A Journal Of The Dark Arts
Released: March 2013
Label: Modern Love
brittle breakbeats. grinding techno. super repetitive; hypnotic. Trance inducing.
Demdike Stare represent everything that is right and holy with being a musical archaelogist; their name, their album designs, their mixtapes, all seem to suggest a bottomless well of cultural references, deep dark mysteries like fatted worms, beneath the logical surface of tensile industrial rhythms and obscure samples. This is music by and for diggers, those looking for the dark heart of music, who are not content with shallowness, obviousness or immediate gratification.
Forestpunk was pretty much begun as a Demdike Stare blog. When yr surrounded by all the music that ever was or were, it can be impossible to know where to began. After a decade of being a frustrated musician and a starving music fanatic, i found myself in the position, living with society and technology, that suddenly it was all at my fingertips. The Akashic Records were revealing themselves to me, and it was all there for the asking. This coincided with two significant, but ordinary, events in my life:
all music available for free, on the internet
the introduction of ableton live in my life.
For years, i struggled with music theory, trying to find the secret to songwriting, with no money and no recording capabilities. I was listening to tons of music, trying to work it out, but i didn’t know what i was hearing in my head, desperate to get it out, just to see what it was. Finally, i got my own machines, and steady access to the internet, and i exploded into light. I had all the sequencing, all the instruments, all the samples i could ever pray for, a google search away. But i was studying everything myself, and i have a curious mind, so it was like being pulled in every direction at once. So i was forced to pick a direction and go with it, to apply logic and deduction, to formulate my own syllabi, and you can study whatever you want.
Electronic Music is a simulacrum of what it is to be alive and participating in society in 2013 (post singularity). You can use the gear of the day to make something that sounds like everybody else, and you’ll probably get wildly rich and laid a bunch along the way. But musicologists know there is more to it than that, and you start wondering what it is that seperates BRILLIANT art from the merely commonplace. I started looking for what i call QUALITY (quaintly borrowed from Zen & The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance), the feeling of a Master’s hand in the works. A spark that is transferable, that wakes something up in you.
As i listened to more and more electronic music (and all other kinds) i noticed a trend that acknowledged masters of the form (like Aphex Twin or Autechre, or even Burial) were doing everything by hand; chopping their own samples, endlessly tweaking the drum arrangements, finding shit that nobody else had. This totally lined up with Demdike Stare, who seemingly source their material from antiquated equipment, grimey old VHS tapes, field recordings, the radio that they are listening to. You get the sense of Miles Whittaker and Sean Canty eternally holed up in a room with an old VCR and a tape recorder, there is something Burroughsian about what they do, very old skool cut-n-paste. The organic ways their loops line up and hit off of one another, like some hellish but beautiful machine. Their music left me swaying and gasping for breath, forever clutching towards excellence.
Add on top of this the occult origins of their name (Demdike was the name of the most famous victim of the Pendle Witch Trials); shit, these guys were even referencing history in their sound. Here was a pair that i could stand behind, believe in, obsess over to death. They encapsulated almost everything that i am interested in, in one fell swoop, and it made me start Forestpunk, to start to dissect these trends in music and culture. The rise of the occult, the rise of mastery and excellence, and attention to detail – the antidote to the garbage disposal culture of retreating attention spans and eternal hunger.
I found within myself an answer, a way out, through the mindlessness of postmodern society, by appreciation of my own life. So you start asking the air what it is trying to tell you, focusing on the emptiness with unfocused eyes until something starts to emerge. Letting Demdike Stare’s music play around your house, or while you walk around, is to embark in an ancient ritual; fires begin to spark behind your eyes, and dark figures dance. The keepers of the old wisdom, the old ways, everything wild and beautiful and free. Did you ever read From Hell, by Alan Moore? Jack The Ripper stood in triumph over modernity, thinking the harsh flourescent lights of the 20th century would dispel all the shadows, all the uncertainty, all the sickness and the death. All we had to do was move into white clinical rooms, be entirely on time, all the time, to be good little machines. But see, Humans started in the wastelands, assailing mountain tops, crossing seas. Some of us have a thirst for moonlight, remember what it is to drink frosty water from snowmelt rivers. We have been rushed towards the margins, like the old mental institutions, but we have never forgotten and we have never gone away.
And guess what? Yr fucking system failed. Unemployment is skyrocketing, people are eating each other’s fucking faces, businesses get ever more competitive over diminishing resources, and there’s no good answer in sight. Logic and reason are on the ropes, and who’s looking for the soul?
Well, the good news is Demdike Stare, and countless million others, have been looking for the soul all along. These audio warlocks are bringing it back in high fashion, and raising the bar in breakbeat excellence.
Testpressing #001 is the first in a series of 12”s on Modern Love (who’s been killing it lately), hot on the heels of their Weight Of Culture mixtape (these guys never sleep). They’ve picked up the pace quite a bit, weighing in with two 8 minute industrial drum ‘n bass bangers. Miles Whittaker has made d’n’b for years, and their sound has always had been a mixture of dancefloor and seance. The sound design is excellent, showing yet again their attention to detail. The soundsculpture at the beginning of ‘Misappropriation’ sounds like a winged eel sludging through a sewer, and reminds me of Coil. The ghost of Muslimgauze also haunts this track, with Bryn Jones’ distorted arabic beats thankfully preserved in amber and brought back to life twelve years later. Canty and Whittaker have the most exceptional of taste (or maybe just tastes that mirror my own), and i’m super stoked to hear these sounds brought fresh into modern ears.
Demdike Stare have reminded us to look for things that are hidden, things unexplored, the thrill of discovery and innovation. Every release of theirs’ is an occasion, and Testpressings 001 is no exception, especially if you consider the sweet lo-fi graphic design of the sleeves, old school dubplate status, super minimal. Everything that make is super sharp looking and collectible, as well as sounding awesome. They are truly a template of an elemental creative force, taking dance club musique concrete sculptures to a whole ‘nother level, and showing a dark continent of weird old horror movies, private press ‘70s German synth records for us to explore; dead voices, conjured from the air and channeled – a back pocket voodoo ritual.
You can listen for yrself:
Or grab a copy at BOOMKAT: