Monthly Archives: May 2012

Fukt Machinery Blues (featuring Brian Eno, Xorcist and Laurent Garnier)

Most of my music listening is done while driving to and from work, a 40-minute drive through some of the blandest rural “scenery” ever conjured by a god who obviously had more interesting things to do elsewhere. The only distractions from the flat, long-but-seems-longer drive are either of the OH SHIT! variety or the oh… shit… variety.

OH SHIT! = me driving at 70 mph and being suddenly cut off by a “merging” tractor hauling some farming implement that spans two lanes and threshes or harvests or spreads or whatever when not lopping off the limbs of its inattentive driver, who is sometimes as young as 14.

oh… shit… = periodic fertilization of the many, many fields on either side of the highway, the fumes of which sail right through the vents and give the vehicle a lasting pungent odor comparable to picking up a hitchhiker who has shit his pants sometime within the last few days and who promptly, once invited inside, does it again.

The drive is long and boring and, occasional triggering of the gag reflex/brakefoot aside, there’s a ton of time available for the mind to wander. The result of this free-range brainstorming is a whole lot of tenuous connections conjured up by what those in the upper end of the medical community refer to as “synapse misfires.” That’s how we start with Brian Eno and end up being berated electronically for filesharing by a long-winded (at least electronically) Frenchman.

Buckle up. And fuck farmers. How the fuck you can cut someone off in the middle of nowhere, with no cars within a mile in either direction of mine, baffles, amazes and completely infuriates me.

Brian Eno – Glitch.mp3

While most track titles of the “ambient electronica” variety have about as much to do with whatever’s going on musically as organized religion has to do with making people good, Glitch sounds EXACTLY like a track named “Glitch” should. Distortion mars the vocals. The electronics sound like they’re on their last legs (diodes?).

The whole thing resembles the early analog days of the electronic scene in which beatboxes and other devices were notoriously imperfect and more fallible than their operators, who worked around these limitations by either constructing their own devices (Richard D. James), freeing the glitchy instrument from its preset limitations (several acid house/techno producers who turned the Roland TB-303 into a sonic weapon via creative destruction of the factory presets) or driving around in a tank (Richard D. James).

The combination of old-school electronics and vocal distortion recalls the early, promising days of industrial music, several years before Ministry infected everyone with guitarattack through its wanton promiscuity and careless needle usage. Back when everyone was still using cheap synths and buggy sequencers to craft hell-on-earth soundscapes. In particular, Glitch reminds me of Xorcist, who made aurally-damaged tracks using a combination of vintage synths and vocals so distorted they sounded curdled. ( I realize “curdled” is not a very electronic term, but that’s what it sounds like and that’s the word I’m using. Like strangled/distorted to the point of solidification.)

Xorcist – Iron Helix.mp3

I first heard this track on a 21st Circuitry compilation and then proceeded to track down a couple more of his releases, Phantoms and Damned Souls.

Xorcist’s unholy (duh) noise relies is generated with a Waldorf PPG Waveterm-A, not entirely unheard of in electronic music (see also: Tangerine Dream, Kraftwerk), but not, generally speaking, an “industrial” instrument. This base is then added to by a long list of other devices and assembled with an Atari ST computer. (Don’t knock the old comps: up until the early 2000’s, Fatboy Slim still relied on an Amiga to crank out his creations.)

Originally composed as the title track of the videogame of the same name, Iron Helix is the kind of track that perfectly defines “futuristic dystopia,” what with all the ominous vocal samples (taken from the game itself) and a martial beat that serves to remind you puny humans who’s really in charge here: the machines. Cloud services attached to human embryos and all that.

But Xorcist wasn’t just a talented paranoiac with a headful of conspiracy theories and a shitload of dodgy electronics. He also was a conscientious coworker and an all-around good guy. On the subject of Christy:

“This song was written more as a joke than anything else for a co-worker at this company I used to work at. This guy had a crush on this porno star, Christy Canyon, which went beyond any normal fixation. So in dedication of such admiration, I wrote this song along with rigging his computer to boot up with a picture of Christy in all her ‘glory’ and left the tape in his cubicle one morning.”

[Note: The following audio is definitely NSFW and likely, NSFH unless you like answering several questions for your SO and/or children about your internet browsing.]

Xorcist – Christy.mp3

Now, take a look at your co-workers and ask yourself if any of those slackers would do this sort of thing for you. The answer is “no” and the sooner you can upgrade your workstation to “vengeful sentience,” the better. THAT’S RIGHT! WHO’S CLEANING OUT THE LUNCHROOM FRIDGE NOW, BITCHES?

One more from Xorcist. This track runs an astounding 11:25 but never slouches into just killing time. It’s one of his darkest pieces and it’s really worth listening to all the way through at least once. What appears to be an ode to a cosmonaut makes a lot more sense when you hold your monitor up to a mirror.

