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Pattern Recognition Vol. 2: The Evolving Architecture of the Underground

In the second edition of his monthly column for EB, Adam Harper—the Rouge’s Foam blogger and author of Infinite Music: Imagining the Next Millennium of Human Music-Makingexamines the current structure of the new music underground in the digital age. Illustration by Inka Gerbert.

 

Why keep up with the frontline of new music? People are rightly cynical about the social pressure to ‘stay relevant’, but it’s about so much more than that. New music is about living in the present, watching cultural history unfold in front of you and studying its ways, seeing it adapt to and reflect a changing world. Understanding new music as it arrives every month, delivered straight from the most inventive, passionate, and least commercially-motivated musicians out there, is a profound form of stimulation and exercise for the ear, mind, intellect, and emotions. Following—and participating in—new music culture has been appreciated by its supporters as everything from a hobby to a professional concern to something approaching the meaning of life.

We already know that the ways new music is released, distributed, and talked about have changed radically in the past decade of moving online, but the full extent of the shift in how and where new music can emerge is only just beginning to dawn. Today, underground music fans can reach emerging artists and their work online long before traditional magazines and record labels do, meaning that the frontline of new music is richer, stranger, more diverse, more unpredictable and more fun than ever. It takes work and imagination to engage with fresh and different sounds at their very source like this, but the reward is in learning new methods of listening and thinking.

It requires maintaining a connection to what we could call the ‘new music underground’. The term ‘underground’ refers to any sector of culture not well known by the general public or represented by the main media outlets. But a differentiation needs to be made between the new music underground and what you might call subcultural music undergrounds, of which there are many—the jazz community, the folk community, the punk community, the metal community, the drum ‘n’ bass community, the trance community, and so on. The new music underground is where these subcultures first originate, but at some point subcultures begin to ‘bud off’ from it somewhere along the line and become more independent entities with their own magazines, shops, websites, cash flow, and specific taste. On the whole, subcultures celebrate a single, more or less firmly delineated identity or genre and as such remain relatively fixed, experiencing comparatively little development, and so only warrant being considered ‘new’ to a limited extent. Though these subcultures can certainly be described as ‘underground’, the new music underground is more open, eclectic and changeable. Subcultures can come back into a closer relationship with the new music underground, either entirely or in mutated or fragmented form, whereas hypothetically at least, the new music underground is in constant change, mutation and development itself.

The new music underground is an ongoing debate about the possibilities of music, typically conducted at some remove from big commerce. Ideally, it represents an infinite space of possibilities and developments with a coherent, roaming, collective focus acting upon it, like a democratically organized nomadic tribe made up of artists, scientists, and philosophers constantly wandering the universe with disaffected and infinitely open minds, always learning but never settling or capitalizing. In reality, the new music underground is a messy semi-anarchy of interests that make up the rules as they go along, don’t communicate with great efficiency, or move as one. Tribe members often settle and farm the land for a while, form little sub-groups or even subcultures, ignore each other, or go back home. Sometimes companies and corporations arrive to buy up land and mine resources. Sometimes huge numbers of tourists start arriving in certain territories, and though the original tribe may complain, no one can say that they weren’t also tourists at the beginning. And rather than just the tribe’s focus of attention changing, it’s the ground beneath everyone’s feet that’s changing. The geology is fast and unpredictable—the magma of new artists is constantly bubbling up from the underground depths and cooling into new territory, islands and continents break off and collide with each other, soil becomes barren and fertile again over time. News of the latest sights and sounds is not reported evenly, and maps need to be constantly updated.

In the late 20th century, following new underground music (more often called ‘indie’, ‘alternative’, or ‘non-commercial’ back then) was a more-or-less simple case of subscribing to magazine X, listening to radio show Y, and hanging out in record shop or venue Z. Today’s world is much more fluid, a continuum of ‘undergroundness’ that can be entered at any level. You can imagine this continuum having three main layers. The third layer is music and media you come across without particularly trying—it’s on mainstream radio and is advertised everywhere, backed by big corporations. The underground begins at the top of the second layer, where magazines and websites are read by many thousands of fans and musicians have substantial record contracts, but are not universally known. As the second layer deepens towards the first, musicians and media are more and more unknown, and hopefully stranger and stranger. The first layer is the emerging musicians themselves, perhaps with no more than a few dozen fans, who have uploaded their work in some form. You might expect musicians to typically rise up the layers as they become famous and this sometimes happens, but it’s more usual that shortcuts are made along the way as talent-spotters offer a leg-up.

