My Heart Bleeds Black EP
Mord is one of those nosebleed techno labels I always keep tabs on but rarely end up buying (much like Perc Trax or Melbourne’s Green Fetish). They pump stuff out (too much really) at a prodigious rate, within a very bleak and blasted demarcated zone of production parameter but always leaving me with the suspicion that a lot of it, despite artist names, different artwork, titles etc, could easily be endlessly interchangeable without anyone noticing. Back in the day that used to be the very liberation of techno/rave/etc of course, so I’m not knocking them individually in any way, if that’s the gig they’ve chosen – they’ve certainly carved out a niche, but it just comes back to that perennial question, how much more of ‘this’ do I really need? I mean no one can really claim that this is ‘new’ in any way – “The Beat Just Goes Straight On & On”, and on and on etc. (If you remember that annoying big Perry & Rhodan trance techno tune on Rising High from 1993?). It’s just a palimpsest now.
I never imagined 25 years ago, when I was young and dancing to, and already buying, this kind of music (in its absolute infancy) that it would STILL be hammering away – or that the young people of today would still even be interested in pretty much EXACTLY the same thing, virtually unchanged. Frankly I would have been horrified at the thought. And if you’re feeling particularly sour (which I often am) you can be even more dismissive of this un-shifting canon. Most (if not all?) of this genre is imitative reproduction, already familiar and exhausted. You can theoretically (or physically if you must prove a point) check any release at random, in any format, and the first bar will bring the boredom of familiarity to your ear (spot the reference) and more depressingly still, only anticipate the boredom of the, albeit normally clinically well-produced, bar to follow! This is EXPLORED TERRITORY people! where the product matches expectation and desire; the place where all things turn out the way we want them to, where formalism has won the day.
Then if we’re whipping ourselves up into an imaginary frenzy, like the Central Scrutinizer (Zappa reference Compadres, heh), we can rant about this order being just another bullshit tyranny and STULTIFICATION, mere hierarchies of place, position and cultish authority. The producers are all seemingly “Berlin-based” now after all: retro-flash tattooed, ears tribal-stretched, modular set-up, vegan, straight-edge whatever, mastered at D+M, by Rashad “Bloody” Becker, 180g Ltd Edition pre-order vinyl, jetting to London next week to play at Corsica Studios, then on to Sonar or some such for the closing set blah blah blah. The Rant Just Goes Straight On & On…
Keepsakes: Perspectives From A Sterile Hellhole [Haven 001] & Ayarcana/Keepsakes: Music For The Vitriolic Age [Haven 002]
I thought I’d found a mildly interesting antipodean relative of Green Fetish in Haven earlier this year. Starting as an Auckland club night run by Keepsakes and Jaded Nineties Raver, ‘Haven’ was apparently something of a (self proclaimed) hub for New Zealand’s small underground technocentric dance music scene. Until they became yet another “Berlin-based” label that is…FFS! This is beyond a joke now people. The artwork looked promising (reminding me of PCP’s SS sub-label, all prowling masked gangs) and titles like ‘Mind Your Manners Munted Millennial’, ‘Face Struck With An Axe’ and ‘Populist Piss Pot’ suggested a Bloody Fistesque sardonicism. There’s not too much to dislike really (except the elephant in the room – the existential question mark hanging over this genre) or indeed to set it apart from the rest of the pack for that matter. What can you really say about industrial techno now anyway? You’ve heard every variable before; you’ve read every adjective to describe it. Industrial grit – check. Crunchy – check. Gnarled – check. Crushing – check. Driving – check. The tick box exercise is embedded in the tracks’ own riveted-in-place formalism. I could go on but you know the score. Do you need this in your record bag, or collection? Do you want to hear this out at parties? Should you support this brand from the already swollen ranks? Like saying no to a third beer down the pub when you only popped in for a cheeky pint on the way home from work, this is a question of DISCIPLINE now, not personal taste, that only you can be responsible for.
