Elements that remove the glare

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Photo by Wells Baum

The emerging reality that the ones glaring inside are too noisy to ignore, making space for the meek to inherit the earth.

The powers of nature can too be political. But the elemental energies lend their powers to the working citizens.

There is no expiration date on the freedom of the communal tact. The amalgamation of hope carries with it the elements of uncertainty. But it also slides confidently with a gust of wind.

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gif by Wells Baum
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Smith & Mighty – Evolve

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Image via Test Pressing

I remember buying this random disc in Palo Alto, California while at summer camp in high school. I had probably read a review about it in an issue of URB Magazine, which was one of my primary 90s go-to sources for discovering fresh underground music.

In the CD age, everything was a $14.99 crapshoot. You really never knew what type of sound you were going to hear, let alone if the music was worth the price tag. But I got lucky with Smith & Mighty Bass is Maternal, 15-tracks that introduced me to the sound of dub while also converging elements of techno, hip-hop, and jungle music. Their music planted the seeds for the Bristol trip-hop explosion from Massive Attack, Portishead, and Tricky.

I don’t think you’ll find the album on any of the streaming services (here’s the Amazon link for the CD) but if you’re going to start digging, start with the crispy breakbeats on the track ‘Evolve.’

“You are the light, You are the fire”

Marcus Intalex RIP

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Marcus Intalex aka Marcus Kaye/Trevino was a drum n bass from the UK, known for spinning the liquid and soul side of DnB.

He created one of the best– if not the best–mixes of the Fabric Live compilations. The record introduced me to the likes of Calibre and Alix Perez. Fabric made the album available for streaming for the next week or so. Stream it below and be sure to snag a copy on their website.

Intalex’s last release Four: Fit EP appeared on his Manchester-based Soul:R record label. Peep the stellar tune ‘Step Forward’ below.

RIP Marcus.

 

Watch it while it lasts 👀

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Below is a preview of this week’s newsletter of interesting articles and musical goodies. To read it in its entirety, sign up or go here to view it on site.

    1. As Oscar Wilde said: “When bankers get together they talk about art. When artists get together, they talk about money.” When both artist and capitalist align, it yields the golden ages. For HBO, it was the novelistic storytelling of The Sopranos which boosted its bottom-line and pioneered the popular episodic format for Netflix and Amazon streaming services. As Nassim Taleb likes to say, “trial and error is freedom.” Furthermore, sex and cash can coexist.
    2. Instagram has 700 million users, 80% which are outside the United States. Unlike Twitter, the platform is still growing rapidly and enriching its addictiveness with popular features like Stories. Instagram is an essential app with a trajectory that looks a lot like Facebook.
    3. The Godfather of photography William Eggleston explains how he sees “great pictures” that most people miss and why “words and pictures are like two different animals.” He also cares less about Ansel Adams’s work.
    4. If you’ve ever driven around Los Angeles, you’ll notice the none of the architecture is consistent. Some of this is the work of architect Paul Williams, the so-called architect of Hollywood. who gave LA its eclectic touch. But he was often overlooked because he was African American. The Paul Williams Project is making sure he gets the credit he deserves.
    5. The barber paradox: Imagine that you live in a remote town in the Austrian Alps that only has one barber. You either shave yourself or go to the barber. So who shaves the barber? The British philosopher Bertrand Russell explained why language confounds meaning.
    6. “My favorite records sound the worst, because I’ve played them the most.” Indie-musician Damon Krukowski’s new book looks at the listening experience from analog to the digital world.
    7. This made me laugh: For the Love of God, Stop Putting Two Spaces After a Period I got used to one space because of the Twitter restrictions. Now I practice it everywhere, from work emails to blog posts.
    8. “All experience is no more than a form of “reliable hallucination,” a movie in the head with only tenuous relation to the outside world.” Our sleepy head makes better movies.

Read more…

Train of Thought: Reflections on the Coast Starlight

In celebration of World Book Day, I’m previewing a sample chapter from my forthcoming book Train of Thought: Reflections on the Coast Starlight.

You can pre-order it now on Amazon


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The train represented that ‘third place’ between work and home, a space for both productivity and relaxation. It could hum with the ambient sounds of a coffee shop — a scientifically proven pitch for productivity — yet lull people to sleep in the quiet car. While most passengers relaxed in private, their habits were all too revealing. Snorers, nail-biters, and loud eaters all advertised their flaws in public space.

Paul spent the past four years commuting in and out of New York City on the Metro-North Railroad. While most people considered the commute routine, Paul viewed it as a journey. Instead of pursuing the structured procrastination of work email, he used his free time to watch people, to catch up on reading, and to listen to music. He wore a pair of noise-cancelling headphones to avoid fated eavesdropping, especially on Friday nights when the entire train turned into a rowdy bar car. Paul nonetheless enjoyed all the stimulation.   