Xorcist – Ygrene Citenik.mp3

Laurent Garnier – Greed (Dave Clarke Mix).mp3

Digression, meet tangent. Going back to the top of the post, Eno’s Glitch with its effed-with vocals led to Xorcist and from there (still following the vocal distortion), to Laurent Garnier, of all people, laying down a bitter little track called Greed, which points the audio finger at all you pirating pirates out there with its “lyrics:”

On the fast track of the net
I take all I can
In the lane of the highway
ISDN

MP3
ZQF[?]
JPEG
I take all I can

The vocals are twisted to various degrees while the music broods along with the intensity of someone really enjoying the living hell out of their bad mood. Techno legend Dave Clarke adds some signature cymbal loops and a few more electronic blurts and bleats in a collaborative effort to electronically box the ears of filesharers.

Some of the terminology and samples may be outdated (is that the dulcet tones of dialup I hear?) but the message is clear: download this track using the above link and make a mockery of its very intent. Lawls and such. (Also: you got off easy, lengthwise. If I could have stretched the connection, I could have followed up 11-1/2 minutes of Xorcist with 14 minutes of Garnier’s superb, seminal Acid Eiffel. Now, get out there and make the most of your free time!)

/s/CLT

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Recommended: Whitey – Lost Summer

Oh, man. This FEELS like the end. As someone once said, “Get this man a label. He’s bleeding talent all over the internet.” Lost Summer is the sound of Whitey bleeding out.

Whitey has indicated that this latest album might be his last and Lost Summer’s resolute lack of daylight certainly makes it seem like this Might Be It. Not that 2010’s Canned Laughter was a sunlit stroll in park, but it seemed to be the end result of massive dickery, specifically Whitey’s intended sophomore album Great Shakes being handed out to the internet via the all-too-popular delivery system known as  “leakage by ‘journalist'”. Canned Laughter was a dysphoric ( the opposite of “euphoric” and just why the hell isn’t that a word, Chrome?) examination the world in general, heavily influenced by a back full of knife wounds. It was hoped that with this event relegated to the past, Whitey would be right back on track (and possibly, a label) and ready to lay down another set of tuneful cynicism mixed with large doses of fully-exposed heart.

But as best laid plans go, they went, disappearing into the night with not as much as a chaste kiss on cheek and vague promises of calling “sometime.” Whitey spent the next year and change approaching label after label with no success. For awhile it seemed as though Dim Mak (which handled distribution of his debut in the US) might pick up his (at that point untitled) followup to Canned Laughter, but that deal fell through, sending Whitey looking for other options. 

When not being turned down cold, Whitey was also “offered” so-funny-I-might-die 360 contracts that promised to take half of everything he made in exchange for little more than vague distribution assistance. While I can appreciate the fact that today’s climate (for lack of a better, more concise word) makes it extremely difficult to sell tons of music, it seems as though a label might be able to do something better than offer to take half of any income that might trickle in if you can somehow manage to work past their active disinterest and bring in a little cash.

So, Whitey took matters into his own hands, going direct and offering up his latest, Lost Summer, via Bandcamp. While this does mean that a majority of the income ends up in his pockets, it also requires that he turn himself into his own pimp. Not that artists have ever been able to completely avoid turning themselves out on the proverbial corner to make money, but along with the monetary advantages of a self-release comes the realization that you’ll be spending a lot of your time contorted into various awkward positions in order to drive listeners to your stuff, all while hopefully avoiding the appearance of running a one-man spam botnet.

You add this all up and you get Lost Summer, an “It is finished” of an album. It doesn’t make the error of blaming the world for being the world, a generally shitty place filled with generally shitty people, but instead moves past denial into acceptance. Things are the way things are, and if that’s the case, this is where Whitey (very possibly) gets off. “It’s been fun and all, but I think I’m completely funned out.”


In addition to the general bleakness of the album, Whitey has gone much heavier with the electronics, delivering a set of songs that, while very much Whitey, sound like the darker moments (and there’s a lot of those) in Fluke/Syntax’s catalog (especially the latter).

Lost Summer throws down bad vibes right out of the gate, opening with tortured strains of Also sprach Zarathustra, performed with piss-take gusto by what sounds like a drunken elementary school band on the verge of flunking out. The front-loaded sarcastic portentousness drops into a slumming, scuzzy bassline before the drums arrive, along with Whitey’s opening statement:

Gone
Whatever’s to be is gone
And all that is left is ashes


Whee.

Good times.

There are bigger issues at play in Nobody Made the Monster, but it’s hard to avoid reading Whitey’s personal and artistic struggles into the narrative.

Brief and Bright uses slightly warmer tones to deliver its “live each day as though it were your last” message, a simple, affirming statement safely inoculated against over-enthusiasm by the recognition that living this way takes it own toll. Two or three decades down the road, it’s hard to tell those who cared too much from those who never cared at all. The candle that burns twice as bright, etc.

People implicates mankind for its duplicitous nature, led by dirge-like organ tones. Saturday Night Ate Our Lives is Sorted For E’s & Wizz twenty years down the road, exhausted by long weekends of losing it and the longer weeks of trying to recover everything given away so freely mere days before.