Today, to follow underground music from the second layer down, you’ll need to start subscribing to and following lots of things online. You can do perfectly fine on Twitter and/or Facebook by keeping an active eye on who and what to follow and ‘like’, but the most substantial tool to have is an RSS feed reader (such as Feedly), which organizes posts from blogs and websites you want to follow into a chronological feed—meaning you don’t have to keep visiting those sites to see if there’s anything new. There are dozens of magazines and websites (this one, for example) that cater more to the new music underground than to particular subcultures, and subscribing to them is a big part of following where the tribe is at.

But with the frontline of new underground music (and the subcultures) potentially shifting onto places like Soundcloud and Bandcamp, some magazines are getting left behind by their near-total reliance on older industry structures such as press releases and PR contacts, and you won’t automatically be able to tell that this has happened while following them. Nowadays many of the most exciting new artists don’t bother trying to attract conventional record labels, they just upload their tracks to the internet as soon as they like. With Bandcamp, they can even make a little money that way. They might go about attracting listeners (if they even care about that) in any number of ways, but with so many magazines simply not registering these artists when they quietly hoist their flags, or even when they’ve subsequently attracted hundreds of followers and likes, you’ll have to do some of the seeking out yourself much of the time.

Similarly, just like traditional magazines don’t always follow much of the online first layer, following shops and websites that sell music exclusively can be a great way to miss an amazing free release or mixtape. Some of the greatest, freshest-sounding mixtapes of the past few years—A$AP Rocky, Le1f, Mykki Blanco, Clams Casino, James Ferraro, 18+, Evian Christ—were free downloads you would have missed had you only been watching shops for new music. Now that even paying for music can be done straight at the artists’ online front door, physical and online shops risk getting increasingly bypassed.

Within sight of the borderline of the second and first layers are mp3 blogs, constantly and nimbly dipping into the third layer to find something interesting. (A few I’d recommend the most are Rose Quartz, No Fear of Pop, Non-Reality, and Fokkawolfe.) Mp3 blogs typically feature a single stream of posts put up by a handful of people at the most, each one offering a single track or video with a few lines of context and links. They used to offer mp3s and even whole albums to download, but nowadays—probably for legal and ethical reasons—they tend to stick to Soundcloud, Bandcamp, or YouTube for streaming, and often the track is downloadable after clicking through. Very popular and numerous a few years back, the mp3 blog format is at best plateauing and at worst in decline today. The right mp3 blogs are the very best sources for emerging music, but they face competition from both sides, with bigger websites increasingly offering a stream of one-track news posts and Tumblr providing a broader, more flexibly multimedia platform for sharing interesting stuff without the onus to write an introduction.

The shift from the second layer to the first layer is a drop-off of the curatorial process. Operating in the first layer, you no longer rely on someone else to do the choosing or framing for you. But this is just as much a liberation as it is a drawback—here, you’re connecting directly to new sounds. The first layer is as accessible, broad, and inviting as ever: in earlier times, it required mail order catalogues, cassette clubs, special websites, and personally knowing the musicians, but today, platforms like Bandcamp, Soundcloud, YouTube, LastFM, and even simply MediaFire are allowing more musicians to bring their music straight to you more easily, even with some financial return (on Bandcamp and with platforms like Big Cartel). But this is why the first layer is so messy, disorganized and chaotic. Every musician seems to have a different way of maintaining their online presence across a number of different sites, and you kind of have to be prepared for all of them if you don’t want to miss a new act and its subsequent development.

Whether uploading straight-up subcultural music or something newer and stranger, the modern first-layer musician or label typically has either a Soundcloud page or a Bandcamp page or both. In order to follow new releases through these pages, both sites require you to sign up and create an account, like it or not. After this, the sites function like basic social networks. On Soundcloud you have a feed of new tracks, which seems to fill up a lot more slowly than RSS, Tumblr, or Twitter feeds do, so you can check it less often. Bandcamp have just put in a feature allowing you to follow not only artists but other users of the site, who have pages where you can see what they’ve bought. It’s a little weird, but it’s worth playing ball; it’s a useful way to find things you might like—the only problem is that albums downloaded for free don’t show up on these user pages, and since free albums are both very common and are regularly among the best releases, this feels like a petty money-grab on Bandcamp’s part. They’ll also send you emails about releases you might like, but again, not if they’re free.

