Scott Mitting, the insider’s insider on experimental and electronic here in the Valley, stopped by the Radio Phoenix studio and brought some stellar tracks down with him. Not only do we get to hear a variety of experimental acts from AZ and beyond, we get the rundown on all of Mr. Mitting’s bands and projects he’s worked on (which is quite a bit). As always, the complete playlist can be found below. Check it out .
The new LP from Wayward Sun awakens gently, but you astute listeners will begin to note that there seems to be a slight disquiet just beneath the gentle moving aural waves of Casual Stoicism.
The dreamy atmosphere that pervades the album has moments of tension, but never without peaceable resolve. That might be the effect of the stoicism that the album is titled for; and, for those that need a refresher, stoicism means indifference to or quiet acceptance of suffering.
When seen in that light, Casual Stoicism seems like a slow revelation of self and there is an innocence, a tender beauty, that overrides any of the darker sentiments in this ambient soup of sound.
But the coexistence of both parts is what creates the compelling narrative of Casual Stoicism. If you’re not familiar with the work of Scott Mitting, aka Wayward Sun, you’re maybe not that well connected in the Phoenix music scene or maybe you missed the unassuming guy standing at the back of some the Valley’s more boisterous acts (see Militia Joan Hart and 20 Ft Neon Jesus, amongst others). Either way, get in the know with Casual Stoicismfrom Wayward Sun.
The Phoenix-based electronica producer who operates under the name Soapcheese partnered up with Amsterdam’s Magical Trash for a cross-continental split release.
“Prototype Arms” comes to us from that cassette which was released on the Portland label, SunHypnotic. This “non-linear electro phonetic” production runs around five minutes, but there is a vast and ever changing landscape of strange sounds and interesting aural textures. The experimental definitely outweighs the ambient on this one, but there is a dreaminess to the underlying motion on this single that emerges more as you continue to listen.
Check out “Prototype Arms” by Soapcheese below or head here to score the Soapcheese / Magical Trash Split from SunHypnotic before they sell out… like any minute now… seriously.
While listening to Hill and Berg Era, the new release from Waytansea Point, I felt I was listening to the soundtrack to a really smart indie flick. And, like, the entire soundtrack, complete with non-musical interludes.
There is a very visual element in the soundscapes that make up this collection as well as an emotional texturing that moves with a cinematic pacing. I guess it should be no surprise then that Mitchell Kearney, the creator behind Waytansea Point, is a visual artist as well as a musician.
Certain moments are tense (see “Roscoe Piano”) while others have a sort of mundane beauty that feel like a moment plucked from your morning commute or, perhaps, that afternoon second wind that carries us through our final compulsory actions before the close of the workday. Score your own cassette copy of Hill and Berg Era from Waytansea Point here.
It’s no secret I get down to my fair share of electronic music.
While I tend not to veer to the more commercial side of things, I have noticed that I find pop songs are a bit more palatable these days as electronica continues to exert more influence over the mainstream.
However, I still prefer my electronic music, like most things in my life really, with a little edge. Some bite, if you will. Something that takes it from everyday to extraordinary. The following tracks, sifted out of the tracks we hear from all around the world, have done just that.
