The Five Best Experimental Record Labels in Portland
New and Daring Sounds from SDM Records, Impermanent Projects, and More
by Robert Ham
The hallmarks of SDM Records, a label and collective that has been causing trouble in the Portland underground since 2012, are a homespun grit and imperfection that reflect the excitable nature and DIY drive of the people behind each release. When they hear something that excites them, they yell about it from the rooftops and then pour their energies into sharing it with the world. Often that’s through their ongoing compilation series, which recently featured the experimental harpist Dolphin Midwives, lo-fi darkwave act Sheers, and fusion jazz geeks Stochastic Mettle Union. But even more exciting are the label’s single-artist releases, including the unhinged electronic fury of Body Shame and Halfbird, a trio of gents who recorded an incendiary live performance for the label that’s got enough saxophone skronk and guitar ooze to fuel a small flotilla of cargo vessels.
Monday, March 12, 2018
The Vardaman Ensemble
Edition of 100 //
Anyone who has been following along with my reviews (And, honestly, if someone out there is reading every single review I post, thank you so very much) knows that two aspects of music I have really enjoyed lately have been duos and sounds related to jazz. The idea that this is The Vardaman Ensemble makes me believe it will have a jazz type of sound to it- and it does- so going forward can I just assume all ensembles are jazz related? Send me ensembles that aren't jazz to prove me wrong, please.
"Is Land" begins with someone talking who I presume to be a teacher addressing a class but even if it's an adult talking to other adults in a different setting it still has that classroom feel to it. The teacher says they are going to be watching a film, which is maybe not a documentary as much as one of those educational type films. You can imagine this situation being in school with kids for sex ed for example or even as you get older for learning to drive when they show you all those horrific crashes. The film itself, however, in this specific instance is noted on the official Bandcamp page so you can gain further information there.
It is also worth noting that between songs (sometimes after two, sometimes after one) there are more of these audio clips keeping this theme alive throughout the cassette. It's kind of neat but shouldn't distract you from the music itself as that should be the real focus here, though I do imagine this cassette being unearthed thousands of years from now and being played somehow turning from the source to the subject. "Remember a time when music was not created by robots and was created for pleasure?" Yeah, it could happen in the future, though I suppose no one wants to think of "thousands of years from now" because most people want the world to end with them.
Driving guitars give off a feel of traffic. It's noisy and there are horns but this is at a faster pace than I am used to hearing such jazz. Elements of Awkward Geisha, for example, as one of the more recent artists I've heard. There's this punk, yet almost math rock energy to the music as well. To call this any form of jazz is to neglect that raw energy and how it makes these songs different from any artist I've heard doing this recently. It could be somewhere between Trans Siberian Orchestra and Streetlight Manifesto, which I know is quite the bridge to gap.
One aspect of these songs are that the drumming, the horns, the guitar work, it's all just above and beyond what it should be. Sometimes I can forgive an artist if the drum work is mediocre. That is to say, if a band has a horn section as their main focus then their guitars and drums could get by at a certain level of talent. Hidden in the background, you don't pay as much attention to them so if they don't seem as stand out-ish you don't hold it against them. But all aspects of this ensemble are standing out to me.
"Algorithmic Travel Through the Laws of the Average" has this way of just banging out the sounds while making guitar parts which remind me of Nirvana/sludge in some weird way and it's not exactly like them but it is something to hear because of the way it does resemble them. On the flip side we have the notion that Vardaman means, in short, that if you believe in something strongly enough it will become a reality. While I don't believe this to be true in the sense of science (No matter how hard you believe you can fly, you're going to fall to your death-- sorry, R. Kelly) I believe it was The Boss Baby who said "Whether you think you can or you think you can't you're right".
The songs on Side B come out harder, faster and somewhat more like they are in space than the side before. It's just that strange quality that I can't put my finger on where these songs have that free jazz feel to them, but then they also have these crushing guitar chords that make it feel heavy. It's not metal, but it's unlike anything I (and probably you) have ever heard before which gives it added value. In some ways, I feel like this could have been released in the time when I first heard The Dismemberment Plan and Sweep the Leg Johnny, though it seems just as revolutionary now as it would have back then.
The Vardaman Ensemble "Is Land" (2018)
Wednesday, March 7, 2018
The new avant-fusion trio THE VARDAMAN ENSEMBLE from Portland, Oregon is on the agenda today.
The vardaman ensemble
Let me remind you that the musicians performing under the pseudonyms HL, Shampton and Eric made their debut in 2015 with the EP album “Unthank Park”. A year later, THE VARDAMAN ENSEMBLE released the mini-album “Today Is Not Any Other Day” (see note ); in 2017, he presented his truncated remix version of “Today Is Remixed”. And with the beginning of spring this year, the band launched its 54-minute full-length “Is Land” of 13 tracks, released in collaboration with independent label SDM Records on tape cassettes and samizdat discs (some of the CDs are sold with an illustrated book).
The album, like the book, was made based on the documentary film “Badvugum: Everything's Imagined Here,” which its author, one Martin Denny, is preparing to release only in 2028 ... Such is strange. Among the main "inspirators" of his work, the Portland trio still honors the Japanese The Boredoms and Boris, as well as the Italian Franco Battiato. And the team chose a maxim for “fusion in relation to the Duma, distortion due to breathing, a spasm regarding the prog” as an epigraph for its new creation ...
Understand how you like ... But it is better to hear once than to read several times.
The vardaman ensemble
THE VARDAMAN ENSEMBLE, as well as on its previous recordings, is focused on the performance of instrumental music in a kaleidoscope of all kinds of influences that are usually associated with subgenres of avant-garde jazz-fusion, krach-rock, know-wave, art core, avant-garde academy, modern cinematics, experimental collage music, etc. etc. HL, Shampton, and Eric share drums, percussions, guitars, saxophones, synthesizers, and all kinds of sound-producing devices. They help the team as far as possible Zen Anderson (plays all the parts of the French horn) and Melissa (voices the monologue-narrative on behalf of the “teacher”). In contrast to the previous recordings, the musicians decided not to apply to the sound-side, since recording, mixing and mastering were carried out on their own, achieving a fair “garage” sharpness and roughness of the sound.
The musical content “Is Land” is intricate, muddled, original, diverse, controversial and even more exaggerated in comparison with the works of the past years. Separate elements of colorful mosaic gradually add to the album unity, and the conjecture that some conditional dramaturgic plot stands behind “Is Land” grows stronger with each new number (five miniatures with narrations with the common name “Doc” considerably enhance this feeling) . However, this is just a hunch, since we are talking about the “plot” and “figurativeness” of instrumental music ... And the point is, in general, not what “concept” is behind the music, but in the nature of the “conceptuality” of music such. THE VARDAMAN ENSEMBLE on the new album presents very “conceptual” music. So "conceptual",
The vardaman ensemble
I must note, however, that with all the radicalism of its creative method, the notorious distinction between "musical art" and "anti-artistic sound extraction" THE VARDAMAN ENSEMBLE never overstep. Literally behind their every excursion, no matter how angry and angry he is, there is an artistic idea and performing thought. For this reason, “Is Land” is very interesting to me personally. And to listen to, having sustained due time, will also pull - since the new things from the team turned out to be very rich in terms of the abundance of many details and nuances (listen, for example, in “Industrial Resolution” and “67th Annual Plastic Army War Theme”). Summary: great album. Fans of original and innovative instrumental avant-fusion music are definitely recommended!
Halfbird - Loomings
Sunday, February 4, 2018
Reviewed by Lost in a Sea of Sound
Halfbird is Brandon Conway, Ben Kates and Grant Pierce. Loomings is their cassette released on SDM Records from Portland, Oregon. Clocking in just under thirty minutes, six tracks of sonic atmospheric disintegration. A live recording where guitar, sax and drums seem to wrestle in a triangular mass, each with incredible foundations of fortitude.
All sounds on Loomings are pure form. No synthesizers and possible only a peddle for some shift in Brandon's guitar. This trio constantly transforms, Ben's Alto sax becoming almost a drone component, then forced to life by manic resuscitation. The guitar takes on similar characteristics, hovering in the corner then picking and slashing it's way in to the foreground. Probably the most constant component is Grant's drumming. There are moments when his percussion rest in some subdued facet of this spinning aural kaleidoscope, like in parts of the track Loomings. As a whole, the drums are the well formed bones of this trio, adding shape to menacing strings and very turbulent air.
Available on SDM Records bandcamp page. Loomings is a 2017 Cassette Store Day release. SDM has more cool stuff to check out, so take a moment to explore.
Label SDM Records
Top 200 Tapes Of 2017
12.11.17 by Tabs Out Crew
Okie dokie, It’s time for everyone’s favorite Top 200 Tapes of 2017 list: The OFFICIAL Tabs Out Top 200 Tapes of 2017 list! For the 5th year in a row we’ve tallied up the thousand plus cassettes that have made it over to us and arranged our fav two hundo in perfect order, each assigned a big masonic number. Our methods are scientifically proven and obtainable through a FOIA request, but just trust us. Like previous years we only included tapes that we had physical copies of. Enjoy!
View Full List Here: http://www.tabsout.com/?p=16684
Review: Halfbird — ‘Loomings’
Reviewed by Northwest Music Scene
The Portland trio, Halfbird, play a ferociously focused brand of improvisational noise jazz with all the accouterments (little melody, few anticipated chord changes, limited defining groove, etc.). Brandon Conway (guitar), Ben Kates (alto sax) and Grant Pierce (drums) channel blaring virtuosity in a cathartic and intense manner.
Loomings, Halfbird’s new live recording (out now on SDM Records), is an audacious five-song odyssey. “It’s Okay to Be Happy,” leaks politely as the trio’s greeting showcases a vigilant plan to their asymmetrical assault. The intense guitar shredding, hi-hat lifts, supreme fills, kick drum thuds, and sharp ink spitting saxophone is the perfect start to flex in front of the mirror. “Loomings” relatively calm dissonance starts off seemingly potable, building glacially, until propelled into a raucous pound and shrill of sharp tones dominated by the trio’s uncanny unison.
Conway’s guitar noodling ignites “We’ll Be Alright” by opening and closing notes so fast it’s as if he’s changing his mind a half step in, yet Pierce, through some heightened form of telepathy, anticipates this by rolling a continuous tap and spill of snare partnered with impeccable cymbal clinks. When Kates begins to spew ugly and paint thinning sax a minute in, he scratches the chalkboard like a murderous alley cat. The trio jams sub-melodically until affirming they are good to the last drop as mimicked by Conway’s drip sounding exit.
“Where Were You?” has a mountain of power and getting a foothold is nearly impossible as Halfbird directs the path through hurled boulders. Pierce’s drums migrate between Kates’ squelching sax and the rumbling guitar blasts Conway casts, offering a straight shot of elevation sickness. “The Answer Arrived In Code” offer listeners a small degree of space. The guitar is given room to stretch and bend. The sax spouts and scrapes in small, highly aggressive corners while cymbals shine and rattle until the snare marches the final instructions – merciless trouncing.
Halfbird pushes the pace to near exhaustion, showcasing their talents in every stride. Never placating randomness, but dealing surprises throughout, Loomings is a roving live experience, offering a ripe, inharmonious smear of creativity and intention.
Reviewed by Yeah I Know It Sucks!
Keywords: experimental noise pop weirdo electronic free jazz free noise jazz gonzo improvisation jazz metal noise jazz experimental noise rock trash Portland
Label: SadoDaMascus Records
It’s okay to be happy, it’s cool to be just half of a bird. You might miss a wing, but with one strong wing to compromise this fact; you will be up in the sky in no time. Flapping and wobbling that only wing like a true avant-garde champion, with guitar, alto sax and drums as the strong feathers… This halfbird doesn’t feel like it’s been physically disabled. Yes, its movements might differ from the average good looking bird, but the busy expressions coming out of fine muscular spasms are of a explosive kind, one that just like a horny goose seems to calls out for its mates, louder and more spectacular than any full on bird would have been able to do so.
