Mogwai kicks things off with "Rano Piano" from their latest, Hardcore Will Never Die but You Will. An awesomely powerful and catchy guitar riff pulls the song along, anchored by propulsive drums and a whole mess of electronic noise. "Glass Deers" by Braids follows and features a gently picked guitar and gorgeous female vocals (both clean and chopped up and stuttering) along with shuffling drums, electro-pop that's catchy without being irritating, sad and gripping without being melodramatic or banal. Mark Templeton's wonderful "At Your Feet" is layers of electric guitar with percussion from drums and a lot of shaker. The guitar plays a simple refrain throughout with a rising tide of delayed guitar squall building up over it.
These first three tracks should more or less tell you what to expect. This mix goes a lot of places and explores a lot of ground. Deaf Center's "Close Forever Watching" is dark and deep, a very heavy, very waterlogged sonic journey. On the other hand Matthew Cooper, better known as Eluvium, offers a bright but wistful piece for piano and strummed, delayed guitar along with murmuring, whispering electronics from his original soundtrack for the film Some Days are Better Than Others. Meanwhile Dirty Beaches' "A Hundred Highways" sounds like someone took a 1950s rock and roll LP, rubbed it with dirt and gravel, and threw it on a turntable with an ancient cartridge. It's scuzzy as hell.
Then there's Grouper, Julianne Barwick, and Motion Sickness of Time Travel - three female solo artists - who make their voices - looped, delayed, layered, distorted - into a primary component of their pieces. Barwick's "Envelope" is more or less just her voice, a tremendously affecting track of layered and looped wordless vocals swaying and cascading and folding into one another. Rachel Evens of MSoTT uses her trademark spacey synths and haunted, murmuring vocals to take the listener on a drifting, meditative journey from one of her newest tapes, A Disembodied Voice in the Darkness. Liz Harris aka Grouper absolutely stuns with "Vapor Trails," one of her most powerful tracks yet off of Alien Observer, itself one half of a two album release called A I A (the other half is Dream Loss). Her trembling keyboard, thick with reverb, and softly glowing guitar complement layers of wonderfully soft and ghostly voice, a terribly sad song that sounds like it's drifting up from the bottom of the sea.
Also in the mix, Colin Stetson's undeniable genius on the baritone sax is here for all to hear. Somehow Stetson manages to vocalize in tremendously engaging ways, transforming his instrument into something wholly new in the process, a fact that's true for the entirety of his New History Warfare Volume 2: Judges. This sounds like a heavily processed piece but it's recorded live with no overdubs. It's a thrilling and original piece of music. A Hawk and a Hacksaw offer up a hymn for strings, a mournful, lovely tune dominated by an emotionally bowed violin. Evenings' "Still Young" is a catchy bit of electro instrumentalism with syncopated drum machines and keyboards, a definite must for fans of The Album Leaf. Electronic music master Tim Hecker's piece "No Drums" from the awesomely titled Ravedeath 1972 is drifting, guazy, and contemplative, soft and pulsing, reminiscent of German producer Gas. Ending it all is "Postcards from 1952" off of Explosions in the Sky's latest. It's true that this Texas based band is still doing the whole "post-rock" thing that is arguably derivative and old hat by now but they do it so well that it's impossible to really complain. Their newest is a gorgeous, elating piece of work and this track is one of the most intense of the bunch, a fantastic, stirring piece of music.
Hopefully there's something for everyone here. As always, thoughts are appreciated. Enjoy.
The First-Third-of-2011 Mix
1. Mogwai - Rano Piano
2. Braids - Glass Deers
3. Mark Templeton - At Your Feet
4. Grails - Future Primative
5. Deaf Center - Close Forever Watching
6. Matthew Cooper - Some Days are Better than Others
7. Tape - Dust and Light
8. Rene Hell - Detuned Clarinet
9. Motion Sickness of Time Travel - Vision of Bliss and Peace
10. Evenings - Still Young
11. Dirty Beaches - A Hundred Highways
12. Julianna Barwick - Envelope
13. A Hawk and a Hacksaw - Lazslo Lassu
14. Tim Hecker - No Drums
15. Grouper - Vapor Trails
16. Colin Stetson - In Love and in Justice
17. Explosions in the Sky - Postcards from 1952
Total Runtime: 1:33:27
edit: just noticed the "album title" on the tracks calls this a "first quarter" mix rather than first third. Change as you are wont.