aria-label="Image credit"> Courtesy of the artist

Maria Chávez's Plays is sourced completely from a soundless, locked-groove double LP.

Courtesy of the artist

You suddenly find yourself in a white room with no windows or doors. What adjectives describe how you feel? It's a personality test deployed by friends and psychologists alike as a way to think about death or the afterlife, should you believe in it. For years, my answers have typically been the same (peace, stillness, understanding), but lately, "mystery" is my lead response. In that hypothetical space, I'm drawn not so much what's outside those walls, but the creation capable within.

Perhaps Maria Chávez feels the same way. The Peruvian-born, Brooklyn-based sound artist has made wind sculptures in Marfa and a "rain of applause" in Malmö, but is also a DJ and turntablist, reorienting familiar sounds in and from fractured grooves. After more than a decade of all this, her first full-length audio release is a high-concept objet d'art that crawls into the void of nothingness.

The one-hour Plays Stefan Goldmann's Ghost Hemiola is sourced completely from a soundless double LP full of locked grooves made by German-Bulgarian DJ and electronic music composer Stefan Goldmann. Well, there is sound, but only the scratch of a needle on the vinyl itself. Or, as Goldmann encourages, "Pulling a knife or other tool to its grooves allows for cutting your literally uniquely own beats directly into the record."

While some DJs have turned Ghost Hemiola into minimalist beats, Chávez digitally processes surface noise from the vinyl — the seeming, disquieting nothing — into floating saucers of sound, whooshes dubbed to space and scrapes skipped and panned around a room without beginning or end. (Needless to say, Plays is a headphone experience.) There are moments when the manipulated 1s and 0s sound like they're trying to escape analog terror, as if a 32kbps MP3 was pressed to vinyl and spit back out. The bursts come on quickly and suddenly, as if to puncture quietude from its stillness. On the absolutely absorbing Plays, Chávez tears silence from its myth.

You can find this week's picks below, plus my updated playlist on Spotify and Apple Music. (Note: Some of these tracks can only be found on Bandcamp.)


Richard Youngs & Raül Refree, "Nil By Mind"

Richard Youngs is in a perpetual state of moving on. Noise, post-punk, "foot guitar," techno, disco and pop music are all within the British experimentalist's grasp, yet consistently and constantly reworked. Beloved are his singer-songwriter records — 1998's Sapphie, 2009's Under Stellar Stream — for their idiosyncratic storytelling and sound sculptures. All Hands Around the Moment is a collaboration with the Barcelona-based Raül Refree, a musician in his own right, but also producer to everyone from Sonic Youth's Lee Ranaldo to Spanish pop superstar Rosalía. Never before have Youngs' pensive meditations been adorned so lushly and delicately.


Counterparts, "The Hands That Used to Hold Me"

It appears I've got some catching up to do with Counterparts, a metallic hardcore band that pushes all of my Shai Hulud and Strongarm buttons: intricate guitar melodies, sweeping arrangements, unnecessarily overdramatic spoken word and rip-up-the-pit breakdowns.


Charles Curtis, "Unfinished Song"

Cello music that slips through the ribbons of aurora borealis. This gorgeous piece from 1998 will be found on a three-disc anthology of the American cellist's work selected by Tashi Wada and Charles Curtis himself, featuring the compositions of Éliane Radigue, Morton Feldman, Olivier Messiaen and others.


DAWN, "Slim Thicc"

DAWN thinks of her independent empire in eras, but the sinuous pathways of her shape-shifting pop music are all connected. After her love letter to New Orleans earlier this year, "Slim Thicc" and "Ay Papi" are pair of loosies linked together by DAWN's Haitian roots (and some killer dance moves). "Slim Thicc," in particular, burns smoothly with Trakgirl's island-party production.


Oakman, "Outer Space"

A starry-night pop song with big feels, featuring the kind of acoustic guitar- and synth-driven sparkle that ends up soundtracking teen rom-coms. I'm a sucker for this stuff when done right and this Paramore-punk-turned-pop trio from Lyon, France nails it.


