Compunction: a mixtape

Call it a weakness, but I rarely find myself apologising. We have a culture of deference that sometimes manifests itself in needless apology; I veer from it. But on occasion, when one really screws up, one has to go beyond the call of duty in saying one is sorry. This mixtape captures that mood.

(Find it here, on Apple Music.)

In the yearning sensuality of Marvin Gaye’s “I Want You” and James Blake’s “Life Round Here”, it speaks of the desire to be forgiven, or perhaps even a feeling a notch stronger, that lies at the core of guilt. With the double-whammy of About Group’s “You’re No Good” and Blood Orange’s “You’re Not Good Enough” comes a brace of songs that point the finger at the other party whilst also conceding a sense of despair on the part of the songs’ narrators.

The centrepiece is New Order’s modern classic, “People On The High Line”, which effortlessly pairs piano house rolls with a titular reference to Bloomberg-era New York City. The result is the kind of pouting hip-shaker fit for 3 AM as the party shifts into a higher plane, or 3 PM in the same party’s solitary aftermath. To follow, inevitably, comes a composition of sharp contrast: “Allah Elohim”, by Shye Ben Tzur, Jonny Greenwood and The Rajasthan Express, is plangent, reedy and multi-layered, with guitar-tones almost oily in timbre cut through with the billowing wails of the Ondes Martenot. Whereas the New Order song is merely studious in its regret, “Allah Elohim” is the dignified response of a grown-up.

The back-half of the mix is crepuscular, slinky and auburn-tinged. There is still variation—Liquid Liquid’s “Optimo” is a shade more fricative; the Invisible Conga People remix of “Return Of Starlight”, a shade less so—but the overriding tone is common to all. Best epitomising the resignation is the shortest song, The Beach Boys’ “‘Til I Die”. Atop roiling organ and a primitive drum machine patter, the mournful vocal harmonies address the duality of being at one with nature, and therefore being at its mercy. “I’m a leaf on a windy day / Pretty soon I’ll be blown away”, the Wilsons sigh, followed by the more querulous and anguished, “How long will the wind blow?”

This is a collection of slow-burners, disco-inflected torch songs, and taut, funk-strafed art rock. Best enjoyed with stout or rum, it’s one for the solitaire’s contemplative hour, or one to uncoil at a party for a bittersweet punch.

Compunction is:

  1. Marvin Gaye, “I Want You”;
  2. Alabama Shakes, “Don’t Wanna Fight”;
  3. James Blake, “Life Round Here”;
  4. Disclosure, “Holding On”;
  5. About Group, “You’re No Good”;
  6. Hall & Oates, “I Can’t Go For a that (No Can Do)”;
  7. Blood Orange, “You’re Not Good Enough”;
  8. Bill Withers, “Green Grass”;
  9. New Order, “People On The High Line”;
  10. Shye Ben Tzur, Jonny Greenwood and The Rajasthan Express, “Allah Elohim”;
  11. Doves, “Compulsion”;
  12. Liquid Liquid, “Optimo”;
  13. Hot Chip, “Easy To Get”;
  14. The Beach Boys, “‘Til I Die”;
  15. Marvin Gaye, “Come Live With Me Angel”;
  16. Woolfy vs. Projections, “Return Of Starlight (Invisible Conga People Remix)”.

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