I wonder who the first kid was to pick up an old plastic milk crate and throw his records in it. There’s a good chance that there were some brand new vinyl crates being sold out in the marketplace that were shiny, perfect, and made out of some show-off material… literally. But, in an effort to save some extra cash for his next record, settled for the economical alternative. The kid was a forerunner, and was using reclaimed material before it was cool. There’s and old proverb that says, “there’s nothing new under the sun”, and while that can be a little sobering, it’s true. We all have inspiration to be creative in different ways in our lives, but how much of what we “create” is really just looking at something from a different angle, or recycling a thought, image, or sound from something in our past or our lives. Here are a couple cool examples from 2015 that really surprised me in terms of creativity, originality, and the use of reclaimed materials, sounds, tastes, and textures.
Wind Gap “Soif”
Wind Gap winery and tasting room is not very typical. Well, at least when compared to the glitz and glamor of tasting rooms in Napa. All the wines are made in a wearhouse/co-opp and customers can taste the wines on tapped kegs (none the less), and all right in the heart of Sonoma county (Sebastopol to be exact; a quaint little town just west of Santa Rosa). All the grapes come from different cool-climate vineyards around northern California, and the heart behind the operation, Pax Mahle, said this: “Many of our vineyards are planted along or are directly influenced by one wind gap or another. These geological breaks in the coastal hills funnel wind inland and strongly influence the growing and ripening of our grapes. It seems only fitting to us that our name should celebrate the forces of nature that are shaping our wines.” Soif is the French word for “thirst”, and it makes perfect sense when tasting this wine. There’s a crispy salinity to this red, that makes you keep sipping and coming back for more.
Pax, who is also the winemaker, did some crazy things when crafting this super unique blend. First, he used some pretty rare grape varieties that are normally found growing in France and Italy: Valdiguie, Syrah, Mourvedre (France), and Negroamaro, and Dolcetto, (Italy). The interesting part about the winemaking process he used, is called Carbonic Maceration (that was made famous in the area of Beaujolais, France). This process is fermenting grapes, and sometimes the whole cluster, without the normal “crushing” step that releases the juice from the grape skins. All the whole berries are put into a fermenting vessel, and the weight of the grapes on the top break the skins on the bottom, releasing the juice. What happens at this point, is the sugar from the juice comes in contact with the native yeasts that are naturally on the outside of the grape skins. Fermentation begins, and then a crazy thing starts to happen: the sugars that are inside the un-broken grapes, slowly turn into wine (sugars are converted to alcohol). What one is left with at the end, is a wine of incredible freshness, fruitiness, and energy that you can’t get with normal fermentation.
Once the fermentation was complete, Pax put the juice in 500 gallon concrete eggs. Concrete is a great way of retaining the freshness in a wine, all the while letting it breathe without flavoring it with the addition of oak. The finished wine is awesome… “Fresh cherries, rose petals, cinnamon, blackberries and rich creamy fruit fill out both the exuberant aromas and flavors of this wine. Textured and succulent, this irresistibly light and chug-able wine is perfect for any occasion that requires copious amounts of delicious wine.” – windgapwines.com. If Napa Cabernet was to be compared to Earl Grey tea, this would be Kombucha. You’ve got to try this stuff. It’s amazing.
Tame Impala “Currents”
Easily my favorite record from 2015, Kevin Parker – the lead singer, writer, arranger, producer, and face of the band – set a new standard with his album “Currents”. From track one, he laughs at the status quo of “the perfect 3 minute radio song” with the killer track “Let It Happen” at a breeze-by of 7:48. This sets the tone for what happens on the following tracks and it’s nothing new, really. It’s drum beats that nod to the funk world using primarily high-hat, kick, and snare and the random tasty tom – reminiscent of The Meters. It’s rock and roll bass lines that are REALLY bass lines (not your thought-out subwoofer effect or a producer trying to fill up a mix). It’s electric guitar and vintage synth sounds that are on a spectrum of super crunchy and raw, all the way to mellow, smooth, and sexy. Sometimes there are tons of affects on the vocals, sometimes its dry. It’s a rollercoaster that’s either broken down, or breaking your neck.
In the past I’ve written about bands like Allen Stone, Alabama Shakes, and early Andrew Belle, making a point about their use of real instruments, and lack of technology in their music. Well, I still love and respect bands that are doing this, so don’t hear what I’m not saying when you turn on Tame Impala for the first time. Bands like Tame Impala are finding a way – just like Wind Gap – to use modern technology to be creative and make something new from something that’s been used before… and make it better. Evolution? Recycling? Do we love it? Yes, yes, and yes.
“Do I give wines and music points? Judge them on a numerical scale? No way! Our mouths and ears are all unique. What we consume with these things weren’t made for scores or ratings; they were made for our enjoyment.”