In art as in life, patterns emerge with little to no warning. From one day or one week to the next, we can find ourselves immersed in a whole new universe of sounds and experiences before realizing we’ve wormed our way down a rabbit hole, pleasantly ensconced in a new abode filled with warm and inviting, yet previously unanticipated surroundings. Or, in the words of Mr. Lennon, “life is what happens when you are busying making other plans.”
All of a sudden, I find myself immersed in a great deal of chill, downtempo electronic music. If I did some careful connecting the dots, I could easily trace this shift in listening patterns. But, the “why” and “wherefore” eliminate the mystery, so I will dispense with sourcing the transition and recognize it for what it is.
When the world comes at us with its barrage of images, information, memes, and sound bites, we may retreat to a place of “quiet” reflection. From my earliest exposure to EDM, I always found myself drawn towards the more languid and laconic strains of the ambient and downtempo schools. This is part structure and effect. Generally these sub-genres are longer and more intricate in nature, drawing from classical or 20th Century classical compositional traditions, building a musical tapestry of sounds and influence. Well executed house and techno music is also impressively complex but it tends to hit at the more physical, excitable neurons in our nervous system. In other words, it makes us want to move and dance, which, as many of you know, I am not stranger to a good dance party.
But more often than not, I prefer music as backdrop, inspiration, and catalyst of thought and reflection. Music is my own personal madeliene. It is, thus, quite fitting that the album discussed herein is entitled Amygdala, a section in the human brain associated with memory generally and emotional recollection in particular. If the title is any clue to DJ Koze’s “intent” on this full length collection of engrossing grooves, then get yourself ready for a roller coaster ride of aural synesthesia, yet at controlled pace. It isn’t a stretch to say Koze is a masterful manipulator of sense and feeling. From the opening “Track ID Anyone?”, Koze lays the blueprint for the album as a whole, dexterous blend of musical motifs, from non-Western woodwinds, chimes, percussion and even a subtle Buddhist chant to modern loops and scratches, constantly ebbing and flowing at the right pace to envelope without taking one out of their routine. Although rooted in a decidedly contemporary production style and filled with musical samples from soul and disco, DJ Koze’s Amygdala manages to find an almost a-temporal style perfected by the best of DJ/Composers like Four Tet, Burial or Aphex Twin. Tracks blend into each other like sequences between dreams and when the 80 minute opus is complete, it can be difficult to find the “moments” that struck the deepest. It is full immersion listening and thus rather than discussing individual “tracks”, I suggest you get on board with the whole magical mystery trip.
Listen here to DJ Koze’s Amygdala
More where that came from…
Okay so if you want to keep on a voyage into the realms of chill, I’ve got a couple of more suggestions.
Following in a similar vein of contemplative EDM, FaltyDL’s Hardcourageis another thought and calm-inducing set of loops and rhythms. Rooted in a harder, more “traditionalist” approach to EDM, this will be even more trance-inducing listen.
What follows is, I hope, an ongoing set of recommended digital mixes courtesy of my friend Simar, who aside from being a crafty entrepreneur is also a connoisseur and promoter of underground EDM and dance music. As an introduction to “what I’m missing” (note: my words not his), here are two digital mixtapes for your listening pleasure. Let us know what you think . . .
S&T Podcast 06: Bob Moses
Electronic Groove Podcast 380: Franco Harris
Listen via iTunes or download here.