This mix would have been out at the top of the year, but the flu laid me out in January.
Featured are artists and cuts I listened to the most in 2013. Not just new songs but albums I returned to and rediscovered, like Van Morrison‘s Veedon Fleece, which now, head-scratchingly, I wonder how I didn’t hold with more reverence back in the day. I think I might have been too young to align with its mix of melancholy, mysticism and its discursive style of meandering and drifting for naught except for the pleasure of drifting. As Gertrude Stein once said: “It takes a heap of loafing to write a book.”
Or, take The Stan Tracey Quartet‘s take on the poet Dylan Thomas‘ line Starless and Bible Black. Your nervous system has no proper cross-referencing for a melody and mood like this. You’re suspended in a bardo of somber beauty. Amazing!
That track leads into a track from an album I’ve crowned my favorite of the year: Goldfrapp‘s Tales of Us. Do yourself a favor and secure a copy. The LP’s overall ethos is elegant and gorgeous; each track a complete cinematic story. Critic Andy Gill described it best: “The delicate guitar and piano figures and the sombre languor of strings behind Alison Goldfrapp‘s vocals create something akin to a cross between the dreamlike mythopoeism of old folk tales and the lush cinematic arrangements of Michel Legrand.” Yes! That nails it.
So from some agitated Bach to the minimal quiet of Nils Frahm‘s solo piano to the finest dance track of the year: Le Sims‘ Grind. It’s a runaway train. I’ve mashed picks with disregard to rhythm and beats per minute. Which is also how I listened to all of this throughout last year.
The Pamela Colman Smith deck (which is what I call it), as directed and overseen by the occultist A.E. Waite, is the most popular Tarot deck in the world.
But did you know that Waite commissioned a second deck that was to be employed for the private use of members of his Fellowship of the Rosy Cross?
The artist’s name was John Trinick, and the designs are absolutely stunning, as featured here from the British Museums website.
There’s an El Greco-like quality to Trinick’s elongated forms, imparting a sense of being uplifted to another dimension. Quite unlike the earthy, charming lyricism and instant accessibility of Colman’s deck.
Try this sometime with your Colman deck: Lay all of the cards out, upright, in a straight line (and I should know because I’ve done this), and you’ll feel a distinct palpability to the arrangement — like you are in a theater and watching various tableaux arranged on a proscenium. I believe this was part of Colman’s genius and why the deck remains so popular; it touches that place in each of us where the drama of life is felt to take place on a stage. Our stage, our props, our cast of characters.
Details from one of the popular online Tarot forums, shared the following about the artist:
“Trinick was born in Melbourne, Australia, on 17 August 1890, sailing to England with his parents in 1893 before returning to Australia in 1907. He studied in the art school of the National Gallery of Victoria between 1910 and 1915 and then returned to England in 1919 to continue his studies at the Byam Shaw and Vicat Cole school of Art.”
Tarot scholar Mary Greer posted a detailed entry on the Waite Trinick deck several years ago. Shortly thereafter there was a limited run of 250 copies of a book that featured the entire set of images. But that is the last I’ve heard about this eerie, gorgeous set of images. If you have more details, please share below.
“The moment you go from ego to non-ego you experience not only that you are one with all human beings but that you are one with everything.”
“You realize that the consciousness that has been compacted within boundaries has no boundaries. It is everywhere. Consciousness is the basic substance and nature of everything.”
“The truth you realize, then, is that who you are is not the product of your childhood, is not your body, is not a sense of limited individuality. You are some-thing that is everything, and you are seeing now the nature of everything, not only on the essential level, but on the level of Being itself, on a nondifferentiated level, a nonseparated level.”
“This does not mean, though, that you are no longer an individual. You will not lose individuality in the way you might imagine; the individuality will simply be one facet of who you are.”
“It’s like the example of the hand. In the beginning you think you are the finger, moving around, doing things. When your knowledge goes beyond the individual, beyond the ego, you find out you are the hand. You don’t lose the fingers by being the hand. The fingers are still there, the individuality is still there operating; however, it is part of something larger.”
“And you are that something larger. At the same time, you are also the individual. Your attention is sometimes the finger and other times the totality of the hand. Then you live as what is called a cosmic individual.”
–A. H. Almaas
Opening photograph: Clouds, Birds, Moon, Venus by Isaac Gutiérrez Pascual.
Like I’ve done every year since I was a wee lad, I watched the Grammys last night. Which was more of a long slog through tepid, dish-watery music with lotsa nostalgia and female artists stirring hormones (shock!) to confirm their viability in the pop marketplace, which isn’t much of a vital music milieu anymore.
When a friend asked me at dinner recently to name my favorite albums from last year, I couldn’t think of any. Singles stood out, yes. But cohesive productions, works that normally qualify as an ‘album’? Not so much. There was engaging music, for certain, but it was found on obscure paths, from esoteric artists or labels or autodidact home studio aficionados. That New Zealand’s lovely Lorde won two awards last night was a nice compensation for the long train of tedium.
Gone are the days when a creation of genius, like Stevie Wonder‘s Innervisions, would command a pile of Grammys. Now it’s target group, marketing department-derived music that translates instantly into cash for the dinosaur labels. During her acceptance speech last night, some country artist thanked Mercury and I thought: Oh cool, she’s into astrology; but then recalled how that used to be a big label.
So, is it surprising that the big winners last night were robots? Artists that didn’t even speak but osmotically conveyed gratitude through other entities on stage. Very much the reverse of how Daft Punk comprised their album: by siphoning off the best melodies and riffs from previously established hits from Nile Rodgers, Giorgio Moroder and others. I enjoyed Daft Punk’s album, I have a copy, and it’s fun to put on when I’m cleaning the house and thinking about Donna Summer‘s Bad Girls — which I used to clean the house with. Back in the 80s.