Various - SMM: Context

I’m going to have to ask you to open up your mind big time with the selection of tunes today, as they run the gamut. Most of these tunes are reserved, and either moody or subdued, but not necessarily negative. These tracks are more introverted and observant, like watching people scurry about on the streets below from the window of a 30th-floor office, or noticing the patterns made by droplets of rain as they slide down, cutting through the fog on the glassy surface.

Rafael Anton Irisarri – Moments Descend On My Windowpane – SMM: Context

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If you haven’t yet heard of SMM, and you’re into Ambient, or Moodgadget’s Low Level sound, you should get acquainted with Ghostly‘s newest compilation, SMM: Context. Hailed by Pitchfork as, “an accurate and often gorgeous snapshot of a loose affiliation of ideas coalescing into a genre,” the acronym of SMM itself is as mysterious as the musicians who make it. There is a lot of rich sonic quality throughout each of the carefully-chosen compositions, complete with Michael Cina’s par-for-the-course jaw-dropping artwork that might come closest to conveying what SMM can be likened to. Kyle Bobby Dunn impresses with a piece that hints he is one of the few composers out there who remembers when music was engineered to echo high above head in cathedral ceilings, The Fun Years gives us a strangely familiar collage of noise and melody, while The Sight Below, as Rafael Anton Irisarri, contributes a bit of epic dramatic soundtrack to score our own lives and make us feel like someone else might want to watch or read about it one day many years from today.

Kaito – And That Was The Way (Echospace’s Shinjuku Sedative) – Trust Less

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Good dub techno is probably the most prized material around my space when it comes time for me to be productive. Not only is dub techno as rare as a white tiger in today’s world of techno and tech house, but good dub techno is like a saber tooth tiger, with Echospace being kind of like a white sabertooth unicorn tiger. Echospace is Rob Modell (aka Deepchord) and Stephen Hitchell (aka Soultek). The two have curated Echospace as both a musical duo, and as a dub techno label, which has seen the passing of the torch from early pioneers and household names like Basic Channel and Maurizio. Since I’ve posted about them before, I don’t need to go into further detail, just check out that older post, or this one on ISO50 where Jakub originally posted this remix of Kaito.

Maurizio – M07A (Edit) – M-series

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Speaking of Maurizio, I just discovered the M-series, a collection of tracks, all bearing a title with an M-designation, from the co-owner of Basic Channel Records. What really floored me was the discovery that all these chilled, minimalistic dub tunes with hints of reggae sprinkled throughout, were from 1997. In 1997, I didn’t know of much more than 311 and Rage Against the Machine. It would be at least a year, even, before I would discover the Orb and Meat Beat Manifesto, and many more years before Daft Punk would hit my speakers, all of whom were in operation during this period. Can you blame me for not knowing when I was still 11 years old playing Turok and Star Wars on N64? This stuff would have made a radical soundtrack for blasting away velociraptors and storm troopers.

Gil Scott Heron & Jamie xx – My Cloud

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Gil Scott-Heron has been a favorite of mine for many years now, another incredible musician and poet who was around long before I was born, who I eventually discovered and came to appreciate, and who by all means, I should never have been exposed to until the time was right. Gil Scott-Heron used to be one of the most prominent black activists of the sixties and seventies, releasing an essential collection of jazz, soul, R&B, spoken word, and poetry, all charged with political and social energy that reflected the struggles of the time, which many of us, myself included, will never fully be able to understand. Even still, it can be listened to, enjoyed, and appreciated, race or socio-economic status aside, as evidenced by 22-year-old Jamie xx’s (of The xx) re-working of Heron’s return to the spotlight, I’m New Here. In many ways, I see Jamie xx rephrasing GSH’s instrumentation to reach the new generation. I hear in other tracks on the album a feeling of Mount Kimbie, or Sepalcure-esque dubstep sensibility. There’s a sense of jazz, however, especially in tracks like this, that remains encapsulated in the mood, that makes you start to think of electronic as the new face of jazz music. Make up your mind for yourself and check out the collaboration between Gil Scott Heron and Jamie xx, We’re New Here.