Music has been on since the first day of quarantine. With all the time we suddenly find in our hands, there’s the chance to discover and rediscover real gems. As a big follower of podcast series, I can recommend the following:
Belgrade-based, ‘Yes’ is indisputably one of the best mix series around with a top-notch selection of artists and a thoughtful prioritization of quality over quantity. I cannot recommend enough this seamless mix from Heap. Won’t ever say no to this.
Left Alone proudly stands out as one of the most innovative podcast series in the European scene. Stepping out of the mainstream, a well-curated roster of musicians and the understanding of early talent with no boundaries make them an endless source of unorthodox sounds. I fell in love with Lulu’s mix, released shortly before she came for our last Deviant party in February. Really happy we could have a last blast.
We can also slow down things a bit and move to the most sensitive side of the sonic spectrum. Now, more than ever, there’s no rush, nowhere to run to. For a deep listen, my heart points directly to the ‘No Weapon Is Absolute’ show on NTS, run by DJ Sundae and Cosmo Vitelli. Personally, it completely changed my view on music, showing me the importance of a delicate and intense selection, presenting the art of no-mixing and the emotional result that DJing can reach. The following episode still echoes deep inside.
Reality may be stranger than fiction sometimes, but fiction generally serves to read reality’s hidden corners. In these times of turmoil, I have revisited books I deem relevant because their authors develop a deep understanding of the mechanisms that underlie humanity at its worst, thus moving us to reflect on what being human is and what it becomes of it during moments of crisis.
Paralleling a worldwide trend – original as it can get – I went back to ‘The Plague’, by Albert Camus, with no disappointment. I can also recommend ‘Essay on Blindness’, by Jose Saramago, and the classic ‘1984’, by the hyper-aware George Orwell. Stepping into essays, Naomi Klein’s ‘The Shock Doctrine’ has become an essential read, due to its development of the idea of the capitalism of crisis: in moments when the narrative of a whole society is broken by a crisis, certain unacceptable political and economical measures can be introduced, taking advantage of the general confusion. Be safe, but stay awake. If reading is not your thing, you can find it in documentary format on YouTube.
With the last echoes of the winter that almost never came, it brings pure joy to scroll through this New York Times piece which presents a collection of snowmen photographs gathered by artist Eric Oglander. Despite that the collection mostly consists of black and white pictures taken by amateurs, or maybe exactly because of that, it is a highly authentic photographic documentary of the humankind.
End-of-the-year lists convey a sense of completeness. However, we all know there is always still something left for discovering later, be it hidden in time and coated with outdatedness. I came across 2019’s Downwelling album earlier this year, intrigued by the unusual combination of two artists: Allesio Natalizia aka Not Waving and Dark Mark aka Mark Lanegan, the grunge musician. At first it feels odd. It may take a moment to absorb the tones of Natalizia’s melancholic synth work with Lanegan’s ragged spoken poetry on top, but it’s a beauty worth reaching.
If you’re into photography
With a newly found energy to take my camera for a walk, generated by the abundance of free time, I have decided to spend some of that time with a research of other people’s work. First person that came to my mind was Jeff Wall and I have discovered this 45 minute documentary, which despite being a bit stiff technically, doesn’t fail to give a complete insight into and portrait of one of the greatest minds in art and photography. Walls ability to create something so ordinary through artifice is just astonishing.
Let in some Luft
During his last visit to Prague, Philipp Otterbach stopped at Luft and played records. Luckily, it has been recorded and it’s a good way of reminding myself in these disconnected times how it feels to sit at tmy most favorite café in the world.
Over the course of the last year, Luft has been recording visits of various guest from home and abroad. On its Soundcloud, you’ll find a list of sets including Vladimir Ivkovic, Sacha Mambo, Steffen Bennemann, or a collection of regular Radio Punctum sessions.
A View from an Apartment (2004-5). Having selected the location, Wall asked one of the models to furnish the apartment and to live in it as if it were her own. The scene was photographed between May 2004 and March 2005 and the resulting images were then combined.
