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
Last week I went to a goth club for the first time in years. It was a proper one too, almost exactly like a crypt. The whole place was packed front-to-back with decrepit skeletons and ghoulish, bloated fiends, which on closer inspection turned out to just be goths. I won’t lie and say that I didn’t get a bit excited hearing New Model Army and Bauhaus, but I don’t think it’s really fair to call what went on in the technical booth DJing. I’d like to posit that the awkward and silence-filled transitions that goth DJs favor is an allegory for their own subcultural dead end. Extended versions of tracks (each of which is always played from the very beginning to the very end) represent struggle and a lack of social awareness, while tracks performed by German goth bands signify the vampiric gestalt of their shameful hygiene. Just another reason why the ’80s are no longer cool. Liking things from 30 years ago is so ridiculous. Liking things from 20 years ago, though? Good shit.
Don’t get me wrong, I got no shame for my old goth game. I look back on the days of big hair and Birthday Party bootlegs with nothing but fondness and a lingering urge to make out with Siouxsie Sioux. But clinging desperately to nostalgia like a bewigged spider monkey just seems unbearably dire as well as clichéd-out. In a time when so many influences are bursting forth from so many different places and fresh, orgasm-inducing takes on these old dark sounds are being injected into the main, an old crypt is exactly where this sort of boxed-genre ideology belongs. Goth has come full-circle in a way, reborn without the need of goths… but that’s an article in the works…
Since his arrival in NYC in 2003, Todd Brooks – aka Todd Pendu – has successfully made his ‘lifestyle’ brand Pendu a recognizable, positive, and defining symbol.
From turning his apartment into an art space, organizing the highly successful NY Eye & Ear Festival three years in a row, designing his own posters, throwing parties, running a music label, and performing with his music project Chaos Majik, Todd holds the NYC underground in a clutch. He was the first record label to sign Chelsea Wolfe and aTelecine, and has recently signed two new bands, Von Haze and Starred. His label has also put out music from the likes of White Ring and Mater Suspiria Vision. Meanwhile, his brand has continued to expand, extending into fashion through a recent collaboration with NYC leather fashion designer Zana Bayne. For Pendu, the future holds an infinity of possibilities.
How did your latest venture into fashion come about?
I’ve been into fashion since my early twenties, but I had no direct connection to it. I was just aesthetically drawn to looking at all the newest fashion magazines when they would come out. Basically the first time I started working with fashion designers directly was while setting up a Chelsea Wolfe photoshoot for i-D Magazine. That photoshoot gave me the chance to reach out to a stylist who gathered a wardrobe from some of my favorite designers including Iris van Herpen. I personally began to reach out to NYC designers such as Mandy Coon and Zana Bayne amongst others, which eventually led to my recent collaboration with Zana. She created a new leather bracelet that used my Pendu logo as the main component of the design. I have designed T-shirts and tote bags with the logo and a Pendu logo necklace in collaboration with Panda Eyes, but I had never thought of a Pendu bracelet; it was Zana’s idea completely. It was such an amazing concept. In the last few weeks since it came out it’s been so exciting seeing people Instagram and Tweet photos of themselves proudly wearing their new Pendu x Zana Bayne bracelet.
What does the company logo represent?
The symbol comes from alchemy; it’s the alchemical symbol of sulfur. The word ‘Pendu’ is French for the ‘Hanged-Man’ and is used for the Tarot card of the same name. Occultists in the 19th Century noticed a connection between the shape of the character hanging upside down in the tarot card and the inverted symbol of Sulfur, which represents ‘The Completed Work’, or the Magnum Opus – the philosopher’s stone basically. When I realized that the Hang-Man character had this shape it became this idea that the Hang-Man is not as people thought before, as a martyr, but maybe instead as a symbol of a mystic who is in this upside down position to reawaken the way he sees things. It’s almost as if that symbol is the final result of that reawakening. The symbol was a part of Pendu from the beginning but I didn’t start using the symbol on my flyers until around 2008. Around 2009 I came up with this way to make the symbol into an upside down cross and a triangle by creating a tiny gulf between the top and bottom of the symbol. It became a play on words, a pun. At the same time it is a bit more stylized. By stylizing it, I personalized it, but the original alchemical symbol itself is the core.
So it appears on everything you produce?
There are so many things that I do under the Pendu banner that are connected in ways maybe others wouldn’t be able to see immediately, so the symbol is a visual representation of that connection. When people came to Pendu Disco, they were all stamped at the door with the symbol on their hands. My records all have the symbol stamped on them. I think of it as a lifestyle brand because it has to do with every part of everyday life, the stuff you wear, the music you listen to, the place you hang out at. The symbol is protective and when worn, it’s a talisman.