It’s not all gloom and doom-laden chords, however. The title track bustles along at a cheerful pace even if the lyrics don’t necessarily match the mood. If this were the sort of a situation where anyone was concerned with a leadoff single, Lost Summer would be the front-runner. Deadeyes bangs along like Wrap It Up v.2, sounding a bit like Digitalism but with lyrics you’ll actually care about.


There’s plenty of hooks that’ll catch in your head and most of it rivals the best stuff on Great Shakes. It’s a stronger, more cohesive work than Canned Laughter even if the trajectory of the mood picks up right where that album left off. (On the edge of a cliff. With the world shouting “Jump!”) It might be resolutely grim but it’s not as if no one’s ever crafted great albums out of pain and darkness. (See also: Disintegration, OK Computer, pretty much everything by the Antlers…)

And is that hope (of all things) I hear in the last track (See You Next Time)? [A track, by the way, that rivals my all-time favorite Whitey song, Made of Night, in scope and impossibly beautiful sadness.) A promise escaping the wan smile that is Lost Summer?

Some see the signs
Say life’s a circle not a line
And we’ll be back another time


It might be. Whitey said this one could be his final album. The last track leaves the door cracked open for a sequel. But even if nothing else appears, it’s been an exhilarating ride.

/s/CLT

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A Complete Waste of a Perfectly Good Moroder

It’s sentences like these:

The iconic Italian disco producer Giorgio Moroder has recorded with Daft Punk, URB reports.

that make me feel all warm and weirdly excited in my girl parts (which I’m borrowing from a friend), and just when I’m beginning to wildly anticipate the Maximum Synth-n-Roll that this ubergroup will be producing, I run head-on into this sentence:

Moroder, whose work includes Donna Summer’s “I Feel Love”, said during an interview at the International Music Summit this week in Ibiza, Spain that he recorded a “rap” for the duo’s upcoming record.

When the annals of Music are inscribed in The Great Book of Rock (And Other Genres), this moment will be listed in Appendix 7-A: How to Make the Least of the Tools Available and offered up as a cautionary tale against being so far up your own ass as to completely miss the real opportunity in front of you and instead grab every fucking mic you have and commence with cobbling together the most pretentious piece of horseshittian electro-wank ever to be committed to 1’s and 0’s (and very likely, limited edition multi-colored TRIANGULAR 180g vinyl).

URB reports that Daft Punk asked Moroder “to go into a vocal booth and speak about his life. In the studio were multiple microphones of various vintages from the 60s to today. When Moroder asked the engineer why they had so many mics, he replied that the mic they would use would depend on what decade of his life he was speaking about. When Moroder asked if anyone would know the difference, the engineer replied ‘They will know.'”

This horrendous misuse of perhaps the GREATEST electro producer ever will redefine the word “squander.” Daft Punk’s attempt to look a gift horse in the mouth and inquire as to whether or not it could perhaps “spit a few rhymes” is a colossal misuse of the Tools Available, comparable to a person dying of kidney failure making their way to the top of the donor list and deciding to use the donated organ as a neck pillow. Or someone receiving 500 much-needed dollars out of the blue and deciding to turn it into a papier mache sculpture of $500. Or an erstwhile handyman who has spent the last hour attempting to bang nails in with the handle of a screwdriver being presented with a newly purchased hammer and, after thanking the purchaser, returning immediately to the hardware store to exchange it for some more nails.

Hey! Daft Punk! If you’re not going to follow Moroder’s specifications and Recommended Uses, why not kick him back to the rest of the musical world where someone might be able to make use of the immense talents he DOES HAVE rather than forcing him into awkward new positions and possibly VOIDING HIS WARRANTY.

/s/CLT

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Recommended: Ron Hardly – The House Sound of Chicago

If this man ever stops cranking out music, I’ll have to assume that he’s either
a.) dead
b.) lost several limbs
c.) dead of blood loss related to removal of several limbs
d.) nearing triple-digits in age and taking a well-deserved sabbatical.

Introducing Ron Hardly, whom several of you already know as Nattymari. Paying homage both in name and in primal, hammering house track(s) to Chicago house DJ, Ron Hardy, The House Sound of Chicago is 5 tracks(x) worth of old fashioned, bare bones, strobelit, straight-up house.

Briefly, Ron Hardy was one the founding fathers of house music, taking over The Warehouse after Frankie Knuckles left in 1982(!). (Just to give you some idea how far back house goes… Back far enough that Hardy made his own reel-to-reel edits and then, you know, played them back on a reel-to-reel as part of the mix. He also was one of the first DJs to seriously fuck with the EQs when DJing, bottoming out the bass to drown the high end or dropping the low end to ride the treble. And he devised his own method of playing records backwards, which involved rotating the needle upside down and dropping the wax on a cylinder that allowed the record to rest on the needle. So, shove that in yer noise-hole, everybody who’s ever said “DJs just play other peoples’ records. I don’t see what the big deal is.”)

