David Bowie's 'Blackstar' farewell flanked by 'Strung Out' and 'Ace of Dance' requiems

David Bowie, "Blackstar" (Sony Music). "Blackstar" is the greatest farewell letter we could have hoped to receive from the recently departed Bowie. A profound gift crafted by an artist who knew exactly how he wanted to say goodbye, the album is a love letter to life itself and a career peak offered just before he fell into the chasm.

But there aren't that many peaks or valleys within its seven beguiling songs. Recorded in New York with a band of jazz players, the work swirls restlessly without much ascent or descent. Songs shift from part to part, flowing instead of jumping. Vague rhythms glide in and out of time, unconcerned with meter.

Focused on bass, percussion, saxophone and various odd electronic punctuations, the new work is equal parts thrilling and devastating. It draws us back into a Bowie-created realm, the wallops with a final chapter that illuminated his oeuvre's vastness. Those who haven't already done so should book 40 minutes into their schedule to listen with intention, to drift away, to say goodbye to — and receive a farewell from — an artist who changed culture.

JD Twitch, "Strung Out on Lasers and Slash Back Blazers" mix. In the days after Bowie died, the outpouring of grief prompted an ocean's worth of writing. The Glasgow-based DJ known as JD Twitch didn't pen an essay. Instead he offered a revelatory mixtape. As he tweeted, "Unable to do anything else today, I did this. One hour of Bowie songs I've played in discotheques over the years." The result is a buoyant look at Bowie's weirder, funkier inclinations.

A beat-enhanced version of "Sound and Vision" fluidly glides into a sample-heavy breakdown on "Fame." Twitch messes with Bowie's cover of the McCoys' "Sorrow," looping layers of That Voice. Twitch revels in the strings and '80s vibe that drive "1984," celebrates the disco-funk of "Station to Station" and "Boys," the dance-happy blues of "Jean Genie," the punk-portent "Suffragette City." He closes the mix off, fittingly, with "Ashes to Ashes." When it ends, the silence is deafening.

Motörhead vs. David Bowie, "Ace of Dance" mash-up. It's been a tough few weeks for musical icons. First Motörhead founder Lemmy Kilmister was felled by cancer, then David Bowie. Both British, the two were polar opposites, artistically speaking. At the same time, both spent the early 1970s contemplating space: Lemmy as a member of Hawkwind and Bowie as Ziggy Stardust. Neither was interested in artistic compromise. Where Lemmy thrived in using the same few ingredients to create countless variations, Bowie was a shapeshifter.

The collision that is "Ace of Dance," by an anonymous YouTube user who dubbed himself Lemmy Stardust, pits these competing reflexes against each other. Mixing Motörhead's punk-metal standard "Ace of Spades" with Bowie's hit "Let's Dance," the result is a rush of cognitive dissonance.



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A version of this article appeared in print on January 17, 2016, in the Entertainment section of the Los Angeles Times with the headline "ESSENTIAL TRACKS - Requiems for Bowie" — Today's paperToday's paper | Subscribe
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