Guest post: DM Stith

[David Stith is a frequent guest at the motel. You can see him walking around the pool, dressed up in a rather extravagant fashion, or sleepwalking on the parking lot at high hours in the morning. Every staff member over here loves him. He never complains when we go out of hot coffee in the morning, he never calls room service at unusual hours with unusual requests, he leaves generous tips and best of all, he creates some of the most gorgeous and carefully arranged music we've ever heard. After years of work he is finally releasing his proper debut entitled, 'Heavy Ghost' on March as well as an accompanying appetizer Ep, 'Curtain Speech' which is currently available on Asthmatic Kitty and has been a constant delight for me at nightly hours. I briefly exchanged conversation with him in the past weeks asking him to curate a playlist for us and as usual for David, he came up with a very extense and thoughtful run of tracks which play along marveously. Dear guests, please give a very warm welcome to Mr. David Stith]

MargaretCreek Lullaby
A Treasury Of Library Of Congress Field Recordings (Rounder / 1997 )

The best show on TV 2 years ago was undoubtedly, in my mind anyway, Deadwood. I watched the show with a convicted fervor something like a dog staring at a toy lodged somewhere just out of reach, trying to influence nature’s laws with its eyes, wishing the thing nearer, less lodged. It was in this state, a state of almost complete devotion to hope, that this field recording of a native, running over the credits at the end of an episode of Deadwood, kept me from breathing for the 55 seconds it played. I can’t imagine the state the musicologist was in when he or she recorded this, when they heard it for the first time — it inspires in me something like a longing for deeper empathy, which is the best I can hope for in a piece of art.

CastanetsSounded Like A Train (Actuel Remix)
Tendrils Bonus Ep (Ashmatic Kitty / 2008)

Ray’s voice is that of a reconciled and reformed child, old and abused, scabbed over, somehow beautiful. His songs are full of the borders of day and Actuel’s production has isolated the prism of Ray’s voice, capturing the fractured edges of his song writing. Needless to say, I hope they collaborate more in the future.

Wojciech KilarOrawa, for 15 instruments
Kilar: Orawa (Conifer / 1995)

More than any other orchestral piece, I think, I would like to see this one performed. I don’t know the context of this piece — all I know is that somewhere between 6:33 and the end of the piece I get locked into trying to solve the harmonies but I get nowhere because before I realize it I’m dazzled by the texture and the rhythm.. Even after listening to it every day for 3 months, it’s confounding and irresolute.

Oval - Shop In Store
94 Diskont (Thrill Jockey / 1996)

Oval and Nobukazu Takemura have inspired whatever peace I’ve found in the last 6 months — somehow they’ve redeemed all that’s lost to airports, parking lots — they’ve hit on the head what Glass has been aiming at, but missing since “Glassworks”.

WomenGroup Transport Hall
Women (Flemish Eye / 2008)

I’m in love with the reel-to-reel tape this was recorded on. This album has become one of my favorites of this season – perfect for road trips through the Mid-West and burning your mouth on hot chocolate.

U.S. MapleHey King
Long Hair in Three Stages (Skin Graft / 1995)

I woke up to this song at a friend’s house and didn’t know what I was listening to – whatever it was, a joke, I didn’t want it to stop. Their attention to detail and the most awkward gestures inspire me to be a better listener – I wish I’d heard about this music 10 years ago.

Alfred BrownSphericalType GasHolder
Habitat (Asthmatic Kitty / 2008)

Alfred is a friend of mine now living in Buffalo, NY, where I grew up. I remember visiting him last year during a very rainy week at his second storey apartment. Fred sat me in a small chair in his living room between two big speakers, and he played me a working version of this track which he was writing for an Asthmatic Kitty compilation. The end reminds me of Holst’s Neptune and the sound of the rain on the piles of snow I ran past on my way out to my car after dinner with Fred.

The Beers Family - The Water Is Wide
1963 Annual Florida Folk Festival (1963)

Whoever the Beers Family are, they’re doing Four Tet better than Kieran Hebden has done.

Bulgarian Radio and Television ChoirDi–Li–Do
Le Mystère Des Voix Bulgares Volume 2 (Nonesuch / 1988)

If I could, I’d include this whole record in this list. There’s something natural about the way this group emotes which I don’t remember coming across in another choir. Typically, emotion necessarily performs as caricature because subtle gestures are so hard for a group to make together. Only the best choirs can pull it off. Maybe it’s just the foreignness of this group that makes it seem this way; maybe in Bulgaria this is heard as brash and indelicate music, but to my ears each gesture is unbelievably precise.