Mickey Nox / Ike Dusk
Okay! Okay! One more for the road then! If you really can’t say no and you do decide to take that third beer – then give in totally on the fourth and fifth and turn it into a mid-week sesh (you’ll regret it and hate yourself in the morning, I guarantee) then this is what’s relatively decent from the Green Fetish brewery. I personally favour the Ike Dusk (also on Joe Farr’s User Experience label) for the flabby, low end chunk of his kicks’ EQ, as on ‘Haffa’ (which despite being German is still small batch, craft brewing not Reinheitsgebot), but you might prefer the sharper, hoppier finish of an Oz ‘stubby’ on ‘Burning Mental’ from label boss Mickey Nox’s latest? Like most of this stuff it’s hard to say which is % stronger or superior really and after five you don’t really care or taste them anymore anyway.
Ansome & Ossian:
Joe Farr: Hanger 1 [SLAM D002]
The greedy Bastards at South London Analogue Material are charging £2.50 a pop for these single-track digital releases. Worth it? Well there’s no fucking about on ‘Death +1, a gleefully primitive broken beat pummeler lashed with white noise and corrosive fuzz; it’s more amphetamine fueled than most; has the lairy Ansome stamp all over it and builds to an industrial break stepping Brok Out towards the end. ‘Hanger 1’ is somehow brighter, airier, with more scything top end and percussion but the ace up its sleeve is THEE mother of all fat sub kicks on the drop – irresistibly thuggish ruggish. Time to get busy and get your stomp on.
In contrast to the likes of Haven et al. above, ANFS’s Athens label Vanila seems to deal in a far more interesting palette of slower, more chugging, primitivist new beat vibes that always deliver the boogie (Vofa’s plaintive, broken hearted ‘Belly Tool’ off #003 (2016) is still a top 10 favourite tune of mine to this day). Both tracks here sound like live jams? – ‘Western Horror’ a marathon 16:16 min track (that could still be running on infinite loop in his studio La Monte Young style for all we know?) churns and swirls with grungy textures, nocturnal howls from the forest and voices calling out from barred sanatorium cell windows, all draped over an ultra simplistic, rigid 120bpm drum machine, martial stomp. This is the aural equivalent of high fever night-sweats; so unpleasantly relentless and perversely psychedelic at the same time, it has you wishing for the grey creep of dawn from behind the curtains so that you can at least stumble from bed and take more medicine. The slightly shorter 13:24 min ‘Leto’ on the flip could almost be from the Zoth Ommog catalogue circa ‘91/’92 (I’m not averse though) and suffers as a result from its slavish referencing, but good to know the spirit of Sprockets is still alive.
I’ve already said it on my blog, but Athens seems to be where the most interesting strains of experimental techno inter-breeding are coming from at the moment, in my not very humble opinion. Modal Analysis, Pi Electronics (now tragically based in – you guessed it! – BERLIN…I have no words left), Vanila, Kafta, Phormix, OSM Tapes, it’s a seemingly strong, evolving and productive, collaborative scene. This definitely isn’t Sawf firing on all cylinders though. It’s competent to a T; slow burning, tar-like, oozing, low frequencies and circuitry hiss set the moody pulse in three variable forms, but that’s pretty much the gist of it. There’s no radical developments or hype drops, just a woozy, incremental lift and power up, like an old piston engine coming to life and warming up. The trudging ‘Tsalimia’, with its malevolently counting down, ticking, time bomb fuse is probably the stand out here, but my God, the final fourth track ‘Hofta’ – after which the EP is named FFS!?! – is pure cretinous filler. A throw away, by-the-book, 4/4 ‘thumper’ so bland and grey it should be shot at dawn, pour encourager les autres, with no blindfold or last cigarette.
