Category Archives: sounds


[words] rip, ric

under the cold and darkly sky / you trip the light and go…

[medium mirror]

the cars were my fav growing up. their records and lateral solo projects not only will come with me to any desert island, they are my desert island — if i had to choose one island.

ric ocasek catalysed my desire and urgency both to play the electric guitar and to write songs. all-lowercase, overdriven-jangle, and quirky-jerk, yet endearing, intelligent, and accessible, ocasek and the cars became my crash course in how to bring depth to “disposable” pop; how melody married to meaning could still court the coolest girl in class.

more importantly over the long-arc of my teenage daydreams, some of which linger to this day, the cars’ music spoked me out into innumerable adventures in sonic discovery. riding with the cars, i found (among many more) roxy music, david bowie, and t-rex in the backseat; robert fripp, steve reich, and john cage in the side-view; buddy holly, the byrds, and tom petty in the passenger seat; and new order, blondie, suicide, the cure, and eventually the ramones, the replacements, and much of what i’ve loved since in the way way back, crouched flat out of sight of the driver.

to an intelligent kid on the fringes of cool, ocasek and the cars said, “c’mon, man, the fringe is the cool. one foot in, one foot out — that fine line — that’s the place to be.”

i’m the american misfit kid / still wondering what i did / i’m on the inside, taking a fast ride…

throughout my songwriting life, co-opting ric’s icy reserve, black leather smirk, and reverence for poetic-yet-stuctured rock ’n roll let me embrace any style without care or ambition in my own music.

in a little structure we can find freedom. learning to break with structure comes later, and makes you comfortable as an iconoclast.

alienation is the craze…

ocasek’s passing on 15 Sep 2019 saddened me, though i never met him, never worked with him, never knew him outside of my own context of almost-lifelong innocent-obsession, deep-inspiration, and distant-admiration.

i’m careful not to cry out loud (or post stock pictures with sad-emoji captions) at the deaths of people I know, let alone people i don’t know, IRL. that said, that’s okay if it works for you. i’ll hit like buttons on my friends’ memorial postings, with no irony.

sometimes you can’t help get emotional, thinking of connections a passed artist’s work threaded into your life.

when the dance night flies / and the broadway screams / connect up with me…

in december 2016, we put our dog Sterling to sleep in our living room, to a david bowie mix on shuffle. bowie died in january that year, and it all seemed fitting. now, i can’t listen to absolute beginners, the track that randomly came on as Sterling drifted off, without losing my shit. i can’t even write about it here, can’t even think about that song, without a deep-breath pause to hold back tears.

but that melodic association’s about Sterling, not bowie.

you’re emotion in motion, my magical potion…

along the same lines now, with ocasek’s death came another spectral transition, of a similar, though more distant, cosmic force to Sterling that traveled astride me over time.

what’s left of them, fortunately, will never die.

in the ethereal afterglow of their spirits, i can still return to a state of all potential and no past, with a wide-eyed worldview that, for better or worse, believed life was malleable enough to coax in my direction from sheer will.

beneath the stars / all souls are lucky…

Luna, our current companion, btw, is the dog in these photos. she is a reluctant model, but as patient with me as Sterling was.

let the photos behold, let them show what they want…

on 16 september 2019, the day after ocasek died, i plugged in my guitar and mic for the first time in a month, and hit a record button for the first time in a year.

since returning to new york city last june from an extended california sojourn, i have made no recordings, written only two tracks, and found scant musical and literary inspiration in my immediate surroundings. life has curved sharp in 2019.

unexpected reckonings. fleeting-at-best, illusory-at-worst successes.

life is as living does.

i always claw out with creativity. this time, tho, seems harder. not sure why. could be this age. my age. age-old curses. could be the mirror never lies.

dancing ’neath the stars and the strife / going through the motions of life… the flowers of evil / will surely grow…

my new york city’s changed, too. it’s not the warholian bohemia that welcomed ocasek’s buoyant darkness when he decamped from boston to manhattan all those years ago. walking the city’s surface deterioration, surrounded by unrelenting collisions and widening gaps between manmade, systemic misery and negligent, indifferent opulence, you know new york will never be new york again.

then again, maybe it’s as it always mostly was, and i was just fortunate to live here for the last 20 years in an anomalous, halcyon blip of progressive serenity.

