Journalism is often a nomadic field, as outlets come and go — music journalism, doubly so. But Shawn Reynaldo reinvented his homeless radio show as a mailing list, and the results are refreshing.
The odd thing is, reading through First Floor feels more intimate than the days of print writing. Don’t get me wrong – I love reading things on paper, there are publications that only make sense this way, and I’ve cherished those times my own byline showed up on dead trees. But it’s an oddly lonely endeavor.
The Web resolved this – for a while. Then we got social media, algorithms dictating what we see to maximize engagement and Facebook profits, botnets and explosions of trolls, until most big-name artists and music journalists I know started to just tune out. Instead of reading and communicating, we manage our Instagram stories, argue with some random strangers who turn out to be propaganda plants, monologue about our pet issues and how our last flight connection was annoying, and then shut off. That’s … depressing.
So back to First Floor. Shawn Reynaldo helmed this widely appreciated radio show for Red Bull Music Academy, before that entire project was shelved. Shawn still has bylines elsewhere – I first got to know his podcasts and writing when he was at XLR8R, and now he’s on the likes of DJ Mag. But First Floor itself has been reborn as a newsletter. (Good thing, too, as it seems unless I’m mistaken, Red Bull annihilated all their archives. Cute.)
Having everyone writing in your inbox wouldn’t be journalism, exactly – we’d be back to the social media problem. But Shawn’s first take on the newsletter is already a rich and varied read. It’s like the conversations you with music journalists and expert aficionados in person, over a couple of beers or coffee. That’s just the sort of communication we’ve lost when those same people are at the perpetual mercy of commerce.
It’s also frankly useful even to have a mailer from Shawn where he keeps you posted on what he’s writing for the other publications (even if that means we should all have a look at redesigning our site navigation).
This also allows something else social media was supposed to do. Shawn Reynaldo, like me and many other authors, is also involved in music. (What a thought!) So he talks about his DJ gigs.
Plus, you get links to Buy Music Club – another recent coping mechanism for our broken musical Internet, which I’ve been meaning to write about and start using more actively. Initiated by Avalon Emerson, the site was a simple hack that lets people post links to Bandcamp. It’s designed so you can both discover new music via human-selected, non-corporate-algorithm lists, and actually buy the music, as the name suggests. It supports humans choosing what they love in music rather than algorithms choosing what their business masters thinks will make them rich and powerful, and it supports the artists and labels putting the stuff out. For example:
I know, I know – apart from making readers of this site blow their money on gear, I also make you blow it on music. But, hey, you’re happier for it, right, and life is short?
Shawn also tackles this problem of drowning in promos, which I had just discussed with Emily Bick of The Wire, another writer whose work I follow. It’s clear we’re all on the same page, but sometimes that page gets lost in Twitter chaos. (Well, I’m knocking social media, but I’ve noticed people are having the same conversations there, too, so maybe we are making headway.)
I’ve become an addict of The New York Times‘ podcast, The Daily. This is text, not audio, but the idea is similar. Even as it seems we don’t have enough time, hearing directly from the journalists actually helps us to understand the journalism and paradoxically gives us more time to focus on their work.
Shawn also mentions another project I think has some promise – Support Organize Sustain is a project by DVS1 dedicated to supporting music culture. This isn’t a fly-by-night operation, either – it’s got some heavy hitters in the industry already involved. I wasn’t in Amsterdam for the ADE event this week, so I’ve no idea how that first installment went, but I presume I’ll hear soon.
All things have their season, and in their times all things pass under heaven. Perhaps after all this short-form chaos, we can ignore what the apps and corporations want us to do, and read and listen the way we want.
A funny thing happened on the way to the VCV Rack forum. In a paradigm many still stubbornly imagine as chin scratching noise, software modular makers are producing beautiful, liquid electronic sounds.
The latest fruits of these labors can be heard in volume 3 of the Switched On Rack series. Actually forget that this has anything to do with software at all – what you get is really a perfectly gorgeous compilation of experimental sounds, lush textures, expansive ambient music, intelligent rhythms.
It’s hypnotic, warm, entrancing stuff:
What strikes me is actually how coherent the result can be. Despite coming from an open submission online, the results hold together both than … well, than the vast majority of various artist compilations! I occasionally hear some familiar sounds, particularly from the influential Mutable Instruments-derived stuff, but even that in a good way. It’s almost unfortunate that this is associated with a tool, and people might miss the musical significance.
But maybe that isn’t incidental at all. There’s always this question of what makes a scene. Having access to the same set of instruments and tools is always significant to music-making – VCV Rack itself is free, and even paid add-ons are relatively affordable and one click away. And not only that, but VCV Rack users also have various ways to share tips about modules, whether they prefer reading forum posts or sending messages to friends or watching detailed YouTube tutorials.
Or they can even simply post videos of their patches to share and inspire – and even if you prefer not to try to squint to see what they’ve done, it might still prompt you to try an idea or find a previously unknown module.
