Fred Schmalz ~ The Retreat

Poet, writer, artist, and swell guy Fred Schmalz graciously returns with his second Faux Sounds Guest List (check out the first one here). You can learn more about his work at fredschmalz.com, and look for his book of poetry Action in the Orchards from Nightboat Books in spring 2019. Enjoy!

The Retreat

In the last few years, I have found my peace with the holidays. Mostly that has been through appropriating the time into a retreat: for writing and editing, (finally) reading the books that have piled up faster than I can get to them, and immersing myself in the records that followed me home like strays all year. It’s a gloriously indulgent couple of weeks. This year’s will also include a quick visit to friends in L.A.

"The Retreat" unpacks some of my 2017 favorites, nods to the Pacific, the wildfires, and even the recent Atlanta mayoral election. This year, some of my favorite releases defied inclusion. So, no King Krule, no Julie Byrne, no Jamilla Woods, Jamie Branch, SZA, Tyler the Creator. Nothing from the sublime Outro Tempo or Even a Tree Can Shed Tears compilations, nor the ecstatic Alice Coltrane ashram recordings, nor the gender-defying Jackie Shane. Those need to be ingested in full.

So, to the tape:

Hiroshi Yoshimura – Dance PM Opening with a track from the new reissue of Yoshimura’s Music For Nine Post Cards, a minimal/ambient slice of gorgeousness. I often find stuff like this really tepid, but this fills the living room so invitingly and unassumingly, I give it a pass.

Juana Molina – In the lassa From Halo, one of my favorite albums of the year. By turns purring and creeping, the suppleness at play here continues to reveal itself. The drumming especially reminds me Carla Azar’s work for Autolux. So…

Autolux – Soft Scene This is from the band’s 2016 Pussy’s Dead LP. See Juana Molina above. Dig Azar, the best drummer in rock (sorry everyone else).

Makaya McCraven – Above & Beyond McCraven’s record-and-remix technique is executed in such a loose, fun-loving way, that the recordings he’s put out distill the essence of the live experience without trying to replicate it. This track, from his 2017 International Anthem (ahem… all this label’s stuff is worthwhile) Highly Rare mixtape(?)… it’s basically an album, people. And it’s fierce. (ed. note - Check out a magnificent Guest List from International Anthem head honcho Scottie McNiece here. And I second Fred's endorsement of everything they put out.)

Cypress Hill – Armada Latina We’re heading to California to visit some friends, dear ones, for a few days over the holidays, so I thought I would throw in some evocative tracks (while avoiding a headlong tack into yacht rock or laurel canyon-ism). Late Cypress Hill with a well-flipped “Suite Judy Blue Eyes”? This should suck. But it doesn’t.

Alain Péters – La pêche Bernica This bit of Réunion Island Creole blues got inside my head this year.

Don Cherry – Brown Rice A friend recently visited my house… he’s someone who has come over a bunch of times, but never really dug into the stacks. He immediately pulled the Don Cherry albums. Not. Playing. Around. 

Mtume – Phase I Mtume’s best known for boogie records that became golden era hip-hop sample fodder (“Juicy” anyone?), but also had crazy jazz chops (Miles’ On the Corner or Carlos Garnett’s Black Love anyone?). This brief track comes from his debut solo LP, Kiss This World Goodbye.

Buffy Sainte-Marie – He’s a Keeper of the Fire Visiting L.A. means flying into widespread wildfires. Sorting through the ashes of 2017, Buffy’s Buchla synthesizer-laden 1970 LP, Illuminations, remains one of my top justifications for continuing to welcome late passes. I rarely play a song over and over, but this gets me amped.

Tennis – 10 Minutes 10 Years Another nod to the sunshine SoCal vibe. My 2017 guilty pleasure album was Yours Conditionally by Tennis. It’s likely I like this more than you do. The duo deftly unpack some of the most unsettling relationship dynamics I have come across on record. They are also worth catching live.

Hugh Masekela – The Boy’s Doin’ It “Doing it in Hollywood... Doing it in Alabama.” When I get fatalistic about American politics in 2017, it helps to remember this gang of South African musicians recording a party album in Lagos in the second half of the 1970s. Perspective, people.

Maria Teresa Luciani – Luna Park Reissue of an Italian library record. Seek out.

Moses Sumney – Make Out in My Car Los Angelenos do everything in their cars, right? Sumney’s Autoromanticism is a wonderful, distinct album… with a buried bonus cut. Repeated listening. Heavy rotation.

Jerry Butler – Just Because I Really Love You I’m getting married this year.

Kamasi Washington – Humility Washington’s followup to The Epic, Harmony of Difference, continues in the same vein (big sweeping jazz compositions with great texture and SUPER playing). Another great live show.

Major Lance – I Just Can’t Help It Why Major Lance? His daughter just won the Atlanta mayoral election.

Angel Canales – Angel Canales Theme Song Cross-media alert. Season 2 of Narcos featured Canales (and his band Sabor) repeatedly… most significantly when a character requests “Dos Gardenias” for an eventful slow dance. When musical coordinators get it RIGHT. Canales is something of an acquired taste (very distinct voice), but his arrangements have tons of punch and they swing. Bonus points for Canales chucking his compositions into the ocean and becoming a jeweler in south Florida.

Emahoy Tsegué-Maryam Guébrou – Mother’s Love Several friends recommended this Ethiopian nun’s solo piano recordings. If you like Satie, you’re going to love Tsegué.