either way, while this city owns my tomorrow, it can’t touch my someday.

the good life is just a dream away…

thing is, tho, even after an “escape” or a “clean break,” nothing resolves. except pop song choruses (one reason i love to write pop songs). ric’s songs reveled in resolutions.

and IRL “codas” are a fade-out, however, most of the time. very few people go out for good in a fireball.

the passing of heroes always begs reflection that daydreams come with expiration dates, too. when dreams die before you, regrets are more than willing to fill the vacuum.

well i think of you when i dramatize / the things we never did / and i think of you when i’m flyin’ / or when I’m feelin’ just like a kid…

when i hit “record” the day after ocasek’s death, a mournful version of my best friend’s girl poured out. as i played, i tried to sort out an alien sense of loss welling up from the fretboard. like i said earlier, it’s rare for me to lament on (or revel in) anyone’s passing, let alone in public — and let let alone to grieve in public about a stranger.

in many ways, even just cutting a cars cover song the day after ric ocasek died felt as the musical equivalent of instagramming a stock photo of him with a sad emoji caption. sharing it now, which i’m about to do, feels a bit, well, silly. yet, still, feels necessary. can’t explain, other than i’m driven.

all catharsis is tinged with selfishness, anyway.

the dead don’t mourn. grief is a one way street.

you weep for you.

who’s gonna come around / when you break?…

there are four songwriters whose deaths, if i am lucky enough to outlive them all, will have thrown me into a cycle of self-reflective sadness. ocasek and tom petty are already gone. ray davies and paul westerberg are still around.

i strum their songs all the time to myself. to calm. to sleep. to salve the sense of time passing.

playing covers is also a means to repay artistic debts to an inspiration, as much as it might cast me as a wannabe.

at the same time, every musician starts out as a cover band.

yeah, you hang on tight / (and you’re running around / with your face in the ground) / like it was your last right…

through the years, i’ve recorded dozens of covers, but only released three: george harrison’s isn’t it a pity (on my 2007 release stay home vs. the love shoppings), the postal service’s such great heights (on my 2013 release :^D), and the psychedelic furs’ the ghost in you (as a spotify single in 2010).

harrison’s track cemented the message of a record that told stories of the struggle to find spiritual centering in a post-kindness world. i couldn’t imagine that record without that track now. the recording was a series of live full tracks laid over each other. in true lo-fi fashion, you can hear my apartment radiator knocking in the more quiet moments. i loved that.

the postal service track was one that me and a few friends got obssessed with on a road trip down the east coast in 2012. the fun i had on that trip — one of the best unadulterated adult good times i’ve had — comes through on the electrified version i coaxed out of my limited virtuosity, again layering a host of live run throughs to create the recording. also as with the harrison track, i can’t conceive of the record without its inclusion.

the furs’ track was a moment where i channeled an homage to my 1980s highwire days into 6 minutes of jangle-crash. i drew an awful rendering of john hughes for its cover that i now wish i could take back, but re-releasing on spotify is a pain in the ass, and i still think it stands as a decent rendition of a great song, and an encapsulation of everything i loved about my idyllic suburban new jersey teenage space.

mostly, though, i use cover recordings as a means to explore and mine processes and attitudes — to try to get inside the heads of artists and tracks i’ve admired. so except for the 3 above, they all sit on hard drives gathering digital dust. everything from the sonics’ you’ve got your head on backwards to kris kristofferson’s i may smoke too much to the cure’s just like heaven. at some point, maybe i’ll release the ones i secured rights for.

in many ways, i’d like to think it takes courage to play or record cover songs. you allow avenues of comparison to your own work, with work that most likely has reached further and deeper into wider audiences than your work ever will.

showing up to a party you’re not invited to is always a risk. if you’re selective and creative about what you cover, though, those performances can inform and refract on your own influences and development, as i hope the ones i’ve released do.

playing covers live is a bit different than recording them, too. with an audience, covers can complete circles in a performance, fill in narrative gaps with collective free association. as a performer, you can take people on a journey through their own memories so as to bring them back to you.

in early 2018, i played a cover of tom petty’s walls (circus version) at a local solo gig. a few months removed from petty’s passing, i pulled out a floaty arrangement i had played only to myself for years, never recorded. sharing it with a live crowd in that moment felt right. i needed no catharsis, just to inspire a moment of collective joy and memories of the good times that petty fueled.

