Private Playlist: Vinyl Williams collects opalescent musical jewels from mysterious beaches

Vinyl Williams. Photo courtesy the artist

Private Playlist is a listening session with Southern California’s most notable musical figures in their private creative environments.

Vinyl Williams is the musical alias of Lionel Williams, a multimedia artist, producer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist. An LA native, Williams is the scion of a considerable musical lineage — his grandfather is composer John Williams and both parents were also musicians. 

He adopted the Vinyl Williams moniker in 2007 and began producing what he calls “celestial pop” — a wildly idiosyncratic and original brew of dream-pop, neo-psychedelia, shoegaze, and math-rock. His second EP, “Ultimate World,” prompted a write-up from The Guardian, who featured the group as their “New Band of the Day” in March 2012. 

In 2013, Williams began producing richly immersive and psychedelic interactive music videos. A standout was a multimedia collaboration with Chaz Bundick (Toro Y Moi) titled “Trance Zen Dental Spa” in 2014. His subsequent video directing work has included Unknown Mortal OrchestraMedicine, and Tears For Fears. Over five albums, his own music has become increasingly more expansive, complex, and masterful, most recently with the release of 2020’s “Azure.”

For this edition of Private Playlist, Vinyl Williams gathers his favorite musical jewels from the worlds of shoegaze, Zambian rock, baroque pop, and beyond. 

“I love when people follow their ear. They don't care what they're doing. They're just following what their ear wants, and I can hear that. It removes all human concepts of what music should be.” — Vinyl Williams

VINYL WILLIAMS: With these specific selections, a lot of them are kinda mysterious to me. I definitely picked some that I know a lot about, but there's a couple I only really know a little bit about. Usually I contextually know what's going on, but these are just songs that I've been playing on repeat lately. 


Montage was a band that was active from 1967 to 1968, and then they disbanded. The songwriter was Michael Brown, who was in the Left Banke, which was a New York City '60s baroque-pop band. He left the Left Banke in 1967 and formed Montage just for this one album. "The Song is Love" is a really concentrated opalescent jewel, put through a squeezed process of magical concentration. And it's really lost. Nobody knows Montage, and not a lot of people know the Left Banke, although they had a lot of hits. 


A.R. Kane were pioneering shoegaze artists in England. There were two people in A.R. Kane. They grew up in London, but they're of African descent. And they were making this dream-pop shoegaze music akin to the Scottish music that was being made in the mid-'80s — very cutting-edge, ahead of its time, and the most beautiful landscapes of music. I love when people follow their ear. They don't care what they're doing. They're just following what their ear wants, and I can hear that. It removes all human concepts of what music should be. And "Lollita" is the summation of A.R. Kane to me.


Samira Winter is from Brazil. She moved to Los Angeles around 2012 from Boston, and we met each other in the East LA scene of underground music. Our music has always been utterly similar. We call each other our celestial sister and brother. And we just have this connection. We’ve collaborated on multiple different scales. I did a 360° video for her. I produced one of her songs. I mixed a couple of her songs. I played on a bunch of her songs, she played on a bunch of my songs. Ian Gibbs, who was in Vinyl Williams for seven years, produced her last album, and Winter is his first project. And her music is so gorgeous, almost objectively gorgeous. When I first heard "Here I Am Existing," I cried really hard, a joyful cry. Honestly, it's just a powerful song of pure bliss.


Fullbloods gets 500 monthly listeners on Spotify, and it should be 500,000 monthly listeners because [Ross Brown] is a frickin' genius. He's the modern-day Brian Wilson of America. His whole album, the entire way through, is one of those albums [where] every microsecond, every quantum moment, is wow. He's just a straight-up genius. "Worry Entertainment" is my favorite track.


Forever Pavot is a French band who are on the same label as Vinyl Williams and The Emerald Isle. They're from Paris, and even after Requiem Pour Un Twister released my album "Opal," I didn't really know about them, or I didn't really listen to their stuff actively. But when I started to, I realized how amazing it is. And "The Most Expansive Chocolate Eggs" has so many sounds in it that are interesting, and they happen so quick, it's a really cool collage masterpiece. I don't know how he learned to produce. He's an amateur self-producer, and he happens to be the best producer on the face of the Earth, in my opinion.

You know, I'm just an artist, so I'm gonna speak a little impressionistically here. But the French music that I hear [all has] something in common to me. It has incredible production and mysteriousness built into the production, built into the music, built into the vibe, built into the intention, and built into the aesthetic of how it's dressed. There's a lot of spring reverb, which sounds very dark and beachy. It's a mysterious beach. I don't know why, and I don't really want to know, but that's how I interpret it.


The Peace is actually WITCH [We Intend To Cause Havoc], who kind of pioneered Zambian rock, or Zamrock. And The Peace is a side-project with pretty much the same members. They did this album called "Black Power," which is just an incredibly political, powerful, musical, harmonious, and grounded album. "Umbwalwa Ne Chamba" goes into a zone, and goes into a world that is so advanced for 1975 that it kind of scares me. This song was written, but they're jamming in the song. And about a third of the way through, the bassist found something in the jamming, And just thinking about it, not even listening to the song, made me actually start to weep when I was just talking. It's just too good.

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