Back home at Pr0gramma, back to some rough and raw structures. I’ve always been bad with timing and so I present theses rough and earthy tunes just as the brighter days are coming. And while I may be a bit better with words I stick to the valued opinion of Pr0gramma’s Ismael:
Back in the key of Octobird, we return to the pristine dynamics of Bimstein. From the onset, Palm Slap leans in with sluggish tape edit styles, tight electro rhythms, and playful earworms. Evolving into what feels like a moody 5th gen platformer, things take a more metallic heavy-rhythm turn. Controlling the color palette is a clear Octobird skillset. Passing halfway, melodic tension emerges once again from the rhythmic detour making for a very narratively guided trio of closing tracks. From the heavy side-pumping of saturated echoes to the crazy well-crafted perc throughout, PR16 feels like the inevitable polished gem of a closer. There is no lag here, just pure diamond quality.
It’s been a bit quiet here for some time. So why not tune back in a quite loud manner 😉
For some time now I’ve gained a little more trust in Soundcloud. It remains to be seen whether this will last in the long term and whether Soundcloud will manage to decide at some point whether they want to milk either fans or musicians. But at least the algorithms are still refreshingly blunt.
And it was through them that I came across Mimoid. A Toronto based producer about whom you can guess more than you can find out from his previous output. But one thing can be attested without a doubt: an excessive predilection for acid. And so the usual suspicious number combinations from 303 to 808 gather at a table to document their violent disputes on tape. Which… sure…isn’t a whole new concept by itself, but Mimoid manages to stretch his acid with a good number of his own ingredients. If you listen to Mimoid’s second work DSTD, you might get the impression that someone is striving for some good manners here on mmxx. Largely DJ-friendly tempos and selected ingredients. Something that usually doesn’t always work out well, because a child who tries to play by the rules of adults doesn’t really play in the end. But Mimoid is no ordinary child. He suffers from a severe form of serious brain dancer. His uncanny energy builds up through the constant urge to break out of the usual patterns. The individual elements of each track, from the acid lines, machine rhythms and rave stabs, keep pounding against the limits of the traditional set of rules in order to defy themselves and to let off some steam.
mmxx reveals its strengths in two main challenges. On the one hand, in how he manages to weld his repertoire of tracks together and pastes them properly with grease and dirt. And then there is the groove, which doesn’t just make everything a little more funky or wonky or whatever, but rather ensures that our usual suspicious combination of numbers don’t persist in self-disputes, but rather attack each other properly. The acid lines seem to break apart again and again between stoic and stumbling, only to be whipped back into the pattern by a clap or something at the same time. And in the end there is always only one direction: forward!
As someone old enough to remember the days before the digital music democratization but just a tiny bit too young to have experienced the magic of the Berlin post-wall-techno-revolution, for quite some time there have only be two important music labels for electronics: Ninja Tune and Warp. As much as we might moan about drowning into a state of invisibility with our own music, simply from the pure amount of supply out there, it’s always helpful to take a step back and remember how different the musical landscape of experimental music was 25+ Years ago. It almost seemed as if the top distributors of “intelligent dance music” would have passed artists and releases to each other, depending on the bpm mood of their average listener. Everything on the 90bpm landmark for the dope heads came from Ninja Tunes, at 120bpm Warp Records stepped in for the more conscious braindancer and when computer science was as far as making breakcore possible, the gap was open for Planet-µ. (This, of course is less science and more of a blurred polaroid of the 90’s.) Of course there where other labels, but our world was still so small and therefor these ones became the cornerstones that thrived the music of tomorrow.
So why care about this now, at this very moment? Well, there are two reasons: One, Warp Records finally warped their entire back catalogue onto Bandcamp, what gives me the possibility to make a BMC-List. And second, they just used some of their powers to drag you away from Bandcamp back to their very own platform veteran Bleep.com with a Boxing Day Sale. 50% of on their digital catalogue is just a great chance to fill some gaps in your Warp Collection. Which is exactly what I just did. (You might have maybe missed that deal when you read this, because this whole article took longer than I expected). I’m also guessing, I’m not the only one spending a lot of time in dim light behind concrete walls, right now. With not much else left than traveling in memories of brighter days.