Sometimes being incomplete will push the uncompleted to the edge, making it more evidentially more complete than others that had benefitted from being born in perfect state. The pure frantic movements on the floor and in the air, the half creature that had been wobbling around like a winner who had to work a bit harder than anybody else… the recordings of Halfbird are the honest busy documentations that being handicapped could be beneficial for expression of anything in the freeform noise jazz improvisation zones.
The halfbird sounds extremely loud and busy, doesn’t go in the room without being noticed, bangs itself like a true expressive star whose explosive moves would impress any regular bird. In fact it is almost difficult to think it’s just halfbird, as the sounds are so full on and bust that it falsely feels at times that it’s a whole flock of floppy jazz birds. So in a way Halfbird sounds like it needed to work harder compared to your average band of this caliber , but that it certainly had done its best to strengthen that only wing to become a forceful force that all other birds would be terrified with; a strong, expressive and wild fanatic sound.
Faxes – Human Scale
11.16.17 by Ryan Masteller
I mean, why not, right? You got a drum, you got some circuits and some piano keys, let’s just throw em all at a wall and see what sticks. No, literally, do it. The image is in my head, I wanna see it happen…
This is great news when you’ve got as minimal a setup as Faxes does, because you don’t have a lot of stuff to throw at that wall in the first place, so cleanup will be a breeze. Your instruments may be a little more broken, a little more worn, but I’m here to tell you that that’s the whole point with these guys, these Faxes, this PDX duo that clearly owns some Suicide and some Devo and some equally post-punk and new wave records. So yeah, that synth sound is super gritty, and whether they’re banging real drums or banging on a drum machine (just whacking it with a stick, which I’m probably making up) or programming the somewhat battered drum machine, the beats heave like seasick ponies on the ferry from Assateague. They have to get to the mainland somehow, and they have Nationals tickets! (Boo Nationals.)
Perhaps obviously, Faxes make music like fax machines transmit data – the end result may be blurrier than the original, but there’s a positive aesthetic you just can’t deny. (Well, unless you’re faxing me tax documents or something, in which case I need those to be pretty clear. Actually, I’ll go pick those up at my CPA’s office.) There are even vocals here and there, but since you can’t transmit vocals via fax … oh wait, you probably can, that would be a phone line. Anyway, Faxes songs usually introduce a melody, some squiggly shit, maybe some internet dialup texture, the ever-present rhythmic pulse, and then they spiral off into wherever they happen to be heading at any given time. The ride is the payoff – although be warned, that ride often feels like the audio equivalent of frantically throwing your rusted 1979 Chevette into reverse to escape the meat-grinder you’re caught in. That sounds all right to me, sure, but you have to be prepared. Those ponies are NOT gonna help pull you out of here, no matter how off-kilter you get.
Head on over to your friendly SDM Records (aka SadoDaMascus) internet website and pony up the dough (GET IT?) for one of the 100 of these pups in existence. Or all 100, I don’t care – what do I know how much you make.
Cassette Review: Body Shame "Open Sores" (SDM Records)
Tuesday, October 17, 2017
The name Body Shame makes me think of high school. You know how I know you were likely awkward and weird in high school? Because I feel like everyone thought that way about themselves. It's like when you have this geeky looking kid and the girl of his dreams together and he says to her "But what do you have to dislike about your body?" Growing up, I was made fun of for being tall and skinny (Think of Bill from "Freaks and Geeks"), but I don't feel like anyone is really comfortable with their body. We all have things we wish we could change about it.
I immediately enjoy the song title "bbw ffm pov". It's something I would likely click on, but it's also some other type of way to feel because sometimes you might just feel like you're suffocating. These deep sort of bumps are what start this cassette and it sounds like the intro to Samoa Joe's WWE theme music. Lasers sound like birds and there are sort of vocals in here as well. Space chaos is the best way to describe this one overall I'd say. It's static, synth, beeping, lasers, radio frequency changes and mostly instrumental. It's as much the industrial vibe of Nine Inch Nails as it is R2D2's beeps and whirrs.
Trying to relate this to the artist name Body Shame doesn't really work. I wanted to convey some profound connection between the two, but this is much more like a sci-fi movie, perhaps in space, and there are hints of video game sounds in it as well. It could even be something like let's say "Flash Gordon" meets "Godzilla" (in space, obviously) but with this being the soundtrack to an Atari 2600 video game version based on the movie.
Regardless of how you feel about your body, this music is great. It's somewhere between Boar and something else I can't quite put my finger on exactly. At the same time, if this does open up discussion about body images and all of that (As I hope the title of the first track might) then I'm all for it as well.
$5 // Edition of 50 // https://sdmpdx.bandcamp.com/album/body-shame-open-sores-sdm-039
Cassette Review: Electro-kraken "EP 2016" (SDM Records)
Tuesday, October 17, 2017
One of the first instrumental bands I ever listened to and really enjoyed was The Cancer Conspiracy. I also got into instrumental math rock for a little bit, but I feel like instrumental music has always been there- with songs like "Wipe Out" and that one where they stop to say "Tequila!". What Electro-Kraken does on this cassette is unlike anything instrumental I have ever heard before and it even transcends a lot of what artists with singers accomplish.
For the simple term of this, it can be described as surf punk. It just has that drum beat, those long guitar stretches and the feeling of someone sliding their pick down the guitar string. The presence of surf is immediate and lingers throughout the cassette but it isn't the only factor in this music. No, this somehow takes on several different other aspects while remaining true to its surf core I'd say.
Underneath this all and perhaps underneath all surf music really is the rock n roll quality. The music is able to paint that image in your mind where you could see these guitar riffs being played by someone such as Chuck Berry only, you know, Electro-Kraken takes them to the next level. It reminds me of Primus in how complex it is. There is neither really a lead with the bass or guitar-- they seem to be equally important and playing together which makes for a better overall sound.
Though there are fun aspects to this (I could see it as the soundtrack to a surf or skate video), it also becomes wild and crazy. I think of math rock on some level, but it's amped up. You have to consider that normal speed of the type of music I'm putting this in the genre of and then heighten it to levels the likes of which I've not heard before. In the delivery, it can also be aggressive. There is that underlying quality to it all where you might not want to mess with the people playing it, you know, it's not that it sounds hardcore in the music sense but it does convey that vibe which portrays it as not meaning to be fucked with.
$5 // Edition of 50 // https://sdmpdx.bandcamp.com/album/electro-kraken-ep-2016-sdm-037
Body Shame - Open Sores
Posted on August 25, 2017 by kainobuko
Artist: Body Shame
title: OPEN SORES
keywords: noise, pop weirdo electronic freejazz gonzo experimental
label: SDM Records
Body Shame pooped through my sound-system, one massive audio pile that was impressively shiny, wet and most remarkable seemed to smell like fresh painted flowers. This polished turd was as experimental as it could be, but danced around like an all round motor cycle gang speeding around on a high hilled racing-track. The engines roared and the music? The music scored!
Even when ‘bored in sodom’ squeezed itself out of the grid of the speakers it felt like an exciting happening; definitely not my definition of things I would call boring. A Bombastic mashup of material that seem to pretend to be freaky drums, weird nastiness in synth form and even a moment of surreal singing. If this is being bored in sodom than damn, this place must have been most exciting!
Thanks, friend… pooped itself through next, one massive banger, something that made me think of satanic diarrhea, liquid plastic and that drummer from the muppetshow drumming while having a stroke. Sound wise it also made me think of grass mowers from Hell, a weird pointy tooth dude on a organ and some Quasimodo figure lisping in a microphone… pretty special!
You Look Like Shit’ also shat itself loudly out of my speakers, burning up the walls from the listening room, making them all red hot with its powerful sound exposure. I had no idea what was happening, but it felt like a synthesized orgasm of layers that morphed on top of each other to form pure moments of thrilling rolling bass mashers. Yeah, it’s difficult to tell what I heard or what it did to me, but it felt as grand as that “fade to grey” hit, but than it was completely unlike anything I’ve experienced. It was epic!
With “I Don’t Feel Good” Body Shame shat out another beautiful original beauty, drumming and noises, so bizarre, loud, freaky and extreme. Yet even that they had been super wild, they never gained distortion, proving that squeaky cleanness could become intensely noisy entertainment as well. At one moment I had closed my eyes and imagined this being the soundtrack of a very futuristic Ben Hurr movie….
After it came “Hair and feces”, it was like a gigantic poop and fart fest that became to assemble itself to form a free form jazz show band from the greater lands of the mentally insane! It was beautiful, with drums rolling around and fighting with each other in slapstick ways. It was wild fun!
“Weeping Sutures” squeezed itself out, ruining my clean clothes with its expressive sounds that felt like they came flushing out through ketchup bottles pressed by angry gremlins.
More goodness came my way with the “sputtering asshole” sticking out through the speaker system. It’s presence was gigantic, like a alien metal concert that had gone avant-garde to the max, sounding angry and dirty in a way that its inner aorta was a pure genius. I even could hear it talk and fart at the same time, freaking out in euphoric ways, delivering the biggest gaping ass sounds that you would probably had never heard before!
After this it was “Lancing the abscess” that Body Shame had screwed up to my delight. This was one that had that grotesque sound that lovers of Venetian Snares would squirt for, yet it brought its complete unique sounds and experimentation to the scene, creating a bombastic wildness that felt like a underground club hit in the most unknown shape and forms.
With my head almost inside the speakers the poop blasts of “Prolapse” shat itself out. It was a freaky scene of menacing higher weirdness and lower bass farts that hooked into each other like a manic glue party on speed! Nothing makes sense, but all is wet and wild!
All the way at the final end there was the great buildup of the finish line. One with wicked nastiness in synthesizer form, drums that would overthrow a chainsaw; material to grow your hairs long for just so you could shake them like a head full of appreciation! What a freaking wicked album! Super creative in it’s sound style, one that could show those long loved IDM heroes the door! Go to hell with the presets and all scoop up the poop of the Amazing sounding album of Body Shame! Highly recommended!
title: HUMAN SCALE
keywords: experimental noise pop portland or weirdo consumer. disco electronic free jazz gonzo kraut noise post-punk Portland
label: SDM Records
Halleluiah! Let’s get our dancing shoes out, put them in the bin and dance the day away on bare feet! I mean, with FAXES playing it’s time to say “F*CK IT* and throw off all your unneeded clothes and accessories and go full nudity to be undistracted and undistracted by earthly dilemmas (and fabrics)! Besides, this release is so hot, if you don’t throw away off your clothes it would probably turn into a water pool of pure sweat when listening to these short lived punkish lo-fi electro f*ckers!
Somehow it smells of moldy basements, with enough flavor to get any non-drug taker as high as a kite whether the beats are slow and the baselines are dirty, or if they are up and more bright; it’s all part of heating up the HUMAN SCALE!
This is the sound of a wickedly insane cool underground party in which FAXES are out to get us lifted out from our own skulls, readily to be connected to something outstanding in a low laying rocking electro groove that will spice you up like a chicken that turns around on a spit roast; your mind will be fried and your body burned from excessive heath! Out of their minds FAXES might be, but the project excellently knows how to translate their weirdness into accessible hotness! If you don’t feel comfy naked; body painting might help, or simply just let this music dress you up… it’s pretty spicy to wear, instant sunglasses will grow in front of your eyes & a cigarette (for detail) will hang suddenly underneath your top lip; this is madness as the noisy soup of insanity twirls around to make it all sound good!