For developers, this also demonstrates that you don’t necessarily need a comprehensive online strategy to make users do this. If you make inspiring tools, they may well do it on their own. (In CDM parts, we’ve seen this story repeat, from Eurorack hardware to the open monome community to live coding and even larger phenomena like Ableton Live use.)
For still more music, one person I’ve been following closely is Iowa IDM maestro Kent Williams aka Chaircrusher. Not This Time, his newest, is crisp, brain-tickling stuff. It isn’t 100% VCV Rack here, but the mind dancing textural precision is very much influenced by his Rack workflows, which are, quite frankly, where I’ve gotten a lot of my own tips. Kent does what I tend to do, which is to start ideas in Rack, then record them multitrack (using the NYSTHI modules for the purpose), finishing tracks in a DAW (Ableton Live). I personally expect to continue to do this even when there is a plug-in of Rack available, as it makes a nice compositional process.
And I love the artwork. It also comes with this poetic, provocative accompanying text to puzzle over:
Somehow the main point of the story got lost in the telling. The digressions were full of details too specific to be true.
Over the course of a long life, the past disappears. New memories arise of alternate timelines, things that were never to be.
The ax laying rusted in the tall grass might cut again.
I have forgotten her face and her name, but the memory of my feeling for her is so vivid.
People are outlived by the smell of the cigarette smoke on their possessions.
What I want is to hear the music that no one makes, and to which no one will listen.
Let’s transport you to Berlin for a while – with three of us who share interests in techno and experimental electronic music, drawn from broader music and technological background.
I’m fortunate to get to join Jessica Kert, Lana Lain, and SDX tonight at Berlin’s Suicide Club. I’ve been a fan of Jessica’s music ever since first giving it a deep listening on her Detroit Underground outing. And as Jessica is deep into technology, it’s also worth noting that Lana Lain’s backround in techno is drawn from classical education. I think the days when there was a line drawn between such things are over. (That also means, in turn, erasing the attitude toward dance music as being a lesser form of expression, which speaking as an American to me suggests some fairly racist overtones.)
But let’s skip directly to the music. I’ve also got a new mix out this week, revealing some of the heavier sounds I’ve been into.
Jessica Kert(pictured at work, top) is a familiar face as one of the experts staffing Schneidersladen, but you should know her music as well – both solo and as half of the duo ZV_K.
Her outing on Detroit Underground DW is a modular magnum opus and one of my favorite DU releases of late:
But she’s also an adept live performance improviser – which will be on showcase tonight.
Check out her mix, too:
She’ll be joined on live visuals by defasten, who has been up to some superb alien eye candy, produced with software (modular, of sorts) Notch:
Lana Lain was born in Russian Karelia, but established herself in Stockholm before recently moving to Berlin. She’s been hyperactive in the music scene, including building her ФОМО party series (and accompanying radio show on the UK’s Fnoob Techno Radio. That has carved a space in Sweden for international art friendly to gay, queer, and fetish culture. I hope to talk to her more about that network soon, but in the meantime, here’s the terrific techno mix she did recently for Fast Forward:
I’ll also share a new mix of my own, channeling some harder, driving sets and favorites – and digging through this, I’m encouraged by how the darker, weirder sides of electronic music have gotten some real popularity in techno. These artists aren’t fringe any more, at least getting a growing following around the rich networks of fans in parties in Europe and abroad.
ˈYO͞ONƏˌSEKS is the new podcast and party series from ANRI, the Yokohama-born, prolific producer, DJ, and party organizer. Her work got her deep into Tokyo’s underground, before bringing that sensibility to Berlin, where she’s served as a bridge between the techno communities in Japan and Germany. So it’s a pleasure to reflect a bit of what I’ve gotten to experience from her circle into my own response:
Track listing – go find those folks and labels on Bandcamp or your favorite store (like Rotterdam’s Mord, who I didn’t repeat her intentionally, but whose Bandcamp page is well worth a splurge):
Pris – Ad Infinitum [Avian]
Donato Dozzy – Parola featuring Anna Caragnano (Rework) [Spazio Disponibile]
In Poland, as queer groups and allies face a rising threat of violence and hate, the Oramics collective chose to respond with music. The result: a sprawling compilation of 121 tracks and international outpouring of support.
I definitely want to encourage you to grab the compilation, but also want to take this opportunity to give you a tour through some of the music here – including from some lesser-known and underground and Polish artists. So alongside some known international figures, like Peder Mannerfelt, Object Blue, Borusaide, Lee Gamble, Electric Indigo, and Rrose, you’ll get an excellent sampling of artists involved in Poland’s underground and queer communities. We’re fortunate that in dark and challenging times, we have music and emotion and celebratory and powerful sound, and not just, you know, the news.
This is not an abstract battle or “culture war”: in Poland as in an alarming number of places, basic rights of expression and safety are under assault, backed even by mainstream media and religious and governmental leaders. That’s put artists who I’ve worked with personally under real pressure and danger, among many others. It’s something you feel on a visceral level not only in Poland but in the fabric of the electronic music scene outside of the country, as well.
