One true blessing this year was starting a band with three diamonds: Greg Fox, Melvin Gibbs, and Grey McMurray. Their integrity and kindness are matched only by the infinite depth of their musicality. The band is called Body Meπa (a nod to this Ornette Coleman album) and our first release, The Work Is Slow, is out today. We’d be thrilled if you paid as much as humanly possible for it. Today is Bandcamp Friday, and the platform does not take a cut of our sales. They’ve been doing this all year, but they won’t be doing it next year.
There will also be bumper stickers based on that sign up there, which was painted freehand by the brilliant Caitlyn Galloway. I use “the work” as a way of describing a daily practice of spiritual health and emotional sobriety but you may have another discipline that fits the bill. If you don’t like recorded music, you might have a surface you would like to deface with a sticky piece of vinyl. Capitalism gives you choices!
I’ve just encouraged you to collect Body Meπa releases but I am also recommending a movie that will likely stop you from collecting anything, of any kind, ever. Alan Zweig’s 2000 film Vinyl is astonishing and I’m fully cross someone didn’t tell me about it earlier. Imagine interviews with fish on the bottom of the sea—one doesn’t expect them to share their ugly beauty. Some of these people are on the spectrum, some are simply in pain, but none of them seems to have lived a fuller life by virtue of having collected thousands of records. Nobody here is more honest than Zweig, who empties his fear and shame right into his camcorder. Vinyl is not about music at all. It’s not even about records.
Culture critics are not encouraged by magazine editors to sit with things for a long time, or to check back on work after a few years have elapsed. (Think of the ways in which your doctors don’t check in to see if your medications are working or even if you still need to be on them.) The tech version of this is looking at browser and mobile versions of the same app, and how they change over time and work in different settings. You’ve already fallen asleep.
Radio Garden is a site I bookmarked years ago and never used. Even right now it takes forever to load and feels sort of abstracted, just a map full of links. But the mobile version, Radio Garden Live, is a total pleasure. Spin the lil globe! Pick a city! Tune in! We’ve been waking up and transporting ourselves to Haiti and Finland and Siberia and Kentucky for an hour or so. I rediscovered Radio Garden when Brian Eno mentioned it in this recent interview. Who doesn’t need safe travel right now amirite.
One of the acts that has elevated 2020 is CS + Kreme, two “devout genre-skeptics” from Melbourne who make unpredictable A+ mixes and very melty tracks of their own. The only interview with them I’ve found is on their website, and their SoundCloud page gives you plenty to work with. Everything on their Bandcamp page is worth buying, especially this year’s output. Based and decentered UFO ballads.
Two of my favorite podcasts this year were Talia Lavin’s Moby Dick Energy and the third season of Relentless Picnic, officially known as Cabin. Lavin has written a fantastic book about white supremacists doing their thing online and is very good at Twitter, trolling and swordplay chief among her skills. The Relentless Picnic is an outgrowth of three friends talking, not in the reactive hot take sense but in a larger more philosophically committed sense, a fairly ancient sense, in fact. I don’t know Adam and Erikk but I do know Nick. He’s fantastic on Twitter, one of the best bets on the dying platform, and a stellar dinner guest.
All six episodes of Cabin address physical isolation, channeling the experience of our hosts through Thoreau’s Walden and the various expressions of Ted Kaczynski. In general, the Picnics feel so valuable in that their talking is generally devoid of dunks and burns and gossip, popular and deathless strategies that you can easily find elsewhere. They are serious without being soggy, and they treat Thoreau very much as a person we might know, no more worthy of reverence than we are. Was he really that isolated? Did he really walk his talk?
I leave you for the weekend with an hour of pure elevation. In November, Physical Therapy put up this big softie UK megamix of two-step and garage. Is this the most optimistic genre of music? Do not ask Spotify. The answer lies within.