A Journal Of The Dark Arts
“yeah, we are a hip hop band, in a way, just in the production sense. A good hip hop record points you in the direction of a good soul record, or a good funk record, or a good rock record, or a good jazz record. It’s signposting you; there is a bigger world, outside of this thing that you’re really into.”
“after maybe 20 years of collecting records, you kind of wonder why – miles you still collect records, because it’s good to just be excited about the whittaker music, but having the band has given me and Sean another reason to justify looking for more records, because the more we listen to, the more we want to create music.” –mw
“A few months ago, Miles said to me, you buy all this music. You should do something with it. And it’s like, what’re you gonna do then? Are you gonna just sell the records you spent all your life buying? That was kind of one of the most depressing thoughts of my life. You just buy and buy and buy… you archive and shelve.” – Sean Canty for http://www.thedrone.com/
Here’s the most recent mix from office obsession Demdike Stare, the diabolical duo of collectors extraordinaire Mssrs. Sean Canty and Miles Whittaker. Demdike Stare are absolute geniuses when dealing with the permutations and ramifications of artist-as-brand, and all of their releases have been lavishly and lovingly packaged with the sweetest macabre graphic design, hinting at arcane folklore and musical influences, the likes of which you have never even guessed. Demdike Stare have been blatant about their usage of sampled material as building blocks of sound, so it is always a rare and special treat when they release a mixtape, and triply so when it has a tracklisting.
As has been stated previously, Forestpunk began as a Demdike Stare and Mount Eerie appreciation society, they seem to pluck the sounds from our slumbers and give voice to words we didn’t even know we were looking for. They represent everything that is right and fun and thrilling about being devoted to sound and vision in 2013.
MW: One of the things we’re actually trying to do is blur the line between a mixtape and a release. I love setting myself problems and then overcoming them. I actually write a lot of music doing it that way, because it almost turns out as a by-product. Especially in this day and age, I can sit down – where beforehand I probably would have spent two hours with my records, practicing mixes and then spending an hour recording – in three hours I can do a mix that’s twice as long, loop five out of the thirty tracks, create little edits for the mix, and stick a load of effects on. The scope is limitless. I’m really a fan, these days, of trying to blur that line.
We’ve released two mix CDs already, and we did a couple of podcasts last year which were starting to go down that route, so hopefully the next one might be a little step further. I really want people to be like ‘that really reminds me of something, but I don’t exactly know what it is!’ Just by taking a really unobvious loop out of something and using it for something else. I really like that, because it makes people look and dig for music. I don’t care if they’re doing it on YouTube or in a record bin – it’s not about format wars or anything like that, it’s just about getting people interested in looking for new music themselves.
– Miles Whittaker, for The Quietus
This is music to lose yrself in, to surround yrself by, wade in it, drink it down, gobble it up, wallow. Even reading about them is fun, as the obfuscated origin of their sounds and resistance to genrefication leaves critics scrabbling for words, touchstones of reality. They pull you into the darkness, an endless abyss of private-press academic synthesis documents, spiritual jazz, turkish psych and gay disco.
Demdike Stare’s music is concerned with opposing forces: decay and resurrection, loss and discovery, past and future, beauty and ugliness. It’s almost inevitable, given that it’s informed by the duo’s previous work in two ostensibly opposite musical fields. Miles Whittaker has spent years making grainy and often abrasive techno as MLZ and one half of Pendle Coven, and more recently has been responsible for a series of hybrid dancefloor tracks that unite dubstep’s sprawling sense of the urbane with dub-techno’s rickety intensity; Sean Canty works for the Finders Keepers label, unearthing ancient and lost recordings and giving them a new lease of life. So while one half of the duo appears defiantly futurist, tapping into a lineage that began with Detroit techno’s obsession with dystopian future worlds, the other’s work is concerned with tunneling backwards into the past. Their records teem with the sounds of that apparent contraction, but reconcile its two halves into a form that’s strikingly coherent.