Out now, the “Total Solidarity” compilation gives sonic, musical form to a growing chorus of solidarity and protest. That network has brought together collectives, artists, curators, press, activist organizations, and concerned friends in a network inside and outside of the country. Total Solidarity demonstrates how deep that network is, and how many people have been touched by the political struggle and by these artists.
Over 100 tracks from the Polish underground and international electronic music scene come together on the digital release, available for fifty bucks on Bandcamp (or individually, by track). Poland’s Oramics collective joins Tilburg, Netherlands’ Drvg Cvltvre, who runs the label New York Haunted. The funds raised go directly to organizations battling homophobia and supporting queer communities.
“I think it is very important to show that music scene and culture will never accept hatred,” Justyna from Oramics tells us. “This was one of the main goals of this compilation – to gather people from all over the world and show support,” she says. “This symbolic support, kind of artistic / curatorial gesture of solidarity was the main goal I guess – all this which lies beyond fame, mainstream, underground and genre borders. This is the biggest success.”
Here are some highlights, and places to find more.
Justyna also shared some picks. “It was one of the goals to combine artists from literally everywhere,” she says. “Of course, it is important that we have so many amazing internationally acclaimed artists, because they are giving us all the incredible press — but how amazing it is to give some more visibility to those less known, but also super-talented.” Hell, yeah.
Here are a few of those picks – and I have to second these nominations.
Mchy i Porosty:
Satin de Compostela:
I have listened to the whole compilation and love the whole thing, but to highlight even some more people, particularly those close to this scene, whose tracks really moved me:
3-3-3 is a punk-ish banger from Dyktanto of Brutaz:
FOQL’s aptly named “Colony Collapse” is some delicious oddball mayhem from Justyna herself:
There’s some genius, futuristic apocalypse going on in the music of Oramics’ Mala Herba:
RSS BOYS and Eltron will be familiar to anyone following the Polish scene, but if not – know them!
Electric Indigo added a smartly constructed electronic opus that CDM readers shouldn’t miss – Susanne being both a legend in the scene as an artist and founder of female pressure, which has been a template for many female/femme/activist groups since:
Isabella’s chimey, crystalline creation sounds a bit like that cover art looks:
Dr. Rey mastered over a hundred tracks to make this compilation happen, and their contribution is eerie and beautiful:
All proceeds from the digital sales will support Polish queer organizations: Kampania Przeciw Homofobii and Miłość Nie Wyklucza, who monitor homophobia, provide all kind of support for queer people and have agreed to help us redistribute the proceeds throughout LGBTQIA+ organizations in smaller cities and towns of Poland, who need them the most.
We will be in touch with Oramics to hear how these organizing efforts are going, and what else the electronic music community can do there – and worldwide – to support people’s safety. It’s expressive freedom that has brought us to music and music technology, so if that’s not what we’re in the business of supporting, I’m not sure what we are doing.
For those near Berlin – Polish-born Rey for their part will also be leading their project The Womb, with a summer symposium for female-identified, non-binary and queer creatives and entrepreneurs, on 31 August. Kudos to Rey for this epic mastering job; see Uferlos Studios for more.
For more Oramics action, here’s the latest Behind The Stage podcast, with Szkoda:
I got to write about Oramics a couple of times before:
And see also my chat with Dyktando, who also contributed to this compilation, from when I got to play with him last summer:
If you need a break from buttoned-up techno, dance music as business and fashion statement and morose wallpaper – take a holiday with some “trippy mindfkk-muzzikkk.” Here, we’ve got 170 tracks from 1991 Cologne to today to get utterly weird.
In 1990s Cologne, if the techno scene was spread too thin, you could just manufacture a few dozen aliases and DIY the whole thing. At least that seems to be the approach taken by our friends Air Liquide, aka Cem Oral and Ingmar Koch, and a half dozen or so core artists – a band of buddies making weirdo sounds. See the full alias list at bottom, but DJ DB (aka DB Burkeman) traced the history of the duo for the now-defunct THUMP from VICE:
Now, just when you thought it was safe to go back to Germany, Air Liquide have returned to make European electronics mindfkked again.
We’ve got over 16 hours – 170 tracks – on streaming services like Spotify, chronicling the evolution (or whatever it was) of Air Liquide from 1991 through today. The sounds are futuristic, spacey, hyperactive, bizarre – everything in turns. You know you need some broken ultra-fast acid piping through Spotify on your next workout, of course:
But in addition to that history, their label Blue is back.
Maybe this comes at an ideal time. With so many records sounding like generational loss – copies of copies of 90s records, watered down and sanitized and fed through Instagram – the new Air Liquide project is both real media archaeology and real invention. You get remasters and rereleases of the actual original records, and – this is important – they’re making new stuff.
Air Liquide are back.
So albums like Liquid Air and Mercury EP are returning on colored vinyl and cheap-for-everybody digital. But you can also expect new creations, like a mini-album called “ALTR” which they’ve let CDM know they’re finishing now with German rave legend t.raumschmiere. And there’s upcoming collaboration with American poet Mary S. Applegate – yes, the cousin of Christina Applegate – later this year, along with other releases.
