Keith Rankin plays with sound, tickling it out until it spills. "Soft Channel 003," from Soft Channel, his latest effort as Giant Claw, fidgets with the ludic ecstasy—fizzing and sprawling across circuits and MIDI—by which Rankin has for years made his name. But just as the album cover for this newest offering depicts a misrecognition, a crisis in identification, "Soft Channel 003" gnaws at uncanny sonic territory. Over the course of the track, Rankin fiddles with familiarity and unfamiliarity, spontaneously splicing and unexpectedly dissasembling spurts and motifs. One standout interstice is the MIDI choir Rankin employs: unstable, it titillates, inhabiting a vocal register that always feels androgynous, located somewhere in between the head voice and the chest voice, the alto and the tenor. Despite its uncanniness, the voices frequently spasm into something quite delicate, quite precious: a fleeting melody that hints at something grander, something that would complete the punchline that all Rankin's sounds seem to riddle toward. Now effortlessly incorporated into his repertoire, code-switching across aesthetic sensibilities becomes a focal point as Rankin grates the sublime and the beautiful, cartoon slide whistles and shards of Satie's "Gymnopédie No. 1," together over his gurgling potpourri. A master impressionist, Rankin finds facsimile and structure too straightforward, too easy. Through this playful self-denial, the culinary asceticism, Rankin teases out something addictingly temporary, something effervescently evanescent, like the fizz before the swig.
Soft Channel is out September 8 on Orange Milk.
Activia Benz's Singles Club is a website on which the UK label posts a song with accompanying hyperreal, New Hive-friendly artwork every two weeks. The latest installment comes from Ohio polymath Giant Claw, a.k.a. Keith Rankin of Orange Milk Records and designer of previous AdHoc zine covers. Giant Claw's contribution to the series, "Love Alive," sits comfortably on top of other singles in the club from people like Alfred English, Maxo, Morgan Hislop, and more: all of them frenetic-but-sparse, defiantly weird and unabashedly fun. Like many of the tracks on Giant Claw's DARK WEB, "Love Alive" is built around pitched-up vocal samples and clear, high-tempo melodic interjections; however, the more streamlined "Love Alive" resembles a little more a straightforward pop or R&B song: just one playing in Pee-Wee's Playhouse.
"Love Alive" is downloadable now via Activia Benz's Singles Club.
This list will appear in this month's edition of the AdHoc zine. Preorder Issue 3 or subscribe.
Actress: Ghettoville [Werkdisks]
When I interviewed Actress for The FADER this year, he described Ghettoville to me as a concept album about being homeless but having a laptop with musical software on it. He even suggested that he made the album in the hopes of imparting a piece of life advice to his listeners: “If there is one sort of profound moral, it’s just to consider other people a bit more. If you’re doing alright, and you’ve got a decent job and you get paid, and you’ve got a home to go to, and you’ve got friends that you can chill out with and have a drink with and be warm or whatever, then that’s amazing. But the stark reality is that there's people out there who just don’t have that.” I was surprised. How could an album as abstract and even willfully difficult as Actress’ fourth full-length have a "meaning," let alone a moral? As I began to spend more time with with the record, though, the London producer’s words began to make sense; in fact, I think they illuminated all the cryptic doomsday proclamations that preceded the record’s arrival (you know, that stuff he wrote about Ghettoville being Actress’ last record, “R.I.P Music 2014," etc.). Ghettoville, in all it’s sketch-like, crooked, sputtering, weirdly clipped, off-rhythm goodness, felt like a bombed-out incarnation of dance music itself, battered and emaciated but determined to keep trucking along.
