The Currents retrospective continues the trend solidified so far at the end of every month, in which I discuss my findings and thoughts about music and other music-related areas mainly having to do with image and/or moving images. Currents is not a real playlist, it’s a place of music discovery taking many detours, morphing and never settling for one area, artist or genre, discouraging obsession and telling a different story each month. It always follows some of my favorite musicians while introducing many others, as well as remixes of their work and is in no way definitive. It’s restricted by the varying amount of time and thought I put into it and, of course, by randomness and the power of infinite choice vs. the algorithm and streaming-oriented nature of the Internet. I have chosen Youtube as the place for those playlists, but also use the Soundcloud channel to repost many artists I discover along the way.
Here is the Currents playlist for July (clicking the link is preferable to listening “in place”, since there are over 400 tracks), and below that are my picks for the month:
Favorite Song: ODESZA – Light of Day + Brooke Annibale – Better By Now
Although ODESZA have been criticized for constantly experimenting, the quality of some of their singles still speaks for itself. Light of Day, featuring Icelandic post-minimalist composer Olafur Arnalds, is a track with a duality to it that feels incredibly moving, the classic lead synth accompanied by a stirring pad and subtle piano sounds. Starting strong by tugging at the heartstrings, then briefly letting go to make sure the listener is prepped for a powerful finale. And that outro, that memorable outro that slowly turns me into an absolute mess!
Exactly what I needed after some strange days. My Heart was blocked and you just opened it. You gave me one of those magical moments…AGAIN!!! This music is so special..I don‘t even have the words to describe it. All I can say is: Thank you for underlining our lifes with those outstanding soundtracks! – Youtube user Mind Dance
The last year took
A whole lot of life out of us
Part of me didn’t even really mind
I stay at home
Watch your face on the telephone
Try to get ahead but I’m falling behind
I really wanted to believe it, somehow
I really wanted it to be, better by now
After Home Again and 5 AM, Brooke Annibale returns with a supremely confident single, evoking the best of Sharon Van Etten and Angel Olsen, less dream-pop and more jaded anthem, accompanied by a video which seems to depict isolation through hive-like imagery: running in place, waiting for life outside to get better. Together with Annibale’s previous singles, Better By Now makes me feel extremely hyped for her upcoming album, to be released in September, promising the usual knack for great songwriting with a more punchy, percussive style.
Favorite Music Video: King Princess – Let Us Die
Finally! King Princess’s Let Us Die is the rock anthem I’ve been waiting for all year. Performed with unshakable confidence, featuring lyrics like “drive the car off of a cliff and let us di(v)e” as well as one of the last performances ever by Taylor Hawkins, Let Us Die uses medical horror, blood and death as motifs in order to deliver a message about pain, relationships and survival, with Mikaela Straus donning angel wings to rock the hell out in one of the year’s finest jams. All from the artist who made another unforgettable jam two years ago (the stunning Ohio, with its larger-than-life riffs), recently used one of her songs as a dream-intermission for another song in a brilliant way, and breathed even more life and personality into Let Us Die when she performed it live on The Tonight Show.
What I want to do is just play the s**t out of this track and see people fall in love with his drumming because he’s a rock god. Drumming is beyond words—it’s an emotion, and I felt it when it graced my track. I started crying when I heard him play on this track. I just want to do him justice and play this song live and rock out.” – King Princess
Favorite July Surprise/Catchiest Song: Ada Rook and Ash Nerve team up on Angel Electronics’ One Thousand and One Nights
We all know that “Ada (Rook)’s growl is iconic, and her electronic production is addictive as all f**k” (bandcamp), but if you were shocked by the recent video for Rook’s Gravity Weapon, with its sudden apocalyptic feel, with One Thousand and One Nights you’ll be reminded (for the thousandth and one time) that she can also write, or just perform a mean pop hook anytime. The song is one of the year’s most infectious DIY synth/hyper/pop-rock tracks, one which sees Rook joining gay raver Ash Nerve, after the two had previously collaborated on Nerve’s LiVe For the Fantasy.
Favorite Music Discovery: Simina Oprescu + Sandunes + Krewella + Ouri
I’ll be short here, since it’s more about just discovering, and liking (not reviewing) artists and their work:
I found Simina Oprescu while browsing several of the yearly rosters on Shape (the “treasure trove discovery website” this month, see further below). A Romanian-born multidisciplinary artist, Oprescu seems to enjoy some of the things AEB does as well: Deleuze and Guattari’s rhizome – likened to rats and the act of burrowing on one of the quotes on her Soundcloud page – postmodernism, non/sense, scoring old movies, bird whistles, experimenting with audio and video in live performances, redefining spaces and moments and above all, (the shape of) sound and rhythm in a way similar to some of my favorite artists like Jasmine Guffond or Midori Hirano. If you’re Romanian, you might know about the Simultan Festival held in Timisoara, a perfect place for artists like Oprescu to showcase their work, and here‘s a performance of hers from the festival back in 2020.