Comin’ straight outta Kazan [Russia], “Last Journey” is the second track off RNBWS new 4-track EP, To The Border & Back. Although the album comes only with the label Techno, don’t let the nondescript hashtag throw you for a loop. RNBWS “work[s] in an experimental direction of advanced electronics.” Their single, “Last Journey”, sends my head spinnin’ every time I hear it with its poly-rhythmic beat that features dark synth sounds and plenty of percussion. Part of the Get Busy! collective, the Label/Party/Clothing line certainly lives up to their name – they’ve released a bevy of EPs lately including new albums from Yung Acid, Gorilya, and Mostapace. Bump “Last Journey” by RNBWS below…
Ricardo Oliva, based out of Guadalajara/Culiacán [Mexico], has me goin’ with his latest track “Anémona”. This piano-led, Future Bass-fueled, Nu-Disco/House track sounds awkward to explain because it is. Mr. Oliva is all about mixing genres, even performing with live musicians during some of his presentations. Funky jazz guitar, intriguing samples, and a killer Deep Trance bridge accompany “Anémona” to fantastic heights. I highly recommend checking out this new single from Ricardo Oliva below…
Have you ever wanted a cute, fun track to listen to that you can also bob your head to all serio at the same time? If your answer is a resounding “Yes!” then look no further than “Bubble Tea” by the Animist. In the vein of Japanese artist Ujico, “Bubble Tea” is a Kawaii, Future Bass track featuring music box, deep low end, trap drums, and plenty of vocal, and of course, video game samples abound. Producing out of Charlotte, NC, the Animist is on a personal mission to “Grow Local Brands & Entrepreneurs to a National Scale” through his use of video production, photography, and even comedy. See that kids? Diversifying, that’s the name of the game. Check out his website for more info but not before playing “Bubble Tea” below…
I can’t quite recognize any of the samples in Idiosync’s latest single, “Digital Footprint”, and I guess that’s the point. As stated in his bio: “Field recordings may evoke flashbacks and associations just like a familiar smell might. Modifying these recordings, chopping [them] to pieces and blending them with each other could affect listener’s perception in the most unexpected ways.” And, indeed, they have. What essentially is a solid breaks track has plenty of noise and experimental innovations thrown in to keep things interesting. Off of his recently released Gigbits album, get down to “Digital Footprint” by Idiosync below…
An old-school House vibe pervades on MGER’s latest track, “have you seen her”. Although this song is “mainly constructed from samples around all genres, mostly old stuff,” don’t let that fool you into thinking MGER is stuck in the past. As he states on his SoundCloud, “I make tunes, some bangy, some less bangy.” I honestly enjoy the retro feel of this track far more than the polished trap or hard electronica of his previous releases. With “have you seen her”, MGER has me feeling good things are coming out of Finland. Take a listen below…
Sometimes, it’s all in your approach. As in the case of BasicSexxx and their debut single “FREAKwhensees”, this statement was sent to us along with their song: “If you are able to read this message then you have been chosen as the leader of an elite squad of Earthlings operating on the highest frequency, and we need your help to save the world.” This band knows how to get your attention. But, before you start thinking that Basicsexxx is some chiseled International DJ, they’re actually a couple of Los Angeles-based hiphop artists: Sami Seal on vocals and Rem_OD on production. “FREAKwhensees” is dystopian hiphop this is purportedly “found only in the Space Jazz cafes of Andromeda”. And, what’s more, it actually sounds that way: a spooky future style of production mixed with poetic lyricism certainly has this song sounding like nothing else on Earth. Serving as an introduction to MINT, an EP and novella, “FREAKwhensees” is a single I suggest you dive into immediately.
Electronic music keeps evolving. And, with more musicians and artists using electronic devices in their music creation process, it seems that the genre will only continue to grow. Now if you know me you know I like my music eclectic so I decided to take a moment and share the songs that caught my ear recently, each song for their own unique reasons.
Break out the glow sticks and popcorn, it’s New Electronic Sounds 2: Electric Boogaloo.
Now normally I’m not the type of guy to like poppy-EDM such as DJ Snake and/or Justin Beebs nor am I the type to like the hard hittin’ styles of L.A.’s Slander. But, for some reason, when you slap the two together the perfect dance song combination is born. Working with longtime mentor B-Sides The Legend certainly doesn’t hurt either and I’m sure that has something to do with how undeniably catchy this remix is. Everything about it works from the increased tempo overall to the bicycle chain hi-hat led bass drop. Your ears want will to hear this – well, at least thousands if not millions of pairs do, Slander is on a world tour throughout the rest of the year. Check out “Let Me Love You” below.
Right from the start of its dreamy, marching band intro (yes, you read that right), I could tell “Honesty” would honestly be the track for me. A “live performance project,” Russell Scott has teamed up with New Orleans’ own Andrew Block on guitar, and drummers A.J. Hall & Alvin Ford Jr. to create The Russ Liquid Test and the EP, 1984. Not only is Russell a DJ, he’s also a keyboardist, saxophonist, trumpeter and plays “a variety of technological extremities.” Combining first line brass with new-school funk, yes, this track is as cool as it sounds. I eagerly await the release of 1984 in November, until then, listen to “Honesty” below.
