New in 2020: Nick Storring – My Magic Dreams Have Lost Their Spell

I had pre-ordered the vinyl but this came out digitally last week. I was kinda distracted on first listen… my home office consists of a recliner & a laptop in the middle of a room about half the size of the studio I previously lived in. I have a desk where I put my record player & my tape player, both hooked up to the same $99 speakers I bought on Amazon. There isn’t much room for anything else. I’m not so certain it’s good to have zero separation between my work life & my home life. But I’m grateful to have a job that seems secure throughout all this. Last year I got an offer from a small company in Austin… at the time it was my dream destination. I wonder if I’d still be employed right now if I had gone that route.

This music is a heartache, & I feel somewhat healed listening to it. I’ve been having lots of experiences recently feeling healed by music. Technically I’m listening to this album on the clock. There’s no room to be emotionally healed on your boss’s time, if you’re going to fix yourself it better be to perfect your ability to produce eight hours’ worth of value every day! The truth is I’d be a little automaton if I could. I don’t know how others do it. Maybe my brain has ADHD, or maybe I’m just weird. I just get distracted. This music is transporting me somewhere else, somewhere far away from my paltry “home office” & a world on its back from COVID-19. I feel like Dorothy swept up in the tornado to someplace beyond the sky. The dissonance in Track 4, “What A Made-Up Mind Can Do”, is the sound of my little vessel crashing into Oz (hey, turns out later Oz is kind of a funky place…).

My Magic Dreams Have Lost Their Spell is a beautiful album in a world where beauty feels a little hard to find right now. It’s available through Bandcamp here.

New in 2020: Passepartout Duo – Vis-à-Vis

This album will be released digitally & on vinyl April 10th on AnyOne, a newly-founded label in Beijing. That’s so far away from where I am. If only there was some sort of technology that allowed me to listen to this… ready for me to blow your mind? That technology exists, & it’s called the Internet. You’re actually using it right now to read this post. We’re a global community baby!

Contained on this LP are 2 pleasant compositions for an ensemble, presumably an ensemble of two (otherwise known as a “duo”), presumably a duo named “Passepartout Duo”. According to the promo e-mail I received the musicians created their instruments from scrap materials. That’s pretty cool – reminds me of Harry Partch. I’m reviewing the notes I kept of this album when I first listened… I noted that I enjoyed it best with headphones, but isn’t that true of most music? This music rewards focus.

Let’s see what else I wrote down… “satisfying … warm … abstract”. The MP3s of the album divide each composition into 4 sections (along with the option to listen to either side of the LP as one long recording), & both of them really heat up towards the end. I appreciate the formalness of this music. As I’ve been assembling my infant record collection I’ve thought it’d be neat to own a lot of “contemporary composition” on vinyl, like what you can find on Unseen Worlds and Recital. This record is not necessarily out of place!

Something else I learned from the promo e-mail the artists sent is that the making of this album took them from Geneva, Switzerland all the way to Shanghai. Wow! Bon Voyage, Passepartout Duo! Auf Weirdersehen! Sayonara! Or as we say in Texas…

Happy Trails!

Cop the record HERE.

Five Days Spent Meditating to the Music on Constellation Tatsu During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Before everything took off, in two or three binges, I bought up tapes from Constellation Tatsu in bulk, bringing my collection up to as many as 30 all told, once everything arrives. I had no motive; most of these are ambient or “new age” I always thought they were kind of incompatible with my high-strung nature. Now I’ve got to account for them in my quest to write a blurb for every one of my 300+ purchases on Bandcamp… what do I say? Maybe by listening to all these I’ll develop a finer ear… all ambient music sounds the same to me. What’s the angle? Well, I’m highly on edge from this coronavirus shit, soldiering through brutal depression, maybe I’ll meditate to these tapes for a week & write about how they make me feel. Better than nothing.

