All posts by Noah Andrews

In a world where experimental electronic music exponentially splinters into a multitude of rogue genres that slowly shuffle the globe from demilitarized dance floors to sleeper cell bedroom studios and back, a team of disparate scientists tracks this solanum-like pandemic while desperately trying to interpret cryptic field recordings of Samhain’s past, not one day at a time, but from Amen to Zombie

AMEN

I usually have something quippy to say here, but honestly I’ve had my head down doing my day job I really can’t come up with anything right now. However, I did recently come upon a scientific paper that proposes that it may be possible to calculate precisely the amount of temporal distortion experienced in dreams by being able to measure synaptic firing rates. Which is awesome. The idea is that there is electricity in your head that also has to obey quantum mechanical laws and if we are able to calculate the rate of the spreading activation of REM sleep as it oscillates from the pons of the brain to the cortex, then compare that to normative values set by either deep brain stimulation or cortical stimulation using magnets synced to clock time and the patient’s experience of time, we then could have a way of recording aggregate action potentials and then determining the amount of temporal distortion by the rate, frequency, and where in the brain clusters of neurons are firing.

Which reminds me of a riddle: How do you put all of the information on Earth onto a match head? You write it all down using a language (any language, but it all has to be in the same language) then you code each character with a number, using 0 as marking a space. You then take this impossibly long number that represents all the world’s knowledge then put a decimal point in front of it, making it a fraction. Starting from the bottom of the match stick you go up 0.0502934857948072… mm and put a small scratch mark.  If you were able to put a scratch mark at that exact point and you could create something that could read exactly where the scratch mark is, you could theoretically put all of the world’s knowledge on a match stick.

Are all of the women gone? Good, now let’s talk some drums and some basses…

Notable Releases

Command StrangeVanilla Dream/Joint

Command StrangeIt’s all Over Now

Two liquid rollers by Command Strange. From Kazakhstan — or from parts unknown depending on what you believe on the internets. One thing is for sure, he’s got a very sunny vibe.  Two samples here are on Fokuz, which I’m not normally a fan of, but I’m coming around to the catalog. Command Strange has also put some stuff out on Celsius, which is a sub-label of Fokuz that I don’t care for, but I guess that’s why you have to dig around a little to find some gold. I was really hopeful when I heard Second Self – Sheltered Spirit on Celsius, but  haven’t really heard much more that’s worth while there.

I mentioned Commix in a previous post and sung their praises there so go check that out.

Commix also have an excellent new cut on the Exit Records compilation Mosaic: Vol 1 so check that out too. Available here is the 31 Records comp Quality Over Quantity: Vol 2 with a Commix track on it.

A little history about 31 Records: Started by Doc Scott; highly influential “intelligent” d&b label; known for getting tracks from artists that may have developed their sound on other labels but want to experiment with other sounds; been in the game since 1994 with forward thinking sounds… but really its just a bunch of boring “deep” d&b with a few flashes in the pan.

I hate to shit on 31 Records; some of my favorite tunes are on the label (Digital’s Deadline, and the new Seba Don’t You Love Me Anymore), but really there’s a lot of boring deep rollers, that may sound great on a proper sound system in the hands of a skilled DJ that will mix them expertly… it just isn’t cutting it anymore.  What made 31 Records great in 1994, makes them dated today.  But the gems you can find in that back catalog will blow the mind. Moving forward…

Computer Club/The FixLoad Rocket (Gridlok rmx)/Fatal

*sigh* Now I have to talk about Dieselboy’s Human Imprint. Don’t get me wrong. Gridlok’s remix is freaking awesome. Prime time dance floor material.  But the flip by The Fix is very lackluster compared to what is also available on Substance D, the Dieselboy mixed CD from which this release comes from. And it’s kind of the writing on the wall in a way. I have HUGE amounts of respect and admiration for Dieselboy. He is the sole reason I know anything about d&b, and I will be a loyal fan til the end. It’s just that instead of using his peerless skills as a tastemaker — like he has on countless mixed CDs — he’s seen fit to let some sub-standard tracks ride the b-sides of the vinyl releases that coincided with the release of Substance D.  Now, I’m all for helping people get on.  Each one teach one, of course. But you do that on a sub-label, where people can still benefit from being released and still have time to develop their sound. That coupled with the machismo subHuman bro-step label and the new mix Unleashed, a free mix available on Soundcloud, I think I need to step away from Human Imprint and Dieselboy for a while.  However, the back catalog is solid gold tech d&b. Highly recommended.  In the right doses.