There’s even some unreleased 1992-93 era stuff in store, they tell us.
Included is “some crazy tripmusic we love – paired with some of our own brain fkk trax” – up to 94 tracks and over 8 hours so far, from around the world and the years:
Their favorite machines
One thread through all this music is a real, profound love for sound and electronics – and synths and noisemakers and effects, like, everywhere.
CDM asked for some of the duo’s favorite stuff, and here’s what they’ve come up with:
erica synths technosystem
akai mpc3000 (modded)
akai mpc60 mk 1 (modded)
ensoniq asr x (modded)
superpocketoperator build by doc analog with 2x teenage engineering po32, ipad with patterning2 and erica synths fusion valve filters. all in an old army flightcase
endorphin.es black noir with twisted electrons crazy8beats
ninja tune zendelay
erica synths & gamechanger audio plasmadrive
bastl instruments dark matter
crazy tube circuits stereo splash mk III
snazzy fx wownflutter
on the wishlist:
korg prologue 16
emu e II+ (modded)
roland 750 (modded)
superlatives sb1 spacebee
Postlude: namedrop this, m************:
Yeah, okay, starting a sentence with “maybe you’ve heard of” with Air Liquide could take a while if you want to check on all their aliases. From the VICE report – amazingly, possibly even incomplete:
Madonna 303, Black One, Digital Dirt Inc, Ingy-Babe, John Amok, Unit 700, Acid All Stars, Der Tote, DR. Echo, Free Radicals, Flüssige Luft, G 104, Message, Oral Experience, Alpha Unit, Basstards, The, Bionic Skank, Cipher Code, Cube 40, Denpasar, Electronic Dub, Ethik II, Even Brooklyn Grooves, Fridge Pro 1, Future Shock Project, Futuristic Dub Foundation, G.L. Posse, German Electronic Foundation, M.F.A., Mental Bazar, Multicore L.T.D., Non Toxique Lost, Outernational Steppers, Restgeraeusch, Rub-A-Slide, Set Fatale, Slime Slurps, , Time Tunnel, Titanium Steel Screws, Tone Manipulators, Trancemagma, Dzeta Walker, Ultrahigh, UMO, Vene, View Point Odyssey, Zulutronic, Black One, Digital Dirt Inc, Dr. Walker, Ingy-Babe, John Amok, 370°, Acid Force, Air Liquide, Alternate States, Atlantic Trance, Bleep, The, Brotherz In Armz, Cipher Code, Commando, The Creature, Denpasar, Dr. Walker & Electro Atomu, Dr. Walker & M. Flux, Electrochic, Electronic Dub, Elevator 101, Ermionis Phunk Crew, Ethik II, Fridge Pro 1, Future Shock Project, German Electronic Foundation, Gizz TV & Walker, Global Electronic Network, Helden Der Revolution, House Hallucinates, GEF, Khan & Walker, Lovecore, Mental Bazar, Mono-Tone, Multicore L.T.D., Pierrot Premier, Planet Love Ink, Planet Lovecore, Psychedelic Kitchen, Radiowaves, Recall IV, Red Light District, Rei$$dorf Force, Resist 101, South 2nd, Stardate 1973, Structure, Tantra-M, Technoline, Time Tunnel, Trancemagma, Trip 2001, Unbelievable, Unlimited Pleasure, Vermona, View Point Odyssey, Dr. W and X-911.
They have shared this new short bio/history with us, to give you the full story:
Born out of innovation & originality, Air Liquide are for many people one of contemporary electronic music cultures most pioneering, important and inspiring projects.
Cem Oral aka Jammin Unit and Ingmar Koch (Dr.Walker) first met in 1989 in a Studio in Frankfurt Main, in Germany. As it often is when like attracts like, it wasn’t long before they recognized their mutual love, not only for experimental, abstract and lo-fi musics but also for Alien, Bigfoot, Telepathy stories of Parallel Universes and Fairytales with a somewhat darker side. So it was just a matter of time before the two were getting together in the studio at the end of their respective dayshifts, to commence their own nightshift recording sessions of abstract noise, cut-ups and experimental soundscapes.
As well as Techno itself, likewise Acid, Industrial Noise, Ernste Musik, Ambient, Kraut Rock, Space-rock, 70s Psychedelia Underground Hip Hop and Musique Concrete were all somehow present and in the mix of the evolving Air Liquide sound, sitting comfortably and perfectly at home with elements of Turkish and Arabian traditional Music’s. The production process took on board a similar innovative and pioneering approach in its fusion of Modern Dub paired with the intensity of the all important groundbreaking Roland 909, 808, 303 and 101 must have technology of the day.
In 1991, they formed Air Liquide.
The fusion that was created boldly incorporated a past it was proud of, free of revivalism or plagiarism, clearly created in and reflecting undeniably a soundscape for the here and now that proclaimed uncompromisingly and assuredly, welcome to the future!
