While watching the Savannah College of Art & Design’s reputed fashion show last Spring–and wishing they’d attribute the work to the artists so that I could compare the outcomes to the conceptual catalysts of samurai armor, muscle tissue fibers, monsters found in children’s imaginations, Inuit culture, and DaVinci’s anatomical drawings (none of which was identifiable)–something happened that would unbolt a whole new entryway into my persona. With each wardrobe change, the DJ would seamlessly meld a new track into the electronic du jour, and midway through the production, the tempo slowed, the treble chimed in, and a virilized Destiny’s Child classic contributed to the androgynous dubiety of digital music.
That’s how I discovered Cyril Hahn, a Vancouver-based, Swiss producer with a knack for slowing down pop and hip-hop hits and turning them into something light, ethereal and far from the banality entrenched in the originals’ lyrics. Not gonna lie, Hahn’s tendency to turn vocalists like Mariah Carey, Solange, and the aforementioned Destiny trio into contralto men was a large temptation on my behalf (a fact that might stem from my long-standing membership to the RuPaul’s Drag Race fanclub), but for anyone seeking meditative music that blends the soft din of a sea breeze with recurrent percussions and vocals that could double as the bass, Cyril Hahn is worth a listen… And in honor of LeVar Burton stint on Reading Rainbow, you don’t have to take my word for it:
Before discovering this hermaphroditic opus, I was bred into an eclecticism so quintessentially meta that I’ve never once been able to answer the survey question, “What’s your favorite music genre?” Therefore, Hahn’s induction into Emily Moon’s idées fixes means his oeuvre is now conglomerated into a categorial soup so diverse it gives the melting pot of Los Angeles a run for its money. While I have the ability to fixate on one artist at a time, repeating their canon with the same broken record finesse my dad used to drive us insane with, my ears refuse to hunker down with one genre for more than a day, and thus, I always choose to answer that dreaded question with an explanatory list.
Since childhood, I’ve been raised on an assortment of music ranging from the Irish wail of U2 and the soul of Buena Vista Social Club, to the anarchic shrieking of Bow Wow Wow and the utter nonsense of The B-52’s. My pops had a collection of CDs he recycled through with regularity and when I wasn’t manning the sound system with Aqua’s “Barbie Girl” and Now That’s What I Call Music, Vol. God Only Knows, my dad was instilling in me a nostalgic fondness for Peter Gabriel, Fleetwood Mac, P.M. Dawn, The Police, Seal, and Simon & Garfunkel. Meanwhile, my mom introduced me to classical singers-turned-alternative like Paula Cole and Sinéad O’Connor, Californian favorites from her youth like The Beach Boys and Dick Dale & The Del-Tones, and never-stale oldies like Smokey Robinson & The Miracles and Marvin Gaye.
Along the way I picked up quite a few of my own arbitrary additions to the eclectic mash-up pre-programmed in my brain. Included in this assortment was my middle school fixation on Damon Albarn’s brainchild the Gorillaz (and all things Jamie Hewlett); a sixteen-year-old infatuation with industrial German band Rammstein, which occurred in tandem to my classical singing education and resulted in some atypical harmonizations during my drives to class; my teenage liaisons with Björk’s melodramatic gobbledegook, Kanye West’s catchy complaining, and Joshua Bell’s violinistic prowess; “scooping up coconuts” to my favorite dubstep hailstorms in college; and finally my recent surrender to the oxymoronic mainstream-hipster tunes I refused to listen to while dating an indie ex. But I cite these artists and genres as mere highlights in a longstanding courtship with music: a simple answer to an unintentionally difficult question. For while I inadvertently learned temperamental German listening to Till Lindemann roar his lyrics and “danced this mess around” at Kate Pierson’s behest, I never stopped listening to absolutely everything else. Patsy Cline, Enya, The Coasters, Rodrigo y Gabriela, Elvis Presley, Hawaiian slack key guitar, Ella Fitzgerald, Flight of the Conchords, and all the classic Disney soundtracks–you name a genre, and I’ve probably listened to it twice in the past week.
So welcome, Mr. Hahn, to the euphonic jambalaya that makes succinct answers to that age-old question near-impossible.
