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 happened again. I started getting excited for the holidays, and something ruined it. Today’s travesty: an elderly woman on the train made an Air Bud rufference. Just because there’s “nothing in the rulebook” about discussing the sportdog on public transport doesn’t mean you have to transport a man from festive mood to angry dude. Fucked up, in my opinion.
With this in mind, I set out creating a guide to up the stakes on the season and ensure your holidays are A1 steak sauce-grade sweet!
1. GET YOUR GIFTS EARLY!
Nothing heightens holiday stress more than being outside in public. I’ve compiled the top three things you’re likely to want to buy, so you don’t have to leave the house.
Buy some CDs at Target
Teens love rap, so wrap some up for your teen! The best rappers. The illest flows. The death of prose. Get all the eloquent hits at Target. “You’re on Target,” as I like to bellow whenever I shop at Target, which is a lot.
The Tony Hawk: Ride skateboard peripheral
The gift that nobody else wanted from 2009 is just the thing for your loved ones. This pretend electronic board without wheels will give the clumsy and lazy something to carry around or display in their rooms. I keep mine hanging next to my bed, which I call Grind Central and where the challenge level is always set to Easy. The graphics aren’t bad either ;0)
OH BABY! DVD
Three hours of babies falling down, spitting up, rolling over… why, these babies have it all, and you can watch them do their thing while funny sound effects play and an out-of-work TV news anchor repeats the line “Oh, BABY!” over every scene, in multiple and increasingly desperate inflections.
2. AVOID THE IN-LAWS!
Yikes—need I say more!
3. GET INTO THE SPIRIT WITH A HOLIDAY SPECIAL—OR THREE!
The sense of hopelessness that one might feel while your mind is dragged once more through the dull repetition of ritual, with no end in sight and with only the vague tatters of nostalgia to replace what was once hope and wonder can be a bit overwhelming at times. Inject a heaping helping of rejollification with Snoopy and the gang! Every year, Charlie Brown buys the same sad little tree. Every year, it’s jellybeans, popcorn and toast for dinner. Wallow in the bitter stagnation of permanence. ‘Tis the season.
4. UNCLE TRENT DOESN’T GET TO DECIDE WHAT “CHRISTMAS MUSIC” IS
It’s not your house, and besides, Mom said I could play some of MY music too. Cocteau Twins has bells in it and Sun O))) is like Gregorian basically, so that’s fucking valid.
5. I’M DYING
I watch myself rot from an outsider’s perspective. The damage I do to myself—through repetition of negative thought, through self-neglect and mind-silencing drugs—is viewed with numb awareness, yet never acted upon. On the computer screen, Larry David proceeds through the same route to the kitchen. I know he’ll eat the cookies he’s not supposed to eat. Cheryl’s going to be pissed. Jeff’s horrible wife will say “Larry you sick rat fuck,” and the echoes will remain in my room long after her bitter lips have ceased to form the same hatreds I’ve heard time and again. My enthusiasm is thoroughly curbed for this holiday. December 1st is next Monday.
Covering Tracks is a regular series where we ask producers and DJs to take it in turns to pick ten of their favorite recent releases. Love new music? Hate sorting through it? Let them do the heavy lifting. This week we turn to Bristol collective Young Echo, whose members generate a variety of audio sorcery—from big-room grime bangers to haunting industrial ambience. Weighing in with their selections: Vessel (pictured above), Rider Shafique, Jabu, El Kid, and Ossia.
Notis & Iba Mahr – “Diamond Sox” [Notice Productions]
Rider Shafique: It’s like a revival of a more roots kind of dancehall which is coming out of Jamaica at the moment. It’s more conscious, moving away from slackness and generic lyrics.
Michael O’Neill – Untitled [Tesla Tapes]
Vessel: I don’t listen to a lot of new music, so I’m going to say something about the last thing I bought. Michael O’Neill manages to achieve something increasingly difficult with this record, which is to make genuinely political and pissed-off music without inspiring the usual raised eyebrow and wry smile that has become de rigueur for anyone who knows anything about art these days. Proper underdog music with good tunes.
