Following the Paint EP & his debut full-length for Chocolate Industries, Stars On My Ceiling, Zachary Mastoon aka Caural brings you the third installment in the series: the Blurred July EP. Inspired by the events of his bizarre summer month and Haruki Murakami's novel The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Caural comes correct with two brand new instrumentals and a collaboration with the up & coming Chicago emcee Diverse. Coupled with a hauntingly beautiful remix by Savath & Savalas (aka Prefuse-73) and UK graf artist Kid Acne's imagery bringing it all together, Blurred July is an embarkation on an exciting era for this Chicago artist.
XLR8R (June 2003)
Zachary Mastoon is lost in the cornfields and abandoned factory rows of America's Midwest with only an MPC3000 as his compass. Like DJ Shadow's early works, these three lush, romantic, deconstructed hip-hop instrumentals and one vocal cut with MC Diverse reach out in the dark, longing for connection with some familiar soul. Reach out for this.
Excellent new EP from Chocolate Ind's Caural featuring a deeply moving, super-lush remix from Scott Herren's Savath & Savalas alias. A four-tracker that kicks off with "Goodbye May Kasahara," jazz vibrations, full on bass stabs, handclaps, sweet harmonic chimes, found sound and moog bass drops. In fact it was inspired by "The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles" by Murakami and it shows- lush. "Blacktops & Plains" features Diverse rocking the mic with a rapido flash rap style over an old school crunch melodic hip-hop instrumental - dope. "Visuals" offers delicate guitar samples, bubbling beats and textures on a rainbow-coloured electronic tip, call it advanced downtempo. Last up, a mighty Savath & Savalas remix which floats on hi-hat drum resonances, crisp click beats, firm and deep bass and finely honed melodic accompaniment. A mixdown of styles part Kid Koala, Hint & Prefuse all presented in another ace Kid Acne sleeve. High recommendation indeed.
I must listen to thousands of downtempo tracks in a year. Filtering the best ones is a grueling process, lots of grey area to swim around in. But records like this are a no-brainer, the one I’ll recommend to you face to face in the store. “Goodbye May Kasahara” is getting downloaded into my iPod immediately. So warm and rich, like a big pussy, this one goes into my running for favorite downtempo tracks of the year. Give tracks like this and “Visuals” time to develop, they evolve and mug you of your pocket change with guile. The sound engineering here gets extra attention, crunching together bedroom electronic aesthetics and a John McEntire-type warmth. Prefuse 73, here as Savath & Savalas, offers yet another shimmering remix job on “Sipping Snake Blood Wine.” While the equally appropriate guest, emcee Diverse, offers excellent abstract accompaniment over some big vintage crunch drums. As good as abstract gets. Recommended.
Today, the year is halfway over. How is that possible when it feels like I've lived ten years in the last six months, yet feel they were all too short? Or, a day contains so much it's even more confusing that it passes by as it does? Regardless, I know I'll look back on these last months as some of the most monumentally life-changing ones in my life to come, when things make sense or make absolutely no fucking sense and it's all the same surreal blur of deja-vu drenched moments. Still, some things stick out so much it''s hard to believe I can handle them. Conversations with my dad, sitting in his car with the windows down and the summer air blowing through and smelling so delicious that I am simultaneously so upset that my mom can't be around to breathe it in, yet morbidly grateful she has allowed me to see those breaths I take in such a new and light, free way.
I've gained a perspective that feels so good. It makes me more in touch with the things that matter most: being happy and enjoying my life. It trivializes so many things that used to get me down. It lessens stresses associated with "what if?" questions I have always asked myself. And, like I told my dad, it's not that I don't care, but I just don't care. If you want that sentence to make sense, it actually will if you let it. I care and don't care at the same time. It's not that it lessens my drive, or that I'm a defeatist, but it just means that because of all this, I've started practicing what I preach about the transience of things: letting go of the present sometimes because even that must pass. The future must pass just the same and, when we fall, we fall; then we fell, so now get up! Look around you and realize you're no longer on the ground unless you want to be. You're wherever you want to be, something I realized and scrawled in permanent red ink that day I took LSD for the first time, and now realize was an amazing revelation I am lucky to have had, regardless of what initiated it.
The strangest thing of all is how closely life resembles fiction nowadays, like things are a little too perfect and connected and related to you if you notice; how small the world is, how quickly time passes and things change. The author of this has embedded so many complex and elaborate twists and turns that keep bringing us back to truths over and over again. Things that many dismiss as "weird" or "coincidence" are happening more and more often, with spaces getting fewer between. Relationships beginning amidst the illusion of chaos we are hiding in. My eyes are closing- I'm too tired to continue. Just know I am happy and grateful, and somewhat amazed I can be.