This morning, I woke up naturally at 7:30, blindly snagged myself on my boyfriend’s fan, woke the entire apartment complex when it came crashing down, and got to thinking about decades.
Thus far, I’ve only lived through two full decades, but in that short twenty-year span it’s insane how many things have evolved (and not just the things attributed to Steve Jobs’ tyrannical ingenuity). Since the 90s, cell phones have diminished in size from the hulking Monarch brick Agent Dana Scully had to pull a 3-mile antennae from before she could address her urgent callers, to the boxy Nokia that went off in my fifth grade class with no penalty (because my sister and I were the only children in the country who had cell phones in 2001), and finally to the streamlined smartphone in every modern four-year-old’s Gymboree shorts (although, if the increasing size of the iPhone is any indication, looks like we’ll be right back there with 90s FBI setbacks in a fortnight). CDs swept in to antiquate cassette technology and just as quickly yielded their lionization to MP3s. Pig tails, butterfly clips, and crimpers dissipated with the stardom of Sarah Michelle Gellar and Melissa Joan Hart. Britney Spears riled up mothers about teen inappropriateness, shaved her head, and sought out Autotune to salvage her career, and the formerly hirsute Hanson became a symbol of ignominy that those of us over twenty continue to joke about in embarrassment. Pop culture drama morphed from Corey and Topanga’s relationship to Camille Grammer’s Real Housewives divorce, and lovable little Nano Pets segued into some really angry birds.
So many definitive constituents seem to be jilted with each passing decade that one can only wonder what will characterize our current decade for future generations. Will the ever-increasing speed of technological advancement continue to make things passé so quickly that we’ll hardly retain anything to attribute to this decade? And what will people even call this time period? The teens? We certainly haven’t made things easy for ourselves, a fact that might explain why contemporary pop culture seems so keen on reincarnating the past. We move with such rapidity toward an indiscernible future that we practically necessitate the familiarity gleaned from Kanye West’s 80s riffs, period pieces like Madmen and Downton Abbey, and the Cary Grant chic channelled by Justin Timberlake and pre-Don Jon Joseph Gordon-Levitt. With all our forward progression, it seems we just can’t resist the urge to look backwards.
Personally, despite the groans of protest from both my boyfriend and my mom, I would have loved to have lived in the 80s. In lieu of the spiraling 90s, the 80s were a time period that granted you the freedom to wear your hair as big and as teased as you wanted without being compared to Snooki, a larger Bono and B52s fan base to network with and firsthand access to Peter Gabriel’s “Sledgehammer” music video, and the ability to attend beach pier parties featuring shirtless, long-haired saxophonists akin to Timmy Cappello in The Lost Boys. I would have danced my way down city avenues Cyndi Lauper-style, River Phoenix’s portrayal of Chris Chambers would have stolen my heart (as if it didn’t in this day and age), and I’d never leave the house without a pair of tri-colored legwarmers to accompany my white Nikes. I would have been as excited about Tears for Fears’ upcoming album, trippy surrealist films (The Heathers, anyone?), and the Rubik’s Cube craze as all those arcade mongers who got to experience the Pacman beta.
But for all the griping I do about my actual childhood era, I can’t deprive the 90s of all merit. Yes, the platform tennis shoes, leopard-print pantsuits, and hair wrapped to look like horns on a Visigoth helmet resulted in one of the most vomitrocious band wardrobes ever assembled, but I certainly wouldn’t be the harmonic woman I am today without the guidance of the Spice Girls. And once you get past the teen blarney of Saved By the Bell and the childhood trauma instilled by X-Files episodes your parents shouldn’t have let you watch, you realize the 90s hosted some TV gems: the enduring hilarity of Seinfeld, The Simpsons in their season 7 heyday, Mr. Not-Yet-Big grilling suspects in the original Law and Order, Patrick Stewart charting our course in Star Trek: Next Generation, all the donut-fueled madness of Twin Peaks, and, of course my new obsession, The X-Files, from which “Bad Blood” and “Humbug” are writing genius.
In summation, I rescind my previous sentiments. I suppose without any personal 80s anecdotes to regale my peers with, the 90s aren’t such a bad time period to look back on in this present, indeterminate decade.
Besides, we all know the 1940s Sam Spade era is really where it’s at.