Musique concrète? Oui oui!

I’ve blogged about Lily Wen before, and with good reason. Among other fabulous things, my excellent friend is an all-vinyl soul music DJ and Lindy Hop luminary. And not too too long ago, she started a record label called Figure & Ground.

Les Yper Sound Explorations in Drums & Sax record

I love everything about this record. Just look at the cover!!

Beside having a really hip-looking website, Figure & Ground put out a rad EP last year of spoken word tracks by Alan Watts set to groovy NYC woodwinds. This year, the label may be outdoing itself, as Lily prepares to release Explorations in Drums & Sax: 14 original tracks, inspired by ’60s musique concrète, written and performed by the duo Les Yper Sound (comprised of New York session musicians Miles Arntzen and Jas Walton), with additional genius contributed by Beastie Boys collaborator Money Mark and Sudanese pop artist Sinkane, AND produced by the one and only Lily.

Whew! I will allow us to catch our breath.

Despite the record’s close relationship with sometimes non-musical “concrete” sounds, Lily writes that “it journeys through many genres showcasing percussion & woodwinds among an eclectic array of acoustic & electronic sounds—all rooted in rhythm and melody.” In other words, its notes and arrangements might be unusual, but they’re still perfectly listenable. Time to release that breath in a satisfied and relaxing way: Ahhhhhh.

Also, the album contains a song titled “Potato Brain.”

Now I know you just started scrambling for your headphones and Sherlock Holmes pipe (because I did, too), so here’s a link to a little listening party you can have right now before the thing comes out on November 4.

Thanks for keeping the hits coming, Lily! And by “hits,” I mean of course “intergalactic instrumentals mingled with the acousmatic sounds of everyday objects.”

“If he were alive today, he’d probably subvert social media…”

“…in the same way he helped to reinvent western culture in his own time.”

Right on!

Thus spake my friend Lily Wen: DJ, Lindy Hop champion, and now record label entrepreneur, regarding the late great Alan Watts.

Alan Watts. Image via Ingienous Designs.

The old codger himself (image via Ingienous Designs)

I feel like I’ve always been vaguely aware of this British philosopher-hippie who helped bring Eastern provocations to the West, but I felt a spike of connection with his work last week, at the pre-release party for the vinyl EP Face the Facts, out today on Lily’s Figure & Ground label.

The record takes the occasion of what would have been Watts’ 100th birthday to present four “spoken word” tracks taken from hundreds of hours of his seminar recordings, set to music by New York woodwind musician Jas Walton.

Figure & Ground’s website describes the original material as “psychedelic Californian ruminations, intriguing incantations, and compelling thoughts on existence.” When I heard some of them at the party (held at the wonderful and cozy Unoppressive Non-Imperialist Bargain Books in the West Village), I did feel as though I were sitting in Watts’ houseboat living room, awash in mind-stretching inducements to alternate ways of viewing the world.

It was very cool.

Lily’s gotten some great press for her efforts, including write-ups in the San Francisco Chronicle, Wax Poetics, and Elephant (which I suggested she pitch to—yay!).

The record goes on sale in stores worldwide starting today, via Fat Beats distribution. If you’d prefer to stay in the living room, you can order a copy in digital or vinyl format from the Figure & Ground website instead.

Cheers, Lily! And cheers, Mr. Watts.