Light a candle. Draw the required sigils. Now, raise your arms above your head and slowly, gently, exhale your soul. You won’t need it here. This is Audioccult, and it’s time to get low. Illustration: SHALTMIRA
It feels weird to think about music when there’s so many utterly fucked things happening in the US right now. I debated writing about them instead for this week’s Audioccult, but I decided that others are doing a much better job at it, and they probably don’t have the urge to interject with some humorous music babbling. This holiday season, I suggest that you interrupt all family gatherings by loudly placing your laptop on the dining room table and opening it slowly to this article.
Anyway…Because EB isn’t doing a Best Of 2014 list, and because this column rarely focuses primarily on music these days, I feel compelled to mention my aural loves from the past year on a smaller scale by compiling my 20 favorite tracks in no particular order. Each of these songs move me in different ways at different times, and so I’m not interested in ranking them—they’re all great. Next week, I’ll cover 20 more, and the week after this column will just feature pictures of dogs I like.
Ballet School – “YAOI (LP Version )” [Bella Union]
The penultimate cut from debut album The Dew Lasts An Hour by Berlin-via-Scotland shoegazers Ballet School ramps up the original version with powerful vocals and perfect pop hooks that are pinned down by glistening, driving guitars reminiscent of the sort of 4AD-style post-punk I worshipped as a kid.
3TEETH – “Dust” [Artoffact Records]
I could go on about these guys for ages, so suffice to say that if you love industrial music, this song (and LP, and the remix LP) need to be in your collection. Grinding riffs, obliterating beats, and pure vocal carnage make this one a dance floor destroyer.
Croatian Amor – “Tonic Water Bridge” [Sleeperhold Publications]
While Caviar Glowing flows like a single track, it’s the first movement—all pulsating, twinkling ambiance sliding slowly into a quicksand of techno rhythms—that grabbed me the most from this beautiful little EP.
Rind – “Understudy” [Rotted Tooth Recordings]
The sound of Lee Relvas rests comfortably between early No Wave experimentalism and the mutant, electronic punk that gave us angelic weirdos like Lauren Bousfield. Foreboding piano plays tag with bursts of static noise, jagged guitar, and Relvas’ commanding voice. The entire thing is available to download for free on her website, too!
The Soft Pink Truth – “Satanic Black Devotion” [Thrill Jockey]
Why Do The Heathen Rage? is possibly one of the best records, ever. Queer, shattered electronic interpretations of black metal classics like this Sargeist cover are equally terrifying and orgiastically delightful. If your face doesn’t light up in a smile when that Snap! sample hits, you’re 2 Brvtal 4 Lyfe.
Azar Swan – “And Blow Us A Kiss” [Zoo Music]
This fantastic track, a beautiful mixture of tribal drums, industrial-grade synthpop, and Zohra Atash’s confident vocal coos, prefaces Azar Swan’s sophomore LP of the same name. It’s a stirring opener which made me smile so hard that a nearby cat became angry and attacked me. Zohra also recently penned a great essay on influence, which you should check out here.
The Devil ft. Johnny Cash, Pesci, Converge, Alley Boy, The Dillinger Escape Plan, Cocaine & The Grim Reaper – “KILL RADIO KILL / THE RIDE” (Self-Released)
Of all the “dark” hip-hop mixtapes I’ve heard this year, Violence is undoubtedly the most raw, nihilistic, and straight-up weird of them all. Packed with bleak samples and multi-genre bursts of other musicians (like the insane selection above), it’s an essential listen for anyone who loves noise and rap in equal measure—or as the perfect WTF closer to a DJ set. Grab it for free at livemixtapes.
Vashti Bunyan – “Holy Smoke” [Fat Cat Records]
Somewhere between regal maturity and ageless innocence, Bunyan’s final album Heartleap is a stunningly lovely Autumn portrait of one of folk music’s greatest hearts.
Mondkopf – “Hadés III” [In Paradisum]
When trying to engage people who enjoy industrial music but aren’t really into techno (of which I am one, sort of) there’s a few albums I have found that can change their minds. Since the beginning of the year, I’ve added the monolithic Hadés to that list. The majestic closer, “Hadés III,” with its rising ambient synths and harsh, trumpeting denouement, is a case in point.
