A Self-Aware Western Analysis of Nozinja’s Shangaan Electro

I first heard about Shangaan, the South African genre in which Nozinja is arguably the central creative figure, not long after I had discovered footwork via Massacooramaan’s blog. I was fast enraptured by footwork with its uncanny sampling, unprocessed drum samples and high speed. When Will Bankhead linked me to the Honest Jon’s compilation Shangaan Electro—New Wave Dance Music From South Africa, I was intrigued.

But at the time, footwork held a kind of competing position in my mind and eventually “won out” as far as these two fast, tom-heavy genres go. I felt I knew how I wanted my tom drums, and what’s more, footwork had recognizable samples such as Evanescence, Aaliyah or Lil Wayne distilled into new hooks and contorted around direct, aggressive drum work. As a teenager there wasn’t much that could compete with footwork for me, though my associating it with Shangaan was somewhat facile and dubious. Where the lyrics and cultural context of Shangaan escaped me, in footwork I felt I already had something ostensibly similar in the drum palette, which drew upon on that familiar musical touchstone for a white male: American pop.

I wouldn’t say I dismissed Shangaan at that point, but I did judge it unfairly and somewhat superficially by conflating it with the Chicago dance genre, considering Shangaan’s tempo and arrangement is entirely indigenous. And still, I find it difficult to escape my cultural bias. Listening to Nozinja Lodge, I catch myself projecting my Western perspective onto the apparent styles on the record. But the tracks on the LP, like those on any reasonably interesting electronic album, are not restricted to a single definable style. Here, they’re neither “all Shangaan” nor entirely high tempo.

Growing up on Japanese video game music, it’s hard not to associate the use of rapid-fire, impossibly accented electronic percussion with the rolls and fills of so many 16-bit adventures, though I don’t think Nozinja would have the same interest in the Sega Genesis sound chip as myself. This presents an interesting point, namely how completely different contexts can see creators arrive at the same point with their machines, at least with respect to drum programming. My favorite example of this is the album’s second track, “Mitshetsho We Zindaba.” Its chord progression, groove and instrumentation bring to mind Icehouse, or the more current purveyors of Australiana, Client Liaison. The fourth track, “Xihukwani,” gives me this vibe as well.

There is also a chant in “Mitshetsho We Zindaba” that is immediately recognizable: a semi-obscure but highly popular Roland sample heavily used by Atlanta producer Zaytoven and first prominently used on “Dilemma” by Nelly and Kelly Rowland. The use of this sample feels so indebted to my reference point that I think maybe, in that one sound, Nozinja and I are actually looking at the same thing. Nozinja Lodge is a well-paced, catchy album that feels truly innovative, whether measured against the criteria of Western dance music criticism or the cultural context it’s rooted in. As such it comes highly recommended, whatever it may connote or tell you.

This article originally appeared in the Summer 2015 issue of Electronic Beats Magazine. Click here to read more from this issue.

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The Fake Aphex Twin Leak Is A Hyperreal Conundrum

A few weeks before electronic maverick Aphex Twin released his latest album, Syro, a friend slipped me the record so I could listen to it in advance. As the zip file downloaded, its vital signs looked promising. The thirteen garbled titles were written in classic Aphex style, with the requisite armory of uppEr and loWeR case and brackets (both round) [and square], and when I flicked through the tracks, it seemed like it might be the real deal. However, given Richard D. James’s penchant for troublemaking, I knew it might be a phony version of Syro that Warp Records launched into to the digital ether to screw with fans, a fake leak.

I couldn’t be certain either way, because the potential leak posed a hyperreal conundrum. If I liked the music and it turned out to be an imposter, I’d be the butt of Aphex’s practical joke. And what if the opposite happened—what if my skepticism about the veracity of the leak turned to cynicism, and I ended up hating Syro just because I thought it was a fraud constructed to con people who can’t tell the difference between authentic Aphex tunes and sneering knockoffs?

At first listen, the record ticked all the boxes. Glitchy percussion and pastoral synth melodies recalled the producer’s stellar run of albums in the mid-90s; the plucked synth strings that announce “nusxxtrabo780” were a dead ringer for “Goon Gumpas” from the Richard D James Album. The battering 808 claps of “fz pseudotimestretch+e+3” even matched the initial impact of Analogue Bubblebath.


In some ways, I felt more free listening to this potential leak than I would have if I had known for sure that I was hearing the real Syro. This was an opportunity to approach a record free of context, and without the reputation of a legendary electronic auteur coloring my listening experience. In theory, I should have been able to rely solely on my gut instinct as to whether the music was any good, and whether it was truly the work of Aphex Twin.