Let’s scream and shout it out loud, bump your body into a weird position and start enjoying this sh*t! What are you waiting for? Summer? Just dive deep down into this dusty basement, unleash yourself and join the freedom of being nakedly insane as inspired by this cool edgy music! And trust me… I’m aware that these words don’t make much reasonable sense, but fuck it; its FAXES that will F you up in a very good way!
Tuesday, May 2, 2017
I’m going to go out on a limb here… But I’m not so sure that this guy is a real doctor. That aside, I laughed out loud when I saw the name of this album. It’s very honest and straight to the point.
I’ve never been much of an EDM or house music kind of guy. I just feel like that’s not something you get into unless you’re at a rave and you’re really drugged out. That’s just not my forte. Don’t get me wrong, this album isn’t bad at all. I’m not so sure that I’m the best person to talk about this type of music. When I was a kid my favorite movie was Space Jam. When I first started listening to this album it reminded me a lot of the music that would play in the final basketball game of the movie.
If EDM is your thing, then by all means give this a shot. I think the real reason that I can’t enjoy it is because I’m too self-conscious about my lack of dancing skills, but this album sure makes me wish I knew how.
5th September 2016
A great charm of music is that it can be used to capture and preserve a state of mind, creating a reliable way to relive any feeling at the push of a button. Often this capability of music is directed toward generating feelings of mere aggression or sexual arousal. More enterprising musicians, however, pull rarer things from the infinitude of human experience and pin them down for us to enjoy.
It is just such a rare thing that Solar Drift has captured for their contribution toSadoDaMascus Records‘ Dec15mber series, somehow making a fragile sense of liminality into something concrete. The music moves slowly, but seems to change continuously. The lyrics, as minimal as they are, speak of hidden doors, hypnotic memories, dim lights, and burning moons. These lyrics are sung in a comfortable croon that is worked over with oddly timed pitch shifts, relayerings, and shots of echo that seem specifically designed to entrance.
Listening to this EP, start to finish, and under the right circumstances, could easily take a listener to that fragile psychic space between waking and sleep where dreams form and the mind is still present enough to remember them. But even without reaching for such effects, it’s enough to enjoy the flow of rich bass tones, weirdly designed electronic sounds, and devilish guitar licks that blend into a potent tonic for the imagination. It’s hard not to see things under the influence of this recording, which makes it a true fulfillment of the ambient genre’s potential as visionary music.
The release is available as a digital download and as a limited cassette. That there will only be twenty-five copies of this music available on a physical format is a bit regrettable because the cassette format actually makes Solar Drift even better, lending it some analog warmth and constraining the music in a way that makes it seem bigger, as if the music might fill infinite space if only it weren’t hemmed in by the limitations of magnetic tape.
RAS MIX-"Adventures In Clown Town"
Abrupt sequencing gets this going on this six track tape release from Ras Mix. The layers build in a timely manner and the opening cut, "Don't Hurt Em" is off and running. What begins as curious soon morphs to near chaos as electronica nearly pushes aside any cohesive attempt at structure. Ras Mix, however, has the sense to cling to the edges of cohesiveness and you find yourself pulled along as the earth breaks up behind you. This is engaging...
The remaining two tracks on side one could easily be mistaken for an extension of the ongoing tomfoolery already exhibited, which is not to imply it drags on. Expressionism in music is, of course, vital and the bi-polar mood swings of the artist continually lead you down new paths, then jump ship to something completely different. The trick here is that while everything is in a state of aural flux, it all flows and you maintain intrigue throughout.
Side two jumps at you with frantic synth notes spraying over a layer of, guess what, more synth.
Then, quickly settles into a groove where voices are interjected and just as quickly, gone. Like the first side, everything is ever-changing, but done tastefully. The timing and execution are perfect which elevates the whole album to higher ground.
The release came in the standard case with J-card insert, and indicates that the whole thing was recorded in one take in September of 2013. So, nearly three years later I'm listening and writing and wondering what's new from the creator. "Adventures In Clown Town" is an excellent tape that captures the creativity and spontaneity of Ras Mix leaving me yearning for more.
Embodied Electronics: Body Shame – You Look So Under Fed (SdmPdx)
it’s okay to have a body.
In the April 2016 edition of Nylon Magazine, in an article titled “Body Talk”, artistMolly Soda speaks of when she first became self-conscious of her body at the age of 11, when the other little girls noticed she hadn’t started shaving yet. Soda speaks of “feeling uncools and wanting so badly to be part of what felt like a secret, super exclusive club that paved the path to becoming a woman.”
She goes on to say, “Shaving is such a normalized thing in Western culture and it’s deeply tied up with shame. As women, we’re taught to be ashamed of our bodies – we’re taught to compare our bodies to others. It runs deep, and you learn it at such an early age that sometimes it feels impossible to shake. I realized I had been seeing my body through the lens of what other people deemed attractive, particularly men.”
It’s a story for too familiar for far too many of us. We all have bodies, and yet we all feel this resounding insecurity over that fact. The Japanese even suffer from a culture-specific condition, known as Taijin kyofusho (対人恐怖症), roughly “fear of interpersonal relationships”, often manifesting in a paranoia of displeasing others, and a terminal self-consciousness regarding bodily functions or their appearances.
The future is shaping up to be a quite antiseptic place. It’s like everybody took the streamlined, utilitarian aesthetic futurism of Gattaca or Star Trek to heart. At times, it can seem that we are destined to live in some futuristic Alphaville, where anything “unsightly” (read, “indicative of physical incarnation”) will be pushed underground like the Morlocks or into steerage, like Snowpiercer.
We can’t help but wonder how much of it is due to Christianity/Zoroastrianism’s demonization of the flesh, and of the natural world, as mythologized in the “original sin” of Adam and Eve realizing they were naked; that they were, in fact, animals.
This sterilization can be traced through the history of electronic music, as well. First, there was the cathode ray/vacuum tube monstrosities of the earliestsynthesizers, through to the mass-produced-but-still-funky machines of the ’80s and ’90s – the 303s and 606s and 909s and DX7s – into the digital abstractions of DAWs and finally, the cloud.
The trajectory can be heard in the structures themselves, as well. Early electronics had a live, jammy feel to them, a la the kosmische of Cluster, or the live synth sequencer drifting eternity of the Berlin School, not to mention the household hacking ethereality of the Radiophonic Library or the endless tiny slices of the GRM.
As time soldiered on, all the rough cuts and oddities got sanded off, until the infinite potentialities of electronic music became just so much more pop music.
I, myself, was as privy to this tendency, as much as anybody. At first, i was endlessly excited, utopian, and idealistic about both digital music-making tools, as well as the by-products of said machine code. On both fronts, i had been denied for years; i used to read countless album reviews, of music i would never hear, and imagine what it would sound like. Creatively, i could just never scrap together $100 to get some cheap electronic gear. I even went so far as to sleep on my friend’s floor for six months, as he had a small studio and practice space (R.I.P. Ryan Licht Sang. Section Z will live again!)
Like many/most, i soon became frustrated with the endless possibilities of solely digital electronic music, and its uniformity. Ironically, i used to download tons of preset packs and readymade samples, but i could never bring myself to finish anything with them – feeling like a sham.
It was a pure case of substance over style, which balked me for 8 years, and nearly drove me mad and killed me in the process.
Which brings us to the music.
Body Shame – You Look So Under Fed
You Look So Under Fed is somewhere between a free jazz freakout, a modular synthworkout, a spazz rock opus, a post-industrial meltdown, all working together to comment on the societal horror of embodiment.
Under Fed begins with a light pulse, before laying into a beastly, growling bass synth and mighty breakneck breakbeat. A lazer-like synth comes in with something approaching a “melody”, likeWhitehouse trying to hold a tune, before disintegrating back into the churning pulse. This ebb and flow continues – with a loping, irregular, swaying back-and-forth freneticism, as bass hits build to a Jiffy Pop climax, like Gershon Kingsley’s “Popcorn” played by a Terminator.
“Moderate Confusion” is a speak ‘n spell nightmare, paranoid robot voices and glistening feedback, detuned Coil bells and sparking, hissing electricity. A hypnotic chanting creeps in, like Rosemary’s neighbors conducting a seance with a Simon. The title track is more upbeat, panicked – a boom-bap snare and pulsing bassline meshed together to become some sort of warning signal. It’s like listening to a stressed-out nervous system, heart palpitating from too many skipped meals and diet pills. The growling lead synth has a floating, anthemic quality, in line with a lot of top shelf avant-garde hip-hop of the moment – FKA Twigs, Arca, Floating Points – that leads one to wonder what these blokes would sound like with a rapper.
“Plus Size Models (I Wanna Diet pt. 2)” is the real standout track here, drum ‘n bass does black metal. “Plus Size Models” is the sludgiest electronic music you’re going to hear this year, this side of Marshall Applewhite, that is.
Things round out with a frenetic pace with final two tracks, “Someone Has To Abandon” and “Falling Out Of My Skin”, the latter particularly pummeling, with schizoid beats, insane alien synth, and hollow bass that will make you feel strange inside yr own skin.
There’s not much known about Body Shame, so far. You Look So Under Fed is their second offering for the adventurous electronic label SDMPDX, stalwarts of Portland‘s experimental community. Both parties deserve to be applauded for such thoughtful subject matter and daring risk taking. Body Shame rescue beats, synth, and bass from the simulacrum, giving them a beating heart, a visceral, bloody, palpitating life. They imagine songs, forms, and structures as organic, evolving things, rather than cold, mechanical prisons.
The more we go looking for the ghost in the machine, the better off we’ll be. The less afraid of – and more in harmony with – the world around us, the less damage we’ll do, the more we’ll be able to empathize and understand instead of imprison and harm.
If you happen to live in Portland, and like noise music or experimental art, you have a chance to catch Body Shame Live next Sunday, 5.27.16, at Valentine’s w/ Gooo, James Curry, and 1000TrashCans!
SDMPDX have been nominated for Wilamette Week’s Best Of Portland 2016 for Best Label! They work tirelessly to support the underground experimental community here in PDX, giving voice to avant, abstract rock, roll, noise, beats and synths to a wide network of miscreants. Voting for them will do a ton for both legitimizing the noisy underground, here in Portland, but also offering more opportunities for more imaginative, exploratory, open-ended, thought-provoking music and culture, across multiple rock and electronic spectrums.
While yr there, you could cast a vote for us as well! We’ve been nominated for Best Blog!
REVIEW - BODY SHAME - SELF TITLED - CASSETTE
BODY SHAME - SELF TITLED - CASSETTE
COMES IN A PLASTIC CASE WITH FOLD OUT
J-CARD INSERT. ON READ CASSETTE WITH
PRINTED TEXT. LIMITED TO 50 COPIES.
I.) WIFEMOTHER / II.) MOLARS (PLIERS) /
III.) HUMILIATE YOURSELF IN PUBLIC /
IV.) THROUGH A DUSTY MIRROR /
V.) TAKING A STAND AGAINST HUMAN RELATIONSHIPS /
VI.) IDEALIST / VII.) KILL YOURSELF TWICE /
VIII.) WE WILL OWN YOU FUCKING PEASANTS /
IX.) I WANNA DIET (METH LIFE) / X.) GATOS Y DROGAS:
This is an interesting project. Something along the lines
of what you'd expect to hear from Out Of Body Records.
