A Thoroughly Inadequate Attempt to Get a Handle on Aural Sects

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 – flutters.mp3

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.)

ian curtis wishlist – emma’s house.mp3

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.

ian curtis wishlist – receiver

[For comparison’s sake, here’s Cyan Tablets.]

Cyan Tablets – Amaretto.mp3

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.

Spf5Ø & Alt Link (aka Blam Lord) – ▲ll Bl▲ck †riforces (The Legend of Zelda).mp3

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.

DVCKDVCK – SHADOWRUN.mp3

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.

Cornelia Van Rijswijk ▼ sp5Ø – sooOOo §†rong (Donkey Kong 64).mp3

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.

*Apes, actually.

Jowie Schulner – Overlord a.k.a. Supermacy.mp3

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.

Blam Lord’s Quest

Fifty Grand – First Lucid Dream.mp3

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.

Fifty Grand – Fifty Grand

High Park & zxz – Bondage.mp3

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.

High Park & zxz – Space.mp3

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.

High Park & zxz – High Park & zxz

MADD3N – The Mill and the Cross.mp3

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.

MADD3N – M4DDN3SS

[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.)]

/s/CLT

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Filed under Electronica, Remixes

Recommended: FREEDOM – A Revolving Door Records Compilation

Revolving Door Records, home of the incomparable Cult of Mr. Light, have just (and by “just,”I mean it’s been a couple of weeks now, but IN THE WHOLE SCHEME OF THINGS) released a mind-bogglingly large compilation (53 tracks, 500 mb approx.) of multi-genre electronic noisemakers.

Ostensibly an offshoot of Der WitchHaus (along with netlabel Aural Sects and Baku Shad-do), the restless denizens of The Internet have moved far beyond the clicks, drones and nodded-off-on-the-Korg limitations of the genre into arenas as-of-yet mostly unexplored. There are new genres to made, named and discarded at the first hint of a Village Voice profile! Time waits for no man, woman or ambisexual set of Unicode characters! Where we’re going, we won’t need genres!

Granted, a half-gig of music, even at today’s prices ($000) is quite a haul, so rather than attempt to break everything down into specifics, I’m just going to give you a brief overview of my favorite tracks from the comp. On your own time (and your own dime), you can click over and download the entire set. I’m sure there’s plenty of stuff that needs a half-dozen listens before clicking in and others that will beg to be replayed over and over after being subjected to, well, subjectivity.

To the list:

DISC I

Cauzndefx – Pills (Prod. by ƸC†OPL∆SM).mp3

Spacey, off-center hip hop, lying somewhere between El-P and Kool Keith, especially their more ethereal moments (although without the latter’s occasional scatological fixations).  Lyrically rolls out a red carpet that leads straight to your medicine cabinet, namechecking Adderall (among others) and circling back to a chorus of “Dextromethamphetamine/For your black heart,” most memorably after this bit of rhyme-slinging:

Frolicking in different dimensions
dementia
found in synapse pressure the doctors
couldn’t measure
Maxine’s last breath was that of 
an ordinary type ledger
bloody journal
page 7
explained ideals on heaven
and in the margarine
was doodled spacecraft to take her away fast
forged pills with mama’s scribbles
just feel better a little
Maxine’s worst was asking for time off from this earth 

More Cauzndefx at Bandcamp.

Cult of Mr. Light – Incomplete.mp3

Given my affinity for their debut album, it’s little surprise that the CoML have turned in another brutally strong track. Comes howling at you like the Jesus and Mary Chain covering a Stooges dirge in an underpass a few hundred yards away. The vocals are tortured to maximum effect by a variety of effects, distorted and submerged into near unrecognizability. The instrumentation doesn’t fare much better, pitting a domineering bass against tones approaching the Chain’s omnipresent feedback-as-lead-guitar wind tunnel blast.

The Cult of Mr. Light on Soundcloud.

