A Journal Of The Dark Arts
3 exquisite pay-what-you-want EPs from shadowy producer Akrylyk may be the truest reflection of Portland’s layered, nuanced culture yet.
People love to say what Portland is – “The City Of Roses”, “Where People Go In Their 20s To Retire”, “The #1 Food City In America”, “Stumptown”.
So which one is it? Is PDX a rundown, economically depressed, rustbelt harbor for the eccentric and impoverished, like some China Mieville brought to life? Or is it a slick, minimal, hyper-modern haven for designers and data analysts? Are we trendy or are we throwbacks?
The answer is, “Yes”.
More than nearly anywhere else (that at least i’ve been), Portland is truly what you make of it. You can find any worldview here, and exist almost entirely within its confines. If you want to stay close to the slick, clean, modernist aesthetic and pretend you live in a cloud city, you can (provided you can afford it), while it is likewise just as easy to surround one’s self in a retro paradise, adorned and surrounded by vintage clothing and antiquated housewares.
Portland boasts a layered culture, with a lot of overlap and cross-pollination.
Hip-hop could be looked at or interpreted as any kind of music (or potentially art or culture in general) that carries with it an “urban association” – by, for, and about living in cities, with low-slung vinyl beats mirroring the beating heart of asphalt, rubber, and steel. Techno, on the other hand, could be anything technological or made by humans, especially if it’s made with synthesizers and drum machines.
But what about when a string quartet covers Aphex Twin or Brian Eno? Is that still Techno, if its played on organic instruments? Or what about the junkyard raves of the Congo’s Konono No. 1, with crazy circuit-bent hubcap thumb pianos made to sound like laser-like zapping Wasp synths?
Given the virulent meltdown state of most electronic music, it’s not that hard to imagine a hip-hop/techno hybrid (although harder to pull off than you might think, as i’ve recently discovered via early attempts at mixing at my Freeform Portland radio show. If anyone knows of any convincing hip-hop/electronic music hybrids, let us know in the comments or tweet @ either #Forestpunk or #Morningstar!).
But post-black metal hip hop? What’s that all about?
Albeit a recently new development, and not yet codified, post-black metal is defined at this Reddit thread from /u/stoicassistant as “music using the elements of black metal but moving beyond the darkness of the genre.”
Here’s the point where writing about music gets fun, when news trends and movements exist in amorphous, indeterminate forms (like the early days of hauntology), before they become concretized and solidified into rigid, dogmatic forms to be overrun by poseurs.
So, yeah, you won’t hear much in the way of blast beats, buzzsaw guitars, or rasping, indecipherable, tortured wails on this excellent series of EPs from up-and-coming PDX Producer Akrylyk. Rather, the producer seems to be focusing on black metal’s naturalistic, post-human, semi-occultish tendencies, as a means of expressing some of what Mount Eerie calls the Pacific Northwest’s “vague sort of nature worship”.
Likewise, Akrylyk invokes dub techno – as practiced by Monolake, Gas, or anything on Basic Channel, to evoke the technological, futuristic aspects of Portland’s culture – the design, green technology, post-physical, post-gender identity shifting movements happening in this city.
Taken together – hip-hop, dub techno, and post-blackmetal – is the sound of coming to grips with the future. It’s the sound of nature reclaiming the city, and being entirely okay with that. It’s holistic and integrated, instead of trying to ward off nature.
Akrylyk released 3 noteworthy EPs, towards this beginning of this month, all available as a pay-what-you-want download. They’re all comprised entirely off instrumental, techno-infused futurebeat hip-hop, full of swarming echoes and sunburst synths.
While not exactly built for Hot 16s, I’d love to hear what some rapper could do over these beats.
Akrylyk’s a producer to keep your eyes and ears on. Portland’s hip-hop scene is notoriously overlooked and cast aside. I’d love to see that change, as well as bringing some new voices and vantage points to the genre.
If anybody knows of anything other music (or other media) along these lines, we’d love to hear it! I want to see more interplay between rave culture, hip-hop, and various forms of psychedelia. Leave us a comment if you have any thnoughts!
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For even more emanations from the Portland Underground, along with yr favorite post-industrial techno, horrorscores, crnchy hip-hop, field recordings, dream pop, shoegaze, and more, tune into Morningstar every Sunday Night/Monday Morning at 2-4am on Freeform Portland!