Episode 26 – Athleisure

Euphoric vibes, sculpted tones and melodic (at times challenging) beats converge for a brisk tour through the industrial park of tomorrow. The hoverboard has its soundtrack.

Stream it here or listen on iTunes.

Tracklist:

Yasuaki Shimizu – Tachikawa
Radiohead – I Am Citizen Insane
Rival Consoles – Morning Vox
Ada – You and Me
Rabit – Glass Harp Interlude
Aphex Twin – Milk Man
Iller – Bending Oddity
Kwes. – Hives
Arca – Dignity
Kahn, Commodo & Gantz – Kibosh
Knxwledge – Dntleave
Bullion – Don’t Talk (Close Your Eyes)
Gold Panda – Autumn Falls
Gobby – Hyuna
Bjork – Innocence (Alva Noto Unitxt Remodel)
Jlin – Nandi
Kutmah – Darkening Of The Light
Henry Wu – Expensive Ghetto (Feat. Mo Kolors)
Cakedog – 24 HRS
Moiré – Gel
Beat Spacek – Alone In Da Sun
Dabrye – In Water
James Place – High Rise (Rainier)
Bibio – Saint Christopher
Baths – Seaside Town

Episode 25 – Herd Instinct

It’s the sound of momentum: Hand drums, mallet instruments and mesmeric beats cut an exotic path through the worlds of global electronica and avant-garde techno.

Stream it here or listen on iTunes.

Tracklist:

You’re Me – Walled Garden
Mestre Geraldo E Su Bateria – Mistura #2
Don’t DJ – Evolve
Black Merlin – Reef Play
Tyondai Braxton – Greencrop
Clap! Clap! – Sahkii’s Elevation
Cut Hands – Inchantment
Tony Allen – Asiko (In A Silent Mix)
YPY – Gazing Beat
African Head Charge – Timbuktu Express
Banabila & Machinefabriek – Awake
Andrew Pekler – A Savage Topography
Michael Turtle – Zoote Pointe
Don’t DJ – Disparata 69
Francis Bebey – Binta Madiallo
NV – Bells Burp
DJ Eye – (iii)
BD1982 – Coney Island High
Elysia Crampton – Dummy Track (Feat. Why Be & Chino Amobi)
Bateria Fantastico De Potela – Demonstracao de Som e Andiamento
Lucy – A Millenia Old Adversary
DJ Paradise – Mbizi (R)

Episode 22 – Period Piece

My mood at the end of an era.

This Best Of 2016 mix offers neither the very best songs nor representation for the very best albums of 2016. Instead it condenses some of the year’s very best tracks from some of the year’s best albums into a cloud of sentiment—a Top 40 mix defined by its vintage, covering the songwriters and producers I like most (plus a few one-offs).

Notes: It’s taken a historical moment for Bon Iver to show up on two of my favorite songs in one year. 2016 somehow made this possible. There are greater forces at work. Also, the KOOL AD song came out in 2015. The video is from 2016. And technically I included Ramona Gonzalez twice, edging out a potential fortieth pick. But man is unjust. Enjoy.

Stream it here or listen on iTunes.

Tracklist:

Laura Mvula – Bread
Chairlift – Crying in Public
Jenny Hval – Period Piece
Cross Record – Steady Waves
Radiohead – The Numbers
Bon Iver – 22 (OVER S∞∞n)
Mitski – Your Best American Girl
Suuns – UN-NO
Tobacco – Human Om
Gobby – Mysterioso
Alex Smoke – Dire Need
Nicolas Jaar – Three Sides of Nazareth
David Bowie – Lazarus
Flamingods – Anya
Cloudland Canyon – An Arabesque
Morgan Delt – Don’t Wanna See What’s Happening Outside
Animal Collective – Golden Gal
Danny Brown – Lost
Mark Pritchard – Beautiful People (Feat. Thom Yorke)
Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith – Rare Things Grow
James Blake – Choose Me
Bibio – With The Thought of Us
Santigold – Banshee
Nite Jewel – Kiss the Screen
Blood Orange – Better Than Me
Jessy Lanza – It Means I Love You
Olga Bell – ATA
El Guincho – Cómix (Feat. Mala Rodriguez)
Kaytranada – GLOWED UP (Feat. Anderson .Paak)
A Tribe Called Quest – Whateva Will Be (Feat. Consequence)
KOOL AD – UP DOWN FREESTYLE (Prod. DJ MUSTARD)
KA – That Cold and Lonely
Clipping – Air ‘em Out
Gaika – VSOP
Foodman – Mid Summer Night (Feat. Diskomargaux)
MJ Guider – Lit Negative
Nite-Funk – Let Me Be Me
Anna Meredith – Something Helpful
Julianna Barwick – Beached
Babyfather – Militant

Episode 21 – Beat Yield

It’s 35 swag beats from 34 of my favorite producers this year. All 2016 everything.

