Every Friday, Dusted Magazine publishes a series of music-related lists determined by our favorite artists. This week: Casino Vs. Japan and Phosphorescent.
Casino Vs. Japan + Phosphorescent
Casino Vs. Japan
Casino Vs. Japan (or, as his mother calls him, Erik Kowalski), has been recording offbeat electronica since childhood, during which time he would record and remix (sorta) audio samples from Miami Vice. Many years later, having become proficient at a wide range of instruments, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Casino Vs. Japan is still plugging away, producing some of the most diverse, bubbly electronic music this side of Lake Michigan. His third and most recent album, Whole Numbers Play The Basics (Carpark) was released in 2002, however Casino Vs. Japan have a number of short-length releases on labels such as Wobblyhead, Tigerbeat6, and City Centre Offices.
Ten Music-related items that i am currently obsessed with: (Headphones and Rocking Chairs REQUIRED)
1. Gas - entire catalogue
Out of all of Wolfgang Voigt's aliases and projects, Gas has had a profound impact on my life. Despite the fact that the majority of his songs composed under this guise are very similar on an album-to-album basis, they each have their own stellar fingerprints. Gas is the aural equivalent to any member of the benzodiazepine and opiate families with its calm, fuzzy, and warm sounds. Within each composition lie velvety layers of subtly shifting atmospheres and organic elements such as wind and water. It remains one of the most brilliant examples of simplicity, uniting two of my most revered musical ingredients: beautiful melodies and repetition.
2. Magic Arrows (coming soon)
My good friend Scott Beschta is a mysterious fellow, but along the route of his dramatic life he has managed to record some of the most beautiful songs with practically zero equipment. Armed with a John Taylor-influenced knowledge of bass guitar, as well as countless drug-induced alter-realities, Magic Arrows is a direct audio link to the chemistry of refracted imagination. Having earned his wings as the Promise Ring's original bass player, Beschta practically dropped all association with his emo-rock compatriots in favor of a more hazy and blissed-out terrain presided upon by the ghosts of Syd Barrett and John Lennon. Magic Arrows has many faces, usually depending on what hardware was on hand during the time of each recording. In his most elemental phase, Scott uses jaw-droppingly obvious samples from groups like the Pet Shop Boys and Sting, and folds them into lo-fi effects and treated layers of guitars and synths. While being an elemental "layer and loop" process, the results are peculiarly astonishing. On the flipside, Magic Arrows records very beautiful acoustic arrangements via 4 track, covering a wide range of abstract topics such as religion and, well... drugs. Scott's abilities on bass and gift of songwriting has had a profound influence on me, as we spent a lot of time recording tracks together. Sharing so few words on his output really doesn't do him justice, as you've kinda got to know him in order to understand the big picture. Wobblyhead plans to release a CD by Magic Arrows in early 2005 entitled Sweet Heavenly Angel Of Death. Expect the unexpected.
3. Strategy - Drumsolo's Delight (Kranky)
This is the best record the Orb never recorded. Not to take anything away from Paul, as he definitely trumps Patterson with this CD. This album emerged as one of my favorites of 2004 with its deeply experimental take on dub. While listening to this album I have found myself struggling to decode its mysterious language, which slowly unravels as glittering threads of unique electronic pings, peeps, and glitches. Even though it may be considered as an IDM version of dub, such lazy dismissals ignore the fact that Drumsolo's Delight is an absolute triumph of songwriting. The flow and rhythm of the entire disc is completely organic, and the melodies and repetitious (hurrah!) bass patterns embed themselves comfortably as the onset of a warm summers evening, complete with colorful sunsets (and the promise of some good ganja), unfolds. Absolutely essential!
4. Vincent Gallo - Music For Films (Warp)
Not necessarily a new release, but recently re-discovered while having a rough spring, Music For Films gently burrowed its way into my mind after repeated listens. Despite the fact that one might find rapt narcissism on the face value of his career, I remain blind to such criticisms. As an enthusiastic Buffalo '66 devotee, I recognize Gallo as a highly influential renaissance man, in-league with such luminaries as Orson Welles. I distinctly love the fuzzy, lo-fi textures of his music. By defying conventional approaches to recording, Gallo employs high-end analogue equipment in a hazy and dreamy manner. I love the fact that each piece is a tiny audio snapshot, capable of bearing layer upon layer of deep imagery, not necessarily confined to his own work, per say, but to the listener's as well. They always say life needs a soundtrack. Music For Films fills this demand nicely.