However, when I allowed myself to drift into this liberated head space, I found that this Syro wasn’t exactly a wild listen. The house piano samples on “CIRCLONT6A [141.98] (syrobonkus mix)” were naff and cloying, and the clumping military chug of “4 bit 9d api+e+6 [126.26]” left me cold. Everything felt underpowered and square, because the beats never spilled over the barlines and the melodies didn’t tug at the heart strings as I’d have hoped. If this leak had arrived with indisputable proof that it was helmed by the real Twin, I’d like to think I’d have felt short-changed—but it’s tricky to tell how I would have felt about it, or how much my knowledge of and preexisting relationship to its author would influence my opinion about the music itself.

It seems that IDM is easy pickings for a skeptical listener, and mischief is often mistaken for content by mediocre imitators and lustless fanboys. I’ve listened to a dead-eyed replica of Aphex Twin—a calling-card list of breakbeats, kid clips, and ambience—but I missed the sense of touch which dominate masterpieces like On.

Maybe the fake leak was James’s way of telling us that he wanted us to stop talking about Syro and to listen to it again.

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Videodrome 129 – This week’s best videos

Hola and welcome to the first edition of Videodrome in 2014. This year we’re going to continue selecting the ten coolest videos of each week, no worries. Today we start the fun with new audiovisual work from beloved artists such as Excepter, patten, Torn Hawk and many more. Ready to explore?


#1 Excepter – “Maids”, directed by Harrison Owen

Yes, yes, Excepter is back! Watch the uplifting, colorful video above and stay tuned for their next LP, Familiar. Due sometime this year from Blast First Petite.


#2 Torn Hawk – “Bad Deadlift”, directed by Luke Wyatt

Torn Hawk returns with proper four track 12-inch “Bad Deadlift”. The accompanying video is a hellish NSFW-DIY manoeuvre, which ends after the five minutes thirty seconds mark and continues for another two minutes with a lot of blood. Also nice: the slow jam during the last three seconds.


#3 Actress – “Grey Over Blue”, directed by Nic Hamilton

Here’s a video edit of original material to Actress‘ “Grey over Blue”, a track which is perfectly suited for this dark and ominous video above. Twin Peaks, anyone?


#4 patten – “Drift”, directed by Jane Eastlight

A new album from patten titled ESTOILE NAIANT will be released on February 24th. Today you can get an early idea through watching the video for “Drift”, above.


#5 CUTS – “CUTS 01”

Invada-signed CUTS come correct with the usual dark electronic-almost-industrial feel. Last month they did a great performance during the Invada 10th Anniversary show, but I can’t tell you anything else. Enjoy the mystery for now.


#6 Wild Beasts – “Wanderlust”, Directed by NYSU

Neat video for the new Wild Beasts song “Wanderlust”—that final scene with the birds and ooohhh. This is the British indie pop ensemble’s first new material since the 2011 release of Smother. There will be some buzz.


#7 K.Raydio & Psymun – “Sweet Dreamz”, directed by SwayHeavy

Minnesota-based singer K.Raydio and beatmaker/MC Psymun are an unstoppable duo. Check the spaced out, kaleidoscopic visuals above and make sure to head to their Bandcamp to stream the rest of the album.


#8 Twin Shadow – “Cupid”

Twin Shadow’s George Lewis Jr. has posted another video for his ongoing UNDER THE CVRS series. It’s a cover of nineties R&B collective 112’s hit from 1996, “Cupid”.


#9 Cass McCombs – “Big Wheel”, directed by Albert Herter

Not what you’d expect from the video for a Cass McCombs folk rock tune. CMC released his twenty-two track double album Big Wheel And Others last year via Domino, and today he’s sharing a visual for the almost-title track, “Big Wheel”.


#10 Black Devil Disco Club – “Stay Insane”, directed by Jorey Salas

Terrible name. Great music. Nice video. ~

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Videodrome 124 – This week’s best videos

Each week, Moritz Gayard rounds up the best new music videos, so you don’t have to. 


This is quite a week for Videodrome, which now has published 124 editions. This week, it all started with the very beautiful ´drome-darling Selena Gomez’s epic music video for “Searching” and the first video in decades from über-mother Lilly Allen. Then there was some very good filming involved in the new clip directed by Sofia Coppola—unfortunately it was made for Phoenix. And you will never find a Phoenix video in a Videodrome. But there’s also a cool, new Drake video to explore. Lovers of animated video art will definitely love the Mrzyk & Moriceau-directed clip for Jackson & His Computer Band. Also Dev Heynes has a new video out, These New Puritans, Wooden Shjips… Your bumper week of video fun starts below.


