There are a whole bunch of things I find alienating about most music writing. One of those things is how pretentious it can be, and one of the other ones is how boring it can be. And to my mind, it gets boring when the writer starts throwing insidery jargon around to prove how much she knows. It’s like getting excited about some new DNA technology that can cure Alzheimer’s because it runs in your family, but then you click through to the science journal article to read about it and you’re confronted with so many technical terms and so little “real talk” about what the hell is actually going on that you’re like, it’s cool, I didn’t really need to understand this shit anyway, and then you move on to read a buzzfeed listicle about kittens or some shit because it’s just… easier to be left out of the club. Plus, music is entertainment, it’s art, it’s community… it should be fun to read about it.
And if the reading isn’t fun, the written result doesn’t even accomplish its journalistic goal of communicating to the layperson, the casual music listener, what’s good/bad/ugly about the music it’s written about - it’s just critics dressing to impress other critics. Music journalists should be going to where “normals” live, and normals don’t live on page 147 of the All Music Guide to Electronic Music. We live in a realm of like, “I fucking know what I like when I hear it,” and not much else. Ask someone who isn’t overtly a “music person” what kind of music they like and WHY they like it, and you’ll get a different answer every time, but precisely NONE of those answers will sound anything like this:
“The chorus, which transforms the verses’ funk-by-Mondrian into something more cathedral-shaped, addresses this via a mini-thinkpiece on selfiehood, contrasting everyday acts shot to be witnessed with the need for (private) confession.” (thanks Pitchfork, for the ridiculousness - this was about St. Vincent, by the way).
What the fuck does that even mean? Why is that celebrated music journalism when it only appeals to a small subset of insiders who consider themselves more clever than everyone else? Well, Ben Folds has some news for you, clevers: there’s always someone cooler than you. And your words, they bore me. I like to curse and to understand what the fuck I'm reading and maybe, against all odds, have a good time reading it.
So fuck it, let’s live where we live, which is just, you know, in our cars with the radio on, or at a party in someone’s yard, shopping at the grocery store when Taylor Swift comes on and your inner mind-tail starts wagging (yes, you are in fact a fan of Taylor Swift. Resistance is futile, just let it wash over you). I’m not a musician, and I don’t claim to have some kind of magical musical language that can explain shit better than other people, I just listen to a metric fuck ton of music, I’ve carried enough amps to know that I prefer not to carry amps, and I have a favorite Beatle (it's George #controversial). For me, listening to and critiquing music is like exploring uncharted territory (but hasn't everything kind of been discovered, though? It never hurts to double check) and I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t know shit all about it.
But what I do know is that, if I had a store in downtown Portland, or a coffee shop, or any kind of restaurant or retail space, what I would play all day long would be Portland DJ Mosart212’s Symphony Sessions mix tapes. And then I’d be sure to have copies of those mix tapes on sale. Because people would love them and it would be like that scene from High Fidelity where John Cusack is like, “watch me sell five copies of The Beta Band” and then he plays “Dry The Rain” from The 3 EPs and people are like, “excuse me, what song is this?”
Mosart212’s latest mix, Age of Prosperity, begins as a kind of familiar endeavor, and vaguely reminds me of Thievery Corporation’s 1999 DJ-Kicks mix; there’s something comforting about that, like a warm hug from grandpa right before he pulls out a shotgun and shoves you out the front door onto a long, winding path through a dark woods at night, which is kind of where Mosart212 takes us after establishing his connection with the familiar (well, familiar to me anyway, and if you haven’t heard TC’s DJ-Kicks record, it may be worth visiting just for the fun of understanding this kind of mix tape’s 90’s lineage. Plus, it’s fucking badass, you big dummy). As you walk through these woods, they feel very mysterious though you’ve walked them dozens of times in the daylight. Little blips of what should be well known and intimate pop up in an unnerving way: a beat from a song you COULD SWEAR you know but can’t quite place, a chunk of a Ratatat song peering inquisitively out from behind the layers of sound here before emerging from the underbrush, naked and sporting a giant boner. I would even call Mosart212 a collage artist in his own right; his samples are interesting and whole enough to stand alone as strongly as the songs do, and sometimes he’s happy to just sit back and let them do the work without over-producing them. In one of his other mixes, Get Yourself Together, Cookie Monster shows up for a full length interview which is so heartwarming, hilarious and off the wall that I just sat there smiling like a doofus. He really lets the ingredients shine.
Aside from the simply pleasing nature of these recordings - try to listen to these mixes without thinking to yourself, “you know… this Mosart dude seems like a real swell guy. I’d like to maybe enjoy a beer with him on a patio or babysit his dog some time” - what I love about them is the way that he plays with space and time. The Grateful Dead were both famous and misunderstood for this same thing. A casual listener would hear noodling; a dedicated listener would hear a blues song being meticulously disassembled, examined, then reassembled again. That nonlinear examination of a song is interesting to me, and I find elements of that here when Mosart212 stops, breaks, moves into, exits, and passes over and through the musical elements. I may be the first and only person to compare a DJ to the Dead (who am I kidding, this is the Internet, nothing is original anymore), and you may think I’m full of shit (pro tip: I AM!) but it’s there. And the cool thing? YOU CAN FIND OUT FOR YOURSELF, BUTTFACE, BECAUSE HIS MIX TAPES ARE FREE. FREEE!!!!
Thinking. Doofusing. Space-time-continuuming. I mean there’s nothing wrong with any of this and Mosart212 lives among us commonfolk right here in Portland, Maine, making it so very easy for you to support your local music scene. Go listen for yourself, then catch Mosart212 at one of his upcoming gigs: Mondays at Bramhall, once a month at the Jewel Box and once a month at The Thirsty Pig.