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Listed: Blondes + Emperor X

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Every Friday, Dusted Magazine publishes a series of music-related lists determined by our favorite artists. This week, we present electronic duo, The Blondes, and lo-fi songwriter Emperor X.

Listed: Blondes + Emperor X


Zach Steinman and Sam Haar, the Brooklyn-via-Oberlin duo behind Blondes, play the ideal techno for the wee-hours--unsurprisingly, the time at which they typically perform. Since their more contemplative breakout hit "Spanish Fly," Blondes have upped their danceability quotient, as showcased on their series of opposites-themed 12"s on RVNG International (which will be released as a compilation on February 7th). Blondes play their mountains of mixers, keyboards, and assorted gadgetry live, and improvise through their shows, which have taken place everywhere from the shores of the East River to the clubs of Ibiza. Theyíll be headlining the Museum of Modern Arton Saturday, January 21st. Itís a fitting venue since Steinman is also a visual artist, notable for his invention of a lamp that reacts to the melliflous tones of Olí Dirty Bastard

1. Various Artists - Warp Records: Artificial Intelligence
This was a comp I got into when I was pretty young and Iíve always really appreciated the warmth that electronic music had back then. The musical textures are all very distinct too, as opposed to all the computer-made digital audio splicing that a lot of music is made with these days. (Sam)

2. Art of Noise - Moments in Love 12Ē
Definitely one of my all time favorite tracks, and all time favorite music videos (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RIcmIhOesaI). The extended version on this 12" which digitally is now titled "Love" was such an obsession and major inspiration. One of the first bands to popularize the use of sampling outside of hip hop. (Zach)

3. Manuel Gottsching - e2e4
This oneís pretty obvious for anyone whoís heard our stuff, it was a big initial inspiration in our music. Super repetitive synthy proto-house. Weíve always loved how he just set up his gear and his sequences in a studio and recorded 50 minutes of performing.

4. PopolVuh - In Den GšrtenPharaos
Another German synth gem. This record blew my mind when I first heard it. Iíve never heard synthesizers played so warmly and expressively. Its long form takes you on a pretty amazing journey if you let it. (Sam)

5. Black Meteoric Star - Black Meteoric Star
Technically this record came out after we started playing together, but just as we were starting this project we saw BMS perform several times and the shows always hit so hard and sounded so good. The live element to this project really nailed it - slow builds, minimalist shaping.

6. Basic Channel - BCD
This was my first exposure to Basic Channel and the way that they loop out into infinity with such a gritty and tactile sound has always amazed me. Itís also another wonderful example of electronic music where you hear the hands of the musicians. (Sam)

7. David Tudor - Pulsers
Iíve always really enjoyed David Tudorís sense of musicality in his noises and his long live improvisational journeys in developing a constant sound world. This recordís a great example of that. (Sam)

8. Orbital - Halcyon 12Ē
Another OG influence from the 90s... This song communicates bliss more than anything besides, maybe an MDMA sunrise on the beach.

9. Martin Rev- Les Nymphes
Fire. Earth. Love. Water. This record and the sparse but emotionally resonant vocals, proper phase, make it an all time fave. When we started playing we were listening to this a lot, and the loose/punk approach to electronics that Rev has is something we try and hold on to. Narcisse. (Zach)

10. Frankie Knuckles - Your Love 12Ē
One of our first indoctrinations into classic house. A great example of the constant arpeggio as the minimal spine of a track, propelling you forever.

Emperor X

Emperor X
Chad Metheny is the high-school science teacher everyone wishes they had -- and some were actually lucky enough to score. For over a decade, L.A.-transplant Methenyhas produced and continues to craft almost zero-fi experimental pop music. Mexican highways at twilight saturate his audio texture as much as sci-fi scores and grimy opera. His voice wails and sails across diverse, sometimes kiddish, instruments and prose. Mathenyís music can take you on a reality checkpoint reminding you of your own mortality or it can serves as just a pleasant wash of pop sounds. Either way, you know itís worth sticking around for. Emperor X released Western Teleport on Bar/None last year.

