I think I can safely speak for Mr. Smigielski that we’re very happy we expanded to a quartet of authors for this volume. It’s been great to get some fresh perspectives and voices to help keep things moving forward. Or sideways. Or upside down. Though not our most consistent volume, I think it strikes a fine balance between evolution and adventure, passing from cool Europop to sample-heavy strangeness to lockstep Krautrock to somber indie electronica and ending up at twitchy R&B.
We welcome any interpretation of meaning you may want to apply to the resultant volume—my own is that this is a mix that reflects a difficult winter. Not necessarily weather-wise, but emotionally and mentally. It’s frequently cloudy and darkens easily, it sometimes lacks a strong human warmth and it often prefers a serious fragility to the cheer and pleasure we’ve seen in past volumes. On this, a day where we get the gift of more sunlight, my hope is that the next volume will shake off the gloom and embrace the joy of spring.
01. Got it Together Again by Saint Etienne feat. Nathan Bennet
02. Let’s Call it Off by Peter Bjorn and John
03. Little Bit by Lykke Li
04. By Your Side by CocoRosie
05. Bats in the Attic (Unravelled) by King Creosote & Jon Hopkins
06. CMYK by James Blake
07. Ice by Patten
08. Mexican Grand Prix by Mogwai
09. Paradise Walk by Neu!
10. New Rock by Buffalo Daughter
11. Smoke by Cornelius
12. Be Good to Them Always by The Books
13. Alienation by Lali Puna
14. Rock My Boat by Dntel feat. Mia Doi Todd
15. Portofino by Teengirl Fantasy
16. Osaka Loop Line by Discovery
Without getting too self-referential, I will mention that posting the last track of the first volume of my NEIMT career has been an interesting endeavor. I feel compelled to respond to the previous track, but I also feel a bit of responsibility toward a summation of the rest of this volume.
With that, I present you with Osaka Loop Line. It has many interesting elements that have surfaced throughout this volume. Electronic fuzz. Whitespace that tends to hold the track together. Twitchy samples in an otherwise layered, minimal environment. A touch of romance. Above all, a nice place to pause.
Gentlemen, it’s been real. I look forward to seeing where future volumes take us.
My first experience with Teengirl Fantasy was their amazing AZZ KLAPZ ep. The electronic duo were taking short, funky R&B influenced phrases and looping them into oblivion. What was once funky becomes oddly meditative by the 40th loop. I loved that ep but wondered if you could push the concept any further. On subsequent albums Teengirl have done just that—and in both directions. Some tracks are more R&B than ever, while tracks like Portofino are long meditations on a musical phrase with a subtle play in dynamics keeping things interesting and fresh.
Right now, this song is conjuring up in my mind the final scene in Children of Men. Go with me here. Not really because of it’s literal reference to a “boat” but in it’s humanity rising up within a glitch tech context. A river of hopeless static brought on by a future ridden with despair. Yet inside this boat remains a soul-laden hopefulness. Thoughts of freedom, birds in the sun, and wind in the trees. None of which is a part of this sonic industrial landscape. There is a unmistakable current lifting us from horror, into a foggy but enlightened future.
Though I appreciate the twitchy glitchiness of “Be Good to Them Always,” I want to see a smidge more humanity. Thus I went to Lali Puna, one of the few girl-fronted bands who can successfully combine pop-song allure with electronic alarm.
“Alienation” is sort of a little sister to the Notwist’s “Consequence,” a track I very nearly used here but pulled away from due to my having championed it on mixes and in conversation for a full decade now. Both are the emotional climaxes on their respective albums, but where “Consequence” rides a dizzyingly haunting melody and jockeys for the title of Saddest Song I Own, “Alienation” absorbs patterns of noise and additional instruments to blossom into something quite beautiful. I love those sounds—typewriter keys, striking matchsticks, plucked strings—but they’re no match for the breathy vocal and piano and the almost-hidden guitar. Why have I not been talking about this for years too?
I promise my contributions to the next volume won’t be so German.
It’d be a shame to go down the path of highly visual songwriting without referencing the Books. Hailing from New York City, this duo defined an experimental genre that’s been described as Folktronica, or perhaps more aptly, a sound collage.
The Books made a name for themselves by removing sampled voices and compositions from their original contexts, and crafting them into new emotional compositions. Moments of contemplation, understanding, excitement and refinement are cataloged, transformed and infused with new meaning, creating aleatoric, yet highly controlled experimentation.