If you haven’t been following Freddy K’s daily (!) podcast “krzrzrz” on SoundCloud yet, you’re in for a treat. In an interactive manner, Freddy coherently mixes classics and new tracks, all the while reacting to feedback and questions from the last set’s comments. Making a wonderful radio host, his expertise and laid-back, enjoyable delivery remind us of his debuts at the legendary Virus radio show in the 90s. You’ll be able to discover new releases, labels you haven’t even heard of, and what I love most is a bit of backstory or anecdotes surrounding the material. The whole thing is punctuated by Freddy K’s own reactions, often in the form of straightforward, unequivocal onomatopoeias such as “baaam” or “wooosh”. To keep things playful, the title of the last record played is kept secret for a few days. Our beloved resident Claudio PRC’s freshest track on Awry, Wrong Assessment’s label, was recently featured on one of the latest podcasts.
Fluids Of Emotions
Needless to say these confinement times foster a favorable atmosphere for prolific producers, encouraging isolation in the studio. If you’ve missed last Friday’s gesture by bandcamp, remember it’s never too late to support artists in this era of uncertainty – and the platforms coming up with these thoughtful gestures too. The release of Eris Drew’s album Fluids Of Emotions mid-February came right before the toughest measures were implemented, but if you regularly check your personal favorite labels, you may be surprised by some unannounced new content. Caution: this one contains strong cathartic powers.
A lot of the Odd Fantastic family members have been delivering impeccable sets in Ankali – and we can only dream of the ones that are yet to come. Octo Octa and Eris Drew’s Dj Tips available for free download are also worth a mention. In particular, Octo Octa’s guide to building your own home studio with care (accurately subtitled A Journey of Mistakes) is definitely a must-have in your quarantine survival kit, especially if you want to put your raver experience to good use and start making your own creations.
Tired of Netflix? Me too. Don’t forget to look into alternative platforms for under the radar films and documentaries. YouTube and Vimeo regroup a lot of readily available rave docs (birth of the Belgian scene, late 80s UK…). Mubi offers a good, higher quality alternative: entirely renewing their content weekly, I was able to access previous years of the Berlinale’s selections right after this year’s edition of the festival ended. From the queer gem So Pretty to a documentary about architect Adolf Loos’ creations, you’ll surely find what you didn’t even know you were looking for. And for a revolutionary price of 1 euro for 3 months, you’ll never need nor want to bathe in the bay of the pirates again.
On top of my reading list lies Pink Noises: Women On Electronic Music And Sound by Tara Rodgers. I won’t write a full review just yet, as I have gifted it to my best friend for her birthday. Regrouping testimonies from Eliane Radigue, Le Tigre, Annea Lockwood and many more, this book is an approachable account of creative experiences and of the obstacles that may be encountered along the way. The time has come to dust off your shelves and pull out these books you bought and promised yourself: “I’ll read it one day, when I’ll have time”.
I try to keep my days structured (does not include weekends). So, I made two lists (not a fan of lists, but desperate times…): small & big one. They are full of clichés, but they help me to stay sane and healthy, discover something new and they keep me away from lying in bed, scrolling thoughtlessly on my phone (still happens though).
The small list consists of things that I want to make everyday besides the work, like: reading, cooking, listening to at least one new album/EP/podcast, calling somebody (family, friends), do yoga or exercise. Highlights: Efdemin’s New Atlantis, cannelloni filled with ricotta and spinach, Konduku’s Kiran, pumpkin soup with ginger, Tyler the Creator’s Igor; but mainly those calls – its very soothing to see faces of people that are close to your heart. (Honourable mention: Villalobos’ Salvador – yeah, I was surprised too).
The big one is for “larger” projects that are either time-consuming, or I never have time (or desire) to do them. I try to do at least one of these things a day (with various results). Highlights: cleaning windows (the light is fucking amazing now) & writing a short novel (I expect a big success, of course).
I try to read as much as possible. First of all: news. I know they can be depressing, but it is very important to stay informed, especially now. It helps me to set realistic expectations for what is to come, to plan better and thus to avoid (or minimize) disappointments of which there will be quite a few.
But books are the real love. Right before the shutdown, I found in a second-hand bookshop a complete works of Václav Pankovčín (dubbed Slovak Gabriel Garcia Marquez, sadly he died in 1999 when he was only 30 years old). Those books kept my spirits up for two weeks, I haven’t had that much fun when reading in a long time.