M.E.S.H. – “Captivated” [PAN]
Despite the fact that Jamie Whipple is one of my favorite Berlin DJs, his musical output doesn’t always translate to the dance floor. That’s fine with me, as the excellent Scythians EP operates on the dance floor of the brain. Let his beats do the talking while your lobes do the walkin’.
Trust – “Capitol” [Arts & Crafts]
I’ll admit that, at first, I wasn’t convinced by this sophomore album. I’m still more into the first Trust album, because I’m a dour fuck. However, after repeated listens, it has grown a lot on me, and this particular slice of joyful synthpop deliciousness more than the rest. This is perfect headphones music for knocking your goth ass up a few notches towards positivity.
The Bug – “Fat Mac” [Ninja Tune]
The Bug’s massive performance at Unsound Festival remains one of my favorite live shows ever, thanks in part due to how much I played his new LP Angels & Devils during the month leading up to his appearance. The lurching, lurking viciousness embedded above is a highlight in an album full of highlights, with Flowdan’s growling verses sounding meaner than ever.
Gazelle Twin – “Human Touch” [Last Gang/Anti-Ghost Moon Ray]
Gazelle Twin’s meaty new LP, Unflesh, feels almost like the poppier offspring of the classic Matmos surgical-sample album A Chance To Cut Is A Chance To Cure (though the word “pop” is used very loosely here). “Human Touch” pulses with a stuttering, after-dark synth and slightly dehumanized vocals, which makes for a delightfully weird and woozy experience.
Ariel Pink – “Not Enough Violence” [4AD]
Whatever you think about his public persona, there’s no denying that Pom Pom is Pink’s best work in years. Shedding many of the dull trappings of AM radio-rock, he’s returned triumphantly to the stranger, cartoonish aspects of his work. “Not Enough Violence” is an infinitely catchy, washed-out, mock-goth sleaze anthem that makes me want to buy a black Ferrari and crash it into a wall, for sex reasons. “I recommend it.” – Daniel Jones.
Jabu – “Empty Days” [Ramp]
The Bristol-based crew Young Echo has some insanely talented members, and you’ll see more of them in the next edition. The duo known as Jabu is probably the most unexpectedly delicate act in the pack: soft-spoken word poetry with sparse, melancholic instrumentals. The pairing of guest vocalist M.S Harris with Alex Rendall’s stark flow makes this a perfect tune for heartbreak, introspection, or just vibing out.
Crow and seagull attack the Pope’s peace dove [Life]
Even though the current Pope is actually pretty chill (you know, for a Pope) this still counts as a major musical moment in my life. When those two flying fucklords dropped down on the symbolic emissary of peace, I heard a choir of angels scream. Currently working on the remix.
The Body – “Hail To Thee, Everlasting Pain” [RVNG Intl.]
The Body’s Haxan Cloak-produced I Shall Die Here is an exquisitely-crafted slab of hate. I don’t think a week has gone by without me playing at least one track, and the above more than them all. It’s pure, howling evil with low-end that makes you feel like you’re being sucked into a black hole.
Marissa Nadler – “We Are Coming Back” [Sacred Bones]
Rather than showcasing the standard attitude that so many albums about lost love portray (which oscillates between “Fuck you forever,” or, “I’m lost without you,”) Nadler’s July acknowledges the truest nature of these situations. We don’t always want what’s best for us. Sometimes, we simply want.
Sewn Leather – “Unclear War” [Hundebiss]
Sewn Leather (now Skull Katalog) doesn’t just make some of the scuzziest synthpunk in the game; he also puts on an insane live show. I chipped my tooth slamdancing to this one, which isn’t a big deal, really. The first time I saw this dude play, he broke his nose in the first minute of the show. 45 minutes later, he was still going strong. Hardcore.
Fugazi – “Merchandise (Version)” [Dischord]
Speaking of, when I heard these demos were coming out, I did a high five with my friend and our feet lifted off the ground. Ascent into heaven? This is the music of skate angels.
Scott O))) – “Brando” (4AD)
The only bad thing I can say about Soused is: now that they’ve made the Perfect Album, where the hell can either of these bands go from here?
