Instantaneously transforming death into life (and back)

Featuring : Cluster + ISZO


In 1982, the computer graphics team in Industrial Light and Magic that would go on to became Pixar created cinema’s first entirely computer-generated sequence for Star Trek II, The Wrath of Khan.

It is nicely meta that the sequence which illustrates mankind’s newly acquired capabilities to create new (virtual) worlds consists of the creation of a new world through the Genesis Device (it is also nicely ironical that Khan wants to use this life-giving device as a weapon, which reminds us of the conflict between Mars terraformers and conservationists in Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars Trilogy. Remember kids, creating life is not always the way to go).

We watch the Genesis sequence in a loop replacing James Horner’s conventionally ‘epic’ soundtrack with ISZO’s Artifice.

ISZO is Pete Feigenbaum of Blizzardo fame. Artifice’s techno harks back to the early proto-IDM of Warp’s Artificial Intelligence compilation that Dan Selzer so aptly documented for us some weeks ago.

Its simple gestalt is the transformation of death (stasis) into life (dancing). Drill down further and gasp in awe at the jagged, fractally spiralling landscape that stretches in front of your eyes. Dubby, rattling drums and swirling synth refrains represent the bootstrapping of complex structures from simple elements. The rolling bass stands in for the enigmatic energy driving this process forward.

The fact that we are using sonic Artifice to soundtrack visual artifice is a bonus.

ISZO – Artifice

Go to ISZO’s Soundcloud page for more information.

Cluster - Cluster 71 - front

The images and sounds above represent (organic) inception, they provide us with the ‘head’ of the process where geology becomes biology, and eventually history.

For the sake of balance, and as a bonus track, we wanted to also give you the tail of this process: The final phase where entropy engulfs all of our achievements and hopes. We aren’t talking, alas, about the heat-death of the universe (that’s a subject for another day), but something closer in space and time.

Something akin to the processes documented by this guy who left the Civilization II video game playing for 10 years to generate, in the words of the chaps at io9:

an awesomely dystopic swampy nuclear-irradiated wasteland in which war has raged relentlessly for a staggering 1,700 years

What better way to soundtrack that scenario, where mankind goes out, not with a bang, not with a whimper, but with an awful shriek asymptotic to an infinity we can’t wait to reach, than with the beautiful blast that initiated Cluster (mk. 1), providing the ravaged blueprint for a zillion noiseniks.

Cluster – 15:33

Go here for more on this album, which we have revisited through David Stubb’s Future Days history of Krautrock, a book we are enjoying very much, and that we will be reviewing here in due course

2.7 Kelvin

Featuring : Regular Music


This is the final post in an accidental three post series on Skrot Up releases.  We blame them entirely for putting out so much good stuff.

With eyes half closed against the short, rain sodden days, the Seeker sits alone in his cave, surveying the stars.  Deep inside, a dying fire flickers against the rock as the Seeker’s mind drifts.  The darkness has, by now, swallowed the land below and made an ostentatious display of the heavens.

The Seeker appears among the stars.

Drifting, the Seeker listens to the cosmic noise; a gentle warm hiss that carries the remnants of cataclysmic fury.  Passing through a space between worlds the planets sing: a deep drone, rising and falling with their elliptical orbits around their star.  Slow, measured and calming.  The rain and hunger and cold banished among the warm embrace of deepest space.

Regular Music – Computerized Air

The Seeker awakens.

You can grab the very specifically titled Vase & Ass album on tape or digitally, right here.

Spatula Construct

Featuring : Arca


Today it was announced that The Haxan Cloak has been beavering away in secret on the new Bjork LP, prompting the kind of feverish squee that hasn’t been seen in anticipation of a Bjork LP for a little while now.

But that fever isn’t purely down to one XXJFG fave getting the uber-gig in art-pop collaborations. Bjork fans already knew, for instance, that one of the main collaborators on her 2015 album is Arca.

Arca, of course, has previously shown his fire as soundmaker for Kanye’s Yeezus and FKA Twigs’ inescapable LP1. Even more fabulously, he starred in our totally brilliant and necessary best of 2014 thing!

A slightly irritating consensus is starting to form now that while Arca may be producer du jour, an excellent foil for sci-fi divas like Twigs and Kanye to project their carefully-sculpted personas on to, his own music is… shhh… missing something. Oh he can do beats sure, majestic atmospheres unheard to the ears no problem, but choons? Nah mate.

Fortunately consensus is a bleating fool and Arca’s 2014 album Xen was a masterpiece wasted on the ears of those who had hopped onto his music via the style mag and broadsheet worship of avant-megastars.



It says more about the traditional media’s craving for someone to slot into the pre-assembled paradigm of a new Timbaland or Neptunes then it does anything about art.

Arca’s music is never going to be slick ricochets of beats styled as a soundtrack for post-ironic twerking – he’s already up there with Autechre in terms of mastery over sound as a spatial construct.

(Our autocorrect just wrote that as spatula. Spatula construct. Heh.)

In conclusion, Xen is great, you should all listen to it and then check out this handful of outtake Arca goodies – bits of mixtapes and random non-album experiments – we’ve scooped together for you:

Arca – 2 Blunted
Arca – Meditation
Arca – DOEP
Arca – &&&&&
Arca – Sisters
Arca – Manners

For those who appreciate such things, Arca recently scored #4 on the Dazed Readers’ 100, putting him in the rather unexpected company of the XXJFG-associated Henry Plotnick, who snuck in at #26!

art is by Pablo Valbuena

John Carpenter’s The Imitation Game

Featuring : Contact


In his 1950 paper, “Computer Machinery and Intelligence”, Alan Turing described the Imitation Game, a way of operationalizing the question of whether machines can think. The idea is simple but deep: place a man A and a woman B in separate rooms, and ask them to send notes to a judge outside C, who has to use the information in the notes to decide who is the man and who is the woman.