1. Jamie T - Panic Prevention
In 2007, I was visiting a friend of mine in Mexico City who was working as a music writer at the time. I love the guy, but heís kind of terrifying. On the night I first heard Jamie T, for example, he was driving drunk across Pepito blowing red light after red light and taking hairpin turns at vomit-hurling speeds. As we careened through a particularly neck-snapping intersection, a promo copy of Jamie Tís Panic Prevention landed in my lap along with a load of gum wrappers and broken pencils and sunglasses and other backseat-of-the-car stuff. The cover art showed a wide-angle photograph of a cluttered filthy room and looked right at home in the pile of car flotsam. I was intrigued and handed the disc up to my friend, and from that moment until about three months later thatís pretty much all I intentionally listened to. Jamie T is brash and snotty in the way British punk-flavored singer-songwriters often are, but he does a nice job of fusing the bombast with raw electronic beats that sound more at home in a lame soccer thug nightclub than a PIL record. This bipolar mix of sloppy drunken mess with Top 40 intentions still challenges me when I listen to it. Oh yeah, and regardless of the story/relevance/cultural interest, the melodies are killer, almost as great as the beats, which are almost as great as the indecipherable slang-soaked lyrics if you have the patience to look them up ("Well itís a bang bang Anglo Saxons at the disco"). For fans of The Streets, Sizzla and Billy Bragg, you canít go wrong with this guy.

2. Jerry Goldsmith - Theme from _Star Trek: The Motion Picture
I have definitely heard this semi-fascist fanfare more than Iíve heard my own national anthem. Most of the TV-watching public would recognize it after a few seconds, because it wasnít used just for ST:TMP ó this became the unofficial anthem of the entire Star Trek universe after Goldsmith introduced us to it in the credits of that 1979 film. It gives me the same patriotic tingle "The Star Spangled Banner" is probably supposed to, and I think that says a lot about: 1) What a lame national anthem we have (yo Congress, how about a switch to "This Land Is Your Land" sometimes this century?), 2) what an unhealthy amount of Star Trek I watched as a teenager and 3) what an incredibly effective piece of music this is. It captures the naive idealism of the show and wears it on its sleeve with humanist, futurist, optimist pride. Itís theme music from the part of the American soul that seems very hard to access sometimes: the part that dreams big.

3. Carl Orff - CarminaBurana
I had no love of opera as a kid, but I was lucky enough to be close friends with a musical genius. He later went on to tour the world playing gospel music and pyrotechnic Romantic piano revues as part of a missionary outreach of the Moody Bible Institute. As a kid he ran around the playground singing about puke and snot interspersed with pitch-perfect solfťge. He made me really intense mixtapes every now and then, and once, sometime around 7th grade, one of them contained a copy of CarminaBurana instead of a mix. Itís a very loud, dark, brooding, thick-tongued work, very difficult stuff for an opera novice like myself. But the music is timeless and powerful, and it soothed some very 7th grade-specific suffering in my troubled nervous awkward pre-pubescent middle school mind. This is a great recording for the anger of early adolescence, music to listen to while you cry walking down the hallway, trying to ignore the dumb baseball players with wispy mustaches and pretty cheerleader girlfriends hurling insults at you, trying to get to the schoolbus and read Arthur C. Clarke and forget about it all on the way home. If I ever have kids in my life hope they have an easier time in middle school than I did, but if they donít I will have a copy of CarminaBurana waiting to fortify them.

4. Steve Reich - Music for 18 Musicians
I met So Many Dynamos on tour in 2004, and to make a long story short, within a few months we were fast and forever friends and on the road together at least once a year. At the time I looked on trained musicians with the closed-minded suspicion, but So Many Dynamos changed that forever one day as we were driving across the Sonoran Desert to a show in Phoenix. Throughout the tour theyíd been slowly acquainting me with jazz greats and 20th century minimalist classical music, and I thought it was all nice, but nothing caught my attention like Music for 18 Musicians did as they played it for me in the dry alien desert. For them, as for me now, listening to the entire hour of 18 was an annual semi-spiritual practice. It shuts my brain down on some levels and activates it on others, and by the time the second section begins my eyes are closed and Iím seeing volvox colonies and Brownian motion and star nurseries on the back of my eyelids. It is pure in aesthetic and efficient in affect, and for me it stands with Bachís The Well-Tempered Klavier as music that can completely shut me down and reboot my consciousness. I canít say enough about this, so Iíll stop trying.