In keeping with every other aspect of their venture, Cem and Ingmar followed their intuition and instincts rather than established tradition, and immersed themselves in freestyle jam sessions, recording the entire one or two hours that they lasted. Upon later listening it would be decided if any parts of the jam session were up to the pairs criteria to be edited out and tweeked into tracks for release.
This is the paradigm within which the Air Liquide creative process birthed “Neue Frankfurter Elektronik Schule”, their first record, released in 1991 on their own label ”Blue”. The first pressing of 1000 copies, released on coloured vinyl, sold out in the first hour after its release!
This was a remarkable achievement, for an unknown band without any direct link to the House Music Scene. Via experimentation Air Liquide reintroduced a living breathing life affirming energy into contemporary music culture, much the same as techno and house did via rave and most importantly dancing. No surprise then that in a very short space of time, accolades like ‘The true heirs to Can’, ‘The Greatful Dead of Techno’ & ‘The spearhead of German Techno’ were incoming thick and fast from the International Music press. Their mixture of Hip Hop, Psyche & Krautrock, Acid & Techno endeared them to a rapidly established and increasing fan base around the Cologne area.
Their eclecticism, originality and self respect, as apparent in a seemingly “no respect for any rules” approach endeared them to that international music press, fans and professionals alike, especially as those professionals were born of the same spirit, as it had been in their own break through years. Like attracts like, the true fans of such musics, such fusions and the spaces that are created for and by these musics, of course could and can feel that, and step up to support it without question.
Then you have guests at your live jams like Michael Rother, Holger Czukay, Luke Vibert, Helmut Zerlett, Craig Anderton, Arno Steffen, Caspar Pound, Fm Einheit. Then your 100% improvised live shows successfully bring surprise, ecstasy, the unexpected and exactly all that people are wanting from you, as well in ways they are not expecting, all in a guaranteed we deliver way, regardless however it may be presented. Then you will be invited to join the roster of USA sm:)e records, the cult sub-label of Profile, that being the label of Run DMC. Likewise in UK, being asked to release on Casper Pounds all important Rising High Records.
And when your fusion of the experimental soul of contemporary electronica and krautrock creates such a superb and flawless fusion that fans from both sound spectrums love you for it, well then one of the all time forward thinking labels ever, Harvest records, will come out of retirement and re activate solely for the purpose of releasing your recordings.
Which is exactly what happened in 1993. That happens if you mean what your doing and if what you are doing is truly valid and unquestionably relevant.
Air Liquide were inspired, moulded by and arose from within that timeless borderless creative Freezone that births truly great Sound & Vision in every respect. It is where they still reside, and it is from there that they now re-emerge to mark 3 decades of living on the frontiers of International ground breaking contemporary ahead of the curve Music, Art, and attendant Technology subcultures.
Air Liquide represent the ultimate fusion of ideals, not believing the hype, not being swayed by past or present dogmas and staying true to their innermost aims and feelings, without question. The real thing if you will. Air Liquide were since their inception in 1991, always have been and still are very much the real thing, through and through!
Modern photos by George Nebieridze; all pictures courtesy Air Liquide.
April is a generous month for fans of unusual Ukrainian compilations – now having covered new braindance from the country, we’re directed by readers to another set, giving a tour of experimentalism and electronic composition.
Flaming Pines is a wonderful label for experimental music, also setting up its virtual home on Bandcamp, that last best hope for underground digital downloads and physical releases. Check their full catalog for adventurous sounds from 9T Antiope (great stuff) to Kate Carr (seriously, just go give those a listen). The label, a transplant from Sydney to London, has also taken on a number of tours of experimental electronic scenes in far-off locales, including a gorgeous Iranian compilation called Absence, and up-and-coming Vietnamese avant garde in Emergence.
It’s not so much exoticism the label seems to find as threads connecting kindred spirits. And now, having plumbed the depths of mystical sound in Ukrainian duo Gamardah Fungus, the label brings back half of that duo to curate a selection of sounds from that motherland. Igor Yalivec is the guide here, leading us in just twelve tracks to some highlights of established compositional voices and younger contributions alike. Igor you’ll also find showing off modular musicianship as a solo artist in addition to working in the duo:
Guitar and electronics yield magical metallic timbres like a lucid dream, in the work of Gamardah Fungus – some potent brew of remembered folklore and time-warped futurism. It’s Slavic spirit ambient, but always inventive – modal melodies tensely wandering about layers of tape and sound:
So this was a perfect starting point for Kaleiodoscope. That leads to Alla Zahaikevych (aka Zagaykevych) – her work spanning traditional concert music training, historical folk singing technique (with over a decade singing in an ensemble dedicated to the practice), and founding the Electronic Music Studio of Kyiv’s National Music Academy of Ukraine. I can’t think of many composers covering that many directions in a single career worldwide, making her a leader on that stage as well as in Ukraine.