Sweet Vibrations Blossom From Zak Mastoon’s Midwest Basement
Zachary Mastoon is Caural. He lives in Evanston, Illinois, next door to Chicago. Close your eyes and let’s visit.
Wake up. You are tumbling through a tunnel of grass. The walls swirl with glistening green. Cymbals guide the way. Glowing melodies shimmer like scales from magnetic vibraphones. Hovering jellyfish speak in tongues as bells and handclaps snap thunder from jukeboxes stocked with electro hip-hop. Every part of your being vibrates with resonance. Rhythm and texture flow endlessly. This is Caural’s world.
Caural was born in a basement. Before spending a decade on earth, Zachary Mastoon and pal Stuart Bogie recorded cellar jam sessions on Casio keyboard, electric guitar, and cheapo microphone. The two lads committed Sun Ra-soaked hip-hop for seven-year-olds to tape. Stuart sprouted into a saxophonist for Afro-Beat all-stars Antibalas, while Mastoon lassoed youthful enthusiasm into the refined spontaneity of Caural. His debut, Initial Experiments in 3-D, was a dive into what Mastoon calls “dimensional music.” “(I was) composing from memories to create expressions of space, time, and warmth,” he says. “It was an album for myself.”
Caural’s music blossoms from borrowed notes. “I go to the library, check out ten CDs at a time and pour through them, finding beautiful moments that can be used in new ways,” explains Mastoon. From Javanese gamelan to fusion jazz, he excavates exceptional flashes from forgotten wax and ties them into new forms. “I make imagined albums,” he says. “I hear sounds I like and say, ‘What if this happened next?’ It’s a remix of what’s in my head.”
Mastoon is a natural explorer, unfolding inspiration into action. His loops around the world make Marco Polo blush. Traveling has influenced Caural’s work more than anything else. “You get bug eyes in the back of your head,” he claims. “You start to see things differently.” This nature extends into the studio, where Mastoon freaks for fun- plucking mbira through a wah, recording bricks, and using water bottles as shakers.
“Everything has been done but as long as you act from your origin and dig it, it’s cool,” explains Mastoon of his mantra. “I strive to be true to myself and make music from my heart and experience.”
*- tracks also released on the Pretty Brown Skin 12"
10. Open Mouths Fed Feat. Diverse
15. Wicked & Raw
(Background Vocals and Additional Production)
Notes: Longshot and DJ Lok have kept the secret for the most part, but I think it's too funny not to share in the end: that's me singing on Wicked & Raw! It was a joke that we were never going to tell anyone, but people wondered why I'd start losing my shit when I heard DJs playing it in Chicago...
I have written lately, just not in here, and not too much of what's really been happening. Well, that's not true. In some emails, I've really broken it down: to Anna, to Chris, Kathryn. I've saved some. One to Nate. Whenever I write or talk about it, I feel stronger. I mean, when I talk to someone else and they ask how I am, I generally say "well, I'm actually doing well; feeling a lot stronger than I thought I would. I'm just trying to keep my head up, and one thing my mom taught me is to live each day to the fullest and smile, so I'm trying to honor her and be happy. The last thing she'd want is for me to be sad and not enjoy myself, so that's what I'm trying to do- for her, and for me." Then, I smile, and really mean the smile, and I smile inside, too. And I thank my mom for the strength, and I thank God for the strength.
But, there's also dark moments- truly dark moments that are painfully scary. Images in my head that I wish and pray will go away, or at least give me solace rather than utter fear and immense sadness. Images like my mom's eyes the last couple of days she was here breathing. The way her pupils had broken up, clouded like a messy oil painting: yellowed whites, broken browns that seemed too dark, and a patch of brown next to her left pupil. The one on the right had almost swelled or burst, or grew outside of her eye. It made that eye bigger, protruding a bit from her skull. Luckily, she was laying on her right said a bit so it was partially hidden by a pillow. The way her mouth was open and the sound of her erratic breathing. Fluid in her lungs, gurgling breaths with larger and larger spaces in between. Her crying face that night we brought her to the emergency room as I sat with her in bed, hugging her legs, we cried hard together, staring in each other's eyes. And there was a nurse there, too, holding one of her hands. We had cried like that the night I learned it was terminal and she had a month left. Really, that month was 2 weeks; the longest two weeks of my life. Some of those days were the longest and worst years of my life.
Her smile in the last few days was simultaneously the most beautiful, wonderful, perfect and happy image I could ever see in my life, and also the most painful of all to remember because I miss her so terribly much. I miss her smile. I miss everything about her. And I hate how absolutely unfair it is that she's gone.