Shitty year; awesome sounds. Reap the harvest.

Stream it here or listen on iTunes.

Tracklist:

Parks Burton – dlab1
Four Tet – Evening Side (Oneohtrix Point Never edit)
Nicola Cruz – Invocacion
GOALS – Sugar Crush
Brother Mynor – david duchovny hides in the broom closet
Ccolo – Exoticaspeakerjam
GUNDAM – Bikini Beach
Al Dobson Jr. – White Rum
mieksneak. – Mililiters
Kaytranada – DESPITE THE WEATHER
FaltyDL – Bridge Spot
Gold Panda – Pink and Green
Daedelus – Special Re: Quest
Commodo – Solid Gold Telephone
Dakim – may hope (beatitude 4)
Saafron – Host Body
Olof Melander – Slow
Abu Ama – Efendi Remix
Bwana – Failed Escape (Where You Belong)
Seiho – Peach and Pomegranate
Andy Stott – New Romantic
Submerse – Sidequests
Mark Pritchard – Under the Sun
Oval – re
Nosaj Thing – N R 3
Jilk – Be Heart
Weval – You###re Mine
Etch – Technicolor Daydream
Moiré – Brixton
Hiele – Verwelkoming
LinG – Canthem
T_A_M – Myelin Sheath
Don’t DJ – Fall (4 Interesting Music)
Swarvy – RC
DJ Earl – Lotta A$$

Episode 20 – Cocoon

Lose yourself in an atmosphere of allied electronic artistry from collaborators in turn-of-the-millennium Japan.

Cocoon (“Maju” in Japanese) features work by artists who played in Audio Sports, Maju, Neina, Hosomi, Kangaroo Paw and Synapse, with particular focus on musicians Aki Onda and Sakana Hosomi. Their overlap outlines a scene that paralleled Nobukazu Takemura and the Childisc label, and resulted in some of the most innovative, glitchy ambient and post-rock music of the time. Listen up below, and let the sonic boundaries break down.

Stream it here or listen on iTunes.

Lineup: Aki Onda (Audio Sports, Maju, Synapse), Sakana Hosomi (Maju, Neina, Hosomi), Kohsuke Nakamura (Kangaroo Paw, Neina, Dill; mastering for Tujiko Noriko and Suppa Micro Pamchopp), Masaki Narita (Maju, Neina, Hosomi) and to a lesser extent Hikaru Sekine (Maju, Neina) and Syunsuke Sakamoto (session musician for Maju and Yoko Kanno).

In 1991, Aki Onda began to collaborate with Eye Yamatsuka and Nobukazu Takemura in the rap/trip-hop/experimental lounge group Audio Sports. On their 1992 debut, Eye manned the mic, Nobukazu scratched records and Aki Onda produced. On following releases the project fell into Onda’s hands completely and became more collage-like in style, which would inform the sound of his next few solo records.

In 1988, Onda had begun to collect field recordings on cassettes from locales as far flung as Morocco. Over the next twenty years Onda would accumulate more and more tapes from around the world and make use of them in the fascinating Cassette Memories trilogy, as well as in live performance. During that time he worked with Tujiko Noriko and Maju on several tracks including Noriko’s “Tablet of Memory” with Lawrence English, and with Japanese avant-garde figures Ikue Mori and Haco as Synapse for John Zorn’s Tzadik label. He now works in NY as an improvisor, sound artist and curator.

In 1999, Maju leader Sakana Hosomi collaborated with Sekine, Narita and Sakamoto on the first of five self-titled releases for Extreme Records. Over time, the project ventured further into atmospheric glitch and digital ambience under Hosomi’s guidance. Maju 2, which features Onda, stands as a benchmark release in Japanese electronic music (and is severely underrated and overlooked). Between Maju albums, the group’s members worked together under the moniker Neina for the Mille Plateaux label. Neina sounds somehow similar to their work as Maju, but glitchier and a tad colder. Other solo projects sprang up, such as Nakamura’s psychedelic pop/gonzo electronica material as Kangaroo Paw, and Hosomi’s works of thick, glacial electronic ambience released eponymously.