Concept One/CJ WeaverLyre Bird/I’m Melting

This one! WoW! Now we’re back on track. But I expect nothing less from Alphacut.  If you like your music well produced and deep and life-changing at the same time foot-moving, Alphacut boy. That’s what you want to buy. Here we have a French Concept One with some jungle vibes and North American CJ Weaver with some Autonomic vibes. Win win. And I’m kind of not wanting to put this one out. It’s been a long time in this blog where I’ve actually listened to something that I thought, “Yeah, that is going in my box for sure.”  But I’m Melting is such a good tune, I must possess it.

Alphacut is also obviously run by people who are passionate about the sound. The website looks more like a fan site, with tongue-in-cheek bios, a cascade of text instead of flashy photos, and of course reviews for each and every release.  As a fan of d&b and (colored) vinyl, the whole label ticks all the boxes for me. Don’t skip this one. And check out everything else as well.

So it goes.

In a world where experimental electronic music exponentially splinters into a multitude of rogue genres that slowly shuffle the globe from demilitarized dance floors to sleeper cell bedroom studios and back, a team of disparate scientists tracks this solanum-like pandemic while desperately trying to interpret cryptic field recordings of Samhain’s past, not one day at a time, but from Amen to Zombie

First post of 2011 and it’s going to be a good one.  Couple of follow-up items.  As I said in the last post, Code 3’s output would be scant at best, but I just saw somewhere that they’ve got something coming up.  Who knows, we could see another Magnetic Man-type blow up in the mainstream music press.  Fingers crossed.

In other news, I attended my first BRRRN of 2011 at the B Side in Coventry here in Cleveland.  I highly recommend checking out whoever’s got that sweet spot starting ’round 11:40 p.m. if you’re kicking it on a Monday.  I got to see the crazy kids dance their asses off with white-boy footwork and candy raver vigor.  It was a good sign for the new year that people are out to have fun and not give a shit about the chubby scenesters swilling PBR and throwing ‘tude at the dance floor.  Actually, that’s a bit unfair.  I only saw a little of that going on; most everyone was down with the par and the tay.  Anyway, it got my juices flowing on bass music again.  Some guy was playing some aqua boogie, or what-ever-the-fuck you want to call it and it blew me away.  When you consume so much music, it puts you off of it to the point where all you want to listen to is comedy podcasts or The Best Show on WFMU archives.  Speaking of which, we’ve got sort of a triple scoop of double chocolate boo-ya for that ass.  Let’s get it on:

ZOMBIE

Boom!  Check that shit out.  That could be the new design for a pack of cigarettes that gives you a punch in the face with every puff of cancer, and I’d still want to buy it.  Fortunately, that is the latest offering from Chicago’s Gatekeeper.  Now, I’ve only strayed from the format of reviewing Halloween Spooky Sounds CDs once in a haunted blue moon, but this absolutely deserves a mention.  And we’ll get to that shortly.

Before we get to the music, I have to admit that what drew me in is that awesome artwork on the cover. Dan McPharlin is in charge of the surrealist landscape there.  His style is more in the Sci-Fi vein, but it’s still awesome if you dig Roger Dean Yes album covers and smoking weed under a black light.  Dan is pretty handy with a Moog too.  Check out all of his stuff.  Oh, and “In space… no one can hear you scream!”*

Now, on to the album Giza.  I would rather you just listen to the sample there, but if you need more of a teaser, here it goes: In the vein of classic prog-rock icons Goblin, with nods to John Carpenter, and a heavy use of disemboweled YouTube clips, this album still feels at home in any Electro set.  There, now go buy it.

Thirdly, we continue on to:

Here, we have a Spooky Sounds Erector set of a CD.  I won’t bother listing all the titles, but they’re all the standard Halloween folly you’d expect.  Wind, chains, doors slamming.  On second thought, now that I’m actually reading the titles to the sound clips, they’re pretty funny.  “Telephone Call Hang Up,” “Flesh Squishing And Eating,” “Slow Walk With Limp In Echo.”  I guess they must be translated from German.  Anyway, the CD is a collection of sounds that you might use to create your own Halloween ghost story or what-have-you.  But, where most collections like this fail, the good folk at Allegro Corporations shine through.

What I’m referring to is the all-important “Eerie Music” or “Haunting Music” tracks that should appear on these types of CDs.  Here’s the idea: First, you’ll want to write out your Halloween-type scary story, get all the parts down, and name your characters.  Then, you’ll go through and pick out the sound effects that you’ll use to punctuate your story (the howling wind and rain to start out with, a good ghost’s voice when your characters make it to the attic of the haunted house…you get the idea).  Now, the only thing stopping you from sounding like a jerk who can’t write decent exposition for a ghost story is going to be that “Eerie Music” that is not full of crazy sound effects, but still appropriate for a ghost story.  It will serve as your bed music.

