Guest Post: Mister Lies
19-year-old Nick Zanca of Chicago’s Mister Lies details the personal significance of each and every track on his new 15-track mixtape, Absolutamento. Read through as he chats about the origins of his stage name, where he looks to take his listeners, and his admiration for California’s 6bit Collective, among many many other things. Enjoy!
Tracklist w/ time marks (mixtape embedded below):
1.) Introduction (:00-:20)
As someone who actually prefers reading plays to novels, the Pulitzer-Prize winning Angels In America is probably the front-runner for one of my favorite works of writing of all time. It takes place in NYC during the Reagan-era 80′s and deals with themes like racism, homophobia, religion and drug abuse – all that keen juicy shit. The name Mister Lies actually originates from a character of the same name from the play who acts as an imaginary friend to a Valium addicted Mormon housewife. In the character breakdown of the text, he is described by the author, Tony Kushner, as “a travel agent, who in style of dress and speech suggests a jazz musician; he always wears a large lapel badge emblazoned “IOTA” (The International Order of Travel Agents)”. I suppose it spoke to me when I was simultaneously starting this new project and reading this play for a course because I’ve stuck with it ever since. The soundbite that opens Absolutamento is from the screen adaptation that HBO produced. Long story short, I used it because it was my name. The female voice she wants to go “anywhere far away” which is what I was hoping to aide the listeners in doing.
2.) The Streets — “Turn The Page” (:21-3:17)
I’ve worshiped Mike Skinner, the poet laureate of UK garage, since I was about thirteen and a friend of mine who was about five years older showed me Original Pirate Material. This was the first song I ever heard of his. I was hooked ever since; I’d like to think that the album got me through middle school hell. What strikes me about Skinner’s delivery is that he refuses to let the beat carry him: like a spoken word artist, he spits within the realms his own cadence and yet the beat never distracts the listener from his raw and honest lyricism. I think it can be agreed that this track could only work as an opener and absolutely nothing else. It just has that sort of vivacity to it.
3.) King Felix — “Spring o1″ (3:18-7:47)
I’ll go ahead and be bold by saying that I really haven’t listened to enough of Laurel Halo’s work to call myself a true fan. However, I will say that Spring EP has been on heavy rotation. There is something incredibly enigmatic to the way she produces sounds – the woodwind sample, probably excerpted from Stravinsky’s Rite Of Spring? (just an assumption) or the detuned synths very similar to Boards Of Canada. There is a sort of 3 AM caffeinated vibe to this track that just doesn’t exist in most electronic music these days and I really respect it.
4.) Kitty Pryde — “Okay Cupid” (7:48-10:14)
Another recent discovery. Our boy Tyler from Flashlight Tag sent me this track on Facebook only a few nights ago and oddly enough, my first reaction to this track was “white female rapper talking about drunk texts and ex-boyfriends. Cool. I’ve seen this movie before.” It was only about after five or six listens that I realized there was more to this track – her flow is a lot more verbose than her peers and the Beautiful Lou-produced beat is far more atmospheric and icy than anything Kreayshawn would spit over. Plus, I really love her giggles – she’s on that sexy kawaii shit. I can now say with full confidence that this track is a grade A banger. Kitty, darling: if you’re reading this, let’s collab. We could make some really cute and intimidating shit.
5.) Daedelus — “Curtains Don’t Talk” (10:15-13:52)
My admiration for Alfred Darlington knows no bounds. I’ve always seen him as the Willy Wonka of the laptop music scene (and let’s get this straight, I mean the one performed by Gene Wilder). His whimsical approach to pops and clicks always brings a Cheshire Cat grin to my face, his taste in samples is nostalgic but never out of taste. As someone heavily inspired by the speed of Chicago footwork and the gutsy harmonies of both The Beach Boys and Janet Jackson, I get something new out of this track every time I hear it.
6.) Caves — “Eleven Twenty” (13:53-17:18)
The inclusion of this Mark Ronson-reminiscient track should act as tip of the hat or a shout-out to my comrades in the 6-bit collective in Cali of which Caves is a member. His EP released on Absent Fever was my first real introduction to their crew’s work and I’ve immersed myself in it ever since. I also really respect Luka’s work probably because he sounds so weathered and twice his age when sings and yet it remains chameleonic with the beatscape that he provides us on this track. Massive tune.
7.) Stevie Wonder — “The Secret Life Of Plants” (17:21-21:15)
The title track from the most underrated record of one of my musical demigods. If I’m not mistaken, the album acted as the score to a flopped documentary of the same name and featured tons of time-lapse photography of plants in bloom and whatnot. Regardless, this chord progression is bone-crushing and like most of the music he ends up composing invokes several emotions within my soul. I’m particularly proud of the placement of this song in the track listing and I can’t put my finger on why. No matter: kick back, relax and enjoy this one.
8.) Mono — “Life In Mono (slow)” (21:16-26:52)
One of two tracks that I slowed down specifically for this playlist. I’ll be frank and admit that I know absolutely nothing about this band, so it’d be safe to say that they were probably a one-hit-wonder. The vibe of this track is ominous and mysterious – not quite ready to be labeled trip-hop and at the same time too insulting to call lounge music. This intense track, glued together by the female vocalist’s chilling straight-tone vocals, makes me feel like a British secret agent sitting in a cafe on a rainy day just outside of France, storm clouds just peering overhead.