Everybody Cares Now
Vincent Koreman’s DIY punk background continues to carry over into his ever-growing catalogue of never dull, lo-fi/no wave, acidic, sludge house vibes. Now citing equal part influences of Suicide, Sun Ra and Terrence Dixon these days (great combo!), the slightly hesitant and not entirely successful first few tracks here (just mucking about in muddy puddles really) give way to the confident stride of deeper, psych weirdness by the clouded celestial peak of ‘Digital Ascension’, which truly does conjure the sensation and images of vertiginous, shattered rock scrambles. This is the kind of pacing or nuance you want (or can get away with) on a decent album vision though. There’s no such thing as perfection or the “all killer, no filler” myth. ‘So Not A Future Person’ likewise gradually builds and gets washed out with bitter sweet, hymnal vapors, almost sounding something like Acid Mothers Temple abandoning their guitars and 70s commune dreams for the ecstatic pulse of techno rave hangers instead. Which is where ‘Killscreen’ suitably wraps things up; with long wailing feedback, belching dry ice and strobe visions, and total Heaven’s Gate UFO lift off.
The incessant and omnipresent underscoring of drone(s), crackle, hiss and drenching reverb of the Horo techno aesthetic can either feel intense and primeval, when the sparks fire, or as oppressively grey as a cold dreich day in Scotland. And one dreich day can so easily blur drearily into another. It can and indeed does work in a listening environment as well as on an open minded dance floor, as the label claims, but once you notice and realise this almost (one suspects?) mandatory trope, either subscribed to by the artists themselves to pass demo/release muster or cherry picked by the label bosses for uniformity of style/aesthetic, it does begin to grate.
If I first-played you any of these tracks (particularly the opener ‘Over A Sign Recognition’ say) and told you it was by Sam KDC, or ASC, or Von Grall, I doubt you’d be able to tell. So there’s an inevitable risk and probability of painting themselves into a corner with this shtick; where the pursuit of quality control to create reliable ‘brand’ can turn to blandification or worse still, a respectably routined neo-academicism. This is exactly the kind of false musical ‘consciousness’ or trap that befalls any well dug-in genre – whenever you detect the faintest whiff of comprehension (whether individual or collective), you can be sure it’s only for a dead mould, normally guarded tenaciously as an unquestionable possession only by forum dilettantes and the feeble minded, but which is lost precisely in that moment it becomes a possession: an indifferent showpiece, neutralised and robbed of its own critical substance. Which is precisely what happened to Breakcore of course…
Look, don’t get me wrong, I’ll take a Horo/SMG release over most these days, and I’ve bought and collected enough of them to be able to build a fairly convincing overview; these are ultra deep, propulsive, carefully sculpted, undulating tracks of varied moods, from the thick, bubbling, 110bpm breakbeat soup of ‘Frame Dislocation’, to the straight, driving, 125bpm 4/4 of ‘Altered States Of Consciousness’ (which is surely a straight nod to F.U.S.E.’s 1991 ‘Substance Abuse’?) but the whole thing’s already out there on thin cracking ice, waiting to plummet into the icy depths of new conformism.
Binaural (Part 2)
Yu Asaeda from Tokyo is unquestionably the most interesting artist on the Samurai Music Group’s roster bar none. Despite having previously operated out of drum & bass and dubstep terrain in his early back catalogue, he’s developed his now unique productions to weave a path of impressive abstract bass weight and psychedelic, neo-dub inflections to a much bigger universe all of his own finding and making. This album was originally released in 2014 in split CD/vinyl formats and available digitally for the first time, it’s fascinating to now be able to hear the genesis and trace the progression that led to his brilliant 2017 releases, ‘Divided:Mind’ and ‘Divided:Body’, with their delicate tightrope balance of minimalist horror and beauty, all dripping tubercular blood splatters onto palatial marble floors (maybe of an empty Berghain in a bad dream or the white neoclassical bedroom from the end of Kubrick’s ‘2001’?) and bass sounding like the thump and rumble of the sod being turned onto the lid of your own coffin, as you lie catatonic awaiting the silence of eternity. I honestly couldn’t get enough of these essential benchmarks.