David Dunn – Music, Language, Environment [Innova Recordings]
Sam Kidel / El Kid: I’ve been listening to this CD a lot this year. It’s a collection of some of Dunn’s early pieces for particular places. Each piece is composed in some way according to its environment, and the final recordings are of the sounds played back in those places. It’s a really beautiful CD, well worth tracking down.
Mamelon – “Koumba Fri Fri / Gulls Version” (Boomarm Nation / Sahel Sounds) 7″
Ossia: This is a tough question, but this has to be my favorite release of the moment. It’s full of energy and rhythm. I’m really feeling the music coming out of Africa, it’s refreshing to hear straight-up dance music again. It’s a versatile disc too, with a great re-interpretation of the original track on the flipside, with Portland-based producer and Boomarm bossman Gulls on the buttons. Nicely packaged too—can’t beat the simplicity of a hand-stamped brown paper sleeve.
Jeremiah Jae – Good Times [Warp]
Alex Rendall / MC Jabu: “The tracks feature some inventive soul sampling, and the rhyme schemes mesh intellect and street slang without overpowering the listener with either. I feel that the whole thing gets back to what hip-hop was at first—a meeting between the old and new in music. Some sharp guest appearances from Oliver The 2nd, an undeniably talented MC.”
Lil Ugly Mane – Three Sided Tape vol. 2 [self-released]
Amos Childs / DJ Jabu: Like Vessel I don’t listen to very much new music. This is the last thing I bought after Manonmars recommended it to me. It reminds me of what first really drew me to hip-hop, which is people pulling samples from all of these disparate places and managing to create something which they felt represented themselves. The rhymes are great too. ~
For more editions of Covering Tracks, head here.
In our new BPM column, we review a clutch of the most intriguing electronic music currently on offer. This month, Robin Howells rounds up Regis and Russell Haswell’s Concrete Fence, Mark Fell, Moin, DJ Q, R-Zone and Saga.
Artist: Concrete Fence
Title: New Release (1)
Format (release date): 12”/download (out now)
All of a sudden last year, it seemed as if PAN releases were being covered everywhere. Meanwhile provocateurs such as Regis, an originator of black-humored Birmingham techno, and artist/noise hooligan Russell Haswell seem to have become widely accepted. Maybe it’s the effect of 13 years in the cultural, social and economic wastelands of the 21st Century, or something. Courtesy of PAN we now have Regis and Haswell collaborating for the first time on record, although Haswell has previously appeared on Regis’s label, Downwards.
The metaphors implied by Concrete Fence—restriction, brutal materials—are apt. “Industrial Disease” sets towering slabs of noise wobbling menacingly, with a wiry, unravelled beat just about holding things together. “Caulk” drifts in clouds of background hum and volatile percussion, suddenly swept away by the sound of a sandstorm hitting some harsh urban wind tunnel. Often you can sense techno’s rhythmic pull, tugging away in the background. But it only takes hold on B-side “The Unabridged Truth”, as swarms of noise lock into orbit around a kick drum. As soon as the track peaks it collapses into dust particles, wafting around for the next four minutes between random stridulations and cryptic concrète. Top marks in holistic conceptualism and perverse DJ tools.
12”/download (out now)
The obvious line on Mark Fell is that he’s conceptual. He makes records called n-Dimensional Analysis, which looks like it could be a method of checking equations in physics. He has a background in installation art. But at heart he’s a sensualist, interested in forms for the pleasure they contain. The trick is in the elegant way he knots the two things together.
In typical style these two extended tracks are exceptionally lush, nourished by an obsession with early-’90s US house. Fell’s glistening globs of digital sound are inspired as usual by equipment of the time, namely Yamaha’s FM synthesisers and various drum machines. Fell’s solo output has surged in the past two years (away from his duo SND with Matt Steel) including six 12”s as Sensate Focus. This excursion with Mute sub-label Liberation Technologies does nothing to dent his consistency, although it’s not an obvious one to single out. This could be two outtakes from Sensate Focus; good but nothing essential.