There is a ‘vocabulary of sound’ as I call it. In 2018, Anette Vande Gorne almost gave me an epiphany with her Treatise on Writing Acousmatic on Fixed Media; which helped me a lot to arrange all the sounds in little folders in my head, on textures, dynamics, velocity, colours, timbre, montage…and how to find them in day-to-day objects and then record them. Personally, I found it absolutely fascinating. Because for the first time, the medium was not constraining me. It is everywhere, a sense of freedom. Image felt like a prison. – Simina Oprescu
If you’ve browsed these huge retrospective playlists at all, you might have noticed them going in a “world music” direction and settling for one or two countries a month. This month was about India, and among all the new artists I discovered, Sandunes stood out with a consistent, blissful, playfully complex output that was just different from everything I’ve heard recently, as well as the thrilling Resident Advisor performance (see above), in which Sanaya Ardeshir, a gifted piano player and percussionist, seems right at home while recreating a medley of some of her most representative songs live. Sandunes also collaborated with Half Waif and Richard Spaven, and her sound has drawn comparisons to Bonobo and Tycho.
I actually enjoy some “mainstream” DJ/producers, Tiesto most of all, and while I wouldn’t call Krewella mainstream, the number of plays for their Alive video would at least say they’re really, really well-known in the EDM world, and, in my opinion, deservedly so. Each Krewella track is a hugely enjoyable pocket-universe of euphoria, and it feels almost unfair to post Alive knowing the more complex, diverse journey Yasmine and Jahan Yousaf took their fans over the years, but the truth is, for me it all started with that one song. I’ve tried to recreate big chunks of their journey in the playlist, but if you want to hear it almost entirely, you can do so over one hour, by listening to their zer0 album live concert experience, released in 2020. Krewella have collaborated with KSHMR, got some recognition with this month’s Disney+ show Ms. Marvel (a series I haven’t gotten to watching at the time of writing this) and should appeal to fans of Alison Wonderland. Their output is immense, but I haven’t really listened to a single song I haven’t found myself replaying over and over again.
Much less needs to be said about Ouri, a Montreal-based musician and multi-instrumentalist who makes cutting-edge electronic music AND twisted R&B, with each one of her videos a masterpiece (definitely the best material I’ve heard from the Ghostly label recently) and her Boiler Room performance together with Mindbath regarded as the best Boiler Room ever by many fans all over the world, definitely my favorite since last year’s Shadowax.
Favorite Album: Kuedo – Infinite Window
Among many great releases, Kuedo’s Infinite Window is ultimately the July album I would listen to in its entirety over and over again. I have fond memories of Kuedo after hearing the Laurel Halo remix of his Work, Live & Sleep In Collapsing Space and listening to the Severant album. Not a reinvention in any way, Infinite Window offers the same shifting terrain we’ve come to expect from the genre-defying artist, albeit in smaller doses. A Kuedo track consists of sections, emerging patterns and rhythms which rise only to suddenly die down, but the connection, the overarching structure isn’t apparent, and this is what makes Kuedo’s output stand out, especially for a new listener: the disconnected feeling, the appearance of multiple parts not “stitched” together right, not working in unison. This is music to challenge Theodor Adorno’s judgement of “popular music” in his “On the Fetish Character in Music and the Regression of Listening” while also subtly reinforcing it (Kuedo’s output has been compared to “soundtrack” or “robo-jazz” and, at a facile reading at least, Adorno also detested jazz improvization). Music which evokes William Gibson’s cyberspace and the literary unpredictability of Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities, in particular Ersilia and Octavia.
Favorite Live Performance: Spirit of the Beehive – Live at Pitchfork 2022 Chicago
Unlike Glastonbury or Bonnaroo, which were streamed by the BBC and Hulu, the 2022 edition of the Pitchfork Festival in Chicago was partly streamed on Youtube, albeit not without some glitches. I will quickly make some notes regarding what I managed to catch and ended up liking, in the hope that you can still find some pieces of those performances online:
- Ethel Cain’s performance was raw and haunting, some tracks from Preacher’s Daughter shone, House in Nebraska above all. Perhaps unrelated, here‘s a discussion in which Cain discusses her experiences growing up, the aesthetics on her album, the Southern Gothic genre and Americana.
- Amber Mark was one of the headliners for Friday, her infectious energy, interactions with the crowd and all-around amazing sound culminating in a stunning rendition of Darkside
- PC Music’s Hyd’s style might not always be the best suited for live performances, but she surprised with the soulful delivery on her closing song, Into My Arms, as well as unreleased songs (Chlorophyll) and live debuts (Trust Nobody).