Usually, you’ll get one tacked on the end of the CD, or maybe two hugging the label if you’re into vinyl.  Most of the time, they suck for the purposes stated above, but they are pretty cool on their own.  Not on this disc.  You get “Eerie Music” that would easily pass for a B-side to Pink Floyd’s soundtrack to More, and would also work well as bed music for your scary story.  “Scary Music With Demented Laugher” is more of an opening piece with classic Theremin Sci-Fi stabs; “Suspense Music” features chugging contrabass, harpsichord strings, and a droning pipe organ; and “Midnite In Graveyard With Clock Chime” is not necessarily a piece of music, but a good chunk of folly.

Do I expect anyone to actually use these CDs as source material for creating their own Halloween scary story production?  Maybe just a little, but the Allegro Corporation certainly does.  They’ve even included a 15-page Halloween activity PDF complete with mazes, crosswords, and an awesome devil mask that you can cut out and wear.  Their catalog is what you’d expect from a company that has to put “File Under: Halloween” on a disc titled “Sounds Of Horror.”  They’ve got other Halloween Spooky Sounds CDs in their catalog that are worth checking out.  I think I’ve got the rest of them (bought all three in one shot at a drug store).  They’ve also got a CD in their catalog called “Kid’s Pain Relief Project: Come What May.”  This CD was recorded by the Kung Fu Bakery in Portland, OR, and includes songs like “Tidepool” and “Xandria.”  I’m not sure if this is the most hilarious thing ever recorded or something you can’t un-hear,  but it easily surpasses the sphere of influence Allegro has for a $1.99 CD called “Sounds of Horror.”

Goodnight out there, whatever you are.

* That’s totally from Alien. Ca-kow!

 

 

In a world where experimental electronic music exponentially splinters into a multitude of rogue genres that slowly shuffle the globe from demilitarized dance floors to sleeper cell bedroom studios and back, a team of disparate scientists tracks this solanum-like pandemic while desperately trying to interpret cryptic field recordings of Samhain’s past, not one day at a time, but from Amen to Zombie

AMEN

And we’re back from commercial. Here we are back in the Juno catalog. I think I’m entering a new phase with this project. I was thinking that I would think of it as a chore to go back and slug through some crappy releases. Kind of like digging at its worst. Juno is a digital shop mainly, which means that all their record stock is probably sitting besides some lucky being’s desk as they track incoming orders in an ultra hip office with an espresso machine and way too many attractive women.

Anyway, I’ve been thinking about the fact that I will never buy vinyl from Juno. I don’t think I ever have, maybe once. But then again, when I buy from overseas it’s usually from Boomkat and it’s gotta be something that I can’t get my hands on here in Cleveland. With Another Method records replacing Grand Poo Bas (and doing a great job at being Ohio’s ST Holdings distro), the staff at the Bent Crayon still being a douche, and Breakbeat Science having been folded into Beatstax.com, I’m kind of at a loss for predicting the future of underground bass vinyl in the States.

I heard somewhere that there are only six pressing plants in the States left. And more and more I see North & South American record labels with “Made in the EU” on the sleeve. Which doesn’t necessarily mean we’ll see vinyl singing its swan song soon, but if we want to clot the flow we’d better start being wise about what records we press up. Maybe this part of the blog should come with a “warning” section as well. Like don’t ever buy a CLIPZ record unless you’re a) 16 years old, b) from Croydon, UK and c) a complete tool.

We could go back to cut-throat Jamaican ways. I forget if it’s in The Harder They Come or some documentary I watched on dubplate culture, but the way it works in Jamaica is if your shit ain’t hot, the extra copies get broken up and melted down to press up the next records. This might work well. Just about everything I’ve listened to on Juno in prep for this entry is available as a download. Which works fine for those who are interested in some very derivative Jump-Up stuff. Most of those cats are using Serato anyway. We could take all the extra copies of unsellable stuff and melt it down so we can still press up new stuff.

“But what about digging Noah? If you melt down all the records that came out in the last ten years, you’re robbing the generations to come!” To which I quote Daptone head honcho Gabriel Roth: “No one is digging for Phil Collins breaks.” Point being that if you can find someone who needs a copy of The Alternative’s “Faster Than Light” ten years from now that person had better be a genius. If not they’re trying to polish shit.

Which brings us back to Juno. Before I had the brainstorm of melting down crappy releases to save the vinyl industry, I had the thought that as I continue through the alphabet at Juno I like d&b less and less. Or there are so many shitty releases from say like ’99 to ’08 that are in a strange holding pattern on the site. Good stuff cycles in and out of stock, and I think Juno is pretty good at keeping the site accurate so that you can actually buy what you see. It makes for interesting listening. If I didn’t keep up with d&b elsewhere and just learned about the genre by doing this wacky experiment I think I would have stopped listening at the end of A. And I’d be wildly out of touch with the vibrant and exciting stuff that Exit Records has been doing in the last 3 years. Which brings us to…

Notable Releases

Code 3 – Living Proof/Response Call

Seriously, just buy anything that comes out on Exit Records. Full stop. I would bet that if you weren’t immediately into the sound it would grow on you. Here we have supergroup Code 3 with some damn fine modern d&b. Code 3 is SP:MC, Jubei, and Dakuan. SP:MC as has a perfect track record, usually found on Tempa, and is a constant collaborator. The two bits he has released solo are dead fucking classics.

