at Me” is probably the saddest and most emotionally draining record I’ve ever heard.  It is the best record Phil Elvrum has put out since “The Glow Pt. 2” (2001) and pushes song-writing further into uncharted territory (as I wrote a bit about in my previous post about the sea change happening in rock music and how song-writing is shifting).  Phil wrote and recorded this record immediately after his wife passed away from cancer and is a meditation on this loss and beginning his new life as a single parent.  The album often flashes back and forth between mundane details of this new life (such as splitting up the scrap two-by-fours into kindling in his yard) and extremely beautiful and poetic realizations (such as the closing line on the song “Seaweed”) - Flashing back and forth between fantasies of her returning (such as picking berries for her and “thinking about about the things I'll tell you when you get back from wherever it is that you've gone”) and the reoccurring realization that death is real - Flashing between descriptions of magical thinking - such as thinking a fly in the bathroom could be her, or not wanting to close the window in case something of her wasn’t out of the house yet, and reminders of the harsh reality such the fact that she still gets mail.  Instrumentally it’s skeletal and fits the stream of conscious narrative of this psychologically intense process that he is in.  This record is extremely raw, unfiltered, cathartic and not for the faint of heart - but is definitely one of the most important folk records that has come out in recent years and will definitely have a huge impact on the shape of songwriting.  
Apple Music
4-Kneebody- Anti-Hero

Kneebody are a modern jazz group that incorporates electronic music, rock, funk, and hip-hop - and have been cited by some as being “post-jazz” (although I’m sure this is a label that many will take offense to).  The record is a huge improvement from their sometimes cluttered collaboration with Daedelus, and although even has one track on here that was also on this previous release (“Drum Battle”) - on here it's rearranged in a way that is twice as long and works much better (where Nate Wood is not battling anyone other than himself).  The compositions are more consistently solid than they have been on any of their other records (with the only low point being near the middle of the record) and thanks to Nate Wood who engineered, mixed and mastered the album - the production on here is crisp and really serves the performances well - being able to bring the trippier sections to hallucinogenic levels, the grooves feel infectious and hit hard, and the mix to be clear.   This is the best Kneebody release so far and well worth a listen for anyone interested in groove-oriented modern jazz.
Apple Music

3-Vijay Iyer Sextet - Far From Over 

Vijay Iyer Sextet’s album “Far From Over” is Iyer’s 5th release for ECM and this group’s debut.  This ensemble already has a deep level of interconnectedness in their playing and function flawless as a unit and have a unique sound.  In Iyer’s words, “This group has a lot of fire in it, but also a lot of earth, because the tones are so deep, the timbres and textures…There’s a resistance in this music, an insistence on dignity and compassion, a refusal to be silenced. The music can hit hard while also having a searching quality, a yearning – which is basically a blues aesthetic that has been abstracted and then embodied in different ways by the different players in the group..”  All the players performances on here is remarkable - but Steve Lehman’s presence is in my opinion the most exciting as he brings a mind bending wild energy into the mix.  Melodically this record is often pretty angular as well as groove oriented (such as the deep funk feel of the track “Nope”) - bringing earlier M-base music to mind.  This is my top pick for jazz albums that came out this year and shows that Iyer is still on top of his game.
Apple Music

2-Do Make Say Think - Stubborn Persistent Illusions

There is no record that is filled with more light and love that came out this year.  "Stubborn Persistent Illusions" is Do Make Say Think’s first record in 8 years (the time off definitely did the group some good), their longest record thus far, and one of their best to date.  There's elements of psychedelia, minimalism, some longer compositions that are rather epic, and the closer is perhaps the most anthematic song they've released thus far.   The two drummer grooves on here are as tight as ever, the the melodies are super memorable, and the production on this brings the joy and wonder in these compositions fully to life.  It is easily the best post-rock record that has come out in the last five years - it doesn't fall into any of the cliches of the genre and pushes the genre's boundaries.
Apple Music  

1-Big Thief - Capacity 

Lenker’s songwriting on here is more abstract and mysterious (or at least much more so on this record than on their debut), but she is just as open, vulnerable, and sincere as any songwriters out there.  She often describe specific events that took place in relatively clear and concrete way (such as in the near death experience on “Mythological Beauty”) and is addressing specific people by name.  But this record is such an accomplishment as well because the entire quartet (and Sarlo on production) are able to get behind these songs and provide exactly what they need - sometimes even contributing by choosing not to play.  James’s drumming on this really adds a lot to the sound with beats that are simple, but driving - showing a lot of restraint (such as in the track “Shark’s Smile” where I don’t believe he plays one fill for the entire song).  And the production on this record is fucking phenomenal - with subtle complexities layered in that add a new depth to these compositions - with occasional washes of psychedelia (such as in the instrumental section of “Great White Shark”).  It was difficult for me stop listening to this record to listen to other things for a good chunk of this year.

-Honorable Mentions 2017
-Dishonorable Mentions 2017
-Music I Made in 2017
-Top Albums 2016

Much love,