meet me in winter

went west

sunreturn

photo by andrew mccarthy

2022, here we come – any way and all ways, let’s go.

2021: shows of the year

We have, in point of fact, been here for years. But it was still good to be back

Musclecars @ Mr Sunday

A peak experience. Mr. Sunday did a semi-secret show to welcome folks back, Eamon and Justin played, Muscle Cars played (and played some insane Strings Of Life megamix, including the Danny Krivit / Soul Central edit, a backspin, and the the original maybe?), and everyone was, for a few hours, happy. People talk about “vibe” and the kids these days talk about “energy”, and I have been to some parties in my time with lots of both – this was something special.

Mr. Sunday Lifetime Achievment Award

I think I gave out a general-purpose award to Mr. Sunday in maybe 2016, but it is time for another one. From the above first show back to Avalon Emerson raving it up to Honey Soundsystem sleazing it out for Pride to Mike Servito in the searing heat to the countless sunsets to the Halloween r-a-g-e-r, it remains one of the best and kindest parties in New York.

MoMA Ready @ Bossa Nova

BANG! POW! ZANG! MoMA Ready does not fuck around. Bossa Nova is also the sort of club where you hit one red line on the mixer, and the sound guy comes and turns you up to three.

Ben UFO @ Nowadays

The first real big headliner, during the everything-is-open-again summer. The dancefloor was full at 1115, and the best DJ of his generation ™ just kept holding down deep drum & bass for an hour or so, beforing warping into techno/dancehall hybrids, etc etc etc. I think Ben UFO has been in this list for the last 3 years, so I am sure you know the score.

Objekt @ Nowadays

Well, judge for yourself: https://soundcloud.com/keinobjekt/sets/all-night-nowadays-nyc-23-10 (I was there from maybe 1130 to 330 or so? Enough to freak out at “You Don’t Even Know Me”, along with everyone else)

Special honors to Perc’s thunderous live set at Basement; See You In The Shadows bringing greyscale techno at H0lO; a friend-who-shall-remain nameless’ birthday concert of live electronics in Bed-Stuy (that I opened for!); Kenji Herbert at Mika, and the single most joyous cover band ever at Carroll Place, care of Alex von Reyn and his crew.

2021: sets of the year

A complex year, for obvious reasons: a sort of big contrast between the deeply introspective and the huge banger.

DJ Python – Virtually Nowadays

Not a lot of DJs would have the guts to start this deep and stay this deep for this long, even on a set for a radio show. This was another winter / spring listen, before things happened again – I would sit with the cat and think and worry and relax.

Jayda G – DJ Kicks

Contrariwise, not a lot of DJs would have the guts to casually walk from big-tune disco to essentially big-room trance and make it all seem trivially casual and smooth

DJ Voices – Honcho Campout Series / Holding Hands 21

Yowza, the latter of these is quicksilver contemporary techno / breaks / electro – the former is some sort of sideways set of anthems, including a flip of For An Angel and a closing track that sounds like the Final Fantasy Crystal theme.

Anz – Spring/Summer Dubs 2020

From 2020, sure, so what. This is as delightful a collection of big post-everything tunes as you could wish – including a ?!!?!? of a Robert Miles edit.

Mdou Moctar – RA 789

Tuareg / Northwest African guitar and pop and shuffle, and a sort of casual walk into another view of music entirely.

Honors and more honors to RA mixes from Andrea, Scratch DVA, and Laurine; Foodman’s sublime FACT mix; and Floating Points & Four Tet Live on NTS, fucking around with implausibly good records once again.

2021: albums of the year

And a big year for albums, it seems

Loraine James – Reflection

I for sure slept on this one, thinking maybe that “Running Like That” was worth getting as a single … and then it turns out that the album itself, taken as a whole, is a borderline perfect object.

Danny Clay – Ocean Park

I listened to this over and over and over again in the winter, which is probably all that needs to be said.

Space Afrika – Honest Labour

Calling this “the new Burial” does not give Space Afrika enough credit for their craft and touch with speech, space, and personality.

Jana Rush – Painful Enlightenment

I would not have thought footwork would become a shockingly personal / emotional / intimate genre, but, well, here’s Jana Rush.

Zack Nestel-Patt – at the hour of closing

Zack does it again, in, even better, a totally different way from his previous album. That’s all double bass, even the magical high notes.

Sofia Kourtesis – Fresia Magdalena
Pitch perfect, unassuming, delightful, colorful, and sincere. 2020s house music? It’ll more than do for now

Honorable mentions to the sophistication and freedom and romance of Floating Points – Promises, BOOF’s Rebirth of Gerberdaisy, Anz’s spectacular All Hours, foodman – Yasuragi Land, Colleen – The Tunnel and the Clearing, and the summary wonder of Gallo Music’s From Marabi to Disco

2021: tracks of the year

Good records, I think.

