Seven Plays X: Jackson Ryland

This installment of Seven Plays comes from the Washington, DC based artist, Jackson Ryland, whom we recently interviewed on the site. While rooted in house and techno, both his vibrant personal productions and versatile collaborative projects (Rush Plus, Superabundance) find him consistently pushing the boundaries of his sound. A passionate fan of electronic music, Jackson Ryland also frequently documents his thoughts on new releases in the form of reviews for his personal website. Spanning the course of a week and highlighting numerous genres and atmospheres, his seven plays below briefly reveal the wide breadth of his musical connections and inspiration.

Tuesday: “Sunset Village” by Beverly Glenn-Copeland

Originally self-released in 1986 by Glenn-Copeland and remastered June 2020, this is the final track of her Keyboard Fantasties album. With the synth drums and bassline in perfect harmony, the track begins in simple progression leaving space for heavenly strings and improvised keyboard plucks from the DX-7. These improvisations feel like true exploration you only achieve when recording in private; like self-realizations or epiphanies with each keystroke, I sense a therapeutic wave of comfort in music magically fitting together. Her voice lays in gently as a reminder, “let it go.” Hearing an artist at peace with their recording process while listening to that same song is rare and feeling the connecting sense of calm in the moment of listening, even rarer. Her peace, on display.

My girlfriend, Rachel, sent me this album when it re-released nearly a year ago and I revisited it today to be in that place of peace again.

Wednesday: “Hello It’s Me” by Eric Essix

I heard this on 89.3 FM (DC-based community talk and jazz radio program) on my way home around midnight tonight after my restaurant shift. The “Late Night Jazz” program with Willard Jenkins was playing and he was doing a special showcase of all Isley Brothers recordings. As soon as the sweet harmony vocals “Don’t Change, Don’t Change” flowed through my car speakers, I was tingling and knew I had two options at that point — either Shazam this song now or regret it later. Birmingham, AL guitarist Eric Essix laying down the slick, sexy, soothing riffs. Man, this song hit the spot in a moment when I really needed it.

Thursday: “Distant Storm Approaching” by 1.8.7.

Innovative, entrancing, masterful DnB. Jordana pioneered American drum & bass under the alias 1.8.7. and this cut from her 1997 album When Worlds Collide shattered my idea of what’s possible to create at this speed when I first listened to this album a few months ago. The opening synth pad feels like a tsunami wave or an imagined sandstorm on the horizon; she really captured that song title’s essence. Beautiful nylon guitar plucks overlay a brief break before dropping basslines and Amen breaks send crash in, sending us on a rollercoaster ride. The structure of this track is gorgeous and leaves no idea unexplored by its ending. Free form DnB in perfection.

Just after leaving a hike at Harper’s Ferry today, a distant storm approached and this masterpiece came to mind on the car ride back to DC.

Friday: “Crows” album by The Khan x Amal

Alright so this album broke new ground in DC upon release last week and absolutely shook me on first listen; I’m still processing it. Khan has incredible range but there’s a commanding tonal difference and juxtaposed, calming sense of urgency when he’s laying it down over Amal’s nascent instinct for DnB songbuilding. In tandem, these two represent a young gun duo with amazing potential for live performance and radio play. I mean, these are HITS. The earthquake-level bassline in “Live in Hel(la)” with the subtle, sweet synth pad intervals in between, giving the track an atmosphere of getaway/escape – that’s balanced magic. Sampling the Mr. Crabs “techno” song from Spongebob for their “Code Red” track? Equally hilarious and brilliant.

I’m excited to see how their project develops past this initial launch and most definitely catch them playing in DC at the first opportunity.

Saturday: “Go Deep” by Janet Jackson (M.A.W. Spiritual Flute remix)

A flute dancefloor anthem made for Saturday night. You won’t hear much of the original version of this track in the remix itself (likely because this was a bootleg release back in 1997) but the signature Masters at Work rhythmic swing and breaks are undeniably present start to finish. Flute madness for 8 straight minutes, is it possible to not enjoy this? Notes on Discogs credit the recording to Joe Clausell, hence the “Joe Goes Deep” title. The record slams so hard both sides are the same mix; if you wear out one side of the record, no problemo, flip it over and rinse this track again.

We were making cocktails and getting ready to go see our friends, Arthur Kimskii and Sasha (Furtive) play a techno night in Chinatown tonight — first time Rachel, my friends and I were going to a party in 16 months! This Joe Goes Deep record sets THE mood; you hear this and you’re amped, you’re ready to bust up the dancefloor.

Sunday: “Library Takeout” by MicrOpaqu3

At the intersection of choreographed sketches and cheeky internet electro rock lies the late summer 2020 masterpiece known as “Library Takeout.” The track – a one-off exploration by a Duke University librarian explaining their pandemic rental policies – became an overnight viral video sensation. Cute drawings, snappy transitions and impressive, funky piano riffs and basslines remind me of Bill Wurtz’s videos but the succinct storytelling in 3 minutes makes it a hit. Educational and fun, what’s not to love?

It’s been a long week and I needed to lift my spirits a little after work today — revisiting Library Takeout scratched that itch.

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Monday: “Indie Rock” mix by Max D

Still one of my top mixes of the year, Max D’s tripped out, chilled out “Indie Rock” mix for C- hits the limits of maximum replayability. Listening to this mix feels like we’re all hanging out in the old Future Times record shop in Mt. Pleasant again with Andrew doing a brain hop “oh so have you heard about such’n’such artist” before playing some funked-up esoteric record/tape you’ve never imagined before. It’s like a 7-way tie for my favorite tracks in the whole mix but in particular I texted Andrew about this one track toward the end called “Energy Sucker” by 90s NY band, Luscious Jackson; I ordered that album on tape immediately after listening to the mix.

I’ve taken this mix on bike rides and road trips the last few months but relistened to it in bed today; it breathes life with every listen.

Seven Plays is a feature where our contributors, extended family and friends keep a personal music diary for seven days, before handing the format over to another author. The aim is to keep sharing great music, this time with an individual touch that celebrates the intimacy and emotionality of our relationships with music as well as sonic excitement and technical prowess.

Read our previous installments of Seven Plays here. Photo: Jackson Ryland by his girlfriend, Rachel.

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