You had to pick the one tonight

Remember sleep?

You had to pick the one tonight
Gastr Del Sol, “We Have Dozens of Titles” [Bandcamp]

This week was the final push to the conclusion of this year’s Tournament of Books, a monthlong book competition I’ve been hosting with my friend Rosecrans Baldwin for the past 20 years, which is a long time to be doing anything, much less bestowing a (possibly imaginary) award on a new work of fiction every March.

As always, it’s a month of juggling/balancing acts, of squeezing more time out of every day—and by the final week my life I’m barely tethered to a normal life, and here’s what I heard during that. (Spotify, Apple Music)

“Goo,” Unknown Mobile

I have a subwoofer, and I’m not afraid to use it—but rarely does it get this kind of workout. This song has so much going on, so much organic matter, such a deep beat, it’s a ride.

“Return from LA II – Moor Mother Remix,” Michael Vincent Waller, Moor Mother

I’m generally averse to remix albums, but the roster of artists with extremely inventive takes on Michael Vincent Waller’s 2019 Moments album is too much my thing to ignore. Beyond this stunning bit from Moor Mother, other remixes feature Jlin, Fennesz, Loraine James, Xiu Xiu, and rather than let this become a long list of artists I admire, I’ll leave it at that.

“Generate,” Terence David

Some lovely ’80s-style house experimentalism here. Many, many layers here doing many, many things, all shifting across the whole of the song, with none of them outstaying their welcome. A fascinating little track.

“The Message Is the Message,” Outer World

There are a lot of hints of specific scenes and genres here—psychedelia, ’90s emo, jangle pop—but what hooks me in so hard here is the songwriting structure of that chorus, where somehow they manage to play what seem like four different songs that trade out at each bar, and it all fits together so seamlessly.

“Holes,” Paraorchestra feat. Nadine Shah, Brett Anderson, Charles Hazlewood

Another new one from the forthcoming Death Songbook album, from the 2021 livestream of the same title, and one of my favorites from that set. The original Mercury Rev song has the tendency to wreck listeners’ emotions, and this version is no exception. With an album on the way, the videos of the original concert have been pulled from YouTube, but—don’t alert the authorities—my favorite of all the tracks, their cover of Black’s “Wonderful Life,” is still streaming.

“weather underground,” More Eaze, pardo, Glass

Desert ambience meets musique concrète is going to be something I’m highly suspicious of, mainly because I feel like we have too much of it right now. But I don’t think anyone does it quite as well as More Eaze, and I had trouble picking a track from this new paris paris, texas texas album to include here, it’s so good.

“The Seasons Reverse – live,” Gastr Del Sol

I’m not sure we ever agreed what to call the sound coming out of Chicago in the ’90s, whether it’s just “Thrill Jockey” (even though that wasn’t the only label associated with it) or maybe “Tortoise and all that” or anecdotally “John McEntire plays drums on it,” but definitely not “post-rock,” and perhaps only one thing is certain in my own mind: This song from Gastr Del Sol was always one of my favorites, and I could not have imagined that a newly unearthed live instrumental version would capture the same inventiveness as the original. And yet.

“to feel,” twin coast

Gauzy and organic, this is a wonderful post-shoegaze track from a duo that’s been putting out some really interesting, noise-y stuff over the past year or so.

“ZWAARD 2,” Beans

I wasn’t even sure what this even was when it fell into my feed this week—I was on a trail at the time, unable to look at my phone—but I was immediately taken. Anyway, I learned it was Beans from Antipop Consortium—which, unexpected!—and thanks to Stephan Kunze’s zen sounds for sending a newsletter about the new album at the exact moment I got home and was wondering what this even was.

“Yucca,” Church Andrews, Matt Davies

Love the way this undulating track keeps propelling, insistently, even while seeming to move backwards. Fun and disorienting, like running the wrong way down a people mover.

“Art after the internet,” Sporting Life

I’ve never been much for Mac DeMarco, yet this cover of “Chamber of Reflection” takes a good song and makes it so much more interesting and answers the question of what happens when a lo-fi song is reimagined with digital, high production values.

“Old New York,” Pat Berlinquette

I got pulled into this song by its sheer dedication to the bit. Croon-driven rock and roll straight out of 1961 with cover art to match, yet with a severely eerie undercurrent. So I googled Pat Berlinquette, which I suppose is exactly what he thought I might do, since he works in ad tech at Google—and his day job influences his music. (A few years back he also wrote an interesting piece at the New York Times [gift link] about his efforts to fill a horrific gap in Google’s algorithm that left people searching for ways to commit suicide without clear ways to find health resources.)

So what’s the connection to the music? According to a feature at Obscure Sound:

“My job in Google adTech makes me think about our future symbiosis with A.I. & Neuralink. Hopefully it ends up being a mutualistic relationship, not a parasitic one. Either way, in our lifetimes, we might go somewhere (like a virtual, classic New York) simply by thinking about it. Maybe can bring someone with us…on opposing sides of the world, but connected through thought.