Stay tuned for Part II of our Top Tracks of 2014 — coming next Thursday!
Prior to their much talked about set at Electronic Beats Festival Zagreb, Lucia Udvardyova landed face time with the 4AD-signed Danish masters of atmosphere. Away from the tyranny of promotion, the band instead expound on the subjective nature of sound, the essence of creativity, and a certain Mr X. Photo by Matej Grgic. Head here to watch highlights of Efterklang’s performance from the festival.
Hailing from Denmark, Efterklang is a 4AD-signed indie pop band established in 2001. Over the more than a decade of their existence, they’ve recorded several well-received albums, toured the world, and collaborated with filmmakers and symphony orchestras. Their latest, fourth LP, is Piramida, recorded in the desolate environs of Pyramiden, a Russian settlement in Norway. Fittingly, merciless cold engulfs Zagreb on November 8th, the date of the city’s Electronic Beats festival. Housed in a reminder of what was once a sprawling display of Croatian industry, the Zagrebački Velesajam, I meet the trio of Casper Clausen, Mads Christian Brauer, and Rasmus Stolberg in an impromptu interview room, a small white non-descript box of a room inside a large industrial hall, where the ensuing conversation turns to creativity, collaboration, and self-expression.
I wanted to ask about your name Efterklang. Apparently it means something like reverberation or remembrance.
Mads Christian Brauer: It’s a word that resonated with us. It refers to reverberation and remembrance, a very technical word but it also has some poetry to it; the decay, what comes after something.
MCB: Literally. ‘Efter’ means ‘After’. Klang is timbre, the sound.
What comes after sound?
MCB: That’s when something resonates within the structure, in a building or guitar. When the waves bounce around.
In a way it’s some sort of arbitrary thing, something uncontrollable, the echoes and delays.
MCB: But it’s not a repetition like an echo. Often it’s completely different to the sound, like a freeze frame of it.
Are you interested in sound as a medium? You also do field recordings, but you put them in a musical context.
MCB: Sound is a fascinating thing because it’s the same as light, except that we hear it. Sometimes it’s very fascinating how this world of sound affects us—and how we relate to it—because it’s just air that’s being pushed around but it can move you and talk to you. You can be attracted to any little silly sound and not know why you like it or don’t like it.
It is very physical and subjective.
MCB: Our sight is more alike but hearing is different for everyone. We don’t have a red for sound.
Casper Clausen: The first time I remember someone recording me was when I went on a school trip and they filmed us on this video camera. I heard myself on the videotape and I was like, “Wow, do I really sound like that?” You hear yourself through your mouth and your head one way, and when it comes out it’s different.
Peter Cusack, a field recording artist from Britain, recorded an album called Sounds From Dangerous Places in Chernobyl as a cautious reminder of the catastrophe of nuclear power as such. I wanted to ask whether Piramida is a purely musical piece or if it had an activist slant as well?
MCB: It wasn’t intentionally activist. We were fascinated by these pictures [of Pyramiden] that we saw. Of course, the communist aesthetics really affect the place. When you’re there you think a lot about the ideology. It used to be the “pearl of the Soviet Union” and in a way it was the perfect communist society because you couldn’t escape it. You were forced to make it work. It was a group of a thousand people in the middle of nowhere in the Arctic sea.
A utopian place?
MCB: Yes, and they were showing off to the Norwegians, so they built a swimming pool and a big cultural palace with an auditorium and a dancehall. It was like going to the moon, “See what we can do? We can create this little world where humans shouldn’t be.”
It’s a place loaded with atmosphere.
MCB: Of course it affects you. We were there for nine days and then we went to Berlin and recorded the album over the next nine months. It became this memory. The more distant the place became, time-wise, the more it became what you thought it was rather than what it actually was.
How can a studio, which is such a neutral space, inspire you compared to a place that is totally suggestive? How can you conjure a certain mood at such a place?
MCB: We made a lot of field recordings and based the album around those so we always had the sound to connect it to. The studio is something you have to get used to. It’s clinical, almost like a laboratory, but you get used to working there. It’s not like all music has to be recorded with candle lights and a very good atmosphere.
