Mixtape #10 : Melancholia

by 5:4
6 minutes read

Lent: ’tis the season to be dolorous, and so the tenth 5:4 mixtape has melancholia as its theme. Both songs and instrumental music are included, taken from a diverse selection of artists and composers.

It begins with the opening of one of the best of William Basinski‘s Disintegration Loops, “d|p 3”. While as a whole these albums constitute a thoroughly over-egged pudding, this track conjures up a rather wistful sort of atmosphere, like a sad sunset. The Kilimanjaro Darkjazz Ensemble create fabulous nocturnal music, stylishly flecked with jazz mannerisms. All of Burial‘s work is shaded by melancholy; “Night Bus” is one of his shortest tracks, bereft of beats, its melody etching out the contours of a furrowed brow. Biosphere seems to capture remoteness in his work better than most, and “Poa Alpina” (from the remarkable Substrata album) is infused with this, underpinned by a deep bass that makes the music sound, literally, heavy. Fellow Norwegian Deathprod ploughs even darker troughs, and “Dead People’s Things” is like music from the end of time, postdiluvian, exhausted, its haunting melody falteringly singing surrounded by ruins. Perennial favourite of mine, Andrew Liles, has produced nothing so strikingly unusual as his “Concerto for Piano and Reverberation”; i included part of the opening in my Piano mixtape, but felt compelled to include it here as it creates such a black, velvety atmosphere, laden with gravitas. Franz Liszt‘s large-scale sacred work Via Crucis is modelled on the Stations of the Cross; two excerpts from the twelfth are featured here. It explores the moment of Christ’s death, beginning with his desperate cry, “Eli, Eli, lama sabacthani” and concluding with a gorgeous setting of the chorale, “O Traurigkeit, O Herzeleid” (which inspired my own setting). Thomas Adès‘ early string quartet, Arcadiana, has “O Albion” as its penultimate movement, and is a poignant comment on a lost world; Adès once described this movement to me as having two “chest pains”, the moments where the harmony shifts so painfully.

Shostakovich‘s second cello concerto is less well-known than its earlier sibling, but entirely outclasses it in every way. This excerpt from the first movement reveals just how raw and impassioned Shostakovich’s music was capable of being. From Ulver‘s best album, Perdition City, comes the track with the wonderfully strange title “Porn Piece or the Scars of Cold Kisses”; it’s a weird, ominous, midnight music, dark in every sense of the word. i’ve always been ambivalent about Dead Can Dance, but their album Within The Realm Of A Dying Sun is a masterpiece; “Windfall” is a soft instrumental, but has a tightness that makes the track sound distinctly uncomfortable. Berlioz‘ setting of the Requiem is renowned for its vast scale, but the “Quid sum miser” is one of its most delicate movements, small, short, highly emotive but with a suppressed quality, enhanced by the nasal oboe and bassoon. i’ve raved about Tu M’ before, and here’s the opening track of their superb EP Is That You? (available free here). There’s a powerful funereal quality to the track, redolent of a slow procession with incense. Former Sparklehorse member Sol Seppy is doing much more interesting things on her own; “Gold” is taken from her excellent album The Bells of 1 2. For all its delicacy and restraint, i find this track incredibly unsettling, the harmony always sounding as though its poised to go somewhere, but never does; Seppy’s breathy singing is lovely. William Walton‘s music is another where i’m ambivalent; too often he seems to combine brilliance and tedium in a single piece. The First Symphony isn’t devoid of that either (my advice: ignore the Finale), but the third movement is among the most emotional orchestral music i’ve ever heard, highly-wrought and staggeringly sorrowful. Bristol singer Daisy Chapman is proving herself to be worthy of much greater attention; from her album And There Shall Be None i’ve included “Happy New Year”, which begins like one of Schubert’s more ominous lieder, and later shows off just how powerful and honest is Chapman’s voice. Staying with Bristol, it’s hard to conceive of a melancholic mix of music without including Portishead; “Threads” has a distinct ‘end of the evening’ flavour, the music spent and tired, but ends in a forced manner that is thoroughly disconcerting. And to finish, framing the mix, Basinski’s “d|p 3” returns, now at its conclusion, the music literally dying on the tape, looping itself into oblivion. In total, 79 minutes of melancholia; enjoy (if that’s the right word…).

Here’s the tracklisting in full:

William Basinski – d|p 3 (opening) [from The Disintegration Loops II]
The Kilimanjaro Darkjazz Ensemble – The Nothing Changes [from The Kilimanjaro Darkjazz Ensemble]
Burial – Night Bus [from Burial]
Biosphere – Poa Alpina [from Substrata]
Deathprod – Dead People’s Things (excerpt) [from Morals And Dogma]
Andrew Liles – The Dying Submariner – Part I (excerpt) [from The Dying Submariner (A Concerto for Piano and Reverberation in Four Movements)]
Franz Liszt – Via Crucis – Station XII: Jesus Dies (excerpts) [from Music for Easter]
Thomas Adès – Arcadiana – VI. O Albion [from Living Toys]
Dmitri Shostakovich – Cello Concerto No. 2 – I. Largo (excerpt) [from Shostakovich: Cello Concertos]
Ulver – Porn Piece or the Scars of Cold Kisses [from Perdition City]
Dead Can Dance – Windfall [from Within The Realm Of A Dying Sun]
Hector Berlioz – Grande Messe des Morts – Quid sum miser [from Grand Messe des Morts]
Tu M’ – Is [from Is That You?]
Sol Seppy – Gold [from The Bells of 1 2]
William Walton – Symphony No. 1 – III. Andante con malinconia (conclusion) [from Live From The Proms – Walton and Takemitsu]
Daisy Chapman – Happy New Year [from And There Shall Be None]
Portishead – Threads [from Third]
William Basinski – d|p 3 (conclusion) [ibid.]

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