Lee Gamble and Robin Mackay’s Guide to Jungle

Back in 2015, EB hosted a conversation between jungle deconstructionist and PAN label affiliate Lee Gamble and Robin Mackay, founder of the Urbanomic publishing house. Their guide to jungle tracks and mixes is selected from a longer transcript and was partially included in the Spring 2015 issue of Electronic Beats Magazine.

Robin Mackay: Music can really stretch your perceptions—that’s what I loved about abstract drum ‘n’ bass. I had moments of total wonder and couldn’t comprehend what I was hearing.

Source Direct – “Stonekiller (Remix)”

Some of the Penny Black 12″s and the tracks on the Metalheadz imprint Razor’s Edge still sound magnificent, especially the way they stretched and folded sounds to more complex levels. In mathematics, there’s something called the “baker’s transformation,” which is about stretching and folding a square into an infinitely chaotic volume.

Goldie – “Dark Metal (Source Direct Remix)”

What’s especially delicious about Razor’s Edge tracks like this one is that a lot of them still use the classic Metalheadz sound bank, which is about ten sounds used over and over, but they morph every time.

Nasty Habits – “Shadow Boxing”

I remember hearing Doc Scott’s “Shadow Boxing” for the first time at a night in Coventry in 1996. It was like someone had rotated the whole form into something new. Unfortunately for me —and this is just another part of the whole process—that was also the moment when drum ‘n’ bass started going down a very unfortunate road. It got more metronomic and repressed, and it never came out the other side. The same thing happened with dubstep. You can hear it in the 2011 “Shadow Boxing” remix; everything got solidified into rigid aggression.

Lee Gamble: A lot of the jungle labels and producers of that period had a sound or used a particular set of sounds. I think of labels like Ibiza Records, Certificate 18, Legend Records and Reinforced, artists like Photek, Tom & Jerry, the Bristol axis with V records, Blame & Justice’s Icons project,  Basement and Ganja. Jungle seemed to accelerate this approach like nothing else and chewed stuff up until it disintegrated over only a few short years. In a way, some of those sounds are therefore glued to a specific period of time. Sonically, it will always align itself with the radio for me. Some Tom & Jerry 12”s sound like the radio, the samples within them sound like the radio, and they overall sound like the radio. Some collage of stuff that’s out there, future news, history, disembodied voices, clashed together. It’s future-past reportage of some kind.

You’ve listed some tracks here Robin, so here’s a few mixes which contain plenty that flipped me out at the time. It’s also a simple attempt to map the developments, variations and change in sound from 1992 through1997.

Fabio & Grooverider at Universe (1992)

LTJ Bukem at Dreamscape (1993)

DJ Ron at Roast (1994)

Randall at Pure X (1996)

Ed Rush & Trace – No U Turn Experience (1997)

Click here to read more from the Spring 2015 issue. 

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Helm’s Guide to Loop-Based Music

During the making of my new record, I became interested in the way extended listening to loop-based music can lock the listener into a bizarre, semi-hypnotic state. In the right context it can open up another kind of listening entirely, where abstract sounds and repeating phrases take on rhythmic and trance-like qualities. In the same way a word loses its meaning when you say it 100 times in a row, the source of the sound you’re hearing becomes blurred and insignificant when you listen to a loop over and over again and is perceived as something else entirely. Here are eight of my favorite tracks and records that provide solid representations of this phenomenon.

Severed Heads, “Gashing the Old Mae West”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fch4YoMz_t8
The Severed Heads discography is full of many highlights, and this is one of my favorites. Many repeated loops build up and over each other to the point where deciphering them becomes a useless and impossible task.

NON, “Mode of Infection/Knife Ladder”

This is the first release from Boyd Rice and Robert Turman as NON. It’s a 7″ consisting of three locked grooves, two tracks and multi-axis playback. I could do with a copy of this if anyone’s selling.

Kevin Drumm, “Organ”

This is the edited version from Drumm’s Comedy album; the full-length one is an hour long. Who knows what this loop is made from—a fuzzed-out metallic guitar, an actual organ, or, as the FedEx driver who heard it while I was at my old warehouse job described it, “a broken air-conditioner.”

