Boards of Canada’s exquisite In a Beautiful Place out in the Country was first released ten years ago today on November 27, 2000, and it’s a moment worth remembering I think. Recall that the world had gone mad over their first full length release, Music has the Right to Children, and had waited well over two years for something new — that this was such a bolt from the blue makes it all the more impressive. I hold this lovely little four-track EP in the highest regard, and the limited edition sky blue vinyl as one of my most cherished possessions. I still can’t believe I opened it for a friend to play, otherwise it would still be sitting in the plastic sleeve, untouched by human hands.

In a Beautiful Place out in the CountryI always recommend these four songs to people new to electronic music in general or BoC in particular — I can’t think of a better representation of the genre itself or their body of work. IABPOITC flows so effortlessly you just might miss it on the first listen. Successive spins pull you deeper and deeper into its trance, leaving you no closer to solving the mystery of its magic, but thirsty for more. I still find it endlessly entertaining and every bit as alluring as my first listen ten years ago. Warp’s founder, Steve Beckett, the man who brought BoC to the masses, says it best:

“Sweet psychedelic 80′s funk – Boards have got a nack for sucking you into a tune within a few seconds and then just holding you there in the beauty of their sounds which connect directly to your heart.”

It begs to be played as one song from start to finish, but the title track stands alone as the finest of the four. Have a listen:

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For those of you paying attention to my humble blog, you’ll note that I left this masterpiece off of my 20 songs from my favorite 20 albums of the 2000s. I cannot begin to explain nor atone for this error. It belongs not only on the list but at or near the top.

Lastly, I was fortunate enough to see them play live in 1999 at Warp’s We Are Ten party in London. They opened their set with the fourth track on the then-unreleased IABPOITC, Zoetrope. A zoetrope loosely translates from Greek to “wheel of life” in English, dates to the second century, and functions as a crude means of showing animation, none of which I knew at the time. I have searched high and low for some footage, even a still photograph, of the video they showed on the screen behind them as this song played — words fail to describe what is still one of the most magical things I have ever seen. Think of the cover art on MHTRTC, with those same nameless and faceless forms, this time in full motion on playground equipment, only instead of moving forward they floated backward without a hint of anything unnatural. It was, as this entire release is, an astonishingly beautiful sleight of hand.

Here’s the audio of Zoetrope from the show:

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Thank you, Mike and Marcus, for this still wonderful gift, even ten years later. Now, may I please ask for something new in 2011?

Sam O’Hare’s “The Sandlot” is an absolute masterpiece. It certainly helps that its subjects are the buildings, people, and public spaces of Manhattan and Brooklyn, but it’s the impeccable composition and delicate pace with which they are handled that really shines.

It’s comprised of more than 35,000 still photographs shot over five days and two nights in August of 2009, a herculean effort in and of itself. Each image was manually tilt-shifted and then assembled in time-lapse. What you see here is New York in miniature, yet vivid motion. It’s more humane, more comprehensible, and more attainable, all things not often said about it.

While you can watch it here, it’s worth clicking over to Vimeo to watch “The Sandlot” in full-screen high-def.

As for the music by Human, owners of what looks to be a website designed and developed in the late ’90s (no, that’s not a compliment), Sam says:

I wanted the track to speak to what it is like to experience the many rhythms, pulses and moods of the city and the composition, especially the peak, does this beautifully. The vocals add narrative and pacing to the piece, and really help draw you through it.

Yes, and how. This track, untitled and completely unavailable as best I can tell, would fit perfectly in the Morr Music catalog, slotted between Styrofoam and The Go Find. The male vocals are gentle but spirited, calm but not sedate, and the female vocals remind me of Kirsty Hawkshaw’s work on Opus III’s “It’s a Fine Day,” perhaps best known as the sample in Orbital’s epic “Halcyon and on and on.” High praise indeed.

