The road from The Delta Mirror's Machines That Listen to the recent Better Unsung from Lightwave Records covers the passing of life's seasons and a shift toward a more direct and inward focus. Transformed through epochs of change and personal reflection, Chris Acosta drops his former bestowed Craig Gordon nom de plume for his real name and turned the attention to personal places and heartbroken hotel scenarios found on “Undeveloped Unreturned“, “Goldfish“, “Lead Me In”, and one of the best covers of Q Lazzarus's lambs silencing, “Goodbye Horses“.
Which brings us to our proud presentation of Machines That Listen Remixed, where Acosta's collaborative crew of Anticon Records operator Alias, Blue Sky Black Death, Tarsier, Danny 'Chief' Fujikawa and many more revisit and rework the 2010 record for what could be called the forthcoming sound of 2014. The Swingset Committee sets the tone with playground beats from the future, Alias brings a stellar beatification of revolutionary dance beats, The Shimmies' rocking reboot brings down the house, busdriver blends up all elemental stems into the abstract in search of calm, Odd Nosdam takes the perfect ending credit segment into an industrial wind tunnel, Blue Sky Black Death brings orchestras and synth rearrangements, Healamonster & Tarsier take the choir practice room touch to the rhythm lab, The Ropes drive you to the new orders with a new wave throwback, GANGI rewrites the wave sequence of electric municipalities, while Kordan amps up matters with new agitations. City Light kicks it with a steady minimalist pop trajectory, Adam Borecki trades in ways that will have you pondering what the difference was between EDM and IDM to begin with, Steve Nalepa steers things into the kinetic cinemascope span, Bomarr brings offerings from the post-industrial complexes, as Chris leaves you with the 'save yourself' message in his outro cover of TV On The Radio's “Blind”. Enjoy all the action here, and stay with us afterwards for the following interview with Mr. Acosta where we discuss each individual remix, and all the intimate interiors and arrays of emotion behind The Delta Mirror's reflecting glasses.
Without further ado, here is our discussion with The Delta Mirror's Chris Acosta, our dissection of Machines That Listened Remixed, and much more.
Let's begin with the moving “Undeveloped Unreturned”, and your return as Chris Acosta from the former Craig Gordon moniker. What was it from within you that brought about your return to Chris from Craig?
Well to start, a good friend who, for a 'you had to be there' sort of reason, started calling me Craig around the time we were recording the first record. As an inside joke for the only people I thought would ever hear my music I put that name in the liner notes. It stuck. I don't like it, but I don't like my birth name either, so I just went with it. 'Undeveloped Unreturned' is, like all the songs on this record, a look into my life rather than a fiction about someone else's.
And like the “Undeveloped Unreturned” title, what developments have you noted on your return with Better Unsung?
Working with Alias is the most notable development. I've been an Anticon supporter for as long as I can remember, so to work with one of it's founders was a long time dream come true for me. His drums give this record a life that I never could have on my own.
Moving from working as more of a group with David Bolt and Karrie K to the decidedly solo-ish outing this time around with the Delta Mirror, how has that affected you and what kind of challenges and pressures have you hurdled over in this position?
The dismantling of The Delta Mirror as a band almost marked the end of the project. I owe everything to the friends I collaborated with to finish the job. I wrote a lot of this material before we parted ways so I wanted to release it as a followup to Machines that Listen.
And even going the solo route you find yourself in great company. Tell us a bit about working with Anticon's Alias, Blue Sky Black Death, Tarsier, Danny Fujikawa.
I've been a BSBD fan for a lot of years now as well. Ian Taggart is one of the best producers in the game today in my opinion. Rona (Tarsier) is a good friend, who I used to work with at Amoeba Records. I think her voice, along with Ali Mills of Percy and The Gunslingers might be the most important part of Better Unsung. Danny Fujikawa is another really exciting producer. His Solo record under the name swiiim is a monster! His track I am God is probably my favorite song right now. Daniel Crook is another guy who added a lot. He played the piano on the happiest endings are the ones that never come.
Moving from telling stories from other people's personal vantage points on Machines That Listen, how is it presenting the more personal dramatic interiors and exteriors on songs like “Goldfish” on Better Unsung with those complications of “want you to stay”/”throw you away” dichotomies?
I've always said that writing about things as they are happening is the hardest thing for me to do. 'Goldfish' and 'The Happiest Endings are the Ones that Never Come' are both pretty personal songs that the people closest to me will be able to easily identify motives for. That makes you vulnerable, which I have a hard time being.
And just as Machines That Listen tells tales and stories through the electronic mechanistic medium; I'm interested in hearing your thoughts on how those plethora of perspectives and styles got shifted from the individual remixes from your 2010 album.
