I’ve started a new blog called Handwritten List, which collects handwritten lists from people I find interesting. I have the first few posts up, and I’m looking forward to posting more in the coming days. This was mine — a list of things I enjoy in the morning.

With this month’s mix, the focus is something I’ve been picking up on recently in the underground music world: beautiful music with something “off” about it. The notion of contrast in music is nothing new, as pairing loud with quiet, sweet with sour, and high with low have been common throughout the history of art. But the way the pieces I’ve selected this month are shot through with a sense of tension keeps drawing me in. Almost everything I’ve chosen incorporates the piano, an instrument with a timbre and tuning that lends itself to planned discord and shifting tonal variations. While I’m not usually a fan of the harsher side of experimental music, here the unease somehow only enhances the beauty.

Continue on for the tracklist and some commentary on the pieces I selected.

K Leimer: Underground Music’s Secret Visionary
Dazed Digital; June 2014
Brad Barry

Kerry Leimer spent the late 70s and early 80s in a small studio in Seattle producing music that emulated the experimental sounds he heard coming from different corners of the world. In his work you can hear the floating flutes and driving rhythms of German bands like Kraftwerk and Tangerine Dream, rippling piano work reminiscent of Harold Budd, and forays into the the synthesised world music of Brian Eno and Jon Hassell. 

Leimer produced a staggering amount of work that spanned genre, style, and instrumentation. He released most of the work on his own small label, Palace of Lights, but much of this music went relatively unheard for decades. Then, in 2011, amidst a resurgence of interest in modular synthesisers, loops, and new age music, Matt Werth, the head of NY-based experimental electronic label RVNG Intl., started to dig into Leimer’s catalogue. 

Werth is no stranger to making the old – and sometimes forgotten – new again. With his label’s FRKWYS series, he pairs younger artists like Julianna Barwick, Sun Araw and ARP with originators and legends like Ikue Mori, The Congos and Anthony Moore for full album collaborations. He and Leimer worked together to assemble a collection spanning the artist’s career. The result, A Period of Review (Original Recordings: 1975–1983), is available now on RVNG Intl.

Visit the Dazed Digital site to read the conversation I had with Leimer and Werth.

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The Dazed A-Z Guide to Austin
Dazed Digital, March 2014
Brad Barry

In honor of SXSW 2014, Dazed asked me to assemble an A-Z list of music and culture in Austin. 

Visit the Dazed Digital site for the tracklist and some commentary on the bands, people, and places I selected.

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As we press on into the hot, sticky days of summer here in Texas, I’m finding myself fixated on glacial imagery. There’s something mesmerizing about the organic patterns of wear from wind and water decorating the surface of something so monolithic. With this mix, I collected pieces that balance that feeling of something grandiose and slow-moving with the intricate detail and rough edges brought about by the elements.

Visit the Dazed Digital site for the tracklist and some commentary on the pieces I selected.

Surviving the Waco siege
Dazed & Confused, August 2013
Brad Barry

Earlier this summer I traveled to Waco, Texas to talk with Clive Doyle, a member of the Branch Davidian religious group who survived the 1993 siege of their compound. We talked about the 51 days he spent inside, his life in the twenty years since, and why he has chosen to stay in Waco and remain a follower of David Koresh.

The story, along with some amazing photography by Magali Pijpers, is part of Dazed & Confused's 1993 anniversary issue, which is out this month.

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Though I recently returned from my trip up the coast of California, I still can’t get the gorgeous views out of my head. Driving through the winding curves of Highway 1, every turn had the potential for an amazing ocean vista or a picturesque look into a mountain canyon. The tension of the occasionally white-knuckle stretches of narrow road was rewarded with the release of gazing at the truly breathtaking scenery. For this edition of C60, I attempted to recreate the feeling of slowly weaving your way through those coastal mountain roads.

Visit the Dazed Digital site for the tracklist and some commentary on the pieces I selected.

Sun Araw in Jamaica
Dazed Digital, July 2013
Brad Barry

I recently got a chance to talk with underground California musicians Cameron Stallones and Ged Gengras about their work with dancehall artists in Jamaica. We talked about their experience working with legendary roots reggae band The Congos, their new label Duppy Gun, and recording up-and-coming artists everywhere from bars to backyards to the beach. The result is up over at Dazed Digital.

Make sure to check out the beautiful photography and video from Tony Lowe.

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As we continue to explore natural environments through this mix series, I’m still thinking about the coast. But, this time, it’s not the sunny surf and sand that most people associate with summer. Living in Texas, where the summers are unbearably hot, I’m finding myself more interested in the bracingly cold water, overcast skies, and salty spray of a more northern shore. This mix is my attempt to evoke the feeling of an overcast day on a beach with dark waves, rushing tides, and an exhilarating trip into the ice-cold water.

Visit the Dazed Digital site for the tracklist and some commentary on the pieces I selected.

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In anticipation for an upcoming road trip to Big Sur and up the California coast into Oregon, I’ve decided to venture from my instrument-focused mixes and, instead, explore music that evokes the different landscapes I’ll be seeing in a few weeks. With this mix, I was fascinated with the idea of the forest; I chose songs that inspire visions of soaring trees, mossy paths, and filtered sunshine.

Visit the Dazed Digital site for the tracklist and some commentary on the pieces I selected.

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My latest mix for Dazed & Confused focuses on the long, resonant vibration of strings. Just like the piano, stringed instruments have been modified, repurposed, and co-opted to create a stunning variety of sounds — from the ancient harps and droning tamburas of Mesopotamia to the violins and cellos of Renaissance chamber music. Tapping into this rich tradition, the sustained, harmonically complex tones of stringed instruments provide a gorgeous palette for the modern underground musicians represented here. 

Visit the Dazed Digital site for the tracklist and some commentary on the pieces I selected.

The Double Life of Terry Allen
Synonym Journal, Issue 2
Brad Barry

Terry Allen doesn’t see the disconnect between recording an outlaw country album in West Texas and making fine art for a gallery in New York. At 69 years old, the Lubbock native has created art that jumps between genre and audience, but somehow remains authentic. In his 50 years as an artist, he has worked in sculpture, music, painting, installations, theater, lithographs, literature, performance art, and radio plays. And, to him, it just seems natural.

“As a kid I kept notebooks and I would make lists of what I wanted to be,” Allen explained from his studio in Santa Fe. “It would always rotate between writer, musician, and artist. It wasn’t until much later that I truly realized that I could do all of it — that it’s all just telling stories.”

It’s Allen’s prowess as a storyteller that prevents his work from feeling fragmented; his pieces, no matter the medium, are held together by detailed story lines. Like David Byrne’s 1986 True Stories, a film whose soundtrack Allen contributed songs to, he weaves individual, off-beat stories together into larger, united works. Allen’s pieces, whether theater productions, prints, or concept albums, are focused on making connections.