And so, like many others before me, I grab the opportunity to share my perspective on this milestone of electronic music history. Deliberately not as some Top-10 kinda list, as I know there is an army of hardcore AFX/BOC/AE fans out there who wouldn’t share my views (…and shouldn’t have to). Instead I rather take on a totally subjective position and take a look back on some albums that actually had an profound impact on me at well remembered moments in time. And maybe one or two of them are part of a collective subconscious, who knows?!
Autechre - Amber
Back in my teenage years there still was a very strong urge going on to decide which sonic subculture you wanted to belong to. And while I was still soaking up all these diverse influences of a blues playing father, my punkrock brothers and my hip hop homies it took some persuasion to get me into this cold, technical stuff called IDM. Weed definitely helped. And so I remember this moment like not many other stoned situations: Sitting on the backseat of a friends car late at night and perceiving Autechres Teartear for the very first time on full blast. This piece of music was the most terrifying blank peace of paper ever to encounter. Cold, mechanical, full of everything that stroke against my naive believe of “true music” but still a catalyst of strong emotions I had not experienced from music before.
This was not only my starting point into experimental electronic music, but also the moment I realized that there is a kind of music that isn’t more, but just very different from all that music that makes us feel understood, belonging or emotionally confirmed. A kind of music that pushes us into the unknown infinite spaces of our subconsciousness. Often visualized with images from space, but actually digging for unknown places right inside us. And that’s still – also in the process of making music myself – the decisive force in electronic music. It’s not purely a direct channel of emotional expression, which is enjoyed and shared with others. But more of an opened dialogue between you and the pure sonic possibilities of machines (good ol’ “men vs. machine” cliche).
Boards of Canada - Twoism
While I was still busy figuring out all of these Autechrian fractal sonic landscapes, Boards Of Canada where a little bit more kind. Instead of diving into sound in their most abstract shapes, BOC provided us with associations. Their music was quite literally boiling over from them. Experiencing their music was like finding an old box of Polaroids in the cellar. Warm and earthy, like walking over the dry gravel of a country road and smelling the musty pond nearby. But this approach alone wasn’t totally new. There was something else to it. I guess, besides the total mystery of how exactly they managed to uplift these sonic landscapes, there were always some kind of hidden messages. As there are in memories too. The things we banish from our past to make room for everything we joyfully look back to. Something I just recently understood in it’s full potential with the help of a wonderful little DIY BOC documentary by the name This Is Hexagon Sun. But while this one decodes a lot of the hidden messages in BOC’s music there’s also the purely emotional level. And this is where Twoism stands out from their other releases (at least from my very subjective perception). Twoism skillfully combines the naturalistic soundscapes that made them famous (Sixtyniner), with sadly optimistic elevator music for office buildings (Iced Cooly) into a frightening mechanic force of nature (Basefree). A force they later went back to on their last Album Tomorrow’s Harvest, which still scares me so much that I’m not able to make it past the first one or two tracks.
Plaid - Double Figure
When I had my first introduction into the world of Plaid with their Double Figure album I was totally puzzled. There were so many things going on I learned to despise in my naive belive in musical taste, and yet I’ve instantly became hooked by these playful melodies and glitchy sounds. It was a courage for melody that soon should spread all over the place with artist like Kettel, Proem or Ochre jump on the train. But Plaid pefected this sound with Double Figure very early on. They were telling stories instead of handing over big chunks of cotton candy and the complex sound design still had a tiny bit of a raw charm. Like a beautiful rainbow, this whole spectrum of sound was never ment to last. It was just there and you never knew how much of it would outlast the signs of time. But Double Figure certainly did.