Glitchy Break-Beat meets Electro Industrial and Experimental
Noise music. BODY SHAME released this cassette for record store
day a while back and if you are lucky enough to get one of the
50 copies put out, then you are in for quite an experience. From
the first few moments of glitchy synth noise to the following
cacophony of warped neo-classical strings and spastic speedcore
drumming, It is aparrent that this is going to be interesting to
say the least. Hats and Snares dance like twitching epileptics at
some fucked up rave in the lowest pits of Hell. Free form Jazz style
weirdness and strange time signatures fill the air in a chaotic mass
of aural insanity. Widescreen drones expand and flow with cinematic
intensity. Adding a sense of growing suspense and hinting towards an
otherworldly climax of events we couldn't possibly imagine. Mid-paced
tribal rhythms begin as ominous synths and organs grind out a 1970's
Horror Soundtrack style dirge. Think ZOMBI or TANGERINE DREAM meets
NURSE WITH WOUND. Elements of Noise, Krautrock, Psyche and Electronic
experimentation similar to the early Industrial artists combine in a
murky, swampy passage until track three arrives and devestates all
traces of sanity and comprehension. Break-Core filled with sped up
voices, Pulsating lazer beams and Post-Apocalyptic radio transmissions
fill the air in a cloud of madness until things slow down into what sounds
like cut-up Electro Industrial and robotic vocalizations. This is followed
by strange electronic chamber music that quickly becomes a tangled mess of
sound. Prog Rock meets Cybergrind? This is some weird, but very cool stuff
here. 80's style retro synths create an exhilarating Cyber Punk vibe complete
with hard tom drums and siren-like streams of sound. Perfect music for a deadly,
high speed police chase for future cops neath a radioactive Miami sunset in the
year 20XX. Somehow anxious, frightening and relaxing all at once. A doom paced
segment follows. Horror synth and eerie noise elements mix to create a disorienting
blur of terror and mayhem. The overall 80's sci-fi vibe is still present and makes
for a really great way to end the piece. The following track builds on slow drums
and screaming noise. Filters are fucked with at just the right time to keep things
flowing forward. It sounds like a technological nightmare come alive. Live-wire
noise and space ambiance drifting together over heavy, thudding percussions.
Chaotic tempos fill the background as drums pound out aimlessly. Electronic
Acid Rock after dropping some powerful tabs. Intense stuff to say the least.
If you managed to pick up the pieces of your sanity and make it to the B side,
Then you are in for yet another trip begining with pulsating space noise and
cosmic frequencies over rumbling drones that are cut short before they can
expand too far. 90's style Industrial percussion's are utilized and employed.
Although this is calmer than much of the A side, It's still pretty busy overall.
Chimes are stretched into brilliant, radiating ambiance. Sirens pulse and soar.
Calm and Surreal synths clash against clashing cymbols and glitch beats that
pick up and drop into slow motion plodding. High end noise rises but never
becomes too harsh. Similar to the types of sounds they used to use in 70's
Sci-Fi films. Especially the B movies of the time. Thick bass rises and
plummits into nothingness in looped repitition. Clicking drums create
clattering atmospheres and things stay pretty interesting throughout.
The next piece features oddly timed snare hits and drum and bass rhythms
over hazy ambient textures and ascending high-end tones. Improv style
experimentation fills the background as the drums go into a disjointed
fast paced section. Electro Punk and surreal analog sci-fi noise in a
strange mix that somehow manages to work. It sorta sounds like BODY
SHAME took early CABARET VOLTAIRE, THROBBING GRISTLE and HAWKWIND records
and tossed em in a blender then added his own spastic drumming to the mix.
The next track is a pretty cool Space Rock/Groove/Jam piece that gets the
toes tapping and the blood flowing. Strange inhuman vocals come in weird
rasps and make this sound like some underground Noise Rock band from an
alien planet. My personal favorite on the release. The drum and bass elements
are excellent and keep things moving forward at a great pace. Next we go into
another murky dirge with strong synths and slow powerful drums. Electric Doom
to accompany a funeral in the ocean of stars. The synths and general composition
of this one kind of reminds me of some of the SUNN O)))+BORIS collab record.
There is a ceremonial/celebratory type of vibe at first and then we go into
these weird chants and growling vocalizations which eventually turn into another
improv jazz style part that is somehwere between SUN RA, AETHENOR, MOON DOG, and
ACID MOTHERS TEMPLE until it turns into what seems like a climatic finish to ends
the track on an epic note until those odd growls and grunts return at the end. The
next one slowly builds on seasick drones that come in waves over tribal percussion's
and fluttering tremolo textures. Raspy blackened screams come out of nowhere and
suddenly I am reminded of a spacier and more overpowering version of GHENGIS TRON.
Blips and pulses echo and cascade like streaming comets and shooting stars as the
nauseating drones persist and then we go face first into another dazzling psyche
jam. This tape kicks your ass and doesn't let up. Just when you think it's over
it picks up again and slams you into another strange world. It's like the audio
equivalent of the old Heavy Metal magazines. Really awesome stuff.
GET A COPY AND GET LOST IN IT:
[ELECTRO DOOM] Body Shame’s Bandcamp page instructs listeners to “listen at maximum volume in minimal light.” So that is what I did. I drew my curtains. I cranked my headphones. And Body Shame’s You Look So Underfed transported me to a nightmare realm of screaming synths and pummeling drum machines, an industrial hell of post-human decay and transcendent dread. There is a stretch halfway through the album’s first track, “Black Truck Creeper,” that sounds like a cyborg trying to eat its own body. It is profoundly unpleasant and deeply perfect. Consider this a soundtrack for your worst vision of our future.
CHRIS STAMM, Willamette Week
Review: Temple Maps – DEC15MBER 1: Cryogenic
27 Jan 2016 / Posted in: Record
Wires are everywhere. Splintered rubber casing, multi-coloured junctions of cable. Temple Maps makes no attempt to conceal the mess of process, lifting off the outer casing to reveal a spaghetti of wires and manual soldering, allowing me to trace each sound back to its source within one of a number of taped-up battery packs. Within the pixelated synthesisers and crude samples of Cryogenic, I hear every bubble in electric current and every metronomic flash of circuitry light. I hear the hands of process throttling the figure of intention; grand dreams reduced by the reality of minimal means, with cinematic rumbles of ambient electronica distilled into the potential that resides inside a cheap circuitry starter pack.
The record pulls upon various influences from the world of electronica, transposing them into stacks of jagged digital block. “Ice Cream Headache” is a nightmarish instrumental hip-hop track, with notes pulsing like warning signals on sinking submarines and tinfoil noise scrunched up inside an off-beat tremolo. Binary hurricanes whirl through the hydraulic stomp of “C.U.D.D.L.E.S.”, whose industrial rhythmic vigour stands in direct opposition to the wistful flutters of melody (as painted by kaleidoscope of butterflies). Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of the record is how it teeters of the brink of becoming immersive; the stereo edges are constricted in a manner that makes the music feel distant and “boxed in”, yet the bass frequencies plunge deep enough to drag my head amidst the wiring and metal edges, pushing me amidst the circuits until cables loop up my nostrils and over the back of my neck. Am I inside Cryogenic or just watching on?
Top 10 Oregon albums of 2015
By ROBERT HAM // The end of the year brings many "Best Of" lists. OMN writer Robert Ham's Top Ten Oregon Albums is the most important list of them all.
8. Body Shame — Body Shame (SDM Records) -- You can detect the influence of 80s industrial pioneers like Skinny Puppy or IDM kingpins like Aphex Twin and Autechre in the debut album by one-man electronic show Body Shame. But you’d be served better by not trying to make any connections or bring in outside reference points. This cassette/digital release works better if you just meditate on its expanse of slowly desiccating beats, buzzing computer racket, and the occasional intrusion of what might be a melody — all the better to enjoy the ride through every unexpected twist and turn and to make sure you don’t get hurt as the ground crumbles away beneath your feet.
Eaton Flowers, The Translucent Spiders, Doug Theriault, Chrome Mole Monocle
When: Tue., Jan. 5, 9:30 p.m.
Under the name Eaton Flowers, Portland avant-garde guitarist William Hardy makes what could be called layered canvases of psychedelic trip-hop—soundscapes that continuously evolve and can be enjoyed from many different angles. His work has been compared to painter Jackson Pollock for its kaleidoscopic density and the feeling that each song, especially his longer pieces, communicates many different variations on a theme. It's music that's perfect for a long hike in the forest, or down a rainy city street—any setting where the goal is to internalize an abstract view of reality. Eaton Flowers just released an exemplary experimental noise-pop EP on Sadodamascus Records as part of their five-part series featuring some of Portland's more eclectic electronic artists—it's totally worth checking out.
Tabs Out Top 200 Tapes of 2015
Body Shame - Body Shame (SDM-025) is ranked number 68 on Tabs Out's Top 200 Tapes of 2015 List
Full Top 200 List: http://www.tabsout.com/?p=10954
Music: Temple Maps – “C.U.D.D.L.E.S.”
I know I’ve talked about Temple Maps very recently on the blog, but this post is more about the circumstances surrounding this release.
Our friends at Sonic Debris Multimedia are kicking off a new series of shows at Valentine’s tonight called DEC15MBER. Every Tuesday this month, they’ll be inviting a few bands to perform, and will also be selling short run cassettes featuring music by each of the acts. We’re talking very short run cassettes, like editions of 15.
Temple Maps, ABSV, American Merkin, Ritzy Sheens
When: Tue., Dec. 1, 9 p.m.
Sonic Debris Multimedia is never short on great concepts, and this is one of their most inspired. For each Tuesday in December, they've booked a batch of local experimental soundmakers to perform at Valentine's, and for each show, they'll dub 25 cassettes of tunes cooked up by the artists for sale that night only. It's a great promotional hook and the perfect way to draw in the music collectors who treat any limited-edition release like they're Pokémon. It helps, too, that they've got excellent taste, as the trio of acts on board for the first installment reveals. The inaugural event features the rubbery fever-dream dub-pop of American Merkin, ABSV's slowly desiccating downtempo, and the even farther-gone ambient/hardware electronic compositions of Temple Maps.
(New Album Review) Body Shame- Body Shame
Less than 30 seconds into the stop-start freak-out of “Wifemother”, the opening track off the self-titled full length debut of the Portland-based artist known as Body Shame, you know that you’re in for a strange experience. Synths shriek and roar like sirens as a drum set gets pummeled and slashed by some unseen maniac who doesn’t seem to attempt for rhythm so much as alternate between abusing the skins and the cymbals. But you keep listening, and patterns emerge– blaring sonic clusters from synths fight for space with scurrying outbursts from the drums to create doomy marches towards oblivion and gleeful rollercoasters meticulously planned to run slightly off-kilter. Every outsider sub-culture of terrifying dystopian electronic sounds came together for a love tryst with free improv, and while the result is an odd spectacle to behold, there is a certain gravitas to its grim intelligence and tightly-controlled bombast.
Even for SadoDaMascus Records, who have been putting out very radical outsider sounds (Check: ABSV’s dubby noise and The Transulent Spiders’ absurdist sound collage, among others) as the release arm of Sonic Debris Multimedia for over three years, this one really stands out for its harrowing rawness. Body Shame takes self-abuse to the level of the sublime. Call me weird but I think I’m going to go put it on again.
For my Portland readers: you can pick up a copy of the limited tape release of Body Shame this Saturday for Cassette Store Day, and attend the release party for the album next Tuesday, the 20th at Valentines. The release party will feature Body Shame, Alto!, and Consumer, along with live projections by Arjuna Dingman. Hope to see you there.
Body Shame, Alto!, Consumer
When: Tue., Oct. 20, 9 p.m.
It stands to reason that when I met the gent (who prefers to remain nameless) behind Body Shame, it was outside Holocene, with both of us basking in the afterglow of a particularly mindblowing set by Autechre. The music that this anonymous lad creates is equally as fragmented, blasted-out, enveloping, and distressingly beautiful as what those two dudes from the UK cook up. Instead of utilizing the influence of electro and hip-hop as Autechre does, though, Body Shame's debut cassette for local experimental imprint SadoDaMascus Records, Humiliate Yourself in Public*, trades those in for the pummeling doom-metal drum hits and concussion-grenade basslines of industrial music, evoking a delicious collaboration between Throbbing Gristle and Prurient.
