A Journal Of The Dark Arts
Adventures In Clown Town, by Portland’s noisy techno technician Ras Mix, is what it might sound like if Ralph Bakshi were to direct a movie about a young b-girl, escaping the ghetto trap of Dhalgren, and questing for the moon. On the moon, she finds a strange Morlock civilization, beneath the surface, full of buzzing neon, esoteric laboratories, and alien machine rhythms, coming down miles of PVC tubing.
Ras Mix is the project of Aaron Salomon, part of a burgeoning scene of experimental electronic producers coming out of Portland, known as SadoDamascus Records, or SDMPDX. Salomon takes the destroyed analog techno of Hospital Productions, mixes it with some acid hardware manipulations and straight-up noise, and injects it with dub’s riddims and endless echospaces, as beats and lazer tones are fed into the gloopy gelatinous repetitions.
Adventures In Clown Town was recorded in “jam0clock fashion”, live electronic improvisations laid straight to tape (or disk). Way back in 2012, Caribou’s Dan Snaith, when talking about the impetus of his Daphne project, talked about what he termed the “EDM Barfsplosion”:
Set against the backdrop of bland and functional dance music and the mind-numbing predictability of the EDM barfsplosion currently gripping the corporate ravesters, there is a small world where dance music lives up to its potential to liberate, surprise, and innovate.
We are all wary of the uncanny valley. Predictable music, sticking to formulas and algorithms, that never breathe air, that never leave the hermetically sealed confines of a motherboard, roll of our ears, like choppy sea foam off of a duck’s back. Some, like James Ferraro or Oneohtrix Point Never or even some of the grime/juke/footwork warriors, have chosen to fuck with this phenomenon, creating the most un-easy listening permutations of virtual muzak. And some, like Ras Mix, are doing something about it.
Jam0clock recordings are done live, with no overdubs and re-edits, and reintroduces danger and unpredictability into the techno formula, taking things back to the glory days of early Detroit Techno, acting as a telescope into millions of basement noise jams, with skinny kids riding their loop pedals like vodou mambas.
The thing with recording live is you have to have great musical instincts, especially to create something with as many movements as Adventures In Clown Town. You have to know yr gear, and yr sources, intimately, taking drum machines and sine wave jams to the level of bebop. This is something i’ve been waiting many years for, a true improvised electronic music, not dependent on pre-made loops, getting away from the stale trance of locked grooves.
Adventure In Clown Town will take you on an adventure. It veers between dancefloor bangers and crazy noise. There’s 4/4 banging, as well as dub riddims. There’s radiophonic echo chambers, like Dr. Who in some giant cavern in the center of some dark planet. There’s flickering, strobing basslines, that will make yr eyes roll up in the back of yr head, that will make you see stars, that will make yr heart pound.
Ras Mix, and the rest of the SDMPDX, actually stand a good chance of crossing over, and getting club fiends to listen to academic synthesizer records from the ’50s, handmade industrial cassettes from the ’80s. They are injecting dance music with soul, putting the painter in the landscape. Imprinting the air with phantom hands.