SPF420 is an online music venue. Since early 2013, the website has curated dozens of concerts using Tinychat, a free, online video chat service that allows musicians to broadcast performances from the privacy of their own homes. Artists that have performed include Traxman, DJ Earl, foodman, DJ Clap, Saint Pepsi, Giant Claw, and many more. Beyond the sheer breadth and quality of the musicians that have played on the website since its inception, a vibrant online community has also coalesced around SPF420. The site’s obvious momentum-- this year, it hosted a packed SXSW showcase headlined by Ryan Hemsworth-- shows no signs of slowing down: clearly, many people-- listeners and performers alike-- are excited by the possibilities offered by SPF420 and other similar web-based phenomena. In order to attempt to discern the significance of the “online music venue” and discuss its implications-- both for the lay listener and for the creator or performer-- one must first trace the roots and history of the venue up to the present.
SPF420 was founded by Chaz Allen and Liz (who goes simply by her first name). Despite the fact that Chaz is from Chicago and Liz hails from North Carolina, they were able to first make contact through a room on turntable.fm, a now-discontinued website that functioned as a sort of early online music venue in its own way. Turntable.fm allowed its users to create “rooms” in which they could DJ by curating and then live-streaming a playlist to others in the same room. An integral aspect of turntable.fm was its textual chat interface-- users in a given room were able to message each other while listening to the music-- something that would also become a vital component of the SPF420 experience.
The first SPF420 event took place in January 2013, featuring performances by several artists hailing from the internet-based electronic microgenre known as “vaporwave.” I leave the term in scare quotes as a recognition of the genre’s transient, somewhat ungraspable character; articles have been published on its origin, history, and characteristic aesthetic qualities, but for many, it still retains an air of inscrutability. At the risk of being reductive, vaporwave essentially draws from capitalism's aural detritus: its artists' preferred sample sources include the soundtracks for corporate training videos and elevator music. Indeed, vaporwave appropriates and disembodies the generic, MIDI-heavy sounds of 1980s-era Muzak, music with an explicit use-value. Some of the artists that performed at this first SPF420 included Luxury Elite, Prism Corp. (one identity of the enigmatic, Portland, Oregon-based producer known as Vektroid, who has released some of vaporwave’s most emblematic and iconic works under a variety of other names, including Macintosh Plus, Laserdisc Visions, 情報デスクVIRTUAL, and New Dreams Ltd.), and Metallic Ghosts, the musical alias of SPF420 co-founder Chaz Allen himself.
Birmingham, UK-based musician and composer Matt Parker travels to “data centers”-- those huge rooms filled with thousands of loudly whirring computers that you've probably seen in a science fiction movie or two-- and takes field recordings of the deafening roar that the machines make. Parker states that “the idea is to highlight the physical nature of ‘cloud computing’”-- to aurally document the physical foundation for the intangible cloud of data that most humans now tap into daily. Below, you can stream two pieces of audio from Parker. The first is the original, unaltered field recording of a data center at Birmingham City University-- two minutes of near-white noise, with faint beeping audible through the layers of hiss. The second is a “remix” that Parker created from the original recording. In this version, Parker manages to sculpt a coherent compositional form out of the original version's formless roar: muted rhythms and ghostly melodic content are methodically drawn out from the churning static of the data center. (via Cities and Memory)
DJ Nate-- aka 23-year-old, Chicago-based producer Nathan Clark-- is part of a younger generation of footwork producers emerging from the Chi. Despite his comparative youngness, however, he's really been at it for a while. After initially cutting his teeth as a footwork producer starting at age 15, he released a stunning full-length, Da Trak Genious, and an equally impressive EP, Hatas Our Motivation, on Planet Mu back in 2010. After that, Clark transitioned into a heavily auto-tuned style of rap-singing and became one of the integral figures in the emerging Chicago Bop scene over the past few years.
This week, Clark has shared a new track, “Lonely/Ball His Azz Up,” that marks a return to his footwork roots. As its title hints at, the track presents two main samples: a rhythmic, heavily chopped-up male voice that repeats “ball his ass up,” and a gorgeous, pitch-shifted voice that sings “lonely with nowhere to go” in a higher register. This vocal juxtaposition occurs in front of a backdrop of melancholic synth chords, rumbling sub-bass, and a dizzying, heavily syncopated array of percussion samples. Stream “Lonely/Ball His Azz Up” in all its glory just below. (via Tiny Mix Tapes)
The video's description states “'DA TRACK GENIOUS 2' IS COMING SOON...#PLANET MU RECS,” so hopefully this track will appear on a new full-length from DJ Nate later this year.
Just over a year ago, Locust put out its first album in over a decade, You'll Be Safe Forever, a collaborative effort between Mark Van Hoen-- the British producer behind Locust's original string of records in the 1990s-- and his friend Louis Sherman. Now, Nathan Cearley-- an electronic musician best known as a member of experimental outfit Long Distance Poison-- has remixed “The Worn Gift,” a track from the album. Cearley's intricate process for creating this remix involved using cassette tapes to craft granular samples from stems of the original song, and then using those tapes as signal generators to compose the remix live on his own modular system. The results are arresting: an initial analog drone slowly builds in intensity, eventually bursting forth into an extended exploration of deep, resonant rhythmic motifs.
