The Quarantine Tapes: Music to Bridge the Social Distance

March Something, 2020 By Darren Clarke

So I’m quarantined. Worse, I’m sick. What to do?

There are a few things that consistently bring me peace and joy- Cooking and making music mixes.

Under quarantine, under the weather, I’m limited to music mixes. But that’s okay because there is cooking to be done there. Finding the right ingredients, chopping them up, knowing what goes with what and when, dipping a spoon in to see if it’s all coming together as it should.

These are music mixes 70 thru 77 on Mixcloud and as is standard, with a few outstanding exceptions, the songs included have never used in previous mixes. While I always advise, “Hey, just listen and be surprised by what you hear,” I feel like talking a bit about how these mixes come to life in general and in particular.

Generally, it’s a song or two songs that move me to want to create a world around them. Take Quarantine Tape #8 which was inspired by two things- Kenny Rogers passing away and me remembering seeing his movie Six Pack at a theatre downtown St. Catharines and my friend Del Stephen releasing a new album called, “Folk Music,” which was everything I’d been searching for in music for days but couldn’t quite imagine until I heard it.

Other times I simply bounce around Youtube doing searches for, “Nigerian disco 70’s,” or, “Yugoslavian electronic 80s,” or simply, “Postpunk.” Amazing the wonders that can be found this way. Other times after searching far and wide I will return songs and musicians that are so obviously fantastic I take them for granted- Fleetwood Mac, Supertramp, The Beatles, The Kinks, Joni Mitchell.

The overarching idea though is obviously whimsy.

Let’s look at the mixes in particular.

The first quarantine tape I actually made prior to the pandemic unfolding. The fact the mix opens with an ode to reckoning by Daniel Lanois is pure divinity. The idea for this mix was a mostly wordless, mostly ambient, often contradictory landscape of tones and textures unfettered by convention. The song on this mix, THE song is Del Stephen’s Sunset Dreams of Five-oh-Five which is a song for the ages, capturing the delicious melancholy of late night subway rides with the clattering streetcar, the straining of metal wheels on metal tracks, rummaging about behind a languid, gorgeous, bit of delicate piano. A breathtaking work that I urge you to immerse yourself in. 1

I’m in a 90s group on Facebook wherein we pick the best albums from each year in the decade. As you can tell by my Quarantine Tape #2, we’re doing 1990 right now. While 1990 the year in music is kind of muddled from a narrative standpoint, there is some real gems. First, hip hop. Public Enemy, Eric B & Rakim and an absolutely knockout album from A Tribe Called Quest. 1990 also included something you may not have believed could exist- a very good album from the Goo Goo Dolls.

At any rate, lots of good music on this mix beyond 1990 as you can also see some of the results of my, “African disco 70s,” search. 2

Let’s start with this- Cigarettes After Sex is a terrific band name. Mix #3 was pure Youtube rabbit hole/wrestling with the algorithm before at some point I thought, “You know who’s pretty damned good? Stevie Nicks.” 3

I started this one off with some classic artists- The Kinks, The Beatles, Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell. Because what sounds good is good. Some great new discoveries also populate this mix- Los Bitchos, Bleach Day, Deradoorian, John Maus, Caroline Rose.

A lot of fun to be had here so have it. 9

The Chemical Brothers are a mixed tape staple for me in much the same way chocolate is  a staple in my diet. There’s a time and place where nothing else will do and at that time, at that place, the results are always delicious. This mix is all about delicious. 5

Mix six is an ode to the kind of ramshackle rock I always return to. Flipping Quarters begins with some epic stoner rock before stripping down the indulgence to the more fundamental urgency of The Replacements and my favourite Australian band (not including Men at Work)- The Eddy Current Suppression Ring.

But there’s more here than just jumping around and it begins with Electrelane chilling us out and Thundercat pouring out another vivid beauty from his endless bag of joy.

Also included here is the Lemonheads, Rudy with a Flashlight, which was included on David Gilmour’s (Pink Floyd) top nine favourite songs of all-time. Which, I found kind of peculiar, but hey, to each their own. 12

I made this mix on the day I was sickest. The result is a whole lot of comfort music for me. 7

The final instalment of the Quarantine Tapes was, as mentioned, created from two songs- Del Stephen’s Su and Kenny Rogers Love Will Turn Around. I love the mix here, particularly the flow of Grouper, Sun Kil Moon, the two tracks from Ennio Morricone and then Bob Dylan’s One More Cup of Coffee which is that rare song that I have used before in a mix but had to, had to, use again given how well it follows Morricone. 8

There you go. Eight mixed tapes to bridge the social distance. Enjoy and be safe.