Part of the extreme sport-like difficulty of being a music mixer is attempting to blend contradictory styles of music. The segues must remain germane to the integrity of the entire playlist. It’s no easy feat, and often, like painting a painting it’s the accidents that turn out to be best parts of the canvas.
On this second volume of yuletide tunes (even more so than on Volume 1), I attempted to do just that: Have happy accidents. So you’ll hear Big Band blasters dovetail into country songs that shift into solemn carols, and classical instrumentals giving way to polychromatic pop numbers.
Some words about some of my choices:
The Carpenters‘ Merry Christmas Darling is, to me, the last really stellar Christmas song to make its way into the honorable holiday music canon. The title alone calls back to the 40s or 50s; and Richard’s arrangement makes it work in ways that other contemporary Christmas tunes can’t duplicate. And anything with Karen’s vocal is transformed instantly into something golden. Instead of featuring a cut from the last truly great modern Christmas album, 1963’s A Christmas Gift for You from Phil Spector, I chose this song.
The most beautiful non-secular Christmas song is O Holy Night, from the French Cantique de Noël. And its history and transformation over time is fascinating. The elegance of the melody married to such compelling lyrics: Fall on your knees! O hear the angel voices! O night divine, the night when Christ was Borne — makes for something astonishing. We’ve heard the song so many times — usually delivered with blaring glory notes and glissandi — that the song’s impact has dulled. But country singer Martina McBride, with her open, clear tone and natural annunciation brings everything that’s mystical about the song into high relief. This is the finest version I’ve experienced. Read more
December 15th was always a big day for me when I was a kid, it was the date a small radio station in West Covina, California, not far from where we lived, converted their playlist to non-stop Christmas music. Holiday tunes that played 24/7 until the stroke of midnight on December 25.
Today, that sounds like one of Dante’s Circles of Hell, but back then (and when you are 13-years-old) it was novel and something unique to anticipate. Christmas music hadn’t been commodified into a haunting, unrelenting prompt to shop.
Both of my parents in that household (my dad and my stepmom) were heavy drinkers, especially around the holidays because my dad despised the season (it meant spending money; my dad being a parsimonious Aries, with Moon in Cancer [why are Cancers so often cheap?]) and my stepmom, a sort of ‘fallen’ Catholic, liked to throw ‘em back to forget about having abandoned Jesus.
As the oldest sibling (and most sober person) in the household I had to manage everything “Christmas”: Pestering my dad to purchase a tree, goading my brothers to help decorate it, forbidding our two Dobermans from entering the living room to gnaw on the garland. Have you ever seen tinsel entwined in a dog turd? I have.
Anyway, that station that played Christmas music non-stop kept me on point. Aside from the usual excitement kids have about that “magic day”, I was also a music aficionado — so a cycle of songs that returned annually, always sounding pristine, fascinated me. It also honed my ear for really good Christmas songs versus the obnoxious shrill stuff — which eventually mutated into an epidemic right around the time of Mariah Carey‘s first holiday album. Nothing against that LP, but it seemed to open the floodgates on all of the glissando-manic, glory note-chasing kitsch that’s ubiquitous today.
I’m putting together three mixes for you this Christmas. This is the first one. Volume 2 will follow next week sometime, and then towards solstice I’ve a collection of sacred music that should make for a perfect audio detox after you’ve dragged your ass home from the last mall to chill and attempt to connect to that eerie voice of the silence that coincides with the longest night.
This is part 2 of my In A Landscape mixtape. Part one encompassed more of an ambient, ethnic-tinged, bardo balm. Part two? Well, prepare yourself.
The closing mix was inspired by astrologer Kate Petty, in particular her detailed investigation of the various permutations of the ongoing and epic Uranus Pluto square. As she writes in Reclaiming the Apocalypse: “An apocalypse (meaning ‘un-covering’), translated literally from Greek, is a disclosure of knowledge … a lifting of the veil or revelation…”
How to make a mix that channels apocalyptic chic? You can’t. A demiurge must be summoned and control relinquished. Before you know it the tracks are selected, sequenced and you’ve tumbled down a rabbit hole of gyrating goodness. The tonal structure of this mix — like fire and water — should steam and float about your brain like an ember or bubble.
Included: 80s synth classics (Martin Gore‘s remake of Sparks’ Never Turn Your Back on Mother Earth and the Eurythmics‘ Jennifer, an ode to looking fabulous while drowning), a 50s R&B scorcher from Ruth Brown. For movement and joint support, several dance and house cuts culled from the discursive Morse code of our data-dotted Age of Anxiety. And a bonus track: A morose rap/narrative from Schoolboy Q that you can dance to too — the best cut from his new LP Habits and Contradictions.
This is the first section of a two part mix. I’d had some requests to put something together that wasn’t so dance and beat-oriented (as this month’s earlier mix).
And so here is what you get:
Atmospheric autumnal tracks that span classical, world, ambient, glitch, David Lynch, chill, zombie (whatever that is) and pop.
This collection is best experienced with wine and natural lighting.
Please no synthetic scents or substances while listening.
Today’s post? Anything but verbiage.
So I made a music mix while Mercury stationed in Scorpio and triggered a ping pong of sonic impressions which I tracked, mixed and recorded.
I like the Renaissance approach to creativity. In addition to my work as an astrologer I like to publish, paint and I’ve recently finished a teleplay with my writing partner, Noble Smith. Having worked as a DJ decades ago in Hawai’i, I’ve never lost my love of a good segue and so I mix tape too.
A note about the collection of tunes below. I avoid most anything that’s considered pop, not that I dislike pop music but simply because there’s so much of it that’s not good. Too, unless a songwriter is really gifted, like Aimee Mann or Elvis Costello, I get bored with confessional writing as I’m not that interested in hearing people’s stories about love calamities or the Rolex and weed they just purchased.
That leaves electronic and ambient music as my primary placeholders. But I also love jazz (50 and 60s especially or really old jazz, like early Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong). I’ve a penchant for soul music from the 70s and I also enjoy pounding modern dance music that knows how to swing and not just thump. So expect all of that.
Anyway, I said I’d do anything but compose words today and here I am five paragraphs deep. Jesus.