Damn. It’s been two years since the last Echo Mix. It’s not that I’ve been out of the music loop–in fact, it’s been quite the opposite–there’s just so much to choose from. But even more, the delay is the result of a little demon that’s attached itself to me over the past 18 months. The demon’s name is Perfectionism, and the little fucker’s machinations dragged this process out, from first round of track selection to final export, for four months. Echo :01, by contrast, took only a week.
As it turns out, this latest collection isn’t perfect, but it’s solid, and I think I’m okay with that. It’s a four-parter, and rather than dive deep into the minutiae of each track, I’ll just go part by part and talk about what I was trying to do with each bit. I hope it works for you.
Before anyone points it out, I’m ripping off Black Coffee here. His Essential Mix from a few years ago is magnificent, and does a much better job of utilizing this bit of spoken word from The Great Dictator than I could ever do. But here it is, leading into a nice little bit of film scoring from the late Jóhann Jóhannsson for The Theory of Everything. Cambridge has anything to do with LA, but I’m going to silence my inner perfectionist and dive into the real theme of part one:
Los Angeles, sweet LA. Beautiful, frustrating, vibrant and teeming with cars and people. When I’m elsewhere, I want to come back; when I’m here, I want to leave. But I’m here now, so I’m kicking things off with a trio of tunes, new and old, that have roots in this hedonistic village. Morcheeba kicks it off with something new from Blaze Away, then to follow, something comparatively ancient from Bran Van 3000. This tune… Man, 20 years ago this, to me, was Los Angeles. Laid back, groovy, chilled down and perfect, this is what it’s like to be drunk and in pain in “Hell-A.”
And then with a perfect sonic build… Beth Ditto. “Ooh LA, LA.” Get it? Get it?
I built this part around the simple combination of The Horrors and Miami Horror (no relation) and the happy accident that my two favorite songs from these artists happened to go together like gin and Campari. But then, because my instinct is to just build and build to a roof-shattering climax, I tried to find a way to pull things back down to earth. And this proved the first big stumbling block of this mix; How to bring the energy down while remaining true to the flow? I tried a bunch of songs, up-tempo, down-tempo, everything in-between… My practice was to put a test mix together, export it to MP3 and then go for a long walk through the hills of South Pasadena. And always it “worked,” more or less, but nothing ever quite clicked. Then finally I hit on exmagician, and damn, it just fell into place. One of the best walks I’ve had yet. The song follows Miami Horror with a similar energy but introduces a laid-back tempo that allows me to then transition to Washed Out (one of two tracks I obsessed about for this mix.) Then find a way to pull things down to where I wanted to wind up– with the gorgeous live performance of “Technicolor Beat” by Oh Wonder.
So I worked like hell to bring the tempo and energy of the mix down to the mid-point, only to say, fuck it, let’s crank this motherfucker right back up again, and now we’re into the proper dance set of the mix. The first three tracks, by Junktion, Tycho and Flight Facilities, are all recent tunes, all of which lead to the classic bit by Adam K & Soha. They worked sonically and musically. But the left a bit of a challenge–how to get the decidedly down-tempo BPM of Junktion and Tycho up to the dance-floor craziness of “Twilight?” I wanted all these tracks to combine because they worked musically–the keys were all the same–but the tempo difference between the first and last track was considerable. That’s where “Claire de Lune” came in handy. The way it’s structured lends itself perfectly to bumping up the BPM. So I tossed all the heavy lifting in that direction and… somehow it works. Have fun. And by the way, “Twilight” is still one of the most potent club anthems of this era, so treat it with caution.
There’s not much that’s more satisfying than finding a way to make the music flow together, getting people to move their feet, hinting to them that there’s so much more out there than what we see before us.
Time to bring it home.
I’m breaking one of my main ECHO rules here by dropping a piece of music by SVIIB, thereby using a band I’d used once before. But I don’t care because it works so well with the M83 cut that follows it. As for the audio clips from Penny Dreadful… I’m not even a huge fan or anything, but I love Victor’s speech about “the tissue that separates life from death,” and for that reason, I spent hours trying to find the best way to work those lines into the mix. Read into it what you will. I happen to think there’s a lot more going on than we can grasp, as humans, and I feel like the speech, however melodramatic, points a light in that direction.
All that melodrama gives way to the last couple tracks, which, to me, represent the most sublime comedown in my music mix history. I love the way the “Only Yesterday” by Pretty Lights shifts gears into a late-night electro-crawl, bringing what ended up being a dance-heavy collection to a couch-lounging finish. Just chill, revel in the drunkenness, the afterglow, and let the final bits wash over you. Concluding with “Zozobra,” a piece by Laura Veirs, that brings me back ’round to my true home of Santa Fe. I will be back. Because, at some point, as Mitch says, I’ll be sick of following my dreams. I’ll just ask them where they’re going and hook up with ’em later.”