I was one of the lucky few to see Animal Collective play before 300 people at the Henry Miller Library in Big Sur two nights ago. I’ll have much more to say about the show in the days to come, and a ton of pictures and video to share too, but I can’t get the memory tied to “Lay Low” out of my mind.

Words fail to express the love I have for this stretch of the California coast. So many of my happiest moments have their roots here, and I know of no other place that so thoroughly calms my restless soul.

I proposed to Abby in China Cove, a secluded beach in the Point Lobos State Reserve made just for us, but totally unknown to me before we arrived:

Point Lobos, China Cove

And shared the first of many Carmel sunsets that night:

Our first Highlands Inn sunset

And celebrated her birthday the next day at Nepenthe, perched high above the Pacific Ocean in Big Sur:

Abby and Scott at Nepenthe in Big Sur

And were married in the Carmel Highlands, with our families in attendance, on a day when the fog to burned off just in time to give us our moment in the sun:

Abby and Scott

And I love the drive from Carmel to Big Sur. If I stopped every time I saw an astonishingly beautiful scene like the one below, the 35 mile drive would take a lifetime:

Big Sur

So you can imagine my delight to find out about the show in Big Sur, and my sheer joy at getting four of the most precious tickets on earth, in my humble opinion of course. Abby, Sawyer, my brother Kevin, and I arrived to find the Library tucked in between towering trees and completely enveloped in the densest fog. The entire scene was magical, and only made more so by the song that plays in the background of this quick video:

I only wish I would have moved the camera more slowly, in spite of the speed it reminds of how time stood still that night. The entire hour plus before Animal Collective played was filled for much of the same ethereal sounds, none of which I recognized, but this one stood above all else.

I spent the better part of tonight with that video looped, trying in vain to decipher the lyrics with the hope of identifying the song, when at last I remembered seeing an app for my iPhone called Shazam. Sure enough, a ten second sample identified it, and after scouring the internet again I finally had my song (it seems to be a live version from SxSW, the album is all but impossible to find). Here it is:

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The show itself was almost an afterthought given the majesty of the setting, the crisp and cool air ever so slightly misty from the fog, the history of the land on which we stood, and the band that brought each one of us there. But my most cherished memory is the few hours I was able to share with my family in such a magnificent place, and now I have a song to take me there in an instant.

Haven’t done one of these in a while, and this is as good as anything I’ve heard lately, so without further ado:

I am two weeks late in pointing out what almost everyone who cares about this stuff now knows: Lee Burridge’s mix on Resident Advisor is one for the ages. And before we go any further I have to admit that I was not only unaware he was living in San Francisco and putting on a series of amazing “Get Weird” events, I had never even heard of him!

Let me also say that I absolutely love good techno, and by good techno I mean minimal, melodic, emotional music. Moving in every sense of the word; I once called it “A motion with emotion.” Dewey immortalized the thought in the notes to Ultramarine’s legendary Every Man and Woman is a Star:

There is music for the body and there is music for the mind. Music for the body picks you off the floor and hurls you into physical activity. Music for the mind floats you gently downstream, through pleasurable twists and turns, ups and downs, rapids and calm waters… And sometimes there is music for the body and for the mind.

Years ago, I rationalized what I then thought might be a sustainable model for purchasing music: I always buy digital first, disc if I can’t find digital, and vinyl if it’s limited edition or otherwise unavailable any other way. Beyond that, I also decided that I wouldn’t buy any more “pure” techno, since there’s no earthly way I can keep up with everything that’s released and continue to feed and clothe my family.

Just like hip-hop, I let life (and the intertrons) bring me techno. Richie Hawtin did the 100th mix for Resident Advisor’s podcast, and to hear it I had to register, and since I loved it I grabbed the feed in iTunes, and now each Monday I’m treated to a new mix. To be frank, I delete most after a minute of listening, but this one definitely shone through.

While effortlessly smooth throughout, it feels melancholy at first, yet reveals itself to be deceptively upbeat upon repeated listens. It’s deep, dark, and only made more mysterious due to the fact that he didn’t provide a tracklist (not to worry, the forum had it figured out within a day or two). Because of them, I was able to track down two of my favorites from the mix:

Klute’s “Only Memory is a Good One”

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Stephan Hinz’s “Rhodes Under My Pillow”

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Give them a listen. If you like them I highly recommend you grab the mix on RA before it disappears next week. You do not want to miss it.

I’ve been anxious to hear the new Max Tundra album, Parallax Error Beheads You, ever since I saw it would soon be released. After all, it has been six long years since his previous full-length. It wasn’t easy to find, especially since the US version hasn’t come out yet, but I found it and love it, so now I’m sharing it with you.

