Cosmic Chambo's suggestions for tuning in, turning on, and logging off
The advice from Ged was simple and evergreen, but I still failed to follow it. “Never look at a QR code while tripping” seemed like an easy enough thing to do. But eventually I needed to change the music playing through my phone, and my minder was busy making ramen for the comedown. Thankfully, she was able to intervene before I drove a nail through the screen in order to “neutralize the shitstem spell” that I encountered while trying to transition from DJ Python to Don Cherry. This was one of the many reasons that I started using a Sony Digital Walkman when our 2007-era 180 GB Ipod died, and Apple transformed its extremely useful Itunes music library management software into a clumsy retail interface that keeps serving me search results from a store instead of from the 1.56 TB of digital music already on my hard drive.
If I traveled back in time to to the late ‘80s and asked Teen Chambo if he would like to add a feature to his off-brand portable cassette player that caused the music to stop playing when his mom, a telemarketer, or his boss at Sycamore Shoppe for Pets wanted to talk to him, he would say “I do not want that.” I listened to the Miami Vice soundtrack on endless repeat as a way to keep reality at bay. The only voice I wanted to hear on the school bus ride home was Grandmaster Melle Mel’s describing the alluring television show that I wasn’t allowed to watch past the opening credits.
This is still true today. I do not want my afternoon staring out across the Muncie skyline from our apartment while listening to Primitive Man’s Smashing Pumpkins cover interrupted by Spam Risk, Amber Alert, or Calendar Reminder for Forgotten Coworker’s birthday.
Another reason I like the Walkman is that if I’m listening to Primitive Man on Bandcamp – even if I have everything on my phone muted – I’m still in the store. Stores are for shopping. If you’re listening to music via Apple, Amazon, or Bandcamp’s streaming services, you’re listening through a retailinterface. Like social media services and online gambling apps, streaming services – including the non-explicitly retail-oriented corporations like Spotify – apply intentionally disorienting casino architecture theory to the digital realm in order to maximize “time on device.” These retail interfaces are not conducive to spending “time zoning out to ‘Planet earth's 1st and only Death Sludge band’s crushing reinterpretation of Billy Corgan & Co after putting the device down.”
I don’t use Spotify because of similar reasons, but mostly because I’m old and I hate the user experience. Spotify seems like exactly the sort of company you get when a bunch of tech business bros who think they are cool guyswho love cool music decide to try and get rich by dIsRupTinG something instead of fixing it. But as you may or may not recall, Neil Young stopped using Spotify awhile back and it didn’t make much of a difference. Buy a download or a shirt or a cassette or whatever from musicians that need the support: that will make a difference. Listen to as much Beyoncé and Motley Crüe on Spotify and Tidal as you want.
Sometime around 2017 I realized that more and more of my music-loving friends could no longer figure out how to listen to music that wasn’t streaming from multinational tech company retail interfaces. Specifically, I was sending John Hilgart’s Save Your Face compilations to Deadhead pals. Regular listeners of Inter-Dimensional Music – my understandably unpopular yet surprisingly long-running and widely distributed FM radio art project – may be familiar with this old school blog that features lovingly edited mp3 collections of Grateful Dead shows – along with occasional forays into post-punk and pastoral kosmische – that haven’t seen official release. These same friends were all technically savvy enough to know how to use file hosting services for photos, videos, or other non-audio files. Their day jobs weren’t music-related, but they were still active and curious listeners. And they all said the same thing: “Can you send me the Spotify link?” The appeal of Hilgart’s project was specifically that these songs were not official releases. As soon as a Spotify link exists, the compilation disappears for fear of DMCA takedown retaliation.
This was mostly a private grumble, but it came to a head a couple months ago when a close friend asked if I could provide a house soundtrack for a week-long retreat in rural northern New Mexico. There was an actual mobile soundsystem DJ for the main event – a beautiful Hindu/Buddhist wedding in a Rio Chama-adjacent bosque – but she wanted some tunes for the times in between. She trustedme to come up with jams for the breakfast burrito buffet, after-hours sotol sessions, and a “heart-opening” medicine journey. I immediately turned to the cache of “stoner country” and reggae/afrobeat/soul CDRs left over from my days as a slop-style selector at an Echo Park bar in the ‘00s.
