I don’t know why, but it’s surprising to see a favorite like Sun Electric’s 30.7.94 Live turn 20 years old. I felt the same way about Boards of Canada’s In a Beautiful Place out in the Country turning ten a few years ago. I suppose it just means I’m getting up there too.

I’m not normally the sentimental type, but these three tracks were a big influence on me at the time they first appeared. It was born of the era that produced the legendary Artificial Intelligence series on Warp Records, Aphex Twin’s dark and moody Selected Ambient Works Volume II, and Ultramarine’s exquisite Every Man and Woman is a Star. But Sun Electric combined the best from all three in one amazing hour of music. It’s the one I listen to most after all these years.

SunElectric-Castor&PolluxUnlike most of my favorite albums, I don’t recall the specifics of how I found 30.7.94 Live. Of course, my friends and I knew about Sun Electric, first from their association with LX and the Orb (whose influence is heard but thankfully tempered) and then the genre-defining album art created by the Designers Republic (as seen first in Emigre Magazine around this same time). I liked moments on Kitchen and tracks like “O’Locco,” but none of the music really stuck. Not so with this album in general and “Castor & Pollux” in particular.

It’s almost seven minutes before the first hint of percussion appears in it, but the track bounces even when seemingly standing still. I’d hardly call it an exercise in restraint, not with something so buoyant bubbling beneath, but this tension is magical. By the midpoint, it’s a stomper without so much as a single kick drum. I love the way those gently meandering pads balance the much more aggressive bleeps and bloops, and the way those more excitable cymbals are extended by the slowly-spaced claps, until the entire thing boils over nearly ten minutes in. Then the bottom drops out just after 11 minutes, and that tightly-wound SH-101 line comes out of nowhere, and I can’t stop smiling until it ends.

Even today, much of electronic music feels overly-sequenced and predictable. This is anything but, not with over 18 minutes of pure organic bliss, full of unexpected twists and turns, and such wonderful moments as a sample of The Beatles’ “Hard Days Night” turned psychedelic. The mix is fluid, the spatial arrangement is precise, and the quantity of ideas is matched only by their quality. “Castor & Pollux” still shimmers 20 years later. Have a listen:

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The entire album is well worth a buy (just $3.49 on bleep.com or even less on iTunes) and an extended listen, like, say, over the next 20 years. The final track, the perfectly named “Northern Lights #5,” is every bit as good as this one.

Speaking of which, until I looked it up when I finished writing this post, I never knew the title had a connection to Greek mythology: “Castor and Pollux were twin boys born to Leda after her seduction by Zeus. Castor was mortal, but Pollux was immortal; at Pollux’s request they shared his immortality between them, spending half their time below the earth in Hades and the other half on Olympus.” What a fitting name for an otherworldly track.

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 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.

Like everyone, I imagine, my life’s soundtrack is meticulously edited, intensely personal, and ruthlessly guarded. There are several themes that run the course of my current tastes, and over time we’ll dive further into them. One, though, is the central theme, and as such, must be addressed first. This is convoluted, so hang close…

Finding and buying (my) music is almost as much of a thrill as hearing it for the first time. Two reasons, as best I can tell. First, I gotta thing for the new. Always liked the idea of Nietzsche’s “new ears for new music.” Second, I gotta thing for the purchase, the transaction. No shame here, I’m a consumer.

Warp Records, as you’ll see over time, is a constant, and Bleep is quickly becoming an addiction. I was skeptical at first, I honestly wanted/expected them on the ITMS, but I couldn’t be happier (and shouldn’t be at all surprised) that they chose a different path.

Bleep is an incredible achievement. Clearly very thoughtful work here. The app? website? store? behaves well, is beautifully rendered, and is stocked to the gills with goodness. More on this topic soon enough…

Nothing's LostAlways felt that Warp’s dominance of its domain had legs, but never thought that another could rise to prominence so quickly. Morr Music has arrived. The new Styrofoam release is simply stunning.

“Nothing’s Lost” was released in the EU last Monday, but will not be released in the States until the end of November, so I was scrambling to find it. Then, out of the blue, Bleep adds Morr Music on Friday. Saved!

Every Man and Woman Is a StarI’m on my 15th listen, give or take, and I’m stuck by how graceful, how eloquent, how perfect this release is. I’m literally floored. Think of “Every Man and Woman is a Star” — what’s your favorite song? Even your least favorite, even the one that sounds like something you wouldn’t allow in your collection, catches you. Stella!

The new Styrofoam is that good. But I couldn’t just come out and say only that. And the search for it was almost as satisfying, and kinda reaffirming. It’s been a beautiful and productive weekend, and this release is icing on the cake.