Opening Your Brain

I can feel a bit of a sea change happening with me, musically speaking. I’m feeling myself looking and searching for new sounds to feed my head. I’m starting to get numb to the “usual stuff”: electronic, synth, Krautrock, ambient. Those vibes I’ve been feeding my brain for the past few years. It’s this steady diet that has been nourishing and rewarding and has sustained my artistic craving. Though, every once in a while I need to expand the palate a bit and remind myself that yes, I do love all kinds of music. I appreciate string quartets and Debussy as much as I do a modular synth space drift in an abandoned Berlin church and a stoner/doom metal concept record about the Weedian people. I take my music in all forms, speeds, depths, and vibes.

A music that I love dearly is jazz. Not just any jazz, but the 60s and 70s jazz. Impulse, Blue Note, be-bop, hard bop, modal, free form, fusion, and pretty much anything Miles did between 1968 and 1975. I love the exploratory nature of Coltrane and Davis, and the quirky jaunts of Monk and Dolphy. I love Lee Morgan, Kenny Dorham, Freddie Hubbard, the Afro-Cuban cool of Gillespie, and the towering forward-thinking of Andrew Hill. I love seeing black and white photos of these artists in the studio wearing tweed jackets and playing in the Van Gelder studios or New York nightclubs, smoke rings dangling over their heads like halos.

In some ways I feel like that time period was the last time we had true music innovators. Artists treading completely new ground, and re-writing the old into something that was as reviled as it was revered at the time. Whether it was jazz critics talking ill of Davis for going electric; or rock critics talking ill of Dylan for going electric, the mid-to-late 60s were a time of re-invention in music.

I think we’re starting to see that right now in the world of film composers. Mica Levi, the late Johann Johannsson, Cliff Martinez, Clint Mansell, Mark Korvan, Jeff Russo, Colin Stetson, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, Jonny Greenwood, Michael Abels, Jeff Grace, Bobby Krlic(The Haxan Cloak), Geoff Barrow and Ben Salisbury, and Hildur Guðnadóttir have all written very forward-thinking and engaging film scores in the last several years. Whether electronic/synth-based or more orchestral, these composers are pushing the boundaries of what film scoring can be. I just saw Todd Phillips’ Joker yesterday(more on this incredible film later.) Hildur Guðnadóttir’s score blurs the line between the traditional orchestral film score and more modern flavors. It’s haunting, frenetic, and beautiful. She’s worked with Johann Johannsson, and scored the sequel to Sicario, Sicario : Day of the the Soldado, keeping the spirit of Johannsson’s original score while making it her own.

What am I trying to say here? I’m not sure, other than maybe always keep your mind open. Enjoy it all, man. Don’t pigeonhole yourself and your tastes to just a few tasty nuggets. Buy something new because the album art blew your mind, or because your favorite artist said it inspired their art. Go down the rabbit hole for an afternoon with an artist that maybe didn’t trip your trigger 20 years ago(like I did recently with the Dead.) Maybe 20 years is enough time to rewire your brain and open those portals that weren’t open in the late 90s. Hit up a smaller record label and dig into their roster. One artist could lead to another, which could lead to another. Maybe some of those bands are connected to other bands, which will lead you down a few more rabbit holes. Pretty soon you’ve just discovered a new universe of music.

All because you clicked for the hell of it.

I’ll never not like heavy synth and electronic albums. Just like I’ll never not like thrash/doom metal. Or jazz, 80s metal, classical, film scores, Krautrock, hip hop, classic rock, 90s indie, ambient/drone, prog rock, 80s pop, 60s psych, and yes, even disco.

I’m still working on the Grateful Dead, though.

Want some suggestions for different rabbit holes to jump down? Check these labels out: El Paraiso Records, Burning Witches Records, Holodeck Records, Blue Note Records, Cadabra Records, Tiger Lab Vinyl, Impulse Records, Invada Records, Milan Records, Sacred Bones Records. Dig in.

13 thoughts on “Opening Your Brain

  1. I’ve been in the mood for some jazz of late. Still can’t quite find my way with the hard bop, though… but that doesn’t matter when there’s so much out there. I’ve also found myself listening to a lot of Sinatra again (Particularly Watertown and She Shot Me Down) and listening to some stuff that I used to listen to a helluva lot in the 90s.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I need to visit some Sinatra. I haven’t delved in, but there were a few songs in Joker and it got me interested. As far as jazz, I highly recommend Kenny Dorham’s Round About Midnight at the Cafe Bohemia. Great mid 50s groovy jazz.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Cheers, JH – I’ll add them to the list.

        Sinatra is a favourite of mine. A staple in the musical diet over the last 20 years or so. His early stuff with Capitol is pretty much essential and though things get a bit less inspired by the time he starts Reprise, there’s some great stuff there.

        His post-retirement stuff is okay. Ol’ Blue Eyes is Back spoiled only by Noah, but She Shot Me Down is a highlight. Accessible and Sinatra sounds at his best.


      2. Yeah, totally new to me… though the name was vaguely familiar. I also lined up The Cooker. It’s Art Blakey and Hank Mobley later… and I’ll mix it up with some Grant Green.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Cannot go wrong with any of those. 100/100! Grant Green’s Idle Moments is serious late night vibes. Chill out for sure. Oh, and Kenny Burrell’s Midnight Blue. “Chitlins Con Carne” is seriously smokin.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Kenny Burrell is duly noted! I’ll get that on later, too…

        Also, jazz album covers are the best, aint they? They just say so much. Especially those Blue Note releases.

        Liked by 1 person

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