Liner Notes 06: John Gómez

When you are a music obsessive, it is pretty useful to be a native speaker of both English and Spanish. For the Madrid-born, London-based selector John Gómez, being bi-lingual and bi-cultural has shaped his entire outlook, including the way he approaches music. You can hear Latin rhythms permeating this mix, and John explains how his predilection for specifically ‘Latin’ music really grew out of his experience of living in Cuba. “When I finished school I went to live in Matanzas – the birthplace of rumba – where I drank rum and studied Afro-Cuban percussion.” This is not, however, a podcast of Cuban music: it borrows the essence of some of Cuba’s spiritual and transcendent rhythms and combines these with a feeling of Balearic esotericism, where anything goes.
John has a restless and inquisitive ear, which has allowed him to move between many musical scenes rather than committing to any given one. He hosts the Rush Hour show on NTS Radio and runs the Tangent night with esteemed disco digger Nick the Record. He’s also currently preparing a compilation of esoteric Brazilian music for the Amsterdam based Music from Memory imprint. This project explores the outer reaches of Brazilian music and John explains: “I’m most excited by music that doesn’t feel like it belongs anywhere, that sits between genres, places, and times”. Indeed, John’s selection comes from many continents and is united by the music’s stripped-down instrumentation, elements of trancelike repetition, and its affective intensity. 

  • Track 1CaressRoland P. Young

    “Caress” is emotional and feels light as a feather. Roland Young’s horn almost sounds like the wind. This lyrical track is the perfect stepping stone for John Gómez’s mix, which remains fluid, breathing naturally and embodying the feeling of a summer breeze. Young is an American reed player who was a member of West Coast groups such as the space-age jazz outfit Infinite Sound and the punk/ska band The Offs. He recently released three solo albums on the adventurous Japanese label EM Recordings, and “Caress” belongs to the second, "Mystiphonic", which adds a lot of electronic elements to Young's emotional horn playing. Young was taught by his grandfather, Lawrence Denton, a renowned clarinetist.  During high school, Young formed a group that played wind-instruments only. When Roland joined the U.S. Navy, he played on the ships at night as he sailed through out the Pacific on various military assignments. On "Mystiphonic", Young carries on from previous releases with that all-encompassing warmth and organic/oceanic feeling in his music. This has been fundamental to Young’s music since his early days.

  • Track 2El Viaje de DumptyJorge López Ruiz/Viejas Raíces

    John’s taste for Latin music starts to creep in with this beautiful Argentinian fusion track. This seems a bit like Azymuth and Cortex combined, with thick, luscious Fender Rhodes playing and remarkable piano (played slightly out of tune) and percussion parts. “El Viaje de Dumpty” is taken from one legendary Argentinian bassist Jorge López Ruiz’s album with his group Viejas Raíces De Las Colonias del Río de la Plata. Although Viejas Raíces translates to ‘old roots’, the music was forward thinking at the time, fusing traditional instrumentation with new synthesizers. Ruiz is one of the few successful jazz musicians that managed to break out of the conservative Argentinian Jazz scene. His oeuvre is not only extensive as a composer and director: as a musician, he can also be found playing acoustic and electric bass, cello and piano on numerous respected jazz outings. The Argentinian icon has made music for more than 60 films, 40 Plays and 400 recitals and he worked with artists such as Vinicius de Moraes, Astor Piazzola, and Dorival Caymmi among others.

  • Track 3ClarionEblen Macari, J.L. Almeida

    Following the excursion into the deepest Argentina, John now reaches in to familiar territories, recalling Joan Bibiloni’s Balearic blend of Spanish guitar and drum programming. However, “Clarion” was created far from the Mediterranean by Mexican master guitarist Eblen Macari and electronics wiz J.L. Almeida. Asked about how the historical connection between Spain and Mexico informs this music, John suggests that perhaps it’s more helpful to think of Macari’s music as “a classically trained guitarist's approach to new age music, rather than something intrinsically Spanish or Mexican. It feels like in his music he’s looking for the ancient and spiritual roots that became the different musical forms of Latin America.” Macari is part of a generation of Mexican musicians that began experimenting with electronic procedures, ambient textures, and pre-Columbian instruments to create a distinct fusion sound that incorporated compositional elements of modal jazz with New Age’s look towards the cosmos. Like contemporaries Jorge Reyes and Luis Pérez, Macari’s music invokes ancient spiritual languages, creating a soundscape of the Mexican land that travels across time and place. John also thinks that Macari’s guitar style similarly doesn’t belong in any particular time or place: “his playing is subtle and calming, more interested in creating evocative textures than in lyrical lines. It's almost as if he uses modern technology to further explore the possibilities of classical guitar and transform it into a new, more comprehensive and universal instrument.”