I still remember that Plaid were performing live quite regulary in the early 2000’s. It was just on of these acts you would always stumble into and I also remember one of my early gigs on the second floor at Maria am Ufer (R.I.P.) where Plaid was playing the Main Floor. It was funny because they would always come with some big sound concepts, like playing Dolby Sourround sets, just to fail on the technical possibilities on site. At the end they were just playing their tunes, one after the other, in stereo. So for me, personally, their legacy still is the creation of the perfect electronic home listening music. Because the sad truth is, once you reach perfection in electronic music, everything to come is just sound design.
Aphex Twin - Drukqs
Whenever musical genres like Glam Rock, Big Beat or Minimal Techno vanished and got replaced by something new, in retrospect it always seems like there was one defined moment in time to declare the death of a genre. If we would have had this moment in Intelligent Dance Music it would have been Drukqs. It was the perfect IDM album even though at a first glance it was quite complicated to understand it as an album at all. The odd contrast of pseudo accoustic instrumentals and hyper complex breakcore masterpieces just didn’t seem to belong together at first. But in effect you would just listen to it again and again, because both sides where just too beautiful on their own to be put aside, and before you could figure it all out you inevitably felt in love with it and it became the one IDM album we could all agree on. In this sense it was also one of the last great albums of the CD era, I guess. The last time we performed the great braindance unitedly, everyone in his own brain but interconnected trough the shabby connections of a 56k Modem. The death of IDM, only that we just kept going afterwards, everyone in his own niche of breakcore, acid and whatnot.
It’s a well-known mess. Hundreds of hours of session material from several years that want to be sift trough, cut, processed and packed in sensible packages to manifest a small chapter of infinity in the infinite expanse of the Internet. Vodor L Zeck and Die Blutige Hand completed at least one of these chapters now by completing their Drifts series with tape No. 18.
Drifts is braindance music for the subconscious, elevator music composed under the influence of acid. The widely distributed yet balanced ingredients of acid, braindance shuffle, leftfield techno and microtonal soundscapes never aim to offer hits and hooks in their seemingly endless jams. Rather, they are signposts for expanded states of consciousness. Perhaps similar to meditation records from the New Age era. Get them all, toss one into your tape deck at regular ritual intervals, roll up some good ingredients and just drift.
At first glance, nothing seems to fit on this 2 track split-tape. A solo piano piece on the A-Side and a 15 minute lofi house jam on the B-Side. And yet it apparently reflects the experimental musical melting pot of this New York collective. I say “apparently” because I couldn’t really find out that much about Kapha Selections, except that they have been releasing split tapes for about a year, which largely reflect the underground culture of their hometown.
A little more obvious is the International Winners Collective, to which this tape is dedicated. They’ve been organizing events and parties in Brooklyn, New York and releasing stuff on Bandcamp for a number of years now. Constantly strolling between art gallery and club without seeming to give a damn about whether they should please one or the other target audience. With a cross-eyed look across the Atlantic, such a concept, of course, brings up prejudices about would-be high culture immediately, which are also shaped by experiences from my own hometown Berlin. However, these can be completely dispelled with the two tracks on this EP alone. Because two things come to the fore here: curiosity and honesty. As different as these two pieces may appear, they are both a sincere invitation to a physical, spiritual experience. Both pieces do not want to be viewed and evaluated from the outside, but rather be experienced. (Sorry that I’m doing exactly the opposite of that at this point 😉 )
For these reasons, however, I will simply save myself from describing or even explaining the two tracks in detail. Instead I close with the realization that this short tape is a wonderful reminder that music is a living part of our confused cities and communities and that we will not be able to transport these experiences into virtual spaces.
And that’s a good thing!
There we have him, the newborn. That happy little companion who will cheer you up about the first hardships of the approaching winter. A handful of tracks that are rather creamy, soft and warm, but won’t refuse a little dance or two.