CC: I think it depends on who you are. Mads feels much more at home in the studio than I do. I’d rather try to escape it to be honest! For my part it’s a pressure to be in a studio whereas if I’m at home I just have to open my computer if I want to do something. But that’s something beautiful about these times, you can be creative in many places.
Nowadays, the way artists work has changed. It’s more distracted, people often do art in between other things and time is a diminishing commodity. In a way this has also affected the art that’s produced.
Rasmus Stolberg: I don’t think that’s anything new. Music has forever been used as a part-time pleasure. You may have been working hard during the day and at night you sing songs; some people develop a special talent and they may start doing it for living. It’s brilliant that these days people can have a job and make music on the side. It means they’re not always doing it to make money—it’s a creative outlet. I think there are lot of things coming out that are original and special because people are doing it for their own pleasure.
CC: But there’s a big part that you are missing. If you’re doing art, if you want to say something and there is something inside you that you want to come out with, it’s a call and you can’t just ignore it. Any artist I know has given up a lot. These days everyone, as Rasmus was saying, can do things and create, which is beautiful. However, being an artist takes more than just loading up a GarageBand. It requires the artist to take themselves out of their comfort zone, to experience something new. And that is an scary thing to do and will forever be that way.
RS: There are a lot of different artists, some artists are more proactive about reaching an audience but there are also a lot of people who sit at home doing really amazing things but they don’t have the ability to share it.
Back in the day, a lot of artists were only discovered after their death. These days everybody wants to have success right now.
CC: But there is too much focus on success. Everyone wants record deals, everyone wants everything. They want limelight all the time. People want to be everywhere all the time, including ourselves [laughs]. It’s a time of stupidity—a little bit—and we have to figure out what to do and focus on the right things.
RS: I think the focus is on creating. There are so many different ways of doing it. We have a friend in Berlin, a Swedish guy called Erik, and he’s been working on an album for seven years. He has a plan with it. And then there are bands like us who put out records every third year. You can’t say what is better and what is worse. I think there’s a whole problem with how music works these days, it’s about hits on YouTube, how big your name is on a festival poster… And while I totally understand that system, it has nothing to do with the quality of music. It’s just a system for marketing. You have to go out and find music somewhere else.
RS: Sometimes the unique things are harder to find. As a music listener you have to invest a little time in finding these things that are around because there are so many.
These days everyone is a filter.
RS: You have to use other filters or be your own filter. The output of music is insane—a crazy cacophonic world. It is extremely important that, as an artist, you are able to ignore that and focus on creating.
But once you put it out it’s in the public domain, it doesn’t belong to you anymore.
RS: If you make something that you believe in and that you think is really good, you want to share it with people. And you hope that other people will also have joy with it. If you make something that you believe in then you should focus on that. Maybe in twenty years someone will understand that, or maybe you will be the only one who understood and that is cool as well.
You are quite open in that you cooperate with lot of other artists. There’s a community around your music, which is also important.
CC: Ideally, if I describe what we want to do it’s to make something that is not necessarily finished. The best art is not complete. A certain percentage is left to the audience to carry on, and I think we play a little bit with that. Efterklang is three of us, but there is also a fourth member, Mr X, who is always there. That can be a lot of things, different musicians we work with, filmmakers, the audience. The three of us always need that fourth thing: the tension. ~
Efterklang’s Piramida is out now on 4AD.
Each week, Moritz Gayard rounds up the best new music videos so you don’t have to.
New week, new Videodrome. Same, but different. This week’s episode has audio visual joy from the likes of SOHN, Julia Holter, Major Lazer, Claw Marks, and more to offer.
#1 Dream Koala – “Odyssey”, directed by Fabulous
Parisian producer Dream Koala just dropped this cool, new video for “Odyssey”, a track taken from his new EP of the same name. Directed by Fabulous (Adrien Peze and Albin Merle) & Les Gentils Garçons. Je la kiffe grave sa mere.
#2 SOHN – “Lessons”, directed by Oliver Groulx
#3 SETH – “Fish Oil”, directed by Steve Hanft
New York duo SETH have unveiled three new videos for songs on their Chick on the Moon EP, and the one above is for “Fish Oil”. The EP is available now from UNO NYC.