*Note: Album is actually self-titled (Body Shame - Body Shame (SDM-025). Humiliate Yourself in Public is the name of track 3 on the before mentioned album.
Music: Body Shame – “Humiliate Yourself In Public”
POSTED ON OCTOBER 5, 2015 BY ROBERT HAM
Nothing sounds finer on a warm, sunny fall day than a touch of unbridled, fucked electronic agony straight from our friends at Sonic Debris Multimedia. This new cassette from Body Shame is seeing release as part of Cassette Store Day on October 17th and will certainly sound great blasting out of the PA at Valentines on the 20th of the month when he will be performing material from this live, alongside SDM friends ALTO! and Consumer. My skin is already tingling at the thought of it.
Eaton Flowers – American Abstraction (SDM-024)
Portland avant-guitarist William Hardy takes us on a journey through the U.S.’ collective subconscious on American Abstraction.
Yr about to embark out into the outlying spaces, and there is where you meet people who have been out there, and they run the machines that go out there, and you haven’t been there
“Joe” – Eaton Flowers
Sometimes to see things clearly, you must navigate the margins. It can be difficult to maintain perspective when completely immersed, like the proverbial fish in the water.
So, how would one go about summing up the etheric United States, such a layered and varied topic?
This is exactly what experimental guitarist and electronic composer William Hardy tries to achieve with American Abstraction. It’s like hopping aboard Epcot Center’s people mover and taking a tour through 239 years of history.
Except this is not the history that makes it into the books. This is like the sub-history, the moldering receipts on the side of the road; bad, burned-out, low budget made-for-TV movies from the 1980s; half a dozen Westerns, stacked on top of each other until they lose all sense and semblance of sanity.
American Abstraction is constructed like a DJ mixtape, one continuous flow, which lends itself to the people mover analogy. Sometimes “songs” – read, words, melodies, samples, organized sounds – rise from the murk of delirious glistening newage guitars, glitched-out noise, and abstracted beats that range from thudding, headnodding hiphop to skittering, scattered techno.
When i first listened to American Abstraction i thought it was swearing allegiance to avant beat sculptors like L.A.’s Leaving Records. Eaton Flowers is a part of the SDMPDX crew, who already have one beat-munging breakcore maniac with Consumer, so i thought this was just more MPC-worshipping beat bricolage. No problem here, i love that shit!
Imagine my surprise when i found out that Eaton Flowers is solely and exclusively comprised of guitar, except for when Hardy’s joined by Eric Gibbons on sonorous upright bass, on “American Abstraction” and “Discord And This Chord”, a particular stand out moment, if you can’t call it a song.
It’s encouraging, to here a compelling mixture of future beats, newage synths, and experimental guitars. I haven’t really heard anyone pushing the guitar forward too much since when Emeralds were first blowing people’s minds, and even then, the concept of live looping was not revolutionary. Mark McGuire just happened to be particularly good at it.
American Abstraction, if you can imagine it, is a lot like what it might be like if Buckethead, Oneohtrix Point Never, and Ras G were to get together (which sounds completely awesome and utterly terrifying, simultaneously). For me, i liked this record to begin with, being someone who grew up with the detritus of American pop trash culture, and i am always excited to see someone transmuting the trash into gold and diamonds. It’s also encouraging to see someone reinvigorating post-rock, blending rock instrumentation with unusual structure and textures, ultimately creating new stories that have never been told before.
American Abstraction has never been told before. It is not immediately clear, from the surface, what William Hardy’s mission was, what he was trying to say with this record. It’s the aural equivalent of a Jackson Pollock action-splatter painting, a Kandinsky canvas of abstract shapes, colors, and textures, which spring to life with flying devil fish inside yr mind, over a herd of stampeding buffalo, while the sky is the color of television, tuned to a dead station.
For anybody that digs adventurous guitar music, abstract instrumental hip-hop, and otherworldly sound sculptures, frequently at the same time, you need to check this one out!
SDMPDX are consistently making some of the most adventurous and experimental music in our fair city of roses and bridges. The collective is getting some momentum in town, but i’m not sure to what extent that the rest of the world knows yet. It’s part of our mission statement to show the world there’s more than rich, entitled indie hipsters in this city, more than cleanshaven indie rock. So spread the word and tell yr friends!
Rise Of The Mutants - Lightning Bolt, Liturgy, Consumer; Dante's, Portland, Or. 4/29/15 concert review —
Modern life, in certain respects, is a lot like H. G. Wells‘ The Time Machine – the Eloi get to lead a happy, beautiful existence, eating flowers and guzzling ambrosia mimosas, while the Morlocks – the riff-raff – scrape by on scraps, living underground, and prospering to the best of their ability.
So while our city centers, at times, may resemble Tony Stark’s living room, there are many many who can’t afford the latest contraptions, leaving them to bash away in frustration at outdated technology.
That was kind of the feeling I got watching Consumer open up for Lightning Bolt and Liturgy. But even more so, I get the feeling that Matt Palenske is embracing the new, the now, riding the data noise geist with a hyperfrenetic blizzard of broken beats, ringtones, abstract keyboard motifs – ripped to pieces and looped into gloopy kaleidoscopes of sound – and frustrated, yet ecstatic, yowls.
Consumer is one of the most prolific and prodigious members of a new noise scene, rising here in Portland, Or., a loose electron cloud of sonic collective like SDMPDX and Dropping Gems, gestating in a small handful of forward-thinking clubs like Valentine’s, Turn Turn Turn, The High Water Mark, and a few others.
The most remarkable thing, to me, about Consumer is that most musicians I hear, when working with loops, samples, and lo-fi electronics due so self-consciously, like they have to organize their clicks whirrs bleeps bloops & fuzz into symphonic form, to be legitimate. While I appreciate this classicism, it’s just not that representative of the true noise underground. I can almost promise you that every great noise band who takes the 12 ft. stage has played 1000 raw basement shows, wreaking unplanned + chaotic feedback on an audience of 4. So while a lot of noise music is pretty bad, admittedly, it is, nonetheless, my home.
Consumer overcame some pretty serious technical difficulties – his mic quit working 15 seconds into his set, leaving him to scream at the rafters. He played a short, spastic, brutal set, and left in a haze of feedback. Punk rock.
Consumer could be the next Dan Deacon, mark my words. Imagine if Aphex Twin had grown up in the L.A. beat scene, or if Bong-Ra joined Fantomas, and you’re getting close. Consumer plays nearly once a week, so if you like adventurous electronic music, and live in Portland, you have absolutely no excuse to not check him out.
SadoDaMascus Records Winter Compilation CD Release Party
[MAKE PORTLAND WEIRDER] Portland’s most adventurous record label, SadoDaMascus, celebrates the release of its seasonal compilation with a showcase featuring 14 artists you’ve likely never heard of. Rather than coming in with any shred of expectation, you should probably just show up and be surprised by what you experience. It’s more appropriate to the label’s spirit. High Water Mark Lounge, 6800 NE Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., 286-6513. 7 pm. $5. 21 .
Winter Copulation 2015 CD Release Party: Alto!, Sunfalls, Sister Mamie Foreskin, Not Bitter, Faxes, Yah-Eef-Ay, The Translucent Spiders, Havania Whaal, Bloom Offering, Dr. Burtrum, Greased Envelope, Transparent Aluminum, American Merkin, Chrome Mole Monocle
When: Sat., Jan. 31, 7 p.m. 2015
High Water Mark, 6800 NE MLK) The folks behind Sonic Debris Multimedia/SadoDaMascus Records aren't skimping when it comes to the release of a new edition of their quarterly compilation series. Tonight's show will be a small epic in action, with 14 bands on the bill, two stages, and a few hours of nonstop noise and incident. The focus of the new comp and accompanying show seems to be a move toward more beat-heavy action by the label, with the two drums/one guitar rumblings of Alto!, the dark industrial pulse of Bloom Offering, and SunFalls' contaminated electronic plops and squiggles. RH
Video: Gooo – Live Cassette Release Show Performance @ Habesha
POSTED ON JANUARY 20, 2015
It’s Tuesday morning…the three day weekend (for a lot of us) is gone and the cobwebs are still lingering. Let’s take a deep collective breath, hit play on this video, and blast that feeling out of our skulls. Recorded to an iPhone, we get an unedited half-hour with Gooo, the freakazoid drums/electronics duo that performs with a kind of ritualistic glee and disregard for their own personal safety. At this particular show, they were being especially excitable as they were there to celebrate the release of their cassette Globular Clusterfuck. If you’re not in a cubicle – or maybe if you are - I suggest cranking up the volume and throwing yourself around the room a bit while this plays. It can only enhance the experience.
Music: Stochastic Mettle Union Local #35 – Thought Adjuster
As I talked about last week, Sonic Debris Multimedia want to make 2015 a big one for their label and all the bands that are part of their collective. And true to form, they are pouring out new material for our consumption, including this brand new live cassette from one of my favorite gangs of jazz misfits, Stochastic Mettle Union Local #35.
The recording has an interesting tone to it, as the band was paying tribute to a house that was home base for SDM. The label and studio were being forced to move out, which led to a small-ish party to send the residents out with a bang. Like most of the acts that played that night, SMU’s set was captured for posterity, and you can hear the group (augmented by trombonist Evan Spacht) reacting to the celebratory, yet frustrated feel of the night with some rapid fire drum patter, floating guitar lines, and some agonized horn honking. As a combo, the four players build and recede together in slowly developing waves that remind me of some of the best BYG Actuel material from the late ’60s. A truly triumphal moment for this band and one that will hopefully push them forward through 2015 as they ready their first vinyl release (all proceeds of the sale of this recording go toward that).
Music: Alien Parkinsons Project – Water Mechanisms for the Sun…
Word around the campfire is that the expansive collective Sonic Debris Multimedia have another busy 2015 planned. Which should be exciting news to any of you folks out there who delight in the strange and esoteric sounds that they’ve vibrated our ear hairs with thus far. And to kick off this new year, they’ve graced us with a new album from Alien Parkinsons Project.
The 11 track album with the toothsome title Water Mechanisms For The Sun Goddess That Burns Your Karmatic Delusions finds the group again sending out tracks to various friends and fellow sonic travelers, and allowing those folks to do what they will with the source material. The resulting work varies as far and wide as you would hope for with Old Man Frost bleeding electronic fire over APP’s guitar freakout, Ras Mix exacting 8-bit dubplate damage, and Eaton Flowers joyously going all cut-and-paste guided only by a shuffling faded breakbeat. This is as shaggy and top-heavy and hard to handle as an album of this size should be.
Gooo, Faxes, Dr. Strangeknob, Okhrana
When: Sun., Oct. 26, 9 p.m. 2014
They used to be known by the fine but unmemorable name of Burtrums, but now their alien pop sounds are being released under the far more uncompromising name Gooo. It's a fitting moniker, considering the goopy, sticky sound of the group's music. The band's new cassette, Globular Clusterfuck, has the feeling of trying to fight through a wall of flubber, with wobbly synth-based rhythms boinging against real drums, dub-style electronic drippings, and Ween/Residents-inspired vocal exercises. And it's all in service of acid-trip lyrical visions of growing an elephant-like trunk and the joy of making one's bed squeak. You can interpret the theme of that last song however you want to.
Cassette Review: Hotel 2: Liew Niyomkarn (SadoDaMascus Records)
Wednesday, October 8, 2014
The second installment in the Hotel series from SadoDaMascus Records is strictly Liew Niyomkarn and as with the first it is live and improvised. It begins with quiet beats and seems rather minimal to start. Then we kick into some high pitched sonar like noise which is a bit like morse code or a telegram wire.
