Noise, distortion and fuzz are often used as signifiers for violence or chaos, but in 1080p’s releases they are generally deployed in a fun and optimistic way. To us they represent flow and communication. This makes for a nice break from all the dystopian/bleak stuff out there (which we also love of course), and harkens back to the visionary, futuristic attitude of early dance pioneers (and sci-fi writers).
Weirdly but logically, this dual use of sonic techniques and tropes reminds us of a comparison between “Good Guy moustache” and “Bad Guy moustache” we read once (it might have been by Cormac McCarthy or Lester Bangs, can’t remember). 1080p are good guy moustache.
There is a lot of 1080p material that we want to write about. Today we are going to focus (apparently premiere LOL) on Scorpio Moon, by Vancouver’s NAP, whose Uncharted tape will be coming out on July the 7th.
As other artists in 1080p (and many others in the contemporary dance scene that interests us), NAP comes from a noise/DIY background. Uncharted contains a bunch of wide-ranging (“rhizomatic”) electronic explorations, including wobbly acid, exponentially expanding ambient and rattling techno, that remain cohesive in their diversity.
It is hard to specify the thread running through all of this stuff that makes it more than the sum of its parts. Perhaps it is the fact that the songs themselves feel like sentences more than words, modular compositions bubbling up into moods stitched as the chapters of a story that we would explain to you if we understood NAP’s abstract, informationally dense language. We don’t, so we dream.
Scorpio Moon is perhaps the most psychedelic stage of this journey, a spilling soup of normalised gamelan drones, reverberations, grooves and synthetic whispers, the peak-time banger of the party with which a mysterious civilisation abandoned its capital in the middle of the jungle, as it echoes through the ages.
One player rolls a die to decide how many actions the players will be able to describe. The number of actions is divided equally between the number of players, odd numbers discarded, and each player writes down an equal number of actions to be performed.
Actions are numbered and an appropriate die is chosen.
The sounds in Sleeping Desiress’ debut album are the brutal components of a mining operation coupling and de-coupling in the midst of the black cloud generated by the death of the planet they are vampirically attached to.
That latest comparison is particularly apt, that sense of inhuman shapes being revealed when humans enter the mist. This is most strongly felt in the slowest piece of the record, the spectral balled Impasse.
Imagine a gifted, classically trained child composer expelled into the cyberpunk gutter, left to fend for himself against packs of enhanced wolves, made feral and merciless in the hyper-Darwinian streets of Night City.
Imagine him going to sleep in his precarious niche, wrapping himself in a delicate cocoon of beautiful memories as dream arrives, singing a lullaby that soars emaciated for angelic heights.
This is what the synths do in this song, piercing the veil that separates this dystopic world from our summery comfort, insidiously infecting it with threads of darkness.
Acid House always had the ghosts of electronic music running through it. That squelchy synthetic 303 was kept busy tunnelling the electronic pioneers with their patch cords and rotary dials.
Stellar OM Source continue that tradition. Although now they’re channelling the gods of Chicago who were (consciously or not) channeling the machinery lined walls of Bell Labs and the Radiophonic Workshop. Ghosts upon ghosts.
Acid is just the beginning (of the track) though, Sudden luxuriates in the history of House. From its absorption of German experimental jams through to its gated hi-hats (which, in turn, Trap lovingly nicked in the 90s). Not to mention its onomatopoeic vocal sample. It’s hauntology gone mad, I tells thee.
William Basinski is one of our favorite modern composers. His live, orchestral performance of his Disintegration Loops masterpiece was not only one of our most loved performances of 2012, but of all time.
The last year and a half of his working life have been consumed with a new loop-based piece called Cascade, which morphed eventually into two separate compositions, the meditative, 40-minute piano cycle Cascade and its evil twin, the more “stormy” variant called The Deluge. “In this version,” William told us, “the loop is sent through a series of different length feedback loops gradually building up into a somewhat disturbing series of clashing overtones that eventually die back down before the denouement.”
The one-two punch of Cascade and The Deluge is already one of the releases of 2015.
In the first of a series of chats with musicians that particularly inspire us, we picked Basinski’s brains on a variety of subjects, from the work his dad did as a Space Race-era NASA engineer and mathematician, to whether he will ever return to doing the (so-far unreleased!) experimental dance music he attempted in the 1990s (it may happen, if a collaboration with his studio manager, Preston Wendel, leans in that direction).
Because we’re not music journalists we edited out our blather (we just scroll over the emboldened questions in Q/As, anyway!) and let William – who kindly has provided an excerpt from Cascade for you dear readers to download – take centre stage.
“For me, Cascade, with its odd rhythm and slightly-off time signature has a very watery feel. Much of my work has aqueous overtones perhaps because i was born under a water sign. I recently went on a very pleasurable road trip up Highway 1 along the beautiful central coast of California through Big Sur and Monterrey and up through Sonoma County to Mendocino. We were listening to Cascade and we just couldn’t take it off. It was like we were floating in a crystal spaceship through those gorgeous forests and along the high hills looking out at the glorious Pacific. I find this piece to be wonderful in the car. Even in traffic in LA it just calms me down and everything seems just fine. With El Camino Real, for example, I was picturing a Fata Morgana, a mirage. This piece I find to be perfect for driving through the high desert.
“I’m not really a music consumer. I never was. But I was lucky enough to be turned on to all kind of great new music at a young age by dear friends who were ravenous record buyers. James Elaine [William’s long-term partner] in particular worked for years at used record stores and would come home with armfuls of records daily.
“Right now I’m kind of on vacation after agonizing over Cascade and the Deluge for a year and a half and lots of international touring. Trying to rest, read and get my strength back for upcoming shows. I do love to dance but I like funky music to dance to…old r&b and soul..i never could get techno with that boring 4/4 beat. My studio manager, Preston Wendel, is doing this “footwork” kind of stuff and turning me onto that sort of thing which i find interesting.
“Some of my earliest memories are of living in a brand new 60’s era planned utopian subdivision near NASA, watching the black and white television broadcasts of the rockets going up. Th wonder of men going to the moon! We moved to Florida around 1966 and Dad was working on the Lunar Module for a NASA contractor there. We watched the rockets go up from the beach, visited Cape Canaveral. Once the launched an unmanned rocket at night. We watched it from our yard. It began to go off course and had to be destroyed. The entire sky lit up orange! There were always sonic booms and once I saw the strangest anomaly in the sky…it was a bizarre cloud but looked like a colored oil slick one might see in a puddle on the street. I’ve always been fascinated with space, the night sky, ufos! always wanted a space station.
“I do think of The Deluge as representing in my own way a violent storm and its repercussions. I was born a melancholy baby and much of the work i’ve released had the effect of relieving my own symptoms of melancholia, so I was doing this for myself. I’ve done all kinds of music in my life. Some good, some funny, some sexy, some ridiculous and some terrible! we’ll have to see what gets on the release docket and what’s next…”
We often compare the communion that takes place in the dancefloor with other spiritual and religious experiences.
This isn’t a particularly deep insight: there is an obvious connection between swirling dervishes, raving revivalists and the gurning angels in Fiorucci Made Me Hardcore. An oblivion of the self and a surrender to older forces.
In their Appel EP, ghostly techno people Plapla Pinky revel in that connection, merging organ compositions performed in a Brussels church, with churning techno slammers.
Camelove brings to mind silhouettes of human bodies throwing shapes, their hands suddenly turning into doves that soar high above, through a lattice of stroboscopic light, or is it the stained glass kaleidoscope of some powerful place of worship?
They both blend into one, and our conscience dissolves into the music.