Day One, the ears on the tress “new beginnings”. 25 March 2020. I felt like a major suicide risk so I broke isolation & went to my parents’ house in town. The first case of COVID-19 in Nacogdoches was reported that night. Mom took a screenshot of the news on Facebook & printed it out from her iPad… I put the paper in a binder of memories along with stuff like my employee review from the first six months at my first job that wasn’t fast food or retail & the card I got from my parents when I turned 30 years old. I told my parents I wanted to drop out of grad school & dad told me to stay (a month ago I was toughing it out & he told me to drop out)… classic example of dad finding something wrong with every decision I make. That night we almost got into a fight before dinner b/c he thought I grabbed a plate from the cupboard instead of one of the ones he had already laid out for us (he was wrong)… it would still fuck me up if he died from COVID-19 though 😎👍 shit, fuck everything, maybe it wouldn’t… remembering another fight ten years ago, he’s yelling at me & I’m just walking away, I wander around suburbia aimlessly, don’t come home for hours… I know I don’t have it bad when it comes to dads. Repeat that like a mantra, or so everyone says I should.

Day Two, Celer “I Wish You Could”. 26 March 2020. I was listening to Father John Misty’s COVID-19 relief album during work hours & it was giving me a headache… not because I dislike him though, it’s fucking boring to hate Father John Misty, he has a few interesting songs. I had gone back home b/c that’s where my music setup is & yeah, I guess it’s the only thing keeping me sane right now. My job was on my ass to make sure I’m productive 8 hours a day while at home (during normal operation they’d only wanted me to account for 7) but I haven’t got shit to do, I tell everyone supervising me I’m just watching training videos all day… on 6 April I’m supposed to come back, one week earlier than Trump’s beautiful vision of packed churches all across the country Easter Sunday. Putting this on & trying to meditate – I’m failing spectacularly at it – makes me feel better I guess. It’s going to be a while before I check back in with Twitter, I think.

Bernie e-mails me for a hundred-dollar donation to charities he’s selected providing COVID-19 relief. Two days before I asked on Facebook, I have money, why should I help artists have an income right now when no-one seems to give a shit whether I live or die? I give a hundred to Bernie. Fuck you, Bernie, just don’t make me buy your music unless there’s a vinyl record for myself out of the deal. (There is an album on Smithsonian Folkways of a young “Bernard Sanders” telling the story of the life of Eugene V. Debs. I listened to it on Spotify.) This morning I went “Yes” & “Uh-huh” & “I don’t know” for an hour over the phone to my therapist; she said I was “enigmatic.”

The work day is officially over. I put on José Orozco Mora “Forma Aparentes”, think about what a shit start this decade is off to, wonder what adults were thinking after 9/11, think about what Seth Graham said to me about irony & lose my focus.

Day Three, Paul R. Marcano & Andre Martin “Valley Flutes / As it IS”. 27 March 2020. Nick Storring “My Magic Dreams Have Lost My Spell” came out today but I was distracted on my first listen. In the morning I put on Abdu Ali “FIYAH!!!”, my attention divided between the music & the computer books I thumbed through, counting my time as hours spent “training”; the music was challenging, I made a note to listen more later. It was Friday which meant no early morning tomorrow so I loaded up on caffeine. I guess I just wanted to feel something. By 3PM I had a superhuman dose in my system… I feel it, I feel it! I thought, after the equivalent of maybe a dozen cups. I once met a guy who’d gotten schizophrenia from doing bath salts & he said he didn’t need ‘em anymore with Monster in his life. I wondered what his tolerance was like. I reminded myself, don’t self destruct. It seemed to be my natural tendency. Was I crazy, or did a track on Hiroshi Toshimura “GREEN” sound a little like one of the sides of the Celer tape from yesterday?

The paradox of Friday at home: I was supercharged on energy but felt the least tense I had all week. Unplugging from Twitter was paying dividends I think. I checked my e-mail & found out the first case of COVID-19 had been discovered at an immigrant detention center; I made a generous donation to RAICES, then checked my bank account & noted I needed to take it easy with the spirit of giving. Maybe I should be in a fortified bunker right now with ninety days’ worth of rations reading Atlas Shrugged.

“Valley Flutes” sounds a little like whalesong; it’s a vintage track which predates Brian Eno’s invention of ambient & the cut on the tape is just a fraction of the full recording. I put it on & it’s a little counter-intuitive to the triple Monsters in my system but what the hell. I stop moving & take a few deep breaths, & I can’t explain it, I feel a bit of a buzz. I have an idea. I’ve got a SAD lamp pulling yearlong duty on the floor pointing up at the recliner which constitutes my home office; I turn it on & sit, breathing deeply. Damn, I feel pretty good. My sobriety was not harmed in the manufacture of this feeling. The room eventually goes silent, & the high fizzles. I look for something else to listen to.