If you substituted a machine for A without impacting on the accuracy of the guesses of the judge C, this would mean that the machine is able to produce messages with information (externalisation of immeasurable thought processes) that the judge cannot distinguish from those produced by the man.


In Contact’s ‘First Contact’, Zombi drummer/ Majeure dude AE Paterra and soundtrack composer Paul Lawler play their own version of the Imitation Game, based on the hypothesis that terrible artificial intelligences of unfathomable power exist, or might exist.* The goal of player A is to convince B that he (A) is one such intelligence, and vice versa.


Paterra is based in the US and Lawler in the UK. They use electronic means to send each other musical messages that represent/simulate the sensorial input and modes of expression of such hypothesised artificial intelligences. There ensues a sonic dialogue that is transcribed in First Contact.

We, the audience, are the third player in this game.

We listen to First Contact and parse, through its music, the unfolding of the Imitation Game: From the synthetic (heavy-metallic) shriek with which a digital network maps itself inside itself, taking its first steps towards conscience, to the tangled feelings of fascination and terror with which a human analyst stares at an alien intelligence unfolding, as it were a manta ray of uncertain boundaries swirling through the canals of this city of bits, or maybe more accurately, a Carpenterian Thing with tentacle-wings-claws-nerves that have the power to dissolve us all, or perhaps make us one.

The imitation is successful. We don’t know if we should jack in or run for the hills.

Contact – Distant Voices

Get First Contact from Temporary Residence.

* – We doubt that the Imitation Game we have described was formally used to organise the production of First Contact, but that’s the way it sounds to us.

Breathing Slowly

Featuring : Barry Center


For your humble writer, one of the overriding themes this year is the lack of dancing.  The lack of opportunity surely plays a large part in this but so to does the lack of moments, with headphones on, where every cell in your body does a little step to the side in glorious unison to the beat.  This tragedy can not be placed at the door of 2014’s dance output.  It’s is merely the tragic disconnect experienced when  tiredness kicks in and all you want to do is listening to this silver age of ambient.

2015 will be different.

And we will ramp up to this re-engagement with the night by listening to Barry Center’s dubby techno on repeat.

Barry Center – Favdrab

Favdrab’s 4/4 hammers hit so early and so hard that the rest of the track is spent in a daze.  Beats still hitting but their effect seems hidden in fog.  Strange electrical sounds appear like sparks in this haze, briefly illuminating strange shapes.  A phalanx of tiny voices briefly appear at your feet before they too are swallowed by the fog.  The beat keeps on, pummelling the floor making the whole room dance till you’re left, in the end, alone and exhausted.  Looking right at you is the Favdrab, breathing slowly.

Favdrab is taken from Barry Center’s album Requiem Bells on Skrot Up.  You can still grab a copy right here.

Look out for our Best of 2014 posts coming soon.  See you in 2015!

As winter sets in and Krampus bares his fangs

Featuring : Egisto Macchi


Egisto Macchi (born in 1928, died in 1992) was an Italian musique concrete composer, who despite his associations with Gruppo di Improvvisazione di Nuova Consonanza  – the improvisation group that combined tape loops, prepared piano and early electronics with classical instruments and also counted Macchi’s friend Ennio Morricone among its members – is now mostly known for his contributions to library music.

Egisto Macchi – Chambre Anachronique

Chambre Anachronique is from the recently-reissued Futurissimo, also known as I Futuribilifrom 1971 – Macchi’s first compilation of his library work, apparently considered to retain more of the avant-garde elements of his pre-soundtrack compositions.

According to our friend Wikipedia, Macchi described his music as Dionysian and he credited this to a profound period of loss and despair: “[I experienced a] time of loss… But it was only a moment, though that lasted almost a year: a moment of silence and despair. Today I found the strength to walk.”

The dark cinematic drones of Futurissimo maybe indicate this despair, if in an agreeably pulpy way – one that suggests monochrome, subways and tracking other bodies through night-time cityscapes.

As winter sets in and Krampus bares his fangs, we’re left in the vitamin D-depleted carcass of another 12 months – reflection time to pick through the detritus of this year’s failed relationships and assorted personal disappointments. I never used to believe in SAD, now I practically build an annual shrine to it.

December has an inherently Dionysian feel to it – at least in this part of the globe. But Machi’s music suggests despair and silence can have useful meditative qualities.

(photography by _*__*_*_*)

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Out of the Cold Wave

Featuring : Quiet Room


Quiet Room were a little known Bay Area band from the early 80s.  Coming in on Punk’s wake it was always going to be a synth-driven sound they settled on.  Happily for us.

Yangtzee River (or Yangtze River depending on your source) cuts its own path through the Post-Punk swamp of 80s San Francisco; i.e.  by sounding not unlike a DIY version of the space-disco that was set to dominate the mid-00’s twenty years later.  It’s that bass guitar sound that does it.  After the gated drums, winding synth wash and simple Neu Deutsch Weil melody get you all set up for some Minimal Wave — here’s that bass, taking you out of the cold and into the stratosphere; out of the cold and into the jetset.

Quiet Room – Yangtzee River

This is taken from Bay Area Retrograde (BART) Volume 1 on the always brilliant Dark Entries. Volume 2‘s out now too.  More on that when we score a copy.