Tycho’s latest single evokes the tranquil mood that accompanied my recent sunset chase here in Huntington Beach. A few years back my father pointed out that late in the year, and from the vantage point of the H.B. pier, the sun settles into the isthmus of Catalina Island. My father is full of such miscellany. For some reason, this year I had a major itch to witness this minor phenomena. To my surprise, I found no information online, so beginning winter solstice I closely monitored the coast trying to determine the D-day. My efforts did not go unrewarded. The area experienced scattered showers in December, which smeared plenty of clouds across the skies, clouds that bled all the warm colors of the rainbow. Sensing that was the day, I crammed kids and cousins into the car on New Year’s Eve and sped off to catch some dying rays. “Coastal Brake” provides that same warm, shimmering epiphanic moment.

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Various: Moodgadget—The Nocturnal Suite

Working with a smaller affiliate, Moodgadget Records, Ghostly recently introduced to the world 38 tracks from 33 new electronic artists on two discs. (Qualifier: Some artists are newer than others, and one, Daniel Johnson, not so new at all, but new perhaps to many a Ghostly consumer). More than introducing new talent, The Nocturnal Suite reminds music aficionados once again that the electronic genre, especially in the hands of Sam Valenti IV and company, is neither narrow nor nostalgic. The compilation also demonstrates that these gatekeepers and soapboxers of the genre don’t discriminate on the basis of the quantity of electronic instruments utilized. Moodgadget like Ghostly eschews genre for aesthetics.

The sound difference between the four artists presented as a sample of the compilation illustrate its musical pastiche. Worst Friends represent the dancier side of things with their disco house track; Shigeto is more experimental and glitchy, while New Villager crosses over into the arena indie rock sound. Mux Mool’s got two tracks featured, a broken-up hip-hop joint, and this lush trance-like piece. Arm yourself with this arsenal and you’ll be equipped to declare war on any pedestrian party.

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Asking me to pick my favorite track off Magic Monday is like asking me which child I love the most, or which food I love the most. Ask me on any particular day and I’ll have a favorite, sushi for instance, in fact I’ll be enjoying my favorite faux-sushi of all time, the Bungee Roll, this evening. Actually I wouldn’t do the same with my children. My favorite quote from Michna himself comes when his label’s owner asks him to list the samples he’ll need to clear, to which Michna responds, “What samples?” I’d like to hope Michna’s reply represents a new, knowing artistic naïvety in which a new generation moves past the plundering of hip-hop’s history and forges on with their own original beats and breaks (not that there’s anything wrong with samples!). He’s been paying his dues DJing parties in New York with tapes (yes!) and cutting remixes for Diplo (with his previous Secret Frequency Crew), Bonde Do Role, and surprisingly Jandek. Made playful by his trombone playing and use of found sounds (especially the answering machines, air hockey, and skateboards) his bass heavy pastiche work remind me of our old friend Alan Sutherland aka Land of the Loops (where ya at Al?). If you’re in the market for a good slow and steady, fun groove: Michna’s your man.

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The Chap

Check The Chap’s label page and there are two lines in the “About” section, one of which reads, “The Chap: have never been influenced by anyone or anything at any time, ever.” While I appreciate and even support their refusal to apologize for or explain their influences, I don’t believe them. I do believe in letting the music speak for itself. So stop reading this and download these songs and make up your own mind while I explain the comparison I’m about to make. My take, highly influenced by the mass quantities of ’80s music I’ve been listening to lately, is this: The Chap deftly juggles bits and pieces of Gang of Four, XTC, Queen, Men Without Hats, and Kraftwerk for a capricious rock ‘n’ roll dance party. Their third album, Mega Breakfast, is evidence of a quirky, lo-fi band that’s pulled out all the stops and plans on playing stadiums. Do yourself a favor and lower your guard down while listening so you can fully revel in The Chap’s merrymaking. Their album cover is a mylar balloon dog whose nose has been dipped in chocolate and sprinkles for crying out loud. If you don’t get a kick out of this record it may be time for a swift kick to the head. (Be sure to watch the video for the album’s standout track).

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Matthew Dear

Even if you’ve only listened to my radio show a handful of times, chances are you’ve heard me play Matthew Dear. His more immediate songs (the ones offered here are such examples) have chameleon-like qualities. They fit so well next to other electronic songs, obviously, but they also segue well with pop songs, new wave tracks, especially the darker ones (like Joy Division), and well, just about any other track I throw them up against. Ironically, Dear’s lackadaisical vocal delivery lends a populist air to his minimalist-techno tracks (it’s a warmer version of Kraftwerk’s robotic vocals) and with every release he gets deliciously close to busting out a crossover hit. When it comes right down to it, I just dig this stuff. Plus, his albums are easily accessible in the KUCI music library, just over my left shoulder, which saves my show from ever embarrassing bouts of dead air.