DISCOLETTE – I Want U.mp3

Pops out of the speakers covered in only the latest, brightest tones, like a bilingual Erasure, complete with mandatory superfluous drum machine breakdown with about 1:30 left in the track, which instantly confers upon I Want U the right to be referred to as the “12-inch Mix” at any point in the future.

DISCOLETTE on Soundcloud.

ƸC†OPL∆SM & Sortahuman – Smoke to This.mp3

Revolving Door man ƸC†OPL∆SM joins forces with Matt “Supa” Solley for a bit of spaghetti hip hop with Sortahuman delivering the hotboxed goods over some Morricone-esque instrumentation. Moves along at a pace that could be described as “mosey” provided a.) you use a barely-disguised Italian accent and b.) have “smoked to this” for long enough that any pace above “mosey” sounds damn near impossible/hilarious.

Sortahuman on Soundcloud.

Flash Arnold – The Final Chase.mp3

Namechecks one of Moroder’s most epic tracks and provides one of the better approximations of the Moroder experience I’ve heard in awhile, which is good, seeing as he’s off rapping on Daft Punk albums now. Contains the classic electro-drum tones that let you know they’re not afraid of telling you just how fake they are and some vicious keytar strumming.  (Or not. I’m really not much of a technical expert. I’m just telling you what it sounds like, and what it sounds like is the picture directly above this.)

More Flash Arnold here.

DISC 2

Girl Posse – Garf Vom (Bad Boy Cat).mp3

Speaking of approximations, Girl Posse garf (Words with Friends informs me that this is NOT an actual word, so I have deleted the app from my phone… assholes) up something approximating a glitching NES cartridge*, one that works just well enough to get you through the opening “cinematic” (OH HO & a bit of a LOL at the technological limitations of an 8-bit system) but no further before locking up and requiring the player to perform the Cartridge Resurrection Ritual which, much like the Libido Resurrection Ritual, involves a whole lot of blowing.

*Or more accurately, a Gameboy cartridge, as Girl Posse’s (ab)uses a Gameboy as his glitchy chiptune-crafting weapon of choice. (Words with Friends informs me that half the words in the previous sentence are “not in the REAL dictionary, you nerdish fuckwit.” I have responded with a resounding “Unsubscribe to all updates.”)

Follow the Girl Posse here.

mrL1ght – Ayro Ecto, Ayro Ecto.mp3

mrL1ght is all of 17 years old. Thanks for making my 3727-23-year-old ass feel underproductive and late to the game. I’m really not sure what “ayro” means but the internet has coughed up this definition (and has conveniently cited no sources [like a slated-for-deletion Wikipedia entry]): “Something or someone that is awesome, incredible, impressive, etc.” If this track title is meant to be a shout-out to ƸC†OPL∆SM, then I am completely cool with that.

You will be, too (cool, that is) as mrLight leads you to somewhere refreshingly summery and blissful. The tones may have a slightly disconcerting vibe to them, but as the track pushes and builds, it becomes something that exudes both innocence and joy in a way that focus group-crafted pop rarely can, but artists with a deft touch and a true love for their work find to be almost second nature. (See also: Leann Grimes.)

Brighten up with mrLight here.

(O)THERS – Last Swim.mp3

Turn this one up loud enough and you’ll probably wake up trapped in limbo with your doppleganger on the loose. We in the music writing biz call this sort of thing a “soundscape” and believe you me, it is wall-to-wall stocked with fucking sound.

A beast made of tangled wires and blown speakers roars incessantly, baying for blood in a language only the denizens of the underworld can understand. (Or David Lynch.) They get their blood, too, as the samples clearly attest. It doesn’t matter where we’re headed. Only one of us is coming back. The sound of remorseless violence, jammed right into your skull with malicious intent and a practiced precision.

Blow your brains out your ears with (O)THERS.

