Low Budget Aliens Descend to Earth With “Junk DNA”
Meet the mysterious duo crafting digitised rhythms from outer space
Just like the origin of the universe, it started with a bang. On “Crash Landing”, the opening track from Low Budget Aliens’ debut album, the extraterrestrials introduce themselves as you’d imagine they would. Wailing alarms, shattering glass, and menacing, cryptic sound effects all communicate something to us earthlings that we can’t yet comprehend. Over the course of eight tracks, the chaotic sonic frenzies that unfurl on “Junk DNA” place it into the superlative of one of most distinct dance music records in recent memory. There are tinges of hip-hop on “Bowser’s High Court” that shapeshifts into jungle on “Hazardous Waste Dump,” and “Service Mode”. But the record is also steeped in the roots of Chicago genres like footwork and drill, championed by artists like the late DJ Rashad and Chief Keef, as a nod to LBA’s former base.
Low Budget Aliens is a new project by GOD69, a married couple from America now residing in Berlin. GOD69’s music first appeared in 2015 on Toronto-based experimental label Kikimora Tapes with a hazy industrial-house crossover tape titled “Amalthea.” Last year, they re-emerged full force with hyper-digitized futuristic bass workouts, self-released and on London’s Childsplay label. Contributions to compilations by Berlin-based INDEX:Records and queer powerhouse Radiant Love further etched their name into Berlin’s underground community and beyond.
After finding a lathe cutting machine on the internet in late 2016, GOD69 also founded their other venture Disc Archive, a vinyl record manufacturing service to help likeminded DIY artists and record label owners cut and create custom vinyl records. This undertaking, M says, gives their community “this power that they can do it themselves without having to wait for anybody to give them permission to do so. They can make the choice [to release music] on their own.” One notable example of a recent Disc Archive release is GOD69’s own Sidework Vol.1 and Sidework 2., a series of deep, hypnotic bass EPs powered by meticulous sound design. Featuring custom-made vinyl pressings, the records are artworks in themselves.
The releases, too, speak for themselves, mainly owing to the fact that the two producers have decided to remain anonymous, only to be referred to as K and M. They made this decision in order to avoid the type of quick categorization the music industry often prescribes onto emerging artists, freeing themselves from the hype machine, and to keep the pureness and joy in the beat-making process.
“We played the [music industry] game and we were both just a little bit fed up with it,” K says. “And at this point, we would really like to see that cycle be broken so people can have real freedom to do the things that they want to do instead of feeling confined to define themselves the way that the industry has.” The Low Budget Aliens project, for instance, can shapeshift whenever and to whatever they choose. “We’re just flowing and exploring things,” K says, “So any kind of label [people might describe us with], that it will change. We’re going to be different in five years. We will put out different music.”
Last year, for example, they became obsessed with the musicology of hip-hop, which is apparent on “Crash Landing” and “Bowsers High Court”. All the contemporary hits, M excitedly tells me, “is just tied to one amazing moment where people took disco records and tried to make them loop as long as they could so people could keep dancing. Then people just started talking over it.”
The expectations of an artist to fulfill one specific type of sound can be overbearing, and there are countless examples of electronic music artists using different aliases to deal with this–Aphex Twin has released music under 17 different pseudonyms. In the music industry today, where so much of an artist’s career is built on a cult of persona, it’s hard to find examples of artists whose music has been able to reach a broader audience despite shying away from the broader public. Even Burial’s identity was revealed eventually. Unlike him, however, GOD69 aren’t total hermits. They are active participants in Berlin’s electronic music community, two ravers you might meet in a club. In fact, most of GOD69’s recent material is the product of free-form, improvisation-led sessions initially written for live performances such as at Atonal Festival, Sameheads and ://about blank.
This shared sense of music fanaticism and borderless exploration came at an early age. “My earliest memory of making music is me and my sister getting Fruity Loops when I was like 10 years old and making drafts. Electronic music really resonated with me because, my whole upbringing is definitely dance music,” says K. Raised in Florida, where Miami Bass and Florida breaks originated, she says that Fruity Loops opened up “the idea that music production didn’t just have to [entail being in a] band with a guitar and drums. It could be much more complex.”
When the two met, they then used their specialized knowledge to woo one another. Their initial courtship when the two started sending one another long distance “digital care packages” with small tracks and visuals inside; it was a revelation listening to someone else who resonated on the same frequency. “Something amazing is happening here,” both remember thinking at the time. Once, when K and M where hanging out, they spotted a gambling machine at a bar that displayed the username of the last highest scoring player—GOD69. The name stuck. The two eventually married, memorializing their union by tattooing the number 69 in web-like curlicue between their thumbs and forefingers. To them, GOD69 is “this amalgamation of our experiences and our conversations. We think of it as this separate entity that’s our combined thing, but it’s something bigger than both of us.
Low Budget Aliens may have “just happened by accident,” as they say, a slip into a deep sonic rabbit hole, but it’s still closely tied to the larger GOD69 anatomy. The project, as they describe it, “is almost like zooming into the molecular level of the GOD69 organism and seeing all the tiny things that are doing the hard work to keep the bigger thing in motion and together and awake. Like, there’s our bodies, and then if you zoom in with a microscope, you can see the DNA level.”
Listening to the frantic rhythms on Junk DNA immediately conjures up an image of these otherworldly creatures at work, hammering away on metal on “Geo-Stationary Monument”, or drilling holes into spaceships on “Level 1 2 3 4 5”. “We’re also really janky people in a way,” they admit. “It almost sounds a bit self-deprecating in a way, but it’s more just about letting things be as they are and efficiency, because low budget [implies frugalness] and energy efficiency, which you see a lot in nature.” They compare Low Budget Aliens to “these really energy efficient systems that are making everything work as they do,” an apt metaphor for the life of a freelance artist. Just like their earnest DIY creators, the aliens appear to have little awareness outside of their craft. “They’re just doing their job and doing the best they can,” says M “and they don’t care about anything else.”
Junk DNA is out now on xpq?
Caroline Whiteley is an Editor at Electronic Beats. Find her on Instagram.
Published May 29, 2020. Words by Caroline Whiteley, photos by GOD69.