A bass heavy track, featuring steel drums and piano brass? Sign me up. South African based Khwezi’s “Like an Animal” is undeniably fun, I’m white-people-dancing all over the place here at the office, its electronic rhythms and synth pads executed to great effect. Although it is labeled as having a “Mura Masa vibe” it doesn’t appear to officially be a remix of the track “Lovesick Fuck” (or the just recently released “Love$ick” featuring vocals by A$AP Rocky), however, I have to admit they sound awfully close – I just like Khwezi’s track a little more. You should probably just listen to both and judge for yourself.
Greg Smee out of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania is wwoman, a lo-fi, “depression pop” act that I thoroughly stand behind. Crafting these psych gems out of seemingly a variety of instrumentation, “New Ferments” is the latest single off of his current album, Let Us Sleep Together. A driving bass line and an old school backbeat compliment the synths and guitar for something dreamy yet active at the same time. Check out “New Ferments” below and if you like what you hear, check to see if he’s still offering free 10-track discs through his Facebook page.
What starts as a seemingly simple house track quickly metamorphosizes into an electro-breaks masterpiece with plenty of new bass thrown in for good measure: “Firedrill” hits hard. Miami’s Landis recruits rapper Dances to track some well placed samples throughout the song, sure to keep any avid fan dancing right along (I swear I did not mean to make that rhyme). I suggest listening to “Firedrill” posthaste and if you dig what you hear, delving further into Landis’ offerings on SoundCloud.
Aviva Sonenreich out of Denver is a DJ and producer who is making a name for herself with her hard basslines and clever samples. “Get Nasty” is no different. As soon as the track begins you should know what you’re getting yourself into. By the time the drop hits with the sampled hook “Let me see you get nasty now”, that dirty bass fills the room and there’s not much you can do other than rock you shoulders. Go ahead, it’s OK. If you like what you hear with “Get Nasty” I strongly recommend venturing further into AVIVA’s tracks on her SoundCloud page.
Although it’s labeled as such and starts out ambient, “Better” quickly drops in heavy bass and kick for a song that approaches hiphop in its delivery. The track-perfect sample, “Things are gonna get better”, floats through your mind as you sit in the vast underground cave that is “Better”, a promise that sounds a little less believable due to the stark realities sonically put forth by Glofi. The bridge of this song (think of the plank and rope variety precariously placed over a violent chasm) truly sent me into wondering whether things would indeed get better. Then the comfortable main sample dropped in again and I knew everything would be alright. Dig deep within yourself and become inoculated with Glofi’s “Better” below.
Today is the day that we here at YabYum start turning some of the focus on an area of music that often gets overlooked, disregarded, and sometimes even shunned completely.
We’re talking about noise music. The avant garde. Compositions that are constructed using common or uncommon sources. A niche where one man’s trash could be another man’s musical treasure. A genre that allows creativity to flow while feeling liberation from limitation. Chaos is the only rule. Fun is the only objective. I invite you to join me on The Noise Floor!
For the first installment of The Noise Floor, I had a chance to chat briefly with local cat Scott Mitting about his current project Militia Joan Hart, modular synthesis, and the noise scene here in Phoenix…
Chris Nunley for YabYum: To start, let’s talk about the current project that you’re involved in – Militia Joan Hart. How did the band form and how would you describe the band’s sound?
Scott Mitting: I actually had the pleasure of watching it happen in front of me. I was at the folk punk fest at like 8 AM on a Sunday at the Trunk Space and I saw Andy Warpigs was super excited about this vintage delay pedal and there was this other guy running Ableton with the coolest dreds just kicking out this chillwave music (turned out to be Brandyn from WOLFZiE who is now one of my best friends). Andy sang very much like Thom Yorke. May have been only 10 people in the room but I was blown away.
You actually saw the moment I joined the band when I met you. I had been to all but one of the shows and Andy invited me to try out my modular synth so I did. I thought Brandyn was gonna have a panic attack.