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Ben Benjamin

I’ve been busy the last two weeks. Busy doing nothing. It’s been nice, but it’s time I start catching up on a few things. First up, outta Sam & Joe’s hood, more or less, from Ypsilanti, Michigan give it up for Ben Benjamin. Formerly of Midwest Product, Ben Benjamin, AKA Ben Mullins, splits his time between this solo project and PostPrior, his neu-wavish duo also out on Ghostly. Between his myspace and Ghostly pages you can get a good feel for his debut full-length, The Many Moods of Ben Benjamin Vol. 1. “Selective Periphera” showcases Mullins strength—his ability to elaborate, with both electronic and organic instruments, on a simple riff for an absolutely hypnotic effect. Run this track into your skull and your life, regardless of how mundane it may be, will resonate with cinematic panache.

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As my friends and family will attest, I’m a big fan of Christmas-y songs — new and old, classic and offbeat. So I’m always thrilled when I hear a new entry in the genre, such as this ditty from PostPrior (Midwest Product’s Ben Mullins and drummer/descendent-of-circus-acrobats Michael Kuzmanovski). PostPrior’s Touched Pilot EP is an icy cool treat in its own right, with its intricately composed and delightfully goofy new wave soul. But, for now, the lyrics to “Snow Orge” so you can sing along on the way to Grandma’s house:

“Confusing Scientists
With Conscious thought and moving limbs
The sun comes out and then he melts
Only to re-form again

Avoiding Mobs and cops
Because they know not what he does
Cause this his life ’twas forged in ice
And so misunderstood


Mom and dad, are just a lab, he has no place, of residence
Alone on Christmastime

Speeding Sleds, Gingerbread, Hyper kids, packages
Rotate through his mind

In the snow, he built a fort, with fine decor and even more
The Ogre trims the tree

Down below, warmer homes, throw a bone, and telephone

Go snow ogre, go snow ogre, go snow ogre go!
Go snow ogre, go snow ogre, pound your fists and roar
Go snow ogre, go snow ogre, go snow ogre go!
Go snow ogre, go snow ogre, a fine ambassador
Go snow ogre, go snow ogre, go snow ogre go!
Go snow ogre, go snow ogre, let the snowflakes fall
Go snow ogre, go snow ogre, go snow ogre go!
Go snow ogre, go snow ogre, the ice consumes us all”

Happy holidays, one and all 🙂

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Christopher Willits

Hot on the heels of his release with with Brad Laner (ex-Medicine) as North Valley Subconscious Orchestra, Christopher Willits drops this blissful solo album. Each track features layers upon layers of dreamy vocals, soaring guitars, and chirpy synths that keep washing over you until your mind is completely free. Call it shoegazer, call it stargazer, call it what you will. Just make sure you call it up on your iPod to keep you warm inside this fall.

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North Valley Subconscious Orchestra

Medicine played in Memphis right before I got home from college one summer, but my brother Josh and our friend Andy saw them and even visited with them at the Admiral Benbow Inn (just recently demolished). They learned that Medicine’s wicked guitar feedback was achieved by running Brad Laner’s guitar through a four track and turning all the knobs up. We spent that whole summer trying to get a four track to mimic a distortion pedal with no success. Brad Laner, we determined, was a genius. Which is probably why I recently Tivo-ed the movie “The Crow,” just so I could see that scene of Medicine playing “Time Baby,” trying to get a glimpse of his guitar setup. Now Laner and fellow guitarist Christopher Willits, as North Valley Subconscious Orchestra, are releasing another feast of guitars on Ghostly’s digital download-only album The Right Kind of Nothing. More melodic feedback, anyone?

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I originaly posted Solvent 16 months ago. In fact, they were one of the first bands featured on 3hive. Just days after, Ghostly pulled down their full-length MP3s due to bandwidth constraints and there went my Solvent post. As Sean points out over in the News section, Ghostly’s recently found some bandwidth in their hearts and now offer, among others, this gem from Solvent’s latest, Elevators and Oscillators. For the record, my original post was one line: “Proof once again from the Ghostly Massive that machines do have souls.” Still holds true today.

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