Blackest Ever Black
12” (out now)
This is Tom Halstead and Joe Andrews of Raime fame, with their first record likely to disrupt the ambience at a dinner party. Brian Eno would nod his egg-like head at Raime’s gothy atmospheres sinking into the wallpaper, assuming he’s kept up in his tastes a bit. As Moin, Halstead and Andrews get comparatively spiky and domineering. In between odd vocal outbursts, they handle guitar, bass and drums rather roughly compared to the scraped strings and subliminal feedback of Raime.
The pair are much too controlled to let rip, mind you. While the playing on EP superficially resembles metal, they say the instruments are “arranged with effects and sequencer.” Presumably this involves looping and mixing short passages, judging by the drums’ unwavering timing and the guitar’s consistent tone. These linear arrangements parallel the cautiously unpacked narratives of Raime, so EP isn’t such a departure after all. Nonetheless it’s enjoyable to hear Halstead and Andrews making a more assertive noise.
DJ Q ft. Louise Williams
“Let The Music Play”
download (out now)
Bassline is a style of UK garage peculiar to certain areas of England. It has never been influential abroad and has now fallen out of popularity even in its home country. Until last year, DJ Q could be pigeonholed as the genre’s equivalent to Dillinja or Bad Company, seemingly an endless font of no-nonsense club tracks. 2012’s The Archive contained a marvelous horde of this music, showing off its effectiveness and consistency over a period of nearly ten years. In retrospect, Q could have been drawing a line under this output. Shaking off the one-track mind portrayed on The Archive, his singles with Louise Williams have flirted with both sweet 2-step and junglist breakbeats. On his third collaboration with the singer, their music increasingly resembles the club-aware hits of Katy B and Jessie Ware, attempting proven pop tactics without a shade of irony. Q works dramatic EQ and phaser effects on what sounds like a glossy disco sample, riffing on the chart-topping French house of Stardust circa 1998.
It’s an open question whether “Let The Music Play” can achieve similar success. It would be tempting to say anyone can do a Disclosure now, but it would be naive to overlook the marketing muscle built up behind such stars. If you’re charmed by the romance of frustrated pop (pretty much the defining ethos of indie rock, incidentally and oddly) then this one might be for you.
12″ (out now)
R-Zone is the latest imprint from Den Haag’s DJ TLR, of the respected Creme Organization and Bunker labels. Several producers have contributed material to the series, but everything is labelled as R-Zone. If you washed off this record’s glitchy label art, it could be an unbelievable second-hand find. A whole EP of quirky 1992 tracks at slo-mo tempos? Very useful for DJs in 2013. R-Zone 05 is similar to other hardcore rave-style projects like Paul Woolford’s Special Request, in that its basic parts could all be found on the mountain of records made in the original era. Unlike most of these projects, however, the comparison to the ’90s is not unfavorable.
You sense that making this music meant something, that it didn’t purely result from the convenience today’s producers have. Combine that with exquisite production and composition and the result stands on its own merit. In fact subtle anachronisms do sneak in, not really chronological errors but juxtapositions that weren’t made until later in history. But cleverly they blend in behind the more obvious, diversionary statement being made. Perhaps unusually for anonymous tracks (although there is a credit on the label in very small letters) these four get more interesting with time.
download (September 20th)
Saga’s debut doesn’t hang together perfectly, but it’s promising. The clearest statement of his talent is the last track, “Newsance”, where the parts really work in harmony with the whole. Holes in the rhythm allow the tune to breathe and vice versa, achieving a stillness amid the momentum of the track. Small gestures become compelling, including power-up sounds and doors unlocking like in the disjointed narrative of an old computer game.