recording covers, however, is a private conversation between you and the artist you’re covering. eventually, if you release it, a crowd gets to eavesdrop on that conversation.

my my best friend’s girl performance was not an interaction between me and an audience. only between me and ocasek, in my cluttered home office / studio, driven somewhat (in retrospect) by pure cathartic intention. no one told me to do it. but i had to do it.

jackie, what took you so long…

it always flipped me out a bit that my best friend’s girl was one of the last songs kurt cobain played live (in march 1994 nirvana opened their final concert with it). what did cobain see in his penultimate month of suicidal ideation inside ocasek’s jangled tale of lost love, blithe envy, and never-faded lust?

with where the song took me, i saw not only into ocasek’s head, but also a little bit into cobain’s head.

“she used to be mine.”

yeah, yeah, yeah

in many ways, ric’s world — the cars’ world — used to be mine, too.

RIP, ric.

i’m in touch with your world / and nobody’s gonna buy it / it’s such a lovely way to go.



[aired] Blue Skies over the Other Side of the End

St Clair Beach | Dunedin, New Zealand from Dip Creek Productions. [Vimeo | Twitter | YouTube]

A classic blue sky day here in Dunedin, New Zealand. Filmed on Tuesday the 25th of June 2019 in the middle of what has been a surprisingly lovely winter. We thought we would see if there was any surfers brave enough to catch a wave or two? We found one hearty soul! Conditions looked blustery out there.

Most of the shots in the video are filmed at St Clair Beach and the esplanade. As the sun started to set the views toward the end of the video are from St Kilda beach.

Music from Free Music Archive : Westy Reflector, “the other side of the end”

Callum McDonald, New Zealand videographer based in Dunedin, soundtracks a “classic blue sky day” in his home city with my track the other side of the end off my 2017 record cipher /e dreams [Bandcamp | Spotify].

This vid marks the second time Creative Commons licensing has taken my tracks to Dunedin, NZ. In July 2017, Since I Heard the Sun soundtracked a Thunderbird Trike ride on Dunedin’s Mt. Cargill Road. Xclnt to see a city to which I may never travel IRL from another angle.

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SOURCE TRACK


[aired] Kites Riding Waves

[edit: Watch here. Playback disabled on external sites. Maybe that’s one reason the video only has 17 views a/o 23 June 2019… :^D]

medium.com mirror

Lac du Der ‘station nautique’ France.

Natuur en recreatie, genoeg te beleven voor een weekendje weg.
Ondanks het koude weer toch nog een uurtje gevliegerd met de Freilein.

Nature and recreation, enough to experience for a weekend away.
Despite the cold weather, still flying an hour with the Freilein.

Music: Westy Reflector – ‘Riding Waves’

The Internet is at its best when shared passions become community. When the net first started to gain cultural traction, smack was talked, of course, but digital space wasn’t a tool of division, so much as a journey of discovery and connections. It was a weird (in the best way) and wonderful window into what other people were thinking and doing, made even better when the most obscure and arcane pursuit saw a light of day in ways no other communication system in human history allowed. Net 1.0 was a network of tangible dreams built by concrete dreamers. The physicality of the network itself was way more evident, too: the iconic modem handshake sound; the wires into your computer; the relentless arrival AOL discs in your mailbox…

“You’ve got mail,” indeed.

It was work to get online, but a few dreamers did the heavy lifting and posted sites, or created and managed email listservs. All of a sudden, within a few years, anyone who did anything could find a critical mass. For example, a kite enthusiast’s passion no longer had to exist in a vacuum or in a mythology, or stay beholden to local flying groups, random beach encounters, or obscure magazines.

This week, a Creative Commons use of my song Riding Waves [disquiet0066], off my 2013 album Transient Lines, took me into the world of kite flying. Holland-based YouTube channel Powerkiting took to a nature preserve in France, and soared a Freilein Vertigo Framed Quadline Yellow kite soundtracked with Riding Waves.