Over a backdrop of electric guitars, eclectic samples, and incessant clicking, Nick Zammuto reveals hidden melody in Be Good to Them Always by singing in concert with the Books’ familiar sampled voices. This duet tends to take the edge off phrases like “you are doing something the whole world is doing” and “this great society is going smash.”
Oh Cornelius. How long I have loved you. Through every weird-ass turn, Beach Boys inspired pop, Sonic Youth-esque noise rock, and his very own post-kraut weirdness. Every flavor perfect and alien.
I can’t think of another artist with a more sensitive ear for detail, and when he fills his long, repetitive krautrock compositions with his signature production work it sounds unlike anyone else in the game. There’s something highly visual about his songwriting. A tiny burst of color here, a perfectly-rendered but oddly out of place photo-realistic flower there; it’s the musical equivalent of Jeff Koon’s Easyfun-Ethereal paintings.
Loving where this is going. Krautiness. The essence of music that is equally minimal and maximal. Both direct in its focus but going nowhere in particular.
And who knew one of the best purveyors of modern Krautiness would be three Japanese ladies, playing wildly eclectic unpredictable rock music, that while guitar centric, is so full of electro flourishes, counter melodies, and atmosphere galore.
This track from Buffalo Daughter’s first record has been a favorite for a long time. The guitar sounds shimmer and crunch at the same time. And the drum texture is just lovely. A round smooshy kick thump balances beautifully with one of the thinnest snare pops on record. This track is incredibly directed, driving at one speed the entire time. It’s not going anywhere but I’m along for the ride regardless.
Somewhere between the mechanical menace of Mogwai and the, well, shit-ass weirdness of Patten lies “Paradise Walk,” certainly the krautiest of all the krautrock in my library. Which is only really Neu! and Can, so maybe that’s not saying much. I first heard this album—recorded in 1986, bootlegged in 1995, and officially released in 2010—last year in New York, and it’s always retained that wide-eyed wonder of wandering a massive city. It’s a pretty awesome coexistence of order and chaos, with samples and disembodied voices and the occasional windchime gliding over and under and through that wonderful drumbeat. When the synth line rises from the murky depths…I don’t know, it sounds like pure hope.
The last couple of tracks have been decidedly difficult to follow. They represent experimentation in layered, minimal and textured environments, carried out over a career. After much deliberation, I settled on a track that pushes Mogwai—a band traditionally known for pairing lush soundscapes against uproarious white noise to create often entirely instrumental compositions—out of their comfort zone and into a totally unchartered creative space. This track represents a similar kind of experimentation as the last few, only confined to a simple five-minute expression.
The heart of Mexican Grand Prix pits a hushed intonation against intrepid robot-speak, creating a certain kind of refined intensity that wouldn’t exist if either of the vocal tracks was heard in isolation. I appreciate the subtle balance of the electronic- and organ-induced rhythm that kicks off the track against the clapping layered into the synth- and guitar-heavy post-rock fade out. The flawless layering and consistently subtle texture makes the exercise feel effortless, yet refined.
This track is as much about push as it is about pull, and definitively proves that Mogwai are more than just Scottish slow-burn post-rock kings.
Sorry for the wait gents, but seriously—how do you follow James Blake?
London-based electronic producer Patten is truly an enigma. Like a real enigma. No photos of the man exist, he answers interview questions in URLs and other people’s YouTube videos.
His new record GLAQJO XAACSSO has been receiving mixed reviews, most of which claim the record is too off-kilter to be enjoyable. His methods are similar to James Blake’s—samples chopped and stretched into an entirely new emotional space. Perhaps Patten is a little looser in his technique but I’ve always found the results exciting, otherworldly and strangely calming. Ice, the GLAQJO XAACSSO captures the Patten sound perfectly.
For me, James Blake is literally an enigma. A critically acclaimed artist that, for the most part produces music so impossibly stripped down and minimal, it’s barely recognizable as music at all. Every minute is the beginning of a pop song. Instruments layer in. But never coalesce. Pure texture and emotion. It’s quite an achievement.
The Wilhelm Scream, a haunting case in point. An absolutely tortured treatise of soulful minimalism. I encourage you to look it up, and listen to it with the lights off. A good wind down the day experience. It was almost my selection for track 6. But I feared it might bring us to a screeching halt right when we should be picking up steam. So I give us CMYK. A bewildering remix/mashup of Aaliyah and Kelis, but distorted and rearranged so much, all that we have left is uniquely James Blake.