In the same interview I mentioned above, Actress also called the album his attempt to “crash the market,” which I think is a pretty bad-ass ambition to have when you are seemingly poised on the end of verge of a mainstream breakthrough. If Ghettoville is partly a conceptual reckoning with the failures of capitalist society to look after its denizens, and partly a musical reckoning with the intersection of capitalism and music, then it’s pretty admirable for its political intentions alone. That said, there’s also some pretty striking moments of beauty herein, such as the damaged but unwaveringly soulful vocal loop on “Don’t.” Within the context of the record’s conflicted relationship to pop, it feels pretty political too, but also touchingly reassuring: “Don’t stop the music.” --Emilie Friedlander
Andy Stott: Faith in Strangers [Modern Love]
Manchester producer Andy Stott has experimented with various shades of techno over the past decade, but his 2014 record Faith in Strangers breaks away from any single style in lieu of a unified melancholic feel. Stott’s latest has a cinematic quality that makes it difficult to just idly listen to; instead, it's best to enter into and experience viscerally these songs, which are ordered in such a way that you get the sense of having traveled through space, time, memory to get from start to finish. The slow build of opener, “Time Away,” sets the chilly mood that colors the entirety of the album, like on the very next track, “Violence,” which sustains and heightens this tone with its heavy, almost trap-ish industrial beat. This, along with the similar-sounding title track are the climactic moments that stand out amidst the more loosely structured, atmospheric unfolding of Faith in Strangers. The ethereal vocals from Alison Skidmore counterbalance the dark strangeness of the grinding loops and beats that Stott layers together. Soft vocals and machine noise combine especially powerfully on the final track, “Missing,” a simple but haunting piano arrangement that evokes both delicateness and danger, that in filmic language might amount to a shot of a lone person walking through a city at night. --Beth Tolmach
Arca: Xen [Mute]
Xen seemed underwhelming at first because of how counterintuitive it feels to the ongoing narrative behind Arca's ascent. Last year, the producer born Alejandro Ghersi pulled no punches. This was the guy who gave the unwieldy "Hold My Liquor" off Yeezus it's haunting pulse, and sent the now-ubiquitous FKA Twigs to her career-starting launchpad on EP2. &&&&&, etc. You probably know all this already. Which made Xen messing with the program all the more disarming. On this album, Arca's ever-propulsive momentum from last year now moves in start-stops, melodies traded for drop outs and half-awake chords-- the sonic results being an awkward balance between classical, trip-hop, and faded skeletons of flamenco from his childhood.
It's been cited over and over in reviews how fully in control of Xen Ghersi seems to be, and yet the opposite is true. The album sounds like how it was recorded (over the course of six months, mostly improv), unfolding in fits of introspection and spastic release, reflective of the mental state of both the tunesmith and the androgynous alter-ego it's named after. That kind of approach left Xen feeling confused, with little to grab onto as its tunes evaporated one after the other. But if the listener held on, the record deepened and gelled in a powerful way that none of his efforts have done before. It's still just as much of a labyrinth to get through as it was the day it was released, but Xen is all the wiser for letting listeners draw the map to get through it for themselves. Everyone you talk to about it is going to have a different favorite part. --Brad Stabler
In Cleveland, when it rains, it pours. Hence the city's Suite 309 just dropped three tapes, each nuttier than the last. Giant Claw, hot on the heels of the brain-breaking Dark Web on Orange Milk and Noumenal Loom, offers up 22M Never Felt So Alone as the bridge between his proggier synth work and his current moe of digital illogic. In a rare turn, Giant Claw's antics actually pale in comparison to those of Splice Girls, who have given the plunderphonic treatment to the entirity of the Spice Girls' Spice Up Your Life, bastardizing pop music on an infrastructual level with a true shit-eating grin. Yet, the highlight of the batch may very well come from Decoherence Records head and noise scene steady/outlier Radioshock, whose no-wave videogame etude "Random Seed" is as puzzling as it is delightful, with some alien will firing off a hoard of discordant electronic tones.
All of these tapes are out October 7 on Suite 309.
Somewhere between Bach and The Lawnmower Man lies Giant Claw. While Keith Rankin spent the majority of the past few years committing all shades of deranged prog wizardry with synthesizers, the recent past has seen him focus his antics on the language of mainstream pop and hip hop. As such, the single from Dark Web feels even farther out than his recent work on Max Mutant and Impossible Chew, as "Deep Web 002" manipulates radio tropes that have become familiar to EDM and trap listenership both willing and unwilling. The tricks that Rankin pulls on "Dark Web 002" are not all that different than the ones employed by folks on Numbers or PC Music, but Rankin boasts the same tongue-in-cheeck ir/reverence that guided his Cream Juice bandmate and Orange Milk co-head Seth Graham on the recent Goop. If you're looking for radical forms of Late Information Age virtuousity, "Dark Web 002" is Exhibit A.
Dark Web is out September 30 on Noumenal Loom and Orange Milk.
Three-and-a-half weeks later, we're still reeling from the death of DJ Rashad. Enough time has passed for the music community to begin reflecting on his humanity and musical legacy, and we invited some folks both close to and far away from Rashad to share some thoughts and memories.
Excerpted from a phone interview:
Rashad was like one of the craziest MFs you’d ever want to meet. Dude would touch a beat machine and just make something out of crap, just make it. I couldn’t do it, but we was always just rooting on each other. I would make tracks and be like, “Whatcha got, whatcha got?” And he’d be like, “Have I got something for you!” He'd play me something and I'd be like, “Ahhh, I gotta go back to the boards, make five more." Basically we was just competing with each other, but on the kindness of brotherly love. We played together. We played a lot of footwork battles. You’d know we was in the building. Rashad would play two, I’d play two, he’d play two, I’d play two, Spinn would would jump in and he’d play two, RP would jump in and he’d play two, Clent’s there and he’d come in and he’d play two. Just having fun-- me and Rashad going back to back, back to back, killing it.
