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.