After a long drought, we’ve been lucky enough to be afforded some rain here in San Francisco. To mark the occasion, we’ve each picked 5 tracks from last year that fit perfectly with the somber weather.
1. Sophia Loizou – The Voices of Time
On Singulacra, Loizou took the characteristics of rave music and buried them deep within a hazy sludge and the feeling it elicited was one of coming across an old transmission deteriorating across a great expanse. What you were presented with were just faint shadows of dance music, rhythms occasionally cutting through the static but always removed at a distance. The spectral album made for a disquieting experience. On the track “The Voices in Time,” the forecast is one of an approaching rainstorm—a track that starts off at ease but is never oblivious to what’s coming. Icy textures and light bell tones brings to mind dismal weather, but it’s the ominous, steady drumming and how the track gives way to more menacing sounds that brings it to the precipice of a storm.
2. Will Long – Pigs
Minimal in it’s composition, glacier-like in it’s pace, Will Long’s Long Trax was an exercise in restraint. Long, who is better known as the ambient producer Celer, channeled the later by surrounding oneiric synth pads with relaxed beats and snippets of politically charged dialogue. According to an interview with Will Long, the samples are of activists who were “covered up, subdued by the system, or obliterated completely” and a sense of missed opportunities and failed progress permeates the album. Extracted from it’s political overtones though, the experience is still one of mourning—pairing perfectly with the lonely, somber weather of oncoming rain. It’s hard to pick a favorite, the album meant to be listened as a meditative whole, but “Pigs” stands out to me the most—it’s chords oscillating between feelings of wonder and longing.
3. Porter Ricks – Shadow Boat
After 17 years, Porter Ricks return with the excellent Shadow Boat EP and with it fond memories of their 1994 classic album, Biokenetics. Of the later, I always found the opening track “Port Gentil,” by far my favorite on that album, to be a bit misplaced. It’s hazy ambience giving way to a luminous pulse, not unlike the pulse of a lighthouse, listening to it I envisioned a boat returning to the safety of a port after experiencing a rough outing at sea. It seemed better suited as a closer, considering the rest of the albums uneasy and disorienting textures. I bring this up because the title track of Porter Rick’s latest EP seems to exist as the antithesis of “Port Gentil.” Where as that track moved at a steady pace to safety, “Shadow Boats” seems to be sailing straight into a storm. What amazes me the most about this track is its progression. Starting off tranquil enough, the sound quickly descends into a volatile state, with shifting contours of textures weaving in and out from all directions. Its unpredictable currents swirl through the track, keeping it dynamic but hectic. The track at times feels on the verge of collapsing under its own forces and it’s precisely this instability that makes it fitting for a storm.
4. Prince of Denmark – 88888888
I could’ve chosen any track on Prince of Denmark’s magnum opus, 8, each track lending so well to a desolate landscape. I chose “88888888,” because for me, it exemplifies what separates Prince of Denmark from his techno counterparts—the ability to inject such emotional resonance into his tracks—making for a more solitary, heady experience. On “88888888,” Prince of Denmark brings in seemingly aimless piano notes and lays them out like drops of rain in an irregular pattern. A steady kick keeps the momentum forward and a lamenting synth chord bellows around the midpoint. The track has the presence of a funeral—the sounds denoting a sense of grief and loss. Following the calamity of “Shadow Boats, “”88888888 “invokes the aftermath of a storm but not the conclusion of it. The winds may have seceded but the rain continues to fall persistently and indefinitely.
5. Bjarki- Fresh Jive
Closing out my list is Bjarki’s “Fresh Jive” from his latest EP with the same name. Having had such a prolific year with the release of 3 albums, what’s fascinating about Bjarki’s current trajectory is his shift away from the techno that got him famous and into more IDM territory—taking obvious inspiration from Aphex Twin. It’s a welcome evolution that caters well to the Icelander’s playfulness. Out of all the tracks on my list, this is definitely the most jubilant, with buoyant breakbeats pushing the track along. But it’s the icy yet energetic synths that brings to mind the fresh feeling of a storm come to pass—the streets still wet and the air still frigid, the world in better spirits after an onslaught of terrible weather.
1. SW. – Untitled B2
Starting off this list is SW. His latest release on his co-run label SUED, features 11 tracks spread out over lush and dark tones. Though many of the tracks could fit this playlist, I chose “Untitled B2” to be the perfect start. It introduces you quickly into this “rainforest world” with lush pads. Hints of dub trickle in as the beat creeps up. The interplay between the rising synths and sub remind me of the ever changing wind before the storm, hinting at something greater at large.