#0 Selena Gomez – “Searching”, directed by Amanda de Cadenet & Victoria Mahoney

Shot and directed by Victoria Mahoney at the iconic Rosslyn Hotel in Downtown Los Angeles for Flaunt Magazine, the clip shows a pensive and subtly sexy Selena wearing only lacey lingerie and other color-neutral outfits.


#1 Torn Hawk – “Born to Win (Life After Ghostbusters)” , directed by Luke Wyatt

NYC-based beatmaker Luke Wyatt has deployed a fifteen-minute electronic session for his “Born To Win (Life After Ghostbusters)” track which will be out via L.I.E.S. soon.


#2 Drake – “Worst Behavior”, directed by Director X & Drake

Director X said: “Drake writes his own treatments. He came up with the whole concept, and we started in early October. He already had the idea together, and took it to Memphis to see his father’s side of the family. Dennis is the man in Memphis, and Willie Mitchell is his family.”


#3 Wooden Shjips – “Back To Land”, directed by Benjael Halfmaderholz

Psychedelic freaks Wooden Shjips have a mind-melting new album out called Return to Land on Thrill Jockey records, above a delicious appetizer.


#4 Jackson & His Computer Band – “G.I Jane”, directed by Mrzyk & Moriceau

“G.I. Jane (Fill Me Up)” is the title track of the upcoming remix EP from Jackson and His Computer Band, the French IDM band signed to Warp. The video above is a pretty funny NSFW animation. Be prepared.


#5 These New Puritans – “V (Island Song)”, directed by PICNIC

These New Puritans have premiered a impressively animated music video for their new single “V (Island Song)”. Taken from their album Field of Reeds, which just came out this week.


#6 Blood Orange – “Time Will Tell”, directed by Alan Del Rio Ortiz

SOoOO dope. Blood Orange (a.k.a. Dev Hynes) released his second album Cupid Deluxe yesterday. Following the video for “You’re Not Good Enough,” now you can check out the new video for “Time Will Tell” above.


#7 Lily Allen – “Hard Out Here”, directed by Christopher Sweeney

“I don’t need to shake my ass for you because I’ve got a brain.” Really, Lily?


#8 Lil B – “Get Em”, self-directed

I can’t count the videos Lil B is floating on the interweb with, but it just felt right to bring him back to the ‘drome.


#9 Teengirl Fantasy – “Nun”, Directed by: Hans Lo

Teengirl Fantasy’s Logan Takahashi and Nick Weiss have a new data interface design wonder video ready for your eyes, directed by the talented Hans Lo.


#10 Keep Shelly in Athens – “Oostende“, dir Feel Good Lost

Directed, shot, and edited by Brendan Canty & Conal Thomson of Feel Good Lost this is the new video for KSUA, for which was already one of the best songs of the year


#11 SOUR “Life is Music”

Holy heck <3 ~


For more editions of Videodrome, click here.

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Simulacra & Simulation: An interview with Oneohtrix Point Never

The hazy hypnogogia of his earlier releases has been transformed into high-def ‘living scenes’ of arresting music and video.

Steph Kretowicz explores OPN’s new uncanny valley, plus five scenes of his creative plunder. Photo by Timothy Saccenti.

Describing his childhood self as being an “above average student but not excellent,” Daniel Lopatin grew up with Russian parents in Boston. The son of professional musicians, his father was also educated in engineering, Lopatin presents qualities of both: a mathematical mind combined with a talent for music production—art, science, and philosophy feeding into his latest album as Oneohtrix Point Never, R Plus Seven. Stripping back and reshaping his sound from the hazy hypnogogia of his name-making releases—Rifts, Replica and Returnal—to the high definition “living scenes” of sonic miscellany, Lopatin goes beyond just redefining music to completely reform it. Working with and being inspired by visual artists and friends Takeshi Murata and long-time collaborator Nate Boyce—he makes explicit reference to both in the “lyrics sheet” for track “Still Life”—Lopatin wants to take music beyond the realms of the abstract and into a visual, physical ‘other’. Like Replica and his collaboration with Tim Hecker Instrumental Tourist, R Plus Seven sounds like everything and nothing I’ve ever heard before.