The characteristic Horo crackle, gurgle and hiss etc etc (as discussed above) is here, of course, as is the required Grey Area 85bpm membership entry card, but somehow the rarefied air is fresher here and there’s freedom to roam. Off kilter beats and rhythms strain for release, then stutter and tumble down the sonic scree slopes like haphazard bouncing rocks into the deep hidden valleys. Flourishes of echo chamber hoodoo swirl dramatically. Sirens wail over static froth and liquid depth (‘5th Resonance’) while stand out ‘Morph’ is just incredibly sinister and virally infectious; you can almost hear the organisms reproducing in the paranoid scritching sounds and suggested microscopic seethe as you begin to succumb and nod your head. In essence it sounds like he’s ambitiously trying to relocate the unknown (such that it’s possible to exist in our time), displacing the concept upwards and outwards, on to the unfathomable abysses of space (that notoriously final frontier), yet at the same time inwards and downwards, to the innermost chambers of atom and gene, or to the recesses of the human psyche: the unmapped country within us. If it only gets better and more compelling on repeated listens that’s because the blank spaces on a map can be filled with whatever promise or dread one wishes to ascribe to them.
More steely cold, meticulous, broken beat mongering that strains at the leash but is never allowed off to complete satisfaction – too many kids around maybe? Muscles strain and bulge, but it’s to no avail, he’s got them on the choke of a studded collar and all we get is a too short glimpse of frothing spittle and the wild roll of a fight dog’s eyes yearning to go savage as they stalk past. Like on his ‘Black Hills’ release (Standards & Practices 2017), he seems to leave the best to last, with the hauntingly vast cinematic sweep and subterranean, double time, seismic kicks of ‘Undead’ creating a kind of mutually reinforcing, hanging tension. At 4:06 it’s sadistically edited way too short though and the come down will jar you hard.
& Franck Vigroux:
Cosmo Rhythmatic is the sub-label of the “Berlin-based” Repitch Recordings label curated by Shapednoise, Ascion and D. Carbone for their more abstract, noisy and organic releases. Now you know – no further comment needed.
Vainio and Vigroux’s previous ‘Peau Froide, Léger Soleil’ 2015 album was the product of lengthy studio sessions and live performances captured over three years and aptly described at the time as “a collection of sonic sculptures”. Apparently the huge amount of material generated was always intended to form more than one album, so we should probably try and give this new 6 track EP – the tenuous, first posthumous release from this collaboration since Vainio died last year – the benefit of the doubt, despite its paucity (which perhaps suggests, not entirely encouragingly, some withholding of further forthcoming releases?). Former friends and colleagues hopefully want to do the right thing, but calling it “a second chapter” does raise the many inherent problems of posthumous “new” releases – namely the multiple unanswerable questions and inevitable doubt left permanently hanging over the material, not least over who has the final say now and to what detriment and what integrity? Ultimately perhaps then, the fairest way to opine about and evaluate this record is free from any R.I.P cant and to try and listen only to what comes out of the speakers.
So where ‘Peau Froide, Léger Soleil’ densely interwove the heavy tonal matter of Vigroux’s processed guitar/noises and Vainio’s signature brutalist electro grooves and sine wave meditations to calve hefty freeform blocks and sheets of drone clanging onto the polished, post-industrial cement floor, once again there is a kind of residual, white cube, “kunst” gallery performance aura, a kind of hallowed sterility. This is the most problematic aspect. Everything feels truncated and inconclusive, except perhaps for the woefully pedestrian ambient opener ‘Brume’ which, although it feels like it wants to be, is no spacious mystery at all; it could perfectly well be from any Dolby surround sound Hollywood soundtrack production studio, barely a plug in or knob out of place. Further in, the boozed up devil on your shoulder nags you with the undeniable fact that “Ne te retourne pas” is also almost nothing more than textbook electronic music festival fare – how many shows/performances have we all gritted our teeth through of this particular live (trad.) improv blueprint? You know the one – starting pin drop quiet only to progressively fade up to a full volume, caterwauling maelstrom of de rigueur, pseudo elegiac, pseudo epiphanal art noise. Give me a line of K any day, but there’s no sweaty raver or flashing lights here, just purse lipped, arts administration/curator couples in Issey Miyake trench coats and asymmetric fringes sipping glasses of sekt.
