A huge thank you to Simona Castricum for putting together this mixtape for The Lifted Brow. Simona will be speaking at BROW TALKS on Wednesday 22 March, presented in partnership with non/fictionLab at RMIT.
1. Enya – ‘Cursum Perficio’
Enya is amazing; there, I said it. It took me twenty-five years to admit – and not just because of ‘Orinoco Flow’. My mum used to smash this record in the car and I’d kinda roll my eyes and be like – “Argh! This is my mum’s new age music and I hate it”. But I couldn’t hate it, because this was track two on her debut record and she had me at ‘Cursum Perficio’ – albeit as a guilty pleasure. What can I say - my mum knows her shit?
2. Depeche Mode – ‘Blasphemous Rumours (live)’
101 is the most awesome music road movie ever – and an example of how synthpop can take over a nation. ‘Blasphemous Rumours’ is an 80s American gothic pop tragedy of suicidal ideation, contempt for God and Jesus, the sad irony of life, death and our parents who struggle to understand who the fuck we really are. It spoke to me as a fourteen-year-old anyway – and the girl who sings this crying her eyes out in the live video is one of the most moving musical experiences I’ve ever seen.
3. Asok – ‘The Killing Game Show’
Crème Organization are a Dutch label that have been releasing the best underground and experimental techno, electro and acid since they opened out of The Hague in 2000. I was introduced to it by two Melbourne institutions back in the day, Slap Records and Meccanoid. The label and the sound is still a centre of gravity for me – this is one of the better releases from 2016 by Liverpool’s Asok.
4. Silent Servant – ‘Self-Hypnosis’
John Juan Mendez AKA Silent Servant is the best at horror techno – a Lantinx techno producer from Los Angeles. I play him every techno set. This track takes me back to 90s Luke Slater space-horror techno vibes. I think more techno producers should make soundtracks for science fiction movies – Jeff Mills’s effort for Metropolis is a standout example as to why.
5. Simona Castricum – ‘Takes You Here/There’
For about three years I was obsessed with this DJ mix called ‘A Tribute to Boccaccio’ by ThaMan. Belgian new beat has long been one of my fave genres of music; it’s basically slowed down hard acid techno with big snares. I ran a club called ‘The Shock of The New’ and I’d thrash as many of the records I could find of this genre – in the end I just wrote my own stuff inspired by it. This is one of those tracks that became the first release under my name Simona – a mix album ‘Trouble in Utopia’.
6. r.r. barbadas – ‘Wet Hair’
My tour last September in the US was such an amazing experience. I played with so many great bands and DJs, and visited some fun venues and inspiring underground spaces. The Downtown LA warehouse scene made me feel right at home – a great place for moody dark techno and queer gothic vibes. I djd a show with Pogo Pope (AKA Bustié) and Romy, and killer bands like HIDE and r.r. barbadas – who came on right after me. They were so awesome and blew me away. I can still hear Rona Rapadas’s vocals reverb through the still LA night air chasing the electronic snares of Robbee Barber. As a live duo they smash out beautifully crafted techno pop. I picked up this ‘Wet Hair’ EP as a great little four track tape – you should too.
7. Various Asses – ‘Down, Down’
One of my favourite Melbourne musicians is Various Asses. Raquel Solier inspired me so much as a drummer in Jemima Jemima and Oh! Belgium in the 00s. But when drummers get on the electronic tools and craft beats the results are so fascinating. The layers and patterns that make up the first release from Various Asses, Loción, could be twenty albums worth of ideas – it’s so intense. ‘Down, Down’ immediately hit me when I heard her first at LongPlay last year – there is this heckers tom rack drum roll that is an air drummer’s wet dream. Watching Raquel live crafting loops using DJ controllers is a fascinating and unique performative aspect of her work. And if the bronzed-body-building projections of her live shows aren’t enough of an immersive experience for you, check out the video, featuring the most amazing cast babes feasting in the parks of West Brunswick.
8. Akkord – ‘Megalith’
I fell in love with drum ’n’ bass in 1996 – I think it’s where I learnt to Melbs shuffle (but I could never do the thing with the hat). This track by Akkord makes me want to get out the talcum powder and cover the floor for a slide, but these knees aren’t doing that shit anymore. I fell out of love with it real quick tho – I think it was the bro/cis/het factor that was x1000 at those spaces at the time. I still love the beats – so this track takes me back and makes think a bit more about the sonic space that drum ‘n’ bass has to offer.
9. Inner City – ‘Paradise’
Kevin Saunderson and Paris Gray make up Detroit techno-pop pioneers Inner City. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard the opening synth line repeated or rewritten in techno since – but the impact of this album was significant. While techno as a format for pop never really lasted, it’s always been something I’m fascinated with – because ‘Paradise’ and others like it work so well on radio and in clubs. I’m still in pursuit my own perfect techno banger – this is it.
10. Soul II Soul – ‘African Dance’
Soul II Soul are a late 80s UK band well worth your knowing. Club Classics Vol. One is just that – featuring their debut hits ‘Keep on Movin’ and ‘Back to Life (However Do You Want Me)’. Killer bass grooves, back beats and string arrangements that stood somewhere other than the acid-house pop of its time with Jazzie B and Caron Wheeler fronting an amazing band. They followed up with ‘Get A Life’ on Vol. II, which is an all-time fave and a great video, but this track ‘African Dance’ shows Soul II Soul as musicians in full flight.
11. Isaac Hayes – ‘Out of the Ghetto’
‘Out of the Ghetto’ was my introduction to disco - my dad was a fan. As a four-year-old 12″ record sleeves are very big objects. In comparison to small children they are larger than life – so was Isaac Hayes at the peak of his powers rocking a pair of mirror shade sunnies and a purple skivvy and big cheesy grin. Some great lyrics.