R Plus Seven is a complex composition of samples, synthetic voices, and instrument emulators, stitched together in a playful, though deeply unsettling, patchwork. The undulating reverb of “Cryo” generates an ominous sense of the unknown. As it tunes in and out of different frequencies, jarred vocals and twitchy, layered samples create havoc on “Inside World”, itself a fractured and fragmented portrait of perception. A squawking accordion sound scuttles across a brief arpeggiated synth-line. Simulated barking becomes a hooting owl, or something else entirely. More than mere audio, all these elements become visual simulacra; manmade organisms that populate an overarching structure of found objects, where those objects are the sounds themselves.

That sense of ‘unreal realness’ goes some way in describing the complex logic behind R Plus Seven, as Lopatin freely explains the shattered subjectivities and destroyed narratives it draws from, with accompanying videos by Boyce and Murata visualizing them. Sat across a wooden bench outside London’s Warp headquarters and wearing a familiar deep khaki shirt and UNO record label cap, he casually expounds on his influences. From social constructivist Bruno Latour, philosopher Manuel De Landa, abstract impressionism, surrealism, tableau and procedural poetry to Ableton Live 9’s audio to MIDI conversion, text to speech software, and Spectrasonics Omnisphere, R Plus Seven is an entirely constructed, synthesized experience.

Above: The video for Oneohtrix Point Never’s “Problem Areas” uses a pre-existing work by Takeshi Murata for its video


You have a lyric sheet?

Yeah, it’s weird. We made all of these scripts and had text-to-speech programs read back all of these scripts that we had written. Then we sliced it up, put it chromatically on the keyboard with sampler instruments, and then just applied pre-existing MIDI from the music. Just plopped it into the track that had all of the text and it kind of played.

So you had those vocals cut up chromatically, essentially remixing the text.

Yeah. And then whatever happened to be on whatever octave, or whatever note in the piano roll that correlated with MIDI from another track that was playing whatever melodic line would just happen. But then on the record, you just hear it in these oblique moments of just a single word of something. So, a lot of that stuff ended up becoming specific to a moment. But we decided to include the lyrics anyway, even though they don’t really exist.

That reminds me of Nate Boyce’s video for “Still Life”. It’s sculpture but it’s not because its digital. There are forms but it’s also formless.

Yeah. They have this sort of undercurrent of art history to them; they’re historicized objects and then heavily displaced. That’s why we [Lopatin and Boyce] link up so well, generally, because we just see the world the same way. You can actually have both operating at the same time, in a way that is an honest appraisal.

I guess it’s part of this malaise, or frustration that you can have with music that’s no longer presented as an object, it’s become this other thing.

Exactly. I think the market is probably concerned with it on some other level, but then music often doesn’t even recognize how it’s changing. It continues to just be music, which is a little tedious to me. I still love it and I still need it and I still want to use it the way that I want—like If I’m cooking, or if I’m taking a shower or whatever, there are practical aspects to it. But, in my own work, I think I’m primarily interested in getting away from those things a little, or at least trying to find a way to characterize the whole experience. It would be cool to literally make objects, and I’ve been trying to for a very long time, but the objects I want to make are very expensive [laughs]. For now I like the format of the record because I can do it.

In terms of your references, you seem pretty informed when it comes to the history of certain forms of art.

I do, but I absorb it in a kind of juvenile way, informally. I want to know the crux of many things and then I’m kind of abusive, in that way. My parents always criticize me for it, because—well, their background is they’re very Russian. So they learned in a very specific way, and they learned to respect history in a very specific way. I was always just like, “I’ll take this. I don’t know why. I just want it.” I understand the rudeness of that, but at times I think it helps me make generate new work.

I suppose respecting history is respecting it in a specific way that someone else decided was respectful.

Yeah. That’s why it felt a little suspect to me. But if I was to say, “OK, speculative realism informed my album,” it’s both a lie and a truth. I would never phrase it that way. I would just say that my friends and I were sending each other random Wikipedia links of a Bruno Latour pdf because I was too cheap to buy it, and I would just skim it or just randomly find stuff; sometimes copy and paste text and throw it in with this procedural poetry stuff I was writing.

It reminds me of hearing a philosopher say it’s not so important to understand the whole text but to take what you can.

Even, I think, Derrida said to just open up to the middle of the book. I think it’s a healthy thing to do. But I would hate to be on a panel discussion at Oxford or something, with people that actually know. And I’m sitting in a room where I say, “Well, I just abuse this shit but go ahead ask me questions.” I’d like to think that I’m not a parasite though; that I have a way of coexisting. But I’m definitely an exploiter; that’s my role.