Taiko Dub and Trust Nobody. You’re welcome for those links. Jubie runs more in d&b circles, and could possibly explain the group’s other major release for SGN:LTD, DJ Friction’s private reserve offshoot of his Shogun Audio label. Jubei is also one to check out if you’re into your d&b proper. He’s got releases on Metalheadz and Coded Music that aren’t bad. Dakuan is a mystery, but I’m guessing that it’s Oris Jay AKA Darquan AKA Mary Ann Hobbs’ beau. Could be wrong though. All and all you probably won’t see too much output from Code 3, but the related rabbit hole of artists and labels should keep your ears busy before they colab again.

So it goes.

In a world where experimental electronic music exponentially splinters into a multitude of rogue genres that slowly shuffle the globe from demilitarized dance floors to sleeper cell bedroom studios and back, a team of disparate scientists tracks this solanum-like pandemic while desperately trying to interpret cryptic field recordings of Samhain’s past, not one day at a time, but from Amen to Zombie

ZOMBIE

I’m finally recovered from Halloween weekend. Too much to relay in this blog but here’s a quick run-on sentence:

Friday at a shitty rib bar that had a UFO catcher where you could win a two-dollar lobster, DJing top 40 hip-hop to angry douches and big titty chicks, 5’5″ James Brown lookalike does an incredible split, Black-ula wins 2nd in the costume contest, no free drinks, kids recognize me as Harry Potter on the bus, wake up Saturday to construction, arrange house for massive Halloween party, hanging out with my sister Britt and fellow Ghettoblaster Artie, Grab Bag Bonanza, pumpkin carving, Jello shots, spooky syringe shots, “Jon” from Delocated, more Grab Bag Bonanza, Thai girl + bull horn = fun, wake up Sunday to shuffle to my Japanese lesson in which I can barely put two words together, half-hearted attempt to clean up, apply ground score zombie make up, half a high school moshing to 12th Planet at the Grog Shop, Gaslamp Killer-ing it, fake plastic eyeballs, Daedalus’ birthday set, one, two, five many vodka and tonics, Monday = day off.

I’m sure you can see why I love Halloween so much. In my prep for the house party I made it to one of those rogue Halloween stores that pop up in late September/early October and sell nothing but costumes and Halloween goods. Despite having severe buyer’s remorse immediately after exiting the store, I got some spooky gear. First thing I grabbed was an old-school looking skeleton door decoration. I’m sure you’re familiar with the type; basically a charcoal sketch of a semi-old looking skeleton. Probably what passed for a medical drawing more than a century ago. But it had one important update: glow in the dark paint. See? You don’t need to go too off the page. Just update the classics and you’re good. Halloween decorations nowadays are abominations. Everything is super cartoony (my guess is that you can draw that line in the sand the year that The Nightmare Before Christmas premiered). Either that or it’s unnecessarily bloody. I grew up with spooky Victorian era artwork, and I think that’s what works best. Too cartoony and you have to stretch the limits of your overactive imagination to conjure up a good fright. Too gory and it’s like Halloween porno, you actually get to see what the darkness can do to you. Anyway, of course I picked up some Spooky Sounds CDs so let’s get to it:

As I was contemplating buying a voice changer for my “Jon” from Delocated costume, I spotted two stacks of CDs way at the bottom of the register. Not necessarily in the mix with the other Spooky Sounds CDs (there was a 99 cent one I scored as well, which I’ll review next time) but low on a dusty shelf were two CDs by something called Midnight Syndicate.

Now before we dive into the sound, first it’s a good idea to understand how excited I was at the prospect of a band or artist producing an album around the idea of Halloween. Or not even exclusively Halloween, maybe just subjects in the fog of Halloween, say vampires. This might seem like the best thing on paper. It isn’t.

Midnight Syndicate are two guys from Ohio with a Victorian fetish. They employ the most sterile sounding synths to create same-sounding, creatively titled Victorian Muzak. I’m so sorry to have to tell you that Midnight Syndicate sucks. It was my sincerest hope that this would be a diamond in the rough, and that it would prove to be a vein of Spooky Sounds music that would have the idea of a Spooky Sounds album distilled into its most awesome parts. It is not that.