Rarely, however, can you get by on Bandcamp and Soundcloud alone. The artists and labels of the first layer also tend to maintain a presence on any number of other sites, namely Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, YouTube, and/or LastFM. You often get a little list of links to these on the Bandcamp or Soundcloud pages, and further links may or may not be found between any of the sites. Since you never quite know how announcements of new releases are going to trickle out, the only thing for it is to follow the artists and labels on all of them. Facebook in particular is coming into its own as a primary networking zone for first-layer artists and labels and their listeners. When ‘liking’ them, you can choose to see their updates in your feed, ‘add them to interest lists’ and even ‘get notifications’. And not just first-layer—more and more of everything is happening on Facebook; it’s beginning to rival RSS feeds and Twitter for keeping up to date with cultural life.

You can most often find a first-layer artist or band to follow through a second-layer post such as on an mp3 blog or Tumblr. After this there are a number of ways of finding further artists. Clicking on Bandcamp or Soundcloud genre or location tags can sometimes work, but tag searches put the most popular tracks and releases on the site at the top of the list, and often this stuff is pretty conventional or subcultural, so it can take some digging down the list before interesting things crop up. It’s also problematic because intriguing emerging artists rarely like to genre-fy themselves specifically in tags, and on Soundcloud, putting something artily sarcastic or just plain weird in the genre box is something of a tradition. One of the better methods is looking at how artists and labels relate to each other, for example, seeing what else is on their labels, seeing who they’re talking to or liking on Facebook, Soundcloud, Tumblr, and Twitter. The more interesting first-layer artists are rarely completely isolated from like-minded artists, labels, and second-layer sources on social media for long, and tracing their networks can give you a great sense of what’s going on. Also, first-layer netlabels love to put out free or inexpensive compilations of tracks by their artists and their friends, so watch out for those.

And while listening to new artists, try not to simply look for music that’s ‘good’, because if you do you’ll only register the ‘good’ music of today and yesterday rather than learn the ‘good’ music of tomorrow. The whole idea is that new artists will teach you ways of listening and appreciating a unique control of musical possibilities (i.e. their ‘goodness’) that was unimaginable to you before you encountered them. So perhaps the first priority is to find something strange or surprising, something you don’t quite understand—most of all, something unforgettable. This is how I’ve found some of the artists I came to cherish the most—people like John Maus, E+E, and RAP/RAP/RAP (now called END 1, by the way), who left me almost entirely non-plussed and even a little frustrated at first.

One of the key points to remember about first-layer musicians is that they’re likely to put their very earliest, most embryonic work online—a much greater proportion of their development phase is on show. Artists signed to traditional record labels have either already hit their stride or will do soon, but I’ve seen so many Bandcamp artists who’ve released several albums or EPs before they’re really sounding great and unique. This means it’s less appropriate to write off an online first-layer artist after just one or two albums. Try again in six months, and they’re likely to be surer on their feet.

Most of the time, first-layer musicians are regular people—no longer are you alienated from them by big music-industrial structures—and they really appreciate the attention their music gets. They’re putting themselves out there, and if they’re met with mostly silence and indifference, they can get discouraged, take down their tracks and throw in the towel. Anything you can do to reward their efforts and encourage them to keep going, you should consider doing. If Bandcamp releases are marked “Name your price” and have no minimum fee, chuck in a few dollars or whatever you can afford—the benefits to the artist are psychological as well as financial. On Soundcloud, write a comment. If you really liked something, email or message the artist to tell them about it and thank them. These reciprocations bind together the underground socially and give musicians the confidence they need and deserve to keep releasing material that’s better and more inventive. In the same way, sharing and spreading the word is what drives the underground. Don’t just be a passive consumer, be an active member of the community—share, retweet, reblog anything you like or that’s plain weird, as this reinforcement drives the growth and evolution of the music.

A particular focus of anxiety about the new forms of music distribution is how good listening practice is possible in the face of the online and computerized world. The worry goes that there’s too much stuff out there, it’s too easily accessible, and your choice and attention is stretched past breaking point, leaving you floundering in a meaningless chaos of ones and zeroes. It’s mostly unfounded, I think. My feeling is that underground music, especially at the controlled second layer, is actually not that much of a bigger field in terms of artists, articles, and sheer information than it was in the decades before everything went online. Some are thrown off by the greater ease with which they can hear and possess something than they could before—if you weren’t born into it, it might take some getting used to.

