Industrial music for the Cthulhu generation

Featuring : Stromboli

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If the Twin Peaks title sequence was set at night (and was actually the opening to Eraserhead) it would need a theme.

Stromboli – Waving

We hear:
Peels of thunder, ripped straight from the collective consciousness’s memory of mid-century b/w horror (or alternatively as a reference to the greatest video game opening cinematic).  A deep pulsing bass: both radar pings in the abyss and the prelude to soul grasping techno.  Guitars that sound like the rusty haunting of train tracks, hidden amidst thick smoke from an indeterminate source.  That sort of guitar sound that Michael Mann would make the cornerstone of a western (dear god the thought of that).

It’s the post-industrial sound of industry limping on.  Deserted by the zeitgeist — which is more concerned with the esoterica of financial and digital worlds — this industry falls under an occult spell.

Y’know, the good stuff.

Waving is taken from the self titled album by Stromboli (on Maple Death Records), which you can order right here.

Visiting shamanic spirit beast, do you mind if I eat you?

Featuring : Virtual Forest

factoryfifteen(Image from the Xavier Project by Factory Fifteen)

Although we enjoyed William Gibson’s The Peripheral and its brilliant premise, its moments of blinding material insight and kinetic set-pieces, we would have liked him to revel more on the weirdness.

The weirdness of that vacant London covered in an array of blinking Shards, like the real now of The Matrix made by better – if not more human – designers.

The weirdness that the Breaking Bad with 3d Printers near-future protagonists should have felt when confronting the technological wonders of the people of their future.

The weirdness that the body-shedding creative class of the future should have felt facing those primitives from a diverging past.

The weirdness. There was some, we wanted more.

Like at the beginning of the book, when mega-gaga skin-flayed conceptual artist Daedra West visits a tribe of neo-primitivist post-humans hanging out in the “incremental sculpture” of their city, organically assembled from recovered polymers somewhere in the Pacific Ocean. She arrives in a media Zeppelin, accompanied by an ensemble of white-china battle/PA droids.

That’s more like it.

Weirdness that could have perfectly been sound-tracked by Virtual Forest (Marco Bernacchia, aka Above the Tree), whose “Unconscious Cognition is the Processing of Perception” cassette in Yerevan Tapes documents a journey where physical extremism generates a trance state in which the real and the unreal melt into each other, exactly as it happens in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch visited by Daedra West.

Squirrelly sprites swirl above the pounding drone of the monster-factories. The sun rises, bouncing of the semi-conductive grids that tattoos the leaves of a forest assembled from post-apocalyptic leftovers. We blend into the patcher collective conscience, hallucinate in synch with a forest of code, invoke shamanic spirit beasts we proceed to devour to close the cycle of the island, of the trance-state, of the weirdness.

Virtual Forest – Spiritual Communications

Go and get the tape from Yerevan Tapes here.

Roadside Picnic

Featuring : Peter Kris

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The engine is off before we even begin.

In a small patch of grass between a swampy wilderness and the relentless drumming of the motorik highways, deep into a warm indistinct evening, our hero Peter Kris sits propped against a convenient tree.  He gazes out across the wilderness and from one of the more convoluted routes between his iris and brain, comes the sound of a guitar.  A guitar that sounds like a rumination.  You can hear the strings pondering the setting sun and the onset of the stars; the bright yellow eyes in the dark and the darting of wildlife in the gloom.  You can hear that this is all that there is and all that there will be.

Peter Kris – Few

Peter Kris is member of German Army, Final Cop, and Q///Q.  He’ll be releasing some of his solo stuff on tape soon.

WARNING: OBLIGATORY PC MUSIC POST

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20jazzfunkgreats loves the darkness. We’re named after a Throbbing Gristle album that was the last word in confrontational pop. We love Ike Yard, Blackest Ever Black, Black Rain and black holes.

But sometimes we need to scrub our soul free of all that soul-grime, pour Ubik-strength bleach into our insides, retire to our pink and blue pop citadel in the sky and just… disintegrate.

Which is why, probably right at the point where everyone is sick to the back stomach of the words ‘PC Music’ you find us musing hard over the problematic pop offered up by Hannah Diamond and AG Cook.

Hannah Diamond – Attachment

We were late to the hate-party on this one. Only stumbled across PC Music’s Soundcloud when our m8 Katie in LA sent us an email that included a link to Attachment and one word in the subject line: ‘why?’

It was a ‘Why?’ that said:

  • What the crap are you doing over there?
  • Why do you British people hate music so much?
  • Just… just fuck off.

But in less words. And, yeah, on first listen it was all a bit

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

I tweeted it, I bullied it.

But… for every embarrassed squirmy feeling as I listened to the various PC Music avatars perform slightly incorrect versions of what in another world might have been chart hits, there was a mad fizzy dopamine rush – the kind that you might have got from eating too many sweets, taking too many drugs or just looking at too many bright colours and spinning round in an office chair until you vom.

What IS this.

Hannah Diamond – Pink and Blue

That ‘What IS this’ factor is what all music nerds secretly crave, because we’re so burnt out and bored of everything that is identifiable as pertaining to genre. PC Music, on the hand, was deliriously difficult to rationalise. Ah yes delicious sound drugs of strange origin… how I have missed you.

