Back to Basics

A David Guetta (he’s got grey hair now) show last week, Ultra Miami this week – there’s no fighting it, I’m back to the basics in a big way:

 

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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.

Watching the River Freeze

I moved in August to a little apartment alongside the river. The river is wide and fast flowing. It’s the vein through which industry and pride pumps into and out of this region, from the time of trappers and traders to battleships and cruise vessels.

My new apartment has a big glass door that faces the river, unobstructed. Best damn view in the city said the elderly homeowner before me, boxing his model trains.

And so, day in and day out, I watch the river. In late summer, full of boats. In fall, reflecting the colorful canopy of its bank. And now, in winter, I’m watching it freeze.

Being a wide and fast river, it will not freeze easily. It will take a fearsome cold, months of fearsome cold. But winters here can be fearsomely cold. To watch a river freeze is to watch elements wage war. Ice conquers water from the shore, near and distant, while that fire in the sky liberates.

The freeze weaponizes night. It wins territory while the sun is hiding somewhere beneath the horizon, resting before tomorrow’s thaw. Day arrives and the sun fights back. It’s tenacious, the sun, even during the coldest of months. The freeze is relentless; however, and by December, ice that was once wafer thin and broke like fine china condenses into ranks of hard purple. But this beginning is merely a skirmish, launched by an icy vanguard, and at the turn of the new year begins the all-out assault.

For ten days the temperature doesn’t rise above -10° at night or above freezing by day, the longest cold streak in forty years. The sun hangs perilously low in the sky, bleeding dull warmth, gasping last gasps. The ice fortifies its position on both shorelines and charges across, clamoring to meet in the middle. By the tenth day, a ribbon of blue, no more than a few yards wide, traces a line between sheets of white. A last stand.

And then the gods intervene.

The USCGC Penobscot Bay, an 140’ icebreaking behemoth, with a kettle black hull capable of cracking ice 30 inches thick, steams upriver, past my glass door. I run outside, overcome with excitement, crushed by disappointment. I don’t know which. The tug claws through the ice and around a nearby bend, out of view, onward to the river’s source.

That afternoon the carnage floats downriver. Goliath icebergs, shattered and drowning, exhausted from months of battle. The survivors will be dragged until the salty, temperate waters of Casco Bay melt them like hubris into humility.

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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