Let's start with the found tape resonance of Swingset Committee's punctuated pulse re-alliterations on “Going To Town”…
I love this track. I was really glad to hear an up beat version of one of our songs that just feels good when you listen to it. Those dudes are really talented. The Cake Shop show we played together was possibly the funnest of that whole tour.
Alias jungle tribe trajectory rejetting of “He Was Worse Than The Needle He Gave You”?
Those are some of the most incredible drum patterns I've ever heard, period.
The dream guitar gauze of The Shimmies' take on “And The Radio Played On”?
The Shimmies are some of my oldest friends and still one of my all time favorite bands. I honestly get choked up when I hear this track. If you aren't familiar with their music you really should be. They're putting their next record out on Lightwave, but you can find them now on iTunes and Spotify. They should be playing stadiums, seriously.
Or how about busdriver's abstract unpredictable beat reshaping of “It's Dark And I Welcome The Calm”?
Busdriver is another idol of mine. Rap was my first love and I'll never forget her, because guys like busdriver will never let me. I think he did a great job with this song. I listen to it all the time.
The haunted mansion pop ambient allure of Odd Nosdam's reworking of “A Song About The End”?
Dave just gets it. Every conversation we've ever had about music has been a treat. His interpretation was subtle, but right on the money. He isolates what is important to his ears and highlights it. You can hear that in this song.
What surprised you about Blue Sky Black Death's soaring hope of “He Was Wore Than The Needle He Gave You”?
Honestly, I was surprised in the same way I am with the songs we worked on for Better Unsung. Ian will take a piece of music from you and show you a song you had no idea could have ever existed. He is a beautiful composer.
The electric dream evolutions from Healamonster & Tarsier and their take on “It's Dark and I Welcome The Calm”?
Like the busdriver version, this is a pretty far cry from the original, which I love. We did a TV on the Radio cover that stereogum premiered a while back that was also a huge departure from the original. This usually invited criticism and comparison, but I feel like if you aren't making something completely new then there's no point in reworking it.
What do you think of the underground night club clandestine cadence of The Ropes' restringing of “Malpractice”?
I think the aesthetic they came up with is more appropriate than that of the original. I only wish that they would have used all of the lyrics rather than just the chorus. Her voice is so great!
Thoughts on Matt & Eric of GANGI and the Office of Analogue and Digital's complete overhaul and reshaping of “Going To Town”?
GANGI is one of my favorite LA bands right now. We've play with them a lot, so this was another fun one to get back. I think they did a great job.
Or how about Kordan's 90s industrial pop reassembling of “He Was Worse Than The Needle He Gave You”?
People love to tell me that this is how all The Delta Mirror's music should sound. I don't totally disagree.
What about the slacker indie electro from City Light's take on “And The Radio Played On”?
I like the direction they went and I think it's a really fun song, but I hate the way my voice sounds in it. If it was someone else singing I'd probably be playing this song a lot more.
Then Adam Borecki turns “Going to Town” into an abstract video game soundtrack created from contemporary dance tropes through the overclocked modulation. Thoughts on how a night on the town feels like a whole new town altogether?
This was a surprise. Steve Nalepa told me I should give a track to this guy, and I'm really glad I did.
How did the pensive dance burn thrust of Steve Nalepa's take on “And The Radio Played On” affect the song's heavy frequency?
Steve is great. This was another one that is hard for me because of my voice, but he put together a really nice arrangement.
Then Bomarr puts it all into overdrive on the mission driven approach to “Going to Town”. Future towns through sound?
I don't like this track. I'm sorry Matt! Other people do, and I'm a huge Bomarr/Restiform Bodies fan, but I'm just not into this one. Gotta keep it real.
Lastly, why do you feel it is difficult for us as humans to tell our own stories from our own points of views when we can hide behind the identities or the vicarious narratives of others, both fictitious and/or real?
The truth is there are a few songs that are actually very personal to me on Machines that Listen. I disguised them as fiction to protect myself and the people I was writing about. 'Malpractice' is about my sister and 'He was Worse than the Needle He Gave You' is about a girl named Hannah Finnerty, who's story you can find if you really wanted to. A song about the End is clearly about me. It felt safer to just build a pretend hospital where all of this takes place rather than talk about what was actually happening in my life. I'm force feeding myself some vulnerability at the moment. I thought it was really appropriate that Zach Kelly trashed this record on Pitchfork, but said good things about the last one. I didn't think we deserved a good review on the last go around, so I guess we're even Zach.
The Delta Mirror's Better Unsung is available now from Lightwave Records.