On his new Paxico Records tape, Queens resident the Nativist displays a studied reverence for '90s jungle. The Nativist stands out among the screwed funk and Dilla-venerating soul flips of his label peers, instead participating in the drum’n’bass lineage of hard-edged percussive minimalism. The emphasis is all on the 160ish-bpm breaks, finely sliced and filtered to form satisfyingly thorny, frantic clusters, with some software-induced shudders thrown in there that weren’t yet in the arsenal of the OGs like Goldie or LTJ Bukem. It’s a celebration of the subgenre’s aesthetic joys that surges with an intensity capable of speeding up the characteristically leaned-out sway of Paxico’s POWWAW showcases into an all-out runningman.
Former January Ending Through 52 Weeks, the title of the newest offering from Jesse Dewlow’s People Skills project, carries the timekeeping association of a journal. The title, it turns out, is perhaps the most determinate aspect of Dewlow’s recent tape, whose inscrutable vocals and ambling tempos are as raw and unsettled as the emotional content that most diaries tend to have. Like Ma Turner’s ZOZ or Secret Boyfriend’s This Is Always Where You’ve Lived, 52 Weeks frames itself as a record of musical sketches. It floats in a private world where environmental textures that sound like home appliances, rattling vents or voices muffled voices the next room waft in and out of the mix. The three-chord progression of “Blight” could form the base of pop song if Dewlow were in any hurry, instead he slows them to a gentle trickle, with his words and syllables barely poking through the oscillations of tremolo. His sense of focus is evident, but it’s not directed at making an intelligible statement, it’s on capturing the sound of emotional ambiguity.
This article originally appeared in AdHoc Issue 11. Order a physical copy here and a digital copy here. Subscribe here.
Whatever you now find, weird, ugly, uncomfortable, and nasty about a new medium will surely become its signature. CD Distortion, the jitteriness of digital video, the crap sound of 8-bit—all of these will be cherished and emulated as soon as they can be avoided. It’s the sound of failure: so much modern art is the sound of things going out of control, of a medium pushing to its limits and breaking apart. —Brian Eno, “A Year with Swollen Appendices”
You don’t hear a lot of people talking about glitch music these days, but the affected and repurposed sample is arguably even more ubiquitous than it was in ’90s. Just think of the the pixelated, percussive blasts of Jóhann Jóhannsson’s Sicario score—or, for that matter, the shudders and squeals of the sound design for the Transformers franchise, largely composed of re-pitched found sounds.
In the realm of underground electronic music, examples of similar auditory wreckage—plasticine digital samples, melting synth textures—abound. A current crop of producers treats field recordings, YouTube clips, and fluctuating patches as physical entities to be molded, re-pitched, and chopped into unidentifiable new shapes. Noteworthy examples include the choir of fragmented voices on Holly Herndon’s “Chorus”; the leathery bass scrunch of M.E.S.H.’s “Piteous Gate”; the spasmodic artillery blasts that open Arca’s “Mutant”; the shuddering cybernetic vocal jumble on Amnesia Scanner & Bill Kouligas’s “LEXACHAST.”
The present-day vogue for defacing source material and exploring the limits of recording software follows a long tradition. Musicians have been testing their medium’s malfunctions since before digital recording technology became widely available, from Karlheinz Stockhausen’s implementation of radio in “Kontakte” (1958-60) to Steve Reich’s “It’s Gonna Rain” (1965), which integrated the idiosyncrasies of the tape machine into the composition process. Fast-forward to 1994, when the art of equipment-tampering and accidental sounds gave rise to “glitch,” a loosely defined subgenre of electronic music popularized by Autechre, Mouse on Mars, and especially Mille Plateaux, a Frankfurt-based electronic label whose roster included Oval, Thomas Köner, Tim Hecker, Gas, and more.
Beau Devereaux seems to have temporarily dropped the zen pursuit of drifting along the eliptical orbits of Surface Water Perception’s synthesizer drone, in favor of an equally detached but more antagonistic route. The prolific Madison, Wisconsin DIY-producer’s new record Preparation for a Spotin the World on Holodeck swaps the meditative soundscape for a pleasantly icy collage of early '80s industrial music, when bands like Coil and Cabaret Voltaire began to explore the disco beat. His palette—ranging from the barking of mechanical noise, the low warble of disaffected vocals, and the pummeling repetition of the drum machine—draws out Devereaux’s knack for layering his arrangements to be simultaneously heavy with prickling textures and yearning melodic tension. “Engraved Visions” encapsulates this balancing act. Devereaux, his voice blistering through tape reels and gusts of reverb, centers the tune on an organ hook, only to drown it out halfway in with a field recording of engines revving. Then just when you think the melodic line has been overtaken by disonance, the lead phrase wafts through mix on a tinkling piano, fragile but triumphant.
