A Journal Of The Dark Arts
Label: Opal Tapes
Release Date: 10.12
RIYL: Ekoplekz, Actress, Pole, Atom TM, echoes, delays, Berlin, hardware, software, Tapes, good things.
Here’s a true gem from the recent live electronic undergound.
Everybody’s getting back to basics. You’ve got to pick a direction and go with it; it can be difficult to know where to begin. Some go towards maximalist pop music, filling every metric centimeter with layers of glossy sound, hellbent on creating the ultimate Dubstep. Others deconstruct, strip things away, and then re-build stark deadly minimalist constructs.
On this split from October of last year, Portland’s Best Available Technology and Stockholm, Sweden’s Ond Ton take turns running their rhythm machines through dub delays, layering the results with the most stripped down acid leads and abstract grit imaginable. This is like Terminator Techno, like bumping down rippled asphalt at night.
BAT’s side veers towards Tech-House, using a barebones frame of solid, thumping bass and snare to create the basic outline of house music, and then adorning the dancing skeleton with wreaths of static, lasers, garbled radio transmissions. Most of BAT’s side glides along at a steady, trancey pace, like cruising the empty audobon, the sleek sexy forward propulsion of real techno; at one with the machines. He interrupts the smooth terraplaning with bursts of static grit, as noisy as any Whitehouse record, the tracks ‘Other You’ and ‘Dethrone Us’, which show Kevin Palmer to have wide listening habits, an open mind towards what goes into his music, a true experimentalist.
This tape is Best Available Technology’s first release, as far as i’m aware, and it seems like the field note of a producer getting down to the basics of bass weight and mood, atmospherics and fidelity. He’s just released a new album, Excavated Tapes 1992 – 1999, on Astro:Dynamics, and i’m highly curious to see if this producer fills in the spaces, or if it’s just as sparse. Best Available Technology’s side is one of the best noise, or deep house records that you’ll here that’ll change the way you think of both genres. Exceptional.
Ond Ton gets more lowdown: remember illbient? It never really went away. Just burrowed underground, like a hive’s nest, lurking in blue rooms, waiting for the sun to go down. Ond Ton’s music has a downbeat, fat and nasty bass growl to it, somehow slower than slow, restraining itself, implied menace. The machines held at bay, dangerous but beautiful in their symmetry. He veers between industrial hip-hop and slow ‘n steady techno riddims, swinging and jazzy and syncopated, in that glorious Detroit techno ghost-in-the-machine. He has a real organic feel with his gear, this shit seems handmade, homespun, unable to be replicated. It reminds me of Coil, DJ Spooky, Pole, Burial; all things that are right and unholy in the darker realms of electronica.
This cassette release makes an exquisite companion in the emptiness of night, a perfect soundtrack for vacant alleys and avenues; green leaves lit up like burning emerald neon. It is crumbling gothic sci-fi, dystopian animism – they seem like tech-shaman, burning herbs in trash barrels, casting runes upon the walls. So here’s the thing, we’re living in the future, and we don’t know what to do with ourselves. They’ve all told us we’re supposed to be dust, and yet the march of progress marches forward, leaving dusty footprints. We’re living in an endless PRESENT, and we’re squinting with surprise. The walls have been torn down, and we’re floating in the void, bioluminiscent jellyfish with nowhere and everywhere to go. We’re dancing in the ruins of society, the reliquary of the past; holding seances in burned out warehouses, dancing until 7 am.
So with nowhere to go, and nothing to lose, you’ve got these blokes emerging from the rusty corridors, analogs in hand, reeking of solder, willing to do the best with what they have. They have something to say. So you end up with this minimalist, mantra-like electronic music, oftentimes created in the moment (remember jamming?), and it cuts through all the bullshit of expectations, pop finish and filigree – it halts the march of progress. It sits, and waits. All done within the format of dance music, using the technology and vocabulary of rhythms, drum machines, and new age synthesizers to play with certain expectations and responses. It makes you dance, but it also lulls you, puts you in hypnotic trance. That’s part of the interesting thing with this music, and with its ilk that is creeping out of the underground like seeping oil, is that it IS dance music, the kind you hear at raves and in clubs, but first of all, its on a TAPE, so it’s clearly not meant for vinyl DJs, (or even especially electronic ones, for that matter), so who is it for? A different breed: head-nodding hi-fi junkies in oversized headphones. New new agers, tripping and trancing out to crackle and hum; it’s more experimental and introverted by nature, so i find it interesting that this stuff is taking hold, taking over. It’s allowing a lot of the noisy sensibilities into the culture, with its exploration of randomness, chaos, ephemerality, humanness vs. technology, and new ways of constructing ‘music’ out of ‘sounds’.
Some of us are resisting the simulacrum, this idea that everything can be tagged, coded, labelled, immediately put on mothballs and stuffed for viewing. The museum negates the threat, makes something immediately comforting and hip and cool, a coat for you to put on, a patch for you to buy. Music genres are dying at an alarming rate, and resurrecting and mutating in an even more stunning spectacle. So the thing which i find most inspiring about this music is the way these authors are breaking things down to the basics, going back to the earliest, purest forms of classic electronic music, and exploring and refining what they find interesting. Perfecting their craft. There is a feeling of mastery buried in these cassette transmissions, these analog grooves. It’s a feeling of hope, a new futurism, all amidst the ruins and despair of an increasingly commodified culture.
What i hope to do (even though it is a bit of an oxymoron) is continue to catalog, meditate and analyze what i consider to be classics of various genres of music of which i find fascinating, and which tie in philosophically with why i started Forestpunk. I am, myself, trying to get down to the basics of what i find brilliant and compelling about these various sonics, and reflecting on what some of these aesthetics might say about our collective unconscious. This noisy, industrialized, handmade electronic music seems to be one of the main genres i have been listening to lately, so i will continue to dig up and point out the best sooty gems i can unearth.
Here’s a really remarkable interview with Best Available Technology, conducted with The Kort a few months ago, with an exclusive mix to go with it. He gives some of the most insight into the ways in which to construct electronic music with handmade electronics, in an incredibly clear and concise fashion, including mention of what gear he uses.