Seapunk: it’s a genre oft-derided by dumb idiot critics, stolen by pop star’s stylists, and generally treated with the same amount of respect that goth, punk and basically any other ‘strange’ youth culture has (healthgoth doesn’t count because it’s just not eating bread in a black tank top), only with the perspective of ADD URL attitudes. We’ve been on it and in to it since it started leaking, natch, but that’s just because:
1. It’s always summer in our hearts.
2. We actually pay attention to the Internet.
So the prospect of a new record from Seapunk’s earthly Poseidon Ultrademon, aka Albert Redwine, gave us the kind of pleasure that requires you to move below waist-height in the pool, if you get our flippin’ meaning. Get ready to flip your lid on this one: we’ve got the full stream of his upcoming LP Voidic Charms, out via Coral Records on this very dang day. Try it, buy it, catch the wave into sunset psychedelia. The diabolicalicious demon himself gave us an ultra-in-depth track-by-track description. Read along with him as you listen, or play the Masterpiece Theatre theme, or just rock out in your own way. Plenty of PLUR to go around.
Albert Redwine: An intro bit—the listener can understand if they just ‘wake up’. Reminds me of how certain monks tell themselves to ‘wake up’ every time they read the letter A.
AR: This bit sets the stage in a desert landscape . . . basically it’s this.
“Drive U Crazy” (Feat. The GTW, Zombelle)
AR: This bit really has summed up my experience since moving to Chicago (well not the lyrical content, I didn’t write that… but the feeling of the music). I made the original track in May 2012 and it was sort of my anthem over that summer. That’s when we were throwing a small run of parties called Mainframe (which also happens to be the name of my girlfriend’s t-shirt company) in this karaoke bar in Chinatown. I actually performed the instrumental of this track that summer. It was pretty rad, Slava played that night too. Anyway, the vibe of the track is an analogue distorted bass with house undertones. I wanted to capture the magic and rawness while also trying to show people the madness of the post-industrial wasteland known as “the city”, but really I just made a track I like. You know . . . that bit of psychic power that transcends the crippling technology that tries to mask the very thing that makes us human.
AR: I made the original version of this bit in 2009 when I was living in Los Angeles, pulling from the Latin house sound I kept hearing. I finally revisited it a few months back to finish it, adding in an acid house flare to complete the feel. The psychedelic pulls make reference to the pulling of the full moon.
“Ultrademon Killin’ It”
AR: This track was made on a desktop PC with an early version of Reason—the desktop is probably from the 2003 or something. The computer is owned by Yob of Kansas City underground electronic duo One Million Tiny Tiny Jesuses. Pretty heady electronic underground stuff if you know ’em. Really happy with this track, totally channeled the Ultrademon entity for this.
“Wasteland (44,000 Years In the Making)“
AR: Another track reminding the listener to wake up. The full version of this was about ten minutes long and contained a lot of live drum machine, though I prefer this more ambient build-up. This track directly talks about the urban decay and industrial wasteland we all have to live in. It’s about time we as a species get things sorted out and stop trashing our planet. The “44,000 years in the making” part refers to the age of the Ultrademon entity. If you know where the vocal rap samples are from then I applaud you. So far a journalist that reviewed the album thought it was from a video game or something . . . surprisingly I use no video game or anime samples in this album.
“Vine Hung Horizon”
AR: The first half of this track uses a bit of a modified M1 Korg organ sound which is completed with those hard sample hits throughout the last half. Imagine an island approach, only instead of “Welcome to Jurassic Park” it’s “Welcome to jungle adventure with heaps of ripe jackfruit, durian, and bananas.”
AR: This track was influenced pretty heavily by Chicago hard house, and even more directly by my buddy Umbertron. I was trying to mix together grime and hard house.
AR: You’ll notice this track uses the same samples as the last half of “Vine Hung Horizon”. Whereas the earlier track is supposed to feel like a jungle, this track implements a bit of jungle influence musically. “Nautical Elves” was a concept I had that predated the whole “seapunk” thing. Actually, I preferred this term over “seapunk” but went with that due to people resonating with it.
“March 29 – Viral Host“
AR: Straight ahead jacking bit right here. The viral host is me, being the host for the Ultrademon entity. Some of these samples came from a buddy of mine TSARS who I put out via Coral Records in the past (SPLASH007). He’s made a bunch of analog tape samples actually that are really stellar, I’ve used them in a bunch of tracks. This track also has influence from some techno joint I used to listen to when I was younger; tracks that were like twenty seconds long made in MS-DOS, you know—the way CDJs are supposed to be used.
AR: The drums on this track are all from the drum machine. I’ve really been into using live gear with Ableton throughout this album. This track has rhythmic influence from (Jersey/Baltimore) club music but with the tempo jacked up.
“Step Into Liquid” (Wayback Mix)
AR: This is the original VIP mix of “Step Into Liquid (It’s A Trap)”, the vinyl single put out via Rephlex. See the “original“.
AR: This track was originally just a DJ tool I used—it uses the same basic drum parts as “Drive U Crazy”. I just used the Queen sample without permission because I don’t give a fuck. And yeah, it is a chaotic ending that talks about the state of the earth. ~
Voidic Charms is now available via Coral Records.
So, I’m at Berghain, dancing away to Cut Hands. William Bennett’s shirt is open and he’s bobbing his head to the rhythm when this young guy standing behind taps me on the shoulder. “Who is this guy?” the stranger asks. I blurt out something about him being in a fairly well-known noise project. Which of course is a gigantic understatement.
Whitehouse gave birth to a whole genre of noise—power electronics—and redefined the landscape of extreme music forever. With the explicit intent of creating “the most extreme music ever recorded”, they tackled fascism, violence, child abuse and misogyny in a way that left their real motives perfectly open. While they pick up the torch from earlier projects like Throbbing Gristle, the inspiration came from what—in Bennett’s opinion—P-Orridge and co. didn’t achieve: creating a non-music so abject that it was sure to alienate most potential listeners. Besides the constantly repeated story of how punk led to new wave led to indie, there’s the (much more true and important) story of how the nihilism and confrontation of punk lived on in the industrial scene only to reborn in to genres like grindcore and black metal. Whitehouse didn’t piss off your mother, because your mother had never heard of them. Whitehouse pissed off intellectual scenesters who had no way of coping with the onslaught of obscenities hurled towards them. By not only using offensive imagery, but reveling in it, Whitehouse took aesthetics of power, abuse and violence to a level which makes provocateurs of the coming generations look about as confrontational as lolcats. Sure, whole scenes like Rock Against Communism were to follow but musically that was mostly semi-literate street punk with Nazi lyrics. Besides, there was no ambiguity, no mystery and therefore no real immersion in those schools of music. Only shitty politics and shitty music.
In the ’90s Bennett’s interest in Haitian and African music seeped into Whitehouse and infected it with new rhythm structures. Two of the songs from the first Cut Hands LP were even released under the Whitehouse banner before this new persona emerged. But even if the progression from Whitehouse to Cut Hands was a gradual motion, it still represents two separate eras of music: the subcultural and the post-subcultural. For while Whitehouse might have broken more new ground in a musical archivists eyes, the audience dancing to the feverish beat inferno that Bennett projects at Berghain represents a generation for whom imagery is skin deep, subculture is cosplaying and identification is a completely fluid feeling. My husband, who grew up in ’80s deathrock and industrial culture, in act-up and queer nation, told me a while ago that subculture was dead: “These kids don’t invest in it”. I think he’s partly wrong and partly right. Subculture is most certainly alive but subcultural allegiance, being true and following the rules is becoming a thing of the past. Hashtag genres like witch house and seapunk appear and disappear before the general Mojo-reading public even learns what they are. And while subcultural purism has an attractive uniformal vibe, the dissolution of subculturalism opens the doors to far more interesting crossbreeds.
Simply put: like any time in history, music is at its peak right now. The music industry is a drip-fed dying giant, and your only two choices as a young musician is being on a TV talent show or being alternative—the only alternative. You’re either Burzum or Katy Perry; the in-betweens are disappearing faster than you can say Arcade Fire. In that context, rather than being the property of a few hardline subculturalists, Cut Hands belong to anyone interested in rhythmic, trance inducing music. You can’t dress like a fan of Cut Hands, and by saying you are into the music of Cut Hands you are not implying that you might be into any other band of the same ilk. The only unity or sense of belonging you will find in the music of Cut Hands is when you find yourself dancing to their music at Berghain and someone taps you on the shoulder and asks, “Who is this guy?” ~
Cut Hands’ Black Mamaba is out now on Very Friendly.
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: Simone Klimmeck
You probably know about the Rihanna/Azealia thing by now. If not, consider yourself lucky. People even remotely connected to Internet culture spent most of yesterday bellyaching about how both artists jacked the #seapunk aesthetic. Meanwhile, those who would claim authorship of repurposed Myst graphics and No Doubt regurgitations are fuming that a mainstream artist (or their stylists, anyway) would dare to pop their unique feel-special bubble, along with… well, a good chunk of tumblr.