You can stream Nathan Cearley's remix of the track just below. Locust are also prepping another new album for release later this year.
Teklife, the DJ Rashad-helmed, Chicago-based footwork crew, continues to expand its influence beyond its hometown. One figure that increasingly seems to be helping spread the gospel of Teklife is Taso, aka Anastasios Ioannis Skalkos III, a San Francisco-based producer who was featured on four tracks off DJ Rashad's monumental Double Cup from late last year. Recently, Taso has been striking out on his own, dropping an excellent new album, Teklife Till Tha Next Life Vol. 1, early last month. Taso graduated with a degree in audio engineering, and this formal training is readily apparent in his musical compositions. In both Till Tha Next Life and his features on Double Cup, there's a crispness in the way that the sonic elements are mixed and presented-- the frenetic sonic assault of Teklife has never sounded more direct and penetrating than it does on these recent Taso cuts.
His winning streak continues with “Droga de Diseño,” a massive new track featuring Mexican rap outfit El Coleta. Taso chops up vocals from El Coleta in manner somewhat similar to TNGHT on “Higher Ground,” isolating a small vocal sample (“droga de”), then pitch-shifting and repeating it ad nauseam before finally teasing out the entirety of the titular phrase. Everything in the mix is crystal clear and incisive, from the rapidfire hi-hats to the piercing synth squeals and resounding snares and snaps. It's an aural pleasure to immerse oneself in a track as fine-tuned and well-realized as “Droga de Diseño,” and it seems as though we won't have to wait very much long for more of the same: Taso is slated to have a track on the imminent Hyperdub 10.1 anniversary compilation.
You can stream “Droga de Diseño” below, and then head over to Bandcamp to hear Teklife Till Tha Next Life Vol. 1 in its entirety.
Mincemeat or Tenspeed-- aka Providence, RI-based noise sculptor David Harms-- used to construct his unique brand of experimental dance music solely through the use of feedback and effects pedals. Now, however, Harms has begun to incorporate synthesizers and samplers into his compositions, and will soon release a new full-length, Waiting for Surfin' Bird, that demonstrates this progression in his aesthetic approach. Below, you can stream album cut "Big Daddy Sunshine," a monstrous track that pairs dense, increasingly dissonant synthesizer bursts with a propulsive rhythm to a simultaneously destructive and danceable end.
Waiting for Surfin' Bird is out May 6 on Decoherence Records. Starting today, Mincemeat or Tenspeed will also embark on a tour. Check out the full dates after the jump.
Gardland is the collaborative project of experimental producers Alex Murray and Mark Smith. In 2012, the duo put out a self-titled EP on their own label, Hunter Gatherer, and last year, they released their debut full-length, Syndrome Syndrome, on RVNG Intl. Now, they're following up that record with Improvisations, a new EP for RVNG that gathers material from live sessions on a local Australian radio station dating back to early 2012. Below, you can stream “0214 Pt. 2” and watch its accompanying video. The combined audio-visual assault pairs a dense, churning mix of synthesizers and percussion with disorienting, warped images of Internet detritus and found video recordings.
Gardland’s Improvisations EP is out soon on RVNG.
On April 22, Prague-based experimental electronic label Baba Vanga will release vV, a new tape from Lanuk, aka Hungarian producer Árpád Gyulás. Below, you can stream a cut from the release titled "7". While this is definitely heady, experimental music-- glitchy synth lines and abrupt, noisy squelches abound-- it also possesses a certain playfulness and gaiety. Indeed, in the lurching, percussive gait that underpins the track's opening segment, or in the wild, chaotic combination of sounds that overtakes the song during its final moments, Gyulás successfully communicates the sense of joy that accompanies unbridled sonic invention and experimentation.
vV is out April 22 on Baba Vanga.
Crystal Dorval and Beau Devereaux-- two musicians best known for their solo experimental pop projects, White Poppy and Samantha Glass, respectively-- have joined forces as Dorval & Devereaux for a new, self-titled cassette. Below, you can check out the video for “Heavy Hands,” a gorgeous track off the release. The song presents a hypnotic, post-punk-inflected bassline and a distant synth melody before introducing Devereaux's languid, reverb-laden vocals. The video is similarly indistinct, showing a series of dim, heavily processed images.
Dorval & Devereaux is out now on Moon Glyph.
UNIIQU3-- aka Newark-based producer and rapper Cherise Gray-- has a new mixtape, The New Klassiks, out now on Lit City Trax. Gray is associated with the Jersey Club scene, an ecstatic, New Jersey-based variant of the breakbeat-heavy, hip-hop and house-inflected genre of electronic music known as Baltimore Club. The New Klassiks features a wide variety of Jersey Club tracks, ranging from older classics of the genre to new songs and remixes by UNIIQU3 herself. Stream the release in its entirety just below.
The New Klassiks is out now on Lit City Trax.