On a number of levels, then, Demdike Stare practice a particularly potent form of modern witchcraft. As obsessive record collectors, they use acquisition of musical knowledge like weaponry, writing music by assembling it, layer upon layer, from samples and the rickety creak of hardware. This process of unearthing old recordings and reanimating them in new shapes carries with it an intrinsically arcane power; by passing the phantoms trapped in these records through a modern lens, Whittaker and Canty resurrect and re-contextualise the ghosts of the past. The results veer wildly from clouds of dense, almost impenetrably dark ambience to long-form tracks that could almost work on a dancefloor, powered by the incessant heartbeat thud of a bass drum.
Combined with their jet black, occult-referencing artwork and fearsome reputation of their namesake (Demdike was the most famous of the Pendle witches), the complete aesthetic the duo project is tied to a uniquely British sort of horror: all Wicker Man rituals, Shakespearian witches and wicked, sarcastic humour. In that sense, they’re tightly bound to a host of other musicians, working across a range of different fields, who tap into the modern world’s strong sense of political and social unease to reimagine the nervous dread of early post-punk and avant-funk. As with people like Shackleton, Actress, Raime, T++, Philip Jeck and Mordant Music, their music screams of different times and cultures colliding – thanks in part to their catch-all use of samples, from old psych-rock records to techno, through free jazz, dub and world musics – but twists them into forms that skillfully paste over cracks and tensions that might otherwise appear. The spiritual outcry of last year’s ‘Hashashin Chant’ is a perfect example; one of Demdike Stare’s finest moments, its incessantly looped voices trapped in perpetual motion depict a sort of abstract existential terror, as bleak as it is oddly beautiful. – Rory Gibbs, The Quietus
This mix is to just to hold you over, until we get around to writing about those Miles and Suum Cuique records. The mix shows the silvery strands between early tape collage pionners like Pierre Henry and Bernard Parmegiani and white-label trance disco, sewn together with aethereal glitter and dub techno riddims. The good folks at Secret 13 advise “good quality speakers and comfortable environment to feel it completely and perceive its hypnotic convulsions as well as entire mysterious magnetism that is gradually penetrating into one’s unconscious after a few times of deep listening.”
1. Bernard Parmegiani – Accidents / Harmoniques [INA-GRM, 1975]
2. Fabio Fabor – Monsieur Mysterious [Orly, 1973]
3. Bernard Parmegiani – Geologie Sonore [INA-GRM, 1975]
4. Experimental Audio Research – Untitled [Mille Plateaux, 1997]
5. Oliverwho Factory – Together [Madd Chaise Inc, 2003]
6. No Hassle From The Man – No Hassle From The Man [Not On Label, 1990]
7. Philippe Doray / Asociaux Associés – Clair Et Net [Scopa Invisible, 1980]
8. The Tony Williams Lifetime – Once I Loved [Polydor, 1970]
9. Pedro Iturralde Quintet Featuring Paco De Lucia – El Vito (edit) [SABA, 1968]
10. Pierre Henry – Communion [Philips, 1970]
11. Traktor – Traktor Artists [Not On Label, 1995]
12. Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe – M’Bondo [Type, 2013]
13. Wolfgang Dauner/Eberhard Weber/Jürgen Karg/Fred Braceful – (excerpt 1) [Calig, 1969]
14. Wolf Eyes – Stabbed In The Face [Veglia, 2003]
15. Egisto Macchi – Siberia [Cometa Edizioni Musicali, 1983]
16. Nigel Mazlyn Jones – From Ship to Shore [Isle Of Light, 1976]
17. Folke Rabe – Was ?? [WERGO, 1970]
18. Wolfgang Dauner/Eberhard Weber/Jürgen Karg/Fred Braceful – (excerpt 2) [Calig, 1969]
19. Mecanica Popular – Baku: 1922 [Grabaciones Accidentales, 1987]
20. Michel Redolfi – The Underwater Park At Sunset [INA-GRM, 1980]
21. Reagenz – Ü [Reflective, 1994]
22. Doctor Rockit – Ready To Rockit [Clear, 1995]
23. Giampiero Boneschi – Caldo Caldo [Fonit, Year Unknown]
I really want people to be like ‘that really reminds me of something, but I don’t exactly know what it is!’ Just by taking a really unobvious loop out of something and using it for something else. I really like that, because it makes people look and dig for music. I don’t care if they’re doing it on YouTube or in a record bin – it’s not about format wars or anything like that, it’s just about getting people interested in looking for new music themselves.
– Miles Whittaker