The Pendu logo takes components of the occult, eroticism, and alchemy and uses them metaphorically to convey a message of liberation. But liberation does not mean getting rid of all rules, it means creating your own rules. Making your own choices. I call it ‘Thee Aktions ov Yes’. The symbol is the idea of transformation through seeing the world in a new way and not accepting things at face value.
What sort of sound do you look for when signing bands?
Life soundtrack sort of music. What I’m looking for in a band is a certain quality, an atmospheric dreamlike quality. Honestly, I like songs from almost every genre of music that have that atmospheric feeling. Even in country music, which is a genre so many in our scene feel they are disconnected from, there are songs that I love which are eerie in quality and exciting because of that. I’m always looking for those exceptions, those unexpected surprises. I like sounds that seduce and lure you into other worlds. Some have overused the word ‘dark’ in describing a lot of what I promote, and at times I have quite definitely used the word myself, but I feel it’s been misrepresented enough to where I don’t like using it. I prefer the words ‘atmospheric’ and ‘immersive’ as descriptors. The word dark for me is not about evil or the occult or demons, although all of the above are part of the ‘dark side’. The larger context is that really darkness is about instability and uncertainty. It’s about turning off the lights on what you are sure of and forcing you to confront the unknown. The word ‘dark’ covers a far larger variety of subjects then the typical clichés we all know of. If you stumble through the woods with no light, there is obviously the possibility of impending danger there, but it doesn’t have to be all about the danger, at the same time it can also be about the thrill of not knowing where you are, of not knowing how far away you are, about how far you have left to go. When I speak about darkness in music I’m referring to music that confronts us and reveals our vulnerabilities within ourselves. But let’s be honest, no one would be interested if it wasn’t for the thrill that can be found there.
What about your own musical project Chaos Majik?
I started the project in late 2007 as a side project from my band Ghost Moth. Ghost Moth was a trio that included myself and Robbie McDonald along with legendary free jazz musician Daniel Carter. It was always so hard to get us all together to play shows regularly, so I decided to create a solo project that would enable me to play whenever I wanted to. I use all analogue equipment. I use light sensitive oscillators whose tones are created from candlelight and strobes to create soundscapes and dreamscapes. At times the sounds create almost a kind of out-of-body experience. I had one person say the music sounded like they are expelling demons; cathartically getting rid of them. I have three sold out cassette releases, a handful of compilation releases, and a new LP coming out later this year.
How did you get into doing so much?
I just did, quite literally, without asking and without really knowing ‘how to’. I do quite a lot of different things but I see them all as fitting under one umbrella and part of one thing ultimately. I’m just trying to create a certain feeling using different means to achieve it, whether putting out records, or putting on shows, or myself performing electronic music, or as an artist designing or making collages. My goal is the same in each process; I’m trying to elicit ecstatic responses from the audience. I want people to be able to transcend their day to day life, take them to a place of heightened imagination; give them something that feels fresh and exciting and creates ecstatic energy within them. I didn’t always live in NYC, when I was living In Florida I also put on shows with friends. We made things happen. For a short time we ran our own venue out of storage unit, although it didn’t last long because the cops shut us down. However, rather than assuming we couldn’t run our own venue, we redefined what a venue was and realized that as long as we could get away with it, a storage unit ceases to be a storage unit if we define it as a venue. That’s what I do, I look for the potential of what something can be; not just take it as it is and leave it as that. Transform it.
The record label has become my main focus of late but I have a lot of Pendu parties coming up too which I’m excited to be throwing. I don’t really talk much about the future; I prefer to surprise people. However, I’m always putting stuff together and I continue expanding on the foundational principles that started this whole thing to begin with.
Photo: Veronica Ibarra
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.
Undoubtedly the biggest thing to happen in the last week was My First Chelsea Wolfe Show. I sincerely hope it won’t be my last. But as the lingering black threads of pleasure fade, I find new audio obsessions to blow your way. Currently, almost everyone I know is obsessing over the taffy-pulled hip-hop of Arca and his toddler-terror video for ‘Ass Swung Low‘ off his most recent release Stretch 1. Throbbing, minimalist beats drip like sludge over insectile vocals, made all the hotter/creepier by being vocalized by demonic kids. You can download Stretch 1 for free here, too.