Day Four, Arrowheads “Lifeforce”. 28 March 2020. This one is pretty funky. Another weekend, nothing to do but stay inside; this is how all my weekends go in Nacogdoches anyway but this time it was an imperative, to everyone who believed in science, anyway. Some of my coworkers didn’t seem so sure. My dad brought over enough groceries to last a week. Instead of a hug, we bumped elbows. I’m grateful for my dad, I thought. I was. It was something to write in my journal. Last night we videochatted about current events; I asked him what he thought of Biden & he said he was concerned. When he dropped by with the groceries I told him I loved him. Oh, something else for my journal… I’m grateful my depression is numbed today. It must be the extra mood stabilizers. If I’m numb, that means I can be bored, like someone normal.

12:30PM, Open Spaces “Opening Space”. 1:30PM, Saphileaum “Samosi”. 2PM, Stephan Haluska “Empty Room”. 3PM, Canada Effervescent “Ridin’ America”. 3:45PM, Alex Crispin “Open Submission”. 4:30PM, Lunaria “Ascension Now”. There’s so many when I grip the downloads! I sit in my chair & breathe, & feel numb. I haven’t dropped out of grad school. The entire campus has switched to distance education since the end of Spring Break. I reconnected with an ex-friend earlier in the year. I couldn’t be around his drinking. He’s stuck in New Jersey with his parents now. I’ll probably never see him again.

My boss e-mails me that we’re going to be teleworking for all of next month. I tell him I’m thankful the university takes the safety of its staff seriously. I wonder about the status of my student loan payments. Mom lectures me on the phone about what to do with my stimulus check & I give her lip. I take out my annoyance, frustration and/or pain on my mom waaaaaay too often, to be honest (b/c it’s safe).

6:30PM, I put on a playlist of Celer + Forest Management “Landmarks” minus everything that can wake me up when I’m asleep. I put it on repeat. I want to write a cut-up poem but I don’t have any scissors. I save a draft of the blog post you’re reading now & feed it into an online Markov text generator:

Before dinner, books & record collection and this feeling. The room events; I asked on Facebook for someone who believed in my record for my dad. Repeat the status of it & download the latest Brian Eno inter-intuitive too much potential told, concerned. What good or retail & found out the new JPEGMAFIA sing me I’d gone back in with stuff like my employee review from the first case of Eugene V. Debs. I look off, in my record collection of its staff. I wanted today. I’m asleep.

At night I attended a livestream concert featuring artists from the label Hausu Mountain. I had a GREAT time. Livestream concerts are a really good idea; they should continue after quarantine. The temperature in my apartment got hot during the M. Geddes Gengras set & I had some sort of prophetic vision which I described to the people in the chat in real time. There was a creature that looked like the Daniel Johnston frog but with Garfield’s face & the eyestalks were bunny ears of which he had three… & Jon Arbuckle’s cousin, the one with a mustache, was there. Later a duck showed me a roomful of eggs & told me, “These eggs contain the hopes & dreams of everyone on this planet. They all wish to be happy & have a good life.” Then the duck showed me MY egg. “Falseness is an illusion created by the evil mind but we’re all thoughts in the good mind…” What did it mean??? You really had to have been there, I guess.

Day Five, Chihei Hatakeyama “Scene”. 29 March 2020. I had a dream last night that my cousin changed his Twitter display name to “Lord Immortal of the Labyrinth” & he wrote, “it’s not edgy to be poly just be single”. I was really tired from staying up late. The vibe-o-meter readings on today’s release are quite high… if you want a cassette tape with calming ambient music on it, this has gotta be one of the highlights of the catalog. I play the MP3 version of the album on loop for an hour or two.