Preparation for a Spot in the World will be released on cassette May 13 on Holodeck Records.
Hovvdy nail a variety of melody-driven, adolescent-nostalgia that doesn’t necessarily stand out in writing, but has a je ne sais quoi that elevates it to hushed Bedhead or Elliott Smith demo-reel terrain. The breezy pace and muffled vocals of “Meg” form the backbone of the track’s slipshod charm. According to an interview in Noisey, the duo’s nonchalant DIY ethos goes so far as to embrace the sound of vocals recorded as an iPhone demo. The track, following the equally subdued “Problem,” is the second release off of their first full-length Taster co-released by Sports Day and Merdurhaus Records. While the embrace of idiosyncratic arrangements and lo-fi recordings is a staple of emerging indie songwriters, inexplicable gems like Hovvdy only emerge every blue moon.
Andrew Sellers, former member of glossy R&B outfit Splash and a force behind the now-defunct Body Actualized Center, recently released a video from a forthcoming solo LP under his pseudonym Andrew Rinehart. “Growing Pains” is a Yoko Ono cover that takes the optimistic tone and Carpenters-esque arrangement of the original and filters it through the kind of yearning synth wash and screwed vocal processing that wouldn’t feel out of place on Chuck Person’s Eccojams Volume 1. The video is a solemn, no-frills portrait of L.A. fashionista types Luna Miu and Lulo Logan going through their cosmetic rituals. The tender chords and the trauma-inflicted imagery of Ono’s lyrics lend a humanist undertone the video’s depiction of aestheticism.
In the wake of the drag show-sadomasochist fusion of Troller’s intimate “Not Here” video, another peak from the upcoming album has surfaced for those who have longingly been waiting since 2012 for the next incarnation of the Austin band. The teaser comes in the form of a foreboding drone accompanied by a fractal-laden feedback loop from video artist T.C. Johnson. The jump from “Not Here” to “Dryld” suggests the more diverse palette of Graphic, which promises new aesthetic ground for the band, ranging from the thrash of metal to, dare I say it, more ear-wormy hooks.
One of the obviously remarkable things about German producer Broshuda is the sheer magnitude of his output in the past year. He has already pumped out four (all of them lovely, I might add) cassette releases, as well as the steady stream of radio mixes in 2015. The caption to his Tumblr—a smattering of new Soundcloud tracks and a collection of original pieces of his warped geometric visual art—reads, “New Cryptic Documentation Of Ongoing Project/Installation.” It’s a sentiment that gets at his ethos of perpetual motion. His cassettes plunge the listener into a mode of creation that has done away with the concept of a neatly “finished” work. Instead we get arrangements with percussive detritus hovering like flotsam over fragmented, melodic loops, running the gamut from syrupy takes on grime to more faded, collage-oriented ambient stuff. “NKS” a cut from his upcoming EP out on Sonic Router carries the listener's focus back and forth between the crisp rattle of its miscellaneous percussive elements and its chiming ripples of harmony. Both voices show Broshuda’s knack for capturing snippets of decaying sound that resonate with a singular, charming daydream vibe.
I tend to view Andrew Bernstein as a sort of Albert Hoffman-type in the field of experimental music, serious enough to use his recordings to document theoretical musical forms, but not without a sensualist interest in the ensuing altered states of doing so. Bernstein, half of the rhythm section and saxophonist for notable drone-rockers, Horse Lords, recently released a collection on Hausu Mountain, Cult Appeal, that divides evenly into two sections. The first part adds a cassette-side tome to the kinds of sounds that have historically been created with a saxophone; the second forms something akin to a synth-based exercise in psychophysics, the relationship of musical stimuli and the perceptions they affect. Following the tape's release is this textural video accompaniment for an excerpt from the Cult Appeal's latter half created by video artist Patrick Cain. Strobing, grey-scale digital signal flashes speed across the screen right at the cusp of being too fast for the brain to process, while Bernstein's synth arrangements ricochet across the stereo field.
Big Troubles alum and Ducktails bassist, Luka Usmiani uses his King Cyst project to elaborate on this infatuation with the lush and underappreciated Canterbury vein of the psychedelic canon. His sophmore release, King of New York, is a playful, breezy album, peppered with moments of technical flare, bouncing gracefully back and forth between disparate tempos and prog-jazz grooves. While it definitely shows Usmiani cradling the aesthetic torch of Kevin Ayers, it also teases out his own fresh take on storytelling. In the first track "Rubbing Soul," Usmiani booms string after string of giddy ramblings, "I would love to see you in your underwear/It's not too late/Maybe you should let your hair grow out...Maybe I should start a rock ‘n’ roll band." It’s the smattering of the Usmiani’s casual but absurdist delivery, juxtaposed against intricate, musically-serious arrangements that gives the album its scatterbrained charm.
King of New York is out now digitally on Underwater Peoples, with a vinyl release coming soon.