To set the scene for Ron HardLy’s work, here’s the original Ron Hardly behind the decks (including the inverted one) and reel-to-reel working his magic. (The reversal happens at the 3:20 mark).


And here’s one more, which leads off with the mechanized, minimal banging that we’ll see tribute being paid to below:


Back to Ron “Nattymari/CurtCrackrach/NetNanny4.0/theaGitator/toomanytolist” Hardly.

The title says it all. Hardly gives off the same sweat-pouring-down-the-walls vibe that Hardy exuded during his sets, relying on a mixture of deep, soulful house and brutal, simplistic beats, the latter of which is sometimes dismissed by critics as “track-y.” As in, more a “DJ tool” than an actual “song.”

The pioneers of house, however, had their hands full producing even simplistic, “track-y” shit. Early drum machines were anything but precise, requiring the operator’s full attention to crank out anything resembling an unwavering 4/4 beat. Cobbling together a rudimentary drum track often meant several hours of dicking with presets and hoping nothing would wobble out of alignment.

Case in point: DJ Sneak’s anecdote about the genesis of his classic house track You Can’t Hide from Your Bud:

“One day in 1997, Sneak promised his friend and fellow Chicago DJ Derrick Carter a new 12-inch for Carter’s label Classic, then spent hours fruitlessly laboring over a basic, bustling four-four beat. Finally, Sneak gave in and smoked the J he’d had stashed for later in the day. When he came back inside, he carelessly dropped the needle onto a Teddy Pendergrass LP, heard the word “Well . . . ,” and realized, “That’s the sample, right there.” He threaded Pendergrass’s 20-year-old disco hit “You Can’t Hide From Yourself” through a low-pass filter to give it the effect of going in and out of aural focus, creating one of the definitive Chicago house singles. “An hour later,” he says, “I called Derrick and played it over the phone: ‘I’ve got your track.'”

Nattymari/Ron Hardly has never been shy about his preference for music to work out “wrong,” so despite today’s handy toolboxes and their metronome-like precision, he’s paying homage to the “basic, bustling four-four beats,” the track-y result of dozens of man-hours.  And track-y or not, it makes the house move:


While the whole EP is worth a listen, the standouts are tracks 2-4, each one of them a simultaneous throwdown/throwback, enjoyable on their own terms, but even more so with a little history behind them. For an artist best know for destruction and distension of other peoples’ beats, it’s a bit of a blast to hear him deploy something at full speed.

Check out the full EP at Aural Sects. While you’re there, admire the fully stocked digital shelves and pick up something for the kids. (I recommend the Thoed Myndez, the Nattymari:Obliterated and the Aparition. This is not to disparage the other artists on the roster, but for every album I listen to on the back nine, another release [or two] has been uploaded to take its place. [OK, here’s a couple more: DJ Deathray and the mammoth, 61-track Icepunk compilation.]

/s/CLT

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Dinowalrus – Godstar (Psychic TV Cover)

You’ve gotta love it when a band you love covers a song you love, especially when the song covered is one of the prettier moments in a sprawling, inconsistent back catalog. Dinowalrus take on Psychic TV, one of the weirder groups to ever find itself lumped in with the industrial scene (mostly due to lead singer Genesis P. Orridge’s previous band: Throbbing Gristle).

Dinowalrus – Godstar.mp3

Godstar is an ode to former Rolling Stones’ guitarist Brian Jones. Why Psychic TV felt compelled to craft a sonic shrine to Jones is open to speculation (maybe it was the mutual appreciation of loads of drugs), but no matter the reasoning behind it, it was probably the closest Psychic TV got to pure, unadorned pop. And in Dinowalrus’ capable hands, it veers even closer, shimmering with a pristine brightness that belies the troubled subject of the song. (Brian’s doing lines with the angels now…) But the best thing about a cover like this is that it gets you looking into Psychic TV’s recorded output again. (That’s if you’re me. RESULTS ARE NOT TYPICAL.)

Along with about a million live albums, Psychic TV released several albums of near-industrial psychedelia. The oft cross-dressed P. Orridge never shied away from confrontation, controversy or following his muse down a few dead ends. Of all the cul-de-sacs Psychic TV ended up in, none was more inadvertently entertaining than its brief foray into acid house.

Two albums, Jack the Tab and Tekno Acid Beat were released as pseudonymous “compilations.” Along with Towards Thee Infinite Beat and Beyond Thee Infinite Beat, these albums  saw PTV exploring Britain’s exploding club music scene. It was a misguided exploration, though, as Genesis came to the not-altogether-erroneous conclusion that the “acid” in “acid house” referred to LSD rather than the acidic tones of brutalized Roland TB-303 bass emulators. An easy mistake to make, especially if you’re a tourist. Drug use was not unheard of in the club scene (UNDERSTATEMENT), so perhaps the confusion was inevitable.