DISC 3

Perturbator – Disco Girls.mp3

Well, if the art above doesn’t give you some idea where this track is headed, PERHAPS I CAN BE OF SOME ASSISTANCE. Yes, it’s the eighties all over again except this time Perturbator is driving the Delorean/time machine/drug mule. Nothing laidback about this track. A pumping 4/4 that was deemed “2Future4U” by cuties wearing nothing but neon, chrome and feathered hair kicks the door wide open, allowing the rushing electronics to plow right over your imported white carpet and begin making themselves overly complicated drinks while admiring your Nagel prints and precarious haircut.

There’s a few well-timed pauses here and there, but what really sells it is the cascading glockensynths and faker-than-a-spray-on-tan cowbell highlights. (The tastefully-sampled moans of underclad sexytime women doesn’t hurt.)

More Perturbations available here.

Tommy – Overdrive.mp3

Oh, fuuuuuck. This shit right here is the shit. Tommy gives you no idea where he’s headed with this one. The intro is a head fake built on a murky near-breakbeat and a dentist’s drill of a buzzing drone (the latter of which immediately reminded me of Joey Jupiter.)

Once you’ve sensibly arrived at the conclusion that Tommy’s going to bust out some sort of UNKLE-esque groove, the buzz hits the top of the scale and suddenly, we’re in synth heaven, surrounded by Daft Punk’s better decisions and Jan Hammer’s brighter moments.

It’s a good place to be. Tommy’s not just going to rest on his laurels, no matter how impeccable and impossibly cool they are. Instead, he treats us to unexpected bits of angular noise periodically and an escalating melody that says, “If I had a ridiculously powered cigarette boat and was tearing up and down the coast, THIS is what I would be listening to if I thought I had any chance of hearing it over the 450-hp engine.”

Tommy: Quite Possibly the New Kavinsky. (Related: page contains a Kavinsky remix.)

[THE INTERNET HAS FAILED. Here is the Joey Jupiter track I was hoping to simply link to.]

Joey Jupiter – Fructose.mp3

TR££B£∆RD – Traphouse Ghosts.mp3

After hearing this track, I have come to the conclusiong that I’M NOT LISTENING TO ENOUGH TR££B£∆RD. It’s got a Dub Narcotic Soundsystem feel, what with all the dubby bits and the murky bits and kling-klanging, ping-ponging noises. But it’s definitely its own thing as well. TR££B£∆RD knows how to build a track that has plenty going on but never seems busy just being busy.

Drums catch, hang and stutter like shitty operating system. A vocal sample that you know will never coalesce weaves in and out of the smoky ether, completely devoid of clarity-providing treble and chopped into unrecognizable bits. Everything vibrates and echoes. A few times the whole thing threatens to fall apart, but miraculously holds together like a high school senior’s ’73 Dodge Challenger, all primer, rust and dents. File under: Shambolic.

EVIL TREE? More info available here.

/s/CLT

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Filed under Electronica, Remixes

The Walkmen

The Walkmen have their crap together.  The only gimmick-less band of the early 2000’s New York scene, and one of the few still relevant,  The Walkmen advanced into middle age the right way: with quiet confidence and something to show for the first 10,000 hours spent at their craft.

 

They also had some kids.

 

At the end of May, The Walkmen released Heaven, their newest album.  People (critics and such) seem to like it and they should.  It is a mature work:  sad without self-pity, stylish without affectation, and veteran without nostalgia.  It sounds good too, probably due to a new producer and recording studio.  I’m sure that will make them loose some more-indie-than-thou fans, but those people are idiots.

 

As is usual around these parts, CLT deserves the credit for pointing me towards The Walkmen, particularly this little ditty from their earlier days in which Leithauser sings about falling apart like a man.

 

Comments Off on The Walkmen

Filed under Rock

On Originality

This extra-long (but you’re getting used to that) post was provoked into existence by the comment James Copeland left on the post featuring his amazing remix of the Hillbilly Moon Explosion’s My Love Forevermore.