Bonnie Baxter, "Spirit Enema"

Some real freaky-deaky, house-of-mirrors club music. Broken beats skitter across a digital lily pad of glow-stick noise, darkly funny found sound and a fine assortment of grunts, giggles and chirps.


Tuluum Shimmering, "Blue Water Sunray part 1"

Glenn Donaldson (Skygreen Leopards, FWY!) called Jake Webster the "master of hobbitwave" and I can't stop giggling about it. Tuluum Shimmering's crunchy, hairy and pastoral music feels like a Jerry Garcia guitar solo jamming on a minimalist theme; here, he interpolates and transports Pharoah Sanders' transcendent "The Creator Has a Master Plan" onto some verdant, rolling hills.


Mamiffer, "So That the Heart May Be Known"

In September, Faith Coloccia released Here Behold Your Own under the name Mára, an album of sketchbook hymns to her newborn son. Mamiffer, her ever-shifting outlet for droney and doomy atmospheres, expands the hope of life and love through songs that undulate like new limbs seeking bright adventures.

All Songs Considered

Jun 08, 2021

Roséwave: Back 2 Basic

Enlarge this image It's not a genre; it's a lifestyle. Kara Frame/NPR hide captiontoggle caption Kara
Dec 29, 2020

Roséwave: Lost Summer

Enlarge this image We danced in kitchens, took long drives, caught up in backyards or on video chat, watched weddings from our
Jun 29, 2020

Heat Check: Underrated And Elevating

Enlarge this image cupcakKe switches her flow up so many times that "Discounts" is a raunchy and hilarious three-minute shopper bargain.
Jun 22, 2020

Heat Check: Can't Get It For Free

Enlarge this image Miami duo City Girls returns with their second full-length album, City on Lock. Prince Williams/WireImage/Getty Images hide…
Jun 15, 2020

Heat Check: Bigger Picture

Enlarge this image Lil Baby's "The Bigger Picture" is a conscious trap anthem for the Black Lives Matter movement. Matthew Geovany
Jun 08, 2020

Meet The 2020 Tiny Desk Contest Community

YouTube Each year, we receive thousands of entries to the Tiny Desk Contest, and the Contest team watches every single one. We get to hear songs from…
May 31, 2020

Heat Check: 'Black Joy Is Radical'

Enlarge this image Nubya Garcia's latest single "Pace" is all about diving into the many layers of joy. Adama Jalloh/Courtesy of
May 25, 2020

Heat Check: Got A Big Ego

Enlarge this image Amaarae cuts it up better than a moon-walking Samurai on "Body Count." Philip Boakye/Courtesy of the artist hide
May 03, 2020

Heat Check: Hippocampus Two-Steps

Enlarge this image Dreya Mac spits bars at a level far beyond a novice on her debut track "Skippin." Clara Setian/Courtesy
Apr 26, 2020

Heat Check: Shake Your Senses

Enlarge this image Rooted in languid rhythm, Octavian's "Poison" featuring Santi with OBONGJAYAR sounds like nothing else out. Crowns & Owls/Courtesy…
Apr 19, 2020

Heat Check: Double My W's

Enlarge this image Kenny Mason unveils his debut project Angelic Hoodrat with a cool-under-pressure, low-lid resolve. Nasser Boulaich/Courtesy of the…
Apr 12, 2020

Heat Check: Money In My Hand

Enlarge this image Don't play with Kari Faux. Play with your kids. Quil Lemons /Courtesy of the artist hide captiontoggle caption Quil
Apr 05, 2020

Heat Check: I Feel Void

Enlarge this image Empress Of's "Void" feels like a euphoric cross-genre culture clash, a dance party in a summer storm. Dorian Lopez/Courtesy
Mar 29, 2020

Heat Check: Teleport And Transform

Enlarge this image Bongeziwe Mabandla's "masiziyekelele" sends you racing through the streets of Johannesburg. Justice Mukheli/Courtesy of the artist…
Mar 22, 2020

Heat Check: Make It Make Sense

Enlarge this image Alex Isley's "Gone" perfects the art of subtle, fear-inducing seduction. Lauren Desberg /Courtesy of the artist hide captiontoggle…
Mar 08, 2020

