Archive for the 'Music' Category

Transported Through Sound: Cornelius

JANUARY OF 2005 WAS A STRANGE time. It was abnormally warm and sunny in Seattle that month, but nevertheless I felt awash in a kind of loneliness. I had just gotten back stateside from South Korea; in stuttered, jetlagged dreams I saw the streets and friends I’d left behind. Moreover, my girlfriend was on the other side of the ocean. I spent a lot of time cruising the streets on my skateboard, kept company by my headphones.

It was in this period that I discovered (rather behind the curve) the work of Cornelius, aka Keigo Oyamada. A Japanese musician who uses a mash up of sampled beats and instrumentals along with his own organic riffs, Cornelius creates waves of sound that are at once lush, enlightening and playful. The first track I heard of his was a beautiful remix of “When I left You,” by the Avalanches; the song took me on a 5 minute and 38 second flight through the most poignant memories of my time in Seoul, and then dropped me through the clouds, leaving me in love.

Most music that we listen to has the ability to connect us to a place and time – usually to where we first listened to it, or to that time when we first really heard it. But Cornelius’ music thrusts you into a nebula of emotions and memories, magically and without effort; Oyamada’s occasional vocals gently reverberate within you, and your thoughts are swept off into the distance.

Cornelius plays in Chicago tonight at the Metro. More info at The Chicago Reader

Photo: translation, by puja. seattle.


Tomorrow begins the first leg of my West Coast journey – thus, I may not be posting for a few days. In lieu of writing, I thought I’d share this music video from artist RJD2. The dancer/choreographer in the video is Bill Shannon, and the crutches aren’t simply an act. From what I can gather, Shannon was born with a sort of hip disease that necessitates the crutches, and his motion is a beautiful example of using what you are given and creating art.

Enjoy, and happy travels!

5 Songs for Running Away

As I looked out the library window this afternoon, listening to music and staring gloomily into the endless blizzard that is Wisconsin, I suddenly felt inspired to make a Top 5 list – songs for running away, the soundtrack to wanderlust, tunes for traveling on:

1. Small Sins – “All will be fine”

Picture this: it’s five in the morning, the alarm is buzzing to tell you to go shower and put on a tie, while rays of early orange sunlight are peeking through the blinds. Standing in nothing but a pit-stained v-neck undershirt holding a mug of black coffee, you decide today is that day – you’re not going back to work. You’re leaving town, the state, maybe the country…throw on a hoodie and grab the flip flops, it’s time for a journey.

“All will be fine” is this early morning, on-the-road anthem – the softness of the steady beat steps up your heart’s rhythm and gets you swaying your head, while rocky riffs encourage air guitar. Singer Thomas D’arcy tells you to “change your lover, move to New York,” and comforts with a sweetly melancholy voice reinforcing that “all will be fine.”

2. Ratatat – “Nostrand”

You’re on the freeway now with the windows down, and the sun rises as this track fades in with the rhythm of rolling wheels. The bass line is heavy – you feel like driving slow for a minute and taking in the view – but then the guitars just start shreddin’ ROUGH! A neon soundscape unfolds in a blur with epic intertwining electric guitar melodies, as technotronic tones signal in the background. You wish you had longer locks for dramatic headbanging. The song makes the pedal feel a bit heavier as the tires gobble up the pavement towards your undecided oblivion.

3. Le Tigre – “My Metrocard”

Let’s imagine you’ve ditched the car in the Amtrak parking lot (it’s better for the environment anyway), ’cause this is train riding music. Le Tigre’s ladies shout over this frenetic track the virtues of their New York City subway card, and don’t know what stop they’ll get off at: “My My Metrocard / Think I’ll go a little / But then I go far/ NEXT STOP / Atlantic Avenue / NEXT STOP…”

4. Trans Am – “Run with Me”

The lead singer actually starts out this song huffing and puffing over a furiously pumping kick beat and zipping synth riffs; it’s no time to stop now. Wherever you are, this track will make you want to sprint – which is good, cause that’s the idea here. You’ve got to catch that bus or that plane, you’ve got to hustle towards the destination. This track shoots up adrenaline for the journey while evoking the energy of movement and the whiplash transformation from static to dynamic.

5. Walkmen – “Good for you is good for me”

You sink your toes into the sand and sip a beer as the sun sets in your new time zone. But it’s not a marker of the end of your journey – it’s a fresh page. Streaks of purple and pink against the halcyon blue are the burning fireworks of dusk, and this is the song of their finale. Guitars reverberate in melodic dischord as the colors blur into starry black, and you feel drained of cares. Singer Hamilton Leithauser half slurs, half yells: “And the sun was shinin’ / never so invitin’,” and you know exactly what he means.

Happy travels!

(Edited: 04/12/2007)

Translated audio

The last couple mornings I’ve been tuning into Six Degrees Radio, a two-hour weekly webcast that focuses on sounds from all over the world. This week, they’re celebrating their 100th episode with a set of cover songs:

Tracks include versions of Abba in Hindi, “YMCA” in Cantonese, “Rappers Delight” in German, a bluegrass rendition of AC/DC, a disco-fied Led Zep cover, a special set of rare funk and soul covers of classic rock tunes, a first listen to our upcoming Six Degrees covers compilation, Backspin […]

This set is definitely worth a listen – there’s some more chill tunes than the ones above; one of my favorites is the ‘Hey Jude’ cover by the Overton Berry Trio. Music to just set your head back on the couch and stare at the cieling, dreaming of some place warmer.

For all you lovers out there

I came across this dreamy audio piece by Maxine Rose Schur on Salon’s “Wanderlust.” It’s a luring and vivid portrait of bohemian romance in Paris, and it is narrarated beautifully:

In this reading of her essay, “Passionate and Penniless in Paris,” Maxine Rose Schur remembers a long-ago couple, fearless and fanciful, camping out under the quivering nights of a time-distant Paris.

So whether you’re having a lonely night or sipping coffee on a slow morning with your sugar, I advise you close your eyes, and travel back to the City of Light.

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