It’s been almost five years since we’ve heard some new Beck tunes. Wait, scratch that: last December, he put out Song Reader, a book of sheet music containing 20 new tunes. In other words, Beck did drop a new LP, but in order to listen to it, you had to either read and/or perform the songs on your own or, in the case of lazy ol’ zcamp, bribe your musically-inclined friends and family with baklava and fake tears. And before you start in with the whole “oh, but that’s how music used to be for thousands of years!” and the “maybe if you hadn’t fallen asleep in music theory, you would be listening to the new Beck album now!,” let me just say that I am just another privileged, middle-class millennial who doesn’t know any better.
Anyway! The dark days between Beck albums are finally drawing to a close; this fall will see the release of a new acoustic LP, and Rolling Stone reports that a second album — “the proper follow-up to [2008’s] Modern Guilt” — is in the works as well. “Defriended” isn’t specifically tethered to either one of those projects, but it’s safe to say that it’s not very acoustic-sounding at all. Rather, it’s a teetering vortex of bleeps and bloops and whirring synths that offer a fleeting glimpse of what 2006’s The Information might have sounded like if Beck had ditched the hip-hop for a fuzzier, more fractured sound. The familiar, lilting melodics you’ve come to expect from a Beck song are still there, even with some good ol’ fashioned guitar strumming — you just have to sift through the electronic dross to find them. And best of all, every time you dive into the slurry, it sounds just a little bit different. Just don’t ask me what the time signature is; remember, I fell asleep in music theory.
• Beck: http://www.beck.com
It’s sometimes difficult for a music writer working in modern-day vernacular to know exactly what term should describe a piece of music. For instance, consider Egyptology’s beautiful, subtly surprising “The Skies,” the video of which we’re premiering here. “The Skies” seems to transcend the catch-all, generic concept of a “song” or a “track;” Egyptology’s opus is more finely pointed, more deliberate, more aware of its historical position than these labels convey. Rather than lazy, contemporary terms like “breakdown” or “wub-wub,” “The Skies” is better prepped for dissection when we apply more formal concepts, such as “cadence,” “arpeggiation,” and even, vaguely, “fugue.” It is music that offers a kind of old wisdom, a time-tested form, even as its sounds arise from synthetic aural materials, which are relatively new.
The marriage between electric sounds and classical structure makes me think of Wendy Carlos, who 40 years ago established herself as an indelible icon of that kind of unorthodox musical union (along with her other brave, bold unions, of course). Then in turn I think of Carlos’ work with Kubrick. With Carlos’ help, the director married a man to a machine in A Clockwork Orange. To follow this kaleidoscope further (akin to the fractal-esque images of the video for “The Skies”), I also remember Kubrick’s own famous version of a swirling, polychromatic sinkhole: 2001 is an illustration of a blazing evolution. And yet that film’s score had a traditional orchestration. Evolution is an ouroboros. It is powered by unions. It is dependent on loops.
Egyptology make an emphatic point to be neither solely “retro” nor heretically futurist, forsaking history. These are basic prerequisites for evolution: there must be both a past to depart from and a future to depart toward. The hieroglyphics of ancient Egyptians baffled archeologists for their opaque, concentrated meanings. Now we use minute, square logos on our tablets and phones as the signals for expansive concepts and communication. The ancient has become new; the illegible, intuitive. Egyptology are well-named, indeed. They become synonymous with evolution, history, and the mysterious workings of digital things. They sound damn fine too.
In addition to the video for “The Skies,” also check out The Skies EP from Clapping Music and Desire Records (pre-order here), which contains four remixes of the title track by a variety of digital champs.
$PL▲$H ¢LUB 7
SPLASH CLUB 7 T▲PE
Walking now from the cop cruise, bandaged but still seeping puss and blood and blacktop, you turn and thank smoking tire marks in the road. Looking at your house, you figure the night ain’t finished, so you take a walk, then a cab, then a subway to Gay’rhhag, ‘cause night time there never looked brighter. Still in sweatpants, you weasel through the bathroom window, baring witness to a penis-sizing competition, and money is totally involved, so with your own blood you scrawl $PL▲$H ¢LUB 7 on the side of a stall, but nobody notices. Walking up the stairs and into the dark/flashing room, and bodies are grinding atop of an aquarium dance floor stuffed with colored fish and neon seahorses.
