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The Remy Caplan Playlist: A Manchester Soundscape

On meeting my 24 year old cousin Remy Caplan (his mom and Uncle and I were raised like siblings) I used my usual litmus test and asked him what music he liked. I was impressed immediately and specifically when he name checked John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme which from “Acknowledgement“‘s three blast horn start and onwards thru “Resolutions” cathartic jam of faith cuts the listening public into two -those who love it and every one else. So i did what any right thinking blogger would do, i begged him for a mix.

I thought I’d found a kindred musical spirit in Remy but I was wrong. For one thing, when I was twenty-four I was listening to power poppers the Individuals and crazy rhythmists the Feelies, I certainly didn’t have the musical vocabulary to enjoy Coltrane. And for another I am a populist by definition: sales matter, fan base matters and Remy simply isn’t. I have spent the past couple of days thinking about Caplan’s playlist, looking for the defining charge that ignites him: and it is music as background: it is a distinctive shaping of air and space through vibrations and not verse/chorus/verse. Caplan is such a sound architecture that he managed to find the only Lil Wayne song that could possibly fit the bill: a Flying Lotus remix which along with his “Roberta Flack” is a dance mix as dub drub: the vocals on both songs are seriously doctored and the sampling is a doozy blur just behind it. Lil Wayne is on the fore and the background simultaneously.

Flying Lotus’s Great Aunt was Alice Coltrane – John Coltrane’s wife and the similarities are invisible and conjoined. It is in how Capland, and we, connect our ears: if you don’t connect to Lotus or Coltrane it is all music in airports and if you do you hear Eno-Bowie collaborations like “Subterraneans” bubbling like a stew of sound.

Even when Remy listens to rock bands he chooses Grizzly Bears, Mark Lanagan, and …and you will know them by their trail of dead. Both Dead and Lanagan have played the quiet-loud axis forever, and both of the songs are quiet distortions of sound that wait like a ticking time bomb before exploding. Grizzly Bears is a different matter entirely. A Beach Boysy harmony band who sound like they’ve bought fourteen tabs of acid only to have them switched on them for sugar cubes and have mistaken a sugar rush for a flashback. It is not that they are fake “Pet Sounds”, it’s that they are naive Wilson fetishist.

Just as telling is Remy’s taste in hip hop. He chooses GZA’s “Liquid Swords” with it’s extended Kung Fu monologue and it’s weird repeated piano motif… it sounds like sound, it sound like… RZA. Indeed, I can imagine RZA using Caplan’s playlist as the soundtrack for a Quentin Tarantino-Bruce Lee 70s movie of your dream. Cannibal Ox I had never heard of before but I am overwhelmingly impressed by these abstract (per Wikipedia and they should know) rappers who sound like Dead Prez fronting Jackson Pollack -if I can mix my metaphors.

I have had my problems, with hip-hop jazz fusion bands whether the name on the tip of your tongue is Buckshot LaFonque or, as it is here, anti-pop consortium. I saw branford a coupla months ago and thought he was great and just listened to pianist Mathew Shipp and have no kick against him but I don’t like “Staph”, am not wowed by Diverse (and don’t like the lyric: culturally high minded hip hop is the moral equivalent of alcohol free beer). I split the diff with Japanese jazz band Soil And Pimp Sessions.

The best of the lot is Telefon Tel Aviv -another soundscape by an electronic Chicago duo and it is real good and “My Week Beats Your Year” is a knock out rhythmic roundelay with a hot sounding chick singer. I have nothing to say about Mr. Scruff except joke songs wear off fast.

So what do we think of young Mr. Caplan’s playlist? Caplan is an abstract thinker living in a concrete world: his sounds are like the blueprint of the World Trade Center -large, unwieldy, waiting to be built, and with even its failure a fascinating glimpse inside things as they are being built, or begging to be built, or on the verge of being built. They are the new Manchester skyline brushed against the trembling and crumbling facade of the past: a 100 years of musical history, replaying, reformatting, merging and reemerging. What I don’t care for in Caplan’s taste is more than made up for in a consistency of vision.

Remy tells me he plays drums, I would hope he forms a jazz-dance hybrid along the lines of Drop the Limes rock-dance fusion. Till then I hope I can convince him to illuminate his soundscape of the mind on my blog. It was a pleasure meeting Remy and I appreciate him taking the time to share his playlist with us.

The Remy Caplan Playlist:

1) Mistakes & regrets – And you will know us by the trail of the dead
2) Sun Drums and soil- Four Tet
3) Providence- Subtle
4) 7th Message- Prefuse 73
5) Iron Galaxy- Cannibal Ox
6) Liquid Swords- GZA
7) Too much love- Lcd sound system
8) My weeks beats your year- Telefon Tel Aviv
9) Two weeks- Grizzly Bear
10) show rooms- Sam prekop
11) Tea and cake (sterolab remix) – The sea and cake
12) We want more- Soil and pimp sessions
13) Roberta Flack- Flying Lotus
14) Fish – Mr scruff
15) Staph- Anti pop consortium vs Matthew shipp
16) Scales- soil and pimp sessions
17) In Accordance- Diverse
18) One Hundred Days – Mark Lanagan
19) robo tusin feat Lil Wayne – Flying Lotus

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