Little glitch blips take us into some R2D2 type sounds and it begins to sound like a weird communication session between two robots. In no way related to that last sentence, this also does have the sound of something JML might create.
There are lots of sharp noises, like robotic crickets or locusts, filling it all out with some static glitching and that balloon rubbing sound. If I was going to describe this as ambient (and I would), I might imagine a place not too much unlike the woods the gang once traveled to in "Aqua Teen Hunger Force" only everything is mechanical.
CASSETTE REVIEW: Hotel 1: Monochromacy / Steve Flato (SadoDaMascus Records)
Tuesday, October 7, 2014
I actually saw Hotel 2 on Bandcamp before I knew that Hotel 1 existed. I try to check the new releases for cassettes every day on Bandcamp, but I somehow missed this one until I saw the second come out. As this was still available, I quickly ordered them both because I so enjoyed the Consumer cassette put out by SadoDaMascus Records. The one funny thing about this though is that Hotel 1 is a split cassette and so I would have assumed they’d all be splits if I didn’t know that Hotel 2 is not. Kind of strange how things like that can work out, but otherwise the music remains because I still listened to this one first.
This is a live improvised one take session and I do enjoy those types of sessions perhaps the most. Monochromacy starts us off with quiet, ambient drone. It has the feel of a long sunrise and I realize saying that somehow makes it sound more uplifting (or me more positive) since I didn’t say sunset. There is a little bit of melody, a little bit of distortion. Throughout the first side, which is all Monochromacy, the static, distortion and wind maintain, only ever changing slightly. It ends on some quiet tones as well.
On Side B, Steve Flato brings out some crackling sounds with a slight rattling. It is the drone of the buzz/hum that both separates this and makes it similar to Side A. Slicing synth gives way to glitchy static which makes me think of a Ghost in the Machine type of scenario. A high, sharp Masters of the Universe keytar type of sound cuts in and out. Ultimately, this is just that perfect mix of static and sharp drone noises that reminds me of JML, Breakdancing Ronald Reagan, etc.
So as far as splits go, this is amongst the best kind: two artists who are similar enough to be related yet distinguishable enough in their own rights. The fact that it was all recorded in one take with improvisation key just makes it that much better.
St. John's Nofest: Consumer, Noise Agency, Stochastic Mettle Union, Geist And The Sacred Ensemble; 9.6.14 —
At times, it seems like Portland runs the risk of becoming a stereotype or a parody of itself. It’s not that we don’t have style beyond the beardee newage flannel paisley soft grunge pastel goth, and it’s not like we don’t have music beyond cosmopolitan plucked and coiffed, guitar-centric indie pop, it’s just that you don’t hear about it. The City Of Roses various subcultures don’t necessarily gather in one place or particular neighborhood.
Except for on one night, in the case of St. John’s Nofest.
St. John’s is a quaint and quiet working class neighborhood in far north Portland, grown up around the gothic flying buttresses of the St. John’s Bridge. It’s one of the oldest neighborhoods in Portland, and one of the least pretentious. And for some odd reason, St. John’s has proven to be surprisingly warm and welcoming to Portland’s underground, experimental community.
In the case of Nofest, now in it’s seventh year, the entire neighborhood transforms into part block party, part basement show, as punk, metal, electronica, hip-hop, jazz, and sundry other musical styles mingle on the breeze. Factor in the fact that everything is entirely free, and Nofest reveals itself as one of Portland’s quintessential musical institutions, not to be missed under any circumstances.
This was my second time attending, and doubly meaningful. The first time was my introduction to Saint John’s, and I have since moved up here. For somebody that’s used to hating where they live – hailing from the Midwest, originally – it’s really special to walk down the block from your house and hear some of your favorite musicians, not just locally, but anywhere.
I set out in the fading daylight, as the christmas lights were beginning to kick on, and the dreadful humidity was beginning to dissipate. First stop was James John Cafe, to watch Consumer rock the house beneath the watchful eyes of a mounted moose head.
Consumer is actually world-class electronic music, entirely on point with what is going on in some of the world’s cultural hotspots, it’s just that most of Portland is not savvy enough to know it. His music is also maybe too cheap, weird, and homespun to attract the white sunglasses crowd.
In this instance, Consumer had no trouble finding love for his assemblage of hand-triggered drum loops, cheap synths, sound effects, and distorted vocals to a dense and enthusiastic crowd. Consumer scream-sang into an old, modified telephone handset, as the audience pressed in, flailing and sweating in a mixture of rave dance and noise twitch. Flushed faces beamed, as Consumer tore his shirt off, dispelling the myth that Portland audiences don’t dance. The cool ones do.
Consumer’s set was a mixture of analog hardware beat worship, similar to what is dribbling out of the underground L.A. avant-beat scene, from labels like Stones Throw, Brainfeeder, and Leaving Records, Chicago Juke/Footwork, and Dan Deacon-style dancefloor communality. Consumer’s primed to explode, and as the world rediscovers the joy of glitch/IDM, with Aphex Twin’s record coming out later this month, the deck is stacked for Consumer to go primetime.
Next up was Noise Agency, playing in the parking lot of Signal Station Pizza. There is nothing quite like watching proper noise rock in a parking lot.
Noise Agency are an experimental drum and bass duo, with bassist Arjuna layering loops and basslines over the powerful, thrashy jazz drumming and keyboards of Josh Faber-Hammond.
Noise Agency are working a bit of time-travelling magick, to reconsider what is possible with the term ‘post-rock’. There was a time when that signifier meant incorporating elements from many different styles of music, particularly avant-garde electronics; classical, jazz, and non-Western musical styles; interesting textures, time signatures, and non-POP based structures, played with rock instrumentation. Sadly, (as usual), in the 2000s, the genre was co-opted to become a formulaic sad-sack instrumental metal music, with bands imitating the style, and not the substance, of bands like Mogwai, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, and Explosions In The Sky. I like a lot of that music, don’t get me wrong, but the movement hit a brick wall, and denigrated into mockery. Noise Agency remind us of the exciting possibilities, when you mix abstract electronics and instrumental virtuosity. This is important, as electronic music can become too rigid, too slaved to the MIDI-clock. Live musicians have a swing and a flow that is very, very hard to replicate, only with machines.
The pair also proved to be inveterate performers, as they overcame a number of technical difficulties. They blew a fuse, during their performance, and Faber-Hammond was chasing his kick drum across the drum riser, due to his sledgehammer drumming, and were entirely unphased. They got a wide variety of different kinds of people moving, in the parking lot and on the sidewalks, resulting in a whole scale success.
Now joined by my second pair of eyes and ears, the lovely Lady H., we rushed down to catch a portion of Stochastic Mettle Union Local #35, in the backroom of Brekkens. They transformed the video lottery parlor into a spectral, Black Lodge like atmosphere with their mysterious, trance-inducing doom jazz. Josh Feinberg was holding down the pocket on a lovely, mahogany stand-up bass, while David Haverkampf drummed like Vishnu, keeping the music swooning, ducking and diving. William Hardy alternated between John McLaughlin-like atmospheric electric guitar and triggering samples and electronics, and it seemed like the ghost of Miles was summoned in this dive bar seance parlor. A baritone sax completed the ensemble, one of my all-time favorite instruments; warm and rich and full. The music swirled like a fiery hurricane, but this chaos was entirely contained, as 30-something bohemians twirled like dervishes in the cramped confines. The crowd, made up of all stripes of humanity, were warm, friendly, and inviting. I was absolutely floored that music of this caliber is being made in the city where I live. The sound, at the end of the day, was somewhere between electric-era Miles, spectral jazzers like Bohren Und Der Club Of Gohr and The Kiliminjaro Darkjazz Ensemble, and the slinky Ethiopian jazz that is compiled on the Ethiopiques series, from the likes of Getachew Mekuria or Mahmoud Ahmed. I felt a legitimate pang in my heart, that every day couldn’t be Nofest, and with the rising sun, we would have to return to consensual reality.
Luckily, all three of the artists I’ve mention are a part of the SDMPDX collective, who perform regularly in Portland, and have a monthly night at Habesha Lounge. If you like good music, of any kind, nice people, real art, and a vibrant, varied culture, there is absolutely no excuse to not check these folks out, as often as possible.
Me and H. finished things out in the comfy confines of Plew’s Brews, to catch Geist And The Sacred Ensemble, from Seattle. They were described to me as “dirgey, magickal folk”, and sounded to me something like The Swans and related side-project The Angels Of Light. H. felt that they were the most put together of the bands that we saw, where warm and woodsy folk music is joined by waves of guitar feedback and shamanic percussion. Lead singer Michael Sauder used to be a grave digger in Pennsylvania, and their music is both earthy and abstract, ancient and timeless. They truly opened a portal, infusing the blue-lit room with otherworldly vibes; slightly spooky, completely sublime. Like hearing a voice from a departed loved one.
Geist And The Sacred Ensemble show that folk music does not have to be regressive, escapist nostalgia. Does not have to be a platform for embarrassing beards and white-bred appropriation. It is rooted in the Earth, growing stainless steel and sparking sculptures.
Here’s to the primordial return!
Geist And The Sacred Ensemble bandcamp
Geist And The Sacred Ensemble homepage
These are just the shows that we saw, every note of which was entirely perfect. The fleeting, in-between moments were just as moving, some of which include:
– Walking past the sludgy grooves of Dirtclodfight
– ‘In Walked Bud’ by Thelonius Monk, issuing from a jazz cafe
– Youngsters getting low down, to some sludgy southern riffs
– A 20 foot robotic sculpture, that could be made to dance, while 35 mm film projected on the wall of the Town Square, to more sludgy riffage
– Running into my dear friend Jefferson Zurna, from the band Three Moons, who doesn’t even live here anymore, but I still see more often than many of my local friends.
I was already stoked to call St. John’s home – my favorite neighborhood in Portland, so far – and Nofest just sealed the deal. I will be counting down the seconds until the eighth edition.
If you are looking for a guided our of the Portland underground, you’d be advised to dig through the schedule, and listen to everything!
Music: ABSV – Radio FM
One of the people I connected with early on with this blog was Jason Morales, the amazing musician and sound warrior who once made music under the name Abusive Consumer, but is now known as ABSV. He’s been a huge supporter of the cause of this site and our (hopefully soon-to-be returning) series of shows. One hand washing the other and all…I’m happy to share a new track that Jason has dropped on SoundCloud, a taster of an upcoming cassette release he is doing on SaDoDamascus Records. It’s a lovely little jam, with lots of potentially overwhelming bass and what appears to be the sound of creaking gears coming to life in the background. Or maybe this is what Jason imagines is happening inside of an actual FM radio once he kicks the power on and tunes it to a station playing some deep reggae. Or maybe that’s my imagination running wild once again under the influence of this sweet, sweet music.
Consumer, Ras Mix, Dr. Burtrum, 1000 TrashCans
When: Tue., Aug. 26, 8 p.m.
Experimental noise music can be a tricky taste to acquire. When even some of the genre's best-regarded acts come off as grating and alienating to neophytes, the music becomes a difficult thing to recommend in a live setting. Luckily, there are people out there crafting noise with playfully engaging energy behind it. Portland's Matt Palenske is one of these people. He operates under the alias Consumer, layering looping beats, obscure samples, and modulated vocals to create a sound that has the drive to get your head bobbing—along with the weird factor that keeps you grinning for the length of an entire set. Consumer's latest release, rB>C, rides a line between dissonant and downright soulful, and makes for an experience that's as captivating and accessible as just about anything coming from the realm of avant-garde sonic exploration.