Thanks for the kind words. They`re very welcome as some fans of the original song didnt quite appreciate my particular take on the track and i started feeling sad about it because i really did my best to be respectful to the original. This makes me feel a whole lot better.

There’s a certain attitude out there, largely in established artists, but also found in those who use “analogue*” equipment to craft their music, that remixing isn’t creativity. If provoked, these artists will go even further than simply suggesting a lack of artistic merit, calling for these remixers and mashup artists to create their own “original” music. This carries over to some music fans as well. It’s generally found in older fans, ones who are averse to electronic witchery in all its forms (including rap, which is a.] most electronic and b.] “not singing”), finding something distasteful about those who use machinery to shit all over their preferred genres.

*Guitar/bass/drums

Beyond the casual disdain, there’s a strain of complete ignorance driving these statements. I’ve run down several of the ridiculous objections to quote/unquote remix culture previously, specifically in regards to the complaints about mashup artists. It always boils down to one simple, but thoroughly ridiculous claim: that these derivative works are not truly creative works simply because they are not “original.” Since there’s nothing quite as moronic as a hive mind with a superiority complex, let’s go ahead and start demolishing these arguments starting with the big one: originality.

[Some demolishing music for your ears whilst your eyes do the heavy lifting. This is Heaven’s Gate by the mysterious Stalker, which believe it or not, is Lady Gaga’s Pokerface pitch-shifted and run backwards, with some additional tweakage applied for maximum holy/unholy otherwordliness. (The “holy/unholy” thing with the abused forward slash means that this track teeters on the precipice of good and evil, like the devoted hymnal of a church that dabbles in black majicks to increase its congregation’s tithing percentage.)]

Stalker – Heaven’s Gate.mp3

ORIGINALITY

Apparently, if you don’t craft your music from the ground up (with standard instruments like guitar/bass/drums or regional equivalents [mouth harp/accordion/bagpipes/throat singing]), it’s not “original” and as such is (again, apparently) not “creative.” I’m not sure which claim is more offensive: the fact that only certain instruments are capable of producing “original” music or the fact that only “original” works are creative.

First off, placing arbitrary limitations on your creative toolset is your problem. Don’t project your issues on the rest of the creative community simply because you feel machines and software have no place in creating music. This is legacy bullshit that has zero basis in reality. Electric guitars, so often deployed by “original” artists, were once as unwelcome as Ableton. Thousands of years of music creation has moved us to a point where nearly any non-electronic instrument can be reproduced electronically. Not only that, but the resulting tones can be looped, reversed, reverbed, distorted, layered, stretched, sped up or simply used as a capable replacement for the oft-impractical need to have an entire band in one place at one time in order to lay down a track.

Secondly, who the fuck do you think you are? Honestly. Have you forgotten the thousands of years of music history already? Are you and your band of honest musicians truly trafficking in only “original” works and bristling every time you see me place quotes around that word? Do you seriously think that your “original” music stands alone, free from outside influences and your own personal music history?

No one creates in a vacuum.

We are all the massive beneficiaries of millennia of accumulated human scientific knowledge and cultural output, and not one of us did anything do deserve a jot of it. We’re all just extremely lucky not to have been born cavemen. The greatest creative genius alive would be hard pressed to create a smiley faced smeared in dung on a tree trunk without that huge and completely undeserved inheritance.

– Julian Sanchez, Things that are Irrelevant to Copyright Policy

Oh. I see. That’s not the same thing. So… it’s one thing to have influences and produce music that shows this and yet another to simply remix it?

Once again, we’re back to arguing about the legitimacy of certain instruments and pieces of software. It has nothing to do with “ripping off” the artists. It’s just that you’ve decided what you do is “creative” and the producer morphing your quotidian rock into a dance floor monster is simply offering up a simplistic variation. (So simple you couldn’t reproduce it if you tried, but still…)

[Speaking of remixes… Here’s the original version of Spiritualized’s ode to love, drugs and druggy love, I Think I’m in Love. Beautiful in its own lethargic just-home-from-the-methadone-clinic way.

