Can we decode the language of the ambient underground? We perceive it as an alphabet of tropes diffused through the deluge of tapes, limited-edition vinyl presses, and music videos pouring from the tap: warm synth tones, analog video manipulation, drones, kaleidoscopes, field recordings, fractals, tape hiss, rainbows, collages, bleeps, the occasional datamosh. Our familiarity with these A/V mainstays doesn’t suppress their effects. Our schemata help us zero in on new forms, digest ideas, and picture each offering as one signpost on a continuum of exploration stretched across oceans and international basements. As our memory banks fill with shapes and patterns of movement, the legible slides into abstraction, while the abstract exudes a calming effect: the comfort of the familiar unknown; the appreciation of oblivion. “This is new, but it is ancient.” “This is alien, and we are happy to witness it.”
Press [►] on the video for Symbol’s “Tracer,” premiering below, and enter a sublime state of half knowledge. You’ve seen the glyphs somewhere before, but their context here, traced by an oscilloscope manned by Symbol himself (born Christopher Royal King, also of This Will Destroy You), sketches out a new visual dialect. Green beams interlace in manic consonance, sketching out a pulsing web of waveforms synchronized to the synth arpeggios and surges of low-end escaping the speakers. A Rorschach test in motion produces rippled deltas, venus fly traps, feathers in the wind. We ID the decaying tape aesthetic and the VHS title cue haze that we’ve tagged before to Boards of Canada or Looks Realistic as Symbol propels his swirling tones into a long-form ecstasy that toys with our expectations of harmony and repetition. We turn off some lobe, some cortex, and we’re left there all like, “Oooooh,” as the baroque polygons writhe before us. With a chord change, the blots blossom, and a crew of dancing women flow into the frame. Yeah. We have reached the clouds. We have no use for an alphabet up here.
Symbol’s debut LP, Online Architecture, is available now on LP and cassette from Holodeck Records.
“The Elevator: Cities and the Sky”
To avoid swag-jacking our pal Tay-Tay Petes, Ima just link the story the fellah recently for NUVO, Inc. about Stuart Hyatt’s adventures along the Indy Sound Map (filmed by Jonathan Frey). “The Elevator: Cities and the Sky” is from the new FIELD WORKS album The National Road – aptly named in terms of this video – and the LP came out last Friday via TEAM Records. And it’s neat to reflect upon the video, seeing that it’s early spring now, and the terrain in Indiana here looks mid-winter. The looped vocals and tonal intro really provide a friendly yet haunted feel to what’s being seen, while also matching the wobble of the vocals and steadiness of drums. Apparition or not, these people ARE residents of Indiana, and they WILL be gone one day, so it’s nice to see their spirit alive via video prior to future America setting into their beautiful Mid-West land. Scope the rest of the FIELD WORKS album The National Road via TEAM Records and feel the tickle of a breeze that isn’t there.
• TEAM Records: http://www.teamrecords.org
Michael Pisaro & Miguel Prado
Lately, I’ve been fascinated with the idea of simultaneity in relationship to the development of artistic movements and musical genres. For instance, the very different emergences of noise music that occurred around the early 1980s in the UK with Whitehouse and in Japan with Merzbow are inextricably linked despite their geographic disparities. Black metal was also in its formative stages during this time with bands like Venom and the conceptual ideas driving all three of these movements is shockingly similar (intentionally abrasive/confrontational music, shocking imagery, rejection of Western cultural ideals, distortion, etc.). The sonic characteristics of these artists’ work may be different, but they are all driven by similar aesthetic concerns that just happened to manifest themselves in various ways due to geographic and social factors. In this way, this music’s genesis is united despite these artists not necessarily coming into contact with each other’s work at the time of creation.
A similar thing happened during the 1990s in Europe and Japan with onkyo music and the work of the Wandelweiser collective. Both genres are marked by a fascination with “silence as sound,” as well as the connections between silence and noise, but their approaches are manifested in very different ways. Wandelweiser’s work deals more with composed chamber music that is in direct lineage with the ideas of John Cage and Morton Feldman. On the other hand, onkyo largely grew out of the world of free improvisation and in many cases was much more focused on the use of minimal electronic materials (the turntables of Otomo Yoshihide, the sinetones of Sachiko M, the no-input mixer of Toshimaru Nakumara, etc.). These various strains of reductionist music often produce similar results using different means and the score for Michael Pisaro’s White Metal seems to deal directly with the relationship between these two aesthetics.
The score for White Metal essentially creates an EAI type of situation. It’s a further exploration of Pisaro’s desire to create and control fascinating textures through notation that is both open yet highly specific. This puts the performers (in this case Miguel Prado and Pisaro) in a particularly interesting position of largely controlling the timbral quality of the work while still adhering to the structural specificity of the composition. Prado’s co-realization of the piece with Pisaro is particularly stunning and their various layers of noise and tones mix to create mysterious all consuming harmonies and textures throughout. The sound sources here seem primarily electronic and as a result, the work has the feel of a more dynamic Francisco Lopez piece. Like Lopez, Pisaro and Prado understand that there’s a thin line between amplified white noise and the silence of a space and this dichotomy is explored throughout White Metal.