#4 Mike Quinn – “I Hope It Goes Away”, directed by Ben Berman
New video for Mike Quinn’s song “I Hope It Goes Away”, made by director Ben Berman for the YouTube comedy network JASH. It’s called “The Best Video on the Internet,”—which unfortunately is not true. Check #1 here.
#5 Devendra Banhart – “Für Hildegard von Bingen”, directed by Isaiah Seret
Taken from Devendra Banhart’s eighth studio album Mala, the video for”Für Hildegard von Bingen” stars Jodie Smith as Hildegard and Joel Virgil as the head priest…
#6 Claw Marks – “Soul Food”
Achtung, guitars! That’s the video for “Soul Food” which is set to the live scenes from some live gigs and shows the band in their purest incarnation.
#7 Phoebe Kiddo – “This Is How I Would Die”, directed by JuJu Wee Ha
The debut EP from Berlin via Melbourne artist Phoebe Kiddo is a free/pay what you want download from Non Projects. New video, shot in Berlin above.
#8 Julia Holter – “Horns Surrounding Me”, directed by Angus Borsos
LA-based experimental singer/songwriter Julia Holter has unveiled her new video for “Horns Surrounding Me”, taken from her recent album Loud City Song. Based on a concept by Nite Jewel‘s Ramona Gonzalez.
#9 Justin Timberlake – “TKO”, directed by Ryan Reichenfeld
Riley Keough & Justin Timberlake in “TKO”…
#10 Major Lazer feat. Leftside, Razz & Biggy – “Jet Blue Jet”, directed by Grizz Lee
New visuals for Major Lazer’s “Jet Blue Jet”. The video is a kaleidoscopic journey of, yes, twerking and tattooed girls who inhale and exhale smoke in slow motion. Is b for boring? ~
For more editions of Videodrome, click here.
Stefan Betke, alias Pole, is a producer, sound engineer, and the co-founder of the Berlin-based ~scape label. Legend has it that in 1996, Betke accidentally dropped his Waldorf 4-Pole analog filter, causing it to spit out the un- predictable hisses and pops that eventually became the trademark of his idiosyncratic dub techno. Zomby‘s recent announcement of his upcoming double album With Love reminded us of Betke’s excellent review of the UK producer’s previous LP Dedication, originally published in the Fall 2011 issue of Electronic Beats Magazine.
There were a couple of occasions where Zomby and I could have met in person—I’ve played more than one festival where he was scheduled to appear either right before or right after me . . . if only he had shown up. It’s a running gag amongst promoters that when you book Zomby, you better have a replacement act on hand. It should also be known that when you first listen to his music digitally, it should be in a proper format. My first listen to Dedication was as a low bit-rate MP3 and after around three minutes I thought to myself: I haven’t heard something this bad in a long time. Luckily, my second listen was in CD-quality format and the difference was like night and day. Of course, as a producer and studio engineer, I’m sensitive when it comes to crafting sounds. But with Dedication— Zomby’s second album—almost all of the detail and sophisticated sound-design disappears when not listened to in the proper format. This was most apparent in regards to Zomby’s complex manipulation of hall and reverb. Together with the effects, the instrumentation and balance in his composition make for masterfully precise and clearly defined grooves. Aside from the fact that I don’t like the sound of gunfire at all—and there’s lots of it on the album’s first track, “Witch Hunt”—Zomby has an incredible ear. But I can’t emphasize it enough: anybody listening to Dedication on cheap headphones and in MP3 quality will miss the experience this record has to offer.
The album is a compact work of no more than thirty-six minutes, with individual tracks clocking in at circa three to four minutes—something you might expect more from the conventional singer- songwriter. But Zomby makes his point quickly, sucking in the listener with classic introductions and then leading them to more chorus-like passages. Ultimately, you get shot out the other end with Zomby’s codas, which usually end abruptly. But perhaps the most striking aspect of the album are the refrains, which recur over the course of the entire record—unexpected deconstructions, echoes and cross references of melodies and rhythmic patterns pop up out of nowhere, but are brilliantly embedded in the album’s narrative.