I didn’t realize that was your debut with the band! That’s awesome! So to those who don’t know, what exactly is “modular synthesis”?
SM: I think a good analogy for modular synthesis is the guy that brings his guitar pedal board with 15 pedals. They all do a little something different and, if you plug in the wires between them differently, you have an entirely new setup. Modular is just like that, except organized onto a rack, and some of those modules are tone generators instead of just effects. You can dial the pitch of your choice and a sine wave or square waves comes out.
Turned out to be far more awesome than we expected since playing that modular live is like riding an unbroken horse bareback. Never intended to put that thing on stage.
I had watched the film “I Dream of Wires” and almost every artist interviewed had admitted that modular synths is an addictive hobby. Would you say that’s true?
SM: Oh I absolutely love that film. I think it was Mike Goosens who turned me onto that movie. That’s a great watch if you want an intro to modular synthesis and the history and all that. Actually, my acoustic guitar has a sticker that says “Don Buchla for President”. But on the question, I mean all hobbies are addictive or you’d stop doing them. The issue with modular is how expensive it gets even on the used market. I was already hooked on Reaktor for 15 years but when Native Instruments made Reaktor 6 send Eurorack compatible control voltages, I knew I had to make the jump. That first jump was about $1000 and I was able to buy it from a local company (Blue Lantern) with enough modules to get started.
What is it about modular synths that appeals to you and how do you go about applying those sounds to MJH?
SM: It’s really more the hands on ability to change everything in real time using physical wires and physical knobs. I mean, I can do this with a laptop and midi controllers (as I do in every other act I’m in) but no computer is easier to debug. I’m definitely not an analog purist and my favorite module is actually digital.
But what really got me to get my modular synth was that I wanted to integrate it with this electronics project I built where I was controlling a YM2612 chip (FM synth chip used in the Sega Genesis) with an Arduino clone (Teensy) and wanted it to interface and trigger other modules. But I fell in love with the synth more than my mad scientist electronics projects.
It’s taken some time to fit in the synth with the rest of Militia Joan Hart. Brandyn is doing sounds all over the place and Andy has been doing the same thing with the guitar.
Would you describe MJH as “improv sound collage”?
SM: So, at first, when I brought on the synth, I was showing off how much bass those things can push, because it’s just a frequency as far as the circuit is concerned. If you say, “hold the speakers as far out as they can go for 5 seconds and immediately hold it as far in as you can for 5 seconds,” it’ll do that and you’ll eventually rip your speaker cone. And, Brandyn is WOLFZiE, so his bass was already awesome. So [the sound has] evolved to use a lot more creepy horror samples from my super-favorite digital module: “Rounds” by Mutable Instruments.
MJH as a improv sound collage? That’s pretty fair, but that’s not exactly true. We do have some actual songs we play, though I don’t know what they’re called. There are always lots of new beats intermixed with these core songs from their cassette released on TVLiFE before I joined the band.
Vaporgoth is what we call ourselves. It’s not an established enough term where we feel restricted by the expectations of a known genre, but still kind of gives you an idea of where we’re coming from.
So let’s talk about the noise / avant garde music scene here in Phoenix. You recently teamed up with PHX SUX to host “Night of Neuralgia”. How was the event received overall and do you feel that there’s an audience for noise here?
SM: I was very pleased with how the night went. I’ve been trying to follow the Martin Atkins playbook of erring toward overfilling a small venue rather than having that same number of people down at Crescent or something, and I’m glad I do. I didn’t actually do a head count but dozens of people filtered through, which I consider a big success for a show where we only gave out the address via word of mouth. I really wish I could have put Sludge Lords between Kroun and Earwiig because the reaction was how I expected: several people went home. I don’t think that would have happened if I had a breather band in the middle…. weird, but not punishing. With something like noise, or any genre that doesn’t really have a scene, it’s hard to gauge how well it’s going to go in advance, but there are some great artists in Tucson who inspired me to pursue a noise scene here. It’ll all be baby steps, but we’re trying to get a monthly event at the new Trunk Space under the Night of Neuralgia brand and are currently booking the second Night of Neuralgia for November.