Tracklist:

Audio Sports – So, That Was the Beginning
Maju – Eyelids Not Yet Open
Kangaroo Paw – Phlizz
Audio Sports – Banana (Joy Mix)
Aki Onda – Cattleya
Hosomi + Ryo Miyashita – nog
Neina – Quit Elegance
Maju – Within Time, Without Words
Kangaroo Paw – Cat’s Cradle
Audio Sports – Never Personal
Tujiko Noriko – Tablet for Memory
Aki Onda – Fish Don’t Know it’s Raining
Hosomi – sp
Maju – Yawning in an Afternoon’s Monotony
Synapse – Soap Bubble
Maju – Once Again, I Revert to That Perspective
Neina – Symmetry
Aki Onda – Chrysanthemum
Kangaroo Paw – Osusowake
Audio Sports – I Met You On the Street
Maju – Dust it Off and Make Sure Which Way is Up
Aki Onda – It’s Gone
Hosomi – bl-ib
Maju – Chabashira
Audio Sports – Return to 1 More
Aki Onda – Orange
Neina – iris-in
Maju – Facing Backwards
Aki Onda – Mellow
Maju – Meguro
Aki Onda – Eclipse
Aki Onda – I Tell a Story of Bodies That Change
Sakana Hosomi + Chihei Hatakeyama – Collapsing Huge Glaciers and the Sun

Episode 19 – Trattoria Tastes

Keigo Oyamada’s vibrant Trattoria Records, a Polystar-owned imprint that lasted from 1991 to 2002, stood out among the core labels of Tokyo’s Shibuya-kei scene. It also provided a home to Oyamada’s brilliant Cornelius project, in which counterpoint, syncopation and sampling invaded — nay, parasitized — the sunny alt-rock sound of the ‘90s. If Cornelius could encapsulate Shibuya-kei’s eclectic, hyper-pastiche type of retro-chic and its flair for experimentalism on a single record, Trattoria reflected a broader vision where sounds like baroque pop, noise rock, psych, shoe-gaze, trip-hop, lounge and J-pop soccer anthems would all live on one roster.

Trattoria accomplished a lot before going defunct after the release of Point, which many consider the creative peak of Cornelius (Oyamada’s stayed busy since, but little compares to his creative arc from 69/96 to Point). First, Trattoria was an Eastern hub for Western groups, being the first to re-issue ‘60s artists like The Free Design, The Millennium, Bill Wyman and Margo Guryan. It also distributed The Apples in Stereo, Louise Philippe and many other American and European groups, engaging with Shibuya-kei’s thirst for everything Western.

As well as putting out Cornelius records, the label released many of Oyamada’s best productions and collaborations with artists like Kahimi Karie, OOIOO, Pizzicato Five’s Yasuharu Konishi and Takako Minekawa (his wife at the time). His influence didn’t end with studio credits, either: many of the best releases by Salon Music, Hideki Kaji and Indian Rope on Trattoria bear the mark of Oyamada’s Beck-like, Gainsbourg-esque, Stereolab-ish eclecticism.

This mix pairs Cornelius tracks with Oyamada’s production work, while setting aside Trattoria’s Western artists — and its more overt J-pop, alt-rock and avant-garde sounds — in favor of the label’s most inclusively adventurous (adventurously inclusive?) Japanese material, showing off what Shibuya-kei was truly capable of.

Stream it here or listen on iTunes.

Tracklist:

Cornelius – 1969
Cornelius – The Micro Disneycal World Tour
Dots + Borders – 7 Juillet
Salon Music – Golden Brown
Cornelius – Smoke
Indian Rope – Lovely Dada
Flipper’s Guitar – Southbound Excursion
Yasuharu Konishi – Opening Theme
Takako Minekawa – Plash
Cornelius – Star Fruits Surf Rider
Hideki Kaji – Kanojyo Ga Yoko Wo Muku Riyuu
Citrus – Your Building
Kahimi Karie – Son of a Gun
Cornelius – New Music Machine
Venus Peter – Walk Out
OOIOO – Be Sure to Loop
Salon Music – Wanna Be Tied
Takako Minekawa – Lullaby of Gray
Yoshie – Espacio Verde
Cornelius – Point of View Point
Seagull Screaming Kiss Her Kiss Her – Sister Sister
Indian Rope – Go West
Citrus – Everysong Landed Near by His Fire Place
Cornelius – How Do You Feel
Kahimi Karie – Le Roi Soleil
Hideki Kaji – Ivy Ivory Ivy
Hiromix – Yume Wo Yoku Miru Hito No Hanashi
Luminous Orange – Ken-Ban
Cornelius – 69/96 Girl Meets Cassette
OOIOO – Asozan
Salon Music – Sleepers
Buffalo Daughter – Great Five Lakes (Cornelius Remix)
Yoshie – 7 Colobe 8 Oqui
SKYEYE – 7EYE7
Rovo – KNM!
Cornelius – Fly
Indian Rope – Purple Mania
OOIOO – Mountain Book
Citrus – Big Day Coming from Northwest
Cornelius – Thank You for The Music

Episode 18 – Childisc Outbursts

For the next few episodes, Sound Contours rewinds to Japan’s kaleidoscopic 1990s and early 2000s.

