The Weather Channel isn’t really designed to be watched actively. It was part of the fabric of my Florida upbringing, a constant presence amid the stressful storm prep that accompanied hurricane season every year. As cyclones inched closer to our part of the state, my sisters and I would play board games with it on in the background. Some poor man in a poncho holding a microphone would be getting blown down the street in Boca Raton as our parents mulled whether or not this was a natural disaster worth fleeing the Tampa suburbs over.
That went for their musical direction as well. During their local weather segments, the station programmed these beautifully chintzy jazz tracks, borderline muzak so distinctive to the station that they began selling compilations of it. Those compilations don’t really hold up all that well, but there’s this memory in my head of emotionally layered and unrelentingly uplifting music that accompanied these segments. It’s probably some construction of nostalgia for simpler times, when even something as grave as a natural disaster was part of the background noise of childhood. But I feel an affection for the spirit of music like this nevertheless, all these years later.
A tape released earlier this year by Angel Marcloid—a Chicago-based musician who’s best known under the moniker Fire-Toolz—proves I’m not alone. The name she chose for the project, Nonlocal Forecast, is telling of its sonic motivations. In an interview with The Wire this week, she said that she too grew up with The Weather Channel as part of the background of her home environment, which developed into a genuine love of these sorts of sounds—emotional, swooning, and dramatic as they are. “I didn’t really end up finding out the names and faces until years later when the classic Weather Channel website popped up and nostalgic fans would upload recordings of old forecasts,” she told The Wire. “I remember back in maybe 2011-2012 scouring that website and writing down every single name.”
Bubble Universe!, the tape that resulted from her years of appreciating these sax-laden mood-setters, is a fair bit stranger than Weather Channel jazz compilations. Marcloid, who grew up a drummer, consciously evokes proggy rhythmic contortions and computer music editing trickier to create a surreal version of the sounds that one might hear on Local on the 8s. It’s sort of like when a digital TV broadcast glitches out and blurs things up a bit. You can still tell there’s a meteorologist on screen, but the colors are a little more vivid—the boundaries a little more jagged and twisted.
It’s a wonderfully strange record, and today, she’s offering another peek into her love for this music with a mix of fusion-y new age sounds. It’s beautiful, sweeping stuff, that Marcloid says should be fitting for just about any pleasant activity you can imagine doing, including, but not limited to: staring out of a window, crying, and taking bong rips. Listen below alongside an interview with Marcloid about the project.
NOISEY: How are we meant to enjoy the mix? What's the perfect setting?
Nonlocal Forecast: Although this mix is generally uplifting, it's an emotional roller coaster for me. For some reason the first song makes me cry every time I hear it so I can't listen to it at work. But then other songs are pretty adventurous. Track 2 makes me see lightning. In my world, it's the perfect accompaniment to whatever you love doing the most. Sitting by yourself and listening to a light rain shower beating against your window. A windy chilly walk through a meadow where the sun is warming your skin. Driving through the desert. Floating in space. Sucking down bongs in your room with a nice pair of headphones on and a cat in your lap.
Was there any specific concept to the mix?
I have a lot of music, and I acquire a lot at once. I throw it all on shuffle. Songs will stick out like sore thumbs, so I drag them to a folder. This process leads to getting lost in full albums of course, but this folder of songs just becomes so fucking charged. I took songs from that folder.
Do you have a favorite moment on this mix?
Perhaps the violin solo build-up in Jerry Goodman's "I Hate You." My least favorite moment however, is when Goodman chose a name for the song.
Is synesthesia a real thing? If so, what color is this mix?
My experience is that I see shapes, textures, colors and shades, emotional qualities, sentiments and values, recollections of past experiences, all sort of molded together in one matrix. It's quite a rainbow of things if I look at the mix linearly. As a whole, it's warm, glowing, glassy, full of green growth, completely safe, watery and flowing, cushy and fluffy, soft but refined. Blankets, rivers, lens flares, stuffed animals, wide open night skies, cats purring, maybe a little facing traumas with LSD as an aid.
When we chatted about the last Fire-Toolz release we talked about the function the more peaceful moments served on that record. What does it mean to you to do a record like Bubble Universe! that’s more consistently focused on that sort of headspace?
That album flowed out of me so quickly and easily. I felt an effortless flow and peace putting it together. The drive to create was because I had just finished my next Fire-Toolz album and felt a strong momentum to keep going. Writing Bubble Universe! I felt no need to be hyper-focused on the compositional detail I put into Fire-Toolz productions. I guess to some people Fire-Toolz sounds like a mess while Nonlocal Forecast might sound meticulous and intricate in comparison. Screenshots of the programs I use would convince you otherwise. I felt like I made no conscious decision in composing this record besides deciding what preset to start with. Play a chord, next preset, play a chord, next preset. Next thing you know I had a full length. No second thoughts, no months of going back and forth and tweaking like I do with any given Fire-Toolz track.
I know I’ve seen you post tracks on Twitter before that are kind of like this mix and sound a bit like the stuff you’ve done on the Nonlocal Forecast record. Do you, as your name implies, have specific memories about hearing this stuff on the Weather Channel?
The name Nonlocal Forecast has a double meaning. It is a reference to classic Weather Channel vibes, but it is also (and mostly) a reference to the phenomenon of Quantum Nonlocality, and viewing it through the lenses of both ancient spiritual wisdom and cutting edge physics.
