Recently, L.A. modular synth maestro M. Geddes Gengras and Calgary-based musical anthropologist/electroacoustic troubador Barnaby Bennett teamed up for an audio-visual webpage installation entitled “Oblique Quantumization.” The piece consists of 18 short modular synth pieces synced to visuals, created using Datamatrix in Max for Live and played in a randomly generated shuffle sequence every time the page is refreshed. Recorded in 2012 in L.A., both the audio and the visuals faintly bring to mind the strobey, seizure-inducing immersion of Ryoji Ikeda's Test Pattern and is most effective in full screen (and in the dark). Below is a screenshot; check out the live webpage here.
M. Geddes Gengras recently released New Lines, under his Personable moniker, via Peak Oil. Barnaby Bennett's last album, Shadows and Reflections, was released on Umor Rex in 2013.
M. Geddes Gengras, who also goes by the name DJ Chardi, made us a dancehall mix in promotion of this week's release of Duppy Gun Productions' Multiply, out now on Stones Throw. Below, he describes his first encounter with this music.
DUPPY FOUNDATIONS (INSPIRATIONS)
When I was 17, I got my first car (a '91 Volvo 740 with a tan fake leather interior and 89,000 miles on the odometer) and was starting to get into what I now realize was basically interesting music, from Black Flag to the Velvets and Suicide, Polvo, Can, Sonic Youth-- the basic "indie" canon. I was going to a lot of hardcore shows at the University of Hartford & sometimes out to UConn or even down to New York and ABC No Rio with my best friend Matt. My home situation wasn't great at that point and I was spending a lot of time bouncing between relatives and friends' houses so that car became the physical center/locker for my life. As a result, I listened to a lot of radio, college mostly-- UConn, Amherst, Wesleyan. If I was far enough south I could pick up WFMU. In the summer and over school breaks the Wesleyan station would be taken over by a few Jamaican dudes who would be on the air in 6 hour shifts endlessly for weeks or months on end, playing the music they were into which was mostly 80's-90's dancehall. It was my first time hearing the Jamaican DJ style and I was so shocked by the way they would talk over the music, ducking it hard so you could hear everything they said or just pausing it all together; playing the first 47 seconds of a song three times but never getting all the way through the second verse. The music itself was just the weirdest thing I had ever heard, and at a time when I was going out of my way to blow my mind on whatever sounds I could get my hand on, this was serious radio drugs going out there. Of course at this time there was no easy way to look up the songs online, and no one I knew was listening to music like this. I couldn't even understand the DJs or the hooks half the time, so this stuff went in my ears but had no way to be catalogued or found. So I just took it as it came and listened as much as I could.
I revisited this music when I was in Jamaica, bringing home a huge stack of moldy Shocking Vibes, Digital B, Jammy's, and Xterminator 45's that a record dealer had just given to me, telling me, "No one buys this stuff anyways." And he is right-- there doesn't seem to be a collector's market for it at all, I don't think I paid more than a dollar for any of the records on this mix. Most of them came out of 50 cent bins at record stores all over la and the country. there is literal gold in those bins, some of the best, most creative and fun dance music ever made. It's made in studios with all Casio everything, goofy as the day is long but truly psychedelic, soulful, sincere and DIY as fuck, AND if you put it on the right system it is body music of the highest order. This mix highlights the riddims of 90's dancehall (my favorite kind)-- funky and minimal, always with some kind of weird detail to stick in your mind. Most people reading this have probably never heard of producers like Danny Marshall, Steely & Clevie, Computer Paul, and Jah Screw but between them they have produced thousands of songs. This bent vibe, twisted and not quite dub but always dup'd was a big part of what inspires me with this label-- the idea that anything goes with the right beat.
If you’re a music nerd with even a passing interest in the newer class of synth musicians that’s popped up since the turn of the decade, you’ve likely come across the work of M. Geddes Gengras. In the past few years, he’s played an active role in the Sun Araw Band (and dancehall spin-off project Duppy Gun Productions) and has toured as live engineer for Austin’s Pure X, all the while keeping up the steady stream of his solo cassettes and live works. “Steady stream” is a bit of a litotes-- following his full discography (a quietly-released body of work on a wide variety of labels) is a task in and of itself. Umor Rex compiled many of his finest from 2009-2013 on the retrospective Collected Works Vol. 1: The Moog Years LP. The follow-up, Vol. 2: New Process Music, collects unreleased contemporary works of his made with a new approach: purely modular compositions with limited resources (a small eurorack and a tape echo). For those intimidated by tracing Gengras's extensive and fairly challenging output, this is one of the best ways to experience one of the modern masters of electronic New Music. Like much of his work, this is stuff best for lucid dreaming, a patchwork of vast expanses worthy of mental wanderlust but concise enough to remain approachable. You can stream the record’s final track, “Pure (Reprise),” below.
Collected Works Vol. 2: New Process Music is out November 18 on Umor Rex Records.
Sun Araw and M. Gedded Gengras shoot us "another bullet from the Duppy Gun." After last year's fantastic collaboration with The Congos, Icon Give Thank, the Duppy Gun duo are back at it. They've refocused their project and working with contemporary Jamaican artists, in line with their debut 12" featuring Dayone. Here, they lend cutting edge electronic production to I Jahbar's paranoid dancefloor semi-raps. Par for the course with Duppy Gun, the production sounds like what would happen if Scientist snuck into the CERN laboratories.
Duppy Gun's second 12" is available now from Stones Throw, featuring a collaboration with Lukani on the B-side.