However, PTV’s two “acid house” albums went long on their slightly-off take on house music and were completely bereft of “acid,” not counting P. Orridge’s no doubt prodigious intake of LSD. So while these albums don’t stand up on their own merits (that being: acid house albums), they do stand up as a curiosity permanently relegated to the outside of the scene. In terms of PTV’s output, the Jack the Tab albums (along with the/Thee twin Infinite Beat follow-ups) are a driveby two-off (like a one-off, only with two albums dedicated to misunderstanding the scene). There’s a sort of a tuneful darkness to some of the tracks (Black Rain) and some naff house tracks (much of the remainder), but there’s also a few keepers.

Psychic TV – M.E.S.H. (Meet Every Situation Head-on).mp3

M.E.S.H. (Meet Every Situation Head-on) is the power of positive thinking as relayed by a drug-addled man in a full-length dress. Jigsaw has a nice minimal funk to it. But if there’s one song to keep from these albums, it’s Joy with its filtered and phased “J-O-Y” refrain and its filtered and phased everything else. Hardly danceable but also hardly anything but a dance track. You can dance to it, but your moves will have more in common with Ian Curtis’ near-epileptic movements (the only way to dance to Joy Division — see also PTV’s tribute to Ian Curtis, I.C. Water) than today’s raver staples (like that hand thing – if you’ve seen it, you know what I’m talking about).

BONUS OBSERVATION: Witch house impresario(s) and all-around mystery men Mater Suspiria Vision seem to be borrowing a page from PTV’s design manual. You can’t sell the brand without a logo. Compare the following two images:

A wonderful stroll down memory lane, as far as that goes. (About 700 words, it would appear.) But we’re here to talk about DINOWALRUS, are we not?!!? We are! So… let’s do exactly that.

A new memory lane.

If I’m not mistaken I was first pointed in the direction of Dinowalrus by ultra-fine music blog Waves at Night which, up until recently, sported a revolving set of background images that would occasionaly, without warning, fill your entire screen (other than what you were reading) with bare female nipples. The site is now much S’er for W and the quality of the music featured remains high, if a little disco-heavy.

The descriptor “drum and drone” caught my eye, as did the band name, an unlikely match of animals, the likes of which the world hadn’t seen since the underrated Cabin Boy, which featured a mythical Halfsharkalligatorhalfman.

Then there was the track title: Electric Car, Gas Guitar.

A very short internal conversation followed. “There’s no way we’re not listening to that!” Sounding pretty much like Hawkwind allowing Lemmy to make all the creative decisions, ECGG is an exhilarating sonic headbutt, not miles away from the muscular post-DFA1979 spacerockfunk of That Fucking Tank.

But the track that took me from fist-pumping rookie to fist-pumping acolyte was Mae Shi’s remix of Nuke Duke’Em, which dials back the speedometer a bit while applying plenty of low-end thump.

Dinowalrus – Nuke Duke’Em (Mae Shi Remix).mp3

Then, of course, there was Actually, the best Spiritualized song ever to not appear on a Spiritualized album (click through for some more CLT wordage).

On top of all this great music and stylistic shift, Dinowalrus is one of the better reads on Twitter (this feels like the most left-handed compliment of all, but I assure you, it is not), ranking right up there with That Fucking Tank (again) and HEALTH (some grains of salt and a strong stomach occasionally need with this last one), all three of which are lively and active enough to remind you that an ACTUAL FUCKING HUMAN BEING is running the Twit, rather than just some PR flack pressing “SPAM” repeatedly.

/s/CLT

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Recommended: The Cult of Mr. Light – For a New Conception of Time

I was given a copy of this album a few hours before its release by Revolving Door Records label head ƸC†OPL∆SM. It seems odd to say “given” considering the album is freely available at Bandcamp, with the emphasis on FREEly, but nonetheless I was given a few hours’ head start with the tunes. Of course, life being life, I was unable to take advantage of the advance copy, but here’s where I pay back that favor, but not before I head off on a bit of tangent.

There are a lot of netlabels and a lot of artists on those netlabels, all of whom seem to be generating hundreds of hours of music per year. At this point, my Facebook feed resembles a firehose of multicolored, symbol-laden, provocatively dressed avatars, each cranking out link after link to their stuff, their labelmates’ stuff, the stuff they listen to when not making music, the stuff they’re intending to remix/rap on/obliterate, etc. Just between ƸC†OPL∆SM (Sam Hatzaras), Nattymari (Dafydd McKaharay), Joe Royster ( Co-founder – Aural Sects netlabel; spf5Ø), Mike TXTBK, Matt Supa Solley (Sortahuman), Party Trash, Mikey Shad-do (Baku Shad-do netlabel) and the Amdiscs label, there’s more music being foisted upon the public than any one human being could reasonably be expected to listen to.