I started ripping the CDRs for transfer to my digital Walkman, and was carefully sorting out any skrrrrrtch moments. Such as the opening line from the title track on Eugene McDaniels’ Outlaw album (cw: n-bomb) that might understandably cause consternation when encountered in the mix with Charlie Daniels or David Allan Coe, and without the context provided by McDaniels' album cover and liner notes. I was also less than confident that my idea of an endless shuffle of everything from bucolic Laurel Canyon country-folk to songs like Del Reeves' kinky farmyard sex-creep classic "Gettin' Any Feed For Your Chickens" would hold up for more than an evening or two.
Still, I trusted my taste more than a multinational tech corporation’s retail-forward algorithm. Until I realized that the New Mexico house soundsystem was something called a Sonos, and I had no idea how to use a Sonos, or any real understanding of what a Sonos is. It took me much longer than I expected to figure out that Sonos is another attempt to lead people away from their own music collections, and to log in to the heavily surveilled music retail interfaces of multinational tech corporations. All I needed was a regular aux-in cable for my dedicated digital audio player and I wouldn’t have to worry about rural high desert internet access, passwords, or my phone suddenly ringing through a subwoofer in the middle of an intimate entheogenic experience. But Sonos has eliminated the aux in, forcing the user to log in to an account and use a proprietary app. I hate an app. The whole reason I use my digital Walkman is because there are no apps.
After consultation with friends and a long automated exchange with a Sonos customer service bot where I explained how their service has robbed so much joy from my experience of sharing music, I confirmed that our rural New Mexico compound had dependable wi-fi and a speaker system that didn’t require a phone app, and would talk to my laptop. And I found a compromise in the DJ mix archive site Mixcloud. I don’t hate technology. I just get frustrated when its usefulness is corrupted by rich people trying to hoard more data and acquire more wealth.
I actually kind of love Mixcloud. I can’t tell if it’s any good for musicians, but unlimited storage is great for DJs, and it usually doesn’t feel like they’re selling anythingthan their own subscription service. I don’t understand why more people don’t use it for music discovery, although it is surprisingly difficult to navigate if you don’t know what you’re looking for. This is a very long introduction to a few jumping off points into the Mixcloud ecosystem.
There are few things more depressingly cacophonous than listening to Spotify’s algorithm attempt to put together a shuffling mix of dancehall, but there are hundreds of dancehall and digi-dub selectors on Mixcloud who are actually DJing hand-picked dancehall burners with a coherence and grace that completely eludes any algorithmic understanding. And the same is true of literally every kind of music – from ‘80s recordings of Larry Levan at the Paradise Garage to North Indian Classical Music concerts to sets of 100% Dilla productions or Olivia Newton John retrospectives. Mixcloud is free if you don’t mind not being able to rewind or listen to a show twice in a row, or you can activate full functionality for $8/month. I’m not pitching for Mixcloud, but if you want music to play in the background at your house or your bar or whatever, there’s no reason to use Spotify or Pandora's airless shuffling.
And so instead of relying on any algorithm, I turned to some of my favorite DJs from ID Music-adjacent zones for our Abiquiú soundtrack. You can find each of these playlists on my own Mixcloud profile, alongside 200+ episodes of ID Music if you’re consenting to surprise incidences of death metal in the midst of the mellows.
Here are a few of the crowd-pleasers from our blissed-out week living on a temporary New Mexico Hindu/Buddhist wedding commune.
Abiquiú Country Time
Not to be too didactic, but this feathered canyons mix of stoner country about being stoned is a much better comedown soundtrack than the usual Kris Kristofferson weeper about having beer for your dessert breakfast.
The Cosmic Turtle mixes all run together for me because they’re mostly songs that feel as familiar as the AM Gold kosmische country bangers from Poco or Pure Prairie League that I’ve heard a million times, but from bands that I’ve never heard once.
Aquarium Drunkard appears more than once in this list and was in heavy rotationall week, but this collection of dirtbag ranch-hand psychedelia assembled by Hiss Golden Messenger was the easy choice for the taking things down a notch after the boots were done scooting on the dancefloor.