In electronic music at the time, cutting edge meant creative algorithms and visual programming environments where new processes might result in beauty as soon they might produce noise. Nobukazu Takemura led the way: beyond granular synthesis, his output randomizers affected melody, his glitches (the sounds of ordered processes going awry) became pleasant listening, MIDI noise was incorporated into music, and the voices of robots — hidden like kodama in a personal computer — were friendly and cute, rather than isolating and threatening.

Meanwhile, in the realms of alternative and pop, creators like Keigo Oyamada aka Cornelius were navigating the landscape with a combination of influences: psych rock, jangle pop, Latin and Brazilian rhythms, touches of Serge Gainsbourg, and tropes out of cheesy ’60s exotica. References to past forms of cool were being reinterpreted by the late-capitalist hipsters of hyper-boutique Tokyo, specifically in Shibuya, hence the Shibuya-kei genre.

In nearby neighborhoods both literal and figurative, and on labels stylistically adjacent to one another, experimental rock from psych to noise to post would all abound via rock outfits like The Boredoms (and their many many side projects). Along with the work of noise godfather Merzbow (and those like him) and improvisers like vinyl destroyer Otomo Yoshihide, these were the outer bounds of the era.

Up first is the ultimate Childisc retrospective. A small label run by Takemura in Kyoto from 1994 to 2007, Childisc was subtly groundbreaking. Though he deserves his own episode, Takemura put out most of his best work on Childisc and honed a singular aesthetic there, curating the work of lesser known yet likeminded artists from around Japan and pairing it with his own. This aesthetic has been described as Cute Formalism by musician and writer Momus, who has also drawn extensive links to “twee” in the U.S. and other counterparts in Germany.

Before styles and movements like vaporwave would enter the experimental lexicon — before Max/MSP and Max for Live were mainstream instruments in the realms of techno, minimal, EDM and IDM — before artists like D/P/I and Oneohtrix Point Never would cut-up, process and drastically reshape sound, twisting our expectations of what we hear and how we visualize space and music — and before the new age of New Age — Takemura and his cohorts were laying the foundation. It was the start of 21st century music.

Childisc was about mystery and wonder — a pairing of experimentalism and whimsy, where cute or kawaii voices and melodies were peppered with challenging bursts of blips and bloops. Electronic noises were slyly recontextualized as atmospheric music or percussion instruments; trip-hop and breezy, Brazil-inflected beats were joined by cheap Casio keyboards played with childlike playfulness; and ambient landscapes comparable to Markus Popp aka Oval would skitter along without necessarily arriving at a horizon…

Stream it here or listen on iTunes.

Tracklist:

Lullatone – If I Had a Harp I Would Play it Every Day
Asao Kikuchi – What Must They Be Saying?
Yabemilk – Caprice Salad
Slowly Minute – Happy Birth & Sweet Blue
Nobukazu Takemura – Sign
Hyu – Hyper Function
Kiyoshi Izumi – Tengwar
Suppa Micro Pamchopp – A Secret Sense of Panic
Nobukazu Takemura – Cons
Aki Tsuyuko – A Happy Day
Child’s View – grill
Arrow Tour – Fever and Heater
Hirono Nishiyama – ひまわり
Arche Type – Ciao Ciao Bambina
Asao Kikuchi – Fireworks
Nobukazu Takemura – The Cradle of the Light
Slowly Minute – The Song of The Sun In Autumn’s Holiday
Kiyoshi Izumi – Zephyr
Koota Tanimura – Meet Me In The Next Living
Gutevolk – Mizuno Soko (Live Version)
Nobukazu Takemura – Conical Flask
Nobukazu Takemura – Chrysalis Part 2
Eiji Mitomi – Centaurea
Hyu – Egg Plane
Nobukazu Takemura – Mahou No Hiroba
Nobukazu Takemura – Lost Treasure (4th Version)
Kiyoshi Izumi – Graflicker
Slowly Minute – Whisper Magic (2003 Slowly Minute Mix)
Nobukazu Takemura – Anemometer
Eiji Mitomi – Rainbow
Sako – Sheep Negotiation

Episode 17 – Global Antenna

On this global bass mix, energy is central: Rhythms of the Afro-latin world are brought together in a transatlantic call-and-response between Africa, Europe, South and Central America — a swirl of synthetic and acoustic beats, a weaving of sampled and recorded voices, a synthesis of roots and branches — joined by producers from nearly every continent.

