Ivy Lab – 20 Questions

South African dance music has a certain depth of sound. It’s hollow. Spacious. Fleet of foot. And when it’s accompanied by the chatter of drum and base, it’s infectious on a dance floor.

Years ago WalterCronkTight and I would cruise down Long Street, SA listening for rattling speakers, hoping to discover a DJ or even just a song that hadn’t made the transcontinental journey to Europe or North America.

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When these jewels surfaced, we’d write down lyrics or maybe turn to someone flexing in the crowd, “yo, you know what this is?” 

Some nights, WalterCronkTight, more ballsy than me, would approach the DJ, drink in hand, feet still moving to the base. The DJ would pull one ear from his headphones and lean in.

“I can’t hear you, mate…” he’d mouth.

In the spirit of musical adventure, test your ears on 20 questions by Ivy Lab. (Not South African) but undeniably influenced by the crisp SMACK of o.g. drum n’ base.

One Fast Move or I’m Gone

“Duncan?” said a voice in the doorway.

I turned to see a young, Asian man wearing a black leather jacket. His hair was spiked like a mountaintop and his leather boots were worn and dusty. He moved into my room and introduced himself as, “the guy moving in.”

I welcomed him. Surprised he was here so early. My lease wasn’t up until the next day. But he set his motorcycle helmet on a dusty dresser and began surveying the room.

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There was a leaning tower of clothes, a stack of valuables (my passport, a knife wrapped in a stuff sack and a collection of birthday cards) and a pile of uncategorized stuff – dusty soccer cleats, an expired ID and an orange t-shirt with a rip through the chest.

The move was a chance to embrace minimalism. To enter a headspace where possessions were just material things, like empty beer bottles. But by grouping everything into piles, I’d magnified the emotional impact. I was no longer just throwing away a pennant flag but the entire 2004 Red Sox World Series.

“What’s the plan for the dings on the wall?” said the new guy, running a fingernail over one of the divots.

There were a network of scratches, mostly from tacks and nails jammed into the wall to support a string of prayer flags stretched across the room. I told him to take it up with the landlord. The larger dents in the wall weren’t mine though. I’d inherited them. The new guy snapped a few photos, muttering something about, “due diligence.”

He moved towards the window and eyed a reddish stain. I’d tried scrubbing it off but the wine must have set into the wood. Years ago, I’d kicked over a bottle of red while eating dinner with my girlfriend. I didn’t own any furniture at the time so we sat on the floor, legs crossed like Indian chiefs.

I offered some of the remaining furniture to the new guy. I’d found most of it on the sidewalk. But he shook his head and clasped his hands behind his back. He had blueprints for a new layout and as soon as I left, he was going to cover the walls with a fresh coat of grey paint.

The new guy motioned towards the leftover dresser and offered to help move it out to the street. So we took out the drawers and lifted, using the edges to maneuver through the front door, dropping the dresser by the trash.

“It’ll be gone in minutes,” I said. “Nothing lasts long in this neighborhood.”

It was true. Earlier I’d left thirty pound dumbbells by the curb to load into the car. Five minutes later they disappeared.

“How is the neighborhood around here?” the new guy asked, glancing at the apartments across the street.

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I told him it was ok and thought about the night someone threw a vodka bottle through our front window. The house had also survived two shootings – drive by’s that chopped up our front door with pockmarks. And most mornings the ground shimmered with broken glass from car windows getting beat to a pulp.

“Well, I have a scooter so I should be fine,” said the new guy. He must have seen me eyeing a shattered window.

The sun was getting low and I sensed that I only had a few more minutes, maybe seconds left. Cars sped up the hill, drivers squinting as they accelerated. Turk Street framed the setting sun, cradling it like a pearl.

I turned and jogged back inside to grab as much as I could from the three piles on the floor. I stuffed the Red Sox pennant and prayer flags into an empty guitar case. Out in the hall I could hear the new guy breathing steadily. He leaned on a squeaky floorboard and repeated something about a safety hazard. I heard the click of his camera.

He shook my hand as I walked out of the front door for the last time. A car pulled into the driveway next door. I leaned down to see if it was my pot smoking neighbor. He liked to sit out there rolling doobies. We usually exchanged head nods. My way of letting him know I wasn’t an asshole. Then, one day he rolled down his window as I climbed on my bike, and shouted something through a smoky haze.