5. Porn Sword Tobacco - s/t (City Centre Offices)
PST sums up what I love about music. Released by one of my favorite labels, it reminds me of old Eno/Budd collaborations, as it is very atmospheric and laid back. Along with Eno, the disc reveals equal parts Gas and Strategy as well, adding textural strokes of rhodes/piano, bass/guitar, as well as a quiet variety of percussion instruments and (what sounds like) crickets and barking dogs. Each track looms with a sense of tension and suspense, and their overall beauty lies hidden in the details. This is perfect music for daydreamers. Absolutely gorgeous!
6. Mr. 76IX - Hits Of Mr. 76IX (Skam)
I picked this up a few weeks ago after repeated in-store plays at Atomic (the record store where I work). The overall production is flawless, similar to Chris Clark's use of compression and suppression of squelchy mid-range. Each track swiftly moves from one to another at a frenzied pace, hammering out a modern take on acid that is ingeniously constructed. As is the case with the Strategy CD, I find myself struggling to envision how this music is composed. A lot of folks point to Supercollider (code-based music composition software) and Max MSP (another tricky application which fancies a "music as math" approach); however, i simply do not want to find out its secrets. I like to think of it as magic.
7. Am Boy - Clayton's Hideout (Wobblyhead) LP-only.
Fellow Wobbly-mate Forrest Wolf has created his best album thus far. I cannot express in words how much this record means to me, as I've practically played it a million times. "Clayton's Hideout" is a perfect pop/electronic masterpiece, borrowing familiar elements from established composers and making them all his own. The album is perfectly assembled, and begs for repeated plays with its sugary hooks and pristine production. The beats and melodies are deceptively simple, exemplifying a complex series of emotions that perfectly unveil themselves with each listen. You will not be disappointed, as this is by far one of the best albums of 2005.
8. David Garza - A Strange Mess Of Flowers (Wide Open) 3CD box set.
This collection caught me completely off guard, even though I have always been a fan of David's (pronounced Dah-veed) music. In 2000 I was happy to have met him at several in-store appearances here at Atomic. Garza's highly refined skills at guitar are only one aspect of his genius. You can definitely triangulate his roots and influences within his more conventional songs, and it is obvious that he was steeped in the Beatles at an early age. He is a time-proven songsmith of the highest order, as the sheer volume of traditional songs he has mastered and covered over the years makes up only a fraction of his sonic vocabulary. This collection gives us a glimpse into his own vast and mysterious world where the familiar is transformed into the unknown with numerous experimental tracks. That said, I find myself gravitating to his more eclectic recordings, originally released as the Summer Songs series (mostly recorded in L.A. during his brief marriage to a major label). Garza is a superman of sorts. His lightning fast finger-work on the fret board is only one dizzying aspect of his abilities, as his voice is amazing and capable of a wide range of scales. Perhaps a lot of his music's familiarity is what makes it so enjoyable- lending itself perfectly to nostalgia. But when he tosses out the rulebook and hits "record" on the four track, the results are so incredibly inspirational, I am awestruck.
9. Lovesliescrushing - Glissceule + Voirshn (Sonic Syrup / Projekt)
I finally met Scott Cortez in Chicago last spring. Crazy, as I had been listening to his music for the better part of the last decade. These two releases are sort of one-in-the-same, as the latter is merely out-takes from the former. However, they are both some of the most beautiful examples of bliss-ambient I have ever heard. Scott uses heavily treated guitar, soaked in reverb, and minimal electronic flourishes to accompany Melissa's angelic vocals. Even though this might sound clichť in some circles, the music deserves close attention and greater exposure. Scott has humbly and quietly worked on the Lovesliescrushing project while other like-minded and personal favorites such as Auburn Lull, Windy & Carl and Stars Of the Lid have garnered well-deserved accolades and exposure by the press. Not to say that LLC is any less known than their contemporaries-- I am just enthusiastic to share their gorgeous gospel with anyone who loves sonic-opiates.