Randy NewmanLiving Without You
Randy Newman (Reprise / 1968)

This is from Randy Newman’s first album. It’s one of my favorite songs by my favorite song writer. I would live in Randy’s lucid misery any day.

Diane CluckUntitled 22
Monarcana (Very Friendly / 2006)

Monarcana is a collection of incidental recordings and odd songs by Diane Cluck. She’s one of the most mysterious characters I’ve ever come in contact with. While I was living in Brooklyn a few years ago, a friend of mine opened a show for her in NYC. I intended to leave before Diane started playing, but from the sound of her first caw, Diane had command over me. She had this cold and stern stare the whole time she performed. I forgot I had intended to leave. It’s a shame I didn’t choose to include a song she sings on as her voice is something fierce, but this track has a rare magic in it I wanted to share. For some reason, I imagine she records in a plant-filled kitchen, her 4-track resting on a pile of honeydew, microphone in a cactus.

Mary Margaret O’HaraYou Will Be Loved Again
Miss America (1988)

For all the sauce Mary Margaret crams into her performances, she always cuts through it with stunning directness – she can afford just about any gesture she’s willing to make, and she makes near all of them even in a relatively simple performance like this one. This is the last song on the only full album she ever released. Since rediscovering her last winter, I’ve been on a mission to see that she’s heard by as many people as possible. Maybe by clapping for her she’ll reemerge and perform for us again.

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Category: Guest post

Guest post: Hauschka

[It's been 2 years since we last attempted a guest post by a musician we love and respect over here, and I'm very happy to break today our guest hiatus with Dusseldorf-based pianist and composer Volker Bertelmann, aka Hauschka. Earlier this year, Hauschka released the delicate and playfully nostalgic, Ferndorf, based around his own childhood memories on the small German town and today he is here with us to share a few words on some of his favourite records and songs. Please let him know any of your thoughts by leaving a comment over here or by sending him a message via any of the links at the bottom of this post.]

Paul Wirkus & MapstationAir Modulation
Forest Full of Drums (Staubgold / 2008)

This album is a piece that you have to listen to completely. There is an interesting film on youtube about the guys recording it (link). I like the mixture of natural texture provided by the birds and on top of it the improvisations of Paul playing a weird kind of drumming. This is one of my favorite records.

Arnold SchoenbergSehr Langsam (Takt 1)
Verklärte Nacht Op. 4 (Deutsche Grammophon / 1984)

This is a wonderful piece by Arnold Schoenberg, which appears to me very modern but also quite dark. I found a very good recording of it in a record shop in the Soho area of London. It is performed by the Lasalle Quartet and it is released on Deutsche Grammophon.

Sven KacirekSt. Charles Avenue
The Palmin Sessions (Pingipung / 2007)

This record is one of my favorites because Sven combines percussion with all sorts of ideas for sound research and using his great drumming abilities he brings it all down to a total different quality. He drums on plastic bags and other found material and the sounds he gets from them is wonderful. On this song it is even better as in the middle section there is a great clarinet arrangement which seems to come from New Orleans. It is a great piece of music.

Fragrance of Notes (WIndbell / 2008)

This is a great dark and obscure jazz song and I like the tragedy in it. It doesn’t sound polished, it has its dirt and its magic. The whole record is a discovery.

Tom BrosseauHere comes the water
Cavalier (FatCat / 2007)

What a voice and what a great mixture of sadness and humor. I was touring with Tom a couple of weeks ago in the USA and it was such a pleasure, this song was a companion for the whole tour as he performed it nearly every night and it is very touching.

- Hauschka -
listen to: Morgenrot
Myspace | Official site | Fatcat Records

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Category: Acoustic, Electronica, Guest post

Guest post: Ensemble

[As a follower of his work, I'm delighted to start the guest list project with a post from Olivier Alary, the electronic wizard behind the Ensemble moniker. After his stunning debut "Sketch Proposals" and his collaborations with Björk on the best song on Medulla and Vespertine, Olivier has finally released his first major work for five years, a beautiful self-titled LP on Fatcat Records, counting with the collaboration of monolithic figures of the experimental pop frontstage, Lou Barlow and Chan Marshall, for a remarkable, high-class, organic integration of static folk and subdued electronica. Today Olivier is here to tell us about some of his favorite tunes. Please give him a very warm welcome.]

