The Key’s Year-End Mania: Chris Zak’s 5 Tracks that Induced Synesthesia in 2014
Year-End Mania is the Key’s survey of the things below the surface that made 2014 awesome. In this installment, Key contributor Chris Zakorchemny shares five colorful songs he heard this year.
These five electronic tracks are less about the pulse of a beat, and more how electronic music would look if it was a Frank Bowling painting.
Synesthesia is a medical term describing the activation of one sense coming from the activation of another sense. That could mean looking at a photo and perceiving an audible element to it, or the inverse. Some musicians who have synesthesia describe being able to visually organize the music they create, or distinguish the colors of melodies. Wassily Kandinsky famously created paintings that were representations of music.
My initial thought for this list was to try to describe these five artists as sound collagists, but once I googled the phrase, I realized it was already a thing. Motherboard and the multi-talented Samantha Urbani (of various great bands) came up with it first. The following tracks are about the big picture coming from the smallest details.
1. Leon Vynehall – “It’s Just (House of Dupree)” – Music for the Uninvited
“It’s Just (House of Dupree)” comes from the album Music for the Uninvited, the album-equivalent of C&C Music Factory calling a song “Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now).” Both are artists owning their confidence about their work and telling you you’re going to like it as soon as you hear it. I could have picked any track from ‘Music for the Uninvited’ but the best invitation for the uninvited is easily “It’s Just (House of Dupree).” Starting with a sample of an interview about the NYC ballroom community, it clicks into a keyboard sample from The Isley Brother’s gorgeous “Don’t Say Goodnight”. Master collagist J Dilla also thought it was good enough to sample on “So Far To Go.”
2. Andy Stott – “Faith in Strangers” – Faith in Strangers
I first heard of Andy Stott through Deetron’s excellent Balance 020 mix featuring the blissful “Tell Me Anything”. I haven’t kept up with him since then, but in hearing his new album, I see someone who has evolved far past that sound. “Tell Me Anything” and “Faith in Strangers” share a thin thread of aesthetic commonality, but the latter sounds more like a bedroom recording than a single. With vocals from his former piano teacher Alison Skidmore, “Faith in Strangers” is less interested in the presence of its percussion, and more the collective body of work.
3. FaltyDL – “New Haven” – In the Wild
I saw FaltyDL, a New York DJ, in Tokyo. I was on my way back from spending two years in China, and on my way home, I stopped in Tokyo. He happened to be playing some club three stories underground and I could barely afford the drinks. At some point in your life, I hope you get to dance in a club where you share no language competency with the people around you, and you just smile and give the thumbs up. Foreign, and fluid: “New Haven.”
4. Teebs – “Wavxxes” (feat. Lars Horntveth)
Is it downtempo, or ambient music? Whatever it is, “Wavxxes” sends your mind adrift in calmness. Produced by LA DJ/producer Mtendere Mandowa, aka Teebs, a talented visual artist in his own right , this track has instrumentation from Lars Hornveth of Jaga Jazzist and The National Bank.
5. Pye Corner Audio – “Black Mist” – The Black Mist EP
Shared from parallel thought-clouds by Tangerine Dream, Pye Corner Audio nailed krautrock in 2014. Whereas other tracks on this list used vague snippets of a larger work to create a body of sound, this track builds from the inside out. From the foundations of krautrock – repetition via twisted knobs and dials of drum machines and synthesizers – new layers emerge over time.