Freilein kites are among the more high-end, complicated, sophisticated flyers, sewn by master sailmakers, and retail for around $180. The dedicated kite flyer is no mere hobbyist, but a true outdoor sportsperson, in tune with wind, sun, climate, and terrain. The pursuit has its own language. A quick dive into the world brought surface knowledge of “handles,” and “lines,” and “knot settings;” What it means if a kite becomes “brake heavy.” Some flyers feel sensations with their eyes closed through their handles and know exactly what the kite is doing in the air.

Untitled

That the narration and intro of the video are in Dutch, and that I don’t understand a single word, is all the better. Sometimes listening to and/or watching someone demonstrate their passion in a foreign language brings you to the pure essence of their pursuit. The tone; the smiles, the laughter, the furrowing of brows at something serious, the dreaming faraway gazes, the connection to the greater. It’s all there, in a borderless communication.

One of the more famous kite flyers in history, Benjamin Franklin, had this to say about his Kite Experiment, wherein he proved the connection between lightning and electricity (in 18th Century English, which sometimes presents an air of impenetrability):

As soon as any of the Thunder Clouds come over the Kite, the pointed Wire will draw the Electric Fire from them, and the Kite, with all the Twine, will be electrified, and the loose Filaments of the Twine will stand out every Way, and be attracted by an approaching Finger. And when the Rain has wet the Kite and Twine, so that it can conduct the Electric Fire freely, you will find it stream out plentifully from the Key on the Approach of your Knuckle.

This sounds like what happens when I play the guitar. Perhaps a kite is a single string instrument…

In any event, I treasure this video for all it reminds me. On one level, it serves as a reminder of why I release all my music as Creative Commons. It also layers on a reminder of all the good stuff the internet can still bring. The net doesn’t have to be ping-pong political noise. It can still be a place where you just share your love of the wind. Wind lovers united.

bridgehampton flyer, 2014

As a sidenote, Riding Waves was a “posthumous collaboration” with talented Indiana-based musician Jeffrey Melton, who recorded as nofi and passed away in 2013 at the age of 42. He was an early and prolific contributor to the Disquiet Junto, and one of my first friends on Soundcloud. For this track, Junto members all took a piece from a long live Nofi set, and played along live with it. Every time this track’s CC license use pops up in my alerts, it brings back memories of too-cursory electronic interactions I had with nofi, and the bittersweet elegiac joy I had recording the song.

Kites. Who knew?

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SOURCE TRACK


[aired] DaCaLuF.0349: Lonesome Faraway Puerto Perme

DaCaLuF – Saison 3 – Ep49 – Puerto Perme from David Bellais on Vimeo.

Première visite dans un village Kuna. (Panama)
Musique : Lonesome Faraway Sounds par Westy Reflector

Xclnt to find in my alerts another new DaCaLuf adventure soundtracked with a song of mine. Since 2014, videographer David Bellais‘s videos have been some of my fav CC uses. Pure joy of exploration and discovery…

source track:
“Lonesome Faraway Sounds” from my 2017 release, “cipher /e dreams.”

liner notes:
Dedicated to the memory of Berta Cáceres and to the ongoing effort to free Bassel Khartabil.
Update 2017.08: RIP, Bassel.


[aired] DaCaLuF 341 – “Love in This Land”

DaCaLuF – Saison 3 – Ep41 – Santa Marta from David Bellais on Vimeo.

Santa Marta (Colombie) avec les copains! (“Santa Marta (Colombia) with friends!”)
Musique : Love in this Land par Westy Reflector

Psyched to see a new DaCaLuf adventure soundtracked with a song of mine. Going back a few years (2014!), these videos have been some of my fav CC uses. Pure joy of exploration and discovery…

source track:


Playing Petty To Pets: You & Me

Tom Petty’s “You & Me” played to Luna, our 5-month old Westie, intercut with footage from a few of her first trips to Prospect Park, Brooklyn.


[sounds] Stripped State: Laurel Canyon Recordings

From January to June 2018, my wife Cat costume designed the Amazon series adaptation of the podcast Homecoming that shot in L.A., so we decamped Brooklyn for a 1930s cottage aerie perched halfway up Laurel Canyon. I bought a knock around Seagull guitar at the perfect scaled All-In-One guitar shop in Koreatown, and recorded a couple dozen tracks in our Gould Avenue house. My Gentleman of the Canyon adventure took me to a songwriting time zero, stripped down and raw, to that place where I just sat and thought and wrote and strummed. And listened. And learned.