The lyrics are stunning, especially the last line and inspiration for the title of this post:

Here we go
Start over
Motion fills the air

C’mon c’mon
C’mon c’mon
C’mon c’mon now

And we know
The fragments
Revealing all the patterns

C’mon c’mon
C’mon c’mon
C’mon c’mon now

And we are
The story
Turn the page
And see what happens next

Here we go
Here we go
Here we go

We walk outside
All afternoon
All afternoon
All afternoon

All afternoon

Over and over
All afternoon

Rivers of light
Flowing home again
A flicker and its gone

As much as I love music, I often find that the video gets in the way. I can think of only a handful of that serve as more than just a compliment, they provide a means to access the music in a totally new way, something like The Books “Smells Like Content” (like tiny fragments of a finger snap). I will always love this quick “Glowing Cities Under a Nighttime Sky” clip, but the music is secondary. The only one that really comes close is this gem by Andrew Paynter for Tortoise:

That’s the San Francisco I know and love, so cool and crisp, but it pales in comparison to the warmth and glow of Sam’s New York. Makes me wonder why I’m still here and not there.

Updated on July 20, 2012: Just last week, John kindly sent me the link to the video he made for Phylactery. As you might imagine, it’s every bit as brilliantly seductive as the song itself:

This post of mine still gets a large amount of traffic, which is testament to his beautiful lyrics and inimitable sound (I just happened to point them out). What a joy it is for me to relive this song all over again, I’ve yet to tire of it and I can’t imagine I ever will.

What follows is the original post from November 2009.

I can think of about a fifty new songs worth playing for you all, and maybe ten or so in need of a deeper discussion, but none is more worthy than this unconventional beauty from John Callaghan. I have followed John since his debut on Warp in 1998, and that incredible little 7" entitled I’m Not Comfortable In My Mind remains one of my most cherished possessions, not only for it’s rarity, but for it’s intensity and ingenuity and individuality. Truly, no one else in the world can make music quite like John.

For as much as I love and still relentlessly collect Warp’s releases, there are few songs on the new Recreated double CD that rise above the novelty of it all. Certainly the Born Ruffians’ cover of Aphex Twin’s “Milkman / To Cure a Weakling Child” ranks near the top, but after that I find the rest to be wholly disappointing. Fortunately, John takes on my least favorite song off of Autechre’s flawless Cichli Suite EP and turns it into one for the ages. Here’s the original for reference:

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“Tilapia” pales in comparison only because the other four songs define the pinnacle of Autechre’s classic 90s sound. Yes, it’s a fine song, but it feels a bit out of place in the context of the others. Quibbles aside, John’s remix is more of an homage, finding inspiration in the click track, square-wave baseline, and that same sense of the song withdrawing into itself. It’s masterful:

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The instrumental track alone shines brightly enough, but it’s even better with the vocals, which in turn are made even more meaningful by that strange and unfamiliar word in the title. If I understand it correctly, a phylactery is an object used to contain a soul. What else is music if not the same?

So I’ll keep on talking
for as long as I can
warm you with my embers
hoping you’ll remember
as I leave my debris
like temporal graffiti
audition for your memory
oh please don’t forget me

And these souvenirs
are fragile and small
so mark where they fall
I need them to prove that I was here at all

Like a stone makes ripples
like a stone I’m sinking
create a puppet of me
to occupy your thinking
I leave a thousand footprints
and a million echoes
a million flawed impressions
in the people I know

And these souvenirs
reflections of John
I will be gone
I need you to carry them so I live on

And these souvenirs
momentos I make
forming my wake
you were my phylactery so keep me safe

As I continue to uncover what it means to be me, and unravel what it is I am put here on earth to do, I find comfort and encouragement in those who also hunger for meaning and a deeper connection to all that is. There’s a certain futility in living to be remembered, but as best I can tell there’s nothing wrong with creating something of lasting value. I should be so fortunate that my work touches another soul, that someone else chooses to carry it forward, that what I have accomplished with my life lives on in some small way.

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.

A friend of mine from Belgium, someone I’ve never met but know from following her pictures on flickr, called lamazone had this to say about of one of her pictures:

Dunno why, but I’m thinking about getting older. It’s not a midlife crisis, maybe it’s because my grandpa seems to be one of the last survivors in his family. He buried a good friend of his last week and is not getting any younger himself. He told me about his youth and his years in the US. He doesn’t have any pictures of those years (the twenties) whereas I take pictures of my breakfast. The times they are a-changing.