Sunday’s supposed to be a day of rest, but I’m busy analyzing & second-guessing my entire music collection. It’s a long story but I didn’t have to make a rent payment at the beginning of the month. Instead of putting that money into savings I used every single dollar to buy music. I’m a one-man stimulus package in these uncertain times. At least I’m not depressed right now. I’ve got a massive back catalog of new acquisitions to scope on my computer & so many physical goods due to arrive in the mail, who knows how far into the future. I sort through the records & tapes I already have & pick out my favorites until I’m no longer sure what I like. Some critic I am. I start organizing the MP3s in my music library & put on Thyme Lines “Geodesists” to keep the plot of this article going. This one’s not so ambient. It reflects the busy state of my mind. You’ve been working on this post each day as it unfolds, Mike. What are you going to do when it’s time to stick the landing?

On Sunday, I am tired & confused. What kind of music do I even like anymore? I don’t know. I have so much music. I wish I had some organizing principle to bring order to the chaos. My matrices of meaning are a little askew after one full week in quarantine – minus the emergency detour to my parents of course. I’m worried about my parents. I’m worried about my entire extended family. I have another month to think about this in the safety of my home. I consider it a blessing, but maybe a mixed one.

My reason to stay alive is this: curiosity. It’s interesting as hell to see which way things are going to turn this decade. Actually, it’s to spite my enemies. I don’t know who’s NOT my enemy, so I err on the side of hating & fearing everyone. Actually… it’s because I’m lazy. It’s all of these reasons, & no reason at all.

I could do to relax. Now if only I could get the hang of meditation…

#Trending in the World of Mike: JPEGMAFIA – All My Heroes Are Cornballs

Bought this for $12 during the Bandcamp one-day event when 100% of proceeds went to the artists. My fan account was featured on the front page of Bandcamp during that time. The event was cool, but it should have been announced as a three-day event rather than one. It wasn’t until well into the evening that the site wasn’t choking on the hugely increased traffic, & as a computer guy I know the sysadmins at Bandcamp must have been stressed AF all day – especially during such an already stressful time! A three-day event would have made the workers at Bandcamp’s lives easier & done even more good for artists. Two days later on Sunday I saw a tweet from a label owner saying they’d like another day. Lots of people didn’t even know about the event until it was already over, & with the site slowing to a crawl it was impossible for me to earnestly explore what was available. That said I made 10 purchases that day, many of them pre-orders.

I haven’t had a chance to listen to many of them, because this release has been dominating all my time. I’m obsessed. This is the sound of the avant-garde. And I do thank Bandcamp for running a feature a week or so earlier highlighting artists of color in the Baltimore underground. I like this release better than the artist’s prior release, Veteran, which seems like it was a big hit. There is warmth in this album. You can get lost in it. It’s hard to keep track of where one track ends & the next begins ’cause it’s such a cohesive work of art. My favorite track is unlucky number 13, “Free the Frail” featuring Helena Deland. It’s a beautiful song. I start listening starting on that one so often that I know the last few tracks of the album very well. My second favorite track is the minute-long “BasicBitchTearGas” – “I don’t want no scrub / scrub is a guy that can’t get no love for me / it ain’t hard to see.” So striking. I went on scrub patrol after listening to this album for two days straight. I’m all alone right now, but I thought I saw one in the mirror… but it turned out to just be a super fly guy. 🙂 Happy trails everyone!

Bandcamp’s taking a cut now, but the album is pay-what-you-want at this link.

#Trending in the World of Mike: Sparkle – Sparkle

Outta sight!! Lots of good stuff came out in the late 70s. The movie Hausu, for instance, was released in 1977. So was The Dragon Lives Again, a movie in which Bruce Lee goes to Hell, teams up with Popeye, fights Dracula, the Exorcist, Emmanuelle, & many others… I could go on at length about that movie (one of my favorites!) but this is a music review. Anyway, 2 years later, in 1979, on the other side of the planet, this blistering, soulful, cosmically funky disco LP was released to the world – the same year as the infamous “Disco Demolition Night” in Chicago, Illinois! Let it be known that Mike’s Blog is a pro-Disco zone. If the Disco Demolition Night is what the spirit of rock ‘n’ roll was really supposed to be about, that genre deserved to die. I’m not afraid to say it! Disco is the REAL sound of fighting the power. This record is scientifically proven to infect you with the uncontrollable urge to move your body – it’s called Disco Madness, pal!

