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September 14, 2009 | by  | in Music |
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Kim’s Summer BoomMix

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After spending most of my mid-term break cooped up indoors (it rained lots) at my parents’ house in Nelson, I returned to find that Wellington was being drenched in the springtime sun. Pleased with this development, I decided that it was time to get myself into the sunshine spirit. Unfortunately I lacked one essential catalytic piece of equipment: a boombox. “Not to worry,” I told myself, and promptly logged on to TradeMe, where, lo and behold, I soon found myself staring lustily at this fine piece of summertime kit:

The highest existing bid was $1.50, so I figured that an autobid of $50 would ensure that my victory in the auction would be little more than a formality. Buoyed by this thought, I swiftly set about compiling a suitable soundtrack for the imminent arrival of my glorious ghettoblaster. And so, without further adieu, I give you…

The Summer BoomMix.

1) Neon IndianDeadbeat Summer
Released to the usual blogospheric fanfare a couple of months back, ‘Deadbeat Summer’ is a woozy slice of summer psychedelia. A sluggish mishmash of noodling synths and digitally airbrushed vocal sighs defines its initial tone. A bar of programmed snare hits signals the arrival of the chorus (“Deadbeat summer, it’s just a deadbeat summer”), which somehow manages to retain the rest of the song’s languid aesthetic while simultaneously injecting a healthy dose of pep as well. Top stuff!

2) DeloreanSeasun
‘Seasun’, the lead single of Delorean’s recent game-changing Ayrton Senna EP, is a revelation. A thudding set of tom hits, set to a ticking blend of arpeggiated synth lines quickly gives way to a club-worthy female vocal sample. It’s wordless inflexions are pitched up and down, while massive piano chords provide yet another layer of accented hits. The various constituent elements (guitars, bass and handclaps all find their way in to the mix as well) seem so disparate, but Delorean’s meticulous sense of arrangement melds them into an irresistible rhythmic whole. And when the vocals finally arrive (after two whole minutes of foundation laying), they form a simple, yet repetitive refrain, which recalls a fresh Balearic house sample, direct from the Ibizan night. Naturally, they ride this melody out to its logical, and emphatic, conclusion.

3) The Go-TeamLadyflash
A desperately retro production crackle. A tin can drum racket. Those upbeat guitars and keyboard swells. And then there’s that poorly mixed female vocal. It all reeks of nostalgia for the AM age. “We came here to rock the microphone / We came here to rock the microphone!

4) A Tribe Called Quest Can I Kick It?
The quintessential boombox anthem, and a tour de force in the art of stealing part of somebody else’s song (in this case, the source material is Lou Reed’s ‘Walk on the Wild Side’) and then placing it in a new context where it fits so naturally that you can almost forget that it had ever been used anywhere else.

5) Beat HappeningIndian Summer
A risky choice to follow up one of the ‘90s most recognisable hip-hop songs, ‘Indian Summer’ is nonetheless a classic in its own right. A slowly picked guitar that evokes George Harrison’s sitar is set to a stuttering conga rhythm and Calvin Johnson’s primitive vocals. His voice is almost devoid of tune, and yet somehow manages to be both soothing and captivating. “We’ll come back for Indian summer / We’ll come back for Indian Summer / And go our separate ways.”

6) The E.L.F.Cockroaches
Following a couple of slightly more subdued numbers, ‘Cockroaches’ strikes me as the perfect song for a return to that idyllic sense of joie de vivre that I would like to define my BoomMix by. A cheeky tumble of drums and turntable scratches sets the tone (FUN!), before a perpetual motion backbeat takes over. Though he isn’t quite as limited a vocalist as Calvin Johnson, Darren Cross’ thin croon should really sound awful when set to the background of the pastiche-disco arrangement of ‘Cockroaches’. Thankfully, the nervous busyness of the production, as well as a wonderfully tongue-in-cheek chorus, ensures that he comes across as endearing instead of inadequate.

7) Y.A.C.H.T.Psychic City
Like ‘Losing My Edge’, except without the irony and designed for exposure to the sun instead of the disco ball, ‘Pyschic City’ is a celebration of the party spirit. And since summer is the ultimate party, it strikes me as being an entirely fitting selection for my BoomMix. “Come on over over / Come on over over / Come on over / We’re having a party for you.

8) The Clean Tensile
This just-released single from Godzone favourites, The Clean, sounds almost intentionally tailored for the advent of summer. Things are a little different this time around, as their trademark ragged overdrive is replaced by a warm synth pattern. And then there’s the presence of an element that some diehards might decry as blasphemy: a vocoder. But before your reaction can become too severe of a kneejerk, Kilgour unleashes his trump card. It’s a drunken synth line that winds up and down, almost out of synch with the other instruments, giving ‘Tensile’ an almost tropical vibe. Will somebody please mix me a Singapore sling? Thanks.

9) David Byrne and Brian EnoStrange Overtones
How to wrap up my perfect summer BoomMix? It’s a challenging proposition, but since any mixtape is intrinsically an exercise in nostalgia I’ve decided to opt for a song that is itself a working recontextualisation of past glories. ‘Strange Overtones’ is the highlight of Byrne and Eno’s triumphant 2008 reunion, Everything That Happens Will Happen Today. Though its wistful verses might at first sound out of place on my mixtape, its upbeat bass, funky guitars and thudding drums are perfectly in keeping with what has already come before. As the song progresses, Byrne’s vocal becomes increasingly assured, eventually culminating in a powerhouse chorus. It’s one of those hyper-harmonised affairs, of the kind that he’d perfected on Remain in Light, and it ensures that the conclusion of my BoomMix evokes a certain sense of timelessness. Summer itself might be over, but the party will go on!

Editor’s note: During the writing of the previous piece, Kim was out-bid for the boom-box, stranding this article in an ocean of fantasy.

If you have a boom-box and care about the Salient Arts Team’s mental health (or just wanna sell it anyways) get in contact at arts@salient.org.nz.

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