I hate to say this, but Lilly Phoenix could almost be the little sister of the leper pariah Raquel de Grimstone! Go on Discogs and have a look for yourself and tell me I’m not right. Releasing material since 2001 Phoenix also seems to align herself with a certain “art” practice (like the pair above), describing her music “like a sculpture… where the most important part of writing and arrangement for me is the process of subtraction or sculpting.” The label’s press release bigs up this purported “subtraction” trying to convince us that “all surfaces are worn down to reveal subtle detail or to erase the detail entirely.” Frankly I couldn’t agree (or care) LESS and can’t hear any evidence of this process. It’s the standard layer, paste and build, so let’s try not to mystify or even invent the process here people. This promotive dross definitely shouldn’t detract from the material however, which is bold enough to stand on its own two feet – an impressively cohesive, powerful and well-realised, beatless, Jupiter/Juno synth homage, almost, to Kosmiche pioneers Klaus Schulze and Tangerine Dream and the cinematic synth soundtracks of John Carpenter and Lustmord. If that triggers alarm bells for you, fear not; there’re enough exhilarating chunks of grinding nastiness and overdriven sound to take it beyond a pastiche exercise or mere pinching of signatures from each and throwing them in the blender.
East Man & Walton:
Horse Mouth / Gunshot [
[Hi Tek Sounds]
If you think (the already mentioned) S.L.A.M are greedy MFs (and I do) then this release…My God! This is the most shameless (and shameful) example of gone-to-their-head price gouging I’ve ever come across on Bandcamp. No joke. £7 for 2 x digital tracks. Yes, you read that right.
Most of us in Datacide circles and sound system/DIY label land will be aware of the sheer pain-in-the-ass graft involved these days in putting a vinyl record into production – for a mere few pounds more asking price than this, the average being what? €9.50-11.00? (These lads should know all about this – because there is a vinyl of this too. You can buy a copy over at suburbantrash’s Discogs store for €10.95). So, I say again, £7 for 2 x digital tracks? In the part of the World I live in, that’s a day’s wage for many. Yeah? Well Fuck You and the burro you rode into town on boys! Who the fuck d’you think you are? Wu-Tang Clan? Aphex Twin?
Let’s break it down and have a look (just for baseline simplicity) and see what the font of all human wisdom, Wikipedia, has to say on price gouging. I’ve inserted my own italics and bold hi-lights;
“Price gouging is a term referring to when a seller spikes the prices of goods, services or commodities to a level much higher than is considered reasonable or fair, and is considered exploitative, potentially to an unethical extent…[ ]…In the former Soviet Union, it was simply included under the single definition of speculation (I like that one)…[ ]…The term is similair to profiteering…[ ]…Alternatively, it may refer to suppliers benefiting to excess from a short-term change in the demand curve…”
You get my drift and I don’t need to go on. The last bit, ‘the demand curve’, is important here though (and apropos of this, if you haven’t already; go and find and read ‘The most expensive dance floor records ever sold on Discogs part 2’ feature on Resident Advisor…there are no words). Anyway, I’m fairly sure the two desperados here must have realised something on completion of the track(s), particularly ‘Horse Mouth’. Namely that they had, after all their flint stoning (whether through design, or more likely as with most electronic music production these days, just through sheer good-fortune/fluke/chance of the muse) struck gold. In other words, feeling rather pleased with themselves, they realised the tune was a bona fide badass sound system banger – and IT IS! (if we overlook the corny-as-fuck Rasta incantation). Deep in the small hours, as they rolled a final salutary spliff, they probably had satisfying visions of the tune levelling dancefloors and being rinsed by a select handful of scene DJs etc. Then drifting off into an imaginary haze they could imagine the Boomkat trainspotters and collectors fiending for it like street addicts looking for Spice. A nice little fantasy no doubt.