As a noticer, he rode the train with the eyes of a restless photojournalist. He liked to document everyday life: the Wall Street executive folding the newspaper in quarters, a teacher fastidiously marking up papers in red pen, the intern shuffling between playlists on her iPad, and the 9-to-5-er using the Fordham Station tunnel reflection to preen their hair. The mobile camera condemned Paul to record and remix the world around him. He felt compelled to recast his surroundings into new patterns and abstractions. A wannabe outsider, he piloted a future that strived to fight genres.

But the train also offered him one of the few moments in the day where he could disconnect and prime his brain for the day ahead. First, he wrote for five minutes in his journal trying to answer the eternal question — ‘what would make today great?’ Then, he meditated to induce a slow, purposeful experience to link his presence up to the train’s centered locomotion.

Every day, the New Haven Line slithered through the woods, passing colonial style homes before crossing into graffitied Bronx ghettoes. The train traveled over the Harlem River Bridge into Manhattan at 125th street before sliding underground into the Park Avenue tunnel to dock at Grand Central Station.

________

Paul liked the way railways seemed to skim the world, stitching together the surrounding landscape like pictures in an Instagram feed while the experience on the guts of the train was unedited and all too real like an Instagram Story. Every passenger adhered to the mores of their business world. Yet, the train was the engine of progress, the great social equalizer among the plurality of classes.

Paul looked for commonalities amid business people, custodians, and tourists in this shared space. Regardless of their bank account, everyone occupied the same-sized seat, a pitch of 39 inches b 23 inches in width, still roomier than most airline economy seats. On the Metro North, there was no such thing as the first class. Everyone was a temporary resident with Wifi.

Nearly every passenger stared into an electronic widget of some sort annihilating space and time of the world around them. No one appeared to care what reality they were living in as long as technology and the internet inured them to boredom. Paul hashtagged the phenomena–#neverlookup–to his Instagram photos although he too fell victim to screen culture.

Train-spotting bled into all Paul’s work. It helped him see patterns of conformity in all movements of capitalist realism. Climbing the ladder meant jumping through hoops and doing what you were told. While the corporate racetrack paid the bills, it drained creativity. Paul often felt too tired to “rage into his art” after a day of obedience.  Work beat the rebelliousness out of him.

His persistence ebbed and flowed. Like a true millennial, he refused to become another cog in the system yet he couldn’t quite nail down what his career had in store for him. The only thing he knew was that mediocrity was the antithesis to leading a meaningful life. At the end of the day, he wanted to do something that mattered.

He had reached an inflection point in his career. Unlike his friends peaking in their thirties, he was concaving downward. Working in the internet space shifted life too often to make five-year plans. He needed to get ahead of the next software upgrade; to be nimble and adapt, and fight like hell to develop a lifestyle that allowed him the freedom to do what he wanted.

One of the supposed answers to Paul’s mid-life crisis, at least in his head, was to write a book. The only thing stopping him was making time and doing the work. He struggled in facing the resistance but knew at the end of the day, the only thing that counted is if you could finish. People only remember what ships. 

One November morning Paul picked up a newspaper that had been left on the seat. One of the headlines read “Now Boarding: Amtrak Writers Residency.” Amtrak was gifting authors multi-stop tours across the United States. Paul felt excited but instantly dismayed by his lack of merit. He operated a blog in which he was the sole subscriber; the rest were paid bots. He built himself up just as quickly as he tore himself down. Stuck in a crisis of confidence, he never treated himself like a friend. 

The web leveled the playing field — you no longer needed permission to call yourself an artist — but it also unleashed mediocrity and created more noise than signal. The SoundCloud and Instagram generation seemed to over filter their work, making it all sound and look the same. You were better off making something unique for the long-tail instead of striving to become a celebrity in a hits business.  

Ever the amafessional or well-informed professional, Paul was more than happy to steal the travel writing concept to fund his own Amtrak experience. He googled Amtrak routes and discovered a West Coast adventure called the ‘Coast Starlight.’ It traveled daily between Seattle and Los Angeles. Paul’s brother lived in Los Angeles so he planned on staying with him there for a few days. 

He reserved his ticket online, snagging one of the last sleeper rooms on the bottom car. He emailed his boss to let him know he’d be gone the first week in December; days he had to use anyway before they expired at year-end. He forwarded the email to his girlfriend to get it on their shared Google calendar. 

Little did he know, this thirty-six-hour train ride was going to be an experience of a lifetime. But would he finish the book he so desired to write?

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