You know that old complaint about how piracy has taken away the incentive to create because nobody can make money with music anymore? Well, that’s obviously complete bullshit. This may mean those who were used to getting paid (back in the day) have lost the will, but sweet goddamn christ, it doesn’t seem to be slowing down anyone who’s been creating without the expectation of getting paid. If anything, this whole internet thing has turned them into some sort of compulsive creators and we, the people on the receiving end, are the beneficiaries of a leveled playing field, even if that means that we’ll constantly be swimming upstream against a torrent (or with torrents – piracy joke lol) of incoming music, knowing we’ll always be at least a foot under metaphoric water.

Go, just go and click this link for an example of what I’m talking about. This is the Aural Sects netlabel. Click on that link. I’m not even asking. DO IT. Click and gaze in wonderment at the almost-literal wall of album covers. Each of those represents, at the very least, two tracks to listen to. Many of those are full albums. Some are the internet equivalent of double albums. By the time you’ve finished gazing at that and reading this sentence, Royster and his conspirators will likely have uploaded another 15-track compilation and a couple of EPs and is, even as we “speak,” dumping the links into my Facebook firehose. (Abbreviated hereafter in this set of parentheses only as “FaceHose” for maximum comic effect.)

I wish all these guys (and girls) the best. Holy shit. They’re amazing. The counterargument (often delivered by the same people that think no one will create without incentives) is that if it’s for free and there’s that much of it, it must be about 90% shit. It’s a terrible argument, based more on leftover physical label elitism than on any, you know, research. Not only that, but this “counterargument” fails to take into account a little thing called “subjectivity.” One person’s 90% shit is another person’s 90% gold. Even if it is 90% shit (and it definitely isn’t), at the prices they’re charging, you can afford to bin 9 out 10 songs. You’re not going to be out of much, if anything, other than time.

That’s where I hit the wall: time. There’s no way to keep up with it all. I’ve downloaded several albums, dumped them into the mp3 player and am now making my way through them at my own pace, which is roughly 1/100th of the speed that it’s being generated. There’s some amazing stuff, some merely good stuff, a lot of average stuff and a few absolute clunkers. But all that statement means is that it’s exactly like any other genre distributed in any other fashion. Just because there’s no limited edition vinyl and radio airplay and etc. does not mean the quality of the music is any more or any less than anything else out there. The ratio of bad-to-good is no different with these netlabels as it is with other, more “acceptable” labes, whether it’s Fat Possum or Sub Pop or 4AD or Sony.

So, you have this constant onslaught of NEW STUFF.  And if you’re going to deal with it, you going to need some filters. I’m one. Other blogs are. I’m a clogged filter though, time having filled most of the holes with two jobs, a house and a family to take care of. Consequently, there’s a backlog of dozens (quite possibly hundreds) of songs I want to write about and even more albums that I’d like to review, all trapped in my filter, unable to make it further in my position as your filter. If I could limit myself to 30 words and a something-out-of-5 rating system, I might be making some progress. But when I like something, I want people to know why I like it. And if that’s not enough, I want people to understand the how of why I like it, if that makes sense, which takes even more time, because there will be pictures and links and digressions and inside jokes.

This is how I do it. “Be a music writer. It’ll be easy. You like music, right? The shit practically writes itself and there’s plenty of music out there. Easy. LOLOLOLOL. [Laughter trails off leaving only an uncomfortably manic gleam in my eye as it watches my FB wall fill up YET AGAIN.]”

But, getting back to the recommended album at hand. I was specifically given this to listen to. I had some time free up and I listened. And I was blown away.

I’m not sure why I expected less. Maybe it’s the numbing effect of running into a scrolling wall of creative effort every time I log into the Feeb. Maybe it’s the fact that between Soundcloud, Bandcamp and Youtube, these artists I’m in contact with are adding to their CVs pretty much around the clock and while they’re keeping the hose going, I can only dip in periodically and hope to come up with a winner. Maybe it’s the feeling that, while I expected it to be a good listen based on the pedigree (thus making it full of Things I Like), I didn’t expect it to be as great as it is.

Keep in mind: without Hatzaras singling me out, it would have been caught up in the firehose/loop that I’m praising/complaining about at great length. It would have scrolled by and fallen off the radar, ending up far away from my ears. Which would have been a real shame, because it’s a solid, inventive album that goes far beyond the scene that surrounds it.

The Cult of Mr. Light (Alexein P Oris and Phelyx Lambert) have crafted a stellar album and you don’t have to be tuned in to witch house, drag, icepunk, seapunk, juke, or any of a million other microgenres (each one full of unstoppable creative bastards, all attaching their own feed lines to my INCOMING FB scroll) to enjoy it. You just have to like music.

It’s essentially genre-less. Electronica, except with huge doses of acoustic guitar. Ambient, except with moments of tense propulsion. Industrial, except more prone to borrow from Italo-horror soundtracks and late-70s sci-fi-obsessed disco. It’s hardly everything to all people but it is definitely not for genre divisionists or electronica acolytes only.

