Recently, management at the office where I work has decided to make its employees implement the “5S” system. You’re welcome to click that link and do a little reading up on it if you want, but I can summarize the concept pretty quickly: 5S is a methodology for organizing an efficient work area that was developed by Japanese automakers in the 1980s and doubles as a convenient, passive-aggressive way for your boss to tell you to kindly “Clean up your shit, please.” Of course, at first I rebelled a little, but the more I shuffled old junk into the recycling bins, put little labels on my file folders, and got all the necessary job-related tools put ever-so-gingerly into their particular places for easy access, the more I could see the advantages. With your materials in good order, your brain can run with less friction. Things take less time, and ultimately, you’re just more productive. It’s hard to deny it. And the best part is, with all the time you’re saving not having to look around for your ruler or calculator, you can do other, arguably more productive things at work, like listen to tapes and write premiere posts for THEMAYS.
Likewise, THEMAYS is drone, organized. And as a result, it’s efficient and effective at its job. My boss would probably give THEMAYS a raise. The short works streaming below, pulled from a new tape release from this loose collective of San Francisco musicians (which includes members of the Exray’s and Window Twins) are prime examples of how the economy of ambient space employed by THEMAYS allows for a heightened focus on the stuff that makes drone or process music seem worth it — dynamics brightening up and breathing vibrant life into light piano work and wobbly, warbling, warming ambience. It’s all done with a clean, nimble ease to light a match under your neurons and get those endorphins delivered out in seismic waves of bliss to the places in your body you didn’t even realize you wanted them: hair follicles, fingernails, and the like. In short, THEMAYS is an ambient group that’s got its shit together.
Embodiments of every genre gather for six weeks of summer fun: Hardcore grills burgers as Ska guzzles root beer; Classic Rock steers the boat as Indie Rock trails behind on an inner tube; “Where’s Seapunk?” asks Vaporwave, and everyone has a good laugh. EuroHouse runs around the grounds passing out invitations to a Memorial Day Rave. R&B, Detroit Techno, even Gamelan all get the nod. “But you guys can’t come,” EuroHouse tells Black Metal and Modular Synthesis, snatching the embossed invites from under their noses at the last second. “You’ll just scare everyone off.” Mod-Synth scoffs, “We don’t need ‘em.” The two flee to a cabin on the outskirts of the grounds. Inside, a wood-paneled chamber overflows with rack-mounted hardware and patch cables. Mod-Synth points to an empty corner. “We’ve got room for some half-stacks over there.” Montage: Black Metal moving gear in; the two pals hunching over a sequencer as LED lights dance across their faces; a tremolo picking workshop featuring chalkboard wrist diagrams; EDM and Nü-Metal making out at the Memorial Day Rave; genres heading home to their parents at camp’s end; our heroes shutting themselves in and woodshedding through the winter; finally high fiving over what they build together.
A co-founder of Chicago-based synth collective Trash Audio, composer Surachai Sutthisasanakul has fused avant-garde synthesis and metal across a number of vinyl and digital-only EPs since 2010. Embraced, the most recent release under the Surachai moniker, represents a labor of love for Sutthisasanakul: his detailed statement follows his creative process from composing to tracking a full band of collaborators to putting it on wax. The album finds four guitars, howled vocals, bass, and blast beats cohering into the near-baroque arrangements and melodic odysseys we’ve come to expect from contemporary USBM heavyweights Wolves In The Throne Room, Krallice, and Ash Borer. Surachai juxtaposes all this against squeals, drones, and fragmented sequences from the Buchla Easel rig of Alessandro Cortini (he of Nine Inch Nails collabs and a forthcoming 2xLP on Important Records), and maxes out the overwhelming mix with the help of Richard Devine (credited here with Sound Design).
Let’s pretend we all knew Modular Synthesis and Black Metal were best friends this whole time. Embraced slays. Order this album straight from Surachai’s Bandcamp.