I’ll only add, that the addition of two new authors to the mix train has already changed the dynamic considerably. In a refreshing way. Mr. Joosse and I can perhaps beat ourselves up a little less over whether or not we are posting the most perfect next song and enjoy this new diversity.
King Creosote is like an insomniac uncle, tinkering about the garage in the middle of the night. He’s amassed dozens of albums and home-recorded hundreds of tracks—the coastal Scottish equivalent of John Darnielle—and released them on CD-Rs and 7”s on his own label. He began cleaning up his sound around 2004 and last year reached what may be the pinnacle of his career, a collaboration with electronic artist Jon Hopkins. Few traces remain of the scrappy, ragged DIY quality of old songs re-recorded over and over to make his whole discography yet more serpentine. But in place of that is the definite sound of a man getting older and being surprisingly okay with it, ready to trade in the four-track for the two-car.
I labored over 10 or so KC tracks from the last decade, any of which would’ve been great but led us down wildly divergent paths (the mopey singer-songwriter, the droning guitar player, the happy accordion folkie, the sampling-heavy weirdo, etc.) In the end, I couldn’t pass up the grown-up-edness of this track, a Hopkins-remixed version of the highlight from Diamond Mine. Its melody and optimism bloom gradually, like the spring always around the corner.
At first blush, By Your Side has a nice kind of romantic resonance. Though, if you dig a layer deeper, a sense of desperation begins to surface, which transitions into a much more emotional plea. The tense of the phrase “all I wanted was to be your housewife” reveals the true intention of the track, and builds on the if described in the previous track. To that end, I’m left wondering whether this is commentary on a relationship gone sour, or a simple longing for on opportunity that was never posed.
While the subtle layering and beautifully-articulated emotion remains, the sunny swagger and romantic disposition of the first few tracks begins to fade.
Got it together Again? Let’s Call It Off? Seems to me we’ve got a bit of a love problem on our hands, and a swedish one at that. Thankfully, my future spouse and eternal soul-partner Lykke Li has already written this century’s greatest love song and damn if it doesn’t drip Swede-pop weirdness. Little Bit is like a “I’ll show you mine if you show me yours” for the emotionally handicapped—I think I’m just a little bit in love with you, if you’re a little bit in love with me.
On a personal note I had an ex-girlfriend who’s tiny lapdog was named “Little Bit.” Oh, the memories.
And, pro-tip: throw this jam on a mix tape and you will make out, son.
Got it together Again had a wonderful sunny swagger and romantic disposition to it. It’s deft combination of co-lead vocals, electronic hum and warm toned classiness, proved to be a really hard combination to build on. Once, again the second track of each volume is one of the toughest to post. It requires an ability to understand the zag is track 1 building from the previous volumes zig. There are so many options. More synthyness? Warm grooviness? Vintage Americana?
Hopefully this track satisfies at least the last two—being a great example of something fairly American sounding coming from a bunch of swedes.
As I’m sure I’ve said before here, I usually like to kick off a mix with something that blows away as much of the audience as possible. Start with the fireworks, set the bar high, scamper away gleefully. But damn if I wasn’t infected by Mixel Pixel’s low-key charm and co-lead singing. It’s hard to turn your back on that and aim for the rafters when there’s something so pleasant happening at eye level.
“Got it Together Again” is a cover of “another unfinished song” by Lee Hazlewood and Nancy Sinatra (the quote marks are Lee’s, from the tribute album in his honor). It’s, perhaps in every sense of the word, a true ditty: brief, delightful, catchy as anything, riding a slight electronic hum and thumping bassline. Saint Etienne turns in possibly its most straightforward song ever and brings along a German singer doing a rather dry American accent and wonderful harmony. And before you know it they’re off to the pub (or the Coke machine) and that’s that. Coming off a volume with a decidedly European bent, it’s nice to at least pretend to be American for a couple of minutes.
Every couple of days, one of the NEIMT authors will post a song that is in some way a reaction to the previous song posted by another author. Every 15 songs will be packaged up with cover art and presented for download as a complete mix. The only rule is that no artist can appear more than once in the same volume.
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We freely admit that this blog is probably a violation of artistic copyright law. We put together these mix "tapes" as way to share great music in a way that encourages artist support and utilizes grassroots promotion by purposefully violating those copyrights. We would like to imagine that no artist in their right mind would oppose such altruistic intentions despite its bureaucratic insubordinance.