In a city where most bands create “accessible” music, do you feel that Phoenix is ready for a noise scene?
SM: Do you think people are intentionally creating accessible music around the scene? Like you’re suggesting they might lean a little more toward that PG-13 rating when they could have gone R? Did the song sound too indie-pop when it would have been better sounding like The Black Keys? I really don’t know for sure. I mean, to some extent, if you’re not making the music for just yourself you’ve gotta at least consider audience.
As far as the noise scene being ready, I think we’re ready for something new no matter what it is. Ultimately, I would like to use this project and other similar projects to create spokes between all the scenes that are in the Phoenix Metro Area and connect with Tucson. None of the scenes know about each other and I think that’s a shame. I’ve been to too many shows where there’s this awesome touring band and it’s like me and Andy Warpigs hanging out watching them along with the opening acts. If we could make some major scenes that are cross-genre, there will be plenty of room for very genre-specific shows, like power electronics noise.
Break out the power saws, eh?
SM: I’ve seen close to that at Firehouse actually. I was blown away with the creative ways they were making noise.
What is it about noise that you think appeals to other artists who create it and the fans who listen to it?
SM: Noise means a lot of different things to everybody, I’ve learned, but the common theme tends to be that it sounds unnatural, it has dissonance, and has at least spikes that cause displeasure at some level. I’m not necessarily a fan of the pure noise sort of acts myself, as in it’s not something I put in at home except for research, but I really enjoy it in a live environment. I still think Igloo Martian is the best example of the sort of intense noise act I really enjoy live. He does just such intensely grating noise while doing really weird performance art, like when he poured all that pancake batter on himself during the Indie 500 and rolled around in the dirt. It was the best 45 second set I had ever seen in any genre (though I’ve never seen any other 45 second sets). Something I really enjoy about it is the experimental nature and the complete inability to set expectations for what will happen next. I would anticipate at-home listeners enjoy the harshness mixed with the wild experimentation.
I typically listen to the more drone/ambient/IDM myself which gets very noisy and creepy, with weird textures and uncanny valley feelings, but it’s more calm and organized. For example, today I bought the entire Phil Western collection which was like 48 albums that included 4 albums from my old favorite band, Download. That’s my jam right there. Download was what came out of the ashes of Skinny Puppy after their breakup, which was a collaboration between Cevin Key, Phil Western, Mark Spybey, and others. My favorite band is probably Boards of Canada, though Spybey and Western’s newer act Beehatch has been right up there lately.
I think you can see why the harsher noise music parallels with a lot of the stuff I’m really really into, like truly fanatical about. I think that if combined with performance art and if we go with a wider spectrum of “noise” music that encompasses my tastes listed above, through to the most intense power noise, we’ll find out there’s a lot of people who have just been sitting around waiting for a weirdo-experimental music scene to popup. I know I was for years.
Is Militia Joan Hart currently working on/recording new material?
SM: We’ve got plans. Definitely working on new material, but we tend to focus on what to record at the TVLiFE label. While we wanted to do MJH for Halloween we had some more pressing releases we’re working on.
What piece of advice would you give to a budding noise artist?
SM: I’d love for more people to just find weird ways to make noise through unconventional means. Sample your washing machine. Plug your Casio keyboard into some guitar pedals with a mic that’s getting feedback. Show your friends when you think it’s cool. Once they start grinning, give it a name and start finding a place to play.
Check out Militia Joan Hart below and follow them on Facebook.
Jackie Cruz is a musician, DJ, and all around music aficionado. When not performing with her bands, Jade Helm and Man Hands, you might find her DJing around town and spinning her super hip collection of obscure gems. We asked her to share some of her favorite musical finds for our Tastemaker’s Ten series and Jackie was kind enough to oblige.
The vocals, the lyrics, the entire song… just fucking brilliant.
Every time I DJ this song I get compliments and people wanting to know who it is. One of my all time favorites.
Probably one of the coolest songs ever. I want to be in a band that sounds like this.