12. Jonathan Richman and The Modern Lovers – ‘Egyptian Reggae’
13. Earl Zero and the Soul Syndicate – ‘None Shall Escape the Judgment’
I first heard The Modern Lovers’ ‘Egyptian Reggae’ on a mixtape from an old girlfriend in the 90s – how good is a mixtape from a lover? I was watching a Nina Simone documentary recently and I was like, Wait a minute, that melody is the same as ‘Egyptian Reggae’. Curious as to who had penned it first, I’m still not able to track the name of that song down, but it turns out that Richman covered the melody from Earl Zero and the Soul Syndicate’s ‘None Shall Escape the Judgment’. I don’t know where Richman is at with the Egyptian thing other than maybe some late 70s post-punk cultural appropriation, but Earl Zero’s original is such an amazing jam.
14. Popol Vuh – ‘Aguirre I’
So, I guess I’m right into synthesised choirs ATM and how the voice can become something other to evoke extreme emotional responses. West German progressives Popol Vuh from the early 70s used early Moogs to craft amazing choral arrangements. Their soundtrack to Werner Herzog’s Aguirre, der Zorn Gottes is a horrific score that sits upon the beautiful and the sinister simultaneously. I both eat my eggs and bacon to it and sit in the dark crying to it – often on the same day (that’s the kind of transwoman I am). We all need a piece of music like this.
15. Them Are Us Too – ‘Eudaemonia’
Last December’s Ghost Ship Warehouse fire in Oakland took with it Cash Askew – she was a critical part of east-coast trans musical community and one half of Them Are Us Too with Kennedy Ashlyn. ‘Eudaemonia’ is just one of the bands amazing tracks – ethereal and mysterious. The band’s voice also pressed firmly against the tide of Trump’s fascism and demanded better representation in music for trans and gender non-conforming artists. In her own words, Askew asserts “I don’t want my identity or anyone else’s to be tokenized for liberals to pat themselves on the back for being so progressive while ignoring myriad other injustices, and I don’t want our identities to be commodified and sold back to us for the benefit of people who already have power.“ Absolutely, Cash. xx
16. Blouse – ‘Ghost Dream’
Brooklyn label Captured Tracks have released some of the most brilliant pop music of the 21st century. Among the first releases was the debut from Portland’s Blouse, led by Charlie Hilton. It’s a cool, floating synth-laden record with gated snare drums I lust for. I’ve got no time for the obvious comparisons, because this record sits in the lineage of The Cure’s Pornography or Faith, IMO – it’s one of my favourite albums ever. But this, ‘Ghost Dream’, is a song of inspired emotion and beauty. Meanwhile, the video is a 3D virtual reality inception as a teenage architecture student come down acid dream in VHS vs BETA. It’s an experience – as Ghostbuster Egon Spengler might put it: whoever directed this is a certified genius, or an authentic whacko.
17. New Order – ‘Avalanche’
When Factory Records fell over in 1991 it split a musical community of international significance. ‘Republic’ would become one band’s diary of how allegiances fail and things drift apart. Even New Order’s signing to London Records felt like traitorous revenge for the late Tony Wilson and his Mancunian civic pride – but sometimes we must draw a line in the sand and get on with it for our own good. It’s a strange record in the lineage of New Order – it’s hard to know who in the band held it together, but Stephen Morris and Gillian Gilbert produced this gem, Avalanche, to end the record. It would remain reverberating in the atmosphere of NO’s uncertainty that fangirls like me would hang onto until the bands next release in 2000. Listening to Republic twenty-five years later Sumner’s lyrics resonate with new meanings for me – while its lasting atmosphere remains beautiful as ever.
18. ANOHNI – ‘Obama’
The drone helicopter that flies through ANOHNI’s entire HOPELESSNESS album provides an uneasy metaphor for Barak Obama’s US presidency. The tools of US supremacy independently and covertly evolve regardless of who’s on watch, while the expectation that a black Democrat could break the country’s systematic predilection for violence and hostility played out to be – as the Shepard Fairey poster read – just HOPE. He interrupted it. Meanwhile, seven years into Obama’s presidency Chelsea Manning was sentenced to serve in a Fort Leavenworth men’s prison as America’s transgender whipping girl – appeasing the blood thirsty alt-right, tea-party nationalist mob. Manning walks free at the mercy of Obama on May 17 into Trump’s reality-TV show of hate and state-sanctioned violence that actively targets people of colour, Muslims, Jews, queers and trans people. The strong cries of a wider movement who looked to the ‘Yes we can!’ and #blacklivesmatter mantras now feedback against an oppressive drone fuelled by that thirst for supremacy as bloody and Nazism and white as the KKK.
19. Austra – ‘Future Politics’
A disenfranchised Bernie Sanders voter screamed at me outside an Echo Park Walgreens last August: “A vote for Hillary Clinton was a vote for scandal”. At which point I seemed to get a glimpse into the strange mechanics of the US voting electorate – where fake news about sex and email servers turn liberals and swinging voters to choose misogyny, patriarchy and white supremacy as a protest or abstain from voting all together, allowing Trump to rule. As western politics become extreme, borderline, partisan and binary we are witnessing the decline of democracy – but mob rule was always a flawed notion, wasn’t it? If you’re on the margins of society it’s never included you anyway. “I’m never coming back here” – a face palm moment I think Austra might share with me.
Simona Castricum is an educator and PhD candidate in architecture at the University of Melbourne School of Design. As a musician Simona is represented by Melbourne queer feminist label LISTEN Records. Her culture and music writing has appeared in The Guardian, Vice, i-D and Archer magazines. She has a contributed short stories and memoirs on sexuality, gender and architecture.