Alongside this is the common complaint that not buying something physically and/or waiting for it to arrive significantly removes meaning from listening to a release. Before things became quicker and more casual online, buying a CD or a record was a bit more like a marriage, sometimes one arranged by a review in a magazine—it was a serious and expensive commitment and you had an investment in making the relationship work. Today you’re a lot less wedded to what you find, even if you download and/or buy an album. Buying an album for a few dollars (or getting a free one) and putting it on an mp3 player is not a watershed moment of great commitment, and the first listen is not the wedding night but one small step along a continuum of getting to know and like something. Broadband music-hunting permits a wider search, but it doesn’t mean that the value of the findings are ultimately diluted.

But if you are going to download several albums a week or more—and there’s certainly nothing shameful about promiscuity like that—it’s probably a good idea to keep track of what you’ve listened to and what you thought. A list of everything you’ve downloaded can be checked off one by one as you listen, and then it also serves as a handy reminder of what you’ve been hearing recently and what might deserve another go. On some mp3 players you can create ‘smart playlists’ that list everything with a play count of 0, which is a good way of assembling everything you haven’t listened to yet.

Following new underground music, even at the deepest levels, is not a difficult or mysterious process, nor should it be left to other people. Ultimately, it’s not just a passive process of witnessing the present and the future of music as it unfolds, but one you play a part in and create yourself. It’s your culture.~

 

You can read the first volume of Pattern Recognition here.

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Adam Harper’s Pattern Recognition Vol. 1: The New Online Weird

In the first edition of his new monthly column for Electronic Beats, the Rouge’s Foam blogger and author of Infinite Music: Imagining the Next Millennium of Human Music-Making trawls Bandcamp and Soundcloud to find new strains of music bubbling up online. Illustration by Inka Gerbert.

 

Someone once suggested to me that the only thing the internet has done for music is make it weirder. Not an easy comment to forget, and one that feels persuasive at first. The implication was that this new weirdness was an insignificant detail, an unimportant footnote to the well-rehearsed and perennial argument that musical creativity has stagnated. Yet surely if music were to be creeping into unvisited territories, the very first thing that you’d notice about it would be its fresh weirdness and a vague sense that it doesn’t quite make sense. This would not be the time to start dismissing new artists, or their online means of distribution and communication, as merely ‘weirder’—it would be the time to start listening very carefully.

It takes a considerable degree of vision and confidence to be weird. It’s not quite enough to make straight-up weird stuff, either—to truly get somewhere it has to be weird in a weird way. Together with software as its creative toolkit, the internet is exactly the forum for new kinds of weirdness to be born, since its platform is so wide-spread, so accessible, and has so much room for niches to form. Humor is one of the most obvious examples of this: lolcats or any number of other comic memes would have been dismissed as the symptoms of a fraying mind had they been offered to a publisher, magazine, or TV channel before the internet, but now they and their formats have become practically mainstream for those who spend even a small amount of time online. Now more complex weird cultures are emerging in the fields once known as art, music, literature, and fashion, all ready to be dismissed as, to paraphrase a famous put-down applied to techno in the ’90s, ‘faceless internet bollocks.’

The internet’s current most sophisticated platforms for new music (most notably Bandcamp and Soundcloud) are full of normal stuff, of course. Even if it’s often surprisingly proficient, much of what you find on them feels like it’s been uploaded straight from the rejection bins of conventional record companies. There’s a growing seam of weirdness online, however, right in the space that the pre-internet structures of new music-making were never able to reach or even recognize as aesthetically appealing. Three new interconnected net-based producers working somewhere within what might be described as experimental beats and house illustrate this process pretty well, forming a loosely coherent yet particular new sound that evades easy description because it is so weird. They are a i r s p o r t s, Karmelloz and RAP/RAP/RAP.

airsports, Karmelloz and RAP/RAP/RAP covers
Left to right: cover art for a i r s p o r t s’ BE THE 1 I DREAM OF, Karmelloz’s KarmellOz, and RAP/RAP/RAP’s STRANGE DAYS(2012)

Something else marking these producers out is that their music is not particularly conceptual—that is, it’s not obviously ‘about’ anything in particular, and doesn’t overridingly express recognizable cultural concepts before we’ve dived into its abstract qualities, such as mood and sonic characteristics. In today’s underground pop music, this is relatively unusual. For at least a decade, so much of the underground has been referencing, pastiching, or at least partially resonating with, other musical styles, eras from the past (from the late 19th century all the way up to the 1990s), and non-musical art and lifestyles. In many respects, this peaked with hypnagogic pop at the turn of the decade and one of its leading exponents, James Ferraro. Last November, however, Ferraro made one of the weirdest moves of his already decidedly rollercoaster creative career when he released Sushi.

