Monday, September 24, 2007

beta mix tapes

For whatever reason, over the years peeps have been cowed when it comes to cooking up mixes for me. I love the act of making them, from track flow to wtf? pic to the withholding of info until the mix has been auditioned. Yet rarely if ever do I get them in return. Which I don't understand, as I have considerable gaps in my musical knowledge (which perhaps is otherwise formidable?) and love the handmade intimacy of a mix like anyone else. Thankfully my recent birthday was excuse enough for two to be made in my honor (by music critics, natch) and I've enjoyed them a great deal, both musically and in pondering why each song was selected so as to contribute to the aesthetic whole.

The first one I received has written in purple crayon: "Betasm: Sexy Inna Drink" surrounding a pic of a naked man swimming near a waterfall. Not sure what that's all about, but it features a slew of older stuff: Yellowman, Stetsasonic, Coasters, Comus, Del-Vikings, Lora Logic, Linda Perhacs, as well as new indie rock stuff that --if it dropped through the mail slot-- I might've just trashed on sight: Dirty Projectors, Vampire Weekend, Marnie Stern, Big A little a.

My favorite song here is by High Places, a winning slice of bedroom exotica, if something made in my own neighborhood can be deemed "exotic." There's a tinge of African highlife to the guitar tones throughout (DP, VW, LL, then made explicit on the Franco song), though the languid touch arising from Mother Africa is replaced here by Brooklynites who perhaps down too much espresso (or forget their anti-anxiety meds). Brittle, bumpy, yet strangely assuaging, the adenoidal indie songs here work in small doses, making for a mix of little pleasures.

The second disc has writ across it "Dance to the Beta/ 'Who is Cerrone?'/ Hopeful Rarities," though a better subtitle might be "The Secret Life of Stevie in Disco," in that there number disco versions of Stevie Wonder songs (a stellar cover of "Love Having You Around" by First Choice), a track by his ex-wife, Syreeta ("Can't Shake Your Love"), and innumerable instances of jittery electric keyboard skittering atop the deep funk. The mix deals strictly in disco edits and edicts, the texture of prototype synths slowly giving way to hand percussion textures as the mix progresses. Some of it I knew well, like a Dinosaur L number, as well as The Winners "Get Ready for the Future," from that crucial David Mancuso Presents The Loft comp from '99 (which first introduced me to the world of Arthur Russell).

Much of the mix is revelatory though: Fern Kinney's "Baby Let Me Kiss You"; Two Man Sound's "Que Tal America"; Kirk Franklin's "Looking For You (Track Bandits Edit)." That Franklin cut is so ridiculously potent that it first converted me over to Judaism, then made me go all "Jews for Jesus." I then found myself watching Creflo Dollar last Sunday, but if Kanye can blipster over to Keane, then why not the other way around?