"My friend Sam [Grawe, of Hatchback,] is a big fan of Area Code 615, and I love "I Hear a New World." The fact [Thomas] put those two songs together is weird, like he was reading our minds."
Encyclopedic musical passions bring serendipity. But Thomas and Judd's bond dives deeper: Thomas has remixed "Surfing at Midnight," the slow-blooming single from White Magic (Tirk), the first album Judd has recorded as Sorcerer. White Magic is a casual labor of love (all too rare in these studied-yet-throwaway days) that's easy to fall for on the first listen. Judd who sometimes writes about music for the Web site Dream Chimney is still capable of the Johnny Marrlike rush, push, and spangled jangle he brought to the band Call and Response, but freed from group strictures he lands on a relaxed approach to writing and recording that allows for gorgeous chord changes, compositions that morph, and keyboards and guitars that shimmer.
White Magic's track listing primarily consists of two-word titles "Airbrush Dragon," "Egyptian Sunset," "Bamboo Brainwave" that inspire visualization, and on MySpace, Judd invents a variety of apt and funny pseudogenres, such as "'80s montage music," to describe the Sorcerer sound. "So many friends, when I played [Sorcerer's] music for them, would say, 'This would be great for an '80s movie scene or a montage,'" he explains when asked about the various substyle terms he coined on a lark. "I definitely grew up during that period and watched the movies, so it's ingrained. I thought I might as well just go for it. I like having some humor and playfulness, like Thomas Fehlmann, the Kompakt [label] guy who was in the Orb.... At some point [more recently] electronic music got caught up in always trying to do something new. That's fun for the musician but not always for the listener. In my stuff the beat isn't what's making you go, 'Oh wow.' If it's happening, it's from the chords."
Judd and his girlfriend recently moved from Oakland where he'd also spent much of his early childhood with a mom who loves Prince into the Mission. Sorcerer, however, can usually be found loitering on either side of a magic door where kitsch transforms into loveliness. One side of that door definitely opens onto the beach. White Magic's "Blind Yachtsman" is a love child born from Takeshi Kitano's Zatoichi: The Blind Swordsman and yacht rock. Judd often draws on whatever he's listening to or watching, but other seafaring Sorcerer songs, such as "Surfing at Midnight" and "Hawaiian Island," flow directly from his experiences while surfing and scuba diving.
"Maybe the beach represents this free place, away from computers and technology," Judd posits when I mention that Norwegian counterparts such as Terje (whose MySpace interests are "Coconuts, Hawaiian sunsets, moose/dolphins/unicorn/practically everything in a sunset") share his fondness for littoral motifs. Whether discussing his girlfriend's most recent Midnites for Maniacsready movie rental (Side Out, a beach volleyball drama starring C. Thomas Howell) or a weekend visit to Nippon Goldfish Co. on Geary ("You're so close to the animals, and they look kind of crazy"), Judd keeps returning to the waterfront. "In the ocean," he notes, "you feel like there's almost no rules. You're having fun, and it's almost dangerous fun a kind that you don't find in the city."
THE RISING AND SETTING SUNS OF ARP
A setting sun, bisected by clouds, hovers over darkening ocean waves on the cover of In Light, the first album by San Francisco's Arp; the title, drawn in slim neon-tube cursive by San Francisco artist Tauba Auerbach, is suspended from the upper left-hand corner of a tangerine and gold sky.
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