Or there’s Andrey Kiritchenko, obsessively prolific generation X-aged composer who founded the cutting-edge Nexsound label – and has worked with names like Kim Cascone, Francisco López, Andreas Tilliander, Frank Bretschneider, Scanner, Charlemagne Palestine, and many others.
But thinking in generations or separating academy from disreputable underground – it’s fitting that we cross those borders freely now. So it’s an easy step to a younger artist like Motorpig, a visceral, dark project spanning techno, industrial, and experimental veins – and things that are none of those, but rather ambient, undulating merry-go-rounds of texture. (Been a while since there was new Motorpig, so I’m up for any new track):
To come full circle, understanding the reason for this journey out to Ukraine, it’s worth hearing the terrifically nuanced sound world of Flaming Pines’ own Kate Carr. These are ambient soundscapes that breathe and ache, as precarious and fragile as evidently the artist was recording them – “sliding about in freezing mud on steep inclines.” And maybe that’s what this is all about – music that invokes deep spirits and puts itself in positions of extreme difficulty, all to catch fleeting moments of beauty.
So the compilation promises great things – like this utterly chilling vocal composition by Alla Zagaykevych, some evidently convolved, ghostly sound that seems to be about to blow away like frost:
Also in future-vocal territory, Andrey Kiritchenko delivers a chanting vocoder:
The art, at top, also comes from Ukraine – artist Alina Gaeva. I look forward to the compilation coming out on April 22 – but there’s plenty of link holes to drain our PayPal accounts on Bandcamp in the meantime.
And all of this makes a nice contrast to that naive nerdy braindance business from a couple of days ago. Previously, on “there’s a lot of really cool music from Ukraine on Bandcamp now and it’s worth dropping doing other things to talk about it”:
The letters titling the release spell out, in Cyrllic, “sh**s.” And more than just another dull compilation, this collection of tracks is a statement – in opposition to commercialism and homogeny, in favor of “braindance” weirdness.
The earnest voices of the ШЩЦ creators intone their explanation in an ‘intro’ track you get with the download. “We have power to … make it not commercial, to make it true, to make it native,” they explain – “emotional music, true music from true people.” 23 artists were picked out of hundreds, and the result is a pay-what-you-will Bandcamp release plus a DVD physical copy. (Just got a confirmation – the DVD I impulse-bought is coming in the mail. This should complete my antiquated release format bingo, alongside floppies and game cartridges and VHS tapes and so on….)
ШЩЦ is a party in Kyiv as well as this first music release, and so in addition to lots of new names, you’ll see the likes of Stanislav Tolkachev. The collective itself is based in the capital city, but connects a group from around the country.
You’ll find some magical and surprising arrangements here. And in an age that so often trends between molasses-thick irony and nostalgia on one hand, or dark dystopia on the other, this is music that that’s free, experimental, and optimistic. Just to name a few favorites, and I like this top to bottom – Xtal’s “A-Body” shimmers with cascades of glistening tunes across a frosty-rich percussion bed. Sztvo’s “Heaton” is equally gorgeous, sunlit-warm stuff. “Famergame” is total insanity, by Potreba – please, please DJ with this and invite me. Jubex “Pass In The Dust” feels almost like the Detroit-Kyiv electro connection, with some dry digital newness thrown in. “Hibernation” by S+ is frenetic and urgent. And yeah, Tolkachev’s contribution sounds like there was a transporter accident on the disco floor. Everywhere there are rhythms that range from frantic digital streams to dorky awkward irregularity.
We’ve heard these timbres and rhythms before, but to me ШЩЦ is a sign that what was once high-falutin’ computer craft has become downright punk – and just as easy and spontaneous, rather than sounding overworked or off-putting.
Ukraine now post-revolution is like UK 90s, they argue. But hey, UK or not, why not go oldschool by making connections just by putting together some tracks and being decidedly weird. More of that, please.
“Listen on Bandcamp … and also, wherever in Internet.”
I also dig that their description reads like a manifesto:
ШЩЦ (SHITS) is a new Ukrainian label that started as a club night in December 2016. It was founded by A-Body, Bodya Konakov and their friends and promotes ‘Braindance’ — a much loved and misunderstood genre of electronic music, forgotten by some and indeed new to others, especially in Ukraine. Label founders want to show a kind of ‘family’ of ukrainian artists (by no means a monopoly) who introducing more freedom and versatility to music. These artists feel that there is a void in the country’s dance music that few were attempting to fill so ШЩЦ (SHITS) aims to demonstrate to the rest of the world that Ukrainian braindance music can be entirely original. Also, it disregards the all-to-common commercial genres and wants to show alternative side of dance music.
They tries to demonstrate this in VARIOUS ARTISTS ШЩЦ01, a DVD compilation.
The compilation features 23 musicians from Ukraine, which makes innovative, but at the same time emotional music. This is the friends of the label who have repeatedly performed at concerts and parties of the ШЩЦ (SHITS), including such names as Stanislav Tolkachev, A-Body, Wulffius, Potreba, Sommer, Tofudj, Sasha Very, Acid Jordan, etc.
Also label places equal importance on the evolution of fresh artists on the scene and aims to offer a fair contract for everyone.
