Albums, Music

Deaf Center – Time Spent

What is it about the notes of a solitary piano that appeal to me so much, I wonder? This 2 minute 10 second piece passed my cardinal test for new music – which is that it made me pause in my work and give it my undivided attention. I expected the piano pattern to lead into some sort of aural explosion at the end, because this is how music of this sort conditions you; and it’s great at building tension, this track. The bass notes buzzes into existence around the 1:19 mark, but that is about all the variance you get.

The album, though, is more adventurous. A blend of cello-scrapes and breathy flute notes make up the bulk of the initial track ‘Divided’; it feels like a conductor raising his hands and waking an orchestra from a dream of centuries, a single note that is sustained over 4 minutes and 23 seconds. ‘Close Forever Watching’ is a sister track to ‘Divided’, going through a similar cycle of build-up of drone sounds that scream and whisper and sigh one after the other. Similarly, ‘Fiction Dawn’ is a sister track to ‘Time Spent’, a lone piano wandering through tense passages of full of promise. ‘The Day I would Never Have’ is a 10 minute track that marks the mid-point of the album, and combines the tinkle of the piano and the hum of the pads. Beautiful.

The problem with this kind of moody, creep-down-your-ears-into-your-spine music is how limited a window of opportunity I have to enjoy it. The bulk of my music-listening happens in the car, and what really goes well with driving is up-tempo beats and melodies. I have tried listening to Nils Frahm in the car, and I find myself slowing down on the freeway, or holding my breath in anticipation; the low-register subtleties of the music do not lend themselves to listening while on the move. At home, music gets put on in the background when I am cooking, or reading; the former brings in the same objections, and the latter makes it hard for me to focus on the reading.

This is also not the kind of music you want to listen to with others, not unless everyone’s willing to cut down on conversation and give a song like this their full-fledged attention. That is something that rarely happens in a group, and also, it is hard to get a bunch of people together that like the same things about a piece of music, or even that same piece, for that matter.

Similar to this genre are the weird, out-there sensibilities of Toru Takematsu or John Zorn, for example. Zorn’s music, in particular, would drive apartment-mates, my girlfriend and other assorted animals in the vicinity out of their minds. It’s hard to take this kind of music in for more than 2 or 3 tracks at a time, for sure.

Deaf Center would make for great meditation music, or walking-in-nature music. I don’t do much of the former, but I should definitely get around to indulging more in the latter. If only to listen to more space-hippie music.


All right, here we go.

I saw ads for Royal Blood’s album on the London Subway – whoever said anything about not judging an album by its cover? The music turned to be quite unlike the stuff I usually listen to, but who am I to deny the power of a guitar-bass-drum album? The video is incredible, of course.

You may argue that Trent Dabbs is country music and not worthy of your attention, but you would be doing yourself a disservice. He has worked with artistes like Katie Herzig, Hayden Panetierre (yes, that lady) and Ingrid Michaelson and his own voice sounds pretty darn good.

This Klangkarussell song is one of my default running songs, and I occasionally find myself wanting to scale skyscrapers and stare in the distance when the song plays – I am sure you will understand why. The sample of Salif Keita’s song Madan comes out of nowhere, and adds a lovely counterpoint to the buzzy synths that dominate the first half of the song. Also, can someone tell me which city this is shot in?

Robin Schulz’s remix of Lilly Wood and the Prick’s song seems to be definitive version – I mean, I am not even interested in finding out if there is an original and what it sounds like. That’s rare for a remix. Or maybe I am just lazy. I also keep misrepresenting this song as a ‘Robin Thicke’ remix, and then proceed to feel ashamed of myself. That guitar loop reminds me of Wankelnut and Asaf Avidan’s One Day.

Ice Cream by BATTLES is a delightfully kooky song, and the NSFW video (don’t blink) just adds to the flavor. 1:55 is my favorite part of the video. The video for Karma Fields’ Build the Cities is equally trippy. Wait for 1:40. The drum patterns remind me of a great Kirsty Hawkshaw song I heard back in the day. Hmm, I should probably go listen to more Kirsty Hawkshaw.

I am in an intimate relationship with the new Purity Ring album at the moment, and I cannot contemplate talking about any of their music with any semblance of objectivity. Go listen to ‘Another Eternity’, their new album if you have time on your hands. You could also listen to this great collaboration with Jon Hopkins. Another guy whose album Late Night Tales is on my current playlist rotation.

Message To Bears turned up in a Spotify ambient playlist, and it is one of the songs that suddenly wash over you when you are trying to concentrate on whatever you’re doing, and make you stop and listen to it with all your attention. It makes me want to go walk along the beach in the evening while holding hands with someone.

Salt Cathedral glided into my life via Spotify Discover, my default way of finding out music that appeals to me. Short album, but overflowing with whispery percussion patterns, gentle glitches and delicate harmonies. It’s funny – and oddly satisfying – how the songs that stick to you on the first listen have the best videos.

‘Sugar in My Coffee’ by Caught a Ghost played on the season premiere (finale?) of The Blacklist. I didn’t stick with the series beyond a few episodes but the song keeps coming back. A beautiful combination of gospel choruses, a bassline that threatens to eat you alive, and catchy lyrics. There is a live version by the band that I like quite a bit too.

How do you not listen to someone called Com Truise? His music is ironically futuristic, and a whole lot of fun. The album that this song comes from is my favorite end-to-end listen on freeway drives. Makes you want to crank the music up really high, feel the wind in your hair and bop your head at passing cars. I think I may buy a black leather jacket just to live up to this song on my speakers.

Indila blew my mind (and yours too, I hope) with ‘Derniere Danse’ a year or so ago. The other song of hers that I liked a lot was ‘S.O.S’, but it was when I heard her album all the way through that I realized how good she really is. This song is all grace, elegance and tenderness wrapped in a waltz.

The Lottery Winners remind me of Metronomy, Cake and the Barenaked Ladies – all bands with a propensity to look awkwardly into the camera while talking of broken hearts and shattered dreams, albeit with upbeat melodies and patterns in the background. The video for this is creepy and sad at the same time, while the song is endearing.

Las Cafeteras keeps performing in Los Angeles, and I mean to go see them soon. This particular song is a remix, but captures the Chicano/feminist soul of their music quite well.

I missed seeing Madeon in Brussels, boo. And his concert in LA is sold out. His new album Adventure is killing it, and you ought to check it out. His music and videos are full of cryptic messages that people are working hard to decipher, and that adds an extra level of enjoyment to his music. This song features Passion Pit, yet another band that I would love to see again.

Ooh, do not listen to Nils Frahm at night. Especially if you are alone. Every plink on his piano is like someone touching your spine with fingers of ice. Goddammit, what an amazing artist!