New-age grime acolytes might groan at the sound of his name, understandably ten years after his relevance, but Wiley was the best at this kind of wizardry, closely followed by another Roll Deep producer Danny Weed. You don’t escape the shadow of the master that easily, especially not with the sliding, square-wave bass and “Ice Rink” high hat shuffles in “MT” and “Wizley”. Most of the EP forgets economy for a busy, ravey collision of energy and ideas, which gets a bit tiring one track after another. But it does throw up some interesting flavors, including sour lead synths that echo bleep and bass or Belgian techno. Unlike Visionist, the producer behind the Lost Codes label, Saga doesn’t deconstruct grime any more than it was deconstructed the moment it was invented. So far, his music builds on foundations that have been established for some time. On the plus side, it’s hard to imagine any of these tracks not banging in a club.~
The concepts of ‘holy’ and ‘sacred’ are not synonymous. Holiness is bound within parameters structured by a collaborative entity toward the reverence of concepts beyond Self. Whatever the individual chooses to receive from them, the concept itself is created with GodWill in mind, pre-thought and pre-plan for outside minds: this idea is inviolate, this idea is Whole. It is the Will of the individual themselves, however, which defines the sacred.
Brian Williams is often credited as the father of dark ambient, and rightly so. His work as Lustmord has continuously evolved in subtle but rich ways since the early ’80s. There’s a constant and creeping intensity in his compositions, the influences of which can be found in work as various as modern experimental legends like Lee Bartow of Navicon Torture Technologies/Theologian and Dominick Fernow to the paranoid soundtracks of David Lynch. His new album The Word Is Power is a skillfully-executed ritual of hierophantic codas exploring language spoken and written, the language that exists only within our own selves, and that which tries to reach beyond us—or to control us.
Structured around the voices of Aina Skinnes Olsen, Soriah, Jarboe (Swans), and Maynard James Keenan (Tool/Puscifer) and wrapped in trance-inducing layers of droning, pulsing sub-bass, it’s the first album by Williams that focuses so closely on vocals. It’s also one of his most sophisticated; while the guest voices are often untouched save for some HD reverb, they can multiply and refract upon themselves at any time, while unexpected and indistinct voices and sounds emerge from the aether throughout. It’s beautiful in its subtleties, delicately crushing in its depth.
For the contemplating mind, the balance of the vocals is perfect. The waves of sound don’t guide the meditative process so much as drag it on a monolithic slab. Olsen is the most constant presence, and her soaring and breathy incantations on “Babel“, “Goetia” and the immense “Chorazin” make up the first piece of the ritual, rich in emotion yet distant, removed from the realm of man’s knowing. By contrast, the monastic ululations of Soriah’s “Grigori” bring to mind the simple starkness of desert dust and self-imposed solitude that eventually becomes a looming monstrosity of weight. “Andras Sodom” is perhaps the most ‘modern’ piece, with a few touches that evoke the looped and repitched productions of Holy Other. Combined with the erotic asexuality of Jarboe’s voice, the rhythmic throb of bass and the washes of stereo static summon both the image of sterile electronics and the instinctive language of Flesh. We lose ourselves in our technological fetishizations, so we must surrender to emptiness to be made whole again. “Abbadon” collapses this emptiness inside itself, revealing a black hole of saw-edged drones and a descending chorus of Keenan that gradually develops into the organ-led pulse of “Y Gair”. Once more Olsen embraces the ear, bringing us back in ascension. The complex geometries of the album’s cover illustration act as a cipher for the words behind the wordless vocalizations, signs and sigils entwined with technology and nature. The inner pages are darker gray, the sleeves charcoal and the vinyl black; a simple yet appropriate aesthetic of descent for the weight of the aural chasm within.
The Word As Power births a landscape of sound that is grim, frightening and bleak, no word of which has to mean depressing. In Williams’ world, scared is sacred. Through fear, he takes the listener on a revelatory journey which might not feel very holy, but just might make them feel whole. In a landscape of mantras and mottos, compasses and cubes, the center of the album’s cover is Void—an absence that is deliberate and illuminating, for at the center we must always find and define only our Selves. ~
Lustmord’s The Word As Power is out now on Blackest Ever Black.