The second Global Electronic episode, Global Antenna mixes digital cumbias from post-EDM Mexico, Argentina and Ecuador with a selection of high-energy clave-rooted beats and kuduros from all over the Portuguese-speaking world, while dropping in hip-hop and dancehall-inflected beats that flip sounds from locales as far-flung as Bollywood.

It matches French MPC producers ventriloquizing Brazilian MPB samples with Italian producers ventriloquizing Central African tribal recordings, and blends the latest electronic techniques with classic Latin percussion instruments and African mbira. It selects from African artists living part-time in Europe, and even listens in on a few like-minded producers in Japan, Turkey, Colorado, and California.

Stream it here or listen on iTunes.

Tracklist:

The Very Best – Ufumu
Nicola Cruz – Cumbia del Olvido
Psilosamples – Soldadinho do Aripe / Periquoto Cara-suja
Souleance – Mais Um
Frikstailers – Cumbia Frikera
Ccolo – Immortal Birds Diwali
Al Dobson Jr. – Malfuf – Nebetia
Daniel Haaksmen – Aho
Clap! Clap! – The Rainstack Fable
Magnus P.I feat. Penya – Search It Out
Dengue Dengue Dengue – R2
Mala – Inga Gani
Underspreche – Flowers From the Lake
Anchorsong – Butterflies
Chancha via Circuito feat. Lido Pimienta – Jardines (Tremor Remix)
MORO – SALVE SUA VIDA
Gossamer – J-cruise
Nicola Cruz – Mantis (Xanga Remix)
DJ Marfox – Cobra Preta
DJ Kolt & DJ Perigoso – Perseguição
Clap! Clap! – (E) Earnest
Ibibio Sound Machine – Uwa The Peacock (Eki Ko Inuen Uwa)
Mbongwana Star – Suzanna
El Guincho – Antillas
Thug Entrancer – Curaga
Los Chapillacs – Marcha del Chullachaqui (Deltatron Remix)
Africaine 808 – Yes We Can’t
Abu Ama – Tired in Istambul

Episode 16 – Coastin’

Holographic sounds for a Schwinn Beach Cruiser. Make the bike path glow.

Stream it here or listen on iTunes.

Tracklist:

Bop – Fragments
Weval – You Made It (Part I)
Al Dobson Jr. – Vibrations
Armadillo – Aves del Valle
Don’t DJ – Southern Shore
The Invisibles – Wing
John Wizards – Leuk
Seiho – DO NOT LEAVE WET
Jose Larralde – Quimey Neuquen (Chancha Via Circuito Remix)
Balam Acab – See Birds (sun)
Co La – White Silver Sands (Radiowave Version)
Anchorsong – Monsoon
Nerftoss – Virtue Walk
The Avalanches – Subway/Going Home
The Day – Boots In the Pool
Disclosure feat. Al Green – Feel Like I Do
Kaytranada – LITE SPOTS
Cornelius – Drop
Bibio – A Mineral Love
Al Dobson Jr. – In the World
Botany – Anchor
Arawak – Accadde A Bali
Flamingods – Majestic Fruit
Gold Panda – I Am Real Punk
Mice Parade – Pursuant to the Vibe
Mount Kimbie – Adriatic
K15 – Mist
Submerse – No Continues Kid
TOKiMONSTA – Waiting For the Break of Dawn
Michael Turtle – Maid of the Mist
Teebs – Arthur’s Birds
Gossamer – Okuma

Episode 14 – Let It Hit

Feel it.

Stream it here or listen on iTunes.

Tracklist:

Pharaohs – Beyond Within
Musiccargo – Sol Lucet Omnibux
Jib Kidder – Remove a Tooth
The Chemical Brothers – Dream On
Flamingods – Yuka
Morgan Delt – Little Zombies
Animal Collective – Graze
Nice Nice – Big Bounce
Dalhous – Bolder and Lighter Than the Beat from a Wing
Cloudland Canyon – An Arabesque
Spiritualized – Electric Mainline (Part One)
Zomes – Cosmovital Force
The Avalanches feat. Father John Misty – Saturday Night Out
Gwenno – Chwyldro
Vytas Brenner – Araguaney
Woodsman – Beat the Heat
Soft Circle – Shimmer
The Chemical Brothers – Wonders of the Deep
Stereolab – Moogie Wonderland
Caribou – Sun
The Boredoms – (two circles)
Deakin – Good House
Sun Araw – Horse Steppin’