Scale It Back

When I hear the term “DJ,” I still think of the person playing prerecorded music at the front of a hall for a social evening (please see my post on “Sunshine on Leith” or, more recently, “Just the Way You Are,” for the lowdown on that Manitoba phenomenon).

But my recent experiences have shown me there is far more to the two-letter title. A few years ago, a friend introduced me to his son, a Canadian DJ hosting an online show on the Twitch platform. DJ FunkyBeak broadcasts on the worldwide web most Fridays from 7:30 to 11:00 pm in the Pacific time zone. His Twitch page says he focuses on 70s, 80s, Disco, Funk, Synth-Pop, New Wave and more.

His is an enjoyable program to jump onto, with a chatbox for interaction with him and other listeners. I’ve sat in several times over the past year or so and enjoyed the show. If one likes the show and wants to support it, they can make comments, or even send tips through a couple of payment apps. Or just hang out and focus on the fun mix of music, though the conversations can be fun, too.

I honestly don’t know how FunkyBeak keeps up with monitoring the comment feeds and acknowledging people arriving or commenting or messaging him from other platforms, all the while mixing his music and dancing here and there. He does a fantastic job of what I’d call blending one song into the next, using “lossless” digital music formats, matching the beats of the two songs and fading one in and the other out. On a recent show, he indulged my request, playing an alternate mix of the song “Duel” by Propaganda, which I featured in a recent blog post. (Serendipitously, in that same post another DJ, Britain’s Anne Frankenstein, is mentioned as she spun the song while sitting in the morning show chair in place of regular BBC 6 Music host Chris Hawkins).

Another example of DJing that stretches my notions of the craft is American DJ, songwriter, hip hop producer DJ Shadow (aka Joshua Davis). I recently heard one of his songs on that mainstay of mine, Guy Garvey’s Finest Hour on BBC 6 Music, when I listened to the archive of his August 8, 2021 instalment, “Entrances and Exits.” (This episode had none of his usual weekly features like his historian sister The Beckapedia, poet laureate Simon Armitage, the On This Day segment, and others.)

A Wikipedia article on Shadow says he has a personal collection of 60,000 albums. Wow. Again speaking to my lack of knowledge about this genre of art, his instruments are not all exactly what I traditionally viewed as musical instruments: “turntable, sampler, keyboards, synthesizer, drums, percussion.”

On the archive of Garvey’s show, I heard Shadow’s collaboration with Swedish electronic music group Little Dragon, “Scale It Back.” The song has a quirky, sometimes jittery melody that’s playfully, jauntily brought along by crisp, skillfully loping drum and percussion work.

The official video, quirky itself, begins with a man telling how he memorizes a deck of cards by making up a story where each image represents a pair of cards, then ends the video by recounting all the images.

“I swear I’ll solve your life, my feet fall over you inside
And I thought I heard someone say
You’ll fly far away
And when you reach up the sky is there

This clueless, I wouldn’t know
We swam in the waves, and we let it go
Until I heard someone say
Over the horizon beyond
Oh, where you reached and knocked over stars

I dreamt I came from parking movements
Every moment I see with our clothes
Take me to places where we can stop
I dreamt I came from parking movements

Ooo, Ooo
Nothing can steal this treasure from us, babe
I’m still in love, now
Fighting the sounds
Take chances and come closer to me babe
I’m fallin’ out, now

I dreamt I came from parking movements
Every moment I see with our clothes
Take me to places where we can stop
I dreamt I came from parking movements

Now, Oooooo
Take chances and come closer to me babe
I’m fallin’ out”

(“Scale It Back,” by Joshua Davis, Yukimi Nagano,
Erik Bodin, Hakan Wirenstrand, Fredrik Wallin.
Unofficial lyrics courtesy of Genius.com.)

I’m not sure I’ve entirely grasped the song’s meaning, though there’s a dreaminess and kind of hypnotic sense coming across. It’s as if in the chorus, the songwriters envision a couple in their fanciest going-out clothes, going out dancing; their unison movement is a metaphor for the discipline of one parallel parking a car. The light flashing off the cars conjures up the swishing of their clothing under cabaret lights, creating a kaleidoscope of colour. The short version is: the couple is seeking places to go so that, in getting there and parking, they can again capture how it really is for them: the slow magic of their sensual dance moves. And, of course, this doesn’t mesh with the video (other than maybe the fancy clothes on the woman and man at the chest freezer).

My confusion about its meaning aside, I love the vibe of this song. I’m glad I took note of the song title and artists when listening to the program over a month ago.

Now you know a little about why this is My Song of the Day for Today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the music video for the song from DJ Shadow’s official YouTube channel:

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