Mail 2 - Chemz, Claire, the rest01.11.2021
A couple weeks ago, Burial came back, as he usually does around the winter solstice. Chemz is a 12-minute long frantically ravy cut that has the manic energy of someone going through a breakup smiling at you at the bar with veins popping in their forehead telling you how much fun they’re having while chugging tequila sodas.
His music used to take the form of half remembered tracks from pirate radio and solo bus rides but now have grown to feel like fully formed odysseys that convey the movements of full DJ sets that you might find on a cassette tape.As with every new Burial release, I’m sent into a spiral of revisiting some of my favourite releases of his over a week or so. And so I did again, going through the sublime Rival Dealer EP, Street Halo, Stolen Dog, Kindred, Near Dark and obviously… In McDonalds.
What I came away with is the sense that the thru-line in all his work is a feeling of a deep empathy, and this was why I still feel so connected to all the output.When I was 16/17 I got a summer internship at the Ninja Tune Montreal office mailing out CD promos to journalists (an ancient practice involving forgotten relics and customs if there ever was one). I was paid in a couple records from their warehouse every week. That was a great way to get all the Amon Tobin and Sixtoo I could handle on my shelves but getting to talk to the employees there, all of whom were music lovers and mostly DJs really put me onto a lot of stuff.
One of those things was getting into the rhythm of stopping by InBeat and DNA Records on Saint-Laurent in Montreal, specifically on Thursdays, because that’s when the new records came in.
Christian Pronovost at InBeat put me onto the House and Techno I should be aware of, whereas over at DNA, (which was located in the backroom of the synth store Moog Audio where we’d drool over modular systems and effect pedals) we’d look for more left-field stuff. Through the Ninja people I was really into this still kind of genreless stuff coming in from the UK on Planet Mu, Tempa, DMZ. Grabbing the Boxcutter, Vex’d and Skream I could get out of the DNB section. The emerging world of "Dubstep" already felt mysterious, alien, almost unknowable, and then came the Burial self-titled album.
It felt like finding a fully-functional-in-touch-with-real-ghosts Ouija Board after having some decent fun with Scrabble and Monopoly.
You had no idea who this person was, where the music came from, was it an alias? Was there more of it? And yet through all the mystery was work that felt so honest and connected that the anonymity was totally irrelevant. It felt like I was in direct contact with what this person was saying and feeling, almost knowing them.
Throughout this pandemic, cinema has been a lighthouse in the storm that keeps me connected to the world. As with music, so many different approaches exist and they are surely all valid, but the Real Good Stuff to me comes from work that again conveys a deep sense of empathy and connection.
One of my all-time favourite film makers, Claire Denis, somehow feels connected to this Burial-Type-Feeling to me. My first pick of hers would be the 2008 film 35 Rhums. A portrait of parenthood and coming of age as a first generation immigrant in Paris, it’s a deceptively simple story with the underlying complications and layers that feel so authentically human. (Mati Diop who plays the daughter in this would later direct 2019’s Atlantics, for which she became the first black female director to be nominated for the Palme d’Or!)
But on a somewhat timely note, Denis’ 1999 film Beau Travail finally got a proper restoration care of Criterion in November.
Set in Djibouti in a French Legion Colony, Denis explores male fragility, colonialism, authority, the desire to be loved and valued, and much like the Légionnaires in this beautiful East African country themselves, the feeling of knowing you are not where you should be.
A movie I've enjoyed so much over the years I named a party after it haha.
It’s as mysterious as the Street Halo or Kindred EPs to me, revealing new layers both in the work and myself every time I watch, yet still feeling like the complete picture is somehow out of my grasp.
But I’d rather come out the other side in awe of the sleight of hand than think I have it completely figured out.
Movies for a lockdown
Movies I either saw for the first time or rewatched since lockdowns began last spring that have kept me tethered to humanity.
These movies all feel like decent examples of empathetic film makers that view human beings and their lives with an inquisitive lens that is deserving of care, compassion and love.