  • Track 4Peter’s BellsMunyungo Jackson

    From Mexico’s ambient leanings we move on to US percussionist Darryl Munyungo Jackson, who has played with musicians of the calibre of Miles Davis, Stevie Wonder, and Herbie Hancock to name a few, as well as participated in bands like Build An Ark and collaborated with Norman Connors on various projects. The spiritual character was baptized ‘Munyungo’ when fellow players from Africa cheered him on by shouting “Munyongo!” (meaning ‘door’ or ‘entrance’ in Zulu) at him as he played. Jackson was born in Los Angeles, California, in a creative environment: his parents, Arthur Jackson Jr. & Genie Jackson, were both involved in music, dance and writing. Jackson’s initial passion for the timbales was only the beginning. From there, he progressed to congas, bongos, and eventually to religious batá drumming from Cuba. Jackson began collecting instruments from across the globe and applied these in an incredible range of musical contexts — funk, pop, reggae, or the traditional dance music of Nigeria, Haiti, and Brazil. In his own music he combines these diverse influences, and brings them to a new level.

  • Track 5Tauro I/IIPep Llopis y Vicente Alonso

    John now returns to the country of his birth to introduce music by Pep Llopis, an avant-garde composer from Valencia that became known in the 1970s for his work with the symphonic rock group Cotó-en-Pèl before composing music for dance, theatre, and film. This piece is from Destiada, a soundtrack for a ballet by contemporary dance company Ananda Dansa. John explains how he thinks that this is a strangely overlooked album: “Another Llopis record - Poiemusia La Nau Dels Argonautes - is highly prized with the members of the Red Light Records Spanish-ambient-synth book club. I really don’t get why people are sleeping on this one. To me it feels like naturally evolving music, building from discreet melodic variations and movements in rhythm, but with little counter-melody. The laúd also lifts the music by giving it a warm Mediterranean feel against the colder percussion and yearning voices”.

  • Track 6Alla CasbaFulvio Maras, Alfredo Posillipo, Luca Proietti

    For the next song John sets sail across the Mediterranean to Italy, where an obscure jazz trio made up of percussionist Fulvio Maras, Alfredo Posillipo, and multi-instrumentalist Luca Proietti recorded the elusive album Sfumature as yet another soundtrack to a dance piece. This record was all but forgotten until the Japanese digger Chee Shimizu recently unearthed some lost stock, only for this to vanish instantly into discerning ambient collections worldwide. “Alla Casba” is a beautiful piece, with - again – very strong percussion, that guides elegant horn and synth melodies. Like other musicians in this mix, this trio has an academic background in music. Both Maras and Proietti have been involved in music and theatre, but the main focus of Proietti’s has been sound and technology. For over 20 years he has worked as a sound engineer, programming digital music, creating MIDI tools, and promoting electronic music through his Music Technology en Voice at Saint Louis Music Academy.

  • Track 7Cerro del ÁvilaOfrenda - Vytas Brenner

    Like John, guitar and keyboard player Vytas Brenner was a true world citizen in a pre-Brexit world. He was born in Tübingen, Germany, but following World War II, his family migrated to Venezuela. From there they went on to live in Spain and in Italy before Brenner moved the US to study music. After graduating from his music studies Brenner formed his band, "La Ofrenda" (The Offering), in 1972 and recorded five LPs during that decade. With "Ofrenda", he started his adventures in writing compositions for electronic gear (including synthesizers) in combination with piano and other acoustic instruments, blending progressive-symphonic rock, Latin rhythms, and Venezuelan traditional themes, leading to astounding results. “Cerro del Ávila” is a prog jazz fusion jam that is held together by moody Latin-American rhythms. “I like how deep this one gets”, John explains, “it’s prefect after-hours music for me, kind of what I hope Santana kicks back to after overdoing it on the Oye Como Va encores”.

  • Track 8UntitledD. Lissvik

    “Dan Lissvik makes music for people to get lost in”, John discloses. “I recently played this to Hunee and some friends at a lock-in on the amazing Brilliant Corners soundsystem. We got cushions out and lay on the floor, and it felt like hours passed in this music.” Lissvik’s first solo-album is all- instrumental pop excursion through a collection of rippling guitars and hypnotic rhythms. Lissvik was, like Vidderna – who appeared in Young Marco’s Liner Notes podcast - highly influenced by Manchester’s Durutti Column. “I also love Vidderna, but this piece is more of a whirlwind for me,” John explains, “it is at once tense and serene, and it invites the listener to stretch out and dream of the journey that took those dubbed out castanets to the western coast of Sweden.”

  • Track 9AirJon Hassell

    This is one of the calming, utopian songs featured on Jon Hassell’s celestial album “Power Spot”, which was produced by Brian Eno. It’s an essential piece that became influential for its autonomous sound-world and for reflecting Hassell’s approach to composition and his unique playing technique – where he sang into the trumpet, producing a unique and otherworldly tones. Hassell coined the term ‘Fourth World’ to describe his seamless synthesis of west, east and the avant-garde. “I felt I needed to include a Hassell piece, “ John explains, “as his influence can be heard in a lot of the music in this podcast, and it certainly influenced the way it was brought together”. Indeed, Hassell’s musical conception combines the philosophy and techniques of minimalism with Asian and African styles. Although it relies heavily on electronic instruments, its sound is fulsome and organic, and that’s the sound that John was aiming for. “Hassell’s music sounds like nobody else’s,” he explains, “and the moment you discover it, it immediately feels like something you’d been waiting for all along”.

