Friday Five: Golden Feelings, Duane Pitre, X-Altera, Benjamin Miller, Lloyd Cole
Friday Five highlights music by Washtenaw County-associated artists and labels.
This week features chakra-aligning ambient from Golden Feelings, just intonation explorations by Duane Pitre, industrial-tinged techno by X-Altera, sparse experimental jazz by Benjamin Miller, and a synth-pop song about Iggy Pop by Lloyd Cole.
Golden Feelings, Better Weather
Dustin Krcatovich, the person behind Golden Feelings, probably wouldn't be upset if I told him I fell asleep the first time I listened to his new album. It's kinda why Better Weather exists—well, and to align your chakras. The three blissed-out tracks amount to nearly 30 minutes of meditation music, and despite the seeming simplicity of the sounds, there's science behind them. I'll let the Ypsi-based Krcatovich explain as I close my peepers again and try to realign my third-eye chakra:
"Better Weather" is a piece composed by Dustin Krcatovich in 2023. It is never played the same way twice. It is composed using a matrix of 64 loops: seven distinct software instruments on a total of 56 loops, four field recordings, and four live instrument recordings. An additional software instrument is used for live extrapolations. To impose structure, a matrix card is blindly selected from a stack and used as a graphic score. Boxes on this card are filled in as “active” or “passive”; the performer is allowed to use the active loops, but not the passive ones. Loops are consonant with a C major scale when applicable, and are tuned to 432 hz; the latter is either for alignment of the chakras or just for the pleasant sound, depending on where you stand on such matters.
Duane Pitre, Varolii Patterns
Duane Pitre was a skateboarding star in the 1990s, one of the first members of influential The Alien Workshop team, and a star of the company's legendary Memory Screen VHS tape. But in 1997, Pitre ended up putting down the board so he could pursue his other love: music. While he started off in post-hardcore bands, Pitre eventually found his way to just intonation, a tuning system familiar to Indian and Chinese music traditions. He's now a celebrated underground composer—who just so happens to live "outside Ann Arbor," according to an excellent 2021 piece in The New York Times about his life and career—with a massive catalog of recordings. Pitre's latest album of just intonation pieces, Varolii Patterns, consists of outtakes (for lack of a better word) from his 2021 album Omniscient Voices. Pitre recorded everything as he experimented with microtonal electronics, using some parts for Omniscient Voices; he later selected six excerpts that could stand on their own, which are the droning, haunting pieces that comprise Varolii Patterns. Allow me to take a shortcut and let Pitre explain his process:
Duane Pitre's Varolii Patterns was made with an eight-voice synthesizer, tuned in Just Intonation. These six pieces explore shifting polyrhythms that slip in and out of rhythmic focus and utilize "Common Rhythmic Pulses" that carry over as the pattern evolves within a piece.
"While experimenting with microtonal electronics for a piece I was writing for Zinc & Copper, which would eventually be titled "Pons," I came across a process-based technique that I was quite keen on. Although I wouldn't use this technique on the Zinc & Copper piece, I would later implement said process to make up some of the electronics on my "Omniscient Voices" album. During this time I carried out dozens and dozens of instances of this process and recorded them all. Varolii Patterns is composed of a small collection of these recorded takes, ones I felt were stand-alone pieces on their own and that worked well together as a whole."
X-Altera, "Motor Murk"
Ann Arbor's Tadd Mullinix uses a different artist name for his releases depending on the genres: roughly speaking, Dabrye is for hip-hop, JTC for techno, Charles Manier for electro, etc. Mullinix's X-Altera releases are typically more in the style of drum 'n' bass, but his latest jam under that moniker, "Motor Murk," sounds more like industrial-inspired hard techno. But whatever the name, whatever the genre, Mullinix and his Bopside label are always excellent.
Benjamin Miller's The Push-Pull Quartet and Pisstol Poem, City Life
The Eleventh Hour, "The Snail"
Benjamin Miller has a long history of Washtenaw County creative endeavors, but he's also lived in Chicago and New York City, the latter of which is where the music heard on City Life was recorded in 2007 and 2010 by two different projects: The Push-Pull Quartet and Pisstol Poem. The music has roots in jazz but there's a modernist classical bent to these songs, whose sparseness reminds me a bit of Jimmy Giufrre's style. Miller mostly plays alto sax on these recordings, which is also the instrument he's healing in The Eleventh Hour, his new local quartet featuring Joel Peterson (double bass), Dave Hurley (drums), and twin brother Laurence Miller (alto clarinet). The band will make its live debut on Thursday, June 29, at The Zal Gaz Grotto Club in Ann Arbor at 8:00 pm. Dr. Pete Larson's Cytotoxic Nyatiti Band will open the evening.
Lloyd Cole, "The Idiot" from On Pain
The Friday Five column is dedicated to highlighting music and record labels emanating from Washtenaw County. I'm stretching the self-made rules today to spotlight a new Lloyd Cole song about a certain somebody from Ann Arbor. Lloyd Cole and the Commotions are one of my favorite all-time bands, and I've loved the Britsh-born, America-living artist's solo career as well. His latest album, On Pain, mixes electronic pop with Cole's wry, weary, and witty lyrics—and all three of those traits show up in "The Idiot." The song is about the era when David Bowie and Pioneer High School grad and former Stooges singer Iggy Pop shipped off to Berlin to try and get clean from all the drugs they'd been mainlining. But it was also a huge creative period for the duo and between 1976-1978 they made Pop's solo debut album, The Idiot, as well as its follow-up, Lust for Life. Meanwhile, Bowie cut the classic trio of albums Low, Heroes, and Lodger.
"The Idiot" is sung from Pop's point of view, and the lyrics make references to Bowie's backup singer and one-time girlfriend Cherry as well as the pool at Bowie's Los Angeles home, which the Thin White Duke thought was haunted. Over a fat synth-bass line and some Kraftwerk-ian backup vocals, Cole sings the chorus:
We'll move to Berlin
Stop being drug addicts
We'll cycle and swim
Stop being drug addicts
We'll enter society
You'll take the serious guise
I'll be the idiot
The song is instantly catchy, but even more impressive is the way Cole mixes some winking sarcasm at the over-the-topness of Bowie and Pop's antics while also capturing how sick and desperate the friends were to leave behind their addictions. There's pathos, humor, and a glorious melody in "The Idiot"—what more does a song need? (The entirety of On Pain fits that description, too.)
Christopher Porter is a library technician and the editor of Pulp.