I've had different experiences since she's passed- some good- most good, actually- but some scary. Sunday- the day after she died- I felt her hug me from behind. I felt it in a tingling presence across my chest and a grabbing of my left shoulder and arm. It wasn't a light tingle. At the time, it was something I really felt, and I reacted almost normally (as if any of this is normal!): I hugged back, putting my arm across where hers was, touching where her hand felt like it was. Other times, both that night and other times during our "shiva," I felt a lightness in the room that could've only been her. Even funny things, like the way I was a frantic host to her friends at our house, making sure everyone had food and that everyone was somehow entertained. I felt like she was doing that through me- or she was watching me- but it was totally unconscious. I realized in retrospect how much I was her, then and always. At the service, Lisa looked in my eyes and remarked quite matter-of-factly and genuinely that I had her spirit. I feel like we were sharing the same energy force sometimes. I was closer to her than anyone, and it's carried over into now.
I've had a few dreams this past week. In one, I was in a kitchen like the one in my parents' house, and we hugged really hard and really long. It was wonderful. In another dream, I was telling her I've been able to be strong cause I've felt she's still around. But then, over the last couple of nights, they've gotten a bit scary. In one, I was in my bedoom, and it was a different set-up with a desk where my bed was. She was sitting there, telling my dad to sign things in his will- certain things so Shana and I would be OK. And, she looked like she was wearing a body, as if her dead body or spirit was underneath the human Barbara clothes. Her eyes looked a little scary, and it was as if her face was loose; at one point, she tugged it a bit like she was fixing a blouse so she'd look good around us! And, last night, we were in a car together- dad, her, and me- driving south on Ridge near Church or Lake, and I was telling her how- in another dream- I told her how I'd been strong strong because she's around. I want to say this was near the gas station where the street jogs to the left along the Metra tracks then into downtown Evanston. Well, the next thing we know, we swerve to avoid a head-on collision: some car is driving the wrong way, heading quickly towards us. And, each car behind us also avoids the accident; that's all I can remember.
But today was dark on and off. I watched "The Ring" on DVD with Jacob and got scared, but I had already had some fucked up, sad thoughts today. It all compiled with scary dreams and two glasses of wine to frighten me and make me cry tonight. Sometimes, in my dark moments, I fear her spirit is in a dark space and I'm feeling sympathy pain. God, I hope not! I get scared of my head sometimes. Things inside, things I want to get rid of: images, fear, sadness, hurt, grief, emptiness, anger, bitterness. It's like a nightmare you can't wake up from or can't get over. I think of the times she'd rub me and say, "shh, it's going to be OK, it was only a dream." Or, if I was nervous or upset about something, she'd make it better. She'd calm me and make me feel utter safety and warmth. And now it's only in the abstract. I do feel she's around and always will be, but I miss her terribly and feel so empty and scared without her. I just want to hug her right now, hold her hand, go for a walk, hear her voice, hear her laugh- just feel her presence.
And, part of the end was good. After her fear, she was peaceful. She would shake with fear and tell me she was scared and, at first, she didn't know why; she'd ask me why. I'd just try and hold her, tell her it was OK. Tell her, "shh," and she'd "shh" back, but almost like she was a child learning and imitating her mother. Then, she started saying irrational things. "I'm scared of cheese" was one. I told her that the food Linda Shea had made was bland and that I'd put some spices in it. She was laying down and asked me to help her up. "Why," I asked. She said, "spice it up." She actually wanted- in all her sickness and fatigue- to go downstairs and make the food taste better for me. She cared about everyone but herself. She was hot, or cold, or said she couldn't breathe, or thought that dad was trying to kill her. She was refusing medication, yelling "I'm done, I'm done" and "leave me alone" to dad. Then, she didn't want to go back to the hospital and said "no more hospital" again and again.
Then, on morphine, she got happy. Not just the drugs did it, though: she came to terms with things, and I'll never forget one day, sitting at her side while Ron was on her other, and she kept repeating "life is strange, life is strange" over and over again. Then, later, she said "life is good. I'm just so happy, I'm lucky" and all these wonderful things that made me happy to hear. Hearing her say she loved me, or "me, too" over and over again. I want to hear that again, and not just in dreams, God. That was the most beautiful sound possible: her voice, both my dad's and her voice.
I thought writing would help tonight. It does and it doesn't. I keep crying on and off while I do it and keep waiting to reach some resolution so I can stop. Usually, I'll write until I see an ending, an answer, or an insight to make me understand all the thoughts shooting around my head. It's not happening. I just want to say that I want to make my mom proud. I don't want to let her or my father down. I've got to be strong. I could write until the sun comes up, but I don't want to be awake until then. Goodnight for now- here's hoping for sweeter dreams.