A Journal Of The Dark Arts
One of the reasons i got into writing about music in the first place was i always searching for it. Pre-internet, i would scour every major music periodical, every month, and daydream the sounds. As i get steadier and more reliable internet access, i began to fill in the blanks, to suss out those sounds that had sounded so intriguing.
After a while of writing, the sounds start to find you. Even small-time bloggers inboxes are rammed to exploding, with music from all over the globe, everywhere from high-polish professional press releases, to crunchy, smudgy self-released bedroom tapes.
Today’s selections are a bit of both. From textural, beat-driven ambient music from Ou Où and some Waitsian singer/songwriter fare from J. P. Kallio.
release date: 2.22.13
Label: Already Dead Tapes
Reflections on the infinite – a gleaming hypercube beyond the black hole.
Ou Où are Travis Bursik and Patrick Weston, based out of Saint Louis, Mo. The pair evoke the mysteries by combining repetition, minimal electronics, texture + machine drone.
Geocities is music for stargazing. The ground quickly leaves you, however, as you begin to levitate, and rush towards the starry wisdom. This is achieved by Bursik and Weston’s weightless ambient textures being welded to rushing, dusted machine beats.
Things start off with “Heat Death”, which is probably what implanted the celestial imagery, although the twinkling starshine synthesizers would have most likely conjured the planetarium imagery, even without the guiding language. The crystalline synth and drone are quickly joined by a simple Ace Tone machine samba beat, like something from an old Hammond in somebody’s living room, with golden drapes. These early drum machines are subtly morphed, dipped in echoes and reverb, dropping the ground from beneath yr feet.
That simple trick illustrates what is great about Ou Où – they are earthy as well as cosmic. They stand at a crossroads between the tactile and the handmade, and the infinite expanses of hyperspace. Their recordings are rooted in physical reality, which are then processed, tweaked and morphed. This produces more compelling visions, and makes it more relatable, then the digital onslaught of purely digital music.
“Magnus” is a stately techno number, full of subdivisions and glistening with oceanic ripples. It sounds like a progressive electronic track from the mid to late ’90s, something like The Orbital or Future Sounds Of London, but updated with the signature pitch-modulated voices of trap or vaporwave. It finds a pocket and grooves there, until yr nervous system ceases resisting and begins to move.
“Kanya” starts off with the sound of a Xerox machine, one of those real world details i delight in, in electronic records, with an infinite sustained tone building grandeur as well as tension. This sounds like someone who has had a cosmic experience over the weekend – whether abduction, or blasting their brains out on E – and then trying to recover the pieces on Monday morning. Copy room revelations.
“Ant Spiral” is the most beatless and textural on here, and one of my faves. Imagine getting dosed by the royal jelly of a gigantic radioactive queen ant. All thoughts surrender to the sweet subservience, as all thoughts are turned towards THE QUEEN.
Last up on this short ‘n sweet missive is “Maidan”, again beginning with a bristling organ drone. Ou Où like to take their time, and build, and it serves them well. These are dancefloor odysseys, like you used to hear at 3:30 am at a warehouse rave. Do they still do that? I miss chillout rooms. A very slight and subtle 4/4 kick, endlessly echoed, gradually builds in intensity, until some unexpected faraway vocals drift in. This is the sound of drifting past the Kuiper Belt, and forgetting the person that you once thought you were.
Or perhaps this is the sound of inner journeying, finding the nucleus of yrself, beyond all expectations of what people think you are, beyond hobbies and interests and invisible contracts. Modulated vocals mutate, like the voices of everyone you’ve ever known – all those voices in yr head, that tell you what to do, who to be.
Geocities would make a lovely soundtrack for a planetarium, or just lying on yr back on a futon mattress. I expect it would make for some sublime dancefloor revelations, so DJs and radio jockeys, take note! Broadcast these vibrations.
Geocities came out on the wonderful Already Dead Tapes label, split between Kalamazoo, Mi. and Chicago, who have been supporters of Forestpunk from the very beginning. The tape is sold out at source, but is available as a free download.