• Surachai: http://surachai.org
Continuing with my fat-burning posts to combat the calorie-fueled adverts on the sides of our TMT website, I present to you via Not Not Fun: “Kulti” by High Wolf. So, strap on your tribal headband, and lets get fired up. Oh, and by “fired up,” I mean make almost all of your workout gear (minus that headband, c’mon) using nature and begin dancing around a pit of flames. This week we’re working on sweat. Feel the weight sizzle at your skin, and drip away from what you once called your twin. We get it; you’ve convinced everyone that your “twin” is a tumor and can’t be removed. But in reality, it’s all them burgers and shakes, yo. Get into the High Wolf step, and “Kulti” twice as fast. Being outside gives you an in-tuned and natural state of mind, so embrace it. And as the dried palms turn loose, your workout gear withers away as sweat pours from your body, and you think of how conveniently uplifting this circumstantial metaphor makes you feel: lightheaded and hopeful. As is High Wolf’s track “Kulti” off his new LP Kairos: Chronos, coming June 4 on Not Not Fun. Sweat the sweetness.
The waveform viewer on SoundCloud doesn’t lie. It doesn’t tell you too much at a glance, but it can spoil the structure and the dynamics of a song in the few seconds between when the page loads and you click play. The truncated shadow display thing below the center line lies right to your face, though. It only shows a fraction of the wave’s lower half, a hint at the full breadth of what we hear. A long plateau of amplitude, a slow ascent, evenly distanced swells that inch the wave up into near peaking territory for five minutes and then back down when the clip clips off — this waveform promises some Barebones Minimalist Drone, that real La Monte Young worship, the pure, even tones to which one leans back and fades straight out.
Earlier this year, Kevin Doria (formerly of Growing [miss ya]) dusted off his Total Life moniker for Bender/Drifter, a pair of solo sessions that each fused multiple blasted oscillator wails into a wall of pulsing overtones. This excerpt from “Fader,” Total Life’s side of an upcoming split LP with Deceh on Important Records, finds Doria paring the drone down to one voice and focusing even more intently on tonal sculpting and layering. Tiny knob adjustments on his gear of choice accentuate the details of his oscillating sound source. As the track stretches on, numerous discernible waves and delay trails creep in to fill the stereo spread. It hypnotizes.
Keep your eyes on Important Records for ordering info on the Total Life/Deceh split LP. This applies to everything, but especially here: make the most of your purchase and turn the volume all the way up.
• Important Records: http://importantrecords.com
Keith Fullerton Whitman
“Automatic Drums with Melody”
Last we heard from Keith Fullerton Whitman (known to Google as Keith Fullertom Whitman), he posted 12 hours of his Greatest Hits for free on SoundCloud, a massive proto-vaporwave/-eccojam experiment to combat insomnia through “time-/gain-based processes.” However, his latest release, a split 12-inch with Belgian artist Floris Vanhoof, sees KFW wielding an analog synth for a more accessible, beat-driven approach.
Electronic dance isn’t completely unprecedented for KFW, but the sort of wide-eyed, linear exploration on “Automatic Drums with Melody” has a more compressed range that’s not exactly suited for the dance floor, a reflection of both his gear and his minimalist approach to this split. And, in contrast to some of his more aggressive or subdued pieces, it’s also tonally light-hearted, dealing less with timbre and more with rhythm. It’s not until toward the end of the track when noise slowly creeps into the mix, overtaking the rhythmic trajectory and pushing the track into a less temporally-dependent field. The moment is brief, and is best thought of as a way to extinguish the pulse rather than enact its own narrative purpose, but it’s an area in which KFW is clearly comfortable with his synthetic experiments.
You can hear the rest of KFW’s split with Floris Vanhoof on June 1, courtesy of Shelter Press (one of C Monster’s favorite labels!), a Paris-/Brussels-based publishing company founded in 2011 by graphic designer/publisher Bartolomé Sanson and TMT favorite Felicia Atkinson/Je Suis Le Petit Chevalier. The 38-minute, 5-track split will be pressed onto 180g vinyl with silkscreened artwork by Hannah Giese, in an edition of 400. Get on it.