Can – vitamin C
(from Ege Bamyasi)

I discovered Can when I was pretty young, right after my punk/no wave days, ege bamyasi is still pretty important to me.
I have a weird love/hate relationship with this song. I really love the groove, the rhythmical relationship between the instrumentation, the melody, and the vibe, but the lyrics are absolutely terrible, which makes the song even more special. It makes it even more human.

Arvo Part – Silentium: Senza moto
(from Tabula Rasa)

There’s a beautiful german word “weltschmerz”, which means “world sorrow”, you can apply this adjective to art and music, and I feel that Part’s work has this quality; a direct emotional and mystical force.I cannot listen to his work very often, but everytime I do so, I always experience profound emotions.
I love the use of prepared piano in this song and the clarity of the orchestral textures, it’s simple but very deep.

Pharoah Sanders – Red, black and green
(from Thembi)

Gorgeous and immersive wall of sound, Pharoah Sanders is the master of beautiful and sensual cacophony.
I love the fact that I always lose track of time when I listen to his work, how it can be pretty harsh but then soothing. There’s a fine balance between noise and melody but I find that he always manages to figure out when to take you somewhere else right before you’re too lost in his grandiose musical mess.

Brigitte Fontaine – il se passe des choses
(from Brigitte Fontaine est folle)

A very elegant and decadent song with amazing lyrics. The song is about her and how she would rather stay in bed drinking whiskey than to live some sort of life outside, or hear about what’s happening beyond her apartment.
Brigitte Fontaine is one of the most talented french singers of the sixties, she has an edge that no one else had. Her lyrics are always very well written, funny, clever, surreal and bleak at the same time. Very rare. The orchestration of this song is amazing, very flowing, metaphoric but not too obvious.

Simon Diaz – Tonada de luna llena
(from Tonadas)

A traditional tonada from the Venezuelan and Colombian savannas. I discovered this song a couple of years ago on French radio, as soon as I heard it, I thought that it was extremely precious, it’s a pure jewel of a song. I love the simplicity of the lyrics and chord progression, the melody is simply stunning. Simon Diaz’s performance is fragile and deep, there’s an incredible but beautiful tension in this song.

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Category: Electronica, Folk, Guest post

With wonderful deathless ditties
We build up the world's great cities,
And out of a fabulous story
We fashion an empire's glory:
One man with a dream, at pleasure,
Shall go forth and conquer a crown;
And three with a new song's measure
Can trample an empire down. [1]

Down, down, down. Would the fall never come to an end! `I wonder how many miles I've fallen by this time?' she said aloud. `I must be getting somewhere near the centre of the earth. Let me see: that would be four thousand miles down, I think--' (for, you see, Alice had learnt several things of this sort in her lessons in the schoolroom, and though this was not a very good opportunity for showing off her knowledge, as there was no one to listen to her, still it was good practice to say it over) `--yes, that's about the right distance--but then I wonder what Latitude or Longitude I've got to?' (Alice had no idea what Latitude was, or Longitude either, but thought they were nice grand words to say.) [2]

O long-silent Sybil,
you of the winged dreams,
Speak out from your temple of light
as the serious constellations
with Greek names
still stare down on us
as a lighthouse moves its megaphone
over the sea
Speak out and shine upon us
the sea-light of Greece
the diamond light of Greece

Far-seeing Sybil, forever hidden,
Come out of your cave at last
And speak to us in the poet's voice
the voice of the fourth person singular
the voice of the inscrutable future
the voice of the people mixed
with a wild soft laughter--
And give us new dreams to dream,
Give us new myths to live by! [3]

So our princes who have lost their principalities after many years’ of possession shouldn’t blame their loss on fortuna. The real culprit is their own indolence, going through quiet times with no thought of the possibility of change (it’s a common human fault, failing to prepare for tempests unless one is actually in one!). And when eventually bad times did come, they thought of •flight rather than •self-defence, hoping that the people, upset by conquerors’ insolence, would recall them. This course of action may be all right when there’s no alternative, but it is not all right to neglect alternatives and choose this one; it amounts to voluntarily falling because you think that in due course someone will pick you up. If you do get rescued (and you probably won’t), that won’t make you secure; the only rescue that is really helpful to you is the one performed by you, the one that depends on yourself and your virtù. [4]