- yeule’s set was the most consistent, with Bites on My Neck the absolute standout
- Magdalena Bay dominated Saturday with a full, track by track performance of their Mercurial World album, with fans going wild in the chatbox and a great choice for a live drummer, one who definitely brought new dimensions to favorites such as Chaeri or Secrets.
- Having missed both favorites Japanese Breakfast and Low, Spirit of the Beehive ended up being my favorite discovery overall, the complexity of the music simply astonishing, and the name apparently a tribute to one of the best movies about childhood ever made. After the concert I listened to Entertainment, Death in its entirety – which sounds totally different in its studio version – and their Fender session and found out how the band members talk about “sharing” their anxiety. I am leaving one of their 2021 performances, filmed by Youtube channel Dissenter Works, simply because the Pitchfork one isn’t available any longer, and perhaps a future article about channels such as Dissenter and why they are so important is in order.
Favorite Treasure Trove Website of July: Shape Platform + Rokolectiv
The Shape Platform, currently in its Shape+ form, “supported 336 emerging European artists and presented their work at festivals, events and venues in numerous countries across Europe and beyond”. The apex of electronic experimentation crossed with technological, philosophical and socio-political advances, Shape offers a changing roster of artists every year (among them: the abovementioned Simina Oprescu, alongside Grand River, Nene H and Swan Meat, all featured in our final playlist; as well as our favorite artist of 2021, Oklou, or older faves like KABLAM or Klara Lewis), is structured similarly to Daata, most likely designed with brutalism in mind, with sections for reading about artists and shows over the years, another one for interviews and a special one for artist mixes. Our suggestion as a starting point would be listening to the recent “best of” mix here, showcasing the current roster, and slowly reading about your emerging favorites, while inspecting your country’s Shape-associated festival, if available.
One such part of Shape is the Romanian Rokolectiv festival, which currently hosts multiple online exhibitions featuring video works, out of which we’ve selected andotherstories and Apophenia, mainly due to the topics approached within: the Greek philosopher Diogenes (aka the OG cynic), card games, love and artificial intelligence, among many others.
Favorite TV Shows: Motherland: Fort Salem + Chloe + Paper Girls
Motherland: Fort Salem is endlessly fascinating from the get-go, taking place in an alternate-history United States where witches were never publicly hunted, because the powerful Sarah Alder (a reference to the real-life Sarah Good, perhaps?) made a pact with the government, ensuring that every witch offspring would serve in the Army – for flag and country. With superb cinematography, a trio of protagonists who are much more than the id-ego-superego split, a surprisingly honest look at the horrors of conscription (which is likened to slavery), an enemy that subverts the “war on terror” ideology and above all, a magic system that takes its cues from pitch theory, bel canto and tonality, this is YA storytelling at its best and most bingeable: a boon for everyone who is anxiously awaiting for the film adaptation of Naomi Alderman’s pivotal book, The Power.
The BBC and Amazon Studios’s Chloe, developed by Alice Seabright, might be best miniseries of 2022 yet. It’s Ingrid Goes West + You + Inventing Anna + Clique, and Erin Doherty’s awe-inspiring performance as Becky will keep viewers guessing as she steals identities, creates fake social media profiles, improvises her way out of dangerous moments, lies and cheats in order to discover the truth behind her best friend’s death and how her posh group of friends all fit into it, with everything leading up to a mysterious finale. The kind of series Clickbait could have been had it focused on Zoe Kazan’s character exclusively. Most of anything that has “BBC” and “thriller” in its description is definitely worth watching, and Chloe is no exception.
Back in 2020 I think I read more comics than in all previous four years put together. Die, Blackbird, Monstress, Paper Girls, the new Runaways. Then I realized very few people read American comics anymore because the industry is monopolized and it’s a terrible place for creators. The medium definitely needs a new distribution model, but this doesn’t really say anything about the quality of the work itself, and comics are still a hot property whether you like what’s happening behind the scenes or not – Paper Girls is the third Brian K. Vaughan adaptation I know of, after Runaways and the less successful Y: The Last Man.
Watching the first episode and realizing that it’s about time travel and having meaningful conversations with older versions of yourself absolutely took me back – not to 1988, but to 2020: cooped up in my living room, reading first issues from just about every ongoing comicbook series on Amazon’s Kindle app (Amazon was kind enough to put them up for free, so you knew what’s good right from the start and fork up the money for upcoming issues). Paper Girls is one of the best comicbooks of the decade, but the first episode (while getting just about everything right on paper), can seem a bit rushed in its attempt to both hook the viewer and stay relevant. The absolute best thing is its selection of tunes, both classics (Danzig’s Mother, Bananarama’s Cruel Summer and Beach House’s Space Song) and ones I haven’t heard, but YYMV on how fast it changes lanes and the whiplash-prone, rather old-school nature of the story.