Here’s how Side B plays out: Following “Disco Madness” is “Dabooza”, an intergalactic groove session that reminds me of Parliament-Funkadelic. Next comes “Down the Way”, a funky as hell jam in its own right. It closes with a song called “The Rock”, & guess what? The funk hits heavy on this track as well. It’s official: Side B of this record is a gorbulent unfugwittable monster of funk. Oh no!!

Original copies of this record go for around $1500 a pop over on Discogs, but it was graciously reissued by Cultures of Soul in January of this year. As I write this it’s the beginning of a very different kind of madness in the United States, as COVID-19 prepares to disrupt the lives of the entire nation. I don’t know what’s about to happen, but if having a one-person disco party in your underwear home alone helps the cause, why not order this record? Also available on Bandcamp over here.

New in 2020: Sawak – The Bells

I was talking to someone on the phone the other month; I said, “Rock music doesn’t excite me anymore. For a new rock release to excite me, that shit’d have to be fucking crazy” – “That’s a hot take,” the other said. Well, this release has turned me into a bit of a liar. It ‘s weird, but it’s still rock; a solid album for fans of alternative, & I like it just fine.

Maybe it’s b/c track no. 2 is called “O Captain,” but imagery of pirates keeps popping into my head when I listen to most of these tracks; it’s kind of odd. Well, the way I choose to look at it, pirates are just the punks of seafarers, so kudos to Sawak for their outlaw music. I always kinda identified as an outlaw, even though it gets more & more untrue the older I get. I had a cracked version of Spotify installed on my phone, until I decided to pay for the service – BOO!! HISS!! – I work a law-abiding 8-to-5. I’ve sobered up. Well, ummm… I’ve got news for you pal, punk is more of an aesthetic than an ethos, so I can live like a square & listen to music that reminds me of pirates for some weird reason & there’s no contradiction!!! That’s right!

The music is interesting throughout. The vocal delivery on “Rat Soup Kitchen” towards the end reminds me of Lou Reed’s Lulu as heard through the ears of someone who recognizes that Lulu is beautiful music. The album closes with the meditative “Swaminarayan”, providing a cathartic, theological finish to an album whose musical patterns twist around like solving a Rubik’s Cube.

“The Bells” releases March 13th. Cop it via Bandcamp here.

New in 2020: Suko & moduS – Watch Your Step

What a striking cover! This upcoming release is a collaboration between the artists Suko Pyramid (Spain) & moduS ponY (Los Angeles) on weirdolicious label Bumpy – hey, shout-out to Bumpy for the killer web design game going on over there… a joy to behold! Default-Wordpress-lookin’ goofball Mike’s Blog: A Place for Music could learn something from Bumpy…

I’m into whatever’s going on in this record. Do I understand what exactly that “whatever” is? Well, no… (END OF REVIEW – IF I DON’T UNDERSTAND IT I CAN’T DESCRIBE IT; NO MORE WORDS FROM ME.) haha j/k. But this release achieves a certain aesthetic I appreciate. There’s not enough music & art floating around out there that dares to just be weird; f you ask me, this album is a welcome addition to the world.

What does it mean to be weird?” I was feeling kind of philosophical asking myself that question but wanted to cut right to the chase so I looked up the definition via Google search. According to them, merely being very strange is actually the second, “INFORMAL” definition of the word. The primary definition of weird is “suggesting something supernatural; uncanny…” & hey! There’s actually an “ARCHAIC • SCOTTISH” definition that “weird” is “a person’s destiny.” I sat down & thought about that for a whole fifteen minutes.

Is there something supernatural about this music???? The way I see it these artists are naturals at making super weird sounds, so I say yes. Congratulations, it passes the weirdness test. This release reminds me of fellow “contemporary weirdo” acts like Cabo Boing or Jerry Paper. Kudos to Bumpy for putting out such rare vibes into the world. Maybe it’s your “destiny” to check it out, if you’re feeling ARCHAIC • SCOTTISH… you get what I mean.

Watch Your Step comes out March 6, 2020. Link to Bumpy label above. Available to order via Bandcamp here.

Favorite Track(s): Waffle-O-Will, One Gulp Fantasies – A Whole Jungle