Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Cold Specks, Part I

One of the most unique and talented singers I've been listening to for the past five years is Cold Specks. In 2013 she collaborated with Moby on two songs for his Innocents album: "A Case for Shame" and "Tell Me." Her voice was haunting; her lyrics, sublime. The vocals on those tracks took my breath away. I felt as if I was hearing a voice from my childhood that I long ago forgot existed as a possibility.


I devoured everything by her. I bought her first album I Predict a Graceful Expulsion as well as all the B-side and one-off tracks I could find. These songs were damn beautiful--a constellation of doom-soul and goth-folk. "Blank Maps," for me, is the highlight of her early work.


That October I flew to Los Angeles for Moby's concert at the Fonda Theatre, where I saw Cold Specks perform her two songs with him. I was enraptured.

The following year she released Neuroplasticity, an album gushing with angular jazz forms restrained within listenable pop structures. Her collaboration with jazz trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire on that album proved fruitful, and she sang a track on his album that was also released in 2014. Here is "A Season of Doubt."


In just the first two years of following her career, Cold Specks excelled in bizarrely disparate genres. While cutting her teeth on folk-leaning doom-soul, she's also shown herself an impressive lyricist, singer, and interpreter of trip-hop, electronica, soul, and jazz. She even provided backing vocals on Massive Attack's "Dead Editors." All of this sets the stage for her third album, 2017's Fool's Paradise.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Kronos Quartet

Kronos Quartet is one of my favorite music groups. I first saw them perform live in 1989 or 1990, and as the cliche goes, they changed my life.

I had studied music since I was a child. I am a classically trained pianist, and in high school and college, I played both oboe and horn. I knew classical music and could pronounce "Wagner" and "Chopin" correctly. But Kronos Quartet revealed the world of new music to me. And for that, I will be forever grateful.

I have since seen them perform multiple times, and I have many of their recordings. Sometimes I seek out a specific track or movement for a particular mood; other times I put on an album or my entire playlist and let what comes come, especially while I'm writing.

Here are my Top Ten tracks performed by Kronos Quartet according iTunes:
  1. White Man Sleeps #4, composer Kevin Volans
  2. Adagio, composer Samuel Barber
  3. The Beatitudes, composer Vladimir Martynov
  4. String Quartet #5, Movement I, composer Philip Glass
  5. Schubert-Quintet (Unfinished), Movement I, composer Vladimir Martynov
  6. Schubert-Quintet (Unfinished), Movement II, composer Vladimir Martynov
  7. String Quartet #5, Movement IV, composer Philip Glass
  8. String Quartet #5, Movement II, composer Philip Glass
  9. String Quartet #5, Movement V, composer Philip Glass
  10. String Quartet #5, Movement III, composer Philip Glass
I don't know this from experience, but I suspect that the top four tracks will get you laid, if that's your thing. At the very least, they can help set the mood for some sweet lovemaking. But that mostly depends on your own fuckability.