Tag Archives: spf5Ø

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

3 Comments

Filed under Electronica, Remixes

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