The Anemic Boyfriends
“Guys Are Not Proud”
I spent many years trying to find this song. I heard it at the end of a Pandoras’ interview and became obsessed. I would call record stores and sing it to the employees, over the phone, trying to find out who it was. This was before I had a computer.
“Panis Et Circenses”
Songwriting at its finest.
“On My Radio”
Another one that brings me back to my youth. My mom took me to see the Specials when I was like 11. After that I was hooked on ska.
Chrome is probably my favorite band…
“Maybe The People Would Be The Times Or Between Clark And Hilldale”
My uncle showed me this band when I was a teenager. It was pretty much LOVE at first listen.
Another obsession worthy tune.
Everything Broadcast does is perfection. The last time they played in Phoenix I had a show that same night or else I would have been there. Sadly, shortly after that Trish Keenan died. I regret never getting to see them live but I will always cherish their music.
Richard Hell & The Voidoids
“The Kid With the Replaceable Head”
Bonus one for fun! (I can’t resist the guitar solo in this one.)
And as always, here is an example of our Tastemaker’s work:
When the news was handed down that this mag would be expanding their coverage outside of the southwest region, I immediately set my sights on Ever So Android.
This is a band that I’ve been dying to write about for some time now, and the timing couldn’t be any more perfect. Thanks to a successful crowd funding campaign supported by rabidly loyal fan base, ESA have dropped their newest EP, The Civil, on the masses for consumption. But to fully appreciate this release, one must go back to the band’s primordial days of grit before taking in the polished version of today.
Armed with a looping pedal of beatbox rhythms and glitching feedback, Drew Murray (guitars, programming) would set an uneasy mood that sang harmonically with his electro-bluesy riffs. Now enter Hope Simpson (vocals), a tall yet tiny chanteuse with a voice big enough to fill a church hall during Saturday night mass.
The chemistry and dynamic between the two is undeniable. But it’s the synergistic three-way between man, woman, and machine that drives their sound with an eerie balance of give and take. What they produced on their 2013 self-titled EP were melodious offspring swirled in battery acid.
Fast forward three years later to The Civil, and we can hear the evolution and maturation of their sound. Taking on new member Ben Hilzinger (drums, samples), the songs get a Terminator-esque upgrade from rubber skin to real flesh folded around the Android core. The symmetry within these musical cyborgs couldn’t be any more perfect.
Chunky guitars and driving rhythms provide the nuts and bolts while Simpson’s vocals and saturated sequences keep the machine oiled on tracks like “Pretty Teeth” and “Sons and Daughters”. Producer and musician Bill Rieflin (King Crimson, REM) provides the extra elbow grease and screwdriver work, giving the EP a sheen that retains the heart and soul of the band.
If the band’s first two releases see them as crawling then walking, where will the next evolution take them? Although human, they are inhumanly patient with their art.
The Brooklyn-based beatmaker known as 2Beeps specializes in party breaks that pack serious punch. The new single from the act, “Burn it Up”, could easily find a home on any high-energy gaming endeavor. No surprise when you learn that 2Beeps cite influences that include “Miami Bass and 90’s electronic music”. Turn up the heat on your stereo with “Burn it Up” here and, if you dig what you’re hearing, you can delve into the full Shake Your Ass EP on Bandcamp.
There’s a very narrative quality to this track from San Francisco’s Suboculis. Between that and some rich texturing, I can definitely see “Incursus” backing some zombie shoot ’em up or a game of equal lurk value. The listener will find both tension and movement in this track.
Okay, now stay with me on this, aliens attack from outer space and enslave humans. Our only hope? The feline friends who suddenly find their litter boxes in need of a change. Stay with me on this, I might have video game gold on my hands – cats save the world! If (or when) this game ever gets made (consider this my official waving of the rights), “KATS” from L.A.’s Midi Jones should definitely appear on the soundtrack. The irony is strong in this one from lines like “Meow, Bitch” to the inclusion of YouTube sensations.
