DJ Jim Q's Playlist: Symmetry
We are often seeking balance, parity, harmony, and equilibrium. This months theme is Symmetry. There is something reassuring about balance. Artists often employ this to manipulate our perception, exploiting our inherent almost primal preference for things that feel uniform. Just as visceral is our reaction to imbalance or asymmetry. Clashing colors, off-kilter compositions, warped or distorted forms, these challenges to symmetry stir something within us. But you take the good with the bad, comfort can be monotonous, harmony is often boring, and balance can be too predictable. Asymmetry can be more interesting, provocative, challenging and surprising. You need both, asymmetry if you will.
The songs on this month playlist relate to notions of balance and congruity. The overall theme is symmetry, but the selections are drawn from a fairly broad interpretation of that theme. Like Sneak’s latest release, the bouncy and sparse “Ecstasy”. Okay maybe it’s not specifically about symmetry, but as she sings “Travel ‘round the world without a planet of my own” I can’t help but get the vague sense she is longing for balance or equilibrium. Or Teena Marie’s 80’s club classic “Square Biz”. Square biz is slang for the real deal, square with the truth. Okay, I know it’s a stretch, but who is going to object to this 80’s gem. Those are just a few examples, there are plenty of songs with more a literal interpretation of the theme. From Ella Fitzgerald to Mac DeMarco to Saba and Beach House, I hope you enjoy these tracks of balance, equilibrium, harmony, and uniformity.
One of the things I love about compiling these playlists every month is looking for songs to include from the City of the chapter that selected the theme. This months theme was selected by the Saint Petersburg chapter. In my amateur ethnomusicological explorations, I found two bands that really stood out, Sonic Death and Shortparis. Sonic Death is a duo with a sound that is incredibly eclectic, swaying between classic garage rock, and rockabilly, to psychedelic and punk. Album to album, the band has some pretty dramatic stylistic shifts, but they maintain a certain attitude and originality. With quite a catalog of releases, it’ll take some time to listen to all of it, but I’m excited to make my way through it. On the other side of the stylistic spectrum is Shortparis, a post-punk electronic-based band. The sound is unique, almost industrial at times and at other moments more melodic and smooth, reminiscent of early Fisherspooner, but with an aggressive edge. The lead vocalist has a fantastically theatrical sound, ethereal and dramatic, yet ominous and yearning. There is something balanced about it, that made it feel, well, symmetrical.