The NYC musician/producer shares a smattering of random cuts, all fresh and clean.
Art by Michael Cina
This week I’m sharing a favorite musician with a great 2023 album. I’m also opening the comments to anyone who wants to share a record, song, or playlist/mix they have loved this year, new or even old. Link away or head over to the chat in the Substack app where most of them are.
"No concept, just music I compiled from what records we had on around the house over the last few weeks, then added in a few things just now that only exist on the net. From my sunday to yours.” - Anthony Naples
Anthony Naples is a New York City-based musician and producer as well as the co-founder of the consistently great Incienso record label. He also is a noteworthy DJ and puts in time working at XL Studios downtown. In his bio, Naples (or whoever wrote it) uses the word “agitator” and I like it for him. He’s pushing himself and others in public, making a case for underground music in an increasingly challenging environment.
For the last decade, Naples has been one of the more steady bets for quality electronic music of a platonic ideal: Strong currents of techno, house, and experimental sounds rendered with dubwise, hypnotic capacity. Naples productions aren't showy or even distinctive at first blush, but when inside of them, there is complete immersion.
His fifth and latest album, Summer 2023’s Orbs is my favorite LP of his to date. Even though it’s his least dance-music driven, it’s his most nocturnal and stoic, or as the album bio states, Orbs is “a moody portal of shoegazed and slo-mo songs suspended in thin air.” It’s ambient in stature but kicks off almost like a ‘90s Trip-Hop album and slowly unfurls, jumping from sullen tone poems to dreamy disassociative cuts. It’s occurred to me that “Scars” and “Strobe” which sound like dance anthems held in molasses, are some of my favorite musical moments of this year. The record is a great headphone listen, the wide stereo field revealing itself gracefully with each immersion. He even sourced a trippy visualizer from Jack Anderson, a real treat I want to try those Apple goggles with one day.
On the best Naples productions, the elements seem to play themselves not unlike Eno’s original tape experiments, just setting the system up and letting the loops do their thing. The “artist’s hand” is often nowhere to be found and we arrive at these song sculptures and admire them as autonomous, nearly pre-made. Orbs is so good because it’s spare, but not exactly minimalist. It’s grave and intentional but too generous in spirit to withhold emotion willingly.(Herb 80) who has covered Naples’ career in Pitchfork had this to say:
The gloomy electric bass and backmasked pads fall halfway between DJ Shadow and the Cure; soft tendrils of clean-toned guitar have the warm, reassuring feel of the Durutti Column, yet the snare drum echoes like a gunshot across a frozen field. The net effect suggests something like Balearic goth—a weird amalgam that shouldn’t make sense, yet somehow does. As in the best of Naples’ work, it’s impossible to tease out the different strands; the emotional crux of “Unknow” is a subdued melodic riff that might be someone humming, or maybe a muted trumpet, or maybe both things digitally soldered together.
Naples’ discography includes records for labels such as Four Tet’s Text Records, Will Bankhead’s epochal The Trilogy Tapes, and of course his own. In fact, Naples’ labels Proibitio (now closed) and now Incienso (co-run with Jenny Slattery) have brought us seminal releases from artists like DJ Python, Huerco S., and Beta Librae, and belong amongst an emerging group of imprints including Motion Ward and Huerco S.’s West Mineral LTD, North American electronic imprints documenting an inspired underground on their own terms.
Each of his albums moves him closer to the source of himself, so it’s exciting to imagine what will come next. The 12” singles in between serve to remind you he can still whup you on the dancefloor. Not surprisingly, Naples has exquisite taste in other people’s tunes too as heard in this mix. A recent Tara Clerkin Trio snippet, the deathless Bill Orcutt, late-career Croz, snappin’ George Riley, and East Lansings’s cult Loveliescrushing form a base and it all sounds wildly good together. There is a post-rock ruddiness in the mix too. You can almost picture him born a few decades earlier being a silent bassist in an early Rough Trade band, but enough fanfiction.
His previous album, maybe his “pandemic record” was Chameleon which offered the first true freedom from his dancefloor roots andinterviewed him for his First Floor newsletter back in 2021:
SR: Going back to the new album, we’ve already mentioned that it’s called Chameleon. Is there anything to the title?
AN: Not at all. I wish I had a better answer, but there literally isn't anything to it, although I did think it looked cool phonetically. I went to school for linguistics and creative writing for a total of six months, but something that's always stuck with me is how words look. Titles are important, especially when your music doesn’t have lyrics. With Chameleon, I just thought it looked nice spelled out and there weren't a ton of albums with the same name. The original title was actually In Studio Magic, but I changed it once OPN released Magic Oneohtrix Point Never.
It’s unsurprising that Naples has a basic understanding of this stuff. When tagging his music, the words don’t mean anything to us, but they are all we have to go on. Songs are merely signposts, their complete value isn’t inside of them at the time of their making. Great songs are experiences with the listener, invisible markers of time swirling in the whirlpool.
From the Field
‘Tis the season for CVS Bangers, that particular strain of sophistipop, sensitive ‘80s alt-pop, and downhearted soft rock that suits the flush mount ceiling speakers and moves you to a darker yet increasingly spiritual place when looking for mouthwash. This August Paris Review piece bygot me motivated to revisit friend-of-the-Herb Cecilia Payseur’s playlist (a follow-up to the Soundcloud/Mixcloud originals) for that icy hit.
Herb art champtook over the Flow State Substack with a stately