Now it could be that I’m just not listening to the best stuff. This album, Vampyre, was the only real album that the Halloween store had. The other disc was a compilation of the group’s first thirteen years. The group is also the only one to have an officially licensed soundtrack to Dungeons & Dragons. And what that means is that, yes, there’s BGM to the D&D TV show, yes there was a movie, and of course countless permutations of the original board game. All of which might have had some sort of music attached to them that you ultimately couldn’t buy or even find. But Midnight Syndicate’s album, appropriately called Dungeons & Dragons, is I’m guessing the soundtrack to the very idea of D&D.

But I digress; this is a blog about Halloween. And I’m guessing that someone who had a skid of these CDs said, “Yeah put those out, chumps will love ’em.” And so I’ll reserve fully dismissing Midnight Syndicate until I hear another album. To be completely honest, the rest of the catalog looks pretty sweet and if there was one album among them that would be lame, I’m guessing it would be Vampyre. Where else do you go with that subject matter but straight to Victorian-era Phantom of the Opera cords and Mary Shelly song titles? It’s a knee jerk reaction. Now if they tried to produce a instrumental album based on Blade style vampires? That would be something I would like to see, but ultimately would not get them gigs as the BGM at Six Flags.

Yes, as an aside, Midnight Syndicate has had some of their work used as the BGM for amusement park rides. However, their first album is a melange of genres. From the insert a note about a made-up genre called Cine-fusion:

A blending of movie soundtrack music and pop music… a compilation of soundtracks to movies that do not exist. The goal of the music is to stimulate the imaginations of listeners so that they are able to transport themselves to worlds or movies of their own creation.

Which again sounds great on paper. Actually sounds like the same chorus voice on a Roland synth on every track, not bleak but boring chord progressions, and nonsensical percussion (too much gong). But the rest of the catalog holds promise. On their first album there is Cine-fusion rap. Try and get your head around that one.

Goodnight out there, whatever you are.

In a world where experimental electronic music exponentially splinters into a multitude of rogue genres that slowly shuffle the globe from demilitarized dance floors to sleeper cell bedroom studios and back, a team of disparate scientists tracks this solanum-like pandemic while desperately trying to interpret cryptic field recordings of Samhain’s past, not one day at a time, but from Amen to Zombie

AMEN

Yeah, yeah I know, another AMEN right in the middle of Halloween-ing season.  But I’ll make this one just a short one.  The main reason is that Commix just put out Re:Call To Mind.  And since were right in the middle of the Cs I thought, Good time to pre-empt where Commix comes later in the Cs with this post.  Mainly due to the fact that, in my opinion, the rest of the catalog is hit or miss.

There’s the absolute classic Be True.  Which is worth the price of admission alone to the original Call To Mind album (and is also why people are clamoring about the remix album.  The Burial remix of “Be True” is finally showing its head on this album.  Even got a one-sided press, with a Metalheadz logo etching on the flip).  But to be honest I see the lowest level acceptable d&b for the rest of their body of work.  Which is in fact a diss on other producers.

Commix are master craftsmen.  Except no d&b below this level of quality.  And while they can crank out anthems like “Talk To Frank”, don’t miss things like Japanese Electronics and Underwater Scene.  Here’s a picture of a dead brown dog stuck in 8 bit world.

CommixRe: Call To Mind

Now lets race through some Notable Releases:

Catacomb

Reppin’ Toronto’s healthy d&b scene is the revolving cast of heads know as Catacomb.  Now down to just Larry Miller, the moniker has been doing damage from ’06 until now.  Coming out of the gate in the vein with that new blend of Neuro-Funk championed by Phace and Misanthrope, Catacomb got unbelievable lucky landing the flip to Phace’s Crocker with a track called The Zodiac (which was released on Syndrome Audio and is the label Catacomb are associated with).  Everybody had that record because Crocker was the single just before Phace dropped the bombshell that was the album Psycho.

Not to say that they can’t hold their own, but with the buzz that the album Psycho created, that Neuro-Funk sound was en vogue and Catacomb were right there to provide healthy input to that splinter genre and inject new ideas as well.  Outstanding releases on this page are Immoral and Doom Raiders.

Cause 4 Concern

Man, I almost didn’t want to put any C4C on this page, but them being scene Dons, I guess I have to.  That is to say, their sound is a little stale nowadays.  But that didn’t mean that back around 2000 anything that had C4C on it and was on Timeless. You’d drop whatever kind of money it took to get that record in your box.

They’ve had their own label that releases only C4C material but releases have been spotty over the years.  They’ve had the imprint since 1999 and they’re not all gems.  In fact, there’s some really blah stuff.  I guess its the old argument of “is it more interesting to see an artist develop their super specific sound and then that define them, versus watching an artist develop through exploring different aspects of different genres?”  The former would always be the preference, were it not for bitin’ ass muthafukaz.

Directly below the C4C selection is a Cern & Dabs release that sounds exactly like prime-time C4C work.  Oh well, respect due.  And they can still crank out some hard as nails funk.  Check out Born Dead to be converted to digging your way though the back catalog for some futuristic d&b gold.