Dubstep tracks are usually the opposite of pop songs; dubstep is about the dancefloor, about never-ending rhythms, trance, repetition and hypnosis. Dedication could have incorporated all of those elements, but instead blazes a new and different trail—one that’s not so bass-heavy. What it retains is a moodiness that’s expertly recast within a pop context. That’s a brave and important move, because over the past few years, dubstep has become monotonous and overly self-referential. Some dubstep producers have moved into new territory—Detroit techno, Berlin-style digital dub techno, Chicago house . . . These are all legitimate musical directions, but I don’t see them leading to anything new. When talking about poppier, post- dubstep genres, James Blake inevitably comes to mind. But unlike Blake, who apart from his first two twelve-inches is little more than an overhyped poster-boy, Zomby’s Dedication is the opposite of superficial. I don’t think a typical dubstep DJ would play individual tracks in a club, but there are intelligent, progressive DJs who would gladly throw a Zomby tune into their set—people like Actress, Flying Lotus or Four Tet. Speaking of Four Tet: I recently listened to his last album There Is Love In You and immediately realized the incredible similarities between “Angel Echoes” and Zomby’s “Natalia’s Song”. Atmospherically the tracks are like twins separated at birth. If I DJ’ed, I’d definitely put these two together. ~
Each week in Videodrome, Moritz Gayard rounds up the best music videos the internet has to offer, so you don’t have to.
It’s the first VIDEODROME this year brought to you by someone who actually saw the sun. Yes, the gray layer which covers Berlin every year from October until April has finally disappeared. Enjoy some psychedelia and get ready for the best time of the year:
#1 Phantom Love – “Psychic June”
This great debut 12” EP from Phantom Love, a mysterious Kosmische act from Southern Europe was just released through Mannequin Records – track’s even bigger with these strange visuals.
#2 The Growlers – “Row”
Psychedelic mish mash video from Row. What a funny, acid-laden music video which whets the appetite to get lost on the Teufelsberg. You know?
#3 Broke One – “Gravity”, directed by Luke Gilford
Broke One is actually someone who ‘graduated’ from the Red Bull Music Academy, and this week he premieres his “Gravity” video, which is the follow-up track to his Waiting Lines EP—out via Bmkltsch last year.
#4 SOHN – “Bloodflows” Christian Pitschl
Uk producer SOHN seems to have momentum right now; he just got signed to 4AD for his upcoming full-length and has this niiiice music video out, made by Italian artist Christian Pitschl.
#5 IS TROPICAL – “Dancing Anymore”, directed by Megaforce
Post-sexuality, or what? What starts with a Christopher Walken-esque move ends in a pretty crass NSFW video, where… Watch it yourself above to find your own words.
#6 Roger Robinson – “Ghost”
New, tight solo track for King Midas Sound‘s Roger Robinson. “Ghost” is taken from Robinson’s forthcoming EP Novella, which keeps him behind a wall of layers.
#7 Mykki Blanco – “Feeling Special”, directed by Danny Sangara
Mykki just dropped his latest car-based music video for “Feeling Special” taken from his EP called Betty Rubble: The Initiation, coming out later this year.
#8 Sébastien Tellier & Caroline Polachek – “In The Crew Of Tea Time”, directed by Guillaume Cagniard
Record Makers released an exclusive 7-inch by Sébastien Tellier & Caroline Polachek of Chairlift with the as-yet unreleased track “In The Crew Of Tea Time” – recorded last year in Paris. Now this Nick Cave meets PJ Harvey video appeared online.
#9 Helado Negro- “Relatives”, directed by Zircon Prince
Brooklyn’s Roberto Carlos Lange, aka Helado Negro just unveiled his video for “Relatives,” featuring vocals from Bear in Heaven’s Jon Philpot. Taken from his new album Invisible Life, out now on Asthmatic Kitty.
#10 CocoRosie “After the Afterlife”, directed by Mike Basich
Off their forthcoming album, Tales of a Grass Widow, due May 27th in Europe via City Slang, here’s Parisian freak-folk sisters CocoRosie’s new video for “After the Afterlife”, shot in Hawaii.