Find Out What I'm Dreaming

Barcelona, the thrill of the hunt and the mystery of Li Garattoni

Several nights a week for almost a year, I’ve had vivid dreams where I’m travelling. My wanderlust is at an all-time high. My mobility has never been more limited and the thought of hopping on a plane has never felt more distant. It seems as if my brain is trying to adjust to my lack of movement by booking me on an extensive tour of the mind. In my sleep last week, I was catching up with some friends on the west coast as we climbed up to a floating island above Vancouver. You could design a poster with all the locales I’ve traversed during my REM Sleep World Tour 2020-21: Berlin, Edmonton, New York, Glasgow, Montreal, London.

I’ve also dreamt of Barcelona, possibly my favourite city in the world. Some places are designed in a way that can feel exclusionary but in Barcelona, nearly everything about the Catalonian capital feels inviting. The people there seem happier than in other cities and it’s not just because the weather is usually perfect. The architecture is playful and abstract, featuring several famous buildings designed by Antoni Gaudí. The curiosity and ingenuity behind how the city was built seems to have radiated out into the populace for generations, influencing Barcelonians to think outside of the box. When I’m there, I often feel a vibrating sense of possibility.

I first visited in 2008 when I was booked to play a massive club called Razzmatazz and returned later that year for a festival called Summercase. Backstage at that event, I knocked on Soulwax’s trailer and they shared some Moët with me. I returned to the city in 2012 for Primavera Sound while I was on tour with Japandroids and I most recently visited in 2018 when I booked my own small tour of Europe and arranged for myself to have a full day off in Barcelona en route to a show in San Sebastián.

For that trip, I had afforded myself a level of freedom and leisure that no booking agent would ever bake into a tour for me. Touring is usually all about cramming in as many shows as possible, meaning you barely get to spend any time at all in a given city. But profit was not the driving motivator behind this tour. I designed a mellow routing for myself that sometimes gave me one or two days off between shows. I was traveling in August, which is off-season for playing shows in Europe. I wasn’t able to organize a proper show in Barcelona because the entire city was out of town on vacation, including Juan the promoter I was talking to. But he helpfully connected me with a couple of his friends who were still in town to show me around.

I connected with Juan’s friend Mariona and she guided me around Barcelona for the day. I luckily happened to be in the city during Festa Major de Gràcia, a street festival that goes on for a week every August in what many consider to be Barcelona’s most artistic neighbourhood, Gràcia. Each street competes to see who has the most impressive display. The narrow corridors of the area were decorated with elaborate, vibrant art installations, including one section filled with life-sized classic video game characters. We stopped for lunch and watched a protest in a park square led by members of the Catalan independence movement. I was deeply inspired by Barcelona’s combination of ecstatic creativity, community engagement and political consciousness.

One thing I had never gotten to do before in Barcelona was shop for records. It was easy to ascertain what “the spot” for me was: Discos Paradiso. There are few things I enjoy doing more than digging for vinyl. Some of the best days of my life have been spent crawling around a record store, taking a few hours “clearing” an entire store’s inventory. Every record collector has certain grails that they’ve always hoped to encounter in the wild. That day I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw a copy of a mysterious album that had held much significance to me for several years, Li Garattoni’s Find Out What I’m Dreaming.

Originally released by a small label called Software Music in 1982, I first found a crusty sounding MP3 rip of this record hosted on some random blog in the backwaters of the internet 10 years ago. Way before I started this newsletter, I used to send mass emails to my closest friends with my recent musical discoveries and this was the kind of album I would write to them about. Find Out What I’m Dreaming is awash in jazzy, cosmic synthesizer symphonies and meditative elegiac vocals. It sounds like it was created by Kate Bush’s weird German cousin.

There is very little information available about this release or the artist herself. According to Discogs (where an original pressing of the record once sold for $772.84 CAD), Jutta Li Garattoni was a “German publisher, producer and photographer” and the managing director of a record label called Edition Incontro Musikverlag & Tonträger. She was involved in the Krautrock and German jazz scenes. Her husband Jean-Pierre Garattoni (credited here as Peter Garattoni) was in the prog rock group Eulenspygel and plays drums on the album. They are pictured together on the back cover:

The album was produced by Li Garattoni herself. The vinyl insert features her showing sincere gratitude to the musicians who played on the record: “Warmest thanks for the feeling you put into the songs.” These compositions have a timeless feel. There’s a real depth of emotion to this record, a passion that doesn’t come off as contrived. There’s an earnestness to her lyrics that makes them seem almost naïve, like the subtlety may have been lost in translation.

She sings about waterdrops, butterflies and wanting to be a cloud. There’s a song about the importance of friendship that is genuinely touching. Garattoni writes that she is “singing with all [her] heart” for her husband Peter and their daughter in the liner notes. “My feelings are both deep and high / Too strong perhaps for you to see / Nobody knows where it starts, where it ends” from the dazzling “Child Of Venus / Orbital Star” could be both a mission statement for the whole project and a description of Garattoni’s way of life.

Jutta Li Garattoni died in 2004. A commenter on a blog said that Garattoni’s daughter told him that her mother had become a Buddhist monk in the years before her death. The 2017 reissue on Private Records appears to have been officially sanctioned (apparently Jean-Pierre Garattoni and Private Records’s Janis Nowacki are both “deep into meditation” and that’s how they connected to release the reissue) but there’s no longer any reference to it on their website and just a couple vague old posts on Facebook. For some reason, only three of the album’s songs are available on streaming platforms. The mystery persists. I hope that one day there will be a wider appreciation for this album.

Whenever I catch a glimpse of the vinyl cover in my home, it takes me right back to that European tour. I had to take a knee when I first saw it at Discos Paradiso, even though it was only a copy of the reissue. Sometimes a record isn’t just a physical copy of a sound recording. It can also function as a measure of time. Hearing this album will always transport me back to Barcelona, just like listening to others can feel like taking express trips back to New York, Berlin and Detroit. I’ve realized that the actual experience of travelling isn’t what I miss, it’s the fact that these journeys provide me with frequent opportunities to exercise my curiosity about the world around me. Thankfully, my unconscious mind and my record collection have been able to pick up the slack.

You can buy a copy of the 2017 repress of Li Garattoni’s Find Out What I’m Dreaming at HHV and Clone

Five Songs

Last week I started livestreaming on Twitch. It’s been surprisingly enjoyable so far. I’ve found that it’s a really fun way to stay connected with the outside world during lockdown when I can’t physically DJ anywhere. The chat room feels eerily close to hanging out with friends at the club IRL. I’m doing a livestream DJ set every Saturday from 8 - 11 PM EST for a series I'm calling Quarantunes with Cadence Weapon. I’ll be playing songs I've found recently, sharing unreleased tracks, maybe making a beat or rapping eventually once I figure the technology out more. I’d like to integrate it with this newsletter so some of the music I talk about here will be the basis for what I play. If this sounds fun to you, follow me on Twitch!

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