9.) J Dilla — “Make Em NV” (26:53-28:12)
Jay Dee, man. In a lot of ways, he’s my Elvis. A lot of us in the electronic community owe a lot to him, whether or not you know it. Also, this is probably his most apocalyptic beat to date. The drums are grainy, the chimes evoke a sense of great fear. He was a game-changer in the way that samples were used in hip-hop and nothing was ever the same. I particularly like Ruff Draft EP because of it’s lo-fi aesthetic. I can’t think of many of albums of the genre that work off that vibe.
10.) Louis Cole — “Motel Sadness” (28:13-32:13)
Now that I have the floor with this guest blog post I might as well take this opportunity to praise Louis Cole, a drummer/songwriter based out of the Bay Area who I believe is one of the most underrated musicians and composers of our generation. He’s dabbled in a lot of different genres and that’s especially evident on his self-titled. At times, there’s as much Richard D. James in his sound as there is Brian Wilson, or as much Ligeti in his work as there is Beck. Lyrically, a majority of his shit revolves around meditations of alienation. Surf music for a dystopian world. This dude is truly the musician’s musician and you’d be silly not to look into the four records he’s put out (two solo records, and two synth-pop efforts with his partner Genevieve Artadi).
11.) Svengali — “Always” (32:14-35:06)
I had to include one of the wolves in my pack somewhere in here. It’s almost borderline ridiculous to be writing this now but as of today I’ve actually never met Peter before, all our communication in regards to each others tracks is done through the collective’s private Facebook group. Habitually, what strikes me about Peter’s work is that he takes a genre of sampling that is more often than not done to death and makes it his. Not only does he tweak it to that extend, but he flips a sample on its side (in this case, the sample is literally flipped) and turns the track into something utterly relaxing and almost terrifying at the same time. For the short time that I’ve been a part of his collective, I’ve watched him improve as a producer and this track is a strong example. Love you, fam.
This one has a little bit of explaining to do. There’s the fantastic, aging movie theatre here in the Wrigleyville neighborhood in Chicago whose name unfortunately escapes me. Around Halloween last semester, there was a midnight showing of the silent film Metropolis set to a 1980′s score by synthpop saint Gorgio Moroder. The film itself is way ahead of its time when you consider it was made in 1920′s Germany, but add arpeggiators and drum machines to the mix and it becomes a life-changing party that everyone was invited to. My friend and I walked out of the theater knocked out. Not to mention, Moroder had an all-star cast of vocalists singing throughout the soundtrack, including Freddie Mercury, Bonnie Tyler, and as included in this mix, Pat Benatar. The production is gloriously warm on this track.
13.) Ghibli — “Ross” (39:49-43:18)
Thomas hit me up on Twitter shortly after I released Hidden Neighbors and from there we bonded over Facebook in regards to European disco music and the films of Hayao Miyazaki. While I’ve never met the guy, it’s already clear that he’s a bright and evocative spirit and it especially shines through on this track. This track in particular is what I imagine playing on the night of the drag competition in one of the classiest gay bars on some distant planet. The bacon-grease static of vinyl and the pulsating filters on this track are immense and I would give my left nut to have his sampling chops.
14.) RP Boo — “Eraser” (43:19-46:33)
One of the most beloved entities of Chicago’s music scene is the juke/footwork scene developed by young producers in the South Side – it takes a lot of its roots from ghetto house, skittering yet danceable rhythms and vocal samples at a tempo often times as fast as 160 beats per minute. DJ Nate and DJ Roc, considered to be the pride of the footwork scene, were soon picked up by Planet Mu Records in Britain and pretty soon the crazy moved to Europe. RP Boo’s Eraser is one of the darker tracks on Planet Mu’s compilation “Bangs And Works”, including a droning synth and a subtly rumbling bass-line. Hovering above it all is the tracks surprisingly never-excessive vocal samples customary to the genre – a sped-up Paul McCartney croons the phrase “live and let die” while an unidentified hype man bellows “that’s what you do when you got the flow”. All elements of the track are eerily volcanic and act as one of many highlights in the adventures of footwork.
15.) Camille — “Pale Septembre” (46:34-50:10)
Much like Bjork in Iceland, France’s Camille has an unorthodox sex appeal that most definitely shines through in her music. Frankly, I’m surprised her career hasn’t gone west and succeeded in America. Her ideas are at first cryptic but once you really dive into them they become cerebral. Her album “Le Fil” has some of the most intense ear candy I’ve ever experienced on a record – and the most phenomenal thing about that is that most of that is executed with massive layers of her voice and very little instrumentation. I find so much in this record I would love to steal. Example: throughout the entire album, right at the back of the mix, there is this one-note drone in the background of every song, which, in a sense, dominates the records. All the tunes on the record are forced to work around that single note. That blew my mind when I first heard that; her logic is outside the box.
16.) Aalyiah — “Journey To The Past (slow)” (50:11-55:35)
I ended Absolutamento with a slowed-down version of what I believe is one of the most underrated songs of our generation by one of our most-sampled R&B singers, because for one, it’s nostalgic. Half of the nineties kids remember this as the song from Anastasia, half of us probably hardly remember hearing about her death at the time. I believe that I speak for many when I say that had she not boarded that plane, her success would have exceeded several of her peers, Beyonce included. Even pitched down, both the sensual instrumental and her angelic vocals hit home. Honestly enough, I keep asking myself if guys like Burial or Jimmy Blake would’ve revolutionized the use of R&B vocal samples had Aaliyah not died. Indirectly, her immortalization led the way for several of us kids with laptops.
Stream Absolutamento below, then download it here.