With winter settling in, the sounds on the January 2022 mixtape take us to warmer territories. From tropical surf rock to 80s Nigerian boogie, passing by floaty Japanese grooves and witty Lebanese storytelling, the first half is light and joyful.
The second one mainly consists of extended plays that are more on the experimental side of the spectrum.
Recommended setting: listen to Chapter 1 when in the mood for something smooth and breezy. Chapter 2 when feeling adventurous.
'Library music' is music that was made mostly in the 1960s and 1970s, with the intent of being included in low-budget movies, TV shows, industrial films and commercials. We kick off the mixtape with a sweet and short skit from Alan Tew's Drama Suite Part II. The album features a collection of tracks that never made the final cut of The HangedMan soundtrack, a 70s British cop show. KPM-classic groove with electric piano that will make you feel like chasing bad guys in a gas-guzzling beast of an American car.
Ask anyone in Lebanon about Ziad Rahbani and you will receive the same response: “What a musical genius!” The son of Fairuz (one of Lebanon and the Arab world's most famous singers) and Assi Rahbani (one of the founders of modern Arab music, one half of The Rahbani Brothers), saw no distance between music, literature, and theatre, and was the most influential artist during the civil war. To this day, he is regarded as a pillar of the country’s artistic scene. With an extremely varied sonic repertoire, he wrote musicals that make fun of the Lebanese politics and are often strongly critical of the traditional political establishment. This is one of his three takes on the infamous James Bond score, taken from a soundtrack he composed for a play back in the late 80s.
A dazzling ode to sun, sand and surf, Bruce Brown’s movie The Endless Summer tracks two surfers across the world as they follow the Summer sun from the Northern Hemisphere to the Southern one in search of the perfect wave. While the footage was still being edited, CA-based surf group The Sandals approached the filmmaker with songs from their 1964 little-noticed album Scrambler! and went on delivering a surf-rock cult classic soundtrack.
We continue with a song taken from another surf movie. Sprout was shot (entirely on 16mm) by Thomas Campbell to show how lucky surfers are to be engaging in the ocean experience. Contributing a couple of songs to the soundtrack, Sprout House Band is Adam Topol, Jack Johnson, Money Mark and Tommy Guerrero.
More nonchalance and lightness with french cabaret artist Henri Salvador. He re-invented himself many times since launching his professional career back in the 30s, going from Brazilian-influenced jazzy guitar work, to novelty songs passing by children music. After reaching stardom, his conviction to stay independent as an artist led him to disassociate from the the record industry, preferring instead to stay home and make music in his living room with his guitars. ‘Siffler en travaillant’ is a brilliant reinterpretation of one of Snow White’s theme song.
‘Khalas’ is another song by Ziad Rahbani, taken from his landmark 1985 album Houdou Nibsi. A classic among Oriental groove fans for its mix of Arabic music with jazz, funk and boogie, what you hear on this album is an amalgamation of styles touched by the movement of Lebanon’s own cultural/historical place, all swerving into a meditation of that unique time.
After 10 albums across 21 years with the psychedelic rock 3-piece band Yura Yura Teikoku, Japanese music composer Shintaro Sakamoto kicked off his solo career in 2011 and released 3 albums so far, while also collaborating with other musicians. The music structures on ‘Don't Know What's Normal’ are made of simple riffs, the mood is jovial and the grooves on point.
This 12-minute blues lament hits the spot and casts a beautiful feeling over me as only blues music can do. It all came together in that little studio in Muscle Shoals. At the time, a young Duane Allman hadn’t risen to fame yet with the Allman Brothers Band, but he was already on a different course than the other great studio guitarists of that era. With his effortless guitar playing, the 22-year-old then-unknown Southern boy made quite an impression to some important people in the studio. Just listen to him killing it. Add to this Boz Scaggs’ incredible rhythm guitar and fine voice, drummer Roger Hawkins’ tremendous, deep, soulful pocket and that organ intro that just kills with emotion. A flawless song in every respect.
A lot of great music is being released nowadays but there’s something exceptional about the simplicity of arrangements from the 70s. Following their exit from the Allman Brothers Band, keyboardist Chuck Leavell, bassist Lamar Williams and drummer Jai Johanny Johanson formed jazz-rock combo Sea Level (phonetic pun of the bandleader Chuck Leavell's name: "C. Leavell.") and remained active for 5 years before dissolving in 1981.
Next is an African rarity featuring an exquisite groove. It’s taken from Doing In in Lagos: Boogie, Pop & Disco in 1980’s Nigeria’, a compilation of 20 ultra-rare dance floor cuts compiled from original 1980s Nigeria-only vinyl releases. Fueled by an explosive oil boom and a return to democracy after a series of military dictatorships, Nigeria’s economy boomed around that time, which propelled its recording industry to high levels as countless young artists and groups hit the airwaves and dance floors of the capital and beyond.
A live show by Anna von Hausswolff is akin to a religious experience. Anyone who’s witnessed her on stage can testify to the extraordinary and commanding nature of her performances. This 2022 album brings together 6 incredible live renditions of fan-favorites from two albums, The Miraculous and Dead Magic (Nov 2020 mixtape). ‘Come Wander with Me / Deliverance’ is a 15-minute dramatic journey of dissonance and cacophony that breaks me apart every time I listen to it. Fasten your seatbelt and enjoy the colossal power of this intense ride.
From bleak, brutal noise-rock to spiritual ethereal folk, Swans are renowned for their constantly-evolving sound. A friend played this song at a listening session earlier this month, and I was immediately hypnotized by its morbid tribute to blues. Soft yet hard, calm yet tense, disturbing yet beautiful, it’s brimming with dazzling details and comforting darkness. An instant favorite.
A soulful exploration of the subconscious, Fatigue, the second album from Brooklyn-based experimentalist L’Rain demands introspection from ready ears. It’s a blissful record whose mix of synth, air horn, strings, and saxophone purifies a suite of low moods — depression, regret, and fear — into resilience and hope.
Combining spoken poetry with ambient and jazz textures, multi-instrumentalist Jerome Ellis leverages his stuttering to explore disruptions and dysfluency as they relate to perceptions of noise, time, blackness and identity. The visionary artist centers speech while gracefully weaving sonic elements around it to create intimate and essayist compositions. The result is quite unique.
We conclude with a grounding 20-minute ambient song by Fadi Tabbal, another legend of the Lebanese contemporary music scene. It’s taken from his sixth solo release Music For The Lonely Vol.2 (2019-2021), an exploration of controlled randomness in music composition.