Most Valuable Play: M. Sage
One’s favorite album is telling. Favorites are deep—often they are connected to certain people or places in our lives and are always closely tied to the memories of the time we’ve spent with them. They are sacred because they are unique to each of us. They are our own. In this installment of MVP (Most Valulable Play), M. Sage tells us about his favorite.
In the beginning of my internet assisted music obsession, around age 14-16, there was a small sect of my friends who utilized a variety of sources to amass an enormous catalog of totally obscure, totally out of our league “underground” music. Brett Taylor (Littoral Drift), Joseph Yonker (Pasture, Willamette) and a bunch of other friends and I would scour the internet for the most esoteric shit we could find, and then share it with each other. We were mutant, Soulseek abusing, CD burning teenage nightmares, and I am so thankful.
Epitonic.com was one of the main channels I used then to discover music in that era…this music would eventually shape the music I make now. I found out about GY!BE, Black Dice, Tortoise, Mercury Program, Havergal, Black Heart Procession…all in the same afternoon. It was overwhelming, and powerful, and I still love so many of the records I came across.
One of the most memorable, important, incredible records I got turned on to thanks to this group of friends, Soulseek chatrooms, and the proto-blog internet, was “Minor Shadows” by the band 1 Mile North.
Sometimes I debate whether or not this band really ever existed in the first place. There is hardly any information on them anywhere on the internet anymore. They have a Facebook page that seems to never get updated. Their website, which was once a beautiful, cryptic, soft-focused dream of a website, is now missing. Their Wikipedia offers about as little information as possible. Their records (only released on CD) are practically impossible to find. Hilariously, people have mistaken a photo of Joseph and I circa 2008 (as Tables & Chairs) as a press photo for 1 Mile North (even their record label?). It seems I was cosmically bound to have a connection with this band through the internet.
Their album ‘Minor Shadows’ was and has been a huge part of me finding my personal niche of ambient music. Their record changed my life, because it changed the way I approached making music. I have been listening to it regularly, probably at least 3 times a month, for the last 10 years. I am in love with it.
1 Mile North is/was a duo: Jon Hills played guitar, loops, some synths and stuff, Mark Bajuk had a huge pile of old analog synths, chord organs, and two really charming dolphin puppet/statues from what I can remember of the photos from their missing website.
They have 2 albums, and both are stunning, but ‘Minor Shadows’ is my favorite by far.
As far as “underground” music goes, this was kind of my introduction to the more DIY side of ambient things. This record helped me understand it was possible to write music that was both oblique but also engaging. Not assuming, but powerful. It wouldn’t fill a room, but could make the room feel less full. Emptier. Their songs usually build up around one rhythmic element that is repeated throughout the tracks. Guitars and synths trade phrases, taking leads or swelling in the background to build beautiful foundations for the other member to play leads over. Some eerie, distant trumpet and saxophone set a hazy mood on a few tracks. Minimal techno elements spring up here or there. Field recordings and samples come in and out, and make for some of the most memorable parts of the album.
Their music feels as academic and cold as it does raw and emotional. It is absent, full of longing, totally hollow. But once you step into the inviting naked space they make, you are enveloped by their sound. It is a sensation I probably won’t ever forget.
1 Mile North is one of the most underrated “post-rock” bands, and a note-worthy predecesor to a lot of the ambient/drone/electronic/bioelectric stuff that is coming out now. Some of Emeralds and OPN stuff reminds me of a more agressive, psychedelic, hard-edged approach to the same ideas 1 Mile North presented years earlier, to very little aplomb. They made one of the touch-stone albums a lot of ambient/electronic musicians seem to not really know about, but accidentally rip-off with less cunning on the regular.
Put on some headphones, lay very still in your bed, and listen to ‘Minor Shadows’ some afternoon. Just let it take you somewhere else. It will make your whole day feel different.