Arca – DOEP
Blackest Ever Black is probably one of my favorite labels right now. The London label is home to a variety of wonderful artists and sounds, but it’s Young Hunting that really makes my heart pound. The Edinburgh duo fall somewhere between the mysticism of Current 93 and the paganistic exuberance of Dead Can Dance, their latest LP The Night of The Burning ranks as one of my favorite 2012 releases thus far (and you can read more about that here). BEB is offering up a new track for free download, a cavernous piece of dense ambience that expands on the claustrophobic feel of Young Hunting’s previous work. If that’s not enough for you, how about some post-This Heat vinyl? The label is set to drop the first ever vinyl edition of Gareth Williams and Mary Currie‘s Flaming Tunes, the 1985 cassette released by the two shortly after Williams had left the legendary experimental post-punk group. Considerably more gentle than his previous work, Flaming Tunes showcases a unique side of Williams that fans might not be familiar with. It’s certainly long overdue for re-release in any format, and I look forward to playing the hell out of it.
Young Hunting – A List Of Indignities
Gareth Williams & Mary Currie – Generous Moon
Every once in a great while, I find myself dragged by friends to industrial parties, and I always, always hate it. I sit there in my New Era hat with the Psychic TV logo like I’m Lord of the fucking TumblrGoths, nursing (with wound) my overpriced vodka-cran (so goth) and hating on everyone and everything. “Whyyyyyyyyy” I think (or scream, depending on how thrown I am); “Whyyyyy are you listening to this crud, this crap and shit and complete audio waste, when amazing compatible artists like Prurient, Trust, AIMON, White Car, and //TENSE// are making music right NOW??” The latest //TENSE//remix of Crossover‘s ‘Don’t Tvrn Yr Back On Magic’ should be echoing through some sub-par speakers right this second, making those boots stomp and fog swirl. Instead, here’s the same damn Covenant song you’ve been repping since 1999. This world is so corrupt.
Pendu recently posted a new track from melancholic electronic duo Von Haze, a perfect little slice of summery gloom from their upcoming LP Kar Dee AkK Ake. Use it to block out distractions from the mortal veil as you travel the city; it’s quite excellent for that. Tropic of Cancer are also bringing the bleakpop with a new 12″ entitled Permissions of Love. ‘The One Left’ is stark, simplistic and cold drum-machine beats and fragile, plucked guitar. It’s easy to abuse the post-punk genre, which make beautiful examples like this precious to me. So young but so gold.
Von Haze – His Love Is Fine
Tropic of Cancer – The One Left
Over the weekend, the folks at Germ sent me Hecuba‘s new album, much to my delight. Their 2009 LP Paradise was one of my yearly favorites, and the one time I saw them in LA was everything I love in a live show: oddball antics, a true weirdo spirit and captivating presence. The songs were pretty sick, too. Modern holds onto the same strange, dreamlike dance that Hecuba’s debut carried, but with a more mature feeling. Tracks like ‘Faith’ and ‘Crime, Violence’ showcase Isabel Albuquerque’s voice like never before, dominating even over the searing, fuzzy synths. It’s a fantastic and unexpected return, and any fan of avant-garde (yet immensely hook-heavy) electronics should be all over this.
Finally, a guy posted this on my Facebook and I saw it at 3am and liked it.
This is an open letter inviting you to explore a special selection of audio/visual pleasures culled from my own musical and artistic associations and associates. This is the cult of audio.
The NYC duo CREEP opened the week with an ethereally beautiful remix of School of Seven Bells‘ ‘Lafaye’, taken from their beautiful new album Ghostory. When CREEP’s now-familiar plaintive guitar and mournful synth claps hit around the four-minute mark, it lifts the clouds away and sends the mind into a world of crystalized pleasure. Meanwhile, on a similarly mournful tip, Wild Beasts (who you might remember for their 2011 remix of Lady Gaga‘s ‘You & I‘, which actually rendered it listenable) recently released a new remix for London-based sisters 2:54. ‘You’re Early’ is a dreamy alt-pop pleasure, but Wild Beasts drape it with a slow-crush vibe thats enhanced by frontman Hayden Thorpe’s added ‘duet’ with Colette Thurlow. The result is something that feels more like a stalker’s death-threat than a love letter.
School of Seven Bells – Lafaye (CREEP Remix)
2:54 – You’re Early (Wild Beasts remix)
I was beginning to wonder what Gatekeeper were up to. The NYC-via-Chicago duo have been fairly quiet since 2010’s stunning Giza EP. But it seems they weren’t just sitting at home watching Tenebre on repeat, because on July 17th we’re getting a full LP. Exo is twelve new tracks of what will likely be some extremely fucking cool industrial-flavored electronics. No surprise there, but the band have also announced that the album will be accompanied by a first-person gaming environment “in which one explores various worlds inspired by tracks on the album.” I wanted to make some kind of pun about video games here, but then I realized that I haven’t touched a controller since I got pubics.