5. Arvo Part - Miserere
This liturgical choral work is a gob of lavish tone clusters and bewildering dissonances, but unlike a lot of 20th century art music traditional tonal harmony plays a role too. The effect, for me, is heart-stopping no matter where I am or what Iím doing when I hear it. Partís an Eastern Orthodox Christian, so the term "sacred" gets thrown around a lot when people discuss this piece. But like most music written for the Church, the composerís intentions far outstrip the confines of the dogma of their faith. Hereís Part in his own words, discussing his music as it relates to the nature of suffering: "Time and timelessness are connected. This instant and eternity are struggling within us. And this is the cause of all of our contradictions, our obstinacy, our narrow-mindedness, our faith and our grief."

6. Starflyer 59 - Silver/Sheís the Queen
There are no words to completely describe these records, but "shoegaze-y" and "dreamy" and "surfy" and "grunge-y" might all help a little bit. When I first heard them they were on tour playing church youth groups, of all things, and through that fact I figured out that this strikingly original music was technically Christian. I guess some of the slurred whispered echo-drenched vocals mumble a few veiled references to Christ, but unlike most Christian music there is no Top 40 analog for this band.

7. LCD Soundsystem - Losing My Edge 12"
Production-wise, James Murphy and the DFA have been my role models since I heard this record. Itís loud and itís full-bodied and itís pleasant to listen to, but itís also dirty and raw-sounding. Itís not lo fi like Lou Barlow or Times New Viking or The Thermals; itís just that Murphy is judicious in his frequency choices. Itís also the reason that Iíve been obsessed with laying acoustic drums over Casio beats for nine years now. Oh, and I was there. I was there when they played an abandoned office space in Sacramento in 2005. I was there.

8. Sebadoh - III
I was in an automobile accident that temporarily blinded me and landed me in the hospital for a week. My friend bought me a Walkman to pass the time, and my grandma, being the coolest grandma ever, scoured our townís record stores digging up tape copies of a short list of obscure bands Iíd given her. She came back with the entire Pavement and Sebadoh discography on tape. Those five days in the hospital wrote the DNA for my entire musical life afterwards, and every album she gave me played a role, but more than any of them Sebadohís harsh and woozy III left a lasting mark. Eric Gaffney is terrifying in his smelly metal kid sneering and righteous drum soloing (imagine not being able to see anything because your eyes are swollen shut and hearing a man scream "BLOOD ON THE WALLS!!!" over and over again over a falling-apart hard rock instrumental). Lou Barlowís four track recordings became my personal template of adolescent beauty, an example of how someone from the boring suburbs who did boring suburban things and had boring suburban worries could also feel and write deeply and timelessly. This record allowed me to see indie rock as an important literary genre.

9. R.E.M. - Chronic Town/Murmur
The way I write lyrics comes entirely from Michael Stipe. Since Monster, his lines have been hard to swallow, but before then they were usually hallucinatory rambles that made a bizarre but undeniable sense, at least phonetically. This phonetic cohesion is my primary metric for judging the quality of lyrics, both mine and others; a line has to "sound right," in addition to taking care of whatever other semantic/symbolic task it sets out to accomplish, and Stipe is very skilled in this regard. "Catapult!"

10. Leonard Cohen - Songs of...
I was having a rough 2002, and a friend of mine graciously allowed me to stay in his apartment through some of the worst of it. One morning I woke up and I heard him playing this record while he cooked snap peas for breakfast, and I immediately ran to the turntable and listened to the whole thing in its entirety, staring at the jacket. He went out for the day and I stayed in, listening to it again and again, falling into it. The production is sparse and loose and noisy and intimate, the players sometimes veer drunkenly off the rails, and Cohen looks and sings like a troubadour from a world thatís a little more elegant and a little dirtier and a little more tired than our own. Itís modern and timeless all at once, the way great literature is, and the ruthless precision of the lyrics showed me what a brutal weapon poetry can be.

By Otis Hart

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