Ricardo Villalobos, “Enfants (Chants)”

Here, Ricardo Villalobos does the impossible by making Christian Vander sound even sexier than usual.

Throbbing Gristle, “What a Day”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u1wBWhyKgW0

This feels almost like the “Smoke on the Water” of loops when it comes to industrial music, but I felt its inclusion in the list was necessary.

Actress, “Grey Over Blue”

This one’s possibly my favorite Actress track to date, and it’s a real shame he left it off his last album. Mournful and swampy.

Smegma, “In the Murder Room”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h06D6t3CDkQ

Smegma melts wonderfully all over this vicious riffing loop from an incredible Pigs for Lepers album.

Underground Resistance, “Transition”

This is the perfect track to get lost in. If you hear this played out in the right circumstances, there’s a possibility you may never come back.

Helm’s new album on PAN, Olympic Mess, is out now. Header image by Jess Gough.

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Counting With Afrikan Sciences

Eric Porter Douglas, aka Afrikan Sciences, is responsible for some of the most exciting Afro-futurist productions in recent memory, blending the broken beats of West Coast funk with classic house, and a dash of Sun Ra sci-fi. His new LP, Circuitous, is out now on Berlin imprint PAN. It goes hard.

1 memorable line in a song:

“Even if it’s jazz or the quiet storm, I hook a beat up, convert it into hip-hop form.” -Rakim, “I Ain’t No Joke” off Eric B. and Rakim’s Paid in Full.

2 decisions I regret:

First would be selling my comic book collection which I had amassed from childhood to make rent as a struggling college student. I never recovered from that, and it kind of killed the spark I had for collecting. Second, around that same time, Whodini were in town to do a show, and their DJ was calling around trying to find turntables for the gig. They contacted me, but I held out because they wouldn’t have compensated. My childhood heroes—and I ended up trying to extort them. Oh, the shame.

3 people that should collaborate:

Doctor Who, Doctor Strange, Doctor Ice. The result? Time traveling rap with a twist of mysticism.

4 things I haven’t done yet:

  1. Traveled to my namesake.
  2. Performed in Japan.
  3. Committed to daily practice on my upright.
  4. Found inner peace.

5 things I used to believe:

  1. That my parents were robots.
  2. New sneakers made me run faster.
  3. If I spun around fast enough counter-clockwise I could go back in time.
  4. I could never throw away my childhood toys.
  5. Children are the future.

6 hours ago…

I was preparing my child for school.

7 albums everyone should own:

  1. Dr. Buzzard’s Original Savannah Band, The Very Best of Dr. Buzzard’s Original Savannah Band
    Savannah-300
  2. Sun Ra & His Arkestra, Jazz in Silhouette
    69309 SunRa_trazado
  3. Ultramagnetic MCs, Critical Beat Down
    ultramagnetic 300
  4. Frank Zappa, Apostrophe (‘)
    zappa
  5. Two Banks of Four, Three Street Worlds
    2banksof4 300
  6. John Lee Hooker, Get Back Home in the U.S.A.
    john_lee_hooker_get_back_home
  7. Public Enemy, It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back
    PublicEnemyItTakesaNationofMillionstoHoldUsBack

After 8 p.m.

Daddy goes off duty, LEGOLAND is dismantled, Avengers are disassembled, and I clear out of my studio.

My 9 lives…

I keep resetting on the fifth.

I would touch it with a 10-foot pole:

Man-made drugs. Blessed be the herb.

This article originally appeared in the Winter 2014/2015 edition of Electronic Beats Magazine. To read more from this issue, click here, and to read Counting With columns from Helena Hauff, Jackmaster, and more, click here.

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Audioccult Vol. 130: The Shriek of 2014

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.

ac-best2014-shaltmira

 

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!

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PAN Artist M.E.S.H. Recommends TCF’s Latest Effort

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”:

Slow.

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. ~

This text first appeared in Electronic Beats Magazine N° 40 (3, 2014). You can purchase the new issue, and back issues, in the EB Shop.

 

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