Top-5: Frank Gilbert Lyon II

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Frank is a DJ, artist, and musician living in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He’s an active member of the DJ/Party collective Deep Trouble and improvisational duo Pearl Necklace. He’s also collaborating on a design project called OUECHA, encompassing thus far incense, coloring books, and sweatshirts. Frank sees «the new year is about dresses, records, and prenatal mixes» :)

Duncan Mackay — Visa LP [1980, Edge]
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Duncan Mackay, one time contributor to the occasionally pleasurable and always talented 10cc, steps back a bit on this record from the more predictable sweaty prog work outs and delivers something that feels like a more muscular and rich version of a library synth record. It is more restrained and on paper the songs have similar structures to things you’d find on Bruton and other similar labels. But, “Visa” is real deep. Especially stand out “Gin Sing” The drum machine is massive and dubbed out with snaky echoes, the pads are roundly narcotic, a chord progression with delay on the up beats gives it a nice reggae feel, and finally the lead synth is melodious, detailed, and tasty. It’s always a treat to play this record for people who haven’t heard it, occasionally the word “funky” is invoked, and, I think that’s right.

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Masaaki Takano — Drops LP [1978, Miyanaga Records]
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I picked this one up a few years ago towards the beginning of my interest in 70’s and 80’s music from Japan. Solo work by Ryuichi Sakamoto and Haroumi Hosono of The Yellow Magic Orchestra caught my ear and I needed to find out what else shared that beautiful and unusual relationship between rhythm, melody, and production value. Being a child of the 80’s I spent countless hours incubating on Nintendo sounds and rhythms, and I think finding this music gave me a subtle nostalgic pleasure. Anyways, not long after I began getting all sorts of random records from Japan that I thought might offer another sweet glimpse into a very interesting cultural moment. Masaaki Takano’s “Drops” is, subtly, one of the more perfect records I own. It’s a recording of water drops, packaged in a sleeve made of some rich and delicately textured and fibrous paper, and pressed on some very lovely clear vinyl. It’s basically, exactly the kind of thing you want around. It’s also a lovely slab of ambiance to mix into any set when you want to tune up the layers with, just a few drops. It calms me to hold this record, and to listen to it, and I find myself wondering what exactly Masaaki Takano was after. It feels safe to assume that some sort of Zen or Wabi Sabi philosophical concepts helped inspire this production, but on a more personal level, it’s just nice to think of someone wanting a recording of water drops. Just splishing and splashing and splooshing.

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Mylene Duclos — Univers Caraibes LP [1988, Celluloid]
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I have a general love for the ambience of Caribbean festival music, and a big stack of records to show for it. However, sometimes things that intrigued in a store don’t distinguish themselves over repeated listening. I chase after vague, imagined moods hoping to find a track that fits my dream. In the arc of the obsession I figure out what I am looking for, and what I am not looking for. Even the biggest flops show some trace of whatever I was panning for. And so, within that boring stack of Zouk, Calypso, and Soca that I’ve been meaning to prune, Mylene Duclos is something like a strong branch that I won’t be dislocating. Particularly the track “Pa Ni Race” It’s great. The vocals, are really great. The lead is round and bittersweet, supported by vocal lines of many kinds: sexy, mysterious, comically abstract, low. It’s the kind of record I like to listen to on repeat when I am stressed out. It has a strong and peaceful vibe, sometimes even a bit sad. I like to pitch it down. I picked this one up at “Cheapo,” one of my favorite record stores in the Twin Cities.

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Sibilla — Oppio 7″ [1983, EMI]
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I’m really connected with this. I’m not positive why. Musical taste is always personal but sometimes it feels *very* personal? I first fell in love with the loop at the beginning; such the perfect mood: celebratory, but dinky, and actually sad. Sibilla’s vocals act out that space, bringing it to life and making it emotional. The husky but nimble delivery; I have no idea what it’s about but, it feels like heartbreak. I haven’t put it on any mixes, and I don’t play it out very often because, I’m still trying to understand how to create the right context for it. The chorus feels a bit crude to me, even though I love it, and my suspicion is that many people might need to be warmed up to something like that. Sharing it here is my way of trying something else, just letting it stand on it’s own. Also, the video is incredible, and highly ambiguous. In many ways it’s a typical 80’s Italian sound stage video, but the mise-en-scene and the mood of the “acting” performances vault it to a different level. Sibilla stands anxiously in front of a man and his mildly misbehaved camel. Near them the legendary Franco Battiato, who also arranged the tune, and a mysterious cohort sit quietly and observe Sibilla delivering the verse. During the chorus she becomes more animated while they mouth the lyrics casually and contentedly. It’s hard for me to tell weather this is a comfortable or awkward experience; something I’m often attracted to aesthetically.

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Yasuaki Shimizu — Kakashi LP [1982, Better Days]
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We’ll bring things to a close with a total holy-grail/doozy type. I stalked the internet for a few years trying to find this one. Nothing too romantic like the digging days of yore, though I did e-mail quite a few people *personally* and a good friend of mine even e-mailed Yasuaki’s people directly, who were very gracious if a bit coy. The search ended pretty logistically; it came up on discogs and I exchanged a handsome sum. It was worth it; it’s a totally singular record by the immensely talented Japanese Saxophonist and idea-man Yasuaki Shimizu. I think it’s his best record too, employing a nuanced variety of strategies, probably benefiting from all the work he’d done on tons of other great Japanese records from the late 70’s and early 80’s. It’s something like a heavily tuneful avant-garde new/no-wave exploration, occasionally leaning towards something like reggae, other times succumbing to meditative jazz cycles. It’s tasteful and atmospheric from beginning to end. The kind of record that makes you wish there were ten more devoted to a similar purview. It’s hard not to come off as a bit hyperbolic but, in other words, “this is what we wait for.” It’s a great example of what I find so lovely and captivating about Japan from about 1978-1985; tons of talent and fidelity, and an intuitively boundless perspective on genre.

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Photos & texts by Frank