Washtown

To pass the time I scan the wall. Above the coin machine are flyers, stuck with sharp, metal tacks. There’s a poster promoting a liver detox, an ad for arigatou classes, and a photo of a sad-looking cat named Dwight. He’s been lost since Friday.

A woman in a khaki jacket sits across from me. She’s leaning back in a plastic chair, her iPhone perched upright in a wrinkled palm. I insert my ear buds, which are tangled around each other like jungle vines, and hit play on Elder Island’s feverish, twangy Bonfire. 

Inspiration comes at the weirdest times, no? Too often I sit down at a computer to write, headphones on, then headphones off, sitting, then standing, trying to squeak out something new. But when I have the time, nothing pools.

The woman across from me exhales and Jim James’ wobbling Here in Spirit starts to play. Truthfully, it’s the only protest song I’ve ever liked. I want to pump my fists.

The dryers click and whirl. My mind is moving, swishing through avenues of past, present, and future. I find it odd that it’s happening now, in Washtown, details jumping out like fireworks.

Bringggggg!

My clothes are dry. The woman in the khaki jacket coughs, wipes her nose, and heads for the exit. I start to sort through a pile of crispy t-shirts. The fluorescent lights descend and the playlist resumes, shooting me back up into space.

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3 is my guess

“Three is my guess. Three or three-thirty,” said the man in a bright yellow polo tucked into khaki shorts. He drifted by our window, circled his car and stopped to lean against the guard rail. Two older women sat inside — one with a Tom Clancy novel spread across her lap, the other eating a bag of tortilla chips as she searched for a cooler of beer.

“Think they’ll be cold?” said the woman.

The man laughed. “Not a chance.”

Two miles up 1-80, a car was on fire. Behind us, were two more accidents. “That’s what happens when people slam the brakes on a two-lane highway,” said the man to no one in particular.

Beyond the guard rail was a drop off, a steep ravine lined with pine trees bending up to the clear, blue sky. I kicked off my shoes. The hot cement felt good pressed against the arches of my feet.

A car door slammed. A family of three jogged by — sweating. The woman in front of us let out a shrill yelp, tipping a beer can back, frothy liquid dribbling down her cheeks.

“Time to go!!” she shrieked.

Saltwater Sun

I like this band. They’ve got something going on. And it’s not just because they’re #1 on Hype Machine right now. I promise.

We’ve been a bit wordy as of late, so I’ll try to cut to the chase. Saltwater Sun is a British band that combines the elegance of Elder Island with the grittiness of DIIV. Lofty guitar riffs create a thrashing tension that seems to stretch as far back as it rushes forward.

Feels good doesn’t it?

Cafe Disco

Fans of The Office love the show for the jaw clenching moments of missed social cues and over the top irreverence. Ironically, the greatest perpetrator is the boss himself. Self-centered and clueless, Michael Scott gives us a million reasons to roll our eyes.

Despite his antics, Michael is able to gain the loyalty of his subordinates. While his corporate peers try to wrangle profits, Michael focuses his attention on birthday celebrations and recreational non sequitors, like Cafe Disco.

In Season 5 Michael uses a vacant space directly beneath Dunder Mifflin to play disco and iron out his awkward dance moves. He outfits the space with an espresso machine and a set of portable speakers. When the new receptionist goes looking for Michael, she finds him caffeinated and flailing.

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With shots of espresso and Everybody Dance Now blaring through an air-vac, Michael tries to lure the rest of his co-workers out of their desk chairs, but despite a few tapping toes, they’re hesitant to cut loose. Just as Michael is on the verge of giving up, his caffeine buzz lapsing, he hears the muffled tones of a disco beat and rushes downstairs to see Cafe Disco in full swing.

Anyone who’s sat stoically in a dry meeting has at one time or another, fantasized about Cafe Disco. Maybe not exactly to Michael’s specs — espresso and dance music — but a brief reprieve from the safe harbors of marinating on a few action items, for something more fabulous.

Which got me going on a Cafe Disco playlist featuring a track from a Nightmares on Wax Boiler Room set, a Deliceuse Musique premier and a little something jacked from WalterCronkTight’s DJ playlist.

Just Let Go of Your Shoulders

I haven’t even finished Svend Brinkmann’s Stand Firm and yet his ideas have become a driving force in my day to day routine over the last few weeks. It’s his awareness of the present moment that’s moved me – or my days, depending on how you look at it – and his recognition that, “anything that could happen in your life, could happen today.”

Since shopping that phrase around, a crescendo of events has piled up, some positive, some negative, but most assuredly all happening in the current moment – the razor sharp now.

Which, without a doubt, is a good place to be. To celebrate I got a playlist going to take you into the weekend. We’ve got a bit of Tahoe (h/t Waltercronktight), a recent Bangers and Mash addition, and a Soundcloud classic that’s been bouncing around forever but never made it into a post.

The Disappearing Act

In 2014 a young British producer and DJ released his first EP, 1992 EP. Then in 2015, he released another, 1000 EP, doubling down on a hypnotic, buzzing electronic sound that uses coiling synths and bluesy guitar tones to drive listeners towards an auditory cliff.

Ben Khan’s in your face, screeching style seemed to emanate from nowhere. There was no public figure – just a bare bones Soundcloud page and cryptic Tumblr. His aesthetic, a kaleidoscope of colors and a reverence for sharp, symmetrical patterns was captivatingly futuristic. This was music for flying cars.

Then he disappeared.

We haven’t heard anything from Ben Khan Since his last release, Blade (Tidal Wave of Love), which debuted on Soundcloud on August 4, 2015In an age where people stockpile social media accounts, Khan has barely left a footprint. A shell of a Facebook profile remains – the last post is from August 4, 2015.

Before Ben Khan there was Jai Paul, a young British DJ, known for minimalist album art and a distilled brand of electronic music – bloated synths chewing over clapping drum loops. Despite only two official singles, one interview and a leaked album, he reached peak indie fame. Pitchfork listed Jai Paul’s Jasmine (Demo) as #32 on their list of the 200 best tracks of the decade so far (2010-2014).

Jai Paul keeps a low profile, surfacing now and then. Recently he announced the founding of the Paul Institute, a mysterious creative endeavor that says it’s interested in everyone from, “event planners to coders.” Jai Paul’s last official release? April 3 2013.

Several users on Reddit have accused Ben Khan of copying Jai Paul, both sonically, and for averting the public eye. As soon as Jai Paul resurfaces so will Ben Khan, jokes a commenter. With so much crossover, you can’t help but fudge the truth a bit in hopes you have the trappings of a conspiracy theory that would make Alex Jones wiggle with excitment.

What’s keeping them quiet? Are Ben Khan and Jai Paul crippled by the stifling expectation that mounts with creative success? The yips. Writer’s block. It has many names and takes many forms. Or is their reasoning more clairvoyant? Maybe they realize that against the backdrop of our current reality, a time when marketing feels like our species newest evolutionary adaptation, disappearing is more interesting than avid self promotion. In the absence of talk, we have what equates to a precious metal.

Whether or not Ben Khan or Jai Paul release music is obviously up to them. All we can do is wait, and in the meantime watch as their music seeps into the blogosphere, trickling into new releases, like Isaac Delusion’s Isabella, who’s languid guitar sounds eerily similar to a Ben Khan riff.

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