  • Track 10Festive TripBoneschi-Farina Ensemble

    This is a German electronic library LP that was recorded by two Italian film music scorers and arrangers, Giampiero Boneschi and Sergio Farina. Boneschi, originally from Milan, is best known for his early ventures into electronic music, being one of the first Italian artists who started using synthesizers in the early 70's. Acknowledging that it was perhaps a mistake to include a library LP in a podcast that is supposed to inspire some interesting written content, John redeems himself by explaining its appeal: “I’m always curious to know what purpose library records were meant to serve. They are by definition functional, but the descriptive tags on this one rarely match up with the music and give no clues as to the purpose of each track: what does ‘epic fast’ mean? And is ‘rock bajon’ supposed to mean a rock downer? ‘Festive Trip’ - the spacious and moody tune with floating synths collected here - is bizarrely described as ‘funky’, as if the writer was overwhelmed by the range of possible imagery. These words, however, disappear behind the cascades of synthesizers. I got this one from Jamie Tiller a few years ago and it bears his unmistakeable otherworldly signature.”

  • Track 11Млечный СадВладимир Леви, Ким Брейтбург

    The translation of the cover notes suggests that this Latvian gem is best thought of as healing music. Vladimir Levi describes himself as “doctor, psychologist, writer, poet, musician, and author of worldwide bestsellers Art of Being Yourself, Art of being Different, and Not Standard Kid. He also practices multidimensional psychotherapy – ‘healing by teaching’ – which includes teaching the soul through music.” Kim Breitburg, who was the frontman of Soviet prog group Dialog is “considered a recluse that neglects fame in exchange for freedom to research and gain a clear conscience. His creative style is deep lyricism, and the world of individual spiritualism. He gravitates to genre and style synthesis.” The title of the album and selected cut translates to “Lacteal Garden”, undoubtedly a mysterious and elusive place where this electronic outsider can become a “balsam for the soul and a medicine for the body”.

  • Track 12Sun & Steel (Timeman & C.K.'s Part II)Regelbau

    John now takes us out of the lacteal garden and connects us to some leftfield ambient house music.  “Sun & Steel (Timeman & C.K.'s Part II)” is taken from this year’s self-released EP by the Regelbau DJs and producers collective from Aarhus, Denmark. Taking their name from a standardized bunker built by the Germans as part of their defensive fortifications during the Second World War, one wonders if their parties reflect this austere and secure character? 

  • Track 13KarukeraJean-François Fabiano / Margie Gillis

    Jean-François Fabiano is a spiritual percussionist who previously came to our attention through the French West-Indies fusion jazz holy grail by Fabiano Orchestra LP, re-released on Superfly Records a few years back. Paris born Fabiano was of French-Italian-Guadeloupean origin. He grew up in a multicultural (14 nationalities!) and music minded family. His father Yvan Fabiano was a percussionist and music director who worked for the national television. When Jean-François was ten years old, his father started teaching him drums and guitar, and shortly after, he began exploring the various musical styles through other members of his family. This comes from a private-press LP that was recorded to accompany a ballet for the opening show of the Winter Olympic Games in Montreal in 1988. This is a unique slab of electronic Caribbean fusion that sits somewhere in the space between Group NSI’s “Moin Epi Vou” and Jean Luc Ponty’s “In The Fast Lane”.

  • Track 14Communication DesignJeff Resnick

    John finishes his journey with a tune that comes from what he describes as “one of the oddest records in my collection.” John is stating the obvious with this - we searched, but this record was not going to reveal itself through the world wide web, so we turn to John for the knowledge. John explains that “Jeff Resnick is a retired music professor who in 1978 recorded a soundtrack for a promotional film for the Rochester Institute of Technology to help attract students to its College of Fine and Applied Arts. The record was sent out to prospective students and is divided neatly in two parts: one side promotes the School for American Craftsmen with beautiful modal jazz interpretations of their courses in “Clay”, “Glass”, and even “Weaving”; and the other side advertises the School of Art and Design with electronic pieces simulating “Painting”, “Printmaking” and “Communication Design”. The ensemble-led side was recorded with jazz musicians from the Eastman School of Music, but money ran out before they could record side B and so Resnick was left to his own devices to complete the LP. He turned to reel-to-reel and experimented with creating loops and overdubs by layering recordings of his own playing along with sound effects recorded from the different processes. It’s an incredible record, but also a very strange one. I would love to know what students made of it when they first played their copies.”