Denver is home to some of my favorite musicians, including the angelic noise of Married In Berdichev and the post-physical prophecies of Pictureplane, but people are definitely going to start noticing my boy alphabets more. This kid is mad prolific, frequently releasing albums (often one a month!) for free. His latest album Jeanjets just dropped for a mere six bucks, and it’s highly worth your time. Experimental tropical-influenced dance sketches for post-genre pleasure. Former fellow Denverites Hideous Men seem to be on a bit of a break, but member Ryan McRyhew is currently releasing new tunes as Thug Entrancer. His analog soundscapes can be heard on his Ready To Live cassette, and you can download his latest remix album Tropic Mind Vol. 3 for free. Which you should.
There have been a good chunk of other free releases recently. Hype Williams‘ work has always been fairly interchangeable; get one release and you essentially have them all. That doesn’t mean they aren’t enjoyable, however, and when The Guardian announced an exclusive download of a new ‘album’ I didn’t even hesitate before saving it. The Attitude Era is a collection of outtakes, rejected and unfinished demos and remixes that never made the cut. I’m not sure why, because they all just sound like regular Hype Williams stuff. Amongst the bits of fluff you’ll find some true grimy gems, like personal favorites ‘Schadenfreude’ and ‘Millennial Turk’. There’s less than a week left to download it, so grab it fast! Berlin-based black magickians reliq also released their debut for free download, and if you’re in need of soul-transforming shrieks, you won’t find better. Speaking of thrash-rackets, filthmaster general Getter hit 10k on his Facebook page the other day. To celebrate, he dropped a free EP, featuring collabs with Barron and 50 Carrot. Dubheadz will be feeling this one. Fade To Mind‘s Rizzla technically released his free EP this week, but I can’t sit on this one and neither should you. It’s cunty as hell, vogue house for the Now.
Finally, in random news it seems that EB favorite Chelsea Wolfe has left her home at Pendu for LA-based Sargent House, which is connected to the rather essential Terroreyes.tv. After last year’s equally essential ?????????? (Apokalypsis), I’m lighting a candle at the altar for some new spellbinding sounds.
Daniel Jones is a music promoter and creator of the subculture reconceptualization & aesthetics tumblr Gucci Goth.
Shoutout to Pendu’s Ekstatic Vision for hooking us up with a few of these rarities. I saw Salem and Gatekeeper play a show for him in early ’10 and it was sick as hell. Promoters need to understand that these are bands that you can’t just stick on any old stage. They need confined space, darkness, fog, and plenty of bass. That’s part of the package, man. You wouldn’t eat a hamburger without a bun, because then you’d just have meatloaf. And who wants to listen to Meatloaf? Crummy people, I bet. Here’s some videos.
1. Death Grips – The Fever (Aye, Aye)
Fucking destroyers. Death Grips are one of the most killer live shows around.
2. Sewn Leather – Live At Drop Dead Festival
Probably the most bad-ass video you’ll see in this plane of existence or the next. A full hour-long performance by Sewn Leather at last year’s Drop Dead Festival. He breaks his nose around the ten minute mark. Ever wonder what Trve Pvnk looks like? This is the real shit. If you’re in Berlin, be sure to catch him April 14th with Modern Witch at PURGE!
3. Julia Holter – Moni Mon Amie
Laurie Anderson better step back. Ekstasis is one of the best experimental pop albums I’ve heard in….well, forever maybe. I’m immortal, by the way. Fucked up but true. Pay it forward.
4. Nardwuar vs. Grimes
Our favorite pop weirdo Claire Boucher gets interviewed at SXSW and talks about Dandi Wind. ?
5. Pony Time – Lori + Judy
Directed by Actual Pain‘s Emily Denton!
6. Cyst Impaled – HACKTHEPLANET
I was having a long conversation with Darlene from Roseanne (in character, natch) and she made a good point about The Rise of Tumblr Culture & The Post-Physical Reality.
7. Sigur Rós – Ekki múkk
I haven’t listened to these guys in a minute. Still doing their thing, I see. This is super chill and really lovely. Am I the only one who didn’t really like The Life Aquatic, even despite the inclusion of the great ‘Staralfur’ at a key moment? I don’t know. I just miss comedic Bill Murray. That Ghostbusters sequel is guaranteed box office poison without him.
8. Blouse – Ghost Dream
This is a psychedelic masterpiece of rendered neon objects bukkaked all over your shit. You ever feel like a video is just kind of sneaking out of your computer at night and creeping up next to your ear and going ‘take drugs take drugs take drugs’? You probably shouldn’t leave this on in a baby’s room.
Chicago is seriously boning for that weirdo industrial electro. I’m on this one hard. You need to get on these guys too if you aren’t already.
Daniel Jones is a music promoter and creator of the subculture reconceptualization tumblr Gucci Goth.