This Canyon Drive video:
youtu.be/9M2kgtzeT6M

These tracks are destined for evolution. But for now, they float the aether in a simplest, stripped state, kicking up some glorious west coast dust for me. Who knows where we’ll meet again. Hopefully, in The Canyon.

BANDCAMP (SELECTED TRACKS)

SOUNDCLOUD (FULL SET)


[music video] This Canyon Drive

Figures that living in Laurel Canyon for six months would inspire one of my best tracks. Special place. Will return with more permanence someday.


[track] The Space In Rain

Rainstorm / 20170717
Bridgehampton, NY
Close friends’ house, Cottage bedroom
improv on a 44-key upright Grieg piano, un-tuned, sticky keys
iPhone w/ a Shure MV88 lightning condenser sitting on a windowsill


[track] The Last Time Up Ahead

this one’s for the ones who stop to think
this one’s for the ones who always knew
this one’s for the ones who see the absurdity

this was a place we lived in peace
a place we lived in silence
a place we lived together in light

the last time
is cloud nine
and you won’t know
you’re dead

but the saddest time
is the first time
you see
the last time
up ahead

how many days can you see through things
how frayed is a soul made of string
how many ways can a memory bring you down

what happened all the power burned out
what happened all that’s certain’s in doubt
what happened all the love turned it back on us

there’s no one around who doesn’t think they know
nowhere you’re left to be, no place left to go


[track] Canyon Songbird Dream #7

i believe in my dream
I believe in my dream
in my song, i believe you’ll see
all the lives we are to lead

searching for answers
is a waste of precious time
destiny doesn’t ring the bell,
doesn’t tell you you’ve arrived

songbird on an electric line
only knows he’s incomplete
caught up in a lookout for love
all his faith on endless repeat

may never know magic
of a returned call
but he never sounds tragic
never sounds small


[track] Paper Streets [20180601.1]

You came a long long way
just to find nothing
on the other end of a promise
from the other side of the sun

the road was mapped but never real
still the dream of a long gone man
now foxtails push up through cracked cement
and long abandoned plans

Paper streets always burn.
Paper streets always burn.
On a bridge to nowhere,
you never know where to turn.
Paper streets always burn.

Doesn’t matter where you’re from
when you see the world from the sky
Broadway to Magazine to Sunset Boulevard
They all draw the same line

You have to put your faith in strangers
or else this is a lonely life
but sometimes people are wicked and cruel
we’re not wired to be nice

I lost a fortune to a dream
but at least it was my dream
some people lose their fortune to a faith
in the world as it seems


[track] Canyon Bees, Birds, and a Chicken (20180509.1)

“A bee, a bird, and a chicken are hanging out in the Hollywood hills…” sounds like the start of a joke, but it’s just a field recording. The bees are pollinating a perpetual-blooming Echium Candicans (“pride of Madeira”) flowering shrub in our Laurel Canyon Garden, while a mockingbird, a scrub jay, a few other birds, and a chicken across the street join in the chorus. Live iPhone recording via a Shure MOTIV MV88.

Echium Candicans
pride of Madeira
subshrub invasive ornament
Spanish nectar
going-steady bees
soda jerk two-straw shake
canyon hillside date
10 minutes drive
from a retrofit-rail-car diner
off Sunset


[aired] Between Stations: Yellow Dog Blues Backstory

Enlightening walk-through by Mississippi writer Suzassippi with some fantastic photos of the actual location where the “Southern cross the dog” in W.C. Handy’s Yellow Dog Blues.

In 2014, the Disquiet Junto participated in an NPR Studio360 project to record modern versions of Handy’s track in honor of its 100th anniversary. My track, Between Stations, “won” the event, and I ended up on air with host Kurt Anderson and musician Marc Anthony Thompson.

The Blues makes us aware of how the universe perceives harmony through our ears. Its “source material” is not so much sadness, but a universal alienation. Everyone fears loneliness from different directions. Handy’s song says to me, “There’s no use for home where you always lose who you are,” which was the launch point for my recording. Suzassippi lends wonderful visual, grounded context to all the tracks she highlights, and quotes me at the end of her article.

via: Suzassippi

Back a number of years ago, I first read about where the Southern Cross the Dog in a Farm Bureau magazine quiz. I had never heard of it, and it was an intriguing story about the town of Moorhead and the junction of the old Southern Railway system and the “Yellow Dog”–commonly thought to mean the Yazoo Delta Railway.