The entire album is a manwich of a meal, but my favorite has to be the finale, “Until We Die.” It’s an epic stomper of a track, clocking in at just a hair over 11 minutes long. At times it sounds like an 80’s sitcom theme song on acid, or maybe an Alvin and the Chipmucks album flipped on 45rpm, but I can’t get enough of how effortlessly it flows from soft and restrained to over-the-top insane.

If you’re impatient or just overwhelmed by the sheer volume of sound, the lyrics are well worth a listen, and they kick in just after 2:45. I haven’t been able to find them anywhere else, so here’s my best guess:

Did you ever see the holy mountain on ice
30 tons of frogs and blood cascading like dice
The decoration painting was inhibited by fainting
And the clean up operation wasn’t nice

So you did some work for me and you didn’t get paid
Think of all the songs you sang and the love that you made
While Mr. Mend his kisses gate, and in my kitchen break a plate ???
And sweep it up and dream of getting laid

I don’t know if you got my letter
But everyone thinks you’re great
If you come home it will be much better
And I will your mate until we die

If you tried to do the cube and it doesn’t work out
Don’t peel the stickers off or move the pieces about
Just turn it in to this address, my underlings will do the rest
Unless you fill the envelope with doubt

As a child I used to be obsessed with pale saints
In a shop of art supplies, among the sale paints
I thought this girl was Maryam, and I asked if she’d tell me about barium.
That isn’t me she said with some restraint

I don’t know if you got my letter
It should have arrived by now
When you come home it will be much better
I’m longing to show you how until we die

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I know it’s not the most accessible song around, but its charms are many, especially that impossibly high falsetto. If you’re willing to take the plunge I promise at least a smile and maybe even an extra bounce in your step; it’s impossible not to be swept up in its euphoria.

After reading nothing but rave reviews, not just of their new release but pretty much of their entire being, I finally bought Gang Gang Dance’s Saint Dymphna. To be fair, I have only listened to it twice with headphones and just put it up for Fly Lo’s patented whip test last Friday night, so a more thorough review will have to wait a bit longer.

What’s most interesting to me now is the way GGD feels both wholly of the moment and completely timeless as well. There’s something very current about their sound, something that can only be made in this modern era, yet it so clearly encompasses the energies and eccentricities of another era. Many other eras, in fact.

I love to find myself aware of both an instant and the infinite, and I can think of no better way to access that feeling than through music. “Princes feat. Tinchy Stryder” immediately takes me there and definitely keeps me coming back for more, I just can’t get enough of it:

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“Oh shit, Gang Gang.”

I look forward to learning more about this Brooklyn band, and hope to see them live next month in San Francisco. If you’re thinking about going, please let me know, I would love to meet up.

I was pleasantly surprised to see that The Sea and Cake had a new album coming out, and even happier to finally have it Car Alarm my possession today. While I wouldn’t call it love / hate, I am often of two (or more) minds when it comes to this band, which is surprising given how much I love Tortoise (John McEntire works on both, and produces many other excellent bands as well).

I enjoyed their previous album, Everybody, and immediately identifed with the line “And still I’ve been taught to glorify what’s left to do” from “Coconut,” but I didn’t love it from beginning to end. One Bedroom and Oui completely surprised me and pretty much had me hooked for life, but then I saw them in concert at the Wexner Center in Columbus and they were depressingly flat.

I have always ranked things I love first, things I loathe second, and things that give me absolutely nothing in return last. TSAC can beautifully blend into my life and become the soundtrack of my day, or it can completely disappear to my great dismay. When I am listening to something, I want to feel it in my bones.

That said, the subtly seductive sound of “On a Letter” spoke to me immediately. It’s an effortlessly beautiful song, so soft and full at the same time, and warms me up like the sun’s rays on a perfectly warm but not too hot summer day, just like this afternoon in San Francisco. Have a listen:

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I have to share “CMS Sequence” too, as it immediately follows “On a Letter” and perfectly completes the moment:

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I definitely look forward to diving deeper into this one, especially since tomorrow is going to be every bit as beautiful!

I haven’t even begun to consider exactly where this one sits on the continuum of my all-time favorite Squarepusher songs, partly because this process of writing about them has caused me to listen to everything with brand new ears, but it’s definitely near the top of the list. Of all the tracks on his newest album, Just a Souvenir, this one stopped me cold, and only “Star Time 2″ has anywhere near the number of listens as “A Real Woman.”

I can think of very few three minute songs that leave me as breathless at the end, but this track just gallops so quickly it feels like it’s over before it even begins, which of course has me reaching for the back button to play it again. More than a few people on Last.fm thought it was a Ramones cover, given its brevity, blistering pace, and relatively basic opening sequence, but it’s far much more than that.