“Didn’t know this was Karaoke Night,” you say to some strangers and they stare directly at your sweats/package. They point at the bar, and you head toward a sign that has “Tonight’s Special: Sweat,” and order a sweat, which looks like dirty water, but tastes like a Long Island iced-tea made with more liquor. One sip turns the club into a psychedelic meltdown: fish are eating the seahorses, dancers are mending their bodies with each other, everyone isn’t staring, your bandages come off like rotten fruit skin, and being carried around the club above everyone’s heads is like floating until you’re tossed out into daylight and it’s five hours later and 30 degrees hotter. Laying in front of the club, people gawking, you tell them to move along, but really they’re trying to bandage you back together and call the paramedics. The puddles of blood now reflect the sunlight into your eyes, and you lay in them, placing shades on your face, yawning at the nearing sirens.
• $PL▲$H ¢LUB 7: http://splash-club-7.bandcamp.com
As the revival of the tape label continues to enrich our lives with warm analog hiss and affordable production/retail costs, certain genres stick out within our growing collections as Especially Cassette-Friendly. Too many lush ambient/drone tape releases to ever keep track of wash ashore each day (see: Constellation Tatsu, Tranquility Tapes, Field Hymns), while aural terrorists can maintain a prolific assault on their fans via any number of noise merchants (American Tapes, Chondritic Sound, Fag Tapes). Lo-fi rock or experimental pop projects embrace the unique sonics of doin’ it straight-to-tape (Moon Glyph, Night People, some of NNA’s catalog), just as beat conductas gravitate to the medium for its low-end boost and compressed visual aesthetic (see Stones Throw’s cassette renaissance).
L.A.-based multi-instrumentalist Matthew Dotson takes a look at this taxonomy of tape-friendly genres, checks off all of ‘em, and pencils in a few that were missing. 2012’s Excavation overflowed with ideas, but Revolution/Circumvention (Already Dead, and already sold-out) manages to cram even more into 36 maximized minutes. The album’s two sidelong suites segue through so many styles: layered drone washes collide with a synth-pop beach-party; hip-hop beats thud alongside searing noise; acoustic guitar interludes hang out with abstracted IDM squelches. By never establishing firm ground to stand on, Dotson subverts expectations with every juxtaposition. What he lacks in cohesion, he makes up for with technical mastery, uniting disparate passages with a uniformly impressive level of production detail. If sampling the Revolution/Circumvention stream on Bandcamp feels like a shuffle through a particularly Zone-friendly iTunes library, sitting at home with the album in your tape deck feels like a friendly visit from a Zone-conquering mastermind.
Based on the song’s intro (after the opening dialogue, Ka declares himself, “Back on my shit”) and outro (following the final chorus, he states, “Forgive me for what I’m about to do”), this song seems an obvious choice for the first of (hopefully) many videos to come from The Nights Gambit, which Ka plans to sell hand-to-hand in front of Fat Beats on July 13 (presumably with standard online distribution to follow, as was the case with his last album, Grief Pedigree). However, the genius of Ka’s multi-faceted DIY artistry (he produces his own beats, directs his own videos, and designs his own cover art) often lies in its easily overlooked subtleties — the freeze-framed “arm in drawer” at 2:21, the syncopated (and reversed) drum at 2:36, etc. Some advice for future Ka listening/viewing experiences: ignore or dismiss bits and pieces like these and you run the risk of missing the whole point.
• Ka: http://brownsvilleka.com
“Climbing The Corporate Ladder”
Welcome back to NMΞSH, where all your thoughts and dreams become reality. Here, we bring you our latest success-driven project, helping out clients as they’re “Climbing The Corporate Ladder,” housed in a purely silicon, real-dimensions bubble, where inside, aerial micro technodes swell your respiratory system, gauging your heightened sense of happiness, fear, exhilaration, wonder, [everything]. Match these with a double dose of touch and telekinetic sensory readings, monitored by a team of machines viewing your stability and vitals, ensuring your maximum comfort and control and success-drive. Become your mind’s eye..
..and, shit, you fell asleep because of the calm guiding voice and familiar background tones. Machines have you set and paid up for four hours. Shouldn’t have eaten a big lunch minutes before exiting your car and entering NMΞSH. Or maybe it was worth that and the blunt? But curiosity washes over an ocean, and there your dream sits on an island beach. Your feet in the sand rustle, as flashing lights shine out of the jungle terrain behind you, and a flood of dancing bikinis and board-shorts come raving out. While they dance and you dance with them, you try to delicately explain how dreaming doesn’t really mean anything beyond what your mind perceives. You tell them that focus is the key to opening all doors. All this doesn’t matter. I can’t believe I fell asle—
Head to NMΞSH now for a smooth treatment in “Climbing The Corporate Ladder,” which may possibly lead to “Dream Sequins®.” And don’t forget about your Nu.wav Hallucinations. Got it? Have you reached the top of that ladder? SUCCESS!!!!
• Nmesh: https://soundcloud.com/nmesh