Fringe Nights 2014: Dr. Amazon, Alto, The Crenshaw, Consumer, Sister Mamie Foreskin, ABSV, Lapsed Baptist, Destroyed for Comfort, Brian S. Ellis, Lounge Gizzard
When: Sat., Aug. 16, 8 p.m. 2014
The tiny bar above the Habesha Ethiopian restaurant has long been a welcome home to experimental performers of all stripes. During this weekend of festival upon festival, Habesha's savvy booker Brandon Nikola and the gents behind Sonic Debris Multimedia celebrate this fact with two nights stuffed with sound. Highlights include Daniel Schultz's Lapsed Baptist, an exploration of his religious beliefs via ear-shredding noise; a collaboration between avant guitarist Doug Theriault and space-jazz trio Stochastic Mettle Union; Consumer's melding of hiphop into Hella-esque speed pop; and the instrumental trio Alto!, which takes the raw elements of Asian and African music and molds them into an awe-inspiring edifice of rhythm and Derek Monypeny's guitar mastery.
Wednesday, July 16, 2014
I’ve been listening to music all of my life. I went to my first concert (of choice) at age thirteen. I began writing about music in 1999, so since then the plethora of artists and sounds that have come through these ears can compare with only a few others. Others have said it before, and maybe even I have, but in all of my years, I have never quite heard anything like Consumer before.
It’s very strange. I try not to use the word “very”, but this strangeness level needs the exemplifier. There are electro loops and some sort of vocal sounds I don’t think are actual words to begin Side A. It’s somewhat 8bit, but not really even 8bit. I like to call parts of this synth errors, which probably only makes sense when you actually experience them yourself. There is rapping along the lines of the Bloodhound Gang and skips try to keep the pace with random synth bombs being dropped.
Side B isn’t any less weird. It begins with an audio clip about presidential fitness, in terms of what the president thinks our country should set their standards for regarding health and fitness. (Go to Walmart; we’re failing) Then they also talk about baseball trading cards for some reason, and I like that part because I still like baseball cards. There is this weird thrash sort of yelling that is kind of like something I’ve heard before but just completely not. Oh yeah, and I can hear some manipulated audio that sounds like Gangam Style.
As hard as I find it to place this, it is weird and so am I so naturally I am drawn to it. I will admit right off it’s not going to be for everyone—there is no commercial appeal to this or pop matter, but that’s fine because that can be said of almost everything I listen to (or at least a good majority of it) For originality, this gets 1000 points out of 10. As to whether or not you’re going to enjoy the experience is really up to you to decide. I enjoy it, and I feel the least you should do is try it.
format: tape / digital
keywords: expérimental, noise, avant-garde, beats, disco, electronic, house-hop, soul-trash, industrial, loop, the best possible insane music out there!!
label: SadoDaMascus http://www.sdmpdx.com/
This is a review of a cassette of Consumer’s new album, rB>C.
It contains 10 weird tracks but let us start with the first one. Who is that? It’s ‘Topsy Turvy’! What is it? Next to it being the first track on this fantastic album, it is also a good trendsetter for if you are in the mood for some good fun. We hear jolly good loopy singing teaming up with a distorted beat moving us all up in a psychedelic highlight.
This mood exceeds several levels of instant insanity by going for a wild ride that is listening to the massive bonkers tune ‘cyan magenta yellow’. This track is so wicked and original and freaking massive in psychedelic electro punk madness that I feel like sharing it with all my friends until it will drive everyone completely nuts! This track is the tune you can wake me up for as it just plugs itself in your pleasure center and than turns the world successfully upside down the good way!
‘Hand out a car window’ is still as bonkers as it can get; probably made on a genius coctail of illegal medications and a fine liver destroying layer of uplifting alcohol. It goes smoothly into a track called ‘comet caste’ which gives the music the right feel and mood to simply lift us all from the ground as if we are shooting stars launching us into the greater galaxy of Space-out ness. Just follow the electronic flow and get beamed up by some drunk Scotty if you can’t find your inner rocket. Absolutely cool stuff.
When the music made its consumers so high, it might be the perfect time to rock out on the manic craziness of ‘window pains’, which contains freaking music that you have to hear and hear again, just to be sure you are actually hearing it. Only to fall into the newly hyped up insanity of a great form of spastic fun sounding piece of experimental mentalism called ‘life hammer’. I feel like giggling, riding a rodeo on laughing gas and screaming ‘beep beep’ like roadrunner from pure enthusiasm!
‘Heartless Herbert Spencer’ brings a dreamy element to this excellent experience. There are space sounds, the rhythmic vocals coming straight from the funny side of a lunatic asylum and the sizzling sizzles of God knows what.
Then we can hear a male voice whaling while a choir of ‘lala’ angels let their tongues vibrate in perfect harmony with the freaky stuff. The end drives us all in to a noisy outburst of mental expression which is like experiencing teacups on the rage for anarchy!
It fits perfect with the tea kettle whistle and bee that starts up the track called ‘torque’. After this a chill beat pops up to team up with a song delivered in a alien language that is pretty special to say the least.
‘Snidely whiplash’ is the last tune on this excellent and probably most enjoyable album that had entered my ears for a long, long time. The vocals go all funky, like they are pretending to be guitars played by mouses until the hip hip-hop rock bizarro starts to hit the right elements to create a huge banger of a tune to solidly seal this record into perfectionism.
Probably the best album you will hear at this very moment in time, so don’t get anything in your way to get this one in your possession! It’s absolutely completely bonkers and goes out with a brilliant slapstick of bitch slaps, laughs, screaming, telephone calls, car crashes and police sirens! Your own heartbeat can’t beat this shit! Get this album right the f#ck now! Highly recommended! Here it is the album you must have or at least hear once before you die:
Ras Mix – Adventures In Clown Town (SDM-005)
Adventures In Clown Town, by Portland’s noisy techno technician Ras Mix, is what it might sound like if Ralph Bakshi were to direct a movie about a young b-girl, escaping the ghetto trap of Dhalgren, and questing for the moon. On the moon, she finds a strange Morlock civilization, beneath the surface, full of buzzing neon, esoteric laboratories, and alien machine rhythms, coming down miles of PVC tubing.
Ras Mix is the project of Aaron Salomon, part of a burgeoning scene of experimental electronic producers coming out of Portland, known as SadoDamascus Records, or SDMPDX. Salomon takes the destroyed analog techno of Hospital Productions, mixes it with some acid hardware manipulations and straight-up noise, and injects it with dub’s riddims and endless echospaces, as beats and lazer tones are fed into the gloopy gelatinous repetitions.
Adventures In Clown Town was recorded in “jam0clock fashion”, live electronic improvisations laid straight to tape (or disk). Way back in 2012, Caribou’s Dan Snaith, when talking about the impetus of his Daphne project, talked about what he termed the “EDM Barfsplosion”:
Set against the backdrop of bland and functional dance music and the mind-numbing predictability of the EDM barfsplosion currently gripping the corporate ravesters, there is a small world where dance music lives up to its potential to liberate, surprise, and innovate.
We are all wary of the uncanny valley. Predictable music, sticking to formulas and algorithms, that never breathe air, that never leave the hermetically sealed confines of a motherboard, roll of our ears, like choppy sea foam off of a duck’s back. Some, like James Ferraro or Oneohtrix Point Never or even some of the grime/juke/footwork warriors, have chosen to fuck with this phenomenon, creating the most un-easy listening permutations of virtual muzak. And some, like Ras Mix, are doing something about it.
Jam0clock recordings are done live, with no overdubs and re-edits, and reintroduces danger and unpredictability into the techno formula, taking things back to the glory days of early Detroit Techno, acting as a telescope into millions of basement noise jams, with skinny kids riding their loop pedals like vodou mambas.
The thing with recording live is you have to have great musical instincts, especially to create something with as many movements as Adventures In Clown Town. You have to know yr gear, and yr sources, intimately, taking drum machines and sine wave jams to the level of bebop. This is something i’ve been waiting many years for, a true improvised electronic music, not dependent on pre-made loops, getting away from the stale trance of locked grooves.
Adventure In Clown Town will take you on an adventure. It veers between dancefloor bangers and crazy noise. There’s 4/4 banging, as well as dub riddims. There’s radiophonic echo chambers, like Dr. Who in some giant cavern in the center of some dark planet. There’s flickering, strobing basslines, that will make yr eyes roll up in the back of yr head, that will make you see stars, that will make yr heart pound.
Ras Mix, and the rest of the SDMPDX, actually stand a good chance of crossing over, and getting club fiends to listen to academic synthesizer records from the ’50s, handmade industrial cassettes from the ’80s. They are injecting dance music with soul, putting the painter in the landscape. Imprinting the air with phantom hands.
This is the first of a recent batch of SDMPDX releases, released back in March. I will be writing about them all, so stay tuned!
Music: New Albums From Ras Mix & Sister Mamie Foreskin
Don’t get me wrong – I’ve adored the compilations that Sonic Debris Multimedia have been unleashing on an unsuspecting public every four to six months. But I’ve been very curious to hear what some of their affiliate artists would do when left to their own devices for the course of a full album. Lucky me – and all of us really – SDM have dropped their first two non-comp releases and they are spectacular. First up (above) is the new album by one man electro-freak Ras Mix. His album Adventures in Clown Town keeps to the playful spirit of that title, utilizing well-placed brushstrokes of oddball synthesized sound and beats that sneak into the bloodstream like a virus. You might recognize some of his antics as being dub-influenced, but only inasmuch as you could imagine Large Professor on a huge molly binge, trying to capture the sound of his cells exploding in real time.
Sister Mamie Foreskin’s sound plays a little closer to your usual pop song structure. It just takes its sweet time resolving what might be considered a verse or a chorus. As they wander, they devolve into a teeming mass of ideas that call to mind the finer hours of Mr. Bungle or the smash-and-grab aesthetic of Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band. It’s a modernist group as well, squiggling their collective way through laptop composition and bending circuits in an almost telekinetic fashion. Once a proper instrument cuts through the chaos, it’s like shot of adrenalin to the heart.
Sensory: Ras Mix, Mr. Romo, Delyria, Rudement
When: Sun., April 6, 9 p.m. 2014
It's such a treat when a club night assembles the elements that make for a really enjoyable experience. Sensory does just that, with a record for meticulously discriminating curation that draws interest from even the most seasoned of electronic music heads. The killer sound system at Analog Café, along with a backdrop from a new artist each month, makes for a worthwhile audiovisual experience. This month brings together an array of styles within the category of uptempo electronic live performance, including Ras Mix (Aaron Saloman), who's on the heels of his most recent release, Adventures in Clown Town, on Portland-based SadoDaMascus Records. Offering a glimpse into his live show, the album was recorded as a one-take performance, and is an homage to experimental industrial music and avant-garde electronica. CHRISTINA BROUSSARD
FORESTPUNK - EPHEMERAL WANDERINGS
Noise Agency - Otic
Posted on March 5, 2014 by forestpunk (J. Simpson)
No matter what genre a band seems to be working in, these days, the blending of live instruments and electronics seems to be the name of the game, as well all struggle to come to grips and make the best use of the technology at our disposal. Which raises the question, in the case of the Portland psychedelic duo Noise Agency: what exactly do you call this, and how exactly do two people make so much racket?
Noise Agency is equal parts trance rock, hippy drum circle, Chicago Post-Rock, psychedelic lightshow and Atari adventure. The basic template seems to be live drums, trancey repetitive basslines, swarms of effected guitars, a handful of handmade electronics, and a variety of studio FX. Otic is pretty light on the vocals and is largely instrumental, except for the occasional stream-of-consciousness dream dialogue, and the odd vocal effect, as can be seen on the Crazy Train By Way Of Carissa Explains It All of “Hah 60″or the rustbelt “Good Morning, Captain” of “Happy Err”, which hearkens back to the industrial roots of Stumptown.
