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.
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
Youth With Skull
And you’re there in that day, that time when fiction-today is future-undefined, forever. Neon crystallized sunsets through the dragon’s eye looking-glass mirror: the mics are only hot/violent. Imagination is now in production of inhalants, and gangers rip the ride of be-kind protests. Two fingers — the middle and index — facing front and stretched straight, while the pinky and ring fingers are held down on the palm with the thumb. Holy fledged family. Dulled pencil tips. Smeared grey. But, nah, it ain’t negative-vibe like that, oo. It’s more like that wet sand and scrunched bikinis. Music clashing from umbrella to umbrella. You think that might be your boss? Which boss? You think while witnessing a nasty wipe-out, but she okay! A find/treasure from the ocean is held now in the same hand as before, outstretched and holding a clear pearl. The hand’s flesh and muscle and blood fade away, and within the spherical artifact, a cloud forms two eyes in hollow sockets. In three dimensions, the fleshless jawbone mouths, Youth With Skull. Cue: Title screen in a black-and-white snow-war engulfing the neon letters of Daytime Television. Let the beats bless and bathe you in 2013:
The noise world is a funny place sometimes. In the time it’s taken me to check out Crowhurst’s album Death Van, the prolific group has already released two other records in the last month in addition to the numerous releases the band has had in the last year. In many circumstances, this level of productivity in the noise genre may reek of quantity over quality, but for the most part, Crowhurst has created an impressively varied catalog. Part of this may be the result of the project’s lone consistent member Jay Gambit’s approach to recording/composing. Crowhurst is not structured as a band nor a solo project but instead as a consistently evolving collaborative collective. In this way, Gambit’s role as a band leader is more along the lines of 70s Miles Davis. A lot of musicians get together and collaborate, but the end product is ultimately dictated by one individual.
Death Van finds Gambit working with a dozen different musicians (including members of Black Leather Jesus among others) across seven tracks. In other hands, this could easily result in unmitigated chaos, but Gambit manages to make these collaborative pieces sound like the work of one man rather than several. Even the non-electronic instrumentation/sounds are delicately stitched together to create monolithic drones that are constantly shifted and warped on each track. It’s dark brooding stuff that’s reminiscent of sunn 0))), Peter Rehberg, and even Tim Hecker at times. It may appear to be an immense album of sinister ambience, but it’s surprisingly welcoming in the same way that Gambit’s collaborative process appears to be.