Winner: Westy Reflector cover of Yellow Dog Blues. Of it, the judge Marc Anthony Thompson said “I just wanted something that I really liked to listen to.” Westy Reflector said “no one in the story is in a fixed place” and “blues was never fully about composition as an end, but about a rich community of shared source material.”

My faves: All of which, “I just really liked to listen to.”

Ari Swan cover of Yellow Dog Blues.

The City of Light cover of Yellow Dog Blues. I liked that he repeats the refrain ‘Southern cross the dog’ as did the original Handy heard.

Addieville featuring Sara Murphy cover of Yellow Dog Blues.


[track] Every Light Leads (20180426.1)

all you’ve got is a feeling
and what i got won’t show
b/c our visions of love
only intersected long ago

gonna go where every light leads
if it only takes me round the block
i don’t care
at least i’m searching
at least i’m driving
where you’re still aching
to get somewhere

first time i knew luck was
the first time we laughed at the same truth
but there’s only so many lies
you can sell yourself and still pull through

“burning a bridge” burns one ahead,
not one already crossed.
those things you leave behind
are, anyways, already lost

lenses
filters
living as if reality
mirrors
windows
living as if we really see


[track] Quiet Nowhere (20180426.1)

the smarter you are today
the more you live in shadow
never giving up all you know
‘cos it’s

quiet nowhere
la la la la la la la la la
it’s quiet nowhere

to long for someday soon
is to long for days gone by
they’re both parallel paper streets
through a

quiet nowhere

the sound of things falling is the same sound
as things rising into the air
time spent afraid of what you might hear
well, that’s a quiet nowhere

that feel when the world lets you down
that feel when old friends freeze you out
when you’re seen as wrong when everyone’s not right

it’s quiet nowhere


[track] Love Your Self Any Way (20180426.1)

we were young
you were younger
never were to be in love
i should’ve known better
every price has a one

you wanted the world to burn
vanish into points of no return
‘cos hardest to learn
you never could say
love your self any way

afraid of truth
living in shadows
is no way to move through life
in the end, in this haunted future
you set yourself alight

saturation turns to gray
where there are only beautiful days

you found only
darkness in sunshine
you saw only one
way out


[track] Wonderland (20180418.1)

Mattie was the kinda girl
who saw the end of the world
every time she opened her eyes
Roger was the kinda guy
never turned down a ride
figured “the end of days is just down the line.”

the price you pay
counting on judgment day for love
is to waste the light away
wide awake
wishing on the dark
(in Wonderland)

they found an acre and a half
halfway up Wonderland
in September 1973
they spent a few years
thinking the end was near
and cut down none of their trees

their earth gave way on a red flag day
right around 1982
they held on fast
against a backdraft
into the black they flew

they always thought of each other
as first time lovers
in an endless secret rendezvous
but sometimes living a life of desire
leaves you dreaming of fire
in a state of always almost coming true


[track] What’s Left Of You Is Here (live, 20180313)

I knew everything of you
in how you said your name.
On our way to points B unknown
from whatever points A.

I will never need to know
how the shadows fell across your face
In that place you used to be
Before you escaped

To California. for untold revelations, on a self-sent invitation. What’s left for you to fear
in California? Your train is the station. Your dream of vindication.
What’s left of you is here.

“Maybe I’m out here on a lie,
but it’s only a lie to the skin I shed.
What’s left of me here
is the truth.”

There’s gold inside us all
But we just pass each other by
Because you gotta wash away the dirt
To find what’s not a lie

That’s California. unknown elevations, sends no invitations. What’s left for you to fear in California? Trains are the stations. A dream of vindication.
What’s left of you is here.


[track] It (20180412.1a)

I wanna blow the doors off of everything
just because I can
I got no direction
I don’t care much for a plan
I’m gonna do it just because I can

I wanna call the world out for what it is
just because it can’t
I got a few ideas
that I know that it can’t stand
I wanna do it just because it can’t

I wanna make this life as simple as you say
just because it’s free
I got a few years left
and they’re still ahead of me
I’m gonna do it
just because