Noise Agency occupy a rare intersection, and possess a unique opportunity: the ability to appeal to fans of raw, analog electronics, jazzy post-rock, and jamtronica in equal measure. I can hear shards of Tortoise in the basslines, Ekoplekz and the Radiophonic Workshop in the hand-modulated oscillators, and the tech-groove of Lotus or Eoto. Maybe this is the beginning of a dialogue between this disparate genres? I was always surprised more Phish heads were not more into the instrumental prowess of Tortoise, as I think they’d be hooked, if they knew it existed.
Noise Agency are a prime example of what i’d like to see more of, in Portland, blending old skool West Coast-psych with technology and the future, even if that future is Retro. That’s a lot of what its like here, being both old-fashioned and hypermodern, simultaneously. It’s a place of intersection, and of overlap. They’re also a good alternative to the Soft Grunge pastel romanticism that I think a lot of people associate with this place, or furry folk (both of which we possess in great abundance, but that is not all).
Noise Agency also suggest a way forward: an amalgam of the Human and the Machine. I, (and i’m sure most of you), listen to boatloads of Techno, and truly love it to the depths of holographic soul, but after a while, the machine rhythms can be rather piercing, grating; like working a too-long shift at the local groove factory. It makes you yearn for groove, swing, soul. The human touch.
Noise Agency are affiliated with a local crew called SDMPDXLLC, an amalgam of SadoDamascus Records and Sonic Debris Multimedia, which are a great waypost for hearing the more experimental edge of Portland’s avant-garde scene. Rest assured, there IS an experimental and electronic scene here, as well as Metal and Noise, but they’re not talked about that often, don’t really gather in one specific spot. Now, i am gathering them all in the shadowy folds of Forestpunk.
Don’t have a full stream of this one, but you can grab it for a scant $8.99 @ Amazon:
Noise Agency: Otic
STOCHASTIC METTLE UNION, SISTER MAMIE FORESKIN, THE MODERN ASS JAZZ SINGERS
(Ash Street Saloon, 225 SW Ash) If you absolutely needed to shove the members of Stochastic Mettle Union into a genre box, the closest you could find is the one marked "jazz." But even though the group plays tunes like "Ornette's Cage"—a reference to avant-bop icon Ornette Coleman—and exhibit a penchant for double bass and wind instruments, the tag still seems limiting. This ever-evolving project encompasses some free jazz ideals (amorphous rhythms, dissonance) and rends them asunder by way of laptop manipulations and scratchy post-punk guitars. And since they improvise every performance, they could zig into pure noise or play with delicate restraint. That's a recipe for avant-greatness in my book. ROBERT HAM
Anybody who spends any significant amount of time listening to electronic music knows that the REAL action takes place across mixtapes, 12″s, DJ mixes, remixes, EPs and SoundCloud. By the time an artist gets around to releasing a Long Player, they’ve been toiling away for years, working out the kinks and wrinkles. Singles and SoundClouds are where the true cutting edge of the electronic world happen.
But digging out gems from the datastream can be a full-time job, if not a miracle, what with trying to separate the ore of genius from the millions of sub-par trap remixes extant. Enter Portland’s SadoDaMascus Records, the publishing arm of the Sonic Debris Multimedia collective, who have been panning for audio gold in Portland’s electronic underground with their seasonal Copulation mixtapes since summer of 2012. Wait, wait… I know what you’re thinking. Electronic underground? It exists, lurking in basements and run down saloons all over Stumptown, but it can be hard to find for the uninitiated, making what SDM do such a necessary and much appreciated public service.
2013′s Summer Copulation features 20 tracks by 10 different artists, a real wormhole of retroactive radiophonic real-time audio manipulation. The styles run the gamut of the entire underground, from straight-up digital noise, to trance-y rock ‘n roll; grimey introverted hip-hop to synthwave sequencer worship. This collection is a good introduction to what’s going on in the electronic underground, all over the world — not just in the City Of Roses — so it’s a good place to start out, if you love beats, but are burned out by dancefloors, and the inevitable ecstatic crash.
SDM’s Copulations are put together like a DJ megamix, and work best taken whole. There are highlights, however. The bulk of this record features two artists, Noise Agency and Ras Mix, that seem to be the focus and centerpiece of this compilation.
Noise Agency are an experimental 2-piece that incorporate hypnotic loops and powerful layering with boundless manipulation of sound and instrumentation. In short, an experiment in how much racket two humans and their machines can make. The template would be Josh Faber-Hammond playing some furious breakbeats on a drum kit, while Arjuna Dingman lays down a foundation of bass guitar and soars into the stratosphere with vintage Dr. Who electronics. The overall mood reminds me of live “jamtronica” acts like Lotus or Eoto – humans jamming along with their machines, a cyborg melding of soul and precision. This set-up yields for revelatory live experiences and is tons of fun to dance yourself stupid, so don’t sleep! Both musicians sing and sample, and I can’t wait to figure out who does what, and how they pull it off live.
Ras Mix is the noisy solo vessel of laptop musician Aaron Salomon. Started as a late-night headphone experiment in 2006, Ras Mix has sprung to full life like some cyberpunk Pinocchio. It’s is pure unadulterated analog worship, knob-twiddling at its finest, existing in the zone between Detroit techno and deep space listening, spanning 5 decades of avant-garde electronics. This style is huge in Europe, but has not fully permeated the States yet. I want more!
It would take a small book to comment on every track of Summer Copulation, so here are some highlights from my notes:
2. Friends Of Don Quixote – “Deepspace Jam”
Sparse, effective trance ritual; a slow tin pan breakbeat with think, growling bass. Like Public Image Ltd meets Klaus Schulze.
4. Ras Mix – “The Problems Of The Peoples”
A creepy-crawl thrift store drum machine jam, in front of a wall of TVs, with a bass player frozen in carbonite. The Mos Einley Cantina band, chopped ‘n screwed.
5. Noise Agency – “Thwomp”
The band live up to their name. Plodding industrial electronics, hand-dialed and deliciously slurred. Makes you bang your head like a gastropod. Luscious radioactive shards of Throbbing Gristle. Discipline!!!
7. Lab Rats – “Lab Rats”
A super spastic, super crisp footwork beat, cut-up with didgeridoo and sunshine dust. Lab Rats have some rare tempo variation on their track – an anomaly in electronic music, that usually sets the BPM and just goes. Lab Rats’ tempo rises and falls like Hokusai’s wave, pushing and pulling the dancer into ecstatic tribulations. An adventure.
9. Sister Mamie Foreskin – “Whi, Whi, Whi Not Now”
With a name and track title like this, one expects some sort of extreme noise terror. But with noise, no one ever knows what to expect; there more strains of noise than there are types of postage stamps. “Whi, Whi, Whi Not Now” is even more disorienting than a 10-minute wall of radio static; it’s drilling rhythm rears at the bit, desperate to get free, to lose control, right on the brink of chaos. May induce seizures (preferably on the dancefloor).
12. 1000TrashCans – “Furniture”
Did you know we make grime in Portland? We do. My vote for bass of the month; this needs to blast out some 12″s. Features rapping from an 8-year old and way more interesting and engaging than this season’s batch of trap rappers, repeating the same dumb mantra ad nauseum; dare we call this old school? There is something new and militaristic in this bass, true late-night doom trance, with some tight rapping.
All of the music found on this collection seem heavily involved with analog electronics, which are notoriously difficult, if not impossible to replicate, so be advised to not pass up too many releases or live events, as they are one of a kind, by nature. This compilation, and SadoDaMascus Records’ contribution to the underworld are essential in keeping Portland weird and progressive, in breaking the stereotype of a bunch of neck-beards wielding banjos and singing about Beavers. Portland is a port town, diverse and ever-changing; and we need more of a cohesive avant-garde. They’re here, but it can be hard to get them to gather. Everybody that digs electronic sounds of whatever shade or stripe needs to make this a hit, so there can be more.
Music: Sister Mamie Foreskin – Whi, Whi, Whi Not Now?
If you missed out on Saturday’s celebratory show at Habesha (like I did), which brought into the world another amazing compilation of music from the folks at Sonic Debris Multimedia, we only hope that it was for good reason and not a depressive episode (like mine). No matter what, here’s a little piece of the action to help make the bitter regret go down a little easier. An Elysium dance party banger that lets the writhing bodies move up front while the ray gun battles go off in the background.
Noise Agency, Ras Mix, the Translucent Spiders, Sister Mamie Foreskin, Alien Parkinson Project, Play Human, Lab Rats, Eaton Flowers, Princess Cake
7 pm., Saturday August 17 | Donations suggested.
801 NE Broadway
[COMP RELEASE PARTY] Sonic Debris Multimedia is one of the most exciting yet least-known record labels working in Portland. The imprint’s steady stream of compilations wraps together an impressive array of daring sound, from the feathery prog of Noise Agency to the isolation-chamber synth beauty of Alien Parkinsons Project to Aaron Saloman’s one-man minimalist electro project, Ras Mix. Those three acts, as well as six others featured on the label’s latest compilation, will be performing tonight. If that weren’t incentive enough, SDM will be giving free copies of the new CD to all attendees.
Address: 801 NE Broadway
Sister Mamie Foreskin, the Translucent Spiders, Consumer MP
9 pm., Tuesday June 25 | Donations suggested.
801 NE Broadway
[EXPERIMENTAL DUB] Dub is an oft-abused genre of music, with many bands trying and failing to capture the true devilish spirit of pioneers like King Tubby and Mad Professor. That’s what makes Sister Mamie Foreskin such an amazing project. The group doesn’t try to replicate the studio-based wizardry of the aforementioned producers. Instead, SMF builds new creations out of an experimental post-punk template, resulting in pitch-black creations that burble and spit like a particularly nasty witch’s brew. Do not miss opener Consumer, the moniker of Matt Palenske, who turns the one-man-band concept into a furious contact sport
News: SadoDaMascus Winter Compilation Release Party on Feb. 23rd
The title of the post says “compilation”, but the folks behind the imprint and collective known as SadoDaMascus Records would really like to call it a “copulation.” A slight pun, sure, but a strangely fitting description for listening to their upcoming CD. I was lucky enough to be handed a copy of it over the weekend, and was immediately sent spiraling with joy at what I heard.
The disc feels more like a DJ set than it does a pieced together collection of random tunes. There’s a distinct flow and mood to the whole production that is so rare to achieve with one band, let alone a baker’s dozen. Why does calling it a “copulation” fit so well then? Because it feels like the soundtrack to a long slow love making session, the kind where every touch feels amplified by a thousand and you just want to linger in every moment until eternity crashes around you both. Whew. Getting spent just thinking about it.
If you want to get a sense of some of the music involved, visit the Sonic Debris Media SoundCloud page. Or if you want to dive in deeper – and get a copy of the CD for yourself – stop by Record Room on the 23rd of February. SadoDaMascus will be holding an extended release party that boasts two stages of music, with a lineup of bands who are all featured on the latest copulation. Take a gander at the poster for the event below and, if you so desire, adjust your February calendar accordingly.
SadoDaMascus Records’ Summer Copulation 2012
The good people behind SadoDaMascus Records, a fledgling label here in Portland, released a CD-R compilation of warped pop, ambient, and dub experimentation this past summer. I was lucky enough to grab a copy of the physical collection thanks to Nick Swartz, a member of Sister Mamie Foreskin, and the host of the KBOO show that hosted myself on the air about a month ago.
But as those have been all snapped up, the label did the next best thing and dropped the whole mess of tunes on their SoundCloud page. You can’t download them, but you will be able to stream them to your heart’s content. And trust me, you’ll want to keep these tunes on repeat during the long rainy days ahead.