Tuesday 21 December 2021

Staying Frosty - Another Winter Mixtape

Miwa Ogasawara - Kosmos (2010)

Another year, another time where I put together a little something to sort of cap things off. I do normally end up doing another post or two after but I always like to make one of these both as a creative exercise and just out of tradition at this point. This year's winter roundup is a selection of tunes I've loved, discovered or re-discovered over the last year or so - while not as traditionally 'wintery' as the last couple have been, I think it still has a little of that spirit running through it. Part of the reason I started doing these little tapes was to actually get around to putting up songs I love that might not be readily available on your conventional streaming platforms and while there are more that a few of them this year, I've managed to squeeze a little more readily available ones in there too! I was also pleasantly surprised to see Blu Mar Ten digitally re-issue the album that I Wake Up is from - The Six Million Names Of God - an interesting curio of early 2000's 'chillout' records that I think I may have covered on here before, it has some really nice tunes on it.

But we're getting a little off topic there - as is always the case with these little mixtape dealies, I did have a plan for what tracks I was going to use - but that quickly went out the window when I started laying things down. I still managed to get a few choice cuts in there regardless, but there are plenty of choices made on-the-fly too! Overall, I'm pretty happy with it, I will be the first to admit I ain't the best mixer in the world, doubly so when jumping between genres so frequently like I have here. Having said that I don't think it's too bad, and with the sheer variety I have on show it was never gonna be perfect so... Full tracklist and my usual track-by-track breakdown below!

Yoko Kanno - Hanna
Röyksopp - You Don't Have A Clue
Kensuke Ushio - Trace Of Twilight
Peak Divide - Homework Salad By Night
Masafumi Takada - So That The Forms Of Heavenly Maidens Linger Before Me Yet More
Sugar Plant - Simple
Blu Mar Ten - I Wake Up
Moby - Whispering Wind
Akira Yamaoka - Witchcraft
Boards Of Canada - Turquoise Hexagon Sun
Hiroshi Yoshimura - View From My Window
Moderat - This Time

Fully embracing my soundtrack side to start off with, Yoko Kanno's Iceland-influenced soundtrack to Terror In Resonance leading things. Perhaps not strictly 'electronic' to begin with, but I absolutely adore the little glitchy parts in the mid section, and making good on that Icelandic influence, the whole thing builds to a brilliant post-rock style crescendo. Röyksopp follow - another one of my all time favourites. I did almost use Sparks again as it is for me the nigh perfect summary of the style I'm going for with these tapes - but instead I went with a bit from Junior. Featuring the same vocalist from Sparks, Anelli Drecker, it felt like the next best thing. While an intentionally much poppier record than their previous, fans of their style of downtempo will still find a lot to love on Junior, case in point with You Don't Have A Clue.

Back in soundtrack territory for a double feature - first with a gorgeous almost ambient piece from the 2019 Boogiepop wa Warawanai. It was pretty tricky to not go full ambient with the whole thing in all honesty, especially with Kensuke Ushio's OST work all carrying this same super smooth sound. Between this and his solo work under the Agraph alias, he has fast become one of my favourites of recent times - as evidenced by his inclusion on my last couple of mixtape-likessss. It's not around for long before we take a slow dive into lo-fi town - I've been playing a lot of Unbeatable as of late, a game with a totally enthralling visual style that is utterly drenched in nostalgia, and the soundtrack does a downright perfect job of complimenting that aesthetic, aping bands like The Pillows to great effect. Not totally electronic, but it does stray into that side from time to time, be it the Avalanches style sampling of Proper Rhythm and the mandatory lo-fi hip hop joint I chose in Homework Salad By Night.

From there it's a case of digital crate digging. How do you follow up a lo-fi tune without getting stuck in a rut? Why, a bit from the soundtrack to the videogame tie-in for Samurai Champloo of course - with a slight techy feel, it opened up a lot of choices for the next entry. I ended up going with Sugar Plant, a band that is sort of shoegaze, but in a downtempo kind of way. I fell in love with them hard over the summer, their repeating grooves are really easy to slip into and a joy to listen to, and make the time just melt away - I used the full 6 minutes of the tune for just that reason. Simple actually reminds me a fair bit of some tuff from Morcheeba, look them up if you dig Sugar Plant.

I already talked about Blu Mar Ten in the opening paragraph so let's skip over to the next entry from Moby. I went for a deeper cut this time on purpose, initially planning on it being the 'Slow Synth' version of We Are All Made Of Stars but ended up going with Whispering Wind - originally a B-Side for the Natural Blues single. A hefty dose of my bias for treated vocals is part of that decision or sure, but the whole B-Side album is a nice complimentary piece to Play, partly because the tracks on there haven't been played to death like the main album.

From there we round out with a bit more Silent Hill stuff from Akira Yamaoka. I knew I was going to use something from them but hadn't quite narrowed it down, I wasn't expecting to end up going with one of the later ones from Homecoming in all honesty, but I knew it was perfect when it came on. Yamaoka's ambient and trip hop stuff is gorgeous, and Witchcraft, while a little softer than some of his other works just hit perfectly at that time. From there we get some Boards Of Canada, can you believe I've never used them in one of these tapes before? I would normally have gone for an ambient piece but what better compliment to Yamaoka's work than the more beat heavy bits of Music Has The Right To Children? (Though Turquoise Hexagon Sun actually originally appeared on the Hi Scores EP!)

Rounding out the selections we have a real odd couple - first we dive headlong into ambient with a bit from Hiroshi Yoshimura's iconic Music For Nine Post Cards, beautifully delicate, View From My Window was one of the tracks I knew I was going to use from the start, I was just waiting for the right moment. To be completely honest I was ready to call it there, it's a great send off piece. But I was inspired by the 'moods' that Spotify had applied to me in their year end wrap up: Wistful and Euphoric, so to fit that brief I put Moderat's This Time on the end. It's been a long time since I really listened to Moderat's second album and I had forgotten how powerful this one was. Wonderful stuff and a apt capstone to this whirlwind tour of the last year or so. Covered a lot of ground and yet there were so many that didn't quite make it in, but then there's always next year I suppose!

I hope the tail end of the year is treating you all well, I know that writing here has been a little slice of consistency in a world gone mental - and hopefully reading has for you too. Tune in to this one for just under an hour of calm - and as always, stay safe and enjoy the music.


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