Slim Alli & The Hodi Boys – You Can Do It

This megabop from 1970s Nairobi is syncopated in the right ways, and that’s really all there is to it.

Heathered Pearls – Salvaged Copper (ft. Terrence Dixon) (Luke Slater Remix)

Wooooosh. Vrooooom. Waaaaaa. Ultrapropulsive “peaktime ambient” – this is an epic record, as much as I hate the word.

Haus Of Altr Special Award

I couldn’t name a single MoMAReady / AceMo / Kush Jones / Haus Of Altr track or EP to honor here or in Albums … but they have all been the most vivid & personal music I have heard in the past two years.

Soul Central – Strings Of Life (Danny Krivit Re-Edit)

I think I had heard the un-edited version of cover of Strings of Life (of which there are more than you would think) and dismissed it as a poor, vocal-lead relation. But, it turns out the extremely over the top Danny Krivit edit adds an overly over the top drum-and-latin-ish-piano part, removes the vocal, and makes it a wonder all over again.

India Jordan – For You

Oh my god. (Yes, it came out last year, I bought it this year, them’s the rules)

Matio Batkovic feat. James Holden – CHOREA DUPLEX

Timeless Holden synth arps and … accordion improv? The combination I did not know I needed.

Honorable mentions to Mameen 3 – Against The Wall, Aluna’s beyond delightful Sneak, Photay – Doing It For The People, DOS – Work That, aya – the only solution i have found is to simply jump higher, and Geraldo Pino – Heavy Heavy Heavy.

bossa x MoMa Ready

If I didn’t think it understated his achievement, I’d nominate MoMA Ready as the new Chris Cowie.

Bossa Nova has also got to be one of very few places where, when you hit one red bar on the mixer, the sound guy comes and turns you *up* to three red bars.

cold code

I was part of a very nice software engineering reading group at Spotify, just before I left. In addition to being around for the coining of Lamere’s Law (“Your future self has no more time that you do”), I had a small epiphany about Code As A Medium.

McLuhan, that great charlatan*, talks about media as being hot (print) or cold (speech) To quote from Oxford Reference, “Hot media are ‘high definition’ because they are rich in sensory data. Cool media are ‘low definition’ because they provide less sensory data and consequently demand more participation or ‘completion’ by the audience“.

I think if you had asked me in the past, I would have said that computer code – or anything much to do with computers – would be hot. Computers, after all, are deterministic, just do exactly what you tell them, and so forth, right?

Modern software engineering

I think that now, as computer code becomes more and more high level / abstracted / distributed, it becomes a colder and colder medium. This is especially true for things like machine learning or networking, but I think it is still true if the code is 100% offline and deterministic.

So this means that computer code is much more like speech than it is like print. And some nice things fall out of this, in a very McLuhan-ish (which is to say, charlatan-ish) sort of way.

  • “Code is poetry” always sounded nice, and now makes sense – though much like “global village”, perhaps not in a good way.
  • Rubber-ducking – talking through your problems – suddenly makes perfect sense.
  • Comments and documentation try to “heat” code up – but then the code changes, aiii!
  • Naming really is a hard problem – you are talking to someone in the future, why would they ever understand you?
  • Refactoring and reorganizing code makes sense as a way for you to understand code better – otherwise, you’re reading someone else mumbling at you from the past.

This also leads to some more practical concerns and explains some of the things that I dislike about parts of the industry.

  • If your code breaks, it is probably your fault and not some lower-level abstraction. But the intuition to say “this feels like a problem with a lower level abstraction”, which is to say a colder part of code, is very powerful (see the 500 Mile Email yarn for a fun example).
  • The ability to easily step over the threshold into a lower level abstraction is also very, very useful (I am not good at this and wish I was better).
  • Likewise, the ability to build bad abstractions is a reverse superpower; you can really ruin people’s days, for a long time, by forcing them to traverse down and up the pyramid of abstractions on the regular.
  • Most interviewing questions are in fact hot questions (provide a correct answer to a totally self-contained problem), hence why I feel
    that they do not represent the actual, mostly cold, work of being a software engineer.

The most fun parts of this are, of course, the hand-wavy statements about poetry. I do think that the overall insight of not only “here be dragons”, but also “here also be dragons that you don’t even know exist” is an important one – even if it can be said without the handwavy media theory stuff.

*I should say that I call McLuhan a charlatan with love, but the man sure could handwave, my word.

points west, points left