Up until Sushi, all of Ferraro’s albums were, to differing extents, ‘about’ something, whether it was new age, bodybuilding, industrial cyborgs, high-school gross-out, horror, or internet-age virtual connectivity. They were lifestyle ideologies framed by poetic distance, and expressed their content in album names, covers, track titles, and sonic reference points. Sushi, however, was much less forthcoming, mysteriously offering nothing but a black cover bearing the title, track names too general and simplistic to suggest anything as specific as before, and sounds that were either too basic or too complex to spark much recognition. The title might have been relevant inasmuch as, like the food, the tracks were densely packed, bite-sized bundles of ingredients with an unusual overall texture and flavor (or relatively unusual to many Westerners, at least). But in short, Sushi was low-concept, and it was abstract. The musical style of Cold, Ferraro’s latest mixtape, is a little more recognizable as an ice-cold-hi-tech member of R&B’s extended family, yet even so, its appeal lay more in its sensuality and mood than in its making a commentary on something.

This abstract space, where you have little but your senses and your emotions to guide you, is the one a i r s p o r t s, Karmelloz and RAP/RAP/RAP invite you to explore. Even finding the words to characterize their music—much of which predates Sushi—is challenging, since it leaves only technical language and the potential for odd yet reductive metaphors. A lot of the time, attempting to do so only results in it sounding malformed, poor-quality, and uninviting, since their music is full of dissonance, clashes, and unevenness. But bear with me, since it’s a strange beauty that lies almost beyond reach.

a i r s p o r t s, apparently based in both Oregon and Lyon, France, has already received a little attention online, and though he’s been labelled as ‘hypnagogic’ and ‘seapunk’, his work is not quite either, or anything else for that matter. You’ll often run into shards of hypnagogic or vaporwave samples in it, their office-block ephemera still spinning in the ’80s or ’90s, but then there are also the pitched-shifted or glitchy vocals found in hip-hop beats. It took me a few listens before I realized that technically, much of his music is house, due to its tempo and regular kick drum, but I certainly hadn’t picked up the focused and affable groove you’d normally expect from the genre. There’s room for comparisons to the British school of lo-fi dance represented by Actress and Dean Blunt & Inga Copeland, but a i r s p o r t s is much busier and more feverish than they are. Instead, each a i r s p o r t s track is a bouquet of many different plants, where any combination of a few of them will complement each other fine, yet the whole is disquietingly excessive and discordant. His music is about the overall effect, the gestalt, or rather the subtle but endlessly intriguing dissonances caused as its many composite elements crowd together within the whole.

Dissonance is a characteristic that all three of these producers share, but it is not dissonance in the 20th century classical sense of the term. In this case, the clash of pitches occurs not within an instrument but between elements that in themselves are perfectly consonant. Hear, for example, the opening track on the album BE THE 1 I DREAM OF, “Purify”. It begins simply and pleasantly enough with a reverby, honky-tonk piano sample, and several tiers of complex percussion built up one by one. At 2:24, a backdrop of strings in a slightly different key gently undermines the tonal center of the piano, and later a tuned tom-tom pattern increases the effect. At this point, three different harmonic elements are doing their own thing, subtly independent from one another, each pulling your ear in a different direction. Then at around 3:25, the knife goes in: a pitched-up vocal that clashes noticeably with everything else. Suddenly the track goes from exuberantly, deliriously unfocused to almost uncomfortable.

If all these different elements were overlaid onto a single timbre, such as a piano, the dissonance would be immediately clear, clashing like a wrong note would. But because the elements are so different in the way they sound and how they’ve been processed or positioned within the auditory field, the overall effect is much more subtle. Rather than coming across as a glaring excess, it conjures a veiled, nagging sense of fear. It’s an emotional moment much more calculated and powerful than the carnival of seapunk, the hands-in-the-air of house, or the screwface posturing of the hip-hop style of production regurlarly referred to as ‘trap’. This intelligence of emotion and arrangement, and this creeping but never fully actualized sense of fear, doubt, or menace caused by the dissonance of contrasting but composite parts, is the major and mysterious strength of a i r s p o r t s, Karmelloz and RAP/RAP/RAP.