This is also part of our backwards listening series, as Ou Où have a brand new tape, Ou Ng, which i’m reviewing for another site. It’s a much more ambient and beatless affair, but both are excellent, and well worth delving into.
J. P. Kallio – Tell My Darling
If you spend any time here at all, you should know, we love folk music. Sometimes i go so far as to think it has been the purpose of History, as well as the history of Art, to give voice and dignity to the people, from the heroic epics to Van Gogh’s depictions of workers in the field, to Raymond Carver’s slice-of-life minidramas.
This marxist potential finally buckled and broke with the advent of widely available information technology. Now everybody with three chords and the truth can have their say, and that’s as it should be. To quote a recent book, Here Comes Everybody.
This does not change the fact that the ways that we receive music are democratic, as well. That is to say, that the speakers which bring you humble homemade fare are the same speakers that bring you the latest Beyonce record, and are held to the same standards. The fact of the matter is that most DIY music doesn’t stand a chance, and is washed away by the spectacle.
Unless you take a moment, and hear where they’re coming from. That’s part of what i hope to achieve, with Forestpunk, to share a few words on what i hear, and help you better navigate the complicated slipstream.
And while i believe in Folk music to the depth of my soul, and its part of the whole tetrology of what this blog stands for, it is my job to be honest about what i find. While i listen to absolutely everything, and try and listen to as much in my inbox as i can, if yr a Christian band, or a contemporary r&b act, or a mash-up remixer, it’s probably better for everybody that i don’t write about yr band.
I like the essence of what Kallio is going for. I like his stories of regular life and real people. I like his simple, unadorned, and no-frills, solid songwriting. It was a little too no frills, at first, which made me think this was somebody’s dad’s garage band from Memphis or something, vying for that much lauded airplay. A little too Jason Mraz/John Mayer, which has got to be one of my least favorite styles of music on earth, whatever you call it.
However, i gave J.P. the basic dignity of plugging into some decent speakers, slowing down and looking further into what he’s all about.
J. P. Kallio was born in Finland, but emigrated to Dublin at the age of 21. So it’s got the Irish exotica going for it, which made me take further pause. Sorry to say, but things not of my native United States get special precedence, or not of this age. The Other reigns.
I really do like the way Kallio plays (and records) guitar, as well as banjo and perhaps a little mandolin. The parts are simple and effective, and very cleanly laid to tape, which are then fleshed out with subtle overdubs. The parts are perhaps a little too clean, however, as Tell My Darling feels rather restrained. It’s great to get a polished recording, but we must not be slaves to the quantization grid.
That strikes at what i think is the disconnect of this record. It’s too middle-of-the-road. On one hand, Kallio’s music seems very personal and heartfelt, and on the other, it seems that he’s looking to dominate the folk rock charts. The problem with that is that most of those records are stylized in some respect, a little bent and broken, a little blurred around the edges.
This record is almost entirely clean guitar, clean voice. Everything up front and vulnerable. It’s just a little dry for these ears. But, to be fair, to admit my bias, i’m not a very lyrically minded person (which is something i’m working on, for my writing/analysis’ sake), so a lot of these slice-of-life stories are passing me by.
Again showing my bias, but i think the record picks up in its second half, where it gets more dour and minor-key, as on the songs “Pain” and “Soul”. Hey, i like sad music, i’m not going to lie. These two tracks, along, are worth the cost of admission, and show true potential for the songwriter. He seems more real, more poignant, more heartfelt. The cracks and seams are showing.
It’s one of the funny contradictions of the modern music industry, that the more seemingly personal yr music is, the greater chance for success. We like the feeling that we’re in on some hidden secret. We like the fly on the wall gaze. It seems that anything that starts out with the mindset of being popular, won’t be. I mean, there will always be a market for that stuff, endless anonymous coffee shops that will play yr music, like so much wallpaper, and you’ll get shitloads of likes on yr facebook, but dare i say it, those are not yr true fans. You’ve got to connect.
So, Mr. Kiallo, i want more! I want to see you crack. I want blood on the strings. I want guts. And tears. I want something real, and not the approximation. The musicianship, the production, and the productivity suggest this is possible. Let’s see it.