The line “He doesn’t have any pictures of those years whereas I take pictures of my breakfast.” stopped me in my tracks. Not only does my generation take those same silly pictures and videos too, we do so to share them with the world. I look at the variety and sheer volume of memories Abby and I have already archived for Sawyer and only wish I had the same for me.

Fortunately on my last trip home I had a chance to rekindle some wonderful memories of my youth, and what I lack in volume is more than made up in the singularity of these images. Take this one of me in 1985, just 12 years old, holding David Lee Roth’s Just a Gigilo / I Ain’t Got Nobody in one hand and Run DMC’s King of Rock in the other. I’m pretty sure that was illegal in most states at the time:

Easter Run DMC

I have no idea how I convinced my parents to buy me those albums, for Easter no less, but I guess the precedent was set nearly two years prior when they bought me my first walkman and Def Leopard’s Pyromania for my tenth birthday. Take note of the following: a walkman as big as my head, air-traffic controller headphones, my crossing guard sash with a badge over my heart, and a belt buckle embossed with my name. I am too cool for school:

Crossing guard Scott

Lest you think this was some sort of aberration, my friend and I lip-synched a Def Leopard song for music class in fourth grade around the same time. (I just remembered how we made guitars and speakers out of cardboard, painted them with Tempera paints, and connected them with string.) I’m not sure how that was acceptable, but when the guy on the left is dressed as a box of camels I guess anything goes. Ah, public schools:

Punk rock Scott

And yes, that is a bandana around my left leg just above my knee.

The point of sharing this is more for me than you. It’s an affirmation of the role of music in my life, the way it then expanded my horizons and marked my milestones, and the fact that it still does in every way today.

This past month has been a blur, but as I exit April and enter the month of May I do so with a newfound strength and unexpected support from these pictures. Music is most definitely my calling, and the clarity I have around what comes next would be alarming if it weren’t so well-aligned with everything in my past.

So yes, the times they are a-changing, but who I am at the core remains the same. My love for music makes me want to give something meaningful and lasting back, and my passion for the internet and its ability to connect and coalesce gives me the way to do it. I truly have lived my life for this opportunity, and I can’t wait to devote my life to making it happen.

It has been a while since I last posted, but a lack of activity here is a result of some pretty heavy lifting everywhere else in my life. All of that takes a back seat for the next five days as Abby and I head home with Sawyer to be with family.

ultramarine-citizenI could write volumes on my love for Ultramarine, dissecting each and every song, marveling at their ability to both embrace and transcend the sounds of their day, and raving about their uncanny thematic coherence across albums (artwork and all). It is safe to say that their music called into question everything I once listened to and demanded that anything new be of a similarly lasting and outstanding quality.

As for “Citizen,” from 1995 no less, I have had this song in near constant rotation for most of the month, and now with the clock winding down on March I finally have the time and space to share it with you. I even transcribed the lyrics too:

I know that you
you are scared
of your own shadow

It’s your little voice inside you
and it makes your every move

People are always questions about you
why can’t you just tell them the truth
When your hands are tied and your hanging from a string
why don’t you swing and set yourself free

Let go of your ego
and I’ll let go of mine
for though your eyes are cloudy
i know that they should shine

Go hang from a string
why don’t you swing and set yourself free
You say that if you jump, gravity will pull you under
but gravity knows nothing over love for you

Let go of your ego
and I’ll let go of mine
for though your legs are stumbling
I know that they should climb

It might just be the most sensual and spiritual song I know, and those lyrics reverberate throughout my soul unlike any other, especially as of late. Listen:

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This post most likely marks the end of an era for me and my beloved tankt. What was once my personal playground may very well become my professional pursuit. I would not be able to even contemplate this next phase without the explorations I have done here, and I am very grateful for those of you who have shared this experience with me. Thank you all.

