A few months ago I participated in one of those dopey mixtape exchanges, where a group of strangers (or almost-strangers) craft “mixtapes” (more accurately, playlists) and send them to each other anonymously. It’s a silly timewaste, but one that can sometimes result in a few decent discoveries, whether it be of a worthwhile new artist or the inexplicable, unquantifiable alchemy that sometimes results from grouping a specific set of songs in a specific order. When it came time to make my mixtape, I decided against the standard format, opting instead to craft a running playlist where the songs blended into each other, and the transitions were as much part of the listening experience as the songs themselves. I also decided that I should include pieces of dialogue from movies, peppered throughout the 1-hour running time to provide dramatic brushstrokes. At the time, I thought I was doing it kind of haphazardly, without really giving much thought to any specific order or internal logic. However, as time has gone on and I’ve found myself listening back to this set of songs (because yes, I am the kind of self-absorbed asshole who continually listens back to his own handiwork), something else has revealed itself to me. Something that may have been on the back of my mind as I was putting this monstrosity together.
I’ve written here before about my uneasy relationship with sleep, and how I’ve suffered through sleep paralysis and sundry disorders over the years. I’ve also written about how my dreams often fluctuate between placid, beautiful, happy images of the things and people I love, to incredibly violent and disturbing imagery and scenarios. Sleep has become an experience I can never quite predict, and I can never quite guarantee, and something I don’t do often enough. My dreams aren’t an abstract representation of my brain working out all of my problems. They’re more like absurd, horrifying David Lynch pastiches which my brain puts together with the sole purpose of freaking me out. A bizarre smattering of Catholic imagery, pop culture references and the most random cast of characters from my life. I try to write them down immediately upon awakening, since I believe they’re mostly worth salvaging. Sometimes, when I’m with my girlfriend, I’ll be too embarrassed to get up at the break of dawn to write down on my notebook, so I’ll simply narrate the premise of the dream out loud to ensure it’s copied in my muscle-memory and I am able to preserve it. As if saying “going bowling with Bono and my grandfather” out loud is any less weird than getting up and writing on a journal.
Anyway, it became clear to me that this playlist is an attempt at approximating that kind of feeling. The sometimes-terrifying, sometimes sadly-sweet absurdity of the short films my brain puts together for my amusement. Check it out below. Movie sound bites were taken from Hitchcock’s Rope (1948), Ramis’s Groundhog Day (1993), Korine’s Trash Humpers (2009) and July’s Me and You and Everyone We Know (2005).
Charles Mingus– “Haitian Fight Song”
Man Man- “Pink Wonton”
Floratone- “The Bloom is On”
Crooked Fingers- “Boy With (100) Hands”
Bohren & der Club of Gore- “Im Rauch”
Diarrhea Planet- “Ugliest Son”
The Antlers- “Bear”
Arbouretum- “Coming Out of the Fog”
Red House Painters- “Have You Forgotten” (Electric version)
The Staves- “White Winter Trees” (live)