The links to the streaming services could still take a few days before they actually lead to the release, but Bandcamp is up and running. Everything else is fake anyway! 😉
Get closer to your radio, kids! Austin Cassell, a loyal supporter of the experimental electronic community, is back on IntergalacticFM after a seven month hiatus! This time with Special Guest Acroplane Recordings. A particularly happy coincidence, as I also had my very first releases at Acroplane in the glorious beginnings of netlabel culture.
Whenever peripheral areas in music are explored, whether in terms of speed, complexity or aggressiveness, there is always a critical point. Regardless of whether we are irradiated at a gabba party and crave for a climax that we have long since passed, or if we boastfully exchange our favorite breakcore tracks until the complex rhythm structures hit us as a wave of snare drums. At a certain point we cross the threshold from art to sport. And while some feel right at home in this spot, I personally often balance on that very partition, driven by a mixture of curiosity and skepticism. My own approach to music is just far too emotional and physical to be charmed only by my left brain hemisphere. And so, after this highly subjective process of elimination, in the end there aren’t that many who still manage to convey a physical or emotional message under the flag of hardcore-whatever.
In his self-description he describes himself as a multimedia artist working with ritualistic distortion, and his musical mainspring could hardly be better described. Located in a gloomy no-man’s-land somewhere between driving techno and gabba, he doesn’t seem to care too much about whether he could under-challenge some and overwhelm others. Instead, he fearlessly dives into the very core of the ecstatic ritual of contemporary club culture. With stoically hammering, distorted kick drums and tirelessly circulating sequences, he keeps us in a sustained state of physical exhaustion at just around 150bpm, which can ultimately only be maintained by fading out all conscious thought processes. Masimov’s talent finally reveals itself in his ability to maintain this state. And although you intuitively feel overwhelmed at first, he still allows room for improvement and allows the individual elements of his music air to breathe. And so ultimately he leaves us with the last remaining conscious decision, whether we want to swim or run.
A silent evolution is taking place between pixel-flooded landscapes and rhythmic clacking wood emulations. An Euclidean alternation between melody and texture, structure and color. And while hype addicts are still looking for the perfect hookline, the free spirits have long been researching new parameters of expression. And so this episode of Octobird Salad is intended to pay tribute to those free spirits who are looking for new parameters of composition in a mixture of club functionality and emotional expression. And by the way, a sneak peek into my own attempts in this field, which will see the light of day in the very near future. But you have to stay until the end of the party.
It is probably the hidden merit of Jan Jelinek (who is represented here with his Farben project) to have pushed the deconstruction of melody and rhythm. For almost twenty years now, he has been busy blurring the familiar patterns and levels in music and thus lovingly freeing us from our cherished bonds. Always deeply experimental in his musical approaches, somehow he never wanted to scare us. He was rewarded with all kinds of attempts to put him in some kind of genre. Yet he was minimalist before Minimal became a short-lived club trend. Was too conceptual for Ambient and Lounge.
While Jelinek seems to have long since arrived in the academic quarter of his existence, there are plenty of descendants who are striving for structural changes on the dance floor. On Firecracker Recordings all varieties of house music are doused with liters of paint. Dauwd just nailed the Theory of Colours with their eponymous album and 1080p Records owe their independent character in the LoFi corner primarily to their color spectrum. Instead of releasing anyone who can run an R’n’B sample through a tape plug-in, they mainly stood out for their selection of independent sound spectra (which was then run trough a tape plug-in).
So this isn’t all big news and some might even legitimately doubt my brave claim to set Jan Jelinek on the throne here. Let me be honest and reveal that this is all a frame for my own musical intentions in this science and the final track might give a glimpse in this. For me personally this is all very much connected to the art and science of sampling, of finding the hidden textural magic between the peaks of recorded sounds to give them a second birth of something the sound itself wouldn’t have imagined. So keep your ears open, either here at octobird.org or on my Bandcamp for something up-to-date…finally.