A Journal Of The Dark Arts
Now we’re getting down to it. I’ve been working like a Jackal in heat the past 3 months, but was recently laid off, freed up to give all my time and attention to music (and writing), as it should be. I’ve hinted, at various points, about what the fuck is the purpose of this here blog. Its music/cultural journalism, sure, but in the most subjective, gonzo way imaginable. Most music journalists feign objectivity, an elusive eye-on-the-wall stance that boils down to predicting someone’s market probability, in my opinion. The idea that someone can set aside billions of hours of record listening, movie watching, non-stop reading, not to even mention their own early life experiences and biases, is preposterous.
I make no bones about the fact that my main interest (or at least my first interest) in becoming fanatically obsessed w/ music is as an aspiring song-writer and producer. I feel like we are the first generation to come into adulthood w/ full exposure and access to the entirety of recorded history, and we are forced to deal with our own ADD-addled attention spans and creative possibilities. That’s part of where the Forestpunk concept, were i forced to define it for an art gallery, is that i’ve been on the peripheries of this scene for over a decade, but always on the edges, mainly due to poverty and circumstances. I was still involved w/ the early days of p2p file sharing, the blogging community, the burgeoning critical theory movement, modern minimalism, but always with borrowed shitty laptops and internet connections. I would grab what i needed and take it back to my troll cave, desperately trying to learn how to become an electronic producer, how to cook Thai food, whatever normal people look up on their smart phone in the moment. I felt like a Morlock in the Eloi’s city.
So a huge part of what we’re attempting here is to learn where to start, how to begin. You can be whatever you like, this time around, the time is now, and we have it all at our fingertips. The machine on which i am pecking this afternoon has more sonic potential than Lee Perry’s Black Ark Studios, which made some of the most classic soul/reggae/ska, brought Jamaica to the rest of the universe, and was pretty much recorded on a boombox. With access to all the most inspired music, cheap access to high-quality recording tools, and an endless array of tutorials, we should be the most adept and prolific artistic generation that Humanity has ever seen, and i say yr copping out if yr settling for less.
So the first question, and for myself the most important, where to begin? An increasing amount of albums, compilations and mixes serve as an initiation, a guidebook, a portal, to worlds unimagined. Almost every album that i review has six other albums connected, the quicksand deepends, and we tumble further down the rabbit hole.
Which brings us to Solitary Pursuits by ADR, which is the solo vehicle of Aaron David Ross, of the horror-score-on-the-dance-floor/italo disco duo Gatekeeper. Solitary Pursuits was the inaugural transmission from the British label Public Information, whose creed would serve as an acceptable doppelganger for the Forestpunk mission statement:
A survey of electronics… noise… psych… industrial… house… dub… wyrd-pop… library… techno… art… design from the last seven decades…
1950-Tomorrow. New-Archive. Light-Dark.
This Is Public Information.
The label described Solitary Pursuits as “an 8 track mini LP, a burning head trip into electronic swamplands packed with science-fiction sonics.” It is definitely a trip, to be sure, but to these ears its more like the ice rings of Saturn than the backwoods of Louisiana. Are there swamps on Jupiter? I’ll guess we’ll have to find out.
Every sound on Solitary Pursuits sounds like its lovingly sourced from Analog electronics, which is a welcome respite from the last Gatekeeper’s album HD fluorescent sheen. The Analogs are more rounded and easier on the ear, which make it easier to listen to this album repetitively. Leave it play, all afternoon, and let yr apartment/plantation mansion transform into a Venusian jungle Eden, beautiful women swinging from vines to avoid pernicious, carnivorous plant life. Climb into yr AstroJet, set off into the inky blackness, into the unknown. This is the sound of adventure, of exploration, of possibilities.
It feels like ADR is exploring, himself, on this record, getting to know the knots and bolts of his circuit-boards and step-sequencers. He comes from a typical techno/raver background, before falling into experimental music while attending Columbia College in Chicago, which is where Gatekeeper formed (my alma mater, incidentally). He comes from a classical composition background, as well, and you can hear his songwriting acumen, if you pay attention. That’s a pretty common breakdown of listening to this type of record:
1. first encounter (what the fuck is this?)
2. repeat encounters (do i like listening to this?)
3. the details
At first glance, it is immediately obvious that this is a retrofuturistic sci-fi headphone odyssey. The warm and rich production makes repetitive listening a delight, and it is from there that you really notice the intricacies of ADR’s work, the way the dusty drum machines creep in, the gelatinous rainbow arpeggios that no human hand would begin to frame, the sinister subliminal murmuring on ‘Post PC’ that sounds like the Predator. Every step, every molecule, draws you further in, letting ADR’s fantastic vistas open up yr imagination.
Solitary Pursuits is an essential addition to the Gatekeeper projects; it seems more human somehow, more of the moment. It reeks of pure creativity, and will compel you into Gatekeeper’s immersive universe. It will also propel you into the moldering world of archaic Library records, and you may find yrself nodding along to old Atari commercials on YouTube while yr girl/boyfriend is sleeping.
And that’s the lovely thing about Gatekeeper, about ADR, about Public Information. They open up yr ears, yr mind. They let you hear the world around you in a different way. You might never begin to notice the possibilities of incidental music, sound design on television, advertising, and film, without the work of meticulous recreationists like this.
That’s the goal for the rest of the summer. I’ve been basting in the afterbirth of retro-auteurs for months, opening up whole wide worlds of musick i could never understand. Library, cocktail, samba, soul, reggae, ska and noise; cereal commercials and serialism, the universe is swimming w/ sounds like bacteria, rife for appropriation and appreciation.
Here’s a couple of interviews with Gatekeeper, to get to know Aaron David Ross:
Got an album you’d like us to hear? Hit us up w/ a comment, or send a message to firstname.lastname@example.org.