As a final note on how the might have fallen, the C4C release on Virus isn’t even worth mentioning.  What the F went on there?  That shit should never happen!

Cern/Duo InfernaleThe Mirage/Fiction

Nice, good use of bass and samples. Proper modern d&b. Moody, futuristic with updated production values hanging on a d&b wire frame.  “Duo Infernale” is the winner here. “Hear what the man said” about b-sides.

So it goes.

And now a word from ZOMBIE

Call this one a ZOMBIE extra.  I thought it worthwhile to mention that if you should need some spooky music for your Halloween shin-dig and you don’t want to pull out any of the totally awesome stuff I’ve reviewed here, then seek out some Demdike Stare

I am not going to go in to a whole treatise on Hauntology, its merits or shortcomings, but think of as like modern Spooky Sounds.  Symbiosis is sufficiently spooky enough to put your Halloween guests on edge, but has enough rhythm to fit nicely in the background of a costume contest.  Demedike get lumped in with Hauntology, but I think it’s really because they engage this sort of spooky dimension in their music, and less of a sense of the past “Hauntology-ing” the pieces.  Call it Spooky Sounds for a robot Halloween party.

Goodnight out there what ever you are.

In a world where experimental electronic music exponentially splinters into a multitude of rogue genres that slowly shuffle the globe from demilitarized dance floors to sleeper cell bedroom studios and back, a team of disparate scientists tracks this solanum-like pandemic while desperately trying to interpret cryptic field recordings of Samhain’s past, not one day at a time, but from Amen to Zombie

AMEN

Time enough to squeeze one more post in before the Halloween season really kicks in. I’ve already bought pumpkin pasta sauce, drank about 5 gallons of Southern Tier’s Pumpking and found a zombie-themed cupcake kit. For any regular listeners, I know that the posts have been trickling out these past few weeks, but I’m going to ramp it back up for Halloween. I haven’t been seeing any Spooky Sounds CDs around any of the dollar stores here in Cleveland. But I’m sure that they’ll be cropping up soon enough. And as Philip J. Frye once said “That’s not soon enough.”

Notable Releases:

B-Boy 3000/Capital JKlash/Dis Da Program

Late 90s jungle vibes here. I’ve always had a soft spot for N2O records out of L.A. I can remember DJ 3D’s late 90s anthem “Roll Out” being dropped at this house party in about 2000 and my head about exploded. N2O is also responsible for some of the worst jungle records of the late 90s and giving some street cred to DJ Starscream by releasing some of his trash, but I think they’ve done more good than harm in making d&b sounds acceptable here in the U.S.

Now, I’m not really that big of a fan of the above release, but I needed to put something up from N2O just because you so very rarely see any of the releases up for sale on a major site like Juno. And, to be fair, the first cut is pretty dope. And N20 (full name Nitrous Oxide Entertainment) provides a useful bridge to L.A.’s and the Left Coast’s d&b scene that exists now. N20’s sound is a sort of mashup from the hardcore (techno) and jungle sounds from the U.K. The infamous Ron D. Core is on the first release to sort of get the stamp of approval for this new sound, jungle, to get the go ahead. And, to their credit, N20 has largely stayed true to that sound: a kind of hardcore jungle techno.

Then fast forward to 2007 when 6Blocc (AKA B-Boy 3000) puts out a rogue release called This Is Dubstep and basically calls Bristol out. What you might not know is that L.A. has a long history of electro. There’s actually an electro cut on the first N.W.A album. Dr. Dre used to produce electro. Remember that jam by JJ Fad “Supersonic”? Dre had his hand in that; one of the girls rapping on that record that is (it’s rumored that Dre was dating one of the girls in JJ Fad at that time). So it kind of seems natural that dubstep would have a foothold in L.A. and Cali in general. Thus the scene at Low End Theory makes perfect sense, even though I think it looks very island-like to everyone outside that scene or even The States.

Anyway, back to N20, I’d love to know more about the history. It would make for a nice retrospective on 14tracks.com. One last thing: the label has a very multicultural aspect to it as well. Lots of Japanese artists living in The States appear in the back catalog. The center sticker says “Saiko-!” which basically means “Fuck Yeah!” in Japanese. In this context, at least.

David Carbone & Kubicks/B Cee & LomaxReady With This (Craggz & Parallel Forces Rmx)/Help You

This one is some nice mellow d&b; nothing too spectacular. Still a solid release, but put here more to show that even d&b can get all crazy with collabs and remixes the way House does all the time. No less than six people have touched the music, and only two tracks came out of that collaboration. The traditional wisdom in d&b is that you’ve got a producer or production team with a simple name. Example: “Dissident.” And then a fairly simple title for the track. Example: “Imager.” But sometimes it takes a bunch of heads to raise a release. That’s one of the things I like about d&b: although there are rules within the genre — and to be sure there are a lot of recycled ideas from other genres — I feel there is a definite attempt to draw a line in the sand and define your sound as an artist even if it ends up being utterly homogeneous.

