Cautious Clay & Bonobo

To focus is to settle. To arrange experience into molecular parts, packable, like boxes arranged in a closet. To focus is to let go. To release arbitrary details and clip onto a steady perch, in tune with the unshakeable light at the end of an unbreakable tunnel.

Unsure what the hell I’m talking about? Let music be your guide. Listen to Cautious Clay, who deftly points out that it’s, “matter over mind if we’re being honest.”

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And of course there’s Bonobo, whose new remix personifies the hair raising moment of awareness, the tactile sensation of zeroing in on a target.

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Glass Animals – Cane Suga

The last four seats in The Greek were to the far left of the stage, fifty yards up past the pit. After a quick-spot, we climbed the amphitheater stairs, shuffled past a couple dressed in all-black, and staked our claim. Below, a seething crowd suddenly came to life, incensed by the feral, weaving drumbeat of Glass Animals’ opener, Life Itself.

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We quickly established good community relations with our neighbors, offering what little supplies we had – a green tea bottle with clear tequila, two limes and a pinch of the devil’s lettuce. In return we received cigarettes and more space, a rare commodity that night.

All of us were eager for a familiar groove that would validate our ticket expense, a reenactment of countless private interactions. But that night the unexpected ruled, most notably, Cane Suga, an outburst of boot-stomping trap that liquefied body parts and set in motion a series of amphitheater antics.

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The National – The System Only Dreams in Total Darkness

Amanda Petrusich describes Matt Berninger’s voice in her recent New Yorker article by conjuring up a somber image: “Listening to it, I often think of a deep-sea diver, weights slung low on his hips, being tugged toward the ocean floor.”

“Beautiful but a tad over-written”, joked my Mom when in awe, I read the passage out loud.  But after a few glasses of wine and the appearance of thunderheads in the backyard, The National’s new album, Sleep Well Beast, and its gloomy opulence, fit the grooves of our night.

The National can either be crushingly depressing or wholly inspirational. Either way, it’s undeniable that Matt Berlinger’s voice is a magnetic force, a polarizing crack that goes straight to the source.

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The xx – On Hold (Jamie xx Remix)

Link in bio. Three words from Jamie XX that require an immediate detour in whatever you’re doing.

Last month The Boiler Room released a recording of Jamie XX’s  live set in Reykjavik. There’s the usual vaudeville attraction of watching unfamiliar people bump up against each other but compared to other Boiler Room’s (see Kaytranada’s production), it felt sweetly tame.

Except for about seven minutes when Jamie XX spins his remix of the XX’s On Hold. This morning he released the studio version, not on Spotify or Soundcloud, but on YouTube, because this experience is as much about the visuals as it is about the snaking bass.

A Selfish Man – Francis Lung

Scratch the surface of Francis Lung’s A Selfish Man and you’ll find a clear message. A directive unearthed from his past: the decision to leave his band, WU LYF, and go solo.

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Whirling guitars and fuzzy synths create a merry-go-round of echo and delay peddles. It’s dreamy and upbeat, but like his shoe gaze counterpart, Wild Nothing, a smoldering emotionality pierces through, and Francis Lung confronts the unknown.

They say you can’t come back
S’why I never left
They say you can’t come back
Babe that’s why I never left

Nick Hakim – Lift Me Up

Nick Hakim. Nick Hakim. Nick Hakim. I kept seeing the name everywhere. Cymbal. Spotify. @nprmusic. The New Yorker. A Pitchfork article “The Eclectic Soul Music of Nick Hakim” gave me a sense of the man, but not the music.

Like anyone who’s late to the party, I quickly took stock to see if there was anything I could grapple onto. Some way of staking my claim.

I half-listened to Hakim’s top three songs on Spotify (I Don’t Know, Cuffed, Papas Fritas), skipping ahead more than once. The aesthetic was tantalizing but the sound didn’t connect. I dropped it.

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Pre-Outside Lands (a wonderful and hedonistic blur of beer, trampled grass and Future Islands), I flopped onto my bed, fully clothed, shoes dangling over the edge.

Work was done for the week. Music, loud and all-encompassing was streaming off my girlfriend’s phone. I listened to whatever was playing, and began to drift, my face scrunched into the crisp, white sheets.

The lack of control was freeing. I hovered for a few minutes. Nothing spiritual about it. Just an absence of mental chatter –  freewheeling space – Aladin hovering over a city of lights, absorbed in the current of whatever was playing, which upon stretching to turn over her phone was Nick Hakim’s soul music.