Edward Yang - Taipei Story (1985)
Hou Hsiao-hsien - Millenium Mambo (2001)
Mati Diop - Atlantics (2019)
Masaaki Yuasa - The Night Is Short, Walk On Girl (2017)
Kelly Reichardt - First Cow (2020)
Kelly Reichardt - Wendy & Lucy (2008)
Hirokazu Koreeda - Shoplifters (2018)
Lynne Ramsat - Morvern Callar (2002)
The last things I put out in 2020 were a track called ‘Thaw’ on the LuckyMe Advent Calendar (which also featured tracks from HudMo, Lunice, Mssingno and others) and a remix for Kacy Hill’s Unkind.
The rolling Spotify playlist is updated, I threw in some of my favorite stuff from 2020 in there and some current favourites.
RIP MF DOOM.
Really enjoyed reading this 2009 profile from the one and only Ta-Nehisi Coates in The New Yorker, as well as this recent piece by my bud Cadence Weapon about the villain for Passion of the Weiss.
Thanks for reading. Maybe let me know what you like or don’t about this. Again if this isn’t the kind of thing you want in your inbox, click here. If it is, please tell your friends.
It’s been another weird few months since the last time I wrote.So just want to wish you and your loved ones better things this year.Check in on the people around you.
Mail 1 - Tiga & Hudmo10.30.2021
Trying something out here.
It’s been over half a year since the Dawn Chorus tour was put on indefinite hold, and I’m still trying to make sense of and navigate what "being an artist/ musician" means moving forward.
The idea of "connecting with people" feels both so incredibly appealing yet out of reach right now, so I wanted to try out a kind of mail newsletter. This might appear in your inbox twice a month, once a month, maybe never again.
If you’re receiving this, you most likely signed up for a general JG mailing list at some point in time, so before I go any further, if this is something you never want to get again, click here.
Hopefully this can be a fun way to keep in touch without the frenzy of social media or trying to sell you stuff necessarily.
Alright, here we go.
When I was 17-18 I threw parties with a crew of producers in Montreal. Sixtoo and Hadji (from Wolf Parade) led our gang as Megasoid. I made kinda live remix hyphy/rap beat stuff as Hovatron, our friend Seb Diamond too. Lunice was there. Ango would later join as well.
We were good MySpace friends with these kids in Scotland. We booked a show on their first ever North American run. It was the first time I met Hudson Mohawke, Rustie, Mike Slott and Dom Sum from LuckyMe in person. We went for thai food, and later they got us all kicked out of a couple afterparties following our show together. HudMo was and remains to this day one of the biggest musical influences in my life.
At the same time, being a young kid obsessed with all things electronic and club in Montreal a huge shadow loomed over the city.
Tiga always felt like a larger than life, just-beyond-reach character.
I remember formative club experiences of a whole room turning on a dime, entering the Tiga Zone™️. About a year before that LuckyMe showcase, he’d open a set at the SAT with this Zombie Nation track.
Over the years I’ve remained close with HudMo, even recording a lot of my second album Dawn Chorus in the B room at his studio. I also got lucky enough to cross paths and form a bit of a relationship with Tiga. They’re both still so inspiring to me in their own ways so I’m overjoyed to see them release music together.
Once, while I was finishing my album in the side room, Tiga was in town. After going for tacos, he and I got back to HudMo’s and they played me a couple things.
Tiga knows trance. Like, Real Trance. Not 8 CDJs & fireworks trance. And Ross has a knack for arrangement and sound design that defies every routing in my brain, music that feels so intensely connected with the physical realm. Their music together has been a reaaaaal delight.
So yeah – I’ve been extremely into their latest collab track from a few weeks ago. VSOD also has Abra on vocals. There’s something that seems to just defy trends and cut thru any kind of electronic music scenester bullshit you could try to throw at it. Just so fresh and honest.
The first one, Love Minus Zero was no joke either.