10. Greg Davis - Curling Pond Woods (Carpark)
This album is a total triumph of man and machine. Greg's enthusiasm to engage a wide variety of instruments and Powerbook plug-ins is utterly breath-taking. What is even more amazing is the fact that he assembled a group and performed the album stem-to-stern live on tour. There are so many magical moments on this LP, it is hard to pin down a specific element or track as a favorite. As a whole, "Curling Pond Woods" is the rapture of a long journey through music-- both as a student and consumer. There is so much to hear on this album, it needs to be given complete attention via headphones. Greg isn't shy about trying new things. Even his singing is a success, lending a humble stylistic nod to Brian Wilson. However, through the course of the record, his technical attention to detail and melodic brilliance elevates him to the rank of wizard. The only comparison that gives this album justice is 2001's stellar Magic Radios by Morgan Caney and Kamal Joorey-- another record I recommend with utmost urgency.
Phosphorescent is Matthew Houck, a twenty five year old resident of Athens, Georgia. In the year 2000, after home recording and pressing 1000 copies of a solo record under the name Fillup Shack, he found himself on a solo tour of the UK and Spain where the album and shows received outlandish praise. In 2002 he formed a new project called Phosphorescent, and released A Hundred Times Or More (Warm). Phosphorescent's latest release, The Weight Of Flight EP calls to mind a number of Americana-benders, Neutral Milk Hotel and Will Oldham, in particular, combining a folksy, free-for-all atmosphere with offbeat, fairly moving melodies.
August 23, 2004. A summertime kind of list, mostly:
1. Gerry Rafferty - City To City
Growing up my father had this dump truck full of tools and grease rags and old metal stuff. In the cab was a tape player and there was only ever one tape for it - in fact, I bet it's still in there. On the front side was Rumors by Fleetwood Mac and on the backside was City To City. So it would be awfully early on summer mornings, getting dragged out for bush-hogging or ditch-digging or mowing or whatever, and then afterwards too all sweaty and dirty, this was the soundtrack for those drives. Somehow I love it like all hell. I find the record a lot in thrift stores and it costs between a quarter and 75 cents and I can't not buy it always. Plenty of copies then and so i like to give it to friends - only a few ever seem to really dig it though.
2. Denis Johnson - The Throne Of The Third Heaven Of The Nations Millennium General Assembly
Some different kinds of songs. Magic magic magic.
3. Imitating Animals - Other Animals.
4. The Great Stalacpipe Organ
There are these caverns in Virginia that you can visit and its all touristy and they've got spotlights everywhere on the rock formations and group tours going all over inside. At some point (I think maybe in the 50's), someone decided to attach little hammers to correctly pitched stalactites and stalagmites and then they connected the wires to a full-scale organ... Do you see? You can play the earth itself. I'm doing everything I can to get them to let me record it for our next record.
5. Swimming - Naked, nighttime.
These next five things are for this summer only. canít tell yet if they'll be important in a month or even tomorrow really - perfect for now though:
6. Jali Musa Jawara - Yasimika
A recording from Mali in North West Africa. This whole four-song record is devastating and never more than the second song. Longer than 10 minutes long and every time those women background singers do their thing something in me falls all the way.
7. Bob Dylan & Willie Nelson - tour 2004
This is the tour where they are playing shows only in minor league baseball stadiums. Some of Phosphorescent and Elf Power and this writer fellow drove last week to Wevierville, Tennessee to see one. The sets were really good, hugely so when 'the hits' were played. Something about Willie Nelson singing "Pancho" and "Lefty" or "Always On My Mind" while an absurdly big crowd digs it in the sunset all at once. Something else too about standing among 15,000 people during the encore of Bob Dylan's set when everybody crumbles some at that part of "Like A Rolling Stone" - you know the part. How does it feel.
8. Joe Tex
A friend made me a collection of a bunch of soul guys - Solomon Burke, Sam Cooke, Joe Tex... most all of it is amazing, but those Joe Tex ones seem to be the real heartbreakers.
9. John Cale - Paris 1919 & Vintage Violence - Been listening to these really loud at night with gin. Canít believe I havenít heard them 'til now. "Big White Cloud" is like an angel choir in the rain.
10. new songs
Been really into how it happens the first and second (& sometimes third or more, depending) time you hear music that you'll eventually love. Your brain hasn't figured out how it goes yet and so youíre just getting washed over with these sounds that you like, but it's not inside you yet. Later you anticipate all the sounds and words, and often it gets better and better because of that, (getting meanings and noticing behind-the-scenes type stuff, etc.) so it can still be hugely great and perfect and all, but it's really a totally different kind of thing by then. Of course there's no trade backs with this sort of thing.
By Dusted Magazine