Or, Just Hold My Ears Until I Get the Hang of It
I’ve spoken about netlabel Aural Sects before, both in regards to the sheer volume of music available as well as highlighting one specific over-productive member of the roster. By my latest estimate, Aural Sects has nearly 70,000 hours of music uploaded, spread across more releases than The Fall and Psychic TV combined. This is a very rough estimate and it’s probably better for all involved if no actual maths are used to verify my claims. Just trust me — there is an entire digital semi-trailer full of music contained on the other end of the link above and god help you if you decide you’re going to be a completist and listen to the entire catalog.
That being said, I am actually trying to be that person that god will hopefully help and have begun digging into the catalog, starting from the top. This is being done in reverse-chronological order to ensure that by the time I reach the bottom of the list, everything I have to say about those albums will be rendered instantly irrelevant six months ago. (Yes. That is a mixture of tenses but [again] trust me, a Sisyphean task like this has that sort of effect on a person. But we don’t really have time to waste discussing this. The past awaits… in the future!)
So, here it is: the inaugural edition of The Super-Sectsy Sounds of the Aural Sects Netlabel*, to be followed periodically and sporadically by other “Greatest Hit” volumes in the near-to-distant future. The best part about this is that most of this music can easily be had for less than the price of a pack of stolen smokes. Additional fun fact: if you lined up all of Aural Sects’ releases end-to-end, you’re probably tripping balls.
*Name VERY likely to change in the near future. Send suggestions to the Comment section below.
ian curtis wishlist describes his music as “loud dreamy electronic” and as far as pithy descriptions go, this one is very accurate. flutters is definitely “loud” (your personal speaker setting may vary), opening with a metallic-edged breakbeat not too far removed from Tronik Youth’s productions. It settles into something more befitting the title though, and heads for the “dreamy” end of the spectrum (but without completely ditching the concussive percussion), comparing very favorably to one of my favorite albums of 2K10, Helsinki Forever by Cyan Tablets. (Obscure, yes. But I’ll embed something below.)
emma’s house, however, is pure “dreamy.” You could say something about the Cocteau Twins, but we’ve all used that comparison too often already (yes, The Music Press in General, I mean you). Instead, let’s just say this: emma’s house positively shimmers, sounding improbably like something ancient and angelic breaking the surface of the ocean and rising into the sky, refracting light and exuding an aura of spectacular power tempered by immeasurable love.
[For comparison’s sake, here’s Cyan Tablets.]
The next four tracks are taken from another massive compilation, this one running 49 tracks in length and dedicated to in equal parts to video game culture and scene figurehead Blam Lord, curator of Blam Blam Fever.
Label co-creator Spf5Ø and compilation namesake Blam Lord go at it over the nearly-dead body of boy hero Link (like maybe 1/2 a heart left at this point) and his mostly-submerged canned bleeps. Darker than a power outage in a basement apartment and at least as claustrophobic.
The mysterious DVCKDVCK also takes the darker road less traveled (but still somehow littered with corpses… ???), going to his (her?) unhappy place and finding solace with fellow travelers like Gatekeeper and Zombie Zombie. Reminds one (the royal “one,” meaning me) of The Thing soundtrack, which is high praise indeed considering at one point in my past, I shelled out over 4,400 words gushing about that film. Insistent, dark electronica, which for my money is the best kind of electronica.
If you had asked me at any point in the past whether I would ever consider listening to a track based on Donkey Kong 64 and produced by an odd pairing of a Dutch woman named Cornelia and a bottle of Coppertone who had apparently set their default font to Wingdings, I would have replied with: “What? Are you high?” And you would have said, in something approaching a paranoid whisper, “Why? Is someone here?” And I would have said, “No, but I do need the rent by the 5th.” And you would have made some non-committal noise and retired to your darkened, smoky bedroom. And while I truly felt that you were a pretty cool dude underneath it all and yes, the fucking drug war is a complete sham, that still doesn’t help me find $300 extra by the time rent is due.
Years later, we’d look back on this and laugh, what with us both being grown-ass adults with high-speed internet connections. And then you’d ask me again, and I’d say, “Funny you should mention that. I just heard something EXACTLY along those lines.”
