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AstroFM 129   06.03.2022

What Are You Sinking About? by E. Varius




Words from E. Varius:

"The inspiration for this mix can be traced back to a little jazz club called Melt in San Francisco. Melt was perched atop the Russian Hill neighborhood on the corner of 700 Columbia Street. Actually, it wasn’t even a jazz club. It was a fondue restaurant painted purple that was shaped like a coffin and could barely fit 20 people. For about a year, circa 2015, I would religiously go to Melt every Friday night to listen to the sound of West Coast Cool Jazz played by a man named Top Cat and his gang of characters.

Top Cat was a beautiful old black man with freckles who wore a flat cap and had a wayward eye. Between sets I would join him and the other old cats in the back alley to smoke weed and talk music. I was 18 at the time. I loved it—and they loved me, probably because I always had good stuff to share with them. Anyway, being there was like stepping back in time. I adored that feeling because I fucking loathed the new American sprawl that could be seen just around the corner. Now I’m not trying to be all J.D Salinger up in here, but at the time I was a bit of a flustered teenager (though I was probably more mature then than I am now). Most of the friends I had in High School had gone off to fancy universities only to become absolutely idiotic, drinking from the flask of hyper-masculinity that permeates collegiate life in America. Meanwhile, I was commuting daily to a crumbling community college and working 6 days a week. It wasn’t a matter of merit that I didn’t end up at a fancy university. It was simply that daddy wasn’t going to fork the bill—this is America after all. In hindsight, I couldn’t be happier that I went my own way.

Anyway, there was a lot of bitterness within me at that time and the rapidly rotting political climate in the US wasn’t making things better. But when I was at Melt, none of this shit would matter. Not for a moment. These old cats had a whole lifetime behind them, rich with stories and seemingly amused that this young kid willingly spent his Friday nights in a back alley with them getting high and stumbling back into Melt to listen to them play. And when they did… I’d melt away. I’d sink into my chair, close my eyes and see paint brush strokes of color over a black canvas. It was pure catharsis, just sitting there as the sound of West Coast jazz (ref: sounds like Paul Desmond) poured out the open windows and onto the streets of San Francisco for the people passing by to hear. I had once been one of those people, but that precious sound pulled me in and kept me coming back.

Eventually I decided to move away from the San Francisco Bay Area, choosing Rotterdam as my next destination. I said my goodbyes to Top Cat and his gang, and promised to visit the moment I came back. But when I returned the next year, Melt was no longer there. It had been replaced by some sort of boutique pancake place designed with Instagram in mind. The cosmopolitan sprawl had taken one of the last relics of West Coast cool jazz, and once again I was confronted with the feeling that I was born a few decades late.

Over the years in Holland I lost a bit of touch with that sound. I got sucked into all the sounds of Dutch West Coast Electro and the dance scene here. But once the pandemic hit, alone in my apartment, I kept returning to one record: Glad to be Unhappy by Paul Desmond. Night after night I’d lay on my couch and put it on—and immediately I would be catapulted back to Melt—back to all those feelings of catharsis and ease I had back then. All the colors would return. Since then I’ve continued to lean into all those feelings, seeking tracks that get me into the mood of Melt. Tracks that create space in my mind, tracks that I can sink into.

This mix is an ode to that desire to return to Melt. An ode to all kinds of music that help feelings of angst dissipate, music that reminds you how to think and to feel. I think we can all do with a bit of that."




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