The multi-instrumentalist of Sleep Whale and Sunnybrook brings post-rock and symphonic indie to share during his shift at the Denton coffee house and art gallery, telling customers what's playing with wide eyes. Never an elitist, he speaks easily about the music he loves.
After Joel guided us to Power Animal's MySpace page as we retrieved our espresso macchiato one afternoon, we asked if he'd send us five songs he thought the world needed to hear immediately. Within a few hours, he'd sent us reams of passionate commentary on work by experimental composers -- a community Joel himself is a a part of, in his own right.
Joel and Bruce Blay became known for making high-minded innovation accessible as the electroacoustic duo Mom. The pair played an afterparty last year for a SXSW showcase hosted by Steve Reich, and they toured Europe with This Will Destroy You the fall following. Since then, the band has expanded with the addition of North's brother Paul and Spencer Stephenson.
North said he isn't classically trained. The artists below continually teach him. Here are his thoughts, abridged:
Nico Muhly :: Mothertongue Pt.1: Archive, from Mothertongue
This song is maybe the most perfect blend between psychedelia and symphonic academia I have ever had the privilege of listening to. Starting with just the alphabet, it quickly flutters with strangeness, ending with his past addresses, counting from 1 to 5, and naming off the states. It's simply the way he does it...he makes you want to cry through happiness.
Johann Johannsson :: IBM 1403 (Printer), from IBM 1401, A User's Manual
A song bowl rings and dings in the foreground as a voice reads the service manual for what sounds like the engine of an old car. When the strings begin, the song lifts and moves with gentle patience. It will surely take you somewhere special. Absolutely gorgeous.
Steve Reich Ensemble :: Music for 18 Musicians: Pulses Section IIIA, from Music for 18 Musicians
Music for 18 Musicians is one of Reich's most praised works. In many circles he is considered the Mozart of our time. The entire album is a theme that trades leads among the 18 musicians. This particular movement is the only one I can single out as "my favorite" out of its 14 parts because the string section is holding the leading melody in the movement, and they do it so gracefully. The string section then trades voice to the flute as the male and female voices join in the end, and the two join to stutter together so impressively. You have to listen to the whole album.
William Basinski :: Dlp 1.1, from The Disintegration Loops This song is an hour and 4 minutes of the same 3-and-a-half second loop. The loop was created on tape and then set to transfer to a digital recorder and left running. As the tape spun the magnets on the film slowly started decomposing, and bits and fragments of this loop, which is ingrained in your mind, begin to disappear. Once you become comfortable with the transformation, the second takes place. And the song slowly, inevitably, dies. It will pull your heartstrings. By the end you feel as if you are losing a friend.
Son Lux :: Break, from At War With Walls and Mazes
Son Lux introduces you to what appears the fast pace of his New York life, and the sounds of angry men in the distance. As the sounds of nite life New York dim, the sun rises in the song as Lux introduces his beautiful piano playing, and surprises you with voice of a passionate woman. Fantastic.
Sleep Whale plays Hailey's on June 17 and then on the 27 with Power Animal of Philadelphia, whose record the band helped produce, after a hiatus as Sleep Whale's Bruce Blay toured with Balmorhea. John Congleton co-produced Sleep Whale's forthcoming record, titled 'House Boat' for now, and it's expected to drop in September on Western Vinyl. See footage below from their set at the Granada in February opening for This Will Destroy You.