While White Metal acknowledges and addresses the sonic similarities between the worlds of onkyo and Wandelweiser, it goes even further to explore the dichotomy between these quiet musical realms and the aforementioned worlds of noise and metal. The piece’s title simultaneously invokes black metal and white noise, which instantly draws a line between those two genres. With White Metal, it becomes apparent that the extremity of these alternately silent and loud styles is inextricably linked through their focuses on white noise on all levels and Pisaro and Prado make this abundantly clear by expertly exploding and reducing noise sounds on this excellent record.
White Metal is out now via Senufo Editions. You can stream an excerpt of the album below:
The New Klassiks
BUH BUH BU- BU- BUH, BUH BUH BU- BU- BUH
Wait a second, what is that? That seductive kick pattern with the staggered triplets in the last bar?
Oh shit, it’s Jersey club! And more than that, it’s UNIIQU3, the queen of Jersey club, with her dope-ass new mixtape, out on the same label that brought you DJ Rashad’s Welcome To The Chi, Vol. 1 and Visionist’s I’m Fine.
It’s called The New Klassiks, and the style is lean, sexy Jersey club with a forward-thinking Lit City Trax twist: the classics of Baltimore, Philly, and Jersey club get refracted through UNIIQU3’s, how might you say?, singular vision of the unified club sound, where Top 40, EDM, mainstream hip-hop, unruly breakbeats, and that ubiquitous bed-squeak sample all party together in synchronized harmony.
pour Monsieur Jean ou l’amour absolu
Lately, I’ve been really fascinated by the world of Harsh Noise Wall music. This is some of the most nihilistic uncompromising sound ever recorded and in many ways it seems like the natural evolution of noise and drone music. At some point both of these genres needed to move away from the gestural and into the realm of the truly static and the work of Vomir (a.k.a. Roro Perrot) is a particularly great example of these genres’ evolution/synthesis into the unrelenting juggernaut that is HNW.
Perrot’s work is driven by the mantra “NO CHANGE, NO COMPROMISE, NO REMORSE,” and as a result, it might be tempting for many casual listeners to write off his work as sounding too similar. However, listen closely to enough of the man’s compositions and it becomes clear that Perrot’s monolithic walls of static contain multitudes in a manner similar to the seemingly austere drones of Eliane Radigue or Phil Niblock.
Perrot’s most recent album pour Monsieur Jean ou l’amour absolu is an excellent introduction to the world of HNW that finds the artist working with a slightly more high register wall of noise than usual. Perhaps, this slight change in register is related to the surprising tenderness of the album’s title, which translates to “for Jean or absolute love” and indeed, there is something almost euphoric in the crushing mountain of sound presented here. Like all of Vomir’s records, its possible to listen to pour Monsieur Jean ou l’amour absolu passively and revel in its stasis, but intensely focusing on the work reveals continuously changing textures and rhythms that are hidden in the constant onslaught of distortion. In many ways, it almost seems like Perrot’s work as Vomir is an implicit conceptual exploration of the chaotic properties of white noise. Vomir’s releases illustrate that there’s already so much going on in a white noise signal that there’s not necessarily a reason to listen to anything else. For some, this may seem like a bleak sentiment but I personally can’t wait to see the micro cosmos that Perrot and his like-minded peers discover in these static clouds next.
pour Monsieur Jean ou l’amour absolu is out now via Crisis. You can stream the record in its entirety below:
As most comedy movies play out, characters being funny never actually talk about where they learned or picked up their wit or humor. While walking around the office in which I work, I never hear people being funny. It’s all just refurbished jokes from movies/television that they told the day before, or people repeat sports announcers verbatim, which at first makes it sound like they’re misusing words, but then realize the English language is dead.
Since JAWS’ debute album in 2011, the man’s been slaying the public by way of audio and performance, drawing from wires and vocal chords to sculpt his sound of life, within all the infinite secrets. In “Stay Free,” JAWS nearly demands for independence of others so he himself can continue on his pathway of no-nonsense art. An art he continues also through his collaboration with Milan’s Dracula Lewis as the Sex Boyz and the Hippos In Tanks duo-act White Car. Here’s what JAWS unabashedly bits about:
A first person account of a life lived upon high, ‘Stay Free’ reimagines everyday power struggles from the vantage of an ambivalent observer, liberated from humanistic concerns and trapped within a narcissistic house of mirrors. The tension transfer inherent in the modern master-servant dynamic rubs shoulders with spectral optimism and the steely self-reliance of the singular Individual. Fueled by motor oil, confidence and delusion, ‘Stay Free’ looks at America and asks: how, why, and where’s mine?
JAWS’ upcoming LP Keys to the Universe will be out mid next month on Hundebiss Records. Listen to the single “Stay Free” streaming below:
• Hundebiss Records: http://hundebissrecords.bigcartel.com