OK, so it’s good – but it’s not THAT good either. It’s not a game changer nor some pre-ordained ‘classic’. The tunes are essentially just devilishly tweaked, “militant staccato” Grime/Bass DJ tools. Plain and simple.
So, what gives with the price tag? Swellhead ego got the better of them? Or just, ‘fuck it, getting that vinyl out was such a pain in the arse, with such a poxy return, we’re going to ‘tax’ the digital heads and put some pure profit back into our pockets?’ (I see only 14 x muppets have, as of writing, parted with this sum…so that’s £49 each so far, equating to roughly a day’s graft labouring on a UK building site, say). Or, is it a sneering Luddite (keep it vinyl) disdain for digital dissemination full stop? A sort of price = punishment/fine/levy for derided or perceived as weak and inferior collecting habits?
Either way, there’s no excuse for this foolishness. Behave yourselves.
[The Weevil Neighbourhood]
A second full-length album from Katsunori Sawa on (Berlin-based) The Weevil Neighbourhood, modestly and reasonably priced at €8, and therefore worthy of support and investigation, in every way that the above is not.
It’s been a busy year for Sawa, with recent releases on Opal Tapes and Stone Tapes (together with Chafik Chennouf of Leyla Records) and he seems to be successfully keeping his palette fresh and broad in the process.
On this one it’s all abrasive textures, drone forms and fizzing earth leakage sparking and dropping in and out of the mix, not so far removed from Ena’s sonic bacillus obsession, but with a more cataclysmic, almost loose, freestyle abandon of the mixing-desk-as-instrument, lightning & thunder vein of Dub. This never over rides the essential strong back, heavy battery of the drums though (‘Burning Pixel’ is particularly chunky and a personal tip) which is what these tracks are all about really, firmly rallied round the Industrial Techno banner, but with an iron Bushido code resolve to give no quarter to the 4×4 hordes. Hallelujah! It’s an intense head phone listener also, that seems to get better on successive repeats.
Kamikaze Space Programme:
Dead Skin Cells
[Osiris Music UK]
This stalks not dissimilar territory to Katsunori Sawa’s album in many ways – fuzzy tape distortion fx and unsynched plate reverb and delay manipulations; techno x bass prostrations in the hallowed halls of the Temple of Dub cult. Only even more overtly and strictly practiced in this case. At 10 tracks it’s a big, ambitious and well-paced project, by someone who’s clearly earned his chops and now knows how to tap a work flow.
There’s a lot of obsessive, over-fastidious, micro tweaking going on – in a captivating way, it does demand attention, but it does mean that nothing ever really locks in and gets ‘down’, even when he tries to brok it out with some nu-skool breaks flavas (’Sparks’ is probably the best of those, but I could’ve done without the phoney lushness of ‘Derelict’…) and there seems to be a penchant for over egging it on the insta-noodle, sweeping cinematic pads, (trying to go all Director’s Cut before he’s even pulled off his Apocalypse Now or Bladerunner) that generally softens the potential dub wise heaviness that could have been.
It’s ironic then, that the most captivating track here, for me anyway, is pretty much a small slice of ‘cinema’ in sound – a kind of Kireji (a cutting word in a Haiku poem, as in cutting the stream of thought and in this case cutting the pace of the album) built around a field recording, of fat, heavy, raindrops drumming on a roof. And it’s magically and artfully used as an ‘establishing shot’, if you will. I had the headphones on and hadn’t even looked at the track title yet (‘Rain’ doh!) and this glorious, strange, sound filled the spectrum….quite something. Transportive.