Buy Music Club #2 | “Beam me back, Stevie!” A very subjective trip into Warp Records back catalogue.

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.

Octobird Salad #12 | Digital Natures

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.

TRACKLIST:

Journeyman Trax: Inside
Farben: Love Oh Love
Beta Librae: Swope Park
Lnrdcroy: Terragem
The Room Below: Freedom
Kowton: Bits & Pieces
Gerry Read: Legs (Kevin McPhee Remix)
Dauwd: Silverse
Octobird: Flute Loot
 

Octobird Salad #11 | Muscle Memory

Even if the vinyl supplies in my apartment are slowly starting to displace me, I’ve always been a fan of digital DJing. At least when I’m standing behind the wheels myself. And in this playground I’m finally in the process of replacing my totally undersized MP3s with Flac files once and for all. And again in the same process I got infected with a serious case of audiophily and catch myself diggin for all these ultra polished electro tracks to convince myself that all the effort of re-encoding and re-recording is worth the effort. So Instead of the usual insider tips, this time I simply present a best of electro on steroids.

As an old friend of trashy sizzling acid music with a constant allergy to perfection, I am still quite reluctant when basses fly by slightly over-inflated. But there are a few who have mastered the double game of knocking out perfectly produced tracks that stand the ravages of time without getting tired.

Morphology have been part of this group since their very first releases on Zyntax Motorcity in the early 2010s. And my good friend Vertical67 with his label Vortex Traks was lucky enough to get some of their great pieces a few years ago.

Also part of the immediate vicinity are Mechatronica, who have set a well-guarded milestone in Electro when they released their “I Am Mensch” 12 “inch by Zeta Reticula and Helga Neuer.

Marco Bernardi is one of my absolute favorites next to D’Marc Cantu (who for once does not appear here). His efforts to produce club tracks in which he explores the rhythmic fringes, exposes us to dystopias and at the same time puts us into a deep trance, are unparalleled.

And from that point it gets dirty again with circulating, endless loops of drooling acid by Boris Divider, Isabella and Clatterbox. Including the title track of the Murder-Capital full length masterpiece by Gesloten Cirkel “Submit-X”.

TRACKLIST:

Buy Music Club #1 | All my Friends are on Acid

Regardless of whether you are fully immersed in global insanity or just chilling out with a tequilla on your hermetically sealed veranda. It’s good to be on acid!

I could expand this cliffhanger now. With pupils dilated in surprise, ponder where the omnipotent influence of psychedelic sound roots comes from. But the real reason for this list is that I generally have a hard time writing extensive reviews for people who are close to me personally. It is obvious! You’re just too scared of hurting your dear friends feelings.

So let’s keep it short and sweet! Shall we?!

My dearest musical colleague and friend Vodor L. Zeck gets busy! In addition to countless releases on his own Zanderhythm, he pours out some funky quirky acid stoners on Acid Waxa and Sitdownanddance!

My new favorite Argentinean trip sitters Franco ‘D and Cruz Coronado have a brand new label! The first long player on Infinit Records features wonderfully trippy downtempo acid jams. Stoned to infinity!

I only met Briain recently when he sold me his Elektron Octatrack on Ebay. Damn nice chap, part of the Berlin Skizze Crew, who (kinda like my good old Various Veterans) do their part to keep the Berlin club culture diverse. And a pretty talented Amen Breaker too!

My best pal Vertical67 has already made way too much acid. Now he lies horizontally and creates a nice ambient. I like it very much! I guess I’ll leave him there for a moment.

Gajek – a companion from the early days of our acid diaries. And someone who had obviously already way too many Kraut! I guess it helps him not to be so cerebral. But it’s the mixture of both that makes his music so great. Cerebral Kraut!

And me … Octobird. Oh, I’d rather not say anything. I am afraid to hurt my feelings!

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