Bonus mention: Westworld‘s season 4, for – almost – successfully reinventing itself once more.
Favorite Movies: Not Okay + Don’t Let Me Go + Dashcam
Not Okay is the sophomore feature of actor-director Quinn Shepard (who made her debut in 2017 with the equally captivating Blame): a rise and fall story centered on a graphic designer who, after lying on social media about surviving a terrorist attack in Paris, becomes a popular Instagram influencer. Not Okay is one of the films with the best emotional arcs of the year – I don’t see Danni as the villain here (although she starts as one and Shephard definitely says she is, the movie affords her the empathy she would never get in real life and locks the viewer inside her perspective), she’s just not a “good” person, and this is an easy film to project your own experiences into: anyone who’s suffered abuse or disproportionate blowback from a community might actually root for Danni and find excuses for her behavior (compared to what she suffers because of it), while the majority will most likely find her increasingly irritable and even hate her.
Zoey Deutch finds a great balance between Danni’s shallow, opportunistic impulses and the personal growth that seems to be a result of befriending a real trauma survivor, slam-poetry activist Rowan (Mia Isaac in a standout performance). The film comes with a clear message: the current culture, whether you like to call it “cancel” or “consequence” culture, has no room for second chances, empathy or public forgiveness. People like Danni can only find their redemption arc by looking within and from groups who truly accept and embrace them, faults and all. Depicting just how easy it is to traumatize ourselves with addictive use of social media, as well as the double standards that come with the survivor-turned-into-superstar status, Not Okay is one of the must-see dramedies of the year.
Some critics called the ending to Don’t Make Me Go “misguided”. That’s one way to see it. I see it as a way to rewrite a very personal history and immortalize one’s father, and am operating on the knowledge that at least some of this film was autobiographical. It was funny seeing this and Not Okay in the same day, with both Hannah Marks and Quinn Shepard subtly reinventing their chosen movie: the road trip and the rise and fall story. In a strange way, these two films feel like sister films, both featuring Mia Isaac in star-making roles and a really cruel twist. However, it’s John Cho who surpasses himself, after having seemingly won the battle against Hollywood Asian-American stereotypes in the eyes of many critics. Cho has infinite leading man potential – if you like him in this, Kogonada’s Columbus is an easy to one to recommend next.
Last but not least, I have never seen anything like Dashcam ever. No horror comedy has doubled down on the unsavory aspects of a protagonist while making her so immensely likable at the same time. Giant Drag frontwoman and controversial Internet celebrity Annie Hardy (playing herself) shouts, raps, offends just about everyone, gets into car accident after car accident, hacks and slashes her way through a simple zombie situation which escalates into a hellish finale. Meanwhile, the viewer is bombarded with hate speech from her fans and often has to watch with eyes peeled so they don’t miss a meme-worthy, anticlimactic joke from some edgelord or another.
It’s simply glorious – Annie’s meta-character riffing on every pissed-out, talented artist out there (and there were lots of them) who didn’t like being told what to do during the pandemic and “blessed” their followers with anti-vaxxing, or just antisocial “gems of wisdom”. The movie proves that Internet people, not just Annie, can really suck, for lack of a better term, the “for the lulz” mentality is still funny, and after a three-year pandemic that still rages on, it’s definitely not “too soon” to roast the many problems society faced during the worst of it, those we like to keep under the rug, by constantly hurling profanities at them. And yes, I see it as ironic: there’s a difference between enabling and endorsing where performance art is concerned, even if – of course – most critics didn’t see it that way.
The improvised end credits, in which Annie disses every cast and crew member, often involving their genitals and rapid-fire expletives, is a hoot, and I laughed hard while being swept away by the movie’s technical brilliance. If all it took for Rob Savage to deliver this masterpiece was the so-so Host, then I’m all for Host 2, and Annie Hardy making me remember that I also loved to rap over stupid things when I was young and dumb – that is one of the best things a Jason Blum-produced movie’s ever done for me.
“We wanted to make a movie where the protagonist was the most dangerous person in the movie. And if she just acted in a reasonable way, the whole movie would be over in five minutes and everyone would survive.” – Rob Savage on Dashcam
Featured Image is Gutter by Jay Perry
About the artist (source: jayperryworks.com)
I grew up in the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia but moved to Baltimore for school when I was 18, and I’ve lived in that area ever since. By now, both the Blue Ridge mountains and the Fells Point piers each feel so much like home that I miss them terribly if I’m away for too long. That leaves me feeling a little restless, often.
But that sense of belonging to two places, and sometimes being caught in between, has given me an interest in different points of view. I believe much of my work — design, illustration, and writing alike — has grown out of that curiosity for assembling bigger stories from a lot of small details. Or at least trying.
Other works by Jay Perry: