Not to call the man who dubs himself [Musicophilia] is an amateur in any way but job title. Maybe he works in music, maybe not, but he’s been putting together thematic collections and distributing them online gratis for a decade and a half now.
My first encounter with him was on a message board where, in 2004, he posted the details of a mega-box set of post-punk and related music called 1981: nine audio CDs, each with a loose theme (“Feet,” “Heart,” “Car,” etc.) plus a “Briefcase” CD-R of MP3s sweeping up over 200 leftovers, from ABC to Zounds. The set, he writes on the WordPress site, was “what pushed me from making tossed-off mixes that I’d share with a few friends, to obsessively culled, carefully sequenced, highly themed collections that I managed to share with people all over the world.” (I’m one of those fortunate recipients: 1981, in a white plastic snap-case, sits proudly on my CD shelves.)
In the years since, Mr. Ophilia has uploaded a slew of ear-bending sets in an array of styles—funk and its fellows, the Stereolab/Broadcast axis, a shadow version of Random Access Memories, yet more post-punk. But he’s waited till now to do a proper follow-up to 1981—this time jumping back a couple years and limiting himself to “seven all-new mixes, featuring 112 artists and groups, totaling about eight hours.” (The themes this time: “Fire,” “Ice,” “Brain,” “Amplifier,” “Computer,” “Convertible,” “Cassette.”) Like 1981 and the rest, you can either stream them from Mr. Ophilia’s Mixcloud page or (pssst) download from the site.
Still, eight hours is daunting. That’s why ‘1979: Post-Punk’ | Box Set Sampler (September 4, 2017), uploaded a couple days earlier, as a trailer for the 1979 set in full, is such a treat. You can hear it once and figure out how much deeper you want to dive—figure out, basically, whether you like this stuff or not.
This isn’t a dance mix, per se—though quite a lot here is quite floor ready. An early run that goes Talking Heads’ “I Zimbra” into Gang of Four’s “Damaged Goods” into the Slits’ “Love und Romance” is the kind of ramalama sequence to do any DJ (and dancer) proud. He even finds room for the era’s impure pop: Blondie’s “Dreaming” into the Cure’s “Boys Don’t Cry” may be obvious, but it’s still deadly effective. And he closes on a perfectly disquieting note, with Wire’s 154-ending “40 Versions.”
It seems only right to give the compiler the last word. “We think of our present ‘streaming age’ as having democratized listening, with everything available to everyone everywhere; and hopefully our tastes are less beholden to genre, time, or place in ways that allow us to see and make more and more interconnections,” he writes. “But the post-punks got there first.”
Each Thursday, Michaelangelo Matos will spotlight a different DJ set—often but not always new, sometimes tied to a local show but not necessarily—and discuss its place in the overall sphere of dance music and pop.