Hello! Welcome to Make Shit Mondays, where the posts are right-brained and the attitude is crafty and just your type. (I swear, it won’t always be mixes – the future holds the making of tangible objects, like um, clothes and plushies and electronics and art and accoutrement and food and drink and whatever else we can get our hands on, as well as music.) And sorry to be tardy to the party – there were some computer issues but things seem peachy now, thankfully, and barely in time for this to yet be a Make Shit Monday post to boot.
That being said, I’m a bit of a mixaholic – I have no problems admitting I have a problem, except for that part where it is totally awesome and not a problem at all and I accept the things I cannot change, rearrange everything else, and have the wisdom to know when to fadeout.
Mixes by request are a whole different cat, however, and they are not all gray in the dark. Unless someone gives you carte blanche, making a mix by request is, to my mind, incredibly difficult; it takes a lot of effort and compromise and listening to realize someone else’s vision in music. (I think this is also potentially true of home decorating, to a far lesser extent.) I have a passion for soundtracks and a lot of respect for the folks who make good ones as a result. (Infra. Also, I want their jobs.) On a personal level, I’m just generally less interested – if you have a musical vision, as a general matter, I want to see what happens when you realize it, not when I half-assedly attempt to free it, fully formed, from your mind.
However, sometimes it’s hard to say no to someone you’ve known since 5th grade. So when Rikka asked me if I’d be willing to help her out with a care package by making a mix, well . . . actually it’s easier shown than told:
Rikka: I need a mix in the theme of starshine whales, which do not exist, actually, but they are sparkly and fly; I apparently talk about them in my sleep sometimes.
Rooks: Woahly crap. Um, ok. I need you to write a brief treatise of everything you know about starshine whales, and a sketch wouldn’t be remiss.
Rikka: Right. I will be doing a sketch for the case cover – but I don’t even know what kind of music to match up to this shit. Can I paint you up a stickish doodle of the image i have in mind? Because I really need a soundtrack to an image.
Yeah . . . sure. :::blinks::: I clearly have a decent amount of faith in myself, but making a mix based on an image of a fictitious magical creature with no backstory seemed like more than a notion. As our conversation continued, I gleaned that starshine whales prefer northern climes and “flying over weird shit,” drag clouds of gentle, pleasant rain in their wake, and are in the rainbows and Carebears school of cuteness. I should note that, at about the time she and I were having this chat, I had recently finished the first in a then new series of mixes I was working on entitled Monsters and Gods: Whatever Happened to Fay Wray? (post forthcoming some other Make Shit Monday); Rikka had done my coverart, so I definitely owed her the ol’ college try. (An SEC college try, not a Conference USA college try, if y’all’ll forgive the football analogy.) More importantly, my headspace was still stuffed chock full of impossibilities, improbabilities, and the strange romance of the unknown. I asked her if this mix could go in that series, and she agreed, and agreed again to send me some tracks that might clue me in to what she hears when she thinks of starshine whales; a mix about these surprisingly aerodynamic sea mammals of the night was, it seemed, to be positively riddled with a pervasive and lingering nostalgia, even as the subjects themselves cavorted effortlessly in the night sky.
After I got over an urge to free Rikka from what was unequivocally an unholy possession by Lisa Frank, I set about trying to make a mix for the beginning of the end of a perfect night, something that was, somehow, nostalgic for the future as well as the past. In order to do that, I had to make up my own story, one that ran concurrently with Rikka’s, taking the listener over a similar journey to the same place . . . but allowing for the fact that my head was, at the time, filled with giant sea monsters and mummies and quietly doomed loves subsumed to a society that would not accept them, while her impression involved capturing a series of moments, snapshots of a one-night-only picnic under a soft summer rain beneath the hazy lights of glittering, opalescent humpbacks, just before dawn rises, patient and unforgiving. And I had to do it in a week.
So I made Monsters & Gods: In the Hall of the Starshine Whales as a hallucinatory episode, a magnanimous break from an unfortunate, unifying reality – loneliness. My version was simple: the subject of our tale has been institutionalized, a la evil geniuses. (Not the lovable kind, the deeply disturbed and mean with it kind.) It’s awful, as many institutions are – think dark and twisted experiments and crushing neglect – but at night, on rare occasion, the residents are sedated. At night they get a hypodermic full of cotton candy and escape to a warm breeze on their face that tastes of water; they see beautiful things above them and know the transience of grace. This is what I came up with:
So here I think I’ve rather spiffily solved this conundrum, especially given the time allotted. I handed the mix over to Rikka, but no sooner had I given myself a friendly “attagal” – think Brian at the end of The Breakfast Club – I get a message. Poot. We have a problem, it seems: M&G:Starshine Whales is too romantic. But Rikka, I say, you asked for a mix inspired by a cuddly midnight picnic watching Lisa Frank whales! There’s glitter and little hearts in the air! Pastels! (See above!) Yes, she says, but “I Love You” by The Pipettes through Sam Cooke’s “Cupid” . . . it’s “great, actually, but it’s a bit much” for the intended destination.
Well shit. I forgot, in some ways, that I was making a mix based on someone else’s concept for someone else entirely. Conversely, I really rather liked that mix! (In fairness, we both did.) Rather than chuck it entire, I stuck with what we knew worked – after all, the first disc had ended on an inexplicably airy and rather bright point, given the narrative, so something likely should’ve been done about that regardless. As such, our poor subject (ourselves?) briefly surfaces to discover a more lucid dream, becoming fully aware that this respite is of finite duration (rather than merely suspecting that that’s the case), and chooses – for as long as possible – to end up quietly submerged once more in disc 2: Monsters & Gods: (And Other Fever Dreams and Wonders of the Firmament):
Perhaps it was a paggro revenge plot subconsciously at work, but I’d argue that – while more subtle with it, perhaps, and certainly darker and more . . . wistful – M&G:Fever Dreams is actually also more romantic than the first disc. Whoops? Despite this potential failing, and despite the fact that disc two ends as darkly as disc one begins, the second time was the charm. (I’m still not sure to this day if she sent both or not.)
So here they are, for the nights and days where you manage to get away, but can’t entirely shake the niggling knowledge that, at some point, you’ll have to go back; for the days and nights when your first thought upon rising is that you’d give almost anything to go back to sleep, because being awake is exhausting:
As always, I enjoy hearing y’all’s thoughts. (Yes, I owe whoever did Shortbus‘ soundtrack, as it is disproportionately represented with four tracks on the two discs, three of which are by Scott Matthew. Yes, Janelle Monae is all over these, as her album had recently dropped and also because she’s a friggin’ genius. Yes, I know I’ve used that Sufjan Stevens song on more than one mix. Think of it like taking a cutting from a plant to grow another plant.) Is there a preference between 8track (no, I don’t know why my embeds don’t look pretty) and Soundcloud?
Next up, which is to say the next time I post a mix, not next Monday (though, admittedly, possibly next Monday depending on who makes what this week and feels like posting about it), Back in the Day. That’s right I’m committing, mostly so my roommate will quit
threatening my life giving me disappointed looks, but also because I should probably prove I can make mixes that aren’t hooked on ballads like phonics.