Stuart Argabright is a New York-based musician and founding member of Factory Records’ no-wave futurists Ike Yard. A compilation of his cyberpunk inspired avant-techno project Black Rain, Now I’m Just A Number: Soundtracks 1994- 1995, was rereleased on Blackest Ever Black in 2012. This recommendation is taken from the new Summer, 2013 print issue of Electronic Beats Magazine.
It was last fall when I first met Nino, perhaps better known as Shapednoise and one half of Violetshaped along with partner Violet Poison. After a gig with my band Black Rain in Vienna—a pleasant city with its coffee shops and faint air of decadence—I caught the train to Poland. Along the way I had to move from the smart Austrian train to the regular Polish service, and the first guy I saw board during the switch looked like someone had punched him in the face something awful. It was in this bizarre and not unthreatening context that Nino and I met. We ended up playing the same venue that night in a bitingly cold train station. The whole show was improvised because the city government told the promoter that while we could play there, there wouldn’t be any power. Despite this rather large setback, we figured out a generator and somehow the audience stayed, I imagine because they knew my old band Ike Yard. Plus, Shapednoise did a really great set. The next morning it was snowing and we all ended up taking the train to Berlin together. Since then I’ve remained in touch with Nino and followed his output closely.
Violetshaped is, for me, an album of truly forward-facing music. What I especially appreciate about the project lies within the historical context of electronic music. For so many years we’ve used drum machines to measure precise time. However, Violetshaped, and kindred artists like Vatican Shadow, have moved further into what you might call “anti-beat”. It’s just an oscillation, a pattern. My own band has experimented with this mode too—using a beat but avoiding the rote kick-snare-kick-snare spine to create more of a mood than a foundation. It’s a variant of 21st century tech-informed industrial, and the Violetshaped sound is particularly evocative of giant walls, hulking beams and barriers both oppressing and disintegrating as we outlive them.
A track like “The Lord Won’t Forget”, where the beat seems to shiver in front and inside you, is violent, bloody, in your face, and, above all, modern. The same can be said of “Delusory Parasitosis”, which slowly increases in volume before the machine beat hooks into in a larger, complex rhythmic system. The effect is one of racing through mud and debris and it’s a relief for me to hear an alternative to the average 4/4 fare, as I’ve been waiting for music to get beyond that old formula. In the past, people deified straight- forward house and techno beats to the point where a new genre was born if the hi-hat moved the slightest bit. But the world is changing and with Violetshaped a new wave is forming. I believe that the best industrial music now reflects how our tired systems, built long ago, are crumbling. This is a kind of punk spirit for a desynchronized age.
Violetshaped also belong to a lineage of a certain kind of specifically American industrial music. Having lived in New York since 1978, I’d say that Throbbing Gristle had a limited impact in America. Instead we had Z’EV, who was one of the original guys to play metal-based percussive sounds. Then there was Survival Research Laboratories on the West Coast staging interactions between robots and machines that destroyed each other as a form of social commentary. RE /Search Magazine even published its own Industrial Culture Handbook. America certainly had a landscape of its own, perhaps built more on real machines and blood as opposed to the intellectual idea of industrial music. It touches on the twistedness of the expansive Californian and Midwest landscapes, which have since become staple horror movie settings. Of course, British intellectualism was combined with the bleak reality of factories and industrial towns, or the harsh streets of London. Different places, different sounds.
Nowadays, there are quite a few groups doing the retro synth revival, and while I can enjoy and relate to that sound, there’s little tangible relevance to the now. If replicating old sounds is fun for them, that’s great, but I don’t think by making music that looks back you can ever move forward. Personally, I like the feel of the wind in my face, the sense that things are changing and, after all, music should reflect this. Of course, throughout the decades there have always been just a few true innovators. Nino and Violetshaped seem to be fulfilling that very role here. Striving forward, they seem to be hungry. And they should be, because the waves are falling close and quick. ~
Violetshaped is out now on Violet Poison Records. Violetshaped play Berlin’s Atonal Festival on July 28th.