What’s to say a music idea can’t be both a tool and a tape, an instrument someone could play or an album they can get lost in? Puremagnetik are launching their new experimental label with two free tools that let you keep the drones and grains and ambient soundscapes flowing.
There’s a bunch of hype this week because Warner Music signed an algorithm. And in turn with everyone abusing the term “AI,” you might well think that a computer has automated a composer’s job. Except that’s not what happened – in the long tradition of algorithmic music, a group of composers applied their ideas to the development of software. One of the first apps launched for the iPhone, in fact, was the Brian Eno – Peter Chilvers “Bloom.” Endel has more in common with Bloom, I’d argue, than it does some dystopia where unseen, disembodied AI come to rob you of your lucrative ambient music recording contract. (At least, we’re not there yet. Endel is here in Berlin; I hope to talk to them soon – what they’ve done sounds very interesting, and maybe not quite what the press have reported.) Bloom in turn was a follow-up to Eno’s software-based generative music releases. Ableton co-founders Gerhard and Robert released software in the 90s, too.
So let’s talk about the role of musician as blurred with the role of instrument builder. Soundware and software shop Puremagnetik is made by musicians; founder Micah Frank was moonlighting in sound design for others as he worked on his own music. While this may come as shocking news to some, it turns out for many people, selling music tools is often a better day job than selling music or music performances. (I hope you were sitting down for that bombshell. Don’t tell my/your/anyone’s parents.)
But there are many ways to express something musically. Many of us who love tools as we do love playing live and recording and listening do so because all of these things embody sound and feeling.
It’s fitting, then, that Puremagnetik are launching their own record label to house some of the recorded experiments – Puremagnetik Tapes, which already has some beautiful music on cassette and as digital downloads.
And the perfect companion to those albums is these two free plug-ins. Like the label, they promise a trip for the mind.
The two first tapes (also available as digital)… gorgeous sound worlds to lose yourself in on loop.
The label announces it will focus on “experimental, ambient and acousmatic music.” That already yields two enchanting ambient forays. “Into a Bright Land” is in turns crystalline and delicate, warm and lush as a thick blanket. It’s Micah Frank himself, releasing under his Larum moniker. The musical craft is a digital-analog hybrid, part synths and tape machines – the kind the company has been known for sampling in its sound work – and partly Micah’s intricate custom coding work in the free environment Csound.
To accompany Into a Bright Land, there’s the plug-in “Expanse,” a “texture generator,” with a combination of “texture tone” filter, spectral blurring, adjustable pitch shift, and a healthy supply of noise generation and space.
Its drones and sonic landscapes draw from that same world.
Tyler Gilmore aka BlankFor.ms has crafted “Works for Tape and Piano,” pushing each instrument to its most vulnerable place, the tape itself becoming instrument, sounding almost as if at the point of a beautiful breakdown.
Since you can’t just borrow Tyler’s tape machines and such, Driftmaker is a digital equivalent – a “delay disintegration” device. Add your own audio, and the plug-in will model analog deterioration. The artist himself supplies the presets. Again, you have plenty of control – “parse” which sets the record buffer, “chop” which determines how much to recall, and then controls for delay, modulation, filtering, and wet/dry.
Both plug-ins are free with an email address or Gumroad login.
…and the plug-ins, each created to aesthetically accompany the albums.
There’s a pattern here, though. Far from a world where artists remove themselves from craft or automate the hard work, here, artists relish in getting close to everything that makes sound. They make music the hard way because each element of DIY is fun. And then they share that same fun. It might well be the opposite of the narrative we’re given about AI and automation (and I suspect that may also mean artists don’t approach machine learning for music in the way some people currently predict).
Or, well, even if you don’t believe that, I think you’ll easily lose whole evenings with these albums and plug-ins alike.
Latlaus Sky’s Pythian Drift is a gorgeous ambient concept album, the kind that’s easy to get lost in. The set-up: a probe discovered on Neptune in the 26th Century will communicate with just one woman back on Earth.
The Portland, Oregon-based artists write CDM to share the project, which is accompanied by this ghostly video (still at top). It’s the work of Ukrainian-born filmmaker Viktoria Haiboniuk (now also based in Portland), who composed it from three years’ worth of 120mm film images.
Taking in the album even before checking the artists’ perspective, I was struck by the sense of post-rocket age music about the cosmos. In this week when images of Mars’ surface spread as soon as they were received, a generation that grew up as the first native space-faring humans, space is no longer alien and unreachable, but present.
In slow-motion harmonies and long, aching textures, this seems to be cosmic music that sings of longing. It calls out past the Earth in hope of some answer.
The music is the work of duo Brett and Abby Larson. Brett explains his thinking behind this album:
This album has roots in my early years of visiting the observatory in Sunriver, Oregon with my Dad. Seeing the moons of Jupiter with my own eyes had a profound effect on my understanding of who and where I was. It slowly came to me that it would actually be possible to stand on those moons. The ice is real, it would hold you up. And looking out your black sky would be filled with the swirling storms of Jupiter’s upper clouds. From the ice of Europa, the red planet would be 24 times the size of the full moon.