Though I am an unabashed fanatic for anything with a vocoder in it, I have never heard anything as lush and luxurious. I can’t get enough of the lyrics either, at least the ones I have been able to decipher. How can you go wrong with lines like these?

you are a member of society
you are a member of reality

do you think it’s time that you are called upon
do you think it’s time that you are seen to be you

you are real
you exist
you are sane
you’re alive
you are here
you are fine
you are you
because you’re real

you think a lot about the world today
you think a lot about what to say
everything you say, it should be listened to
everything you say, well, it should be understood

you are real
you exist
you are sane
you’re alive
you are dreaming
you’re a person / you are present
you are happy
because you’re real

please show me what it’s like to be real
please show me what it’s like to be you
everything that is including me
that’s how it is in reality
everything that is including you
that’s how it is the galaxy

you have an edge of satisfaction
you have an air of satisfaction
i want you to tell me that it’s what i love
i want you to tell me that i’m significant

you are real
you have feelings
you’re important
you have feelings
you are perfect
you have feelings
you’re really real
you have feelings

you are real
you exist
you are sane
you’re alive
you’re impressive
you’re important
you’re smoking
because you’re real

Just listen to those brushed snares, they have a snap unlike any other, especially when rolled so tightly. Plus, those bass fills might be his stickiest yet, they’re just dripping with funk. I could rave on this song for hours, but perhaps it’s best to let the music speak for itself:

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Brilliant. Simply brilliant.

Updated with my best guess at the full lyrics. Please fill in the gaps or correct me in the comments. Thanks to emberexi for the assist, even though I didn’t accept all of your changes you definitely helped fill in the gaps!

I was looking for a song to post last night, something that captured the energy and beauty of the afternoon I shared with my wife, son, and brother in San Francisco, but nothing quite fit. It wasn’t until this morning’s walk to work that it all fell into place — clearly, the answer had to be “Star Time 2″ by Squarepusher.

This track starts slow and quietly comes to a crescendo, only to completely unwind in the most peaceful repose. It is positively euphoric and borders on cartoon-like exaggeration, yet it still remains serene and well-composed.

I definitely gravitate toward music with space, which to me means an ample separation of sound that gives room to explore what lies between. And what lies between? Exactly: nothing. Most artists fail to consider that it might be better to not throw everything in all at once, and even fewer can wear that restraint as a badge of courage and push for greater separation. When he chooses to, Jenkinson masterfully toes the line between obvious and subtle, chaos and calm, thick and thin; I can think of no better illustration than “Star Time 2″:

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I think it will be an all-Squarepusher week, with a quick look back at how he arrived at this point and that long-promised write-up of my favorite track from Just a Souvenir. But I’m also itching to play you some Plaid too, the Beatles of our electronic era. Perhaps that’s for next week?

My final SOTD for this week is another Warp artist, Born Ruffians, a three piece band from Canada. While I have (and love) all of their releases, they’re still a bit of a bolt from the blue — I know less about them then I would like, but I hope to make up for that by seeing them live in San Francisco next week.

They describe themselves so:

We are the next link in the evolutionary chain of contemporary pop music, mixing drums, bass, and electric guitar, an almost unheard of combination, with bits of harmonium, piano and plenty of “hootin and hollerin” to create a sound we call “the best we could come up with!”

“Litle Garçon” is a perfect illustration:

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It’s such a beautifully heartfelt song, so simplistic in nature, also able to be sung in a round (very important), and most of all a wonderful reminder of my wife and son — we sing this song to him and each other quite often. Many of the other songs on their new album, Red, Yellow, and Blue, are both more raw and much more intense, but this one sticks with me the most. Give it a listen and you’ll see why.

I was hooked from the moment I first heard FlyLo’s sound, and everything that’s followed only confirms that Steven Ellison is a highly imaginative and intuitive talent. His stuff just works on the most fundamental level, and even with his increasingly complex constructions, he never loses sight of each track’s heart.

I have always felt that his music had a cinematic quality to it, a vastness encapsulated into such endlessly satisfying bite-size vignettes. Perhaps it’s no surprise that Ellison studied film in school, or that his aunt is Alice Coltrane, married to the great John Coltrane. Oh, and, he’s signed to Warp Records, home of Squarepusher, Autechre, Aphex, Plaid, and more. The man has pedigree in spades!

I could point you to any one of the 17 tracks on his new album Los Angeles, but for me the one that truly stands above and beyond all others is “RobertaFlack (feat. Dolly).” The sparsely spaced rhythm track shines on its own, but that gives Ellison plenty of room to add Dolly’s beautiful voice for color and depth. And then he tops it off with the most unexpected breakdown at the end, so ridiculously sultry and seductive I could listen to those last 52 seconds on repeat for the rest of my life and die a very happy man:

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And if you like that, you won’t want to miss the exquisite video for “Parisian Goldfish” — Dance Floor Dale — co-directed by none other than one of my old favorites Eric Fensler. Be warned, it’s not for the faint of heart.