2. Bryce Helm – Untitled
Leading us to the next track, Untitled by Bryce Helms. A track from the left leaning techno/house experimental album, Persona. Not much is known about this artist. However a quick look at his Bandcamp says he’s from Sacramento, CA and the album is dedicated to his missing mother.
Picking off from where the first track left off, the track is slowly leading the listener to a darker place. Pads and subs wash over the mix, unsure where to go. Slowly the rhythm unfolds giving the piece the momentum it’s wanting, 303-like squelches peppered in for effect. The track never gets to where you’d want it to be but it’s perfect for the moment before a storm.
3. Cottam – Breaking Through The Pain Barrier
Following is Cottam with “Breaking Through The Pain Barrier.” Known for his edits, Cottam takes his time working the dimensions of a track waiting till the last second to give the listeners what they want. Dark and brooding, the ambience is set with the tribal percussions and bass, very reminiscent of Benedikt Frey. As the track progresses, pads and layers are introduced, solidifying the momentum gained. A vocal sample of a chant loops as if calling for something. Taking his time Cottam takes us where we need to be.
4. Loft – Zissou
Not without warning LOFT follows with “Zissou” off his Turbulent Dynamics EP. The track deconstructs dance floor material and reconstructs it in a disorienting experimental fashion. Drum patterns are erratic yet retain a groove reminiscent of experimental footwork. Until it breaks with warm chords signaling a change of direction for the track.
5. Jay Daniel – Paradise Valley
As the rain clears you’re greeted with a ray of sunshine: Jay Daniel’s “Paradise Valley.” A track from his Broken Knowz album released on Technicolor. An excellent intersection of dance floor and home listening, the track oozes with sex appeal and introspection. Being a known drummer, Jay Daniel’s percussion on this track comes out sounding live and fresh. Interestingly, the lead changes over the course of the track, but doesn’t realize itself till the middle where it becomes slow burning.
1. Ross From Friends – Talk To Me You’ll Understand
Oh dear, where do I begin to describe this track? From the beginning, the white noise in the background already reminds me of a heavy night of rain. The melancholic vibes in the track take me to that cloudy day in Potrero Hill, when I searched for a job. There’s a break somewhere after a minute and something, where you feel like the rain is finally going to clear up. Few moments pass without rain, but a head full of clouds float above you like a halo, then the beat’s brought back, and then the rain. This track is so melancholic, it gives me the shivers, but in the most beautiful way imaginable.
2. Andy Stott – Too Many Voices
Yet another one of those tracks that delivers goosebumps all the way down to your spine. At first this mysterious feeling enters the body, wondering where the track will take it. And the vocal kicks in, signaling to your body that you will never know where you are or where you are going, that there is no stability anywhere you are; the stability known to you, is in this sad rain as the droplets of water fall repeatedly and softly over the rubbled concrete. Although there is no beat in this Andy Stott masterpiece, I still sway to the sound of the vocal samples that repeat themselves over and over. This is the perfect track for when I am bussing back Potrero Hill during a long night of rain.
3. Omar S – Smash
This Omar S chilled out track reminds me of a break in the San Francisco rain cycle. This enchanting and temporary moment happens when the clouds are still a dark gray but there is no rain coming. The trees are dripping wet with water that has just fallen from dark gray clouds. And the puddles still fresh from the heavy and annoying drizzle that is San Francisco rain. This moment in limbo is a moment I cherish dearly, because it’s the moment that allows me to walk to the next bar, taqueria, or even work. It’s a holy moment in San Francisco, and I think this track describes it very well. To me, the synth bass and the synth lead are being played by winged creatures that come from unknown skies, celebrating with you this small flash of dry cloudy days.
4. Drake – Redemption
Oh my goodness, here come the feels. The lyrics are awesome, yet kinda messed up, but I will let you guys interpret it. The chords in the background are really whats get me. They are perfect for murky, melancholy routes on the MUNI (SF transit service). Drakes breakup/sad vibes always hit me in the best possible way, especially when It’s raining. I may not be crying with the Bay Area, but my soul is crying with it— crying because the track is just that good.
5. Big Strick – 2 Track
My final track for the rain, is by one of Detroit’s finest. His name is Big Strick and he’s Omar S’ big cousin (If you don’t know who Omar S is, I suggest you search “Rewind” by him to get you started). As a Detroit house cat, moody tracks just run through his veins. There really is nothing he can do about it. Anyway this track starts off like it’s going to be a drum track, but Strick fades in a piano loop that is so moody, you feel the rain of emotion trickling down your sweet face. In my eyes, this piano riff is beautiful, almost angelic. In fact, you feel like the clouds are just about done with their crying, and soon they will part ways and make room for the Sun, the most high.