I’ve been knowing him since 1997-- since he was a kid. I already knew Clent, I already knew Gant-Man. I had met Spinn through DJ Fast in the beginning of ‘97. [Rashad] was like “I’ve got the ‘Get Up Joe’ record, with you and Eric Martin.” I’d be like, “Yeah, you like that record? “Man I love that shit!” From then we just-- oh man-- became the best of friends. At a point we stopped seeing each other, because they’re all the way on the South Side, the South 'burbs, and I’m all the way on the West Side. Every now and then at parties or something, every now and then from ‘99-- we were just bumping heads-- until 2004, when I ran into him. Spinn and Rashad were dropping off a CD called Land of Smackdown Vol. 2, and I was showing them the record shops on the West Side that they forgot. When they started doing their own thing, they was with Beat Down Music with DJ Clent. They decided to leave and start their own network, which was Ghettoteknitianz. This was 2004.
As the years went on, we just became the best of friends. We jammed all over again. Rashad was always a hardworking dude. He might seem wild and all that, but this dude actually carried a job. He worked it! He used to work on a boat in Hawaii, on a cruise boat, getting money. But he left [the footwork scene at the time], so it was just me and Spinn and Clent and RP. He would come back. “I’m ready to get back down here, maybe get another job doing administrative things.” You a beast, working. My dumb ass can’t even get a job. But he was making heat! He started to deal with Godfather. He and Spinn started dealing with him, and he told me to get involved and I was all, “Nah, I don’t really want to…” It’s kinda crazy, because when other crews was doing stuff, we was just changing up our style. Styles was just changing, changing, changing, changing, changing. Just traveling together. When you travel together, you bond even closer. So it’s like we could be out in London somewhere, we could go to the store, go get some food, we gotta eat. We just sit and just talk about the future: the future and the plans for Teklife, or Geto DJs, or what I’m doing with Tek DJs, what we’re trying to do to further it.
Summing that up: I was very sad. I felt like a part of me had died. I had just talked to him bro, just talked to him [when the news of Rashad's death came]. Me and Bobby Skills were at the the studio together, and I had a whole bunch of new tracks and played [Rashad] some over Skype, and he was like, “Oh my god man, send that to me!” So I sent that to him along with Bobby’s, because he did a track called “'Bout That Life.” I was in New York when I got the call, and it was chaos at that moment. Something that was really surreal-- a lot of people couldn’t deal with it, a lot of people couldn’t accept it. But I look at it as a sign from God saying, “Yeah, I can give it, but I can also take it away.” God doesn’t make any mistakes. It was for a reason. The impact that he made is so big. That will never die.
Our job is to keep it going, keep it cracking, because if the situation happened-- knock on wood-- with me or RP or Spinn or Clent, he would do the same thing for us. The same thing. We got a job to do. All I’ve got to say is thank God for Rashad, thank God for him making this ultimate music, sharing ideas. No mess with everybody-- don’t want everybody to go to sleep because we gonna fresh paint you to death. That’s kiddie stuff. We go hard having fun, doing music. Thank God for Rashad. We always gonna pump his music, ain’t nothing going away. That’s just gonna make me go even harder, make everyone else go ever harder. Rashad man, his heart was so big, dude. I can smile with that bro. I’m not sad, not at all. The only thing we have is memories; we can’t live forever. And like Rashad would say, “Don’t just sit around-- stop bullshittin’, man. Let’s track out. Let’s go. We got some weed. We got some blunts. C’mon, let’s do this.”
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.
Holly Waxwing: Goldleaf Acrobatics (Noumenal Loom)
God damn. This tape is like a tanning booth for your brain. Holly Waxwing blends elements of hip hop, R&B, and various avant grooves into a Spicoli-style max relaxer. I must have listened to this tape 50 times in the past month and may never get the sand out from between my toes. You can read a bit more in depth about it in the most recent Tabs Out Tape of the Month feature. An essential grip!
Maurice’s Hotel Death: Hot Jone (Rano)
70 minutes spread out over eight tracks of slither along creep-outs and thunder-clunks over the noggin. Hot Jone is a diverse and dissonant collection of clanking noise that stays interesting for the entire ride. Plus it comes with matches if you want to burn shit. Limited to 30 copies.