I’m not saying I approve of subcultural swaggerjacking, but can it really be a surprise to anyone that pop culture is once again appropriating imagery, themes and sounds from other aspects of social culture? This is what pop does. Not well, and usually late, but there’s nothing new here. I’ve seen posts up and down a dozen social networking sites, all acting as if this were the first shot fired in a subculture war. It isn’t. It’s a blip. It’s Elton John wearing ripped jeans. If every Miley Cyrus fan started buying camo spiked jackets and Docs tomorrow (available at your nearest Urban Outfitters) it’s still not cause to fume about it. This is what trends are, and have always been. You can’t hold an aesthetic captive, and hey, at least mainstream people with no creativity of their own can be inspired by aesthetics that are a pleasure to look at instead of complete trash. And, of course, everyone looks silly no matter what they wear anyway. We’re just kind of all agreeing to think otherwise.
In the meantime, let’s get back to what makes subcultures really interesting—the music. As 2012 comes to a close, I’m busy doing what most other music writers are: putting together my Year’s Best list. After careful consideration, I’ll spend several days compiling and editing an article full of every sound in 2012 that truly moved me, heart-or-feet-wise, and that I think are worth your time as a reader to browse through and then complain that it isn’t what you would have put. The latest Clicks & Whistles single doesn’t make the grade, but it has been on heavy rotation. Love it or hate it, trap-influenced productions have infested music this year. I’m not in the naysayer camp; if there’s some thought put into it, I think it’s some of the most fun music to throw down to, though I still get a bit overwhelmed by the steady flow of boring attempts (and there’s a lot). “Southern Slaw” is every neo-trap cliche combined into one big, barreling, air horn-blasting monster that’s impossible to ignore on the dance floor.
The list will hold at least two Hospital Records artists, I can guarantee that. Nothing has been a surprise more than the emergence of actual techno in my life—albeit in inky-black experimental form. Vatican Shadow (along with a few other key groups and labels) has shifted my views slightly and made me delve deeper into Sandwell District and the like, though further listening suggestions from friends have been met with some frustration and, occasionally, bafflement on my part… Apparat, Mark? Seriously?
I can’t go too much farther down this path now or I’ll blow my entire List-wad early, but I’ll end today with a selection that honestly surprised me. While I wouldn’t rate Crystal Castles‘ III in my top albums of the year (though it still has some strong points) I feel that it has earned a place in at least the top 50 tracks. “Pale Flesh” showcases the strong balance CC have finally found between their old noise aesthetic and their evolving fragmented bleakpop. It’s impossible for me to melt for the likes of Purity Ring when here is that same luscious sub-R&B vibe, those pitched-down vocals ping-ponging against Alice’s familiar scream—finally controlled, but hardly tamed. It’s just as harrowing as the rest of the album, yet gently sensual. Plus it sounds like she’s saying ‘Listen to Beyoncé’, and that’s a pretty good point.
Coral Records have not only lined up an all-new seapunk EP for us, they might also be expanding into the clothing game. After announcing the new untitled collab between Curtis Vodka and Unknown, their official Facebook page posted: “COMING SOON : IN CELEBRATION OF THE NEW RELEASE”:
“Untitled” EP Limited Edition CD-R
Move over, beachgoers; winter is here, the ocean is dead and full of crap and garbage and it’s time for #slimepunk I guess. The grody green sludge has replaced the summer #seapunk URLifestyle as the top thing to post about when you have nothing better to do. Talk about slime! Discuss scum and yucky trash with your crud-bud; gab about goo on the go thanks to cool + popular devices like iPhones. Wear something green, it doesn’t matter what just wear some green and may the luck of the Irish be with you, dingus.
The people behind the new buzzword are essentially the same as those responsible for #seapunk (Diamond Black Hearted Boy especially) only now with crippling Gak addictions. While there have been few slimepunk releases, here’s a pretty slick new mini-mix from Minneapolis-based Tennis Rodman, the 15-minute Death Of Slime // ?????? [I ATE MY OWN BRAINZ]. Featuring tracks from Shlohmo and Quitter, among others, it’s definitely a mix with the word ‘slime’ in the name. I already feel like this trend is pretty much the Secret of The Lose but I’m still willing to run with it; just a sucker for the sticky green I guess.