Some further highlights of a i r s p o r t’s work: on the self-titled album released by AMDiscs and Sewage Tapes, “dont need u”, in which the drop is a stuttering voice dangling precariously above a chasm of warm, razor synths. Or “coolDown©”, which is like approaching a giant yellow happy house smiley, only to find out that it’s really a backlit aquarium filled with algal slime and mutant shrimp. BE THE ONE I DREAM OF tends to be a shade more positive in tone, but it’s still unstable. The structure is mostly the same each time, with a groove building up until one element too many tips the whole thing over slightly. “Clarity” is a prancing hypnagogic disco until one of the characters from Street Fighter II shows up and starts pummelling the guests at hyperspeed (and yet the music goes on, he shows up here every night). The title track is urgent and airy, with a footwork kick drum pushing it forward, and yet the serrated helium vocals cut against everything like jamming cogs.

The music released by producer RAP/RAP/RAP is much less familiar. Don’t let the name fool you—although there are one or two references to rap, the grimly regular kick drum positions it closer to house. Yet this is far from your usual suck-up to classic Chicago and New York. RAP/RAP/RAP’s kick drum is relentless and usually much too loud, the claps and scrapes of the drum machine claw at your ear canals, the background pads and strings are nauseous, the samples are totally unexpected, and the ever-dissonant synths (an advanced case of the relatively rare FM variety) are like bars of sharpened glass. Her/his music is crude, basic and seems urgently purposive, but what the purpose might be is too unreadable for the club. Perhaps it’s in the spectacular contrast-yet-unity between the brutal percussion and the twinkling menace of the chimes. After the busy maximalism of Ferraro and so many other net-based producers, the precision minimalism of RAP/RAP/RAP is both refreshing and a little terrifying. It would be too easy to read her/him as another Ferraro, Jam City, or Nguzunguzu but not as good, not as complex, or simply ‘weirder’. The music demands a deeper listen than that—its weirdness is in its simplicity.

RAP/RAP/RAP’s best releases are UNTITLED001, BIRTH OF MAN (both on the dedicated artist page on Bandcamp) and STRANGE DAYS(2012), which, like other releases by a i r s p o r t s and Karmelloz, went up on Sewage Tapes’s page. UNTITLED001, for being consistently high-quality and shorter than the others, might be the best place to start. It includes the baleful flute of “MEANING OF LIFE”, the sorcerer’s drone and strangely sporadic interlocution of various synths in “VIDEOGAME ZENTER”, and “METROPOLIS”, which might be the one RAP/RAP/RAP track that would actually go off on a dancefloor, and dazzlingly so, despite the bizarre cavern-dwelling metallo-synth and the corrosive dissonances. BIRTH OF MAN should follow soon after, with the crystal-clear water flowing over the gods’ bodies in “POOL PARTY WITH JAYZ , TUPAC SHAKUR AND SOME FRIENDS”, the way the lilting dembow rhythm does little to reassure you that your drink hasn’t been spiked in “VERONA BEACH”, and the paradise of steel pans, blackbirds, chime trees, and a moronic vocal drawl in “HOW I HAD A VISION OF LINELAND”. Its clear highlight is the gorgeous and hauntingly titled “HUMAN PURGATORY”, with its slow reveal of an enormous cavern glittering with alien technology. Dozens more astonishing moments are to be found on perhaps the darkest album, STRANGE DAYS(2012), such as the superlatively creepy breakdown of “NASDAQ20”. RAP/RAP/RAP should be admired not only for the unique sensual and emotional qualities s/he sculpts with such basic tools, but also for finding something fascinating to do and exploring it so thoroughly.

Of the three producers, Karmelloz (like a i r s p o r t s, from Oregon) is rhythmically the closest to hip-hop beats, and perhaps the most technically accomplished, though his music loses none of its weirdness to slickness. To date, Karmelloz’s favorite strategies involve careful manipulation of the frequency spectrum, muffling rolling waves of organic ambience and surgically overlaying thin metallic structures and boldly incongruous voices that introduce dissonance. He’s a surrealist, one that has not forgotten that the most troubling dreams are just as much about their scarcely expressible emotional tinge as their bizarre juxtapositions.