Though these thoughts inspire awe, they begin to chill your bones as you move farther away from the sun. Temperatures plunge. There is no air to breathe. Radiation is immense. Standing upon Neptune’s moon Triton, the sun would begin to resemble the rest of the stars as you faded into the nothing.
Voyager two took one of the only clear images we have of Neptune. I don’t believe we were meant to see that kind of image. Unaided our eyes are only prepared to see the sun, the moon, and the stars. Looking into the blue clouds of the last planet you cannot help but think of the black halo of space that surrounds the planet and extends forever.
I cannot un-see those images. They have become a part of human consciousness. They are the dawn of an unnamed religion. They are more powerful and more fearsome than the old God. In a sense, they are the very face of God. And perhaps we were not meant to see such things.
This album was my feeble attempt to make peace with the blackness. The immense cold that surrounds and beckons us all. Our past and our future.
The album closes with an image of standing amidst Pluto’s Norgay mountains. Peaks of 20,000 feet of solid ice. Evening comes early in the mountains. On this final planet we face the decision of looking back toward Earth or moving onward into the darkness.
Abby with pedals. BOSS RC-50 LoopStation (predecessor to today’s RC-300), Strymon BlueSky, Electro Harmonix Soul Food stand out.
Plus more on the story:
Pythia was the actual name of the Oracle at Delphi in ancient Greece. She was a real person who, reportedly, could see the future. This album, “Pythian Drift” is only the first of three parts. In this part, the craft is discovered and Dr. Amala Chandra begins a dialogue with the craft. Dr Chandra then begins publishing papers that rock the scientific world and reformulate our understanding of mathematics and physics. There is also a phenomenon called Pythian Drift that begins to spread from the craft. People begin to see images and hear voices, prophecies. Some prepare for an interstellar pilgrimage to the craft’s home galaxy in Andromeda.
Part two will be called Black Sea. Part three will be Andromeda.
And some personal images connected to that back story:
Brett as a kid, with ski.
Abby aside a faux fire.
More on the duo and their music at the Látlaus Ský site:
It’s easy to forget if we get too deep into hero worship and seriousness, but real creativity is fun and boundless. So nothing energizes like talking to people like Alan Oldham, the multidisciplinary Detroit techno artist.
Oldham, sometimes DJing as DJ T-1000, had a multifaceted series of roles in techno. So he’s served in Underground Resistance – including as “Minister of Information.” He did artwork for Derrik May’s legendary Transmat label. He’s a comic artist as well as a producer, savvy enough to interact with the art market and not only the music industry. A lot of us in the USA got our first introduction to techno and the full story behind it through his story “Fast Forward” on National Public Radio. But then, in this age of overabundant production, we need those kind of voices now more than ever – people who can narrate what’s happening in music, DJs in the club sense and DJs in the radio sense.
Meanwhile, as CDM finds its evolved voice this year, I got to invite Alan (now a Berlin transplant) to talk about his process, to jam a little, and to chat about music, aesthetics, and futurism.
Alan is a big Native Instruments Maschine fan, and it’s nice to see how the MPC and other hardware workflows have made the transition to the computer age. I think immediacy is important to tapping into that creativity.
Have a look:
Off camera, it was also great that Alan got to hang out with our other guests, HRTL and Oliver Torr and their live project Windowlickerz. Growing up in Detroit, meet growing up in Czech Republic.
Alan Oldham in the studio.
Making beats (MASCHINE MIKRO), making comics (paper and pen).
Since January, Alan has been busy, in the studio and in the club (as well as continuing his visual art work). Message Discipline is the EP dropping in October on Pure Sonik Records.. The timbres, the tech are decidedly future-looking, not nostalgic. But as a lot of techno gets cold and clinical, overthought, or overly … well, dreary (not that there’s anything necessarily wrong with that) — this is none of those things. It’s “up,” as Alan says. Maybe it’s hard to find words for that funky, groovy feeling because it’s better to describe it me moving my body around than it is just wiggling my fingers over the computer keyboard.
You know you’re in for something special when you’re dancing around to the damned excerpts on SoundCloud. Tell me I’m wrong:
Even that last cut swings, like a nice makeout slow dance. And the title track sounds ready to blast into orbit to some, uh, really sexy space lounge, I would imagine.
Message Discipline is all bangers, but for a more tripped-out experience, DetroitRocketScience is the ticket:
Alan and Ellen Allien can often be caught side by side, so expect more on Ellen’s BPitch Control, like this excellent remix:
He’s also got a great remix of Sky Deep’s “In This,” but looks like I can’t share that – take my word for it.
Now who wants to don an Andy Warhol wig and dance around a bit? Yeah? Have a great weekend, y’all.
Related – in summer 2011, Wax Poetics provided us with this article they ran exploring early Detroit techno history, and even talked to Alan. of course, now you meet the Detroit artists in Berlin.