“I listened to it twice at 5 in the morning while high and drunk and still felt nothing,” Katie elaborated.

The songs of PC Music are steeped in the minutiae of modern love. Hannah Diamond moon-junes harder than anyone this side of Barney Sumner when she sings about imprisoning lost loves as pictures in her phone. The music is the cold, cosmetic, perfectly-vacuformed plastic of pop.

Hannah Dimaond for Dazed and Confused Magazine September 2014

But not just any pop. A recent Wire thinkpiece nailed it, not linking PC Music erroneously to vaporwave – as other pundits have – but to 90s chart pop. But not good 90s chart pop.  No, not the big budget hip-hop and nu-jack swing-inflected American productions like early Destinys Child, but the cheap, lurid British stuff.

Even more specifically, to me, PC Music sound like an updated megamix of the British dance pop smeared across that decade’s Now compilations. Defiantly anti-canonical, you’d be hard pressed to name a single one of these artists, who mostly knocked out just one or two hits before submerging back into whatever weird semi-corporate production line sludge spawned them. Your false memories will tell you the 90s were all about Cool Britannia, union jack guitars, ‘The Battle of Britpop’ – these are Total Recall implants. That stuff existed – unfortunately – sure, but in mainstream culture it was backgrounded by all this nameless pop noise. This stuff was inescapable at the time, and none of us can remember it now.

The Roots of PC Music (Spotify playlist)

It was deeply uncool. There’s little nostalgia to be mined of it. But there’s something fascinating about that – this shadowy anonymous brainwashing pop that cloaked our childhoods. In a sense, PC Music is the most singularly “British” music since grime.

PC Music clearly find it fascinating, too, though their reading of the era is a miasma of misremembering and necessary irreverence. If they’ve taken anything from that music they’ve embraced wholeheartedly its lack of cynicism, its simplicity, its heart-on-sleeve big dumb teenage sighs and the glassy-eyed major-key machinery of its production.

They’ve embraced that so much in fact, that it wouldn’t be inappropriate to suspect them of the sly piss-taking of faux-naivety. Are PC Music for real? Who knows, but sometimes there’s something so heartbroken and pure and bluntly unselfconscious about their clunky outsider pop that at times all it reminds me of is Xiu Xiu.

Wire compare PC Music to noise, and that isn’t inappropriate either. Certainly AG Cook and associates brew up a sound that’s more divisive, antagonistic and, yes, annoying than any of the complacent, expected oscillator shrieks of the now-conservative noise scene.

AG Cook feat. Hannah Diamond – Keri Baby

(If you need proof of this, we attended one of the Broken Flag anniversary alldayers a few years ago and there was something quaint and sadly humorous about seeing an age-withered Consumer Electronics man flop his bare belly out onstage, rub his nipple and shout SHIT and FUCK through a microphone – YEAH YOU TELL EM GRANDAD, MAGGIE THATCHER WOULD TOTALLY THINK THIS TRANSGRESSIVE NIPPLE DISPLAY WAS A THREAT TO SOCIETY OK NOW TIME FOR A LITTLE NAP it was sort of like a noise version of the Bad Manners-headlined seaside punk shows for old Oi! boys. However, when our hardened noise buddy Louis – who we attended that show with – went to a recent PC Music night in London he practically ran screaming for the exit.)

It’s noise that noise dudes find unlistenable – and what could be more perfectly offensive than that?

Sometimes what seem like deliberate wind-ups decay into what are actually quite sweet little tunes, though. And that makes me think of Saint Etienne.

Saint Etienne – Like The Swallow

Saint Etienne were another pop concept that flickered between arch referential geekdom and giddy heartfelt twee with an unashamed aggression. But listen to Like The Swallow from Foxbase Alpha and you’re reminded that, at heart, Saint Etienne were/are pop nostalgics/academics/historians besotted with their record collections, most of which came from lists of best records ever.

By contrast, there’s almost something nasty about the sounds PC Music draw from. They could hate this music as much as they might claim to love it. It’s beyond irony.

It’s a headfuck of a thing. Our advice is not to think about it, and if anyone asks you what you think about PC Music, just tell them: I think if Zoella was a pop star, this is what her songs would probably sound like.

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Facts we found out about the Now series while writing this post:

  • ‘Now That’s What I Call Music! 43′ (released 19 July 1999) was the first in the series to be released on MiniDisc. The last Now on MD was Now 48, released 9 April 2001
  • Now That’s What I Call Music! represented for cassette all the way up until 14 April 2003 and Now 54 (featuring, for context, t.A.T.u., Richard X vs Liberty X, Junior Senior and, perhaps strangely, a track off 100th Window by Massive Attack)
  • Vinyl did less well. The Now masterminds threw in the circular plastic towel after Now 35 (featuring both Pearl’s Girl by Underworld and Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Deep Blue Something)  in November 1996
  • The weirdest song we could find on a 90s Now compilation was Paranoid Android. Though in 1997, to be fair, Radio One rinsed that song every bit as hard as MMMBop
  • (MMMBop was better.)

 

photograph is “tip the world over on its side and everything loose will land in Los Angeles” by anthony samaniego 

 

Instantaneously transforming death into life (and back)

Featuring : Cluster + ISZO

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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

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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

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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.

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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