Heat Check: Homecoming

Enlarge this image The laboriously-delayed Eternal Atake finally delivered big time for Lil Uzi Vert fans. Erika Goldring/FilmMagic/Getty Images hide…
Feb 23, 2020

Heat Check: Caught Up And Curious

Enlarge this image Linda Diaz's "Magic" swirls in the watercolor pools of a quirky, young love. Jonah Zorn Koplin/Courtesy of the artist
Feb 17, 2020

Heat Check: Répéter, Répéter

Enlarge this image Arlo Parks' "Eugene" spins a stinging reminder of getting left for convention. Charlie Cummings/Courtesy of the artist hide…
Feb 09, 2020

Heat Check: Going All Out

Enlarge this image Victoria Monét melds fantasy with reality for her latest, "Moment." Dana Trippe/Courtesy of the artist hide captiontoggle caption…
Feb 03, 2020

The Tiny Desk Contest Is Back For 2020

YouTube In the past year, we've had some pretty big names come perform at the Tiny Desk: Lizzo, Jimmy Eat World and Taylor Swift, to name a few.
Default Image
Dec 17, 2019

Bob Boilen's Top 20 Albums For 2019

Big Thief released two of Bob Boilen's favorite albums in 2019: U.F.O.F. and Two Hands. Michael Buishas hide captiontoggle caption Michael Buishas
Dec 16, 2019

Heat Check: Favorite Discoveries Of 2019

Enlarge this image Kirby, Odunsi (The Engine) and Hope Tala Courtney Loo & David Karp/Folarin Omolayole/Freddie Stisted/Courtesy of the artists hide…
Dec 01, 2019

Heat Check: Ode To The Cap

Enlarge this image Kilo Kish's glitchy, pithy "SPARK" sets fire to procrastination, pushing you to keep creating. Kish Robinson/Courtesy of the artist
Nov 17, 2019

Poll: Your Favorite Songs Of The 2010s

Oivind Hovland/Getty Images/Ikon Images What are your favorite songs of the past decade? These are tracks released between 2010 and 2019. We know
Nov 17, 2019

Heat Check: Charge The Haters Interest

Enlarge this image Denzel Curry's Super Saiyan energy offsets Glass Animals' eerie, horn-submerged production on "Tokyo Drifting." Elliot Arndt…
Nov 10, 2019

Heat Check: Lived-In R&B, Rap And Ragga

Enlarge this image With rich, cascading runs, Ayoni's "September" is a stand-out on this week's Heat Check. Caleb Griffin/Courtesy of the artist
Nov 10, 2019

Heat Check: Lived-In R&B, Rap And Ragga

Enlarge this image With rich, cascading runs, Ayoni's "September" is a stand-out on this week's Heat Check. Caleb Griffin/Courtesy of the artist
Oct 20, 2019

Heat Check: Getting Lost, Giving In

Enlarge this image TeaMarrr's mesmerizing new single "Kinda Love" is the type of daydream to put into action. Tyren Redd/Courtesy of the
Oct 06, 2019

Heat Check: Songs That Let It All Out

Enlarge this image The Pendletons provide a jazzy, dancing-in-your-living-room soundtrack to self-care. Ivan Noble/Courtesy of the artist hide…
Sep 29, 2019

Heat Check: Euphoric Shuffle Play

Enlarge this image Daniela Andrade's "Ayayai" (single artwork pictured here) shows off the artist's linguistic versatility. Yi-Shuan Lee/Courtesy of…
Sep 15, 2019

Heat Check: Future Nostalgia

Enlarge this image KIRBY's "Kool Aid" injects just the right doses of doo-wop and soul. Courtney Loo & David Karp/Courtesy of the
Sep 02, 2019

Heat Check: Friends Of Friends Of Friends

Enlarge this image Sudan Archives' "Confessions" is included in this week's Heat Check. Alex Black/Courtesy of the artist hide captiontoggle caption…

Northern California
Public Media Newsletter

Get the latest updates on programs and events.