“Hey cowboy! You riding off into the sunset?”

The Rebrand


All the thief left was a pair of shoes, which Sam picked up 45 minutes South of San Francisco. Everything else – pants, socks, work shirt, countless pieces of memorabilia, familiar fits and wrinkles – were gone.

The audacity of it hit Sam as soon as he saw the broken glass shining on the concrete, but the feelings of loss took some time to develop. He’d reach for something, before realizing it was gone.

The optimistic type, Sam began to rebuild. We called it a re-brand. It was an opportunity to try out a new look, buy the shit he really wanted. It would be a total revamp of Sam.

He bought his first round of new shirts, then went home and washed them. Walking around in starchy, pressed cotton made him feel like a mannequin. Like humans, clothes take time to gather character. A scratch at the elbow. A roughening of the material.

To help with the transition, Sam started reading about Buddhism. Most relevant was the idea that we are more than our material possessions. Sam doesn’t derive meaning from a t-shirt. His essence is more innate. Constant.

That sounds pretty good on paper, but the reality is much more materialistic. Passerby’s judge you in seconds based on your branded chest. The leap to Buddhist indifference was a little much and Sam was thrown into a existentialist crisis of self discovery. The jean jacket he’d bought was still dangling on a hanger. This went beyond clothes.

In any rebrand, it’s important to have a goal. A North star to lead the way in times of darkness. But Sam went into this whole thing unwillingly. A thief in the night, pulling on a Hamilton College soccer t-shirt. But he soon found his anchor.

Narrative. We construct them without even thinking. We assess, judge and make it fact, all from the fenceposts of our own cranium. Sam might construct the narrative that his clothes were stolen because of bad karma. Or that the thief was some type of divine intervention forcing his hand into a much needed rebrand.

Or the truth is much less theatrical. His shit got stolen. There’s no narrative beyond that, no need for the dramatic coloring of simple details. And with that as a mind pump, Sam began to notice other narratives that were unfurling around him, pulling them in to inspect the source.

Kaytranada’s Boiler Room Set (Montreal)

Dancing at a live show can feel awkward. When you introduce a camera into the equation, things can get even worse. People clutch their drinks. Body movements get more rigid. You can practically see self-awareness locking up people’s limbs.

But not Kaytranada’s 2103 Boiler Room set in Montreal, which runs like a low budget play, aimless and strange but refreshingly unpredictable.

We open with a man’s desperate attempt to dance with the girl in multi-clored jeans hiked up to her waist. She smiles shyly and then pushes him away. Other club-goers move forward for their moment in the spotlight. There are costumes. An impressive wizards staff (beers stacked to 6 or 7). And a mix of sweating dudes and seductive woman, all shifting in and out of view.

Maybe it’s Kaytranada. Maybe it’s the booze. Whatever it is, it’s a Boiler Room classic and deserves a re-visit.

Watch the full version here.

American Eyes (Gilligan Moss Remix)

Look. I don’t have a good rebuttal for the accusation that remixes are a bit unoriginal. It’s undeniable that it takes a creative hand to make something from scratch.

So, when I saw that Gilligan Moss had remixed American Eyes, I was immediately skeptical. American Eyes is so flawless in composition and build, it’s useless to remix. Leave it alone. Let it be.

But this is Gilligan Moss. The guy who turned Glass Animals’ Gooey into a frenzied, Frankenstein creation that speeds up to a near sprint. And even though I may have been rooting against him, Gilligan Moss has done it again. This time injecting BPM’s into one of my favorite songs of 2016.

Cotton Jones – I Am the Changer

An Eis a difficult chord. You need the finger dexterity of a rock climber just to get it into place. It’s also the second note in Cotton Jones’ progression I Am the Changer, a low-key, psychedelic tune that’s guaranteed to put you in a trance of laissez-faire optimism.

Based out of Cumberland, Maryland, lead-man Michael Nau and his wife Whitney McGraw are the heart and soul of Cotton Jones’ ethereal sound.

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And despite being a finger twister, after hearing their live performance on impact89fm, I spent an hour with my dusty Ibanez just trying to keep up with their ambitious sound.

You know I’m the waiter

The hesitater

I will get to it later