Karmelloz’s strongest release is KarmellOz, also on Sewage Tapes. “Lawofattraction” is an unforgettable twisting-together of hi-frequency gossamer, a shambling beat, a cybernetic ballet dancer’s pirouetting, and an endlessly stuttering narrator. His other Sewage release, ArchaiC includes the foreboding “Splenda” with its out-of-sync Adele sample and his most bizarre track, “Kirstin’s Song”, like something devised by reptilian scavengers on a desert planet, but which a dying astronaut might hallucinate as footwork. Earlier releases such as Beauty are also worthwhile, and can be found on the Bandcamp artist page. On May 13th, Karmelloz will release an album, Bud Air, on Bandcamp label Interscape Records Ltd. With a more up-tempo and energized sound than his previous releases, it retains their startling imagination.

If you hadn’t guessed it already, the key connection between these three producers is Sewage Tapes. A i r s p o r t s and Karmelloz even joined forces on one release for the label. Plenty of other like-minded but perhaps still developing producers can be found in the online vicinity too, such as BOYMTN, 私はやせすぎだったら, BLK SMK, OLD MOMS and BoYsTn, and on other Bandcamp labels such as Aural Sects, Fluorescent Records and Nightcore Records. Based on the progress of this sound so far, especially as manifested in a i r s p o r t s, RAP/RAP/RAP and Karmelloz, there’s much promise in it. They might represent a reaction against the referentiality and emotional superficiality that has been so common in music lately, countering them as they do with the subtle but inexorable return of the kind of pure sense and feeling that comes from confusion and mystique, oozing from a dark and very weird place.~

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Yellofier: Anything becomes music

Yello’s Boris Blank has teamed up with Swedish producer Håkan Lidbo for the new Yellofier app, which can turn any sound into music. You can download the five-star-rated Yellofier for free from your appstore throughout the month of April—try it now and enter a competition to win a free trip to Zurich to yellofy the city with Boris Blank.

 

The Yellofier app by Boris Blank and Swedish producer Håkan Lidbo is less a compositional tool and more a blank canvas that invites the user to hear the world with different ears. By “yellofying” field recordings and turning them into treatable sounds, you can create your own songs, or edit other people’s. To prove that, Lidbo and Blank invite you to submit either your own song or to twist and tweak preset tracks by acclaimed artists such as Booka Shade, Carl Craig, Henrik Schwarz, Matt Johnson, Orbital, The Orb, Trentemøller, and more. The submissions compete for a flight to Zurich to spend a day with Boris Blank yellofying the Swiss capital. The winning song, chosen by public vote on yellofier.com, will also be released on the next Electronic Beats compilation. Go to Yellofier.com for details and to enter. Read our interview with Blank and Lidbo here.

 

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Win and stream the Wolf & Lamb <em>Versus LP</em>

New York producers and label owners Zev and Gadi have been dropping well crafted releases as Wolf + Lamb for over a decade now. On their new Versus LP they’ve also collaborated with fellow labelmates including (but not limited to!) PillowTalk, Voices of Black, and Night Plane.

 

The whole LP is available to stream via Soundcloud. If you like what you hear but crave your tracks on good old vinyl, here is your chance to win one of three physical copies of the record. Just fill out the form below before November 17 and with a bit of luck you will receive a nice package soon.

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EB favourite of the day!

EB favourite of the day!

There’s a rumor going around that social networks are the future of the internet. This might well be true, and if we all look aT our online habits, we probably spend the most time on updating and checking our Facebook! On the other hand the EB editorial staff believes in the idea of a well edited music platform which is why we offer you ElectronicBeats.net as well as the SlicesDVD and our print magazine.

However you can of course find us on social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, SoundCloud and Issuu, and as we know that habits are a-changin’, we’re going to bringing you exclusive news updates, features and a whole lot of new music to your social network of choice.

From today we’re introducing an exclusive new feature for all our followers on Facebook, Twitter and SoundCloud: the »EB favourite of the day«. Every day at noon you’ll be notified of the latest musical suggestion from the Electronic Beats editorial staff delivered on the nifty SoundCloud player. As a producer you can also send us your own songs or productions via our SoundCloud Dropbox – and if we like them, we will share them with our fans and readers!

The »EB favourite of the day« won’t be displayed on Electronicbeats.net – so make sure to follow us via Facebook, Twitter or SoundCloud. And let us know what you think of the music that is rocking the EB office soundsystem.

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