And here’s the Chemical Brothers doing some “mere” remixing, taking the warmest parts of the “junk running down my spine” feeling and adding their own electronica-via-rocknf’nroll touches, including an amazing section of drums/bass/spiraling noises that sound very much ChemBros without completely eradicating J. Spaceman’s spacey rock.]

Spiritualized – I Think I’m in Love (Chemical Brothers Remix).mp3

[And as an added bonus in the the-best-artists-steal department, here’s Spiritualized quoting Elvis Presley in a new context, but not new enough apparently, as Elvis’ estate forced this track’s removal from subsequent pressings.]

Spiritualized – Ladies and Gentlemen, We Are Floating in Space (Deleted Version).mp3

These people you’re bashing? The remixers? The “derivative artists?” They craft their own originals as well. There are very few remixers out there who DON’T produce their own tracks. Even mashup artists, the ultimate derivative artists, have gone on to produce original albums, form bands and do production work for other original artists.

DJ Dangermouse went from The Grey Album (Jay-Z vs. the Beatles) to one-half of Gnarls Barkley along with several other projects. Belgian mashup duo 2ManyDJs went from infringing the hell out of nearly everyone to cranking out top quality dance music as Soulwax. Another pioneer of the mashup scene, Richard X., has gone on to produce hits for Annie, Kelis and the Sugababes.

Richard X./Sugababes – Freak Like Me.mp3

CONTROL

At some point, your music will be used to soundtrack something you don’t care for or condone, like furry porn or a pagan marriage ceremony. You CAN’T stop this from happening. The only thing you can do is choose how to react. Remember, just because they’ve got bizarre habits doesn’t mean they don’t venture out into the public to purchase music, attend concerts, etc., often without the colorful costumes and visible erections. Do you really want to cut off a potential source of income just so you can keep control of your “artistic legacy” or whatever you choose to justify hard-assian overreaction?

There’s only one way to control use of your artwork. Keep it unreleased and locked up. Not a great way to make income and an even worse way to express yourself creatively. This lack of control is understandably scary, but on the bright side, an internet’s worth of feedback is readily available. Most artists want their art to be seen, heard and experienced. But some want to control these interactions, and in this day and age, especially if your art can be converted to 1s and 0s, there’s no way to do this. So you have to decide how you’re going to react, keeping in mind that your reaction to “misuse” can often mean the difference between gaining fans and sales and being relegated to obscurity (or worse, infamy).

I’ve said before I think using other peoples’ recordings to make your own records is lame and lazy. It’s a cheap way into the game and it’s for suckers. That said, when I turn something loose into the world, the world will do with it what it pleases, despite my preferences. If a business gets involved, it has a footprint in a jurisdiction and I could raise a fuss if I wanted, but I don’t.

If you don’t want anybody riding your horses, keep them in the barn.

Steve Albini

Some artists treat this interaction with all the care of a cigarette-smoking driver piloting a leaking fuel truck across the only bridge in town. After their carelessness sets the bridge on fire, they find themselves with little more than an empty fuel truck and no road out of a town filled with enraged citizens.

EXPANSION

Here’s one thing remixers, samplers and mashup artists are willing to do that many “original” artists simply won’t: expose your music to new listeners. While these artists sit around, preaching to the converted and decrying various “ripoff” artists, these derivationists (BRAND NEW TODAY — THIS WORD!) are bringing (like James Copeland) swing to the dancefloor or (Hood Internet), the Black Keys’ garage rock to the hip hop crowd (and vice versa).

Hood Internet – Hard and Gone (Ace Hood vs. the Black Keys).mp3

The next time you’re wondering why your album sales have plateaued or ticket sales have slumped, perhaps you should consider the limits you’ve placed on yourself by limiting your creative output to the same static set of fans using the same static arrangements and instrumentation.

THE HELL IS WITH THE FANS?