Firing it up, I was hit with the first of many unexpectations: acoustic guitar. The reptilian brain recoils slightly, wondering a bit about whether this album might just be someone’s pretensions masquerading as music. (The “reptilian brain” is borrowed from someone, but I can’t remember who. P.J. O’Rourke? David Foster Wallace? Help me out here. [Use the comment thread.]) “I didn’t sign on for THIS.” I tuned down my internal dialogue and went browsing elsewhere as the track unfolded pleasantly before veering down a very dark alleyway in which lurked David Lynch and Angelo Badalamenti, waiting to beat me up for my drug money and abuse me with violent sexual imagery. The reptile brain subsides.

And then thrills. Track 2, Phone Calls from God is straight up electronics, a 2-1/2 minute ominous set of oscillations, leading into another surprise left turn with Space Fanfare (see above), which finds the complementary tones of Italo-horror soundtracks and retro-futuristic space disco (Goblin vs. Gianni Rossi, basically).

Many, many more highlights follow. Neon Island is the sound of a waking dream. And not a good one. Hallucinogenic and eerie without having to resort to the cliché of doom-laden chords from the “heavy” end of the keyboard. Tribute to Glauber Rocha brings back the acoustic guitar, resulting in something almost pretty enough to play in mixed company, but still spiked with surface tension. Assassins is Middle Eastern pop falling apart on a faulty reel-to-reel, menaced by various electronic devices.

Then there’s Interzone, which really deserves a post of its own. Electronica-space-rock that scorches the earth while heading for the stars, sounding like Hawkwind with a headful of steam and a welcome sense of focus. Without resorting to a guitar-heavy sound, The Cult of Mr. Light manage to erect something that could very possibly kick out the jams, motherfuckers, if given a little shove. Or less profanely, the ultra-tight retrolectro sound of Giorgio Moroder producing Palermo Disko Machine under the influence of a fistful of amphetamines. I’ve played this one repeatedly and respectfully suggest you do the same.

The final track is an extended coda, surpassing the 10-minute mark without requiring you to a.) zone out or b.) muscle through it. There’s an underlying theme that never goes away, but does get fucked about with in a rather amiable fashion. It unwinds and recoils reflexively, circling itself and unveiling new twists every few minutes.

In summation: a fucking brilliant album and one that makes me wonder just how much other truly great shit I’m missing by being unable to keep up with my FB feed. Probably lots, if I’m honest. Which is my loss, and consequently, yours as well. But I’m trying. To everyone I pointed out way, way back in the introductory paragraphs, I’ll get to you. Really, I will. It may not be timely, but it will be… eventual… I guess. Go and download For A New Conception of Time. You won’t regret it.

/s/CLT

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Filed under Commentary, Electronica

AIDS-3D: Witch House Forerunners or Pitch-Shifting Anomaly?

This post has been on the back-burner for awhile now. I originally planned to write this up more than a month ago, but when I dove back into it, certain links and references I was planning to use seemed to have just… disappeared.

I was first clued in to the existence of AIDS-3D via Wikipedia’s “Witch House” page. On returning (Wire ref, yo),  I found the skeletal remains of Wiki’s take on witch house and any references to AIDS-3D and their connection to the scene excised. That’s the first oddity.

So, veering away from that dead end, I decided to revisit their official website, aids-3d.com, where I had previously downloaded several of their freely distributed tracks. But that trail has gone cold as well. At some point during the last couple of months, the site went dead, leaving me with the dozen or so tracks I had helped myself to months ago, but not much else in the way useful information.

What remains on the web deals almost exclusively with their physical art projects. There is little to no information on their music.

Here’s what we do know: AIDS-3D is a two-man art collective composed of Americans Daniel Keller and Nik Kosmas, both of whom now reside in Germany. In addition to the OMG Obelisk featured above, AIDS-3D has also done several other art installations, including one in which they re-purposed sneeze guards.

There’s also this video, which features a alightly different mix of Spreading Love All Over the World  (found below) as interpreted by a dancer. (The video itself is part of a Vimeo group called “NOS: Naked on Stage,” so keep that in mind if clicking thru at work.)

We also have a little information about the group’s charming name itself: AIDS-3D. Definitely a provocative combination, but charmingly enough, the algorithmic output generated by a piece of software used by brand consultants to develop brand names — in this case, the brand consultant was… Daniel Keller’s mom.

Dan’s mom, is a well-known brand consultant, and she helped develop the AIDS-3D trademark for us. She uses a fairly complicated computer program to develop ‘brand-idents’ for her clients. This program (I can’t remember the name of it), simulates suggestibility/response levels in various microdemographics using a huge amalgamation of data like google searches, brainwave scanning, credit reports, numerology, psychoanalytic statistics, etc. The program suggested AIDS-3D as a perfect fusion of our mutual interests in contemporary art, social activism and state-of-the-art technology.

Now, there seems to be no direct link between the pitch manipulations of AIDS-3D’s remix work and the DJ Screw emulations of several members of the witch house genre. The most probable explanation is that AIDS-3D performed these deconstructions on their own and witch housers found something they liked — a kindred set of tempo-fuckers and welcomed them unofficially into the fold, as a sort of after-the-fact association.  The dates listed on their former mp3 page (page is dead, but oddly enough, hosting still seems to alive [or archive.org does a much more thorough job than I thought] — most of the tracks are still downloadable) range from 2007-2009, putting them very slightly ahead of the witch house curve.

