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Recommendations for June 11, 2012

Once again, I am a bit late with these. Busy weekend.
Mixtape: “Instrumental Mixtape 2” by Clams Casino 
Clams Casino is a hip hop producer who has made beats for Lil B, A$AP Rocky (whose name, by the way, makes me feel like I am getting dumber just typing it), the Weeknd,, and lots of others— mostly people who, like himself, have built up fan-bases through blogs and word of digital mouth. His instrumental mix tapes are the music from those songs, without the rapping or singing. Usually, that would be called a “beat tape,” but most beat tapes feature short snippets— samples, fragments, loops— that get extended in the final songs, and so most of them are of more interest to other producers than to those who just want something good to listen to. This tape is not like that; these feel like fully-formed instrumental compositions. In many cases, at least for me, the vocals aren’t much of a loss, but even if you don’t agree with that assessment, hearing the tracks without them makes it clear how rich, dense, and often lovely his productions are. His last tape made many critics’ best of the year list, and I would put money down that this one will too. Also, it’s free.  
Article: “Slate doubles down on podcasts, courting niche audiences and happy advertisers” by Andrew Phelps
I have been listening to the Slate podcast(s) for very nearly as long as they have been doing them. I don’t remember exactly when I subscribed, but I know I was already listening when they did the first Political Gabfest, which is now their flagship podcast. It was also one of the first podcasts I subscribed to. Since then (this would have been the summer of 2004), they have gone from more or less reading you an article five times a week to nine different shows. This article is about how Slate has succeeded in podcasting when other publications (like the New York Times) have more or less given it up. It’s a good read, and I hope it will also convince you to listen to the podcasts if you don’t already.
Song: “Love Some1” by Holy Other
So, the most common name for the genre that would most likely categorize this song is “witch house.” That, clearly, is one of the worst genre names anyone ever came up with (right up there with “chillwave”). So it’s sad that this is almost the only ready vocabulary available for trying to describe this song. It’s slow, it’s gloomy, it’s percussive, it’s entirely electronic/sample-based (probably), and it’s got vocals that are slowed way down and buried in the mix. That may not sound especially appealing, and probably that’s part of why somebody came up with the name “witch house” in the first place; it would be nice to have a nice shorthand for this kind of thing, since it’s hard to describe and even harder to make sound like something you would want to listen to. Unfortunately, what they came up with sounds either like some kind of novelty/gag genre, or simply moronic. All of that said, this is really good, and you should listen to it.
Song: “Get Free” by Major Lazer feat. Amber Coffman

This is a collaborative effort by two performers of whose individual efforts I am, let’s say, skeptical. Amber Coffman is in the Dirty Projectors, who I think are often interesting but also yelpy, precious, and irritating. Major Lazer involves Diplo, who has a talent for finding global beatmakers, but is also really unselective, to my ear, and seems like kind of a jerk as well. So, I wouldn’t expect to like this anywhere near as much as I do. It’s mellow, pretty, and restrained— a word that I would not associate with any of the people involved.   
Playlist: “Selected Ambient Works v.2 (rotted disc version)” by Aphex Twin
Aphex Twin’s Selected Ambient Works v. 2 has been around for quite a while at this point. One consequence of that is that a lot of people have already heard it; another is that a lot of people probably have damaged copies. This is a “rotted” version of some of the tracks from that album— in other words, a damaged cd. I don’t think this was accidental damage, which probably would have been far less smooth— or else the sound has been further manipulated after the fact. Anyway, if sitting around a listening to scratched CDs is not your idea of a good time…well, you’re probably not a big Aphex Twin fan, in that case. But even so, this is much more interesting, and even pleasant, to listen to than it might seem. It’s also worth noting that Oval, a German producer of similar vintage and aesthetic to Aphex Twin, made this kind of thing his stock-in-trade for much of his career.

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