Cornelia Van Rijswijk, part of art collective Post-Religion, and very possibly not even Dutch but something more exotic, joins Spf5Ø for this enjoyable and disturbing take on an old classic. The hoots and howls of digital apes are reshaped into something approximating a modem with a speech impediment. Behind all the ill-ly communicating electronics runs a minimal but effective buzz-and-minor-chord backdrop, turning the whole piece into every moral panicker’s wet dream. Video games, even ones with monkeys*, are evil.
Jowie Schulner, an actual Dutch person, turns in a piece that wouldn’t sound out of place in the Chariots of Fire soundtrack, I completely shit you not. It would be prime running-on-the-beach music if it weren’t so retro-futuristic. If you’re running on the beach listening to this, it’s probably night and something unstoppable is probably chasing you. Or you’re running from yourself in that metaphoric way that people in montages do with alarming frequency. But one way or another, this is propulsive music, loaded with atmospheric touches but never bulky, overstuffed or anything less than streamlined tonal muscle.
Fifty Grand’s Kafka-esque cover art and
his her methadone shuffle beats are not for those who like their listening “easy” or their cover art “roach-free,” but since I don’t personally know anybody like that, I’m going to assume that the rest of you don’t either and so, fuck ’em, let’s all take a listen to this while gazing up at that.
To be completely honest, I about turned this track off. The beat was heading dangerously close to “bog downtempo” along with the few tones that could be picked up. Fortunately for me (and the rest of you), I was otherwise occupied (minds back up out of the gutter — I was cleaning the kitchen). But with about 2:40 left in the track, that… noise… kicked in. And the beat stopped. The tones changed. The beat picked back up along with a new set of tones, at once brighter but also more haunting. And it kept getting better. By the two-thirds of the way through it, I was sure I was listening to a lost track from the Twin Peaks soundtrack, especially during the last minute or so. And now I’m hooked.
High Park and zxz hit your eardrums like something being played at the last rave on earth, a for-the-hardcore hymn delivered via blown speakers and the constant hum of generators devouring millions of years of decomposition with each passing minute. Smoke belches from malfunctioning equipment and it’s only a matter of time before the crowd resorts to cannibalism.
There are hoover synths, busted-ass beats and diva vocals, none of which arrive with clarity or subtlety, but in this metaphoric day and age, subtlety’s a luxury and spending a few hours out of your radiation-flayed mind and your corpse-except-for-the-breathing body via a pummeling rush of soundwaves is the only high you can still afford.
A bit less pounding than Bondage (and what isn’t, lol etc… oh, wait, that’s the SM side, joke retracted), Space instead aims more for your mind’s eye, swirling synths around and affecting something approaching bounce before chucking it all for a moment and just letting the sludge rise to the surface. It’s only momentary but it colors the remainder of the track, turning it from skygaze into nogaze, the dead-eyed shuffle of the blind leading the damned. Still dark. Still good. Still in the running for the post-apocalyptic edition of Jock Jams 2xx9, The Year It All Went Sentient.
Have you ever asked yourself “What would a marching band sound like if someone with some taste wrote the sheet music?” Of course not. Who the fuck would wander around asking themselves questions like that. It’s ridiculous. First of all, we’ve all heard Tusk and, frankly, it’s not the horns so much as it is the drums, so you could toss the brass and keep the drum corp and still be 400-500x as awesome as your average marching band, who at this very minute are attempting to provide the definitive marching band cover of Louie, Louie and failing. Fuck them. And fuck that song.
But you can do kickass things with horns and, CONCEIVABLY, an entire marching band. And if you’re going to upend the scholastic system and its rigid adherence to old, boring standards, then you might as well go all the way and pick some guy with numbers in his name to do it. Because shit almighty, if you’re going to blaze new trails, burn new bridges and fuck the homecoming crowd right in the goddamn ear, you’re going to want THIS converted to sheet music and handed out to the pep band along with some amyl nitrate and blacker-than-their-sleepless-eyes uniforms and tell them to GET OUT and PLAY THE FUCK OUT OF THIS.
Sucker them in with the low-key funereal procession of a New Orleans funeral procession (wordplay is fun!) and get the drums rolling a bit and the snares kicking it on the high end, playing off the low-end thump. Then let it unwind like a coiled serpent and leave the crowd stunned momentarily but then seconds later, on its feet, either roaring its approval or baying for your blood. WIN-FUCKING-WIN.
[That is it for this volume. Vol. 1 as they say. Stay tuned for more. (And I have more, but the words, there’s so many of them already.)]