Nintendo should snap this guy up right now. In fact, if you’re a game developer, just give Timo all your money now before Nintendo does snap him up. “Neon Dubloons” harkens back to the video games of my youth. Mario Bros. Donkey Kong. You name it, “Neon Dubloons” could probably fit right in. The music is playful and energetic. If you like what you’re hearing, consider delving a bit further with “Village Counsel” (available here). Before that, however, listen to “Neon Dubloons”…
The cyber synth sounds of the Los Angeles trio known as KRON have a retro feel and their new single, “Dense Clouds”, sounds like it could be streaming from an arcade game while you race a sports car through a pixelated, urban night (I’m thinking F-ZERO – ed.). The group will be releasing an album this coming October so, if you’re into “Dense Clouds”, get ready for the goodness to come.
Fans of Dropkick Murphys and electronica (strange combination, I know) can finally relax. I found the song for you. Styles in Black mixes Irish folk with EDM for a track that I could imagine on a video game soundtrack, one wherein killer Leprechauns attack. Styles in Black worked with Celtic group Peddler’s Tune to create “Scumm Bar” for an interesting spin on their usual style. Check out “Scumm Bar” here…
“Oddly, at the time, I was on a kick of watching “Taxi Driver.” For some reason, I’d always, at the end of the night, I’d put that on and, you know…I think… I was losing it then. This was right in the time where I was like, “What am I gonna do? I’ll just watch ‘Taxi Driver’ again, maybe that’ll make me feel better,” and then it didn’t. I don’t recommend that anybody do that.” -Trent Reznor, MTV ’99
As a fan of music, sometimes it’s more interesting to me to read about what happens when an artist isn’t working on new material. I’m not saying I want a glimpse into the rock ‘n roll version of “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous”. But more of a behind-the-scenes peek at our euphonious superheros being…human.
For those who aren’t familiar with the Scorsese classic, “Taxi Driver” tells the story of Travis Bickle, a former marine and Vietnam vet struggling to make sense of a city filled with “screwheads…the scum, the dogs, the filth, the shit.” The feeling of alienation and societal anxiety leads Bickle to vigilantism with a dark heart, while simultaneously playing the role of a guardian angel to a 12-year old prostitute. Not exactly the most positive film to watch when you’re battling depression.
So for years I’ve wondered to myself what exactly was Reznor’s state of mind while watching Bickle blowing people away every night? When an artist that has won or been nominated for multiple awards, conquered the world through visceral performances caked in mud, collaborated with childhood idols, and even constructing the Antichrist Superstar… I wanna know more about why your circuits were crossed and on the verge of collapse.
Tunguska, the newest release from experimental avant-garde duo Melted Cassettes, could very well be the auditory answer I’ve been seeking all this time. Although the title references the Tunguska event of 1908, you can’t help but notice the heavy industrial influence and theme of repetition throughout the album.
From the start of “Inner Mask”, we’re treated with a broken machine grind rhythm section, while cold basslines and gritty synths add texture to begin a descent into madness. Following a similar cue from the rhythm department is “Hammer of Judgement”. Shimmering synths and glitch-y loops reign supreme while you sleepwalk through the graveyard after midnight.
“Heavenly Body” is by far the most curious and exciting track on the album. Complete with a Puppy-esque vocal take, fuzz textures and a skittish saxophones make way for an interesting and unexpected transition into a jazz club nightmare.
The whirring sci-fi desperation of “Proto Ape” may’ve been a track that unfortunately ended up on the cutting room floor of “Grindhouse: Planet Terror”. If you’ve ever wondered what a thousand killer bees from hell swarming around a distress beacon sounds like being pumped through an overdrive pedal that’s set to “fuck all”, then “Inside the Hive” is easily your answer. There’s some really nice electric guitar droning on this track that makes you wonder if this was Reznor’s breaking point at one time. “Germinator” continues the overdrive trend and loops what might be a section of the adhan through a low pass filter. The use of John Carpenter-like synths from perhaps The Thing gives a certain uneasiness to a track that’s already unnerving.
A stark and moody album, Tunguska benefits from not being perfect. However the lack of diversity in sounds used and the crawling pace of the tracks keeps this one in the “3 out of 5 stars” category. But after listening to their previous single “Pure Jazz”, there’s a strong foundation between the two releases in which to build up from this point onward. A must-listen for experimental and noise fans alike, but not for the faint of heart.