AIDS-3D still maintains an active Soundcloud page but the tracks featured there include none of the work that was archived at their now-dead website. One of their uploads is the improbably titled North Face® Winter 2012 Mens SmartPhone Demo, which is, in fact, none of the things listed in the name. It’s a mixtape that flows like a DJ set played on the world’s shittiest set of belt drive turntables. The tempo shifts up and down, going from “walking underwater” speed to post-happy-hardcore 200 BPM freeform techno.

No attempt is made to “normalize” any of this set (bpm, vox, etc.), because, honestly, when you’re already this far beyond the “DJ set pale,” why even bother. It’s an experience that many would dismiss with the left-handed compliment “interesting,” if not bypassing niceties completely and dismissing it as “fucking annoying.” It is (“interesting”) and it isn’t (annoying). And it is definitely worth a listen. (It runs at 666.0 BPM, apparently):


Now that we’ve explored this dead end, let’s move on to the music I (apparently) salvaged from the defunct aids-3d.com, most of which was filed under the heading “11 Songs I Like More When I Slow Them Down.”

AIDS-3D – RushRush.mp3

Skyscrapers and ultraviolence, cruising at warp speed in a faux NYC, driving a faux sports car, looking for faux trouble, Radio Flashback cranked All The Way Up. “Rush rush get the yayo.” Cocaine makes the world go ’round.

AIDS-3D takes one of my favorite tracks from the Grand Theft Auto III soundtrack and sedates the hell out of it. Throwing the brakes on Blondie’s ode to the Drug of the Eighties, AIDS-3D turns Rush Rush into the zombified shuffle of a burnout. It still retains some of its reckless cheerfulness, but the pitch-shifting turns the vocals into the time-stands-still molasses drip of forced withdrawal (and takes them right up to the edge of farcical “Techno Vocals.”)

AIDS-3D – Spreading Love All Over the World (Moore’s Law Remix).mp3

There’s a bit of a nerdy joke contained within this track. Familiarity with the law itself is a bonus as it explains AIDS-3D’s insistence on spinning the dials to infinity, taking the bpm from “casual stroll” to “Six Million Dollar Man.” Not completely unprecedented (see also: Moby’s Thousand) but still enjoyable.

Much like blogging, fucking with electronics to build yourself an in-joke is its own reward: the joy of expression that is (mostly) undeterred by a lack of attention. “If nothing else, I’m amusing myself.” There is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

AIDS-3D – Girl

AIDS-3D takes on Suicide’s Girl because musical antagonists make the best music, especially when combined. Confrontational minimalists Suicide get confronted by transplanted Germans with a knack for running the pitch well below zero. Alan Vega’s gasps, moans and half-croon/half-choke vocals take on even more weight as they’re dialed back into hellish invocation territory. At 11 minutes, this one might run a bit long, but that’s the way AIDS-3D rolls, but rest assured, it doesn’t seem anywhere near that long, perhaps do to the fact that the audio drops completely out around the 6-minute mark.

AIDS-3D – I Just Wanna Fuck.mp3

If several minutes of a remixed Suicide threnody is too much for you, why not unwind with whoever the fuck this is being unwound even further by AIDS-3D? Nothing fancy going on here. Just a screwed loop repeating over some beats that make click tracks look positively ostentatious. Again, not for everyone, but it does hold a bit of brutalist allure. Turn it up loud enough and you’ll hear some unexpected guitar strumming kick in about halfway through.

AIDS-3D – ZOMBIE.mp3

We’ll leave on a relatively high note. AIDS-3D takes on Zombie Nation’s colossal club hit Kernkraft 400. Oddly enough, the beat seems to pick up exactly where I Just Wanna Fuck left off, leading me to speculate that some of these tracks may have been part of a larger mix at one point.

Like every other track here, it’s nothing as simple as simply turning the dials to the left. Most of AIDS-3D’s reworks sound as if they’ve actually done their own drum programming, rather than just rely on the pitched-down tempo to do all the heavy rhythmic lifting.  If you’re interested in more, well… I’m not sure what to tell you. Normally, I’d say something like “go to AIDS-3D’s site to pick up more” but all that would get you is your favorite browser’s impersonation of an Alzheimer’s patient. (Save yourself and your browser the embarrassment and sneak up on it via archive.org.)

If nothing else, AIDS-3D will continue on as an artistic entity, while their musical efforts will apparently be largely secondary. Travelling slightly ahead of witch house makes for some entertaining theories but beyond that all we’ve got is a chunk of speculation and a dead website. THESE THINGS HAPPEN. I’m going to keep poking around. If I find anything, I’ll be dropping it off here.

/s/CLT

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Filed under Electronica, Remixes