Short to the point information on a record sleeve or center sticker feels like a year zero to me. But with house, you get way too many remixes and re-edits of a tune so that it becomes a game of finding a particular mix of a tune, rather than just finding the tune. My opinion of course. And I guess exclusivity is built into any electronic dance music scene, but it feels a little bit better to me as a DJ when I can say that I have this tune, and not just a particular mix of a tune that everyone has.

And for the average electronic music consumer, I think the culture of remix is a bad thing. It can lead you down so many bad roads when you hear one song that you liked that happened to be remixed by someone, and you go to find more music by both the artist and the remixer, only to find out that both are producer-chumps, and the only thing worth listening to was that original tune. I would go so far as to carry this idea to the extreme and say that every piece of music should have a unique ID. No more artists, let every piece of music stand on its own. It might plug up the fire hose of music being produced these days, or at least stop it up a bit so that what drips out is actually worth listening to. But then artists have never been know for being self-editing.

Wow, that was a tangent! Anyway, Intrinsic is a solid label and you should check out their other releases besides this one.

Cardz, Ena, DJ Kohta / Cardz & EnaShackles/Hybrid

This one straight from Japan. Nice Japanese take on the neuro-funk sub-genre of d&b. Cardz, I believe to be MC Cardz, was recently featured on The Upbeats last album Big Skeleton. Not a whole lot of other info on this one, but I’m feeling the sounds.

I know for a fact d&b lives in Japan, but I think it is such a small scene that it squeaks out only a minimal amount of releases from Japanese artists on Japanese labels. This one is every bit as dope as anything coming out of the UK. And while that is a good thing, I wish more Japanese artist would steal back things like Taiko and 80s synth sounds. Fortunately, I’m sure that someone already has and we’ve just not been able to discover it. I hope it stays buried in some record shop in Nagoya for a while. Can you imagine? 170 BPM half-step d&b with reworked Taiko and 80’s synth sounds made by Japanese artist and released on Japanese labels? Book your flight for the future now.

So It Goes.

In a world where experimental electronic music exponentially splinters into a multitude of rogue genres that slowly shuffle the globe from demilitarized dance floors to sleeper cell bedroom studios and back, a team of disparate scientists tracks this solanum-like pandemic while desperately trying to interpret cryptic field recordings of Samhain’s past, not one day at a time, but from Amen to Zombie

Zombie

Sound Effects No. 21
More Death and Horror

Side 1

  1. Death of the Fly – The hydraulic press opens and shuts on “It” forever
  2. Vampire Feeding – A late night snack is good for the blood
  3. Death By Harikiri – The honourable way to die-Japanese style
  4. Sweeny Todd The Barber – Sharpen the razor, the meat pies are nearly finished.
  5. Wind Through Crack In Door
  6. Wind In The Trees
  7. Synthesised Wind (Electronic) *Just to set the scene and keep you chilled.
  8. Sea Monster – The foghorns call, and are answered by a slimy horror.
  9. Sharpening The Knife – A keen blade causes no pain.
  10. Falling Scream – Watch you don’t trip.
  11. Premature Burial – Pray it doesn’t happen to you.
  12. Wild Dogs – They don’t eat from tins.
  13. The Iron Maiden – Not a political point to be seen, just sharp ones.

Side 2

  1. Death In The Swamp – Watch where you tread, you might slip forever.
  2. The Sewer Rats – You’re not alone down here, I hear the patter of tiny feet.
  3. The Poisoned Drink – Cheers!-for the last time.
  4. The Rack – The hag laughs as you grow taller.
  5. Midnight Strangler – Lock up at night or you’ll run out of breath.
  6. Assorted Gun Shots – All electronic, so they can’t hurt-can they?
  7. At The Dentist – Open wide, there’s a drill coming to bore you.
  8. Time Bomb – The suspense will kill you.
  9. Death By Electrocution – The last shock you’ll get.
  10. Gouging Eyeballs – One down, one to go.
  11. Russian Roulette – Your turn to pull the trigger comrade.
  12. Death By Garrotting – Take a deep breath-just the one.
  13. Suicide By Gas – Gas Mark 10 for one hour, but don’t strike a match.

First find of the the looming Halloween sound effects recordings season and we got some heavy gear.  Found this one in a kind of pricey shop in Philadelphia.  But, just take a look at that cover.  Flyman-watches-Dracula-bite-a-woman-with-a-bare-tit-who-watches-a-man-get-pulled-by-the-rack-and-spikes-lowered-on-him-by-Death-as-another-man-drowning-in-sewage-and-a-wolf-and-a-dragon-watch.  This record could have cost $50 and I would have considered buying it.  Thankfully eight bucks did the work and this slice of vinyl was mine.

