A Reader staffer shares three musical obsessions, then asks someone (who asks someone else) to take a turn.
Peter Margasak, Reader music critic
Clara de Asís, Do Nothing Marseilles-based Spanish composer and musician Clara de Asís delivers six lucid and often meditative works for prepared guitar and percussion on 2018’s Do Nothing. The title piece collides subtle harmonies from patiently plucked strings and the sustained ringing of what sound like Tibetan singing bowls, while “Know Nothing” simmers gently with anonymous machinelike chatter. The remaining pieces meticulously, sculpturally arrange similar materials with crystalline directness and delightful abstraction.
Domenico Lancellotti, The Good Is a Big God Percussionist, singer, and songwriter Domenico Lancellotti continues to explore a fun, sophisticated mix of samba, art-rock, MPB, and disco. Sean O’Hagan of the High Llamas adds some gorgeous orchestrations, but most of the music comes from the leader and his Rio colleagues, including Pedro Sá and Lancellotti’s old +2 bandmates Kassin and Moreno Veloso. The latter cowrote the lilting “Tudo ao Redor,” a fragile love song with koanlike verses: “When this sun falls / Across the mattress / It drags everything / Around it.”
Correction, Swing I’m two years late catching up to the excellent fourth album by this Swedish jazz trio—pianist Sebastian Bergström, bassist Joacim Nyberg, and drummer Emil Åstrand-Melin—but it’ll probably sound just as fresh in a decade. The trio’s originals hark back to individualists such as Herbie Nichols and Elmo Hope, and the performances swing with a brisk snap, even as Bergström’s solos veer toward free jazz.
Peter is curious what’s in the rotation of . . .
Haley Fohr, bandleader and mastermind of Circuit des Yeux
Franco Battiato, Sulle Corde di Aries Each of his sounds has the integrity of a gold watch: shimmery, timeless, and reliable. I really enjoy how he can challenge my perception of composition while remaining musical—it’s a ride, not a test, and I enjoy the journey. My favorite part of this 1973 record is the second half of side A—tape feedback, vocals, and percussive elements give way and blend into something that becomes physically trance inducing.
Philip K. Dick, Martian Time-Slip Science fiction fills me up with musical narratives and helps me in times of creation. I love how PKD jumps right into his premises, forcing your mind to immediately let go of all preconceptions about physics, time, and space. I feel like I’m constantly catching up in PKD’s worlds—by the time I’ve made some sense of this new reality, another has sprung up in its place. The 1964 novel Martian Time-Slip navigates the hostile living conditions of a futuristic society that has emigrated to Mars. The novel weaves through the social and psychological challenges, centering on a child with autism and his hidden superpower.
Not rehearsing Someone once told me I’ve got MWE—midwestern work ethic. I try as hard as I can, then get overworked, cry a little, go to sleep, wake up, and try as hard as I can the next day. Rinse and repeat. This year I learned that vocal rest, time off, and having nonmusical days actually makes me a better musician. Usually I spend these days creating in some other medium—make a large meal, paint, or write a short story.
Haley is curious what’s in the rotation of . . .
Mikel Patrick Avery, interdisciplinary musician and artist
Mary Margaret O’Hara, “When You Know Why You’re Happy” I’m a huge fan, and I’ve come back to her 1989 performance of this song on Night Music at least once a month for ten years. I love the free-floating, non-singing singing she does. Willie Nelson does it as well and crushes me every time (check out his “Are You Sure”). I sing like an old left shoe, so I naturally gravitate to people who seem to deliver the message first, sing second. Even if you can’t figure out what they’re saying, it feels like they’re singing directly to you.
Camarón de la Isla, “Soy Gitano” I heard this blasting from the house next door and had to go over to find out what it was. Flamenco is one of many cultural musics that I keep putting on the shelf to check out later. There’s so much intent behind every idea—not a single note is passed over. It’s similar to what I hear in a lot of Japanese Noh theater. My neighbor is from Spain and loves flamenco, which gives me an incredible opportunity to open up the pores and soak in some knowledge.
A phone video on YouTube of an African street drummer This is close to my heart for many reasons. First, the playing is amazing, far beyond anything I can do. More important is the self-made drum set, a true contraption/trap kit. My first instrument was a set of drums made of cardboard and ice cream buckets, because I didn’t have the dough for a real kit. If you want a guitar, just make that shit now! There are more than enough materials in the alleys and streets. And maybe I’ll sound like the kid in the vid one day. v