A lot of the sound palette sounds really familiar but totally alien at the same time.

The palette just comes out of just being selfish I think. I really love Korg Wavestation, Korg M1, this sort of early ersatz, uncanny valley attempt at emulating real instruments.

I caught the uncanny valley reference with that mask in your press shot.

Exactly. [laughs] That was a really happy accident that the photographer, Timothy [Saccenti], just brought those in because his wife was a prop designer. He just brought a box of bullshit, and then I saw those masks and I was like, “Perfect, lets do that.” That sort of creepy moment right before things are real is a sweet spot for me.

Your whole album embodies that creepy moment for me.

Definitely. I want that but I still have this narcissistic need to make it personal, to have some sort of oblique sense of narrative, even if it’s a feeling of narrative. Not narrative itself but just the feeling of, like, tableau. It’s very specific but I think that’s what I got from that. It’s like, “Yeah, this is strange when I don’t know what’s going on, because I can kind of sense a sort of classical aspect, of tragedy or comedy or whatever. But I couldn’t tell you what the fuck’s going on here.” That’s something you can do with music so wonderfully, and I’m always, like, “Why isn’t everyone doing this?”


Impressions of an “exploiter”—five scenes of Lopatin’s creative plunder (Titles in bold indicate selections by Lopatin himself):


Citing procedural poetry technique, OULIPO (an abbreviation for the French “Ouvroir de littérature potentielle” and roughly translating to “workshop of potential literature”), as a major influence, it’s not hard to see the connection between Lopatin’s “slicing” his vocal simulations across the melodic line of tracks like “Still Life” and Raymond Queneu’s Cent mille milliards de poèmes (A Hundred Thousand Billion Poems). Inspired by the horizontal strips of those exquisite corpse-like children’s picture books, Queneu applies the same technique to a book of ten sonnets, where each page was cut into fourteen strips to generate infinite syntactic possibilities.

One also gets the sense that the original lyrics sheet follows a Oulipian constraint of “N+7”, where every noun is replaced by the seventh noun after it in a dictionary, except that ‘N’ is replaced by ‘R’ for the album title—R Plus Seven. What the recurrent ‘R’ of all the most recent Oneohtrix albums stands for is anyone’s guess.

2. Get Lamp

A talking heads documentary following the stories and the people behind early “computer adventure games”. In the early eighties, enthusiasts in universities and engineering companies created these primitive text adventure games, spanning a maze of puzzles and stories to create a world of “living books” in a computer. Lopatin also attempts to embed his own personal narrative in the “interactive fiction” of R Plus Seven the album and beyond.

3. Tableau Vivant

Tableau vivant, which is French for “living picture”, was an early form of entertainment, predating radio, film, and television, and peaking as an art form in the late 19th century. It combines stage, painting, and photography into a scene posed by costumed and theatrically lit models.

As another level down the strata of inspiration, tableau is cited as an influence on the development of the “visual novel”. It’s a branch of the aforementioned “interactive fiction” and prevalent in Japan, where static, usually anime style-graphics, complement narration of these programs made for PC.

4. Georges Schwizgebel’s The Rapture of Frank N Stein (1982)

If you watch this ten-minute animation by Swiss filmmaker Georges Schwizgebel, you’ll not only recognize the haunting, bare, and dreary room of the R Plus Seven album cover, you’ll also notice the similarly eerie tone of its soundtrack. And that’s not mentioning the apocalyptic connotations of its title reflected in the recently banned video for “Still Life (betamale)” by artist Jon Rafman. (Although banned from YouTube, as of time of writing it is still viewable on Vimeo and OPN’s own site.)

According to online electronic music community Data Garden, Lopatin and media archeologist Daniel Rehn are developing an interactive model based on Schwizgebel’s film.

5. Omnisphere Spectrasonics

If you listen through this demonstration of the patches available on Spectrasonics’ virtual synthesiser Omnisphere, you’ll recognise some of the sounds in R Plus Seven. When talking about some of the sounds he used, Lopatin had this to say: “I was getting really in into MIDI and getting really into the micro detail of MIDI, that I could do finally that I never could do before; getting really specific about note placement and changing tempos, stuff like that. I just thought “He She” sounded right with an upright bass. What you heard was some sort of plucked instrument, like ‘Kind David’s Lyre’ was the name of it, it was really funny.” ~


Oneohtrix Point Never’s R Plus Seven is out now on Warp. He plays Berhain in Berlin on Friday, October 4th. 

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