Abiquiú Yacht Club
Yacht rock is annoying in the same way classic rock is annoying in that commercial radio – and the streaming services that are replacing commercial radio – play the same 100 or so songs on endless shuffle. “Hey Nineteen” is great, but Steely Dan has a few other songs, right? These two mixes from Wax Poetics and Aquarium Drunkard go beyond “Sailing” and “The Boys Are Back in Town,” even if it’s just diving for the B-sides and deep cuts. The whole point of “album-oriented rock” is that it’s a whole album, not just the radio singles.
Bumpin’ on Sunset took that same concept and ran with it for 51 incredible episodes. They retired the show in January 2022, but “the home of LA's smoothest soft rock and jazz fusion” remains the default house soundtrack here in Muncie. BoS offers a beautiful world view that sees Bonnie Raitt, Dâm-Funk, Marisa Anderson & William Tyler, David Crosby, Burna Boy, Ahmad Jamal, Leon Ware, and Emeralds as part of the same continuum. Tune in and join me in this best of all possible musical worlds: Absolute highest recommendation. Find the full archive on the NTS website.
We end our playlist of playlists where we began: with M. Geddes Gengras. His Acropolis Radio sets on dublab seem representative of the wide-ranging influences you can hear in his own creative practice, encompassing organic ambient music, rhythm-forward industrial, and the kind of JA sounds described in William Gibson’s Neuromancer as “a sensuous mosaic cooked from vast libraries of digitalized pop; it was worship … and a sense of community.” Like Gibson’s orbital colony Zion, Ged’s sessions “smelled of cooked vegetables, humanity, and ganja.”
His nearly three-hour (!!!) collaboration with Brandee Younger and beatific New Age legend Laraaji is from a sound bath accompanied by a botanical artwork installation from Fleurotica, and that’s exactly what it sounds like. You can grab the DL direct from dublab here.
The medicine journey turned out to be more of a “floating in the Chama, soft conversation, and deep listening to the bosque” kind of thing, but this fourth world jazz to ambient techno to ecstatic bass mix from ID Music mainstay Azu Tiwaline was the first chapter in an alternate timeline that perhaps we’ll explore in greater detail on our next opportunity for travel.
ID Music rarely does ambient-only broadcasts, but Forever Sucking Dry was my 100% mellow cetacean-mind-communion DJ set for Ballroom Marfa’s Desert Surf Films series in August 2015. The program, curated by Susan Sutton, featured two visionary surf films from the early ’70s: Alby Falzon and David Elfick’s Morning of the Earth and Elfick’s Crystal Voyager, along with shorts from artist Sam Falls and Marfa's resident surf bum, Ian Lewis. I’m interested in making more of these kinds of mixes, so please be in touch if you’ve got a journey soundtrack in mind?
The mix includes Aloha Spirit, Emeralds, Former Selves, These Trails, Buffy Sainte-Marie, The Clash, Sun Araw, Mike Simonetti, Irv Teibel's Psychologically Ultimate Seashore, and cetacean vocalizations. Listen for Margaret Howe Lovatt chatting with her dolphin lover, Peter: "Hello Peter! ... Nice!"
My original artwork was published in Stay Golden, Ballroom Marfa's Desert Surf Films 'zine. Contact me about prints if you’re interested! Many thanks to Travis Bubenik for editing the live mix for broadcast on Marfa Public Radio.
BONUS: Post-Abiquiú Zone
In an incidence of kosmische kismet, on the way out of New Mexico back to Indiana I figured out that one of my favorite experimental ambient programs was on-the-actual-airwaves of KNCE Taos! This realization was triggered when the host, online friend Spiros Antonopoulos, was describing the Neem Karoli Baba Ashram and Hanuman Temple I’d walked by many times when visiting Taos friends. His mix commemorating the “full moon in Purva Bhadrapada” featured some of the chants familiar from our Abiquiú week, along with “Ganesha sounds, banishing ritual, Yoshi Wada, Dhrupad, 75 Dollar Bill, Neem Karoli Chanting ‘Ram Ram Ram,’ Boards of Canada, Kali Malone and more...”