It’s patronizing enough when artists decide their work is unfuckwithable, but it’s even more appalling when fans attempt to claim secondhand ownership of these creations. I’m already reeling in disbelief at the fact that some artists believe their work in completely unapproachable and guard it with the tenacity of a pit bull on Adderall, but I’m completely baffled by fans who decide (with or without a statement from the band in question) that they are somehow “protecting” the band’s “integrity” by piling a whole lot of hate on some remixer.

Even if the band has stated that they are unhappy with remix of song X, your “job” as a fan is not to simply repeat the company line. If you don’t care for the remix either, so be it. But to take a personal tack is to presume that remixer X crafted his or her version SOLELY to piss off the band and its fans. Remixes are usually done because the remixer digs the source material, not because he wanted to shit on someone’s creative output.

But most frustrating of all is the survivors of legacies who guard the former artist’s output with the same ferocious tenacity, swollen with secondhand entitlement and a staggering amount of presumptiveness. They proclaim themselves the mouthpieces of dead artists, an idea that would be laughable at a seance, much less a boardroom discussion with an artist seeking to use part of their work. Of all the people that I loudly wonder who in the FUCK they think they are, these would top the list.

One of James Joyce’s heirs spent several years bullying anyone who attempted to do anything with his work, including peope who were just trying to celebrate Joyce’s literary legacy by *gasp* READING HIS WORK ALOUD. He’d likely still be threatening Joyce’s fans if several of the copyrights hadn’t expired in 2012, 70 years after Joyce’s death. Apple Records has made using any of the Beatles’ songs in film or TV nearly impossible, demanding outrageous amounts and passing out several hundred no’s for every yes. Because the Beatles hated people enjoying their music, if the label’s lawyers and surviving members are to be believed.

So, your choices as an artist boil down to this:

1. Embrace the inevitable and realize that artists build on their predecessors’ work. Some just build in a more direct fashion.
2. Surround yourself with bristling lawyers and an openly hostile attitude towards other artists.

Which choice is more likely to gain you fans?

-CLT

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Filed under Commentary, Covers, Electronica, Hip Hop, Remixes

Sonic Collision Mk. 4 (Featuring the Kleptones)

[Reposted to the top slot by request of Mr. Kleptone himself.]

Kleptones – What’s the Matter with Your Lines, Baby?.mp3

In 1995, Duran Duran released one of the more ill-advised collection of covers ever to be released (and subsequently ridiculed). It’s not as if it was a horrible set of tunes. It was more the fact that Simon Le Bon and his backup pinups didn’t have the required street cred to pull off covers of Grandmaster Flash and (oh, lord) Public Enemy. Now, their cover of White Lines is not incredibly bad by any means. Misguided and inappropriate, yes, but it’s not a bad piece of poppish rap, if you can divorce it from the first two terms listed in this sentence.

Eric Kleptone, however, divorces the vocals from the instrumentation and this simple action  completely highlights exactly how misguided and inappropriate the cover is. This separation allows the listener to hear exactly how arch and BAD (for an honest lack of a better word) Le Bon’s vocals are. Retrofitted with Marvin Gaye (and a bit of Dr. Dre), we can now hear Le Bon’s vocal affectations in full swing, lying somewhere between half-ironic karaoke and full-ironic lounge singer and completely devoid of any redeeming sincerity. I suppose we can be thankful he didn’t attempt to sound more “black.”

I’m not sure if pointing out Le Bon’s “dramatic” vocals was Mr. Kleptone’s original intention, but lord knows he had to have heard it once he spilit off the vocals. The resulting mashup, while enjoyable and easy on the ears, can be heard as a warning shot to other white pop bands to stay the fuck out of the hood.

This track can be found on the utterly enjoyable mashup album, 24 Hours, which can be had (as so many mashups albums are) entirely for free. Also recommended: the entirety of the Kleptones output.

/s/CLT

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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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Filed under Electronica, Rock