I also finally subscribed to The New Yorker (16 $ for 4 months is a pretty good deal), so, you know, I feel like a very cultural person now. And there are tons of long reads in my Saved folder on Facebook (try this one about a failed smuggling operation which destroyed life on a tiny island in Azores when 500 kg of cocaine washed up on its shores).
Supporting those in need
I also try to support local initiatives, charities & businesses, which are struggling right now and probably will be for some time. My girlfriend and I are lucky that we were not really hit by this crisis, so every other day we try to donate to organizations helping people at great risk – older, sick, homeless, victims of domestic abuse. Also, we sent some money to animal shelters, because doggies need food as well.
Then we try to purchase at least something small from our favourite places, like: cafes (The Barn’s Volcan Azul is some great coffee), bars (on Friday we ordered 20 bottles of beer from the local brewery, on Sunday evening there was one left, I mean the weekend was quite good) or clubs (of course we bought tickets to Ankali’s Antivirus A party, because it is going to be very challenging for clubs as they will be probably opened at the very end of this).
What do you think about modular synthesizers? Are your friends playing them? Have you been to a party/concert of an artist performing on them? Have you laughed when Blawan was forced to explain its purpose at an airport when they thought they had a bomb on the table?
If you are a person that gives a little damn about them, you know that it is not a hobby that you can just try and leave behind next week. Whether you are able to design and solder the circuits by yourself or you buy the modules brand new or second-hand, it is an activity that requires a lot of dedication and money. The price of assembling a decent suitcase of eurorack modules can easily reach thousands of €. And like in every other case, the beginnings are expensive, due to zero orientation on the market and digging through all the rubbish that doesn’t meet your expectations, workflow or whatever.
Guess what? There is a software emulation. And it’s 96 % free (those 4 % are non-free modules, but the majority is for free, even open-source) and mega user-friendly. All you need to do is to register on vcvrack.com and download the app. On the same page you can browse through the library, which lists simulations of real eurorack modules! To imply them into the .exe, click on ‘Subscribe’ in the right area of the page. Then you update the app in its navigation bar and restart it. After this process you are free to experiment in the realms of sound. I hope that your friends will ever hear from you again [laughs xD]. If you are new to this and clueless about where to plug the cables, on Youtube there are a lot of ideas and walkthroughs. Brands that I can recommend are – Vult, Erica, Audible, Valley.
From time to time it happens that the mood for listening to music is present, though the ideas how to satisfy it are not. Radiooooo.com might be the right answer for such an issue. Recently they have pimped up its design and I have to say it works much better than back in the days. Basically what you do is – sign up, choose a country on the map (see that it changes with the decade – Czechoslovakia breaking up when stepping from 80s to 90s), choose a decade and on the top choose ‘fast’, ‘slow’, ‘weird’ or a combination. In no time you’ll get striked by music of parameters determined in previous steps.
Don’t be afraid of getting in touch with irrelevant shitty music. The community which adds the discographies seems to be very well aware of the particular scenes which makes digging through various areas and eras always hyper interesting. Genre-wise radiooooo seems to follow the vibe of ‘black’ music such as jazz, soul, funky, disco etc. I personally love to balm my ears by 70s-80s tunes from Africa and Middle East.
Discover Vladislav Delay
Quarantine seems to be a good opportunity to step out of your musical comfort zone and deepen your knowledge. I will try to lead you through this process via the work of Finnish producer Vladislav Delay. If you are already a fan of Monolake, Autechre, Aphex Twin, you are on a good way to become a fan of Delay too. His music can be defined as IDM, glitch or simply experimental, but often his rhythms tend to disperse and it takes quite an effort to orientate in the structure. Newcomers may consider such music as a minimalistic chaos or a violent need for experimentation, but after getting along with his approach to composing, there is a good chance of perceiving the clarity and grace.
My favourite item in the discography of Vladimir Delay is Anima from 2001. Granularly chopped samples and a huge amount of other percussion sounds gave birth to one-hour long mosaic. The soft pad that is groaning every now and then provides a deep melancholic vibe.
After finishing your listen, you can move straight towards ‘Multila’ (2000), that holds the iconic track ‘Huone’.