I didn't have this idea to make a record that intentionally ~channels~ the sounds of 80s and 90s new age, jazz fusion, and easy listening. Nor did I have the idea to adopt a Weather Channel theme. I just wanted to make some music and this is what came out organically and naturally. Probably because I haven't listened to much of any other genres in the past several years.
As a listener, what specifically catches your ear in songs like these?
There are melodies or chord progressions that will emerge out of these songs that stop me dead in my tracks. It's what makes me drag them to my favorites folder. I really love the saxophone as a melody instrument, but somehow a lot of guitars and violins wound up on this mix to fill that role. Sonically, it's all about the spaciousness, that unapologetically saccharine lead, and the timbre of popular 80s digital synthesizers and MIDI instruments. Put them all together with some jazzy chords and I'm drooling or crying.
Ninety-nine percent of the synth sounds on the Nonlocal album come from VST's of the Korg M1 and Wavestation, and those instruments are scattered throughout the mix and staples of 80s music in general. I was definitely able to translate vastness, oneness, peace, vivid color, observing the beauty of weather patterns, inner-eye gazing into natural micro/macroscopic marvels, experiencing humanity as a single being. However I am nowhere near the jazz geniuses some of these artists are, and I couldn't possibly have come up with their melodies and progressions if I tried. I'm coming at jazz fusion from a terribly unseasoned perspective. I've no legit jazz background. The Weather Channel raised me, but I was playing metal, punk, emo, noise. I rejected Tony Williams and Buddy Rich and embraced Chad Sexton and Mike Portnoy instead. Yes, Chad Sexton, and that gorgeous-sounding snare drum of his.
New age music sits at this interesting boundary between being functional music (whether for meditation or commerce) and like vaguely spiritual practice. Does any of this inform the way you listen or approach making music like this? What aspects of the packaging—for lack of a better word—of this stuff do you feel resonates with your approach?
For some artists making new age music, spiritual or nature-themed track titles and artwork was a marketing trend. But for many others, they felt personally drawn to nature, relaxation, simple beauties and pleasures, presence and awareness, love and devotion. Often this music would be specifically presented as an assistant to a spiritual practice from a mystical and contemplative tradition. I think things like nature, relaxation, and spirituality are tight as hell. So naturally this music meshes well with my interests and passions. However my love for the music came long before I uncovered an unquenchable thirst for understanding the nature of reality and experiencing higher vibrations.
It's all extremely functional music to me. It doesn't blend into the background. It's not shallow or plastic. It has a significant personality and value. Even the most bland, directionless sax solo over the most generic 80s electro-pop tune has an emotional depth and safe harbor to it that I could never finagle language to describe.
So this being a pretty focused genre-exercise, do you have any more projects like this kicking around your head? Are there other new directions you want to pursue outside of the Fire-Toolz stuff?
I didn't even want to do a new project at first. I felt completely fulfilled with Fire-Toolz and MindSpring Memories because I can do anything I want with Fire-Toolz and it still sounds like Fire-Toolz, and I can use songs I already love as my toolkit with MindSpring Memories. Nonlocal Forecast happened because that emotionally intuitive creative stream was flowing, and I was whining to Max from Hausu Mountain about how annoying it is trying not to get too backed up with new Fire-Toolz material. At the time I wouldn't have a new LP out for another year and I was in raging MIDI mode, ready to translate insights into rectangles on a grid. I sent him some songs I was working on that were originally intended to be a new direction for Fire-Toolz. He told me to just pick a different moniker, forget the vocals as to separate it further from Fire-Toolz, and they'd release an album of it. Two months later Bubble Universe! was fully produced and mixed. I felt like I had just taken a big pee. All over Max.
There are a lot of sounds that I haven't explored enough. New age ambient ska with death vocals and mixer feedback maybe? No new monikers, though. Exploring new things is what Fire-Toolz albums are for.
0:00:00 Fowler & Branca - Etched In Stone (Etched In Stone, Silver Wave Records, 1993)
0:04:40 Brian Bromberg - Sedona (Brian Bromberg, Nova Records, 1993)
0:11:00 Jerry Goodman - I Hate You (It’s Alive, Private Music, 1987)
0:15:54 Tom Grant - Journey Within (The View From Here, Polygram, 1993)
0:21:04 Doug Cameron - Vertigo (Passion Suite, Spindletop, 1987)
0:24:32 Tom Scott - Water Colors (Flashpoint, GRP, 1988)
0:29:47 Checkfield - Live At Five (Through The Lens, American Gramaphone, 1988)
0:34:34 Christophe Franke - Black Garden View (Pacific Coast Highway, Virgin, 1991)
0:39:13 Trammel Starks - Old Town (Gentle Storms, Intersound, 1995)
0:43:48 Victor Biglione - Za-Tum (Baleia Azul, WEA, 1987)
0:49:00 Dancing Fantasy - Happy Harry (California Grooves, Innovative Communication, 1991)
0:53:16 Allan Holdsworth - Dodgy Boat (Wardenclyffe Tower, Restless, 1992)
0:58:42 Maxxess - Castle On The Mountain (Landscapes [1990-1995], Klangdesign, 2011)