Right off the bat you know its going to be fun.  Death of a Fly, you can hear the hydraulic warming up and then the actual crushing of the fly sounds like Mr. Owl taking a bite of a Tootsie-pop.

This is my first run-in with any foreign Halloween sound effects recordings, and why not just go for cream with one drummed up by Mike Harding & Peter Harwood.  Both worked as producers/engineers for the BBC, and specifically M. Harding has worked in the Radiophonic Workshop. Not necessarily one of the main players at the Radiophonic Workshop, but has contributed to some of the vast Radiophonic catalog.

Firstly, if you’re not familiar with the Radiophonic Workshop, quite simply way back in 1958 the BBC built a small three room studio for the expressed purpose of creating any of the background music, theme songs, or any other type of sound that was not the human voice for all of the BBC’s original programing.  They did work for the radio as well. The collective essentially worked as the BBC’s private in-house band.  I’ve mentioned Library Music before and that’s exactly what the Radiophonic Workshop produced. Sort of.

Because of the progressive techniques and the fact that most of the staff at the RW had a lot of freedom, the material became wildly popular.  This lead to the BBC releasing some of their “library music” commercially.  You may have heard of Dr. Who. RW came up with that as well as tons of other really, really bad-ass Sci-Fi pieces, years before anyone was doing similar work in popular or even underground music.

Which brings us back to More Death and Horror.  Technically its part of a Sound Effects series, 21st in the series to be exact, but the idea behind the record and the fact that M. Harding is the main player here make it feel more like a Radiophonic Workshop release, but maybe its one from a sister label.  M. Harding is also responsible for such gems as Through a Glass, Darkly an official RW prog rock release and, of course, Sound Effects no. 13 Death and Horror and no. 27 Even More Death and Horror.

Even More Death and Horror has a perfect rating on Discogs and includes a piece called Torture Lab: AD 2500. So I’m definitely interested in tracking some more of the series.  Although it might be a difficult task, there are bootleg CD-Rs of the releases already cataloged at Discogs. At any rate I’m happy to have scored this one, and as a bonus I found a clear red flexi-disc in the sleeve.  Boosh.

Before we get to any review of the material, “suffocating inside this prison“*  its important for me to blab on here about something.  I find it interesting how what once was considered library music has now unfolded into a number of genres.  Or, alternatively, I’m marveling at advertising’s ability to influence.   Almost as if music consumers were tired of getting fed crap by the music industry, wanted what advertisers kept to themselves, and in turn became composers themselves.  Library music is the first island you swim to from the vast oceans of academic noise.  It’s the first chance for experimental sounds to be heard by the public more often than not.

We have become such keen consumers of products, that we now want to market ourselves.  We do so in the ways of the internet, YouTube and Facebook.  And instead of being sold a musical product, there are artists that have put it upon themselves to take stranger sounds from the grips of advertisers and bend them to promote themselves.  There have been countless New/No Wave, Techno/Electro, etc. artist that have come up through the 80’s have cited the RW as a key influence.

Delia Derbyshire is seen here beatmatching two reel-to-reels.  Years before New York and hip-hop and all the late 70’s explosion of dance music.  Delia was also responsible for the programing and execution of the Dr. Who theme and is the golden age pin-up of bridge trolls who stare at drum machines.  She was a sexy bird, but let’s get back on track.

As far as the two camps of Halloween sound effects records go, More Death and Horror falls on the side of pure sound effects.  No narratives or spooky stories.  Just a string of Polaroid type pieces of audio that do their best to bring to life their titles.  And where they fail, M. Harding puts it on you to make up better stories.  Which is why this feels more like a RW or library music record to me than a Halloween sound effects record.

Sidebar: I’ve got to come up with a good name for these types of recordings besides Halloween sound effects recordings.  Hmmm, maybe Spooky Sounds?

Anyway, the record is a fine collection of a wide variety of spooky sounds, mostly ending in someone’s death.  Which may beg the question that if you were to use this as source material for you very own radio play, it would be your one-stop-shop for interesting deaths.  Including “Death by Garrotting,” which is the most gruesome sounding, mainly because I didn’t know what garrotting was before I looked it up.  But from the edge to the label, it’s not much of a thrill.  It was fun to listen to the first time, checking back at the cover to see how the poor bloke was being put to death this time around.  But as a stand-alone record that you could just put on and be swept up into, it falls flat.  Not coming out of that gate strong, I do like this record for what it could be: source material. And I think that kind of takes away from what it actually is.  A well packaged cache of the sounds of people “dying.”  But Halloween-ing season is game on!

Goodnight out there, whatever you are

*quote attributed to Reginald VonVorst