I know neither the song nor the artist, and have no connection to the person who made this video other than a shared obsession with flying at night with the window shade up. Of this video, its creator Ettubrute says:

On my night time flight back to SF from Amsterdam, I noticed that the lights from cities were making the clouds glow. Really spectacular and ethereal – it was really seeing the impact of urban environments from a different perspective. Each glow or squiggle represents one town or city!

Luckily the flight was half empty, so I was able to set up an improvised stabilizer mound made up of my bags, pillows, and blankets for my camera to sit on.

We were around the midwest at the beginning of the clip, and there were fewer cities once we hit the rockies. the bridge at the end is the san mateo bridge.

Endlessly fascinating and well worth a couple views, especially in full-screen.

From Nick Gillespie review of Steven Johnson’s new book:

We live in troubling times, filled with signs of a great economic apocalypse, politicized science on topics from birth control to climate change and religious zealots who kill innocents rather than live peacefully with them. This is exactly the moment to learn from Priestley, who survived riots, threats of prosecution and other hardships and yet never doubted that “the world was headed naturally toward an increase in liberty and understanding.” Ironically, “The Invention of Air” underscores that there is nothing natural about progress and liberty, each of which must be fought for and defended every single day by visionary individuals.

I have followed Steven’s work, both in print and online, as long or longer than anyone else that comes to mind. His subject matter is not only fascinating on its own, he infuses his narratives with links to and from all manner of topics, bringing more context and painting with much more vivid color. I find his work endlessly fascinating, and will soon rank this book (when I finish it) with “Emergence” as one of my favorites.

What strikes me most about Nick’s review is that last sentence from the paragraph above. This theme of progress is near and dear to me, and when I think of the ideas that excite me most it is this issue of how to motivate a now largely acquiescent society. Many, myself included, live a good life, but things have changed drastically in the past eight years, and we are on the cusp of deeper and much more foundational changes in the very near future. How then do we as a people summon the courage and capacity to do more than muddle through, to no longer cling desperately to an outdated mode of existence, but to fundamentally rework the way we approach life and all that entails?

I know it begins with thought instead of emotion, with a vision not more vindictive reaction, and with an underlying fairness over the single-minded pursuit of profit at the expense of everything and everyone else.


So let me get this straight. The Bush administration, the very people who religiously eliminated regulation and thwarted any attempts at oversight — in other words, the very policies that have brought us to the brink of financial disaster — want close to $1,000,000,000,000 of our money to fix it. No strings attached, no obligation to Congress, and absolutely no potential review by the courts.

I say No.

What do they propose to do with ONE TRILLION DOLLARS? Buy all the bad debt from the companies that benefitted most from this lax environment, which leaves them wholly intact to pursue the very same corrupt practices, allows the people criminally responsible to escape without penalty, and sweeps the entire mess under the proverbial rug before the election. No accountability, no meaningful examination of the policies behind the mess, and no chance of enacting new laws to prevent this from happening again.

I say No.

Just like oil revenues were supposed to pay for the War in Iraq, the Bush administration claims this deal will pay for itself, meaning that someday we’ll profit from the purchase of their currently worthless assets — if that’s the case, why are these financial companies so desperate to sell? I see this as nothing more than a short-term fix to prevent their worst fears from coming true: not the collapse of the economy, not the final death of the American dream, but the ultimate revelation that George W. Bush and his Republican party ruined America. They’ve bankrupted us, morally and financially, and now they not only want a “Get out of jail free” card, they want John McCain elected to serve Bush’s third term.

I say No.

Every bit of that’s got to change.

For some added perspective, please see my previous post for my thoughts on Al Gore and George W. Bush. There’s no pressing need to rehash it line-by-line, but I will reiterate that Al’s brilliance continues to outshine his dimmer rival, time and again.

This man is a true visionary and a great inspiration, single-handedly rising above mere politics to viscerally challenge not just the American people, but the entrenched and powerful agents of the status quo. His message is clear and well-considered, and after seven plus years of Republican misdirection and malfeasance the American people are ready to rise up and embrace this moment.

Together, we can meet the challenge. We can solve the climate crisis.