M.E.S.H., aka James Whipple, is a Berlin based artist and electronic musician originally from Southern California. A member of the Janus colletive, Whipple’s second EP, Scythians (PAN), was released this summer and expertly reconceptualized Jersey house, hardstyle, and trap into a sound all its own. This is his first contribution to Electronic Beats.
I first met TCF, aka Lars Holdhus, through a friend from California who met him at the Städelschule, an art school in Frankfurt. I knew his previous project very well, which was an extremely consistent series of gabberized dancehall bootlegs and chipmunked bubbling tracks that managed to mock the spread of musical memes through sites like SoundCloud and Tumblr while inspiring dozens of imitators. Lars and I share some interests in common, and I remember our first conversations centering on hardcore electronic music and the spread of club music trends over the Internet. As a contemporary artist, his research interests go deep into block-chain encryption and network hierarchy. Listening to his new record on Liberation Technologies, I was struck by the contrast between his ability to conceptually ground his work and the resulting deeply absorbing and interpretive listening experience. What follows are thoughts on and reactions to the individual tracks that make up the record.
“D7 08 2A 8D 2A 37 FA FE 17 0E 62 39 06 81 C8 A1 49 30 6F ED 56 AD 5E 04”:
Hardcore can describe a sonic palette as much as a reaction toward stylistic inertia. A tendency in which established parameters aren’t abandoned but are maximized to the edges of their own spaces of possibility. Hardcore treats emotional and sensorial intensity as an algorithm to be optimized. “D7 08 2A[…]” begins with an incantation— “slow, slow”—over what sounds like a wet balloon being tied or an injection hose writhing out of its casing. Beneath electrostatic noise sweeping cross-spatially comes a rapid plasticized pizzicato, then a low system tone stuck in an indeterminate arpeggiation, the ground for a detuned flute to cross over like a spark of discharged neon gas.
“46 4D 68 77 64 A0 43 B7 E9 A7 CB B4 BE 68 6B CB A0 5E 10 02 CC 96 EA 75”:
A cipher is an algorithm, a series of steps that encrypts or decrypts plain text. A cipher requires a key to operate. Some ciphers work on fixed-size blocks, others work on a continuous stream of symbols. If TCF has left keys in his music, they are buried beneath opaque layers of textural strata. “46 4D 68[…]” opens with cinematic synth strings perforated by tremolo and undergirded by the sounds of small machines that seem to be counting or authenticating a signal passed down a chain.
“54 C6 05 1C 13 CC 72 E9 CC DC 84 F2 A3 FF CC 38 1E 94 0D C0 50 5C 3E E8”:
This track sounds like a threshold in the system being reached, a vigorous new awareness achieved, at once shocking and sedative. TCF’s music reflects the weirdly emotional intensity of nonorganic entities, the inhuman agency of machine life. This confluence of the epic, the sentimental and the austere comes to a head as trance synthesizers slot themselves into a Steve Reichian pulse.
“F8 5E BB 63 94 B5 17 BA 74 AC 11 EE 33 86 B2 7E 93 E0 E4 AA B4 CF 1F 64”:
The system in deep ferment. TCF is a dedicated tea enthusiast, and has spent the last year sampling eighty varieties of tea. Last spring he decided to select some of the most interesting, and, using a crowdfunding website, offered a tea subscription service. The project is called Tiny Encryption Algorithm or TEA. You receive your tea in a silver anti-static bag with a print on one side. The first tea offered was a Da Hong Pao. Along with the tea comes a download code with which one can receive music composed by TCF, in this case what sounds like a Lubomyr Melnyk piece generated algorithmically for MIDI piano. There is a certain uncanny feeling when listening to TCF’s music, like you are hearing tropes from avant-garde music recapitulated and resynthesized by anonymous processes.
“DB 9F 72 A8 B4 1C 62 8A 3C 96 22 8B 5B 03 23 6F 81 16 64 76 3E 0A D8 16”:
At the peak of the record, this song begins with submerged synth tones and what sounds like fluids splashing in concrete chambers, or underwater recordings of distant naval exercises. The oddly emotive rave synthesizer returns. TCF’s music displays a comfort with musical manipulation—the winding song structures, overwrought chords, and cinematic usage of sound effects and sub-bass reflect an artist comfortable with using all available tricks.
“E5 42 CC 3C 83 3D A0 76 DE 90 E4 CB 49 99 C9 9F C5 48 7A A8 2F 34 1F BC”:
The record winds down with a euphoric distorted string piece. The machine sounds, previously plastic, now sound like metal grinding on stone.
“97 EF 9C 12 87 06 57 D8 B3 2F 0B 11 21 C7 B2 97 77 91 26 48 27 0E 5D 74”:
For a record built on conceptual rigorousness, E4 15 C4 71 97 F7 8E 81 1F EE B7 86 22 88 30 6E C4 13 7F D4 EC 3D ED 8B is lush and dimensional. It reveals an artist consumed by processes and networks, and collaborating with systems to push the listener to extremes of emotion. ~