And with that, Void Contemplation Tactics resumes operation. Thank you for your patience while we were afoot and afield. Fresh Inter-Dimensional Music should be archived in the next week or so, and you can catch our humble tribute to Pharoah Sanders on the air this weekend in Indianapolis, Far West Texas, and across the Los Angeles basin on all the usual frequencies and urls. Thank you for being here!
blessing up and blessing down,
If you know anyone who might find value or otherwise enjoy some aspect of Void Contemplation Tactics, please pass it along. Thank you for lurking, sharing, subscribing for free, and/or subscribing for money. It means a lot to me!
My reach is limited on social media, which I’m increasingly convinced is a good thing. As Dōgen's teacher told him, “You don't have to collect many people like clouds. Having many fake practitioners is inferior to having a few genuine practitioners. Choose a small number of true persons of the way and become friends with them.” Or as we used to say at Arthur, “smiles and whispers between those who know.”
As much as I appreciate Bandcamp, Bandcamp is a store owned by a multinational tech corporation. If they can’t write critical reviews or point readers to music that isn’t available on Bandcamp, they are producing an often helpful and sometimes very well-written in-store circular intended to get you to buy more music from their store. Bandcamp is a corporation that is only as good as the people who control it. I’m glad to see my writer friends getting paid though, and it’s where I buy most of the music you hear on the show!
This episode of True Anon about mobile gambling, casino architecture, and social media is one of the reasons I finally locked my Twitter account.
As host Liz comments regarding a NIH study on gambling around the 38m mark, “the brain releases more dopamine in the moments before a gambling result is revealed, so gamblers ‘like’ less, and ‘want’ more as time goes on … pathological gamblers are rewarded with dopamine simply because of the uncertainty of playing, not necessarily only when they’re winning … design advances prioritize that ‘want’ over ‘like’ effectively engineering dopamine releases to keep gamblers in the machine zone.” The locked account reduces the uncertainty, effectively turning my Twitter page into a private(-ish) message board. DM to follow!
I worked at a startup with guys like this who think they are cool because they used to be cool but now they’re the quirky artist who hangs out with executives and suddenly they’ve decided to die on the hill that Red Hot Chili Peppers are everybody’s idea of “indie rock.”
No metal was the only rule and I agreed to that except for one brief moment when one of the heart-opening medicine journeymen took me up on a joke offer to listen to Primitive Man in the Subaru with the windows closed. “You really don’t want that,” I warned. “I really don’t want that.”
My journey with the Sony NW-A55/B high-res digital audio Walkman has been strange and frustrating, but ultimately successful in that I can listen to music on a device that does not do anything other than play the music contained on its memory card. All of the frustrations arise from Apple’s refusal to let anything other than another Apple product to talk to its music database software. And while the Walkman is a decent replacement for an ipod, I still can’t find a music database management program to replace itunes.
As Brother Kyle observes, “Listened to the whole thing, it's awesome, not sure if any album art has ever gone harder.”
Another reason you may or may not want to find me on Twitter:
lol actually if you use the free version there are ads for Sonos which at least made me confident that Mixcloud would work with Sonos!
My experience with using Mixcloud Pro for DJs was actually super frustrating. I signed up for a free trial and it didn’t really pan out. For $15/month you enable people to subscribe to your specific feed of music, including subscriber-only mixes. And it activates analytics, which I hate. I got a couple of subscribers, but Mixcloud takes a significant portion of the $15 – I think maybe 60%? but they don’t make it clear until you sign up. And they won’t make payouts until you hit a specific amount. It might work well for people with thousands of followers, but it wasn’t for me. So I canceled after the free trial was up. But Mixcloud wouldn’t deactivate my Pro status until all of my subscribers unsubscribed. So they kept getting billed, but I never saw any of the money. And new subscribers would sometimes join. So I was put into the extremely depressing position of writing to subscribers and asking them to unsubscribe, so that my account would revert to non-Pro. It was really weird. But to their credit they refunded all of the subscribers after I finally managed to get them to cancel their subs.
Stardust – Joni Mitchell 1982-2007 even got the full rewind treatment!