Life Size Maps “This Same House”

06 Mar 2014 — Ashley Canino

Life Size Maps rises above the fuzz with new single "This Same House," an energetic expression of restlessness. The lyrics tell the tale of anything, really, that you find yourself orbiting despite all efforts to move on. The uncomplicated, but canny lines stand out against a glittering, 8-bit background and poppy guitar. "This Same House" will be featured on a full length the Brooklyn-based band has recorded, but is still without a title or release date. A new version of "Abstract Speed" will also appear on the album.

Life Size Maps will be playing Pianos in New York City every Wednesday in March.

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Berlin to Tel Aviv: A Guest Post by Vaadat Charigim’s Juval Haring

29 Nov 2013 — Editor

Despite ongoing and mostly blatantly misguided discourses about gentrification in Berlin and the responsibility of incomers (like ourselves), be they from other parts of (western) Germany or from abroad (read this), we still dearly hope that at least most of the city's residents that belong to our generation will be able to agree that there's absolutely nothing within the boundaries of The Ring that benefits the otherwise still stuffy and narrow-minded capital of Germany more than its ever-growing expat community. This very website certainly wouldn't be able to survive without it, and even if we felt we could, its absence alone would be reason enough to pack up and leave Berlin for good.

That being said, one of the more remarkable branches of this community, remarkable for various yet fairly obvious reasons that thus probably need not be spelled out in this forum (yet that are made express in virtually every other piece on the topic), is the presence and growth of the Israeli community in Berlin, which today is between 18.000 and 20.000 citizens strong, depending on the source, and that to a great extent is made up of students, musicians, artists, and other cultural entrepreneurs, just like the expats of any other nationality who now call this place home. Today, we're happy to welcome one ex-member of that community to write about his experiences, not mainly in regard to living in Berlin but about a process that all of us who were not born here can relate to at least to some degree, so I assume: the process of leaving and arriving, to live in a constant state of transition. The question of feeling at home, and of the definition of "home" as such in a globalised world, if you find yourself privileged enough to be in a position to actually travel or move. In this sense, the story Tel Aviv native Juval Haring is telling us below transcends his own experiences as someone leaving Berlin to return to the land and the city where he was born. But aside from that almost universal perspective, it is a deeply personal account, and we think for that alone well worth five minutes of your time.

Haring is singer and vocalist of Tel Aviv outfit Vaadat Charigim, whose full-length The World Is Well Lost is out now. Watch the video for lead single "Odisea" below (and read about it over on Self-Titled), and stream the whole album after the break. (ed.)

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Leaving Berlin

On a cold winter morning in January 2012, I took a last look into the dark interior of my Prenzlauer Berg ground floor apartment, locked the door, and proceeded down the street with a small travel bag which contained clothes and the demo recordings of The World Is Well Lost, on 1/4" tape. I remember thinking about windows, gas heaters, the fridge. Did I shut all the heaters? Did I lock all the windows? God knows when I'll be home again.

I suffer from a severe aerophobia. Getting on a plane is a task that requires me to be medicated, and at times, also intoxicated. When my parents called me and said my grandfather – who for years had come up with money for me when I was stranded on tour in the middle of nowhere in the USA, and who had always been the greatest supporter of my choice to be an artist – was dying of cancer, I had to go to Israel.

But I wasn't going to fly to Israel. I came up with the plan of going there by boat. This idea had come to me after reading a story in a magazine about a man who devoted his life to traveling the world by cargo vessel. I found it to be extremely romantic. A kind of self aware choice to live in a "slower" world. But freighters are complicated to get on as a private passanger (I know, because I checked). So I booked a spot on a cruise ship leaving Venice, going through Greece, and to Israel. The cruise continued from Israel back to Greece and then to Italy, but my plan was to get off in Israel.

First, I had to get to Venice from Berlin. Remember, I can't fly. So I headed from my apartment, which I had just left behind, all the while bothered by the thought that I hadn't locked it properly, to a car rental service near the Berlin Zoo. I rented the smallest, cheapest crappy car I could get, and drove it all the way to Vienna in one day. As the hours went by, the scenery changed, getting whiter, snowier towards the mountains of south Germany and Austria. It was the first time I had ever traveled alone by car in Europe. For years  I had been a driver for my own bands, and had my wife Mickey next to me to navigate, and talk to. It was lonely driving to Vienna without her. I couldn't stop thinking how stupid I was, to not just say "fuck it" and take a plane like a normal person, instead of booking a car, a train, a bus and a boat, for a total of nine days on the road just to reach Israel, which is a four-hour flight away from Berlin.

From Vienna I took a train to south Austria, where I was supposed to switch to a bus to Venice. When I got on the train it was completely empty, but then right before it was about to leave, dozens of teenagers boarded it, and came on my car. They started unpacking their backpacks, taking out an astonishing amount of alcohol and juices, beers and so on. I was sort of sleepy and shocked at the same time. They explained to me that they were on their way to a skiing vacation and that they are all employees of the train company. They offered me booze and I went straight for it. I was lonely and kind of terrified of the thought of being on a boat for five days, so getting drunk seemed like a logical thing to do.

By the time we reached the small town in south Austria where I was supposed to switch to a bus, I was so drunk I couldn't walk straight. Somehow I managed to get off the train and onto the bus. I climbed up to the upper level of the bus and fell straight to sleep. A few hours later the bus had arrived in the central bus station in Venice. I reached Venice around afternoon, went to a cheap motel that I had booked online, unpacked, and hit the streets. It was my first time there. I walked towards the direction the signs were showing. I didn't really care about seeing everything, or "visiting" monuments. I was looking for pizza. All I had to eat for days had been alcohol and cigarettes.

I found a cheap, probably not so great pizza place and got a slice, then proceeded down the route all the way to the Piazza San Marco. It was getting darker. I could see massive cruise ships docked on the other side of the water. Suddenly my heart became heavy, and I couldn't swallow. I felt like I was totally alone in the world, and that the world is happening around me in such a way that it is making my head spin. That I will always be alone, because I am a coward, because I never let anyone help me, because I never listen. I stood on the waterline and looked at the people around me, there on vacation. They must be looking at me, all sweaty and holding a half eaten pizza like a bum, thinking I must be homeless. And maybe they weren't so far off from the truth.

Since I had left Israel to live in Berlin I had always been, in some way, "homeless". An Ausländer. I went to bars, ate out, went to galleries, went to shows, had friends in the music scene, but it always felt to me like we were a bunch of kids, from a bunch of different countries, waiting for the grown-ups to come back, spending time in the best way we could together, till they get back to take us home. I had always felt baseless, my family far away somewhere in the Middle East, and me, in an old Berlin building, looking out of a window at a grey north European sky. Sure, there are a lot of Israelis in Berlin, but most of us are there for the same reason: we were tired of trying so hard to live in Israel. Being a Berliner solved some of my problems, but It couldn't reach as deep inside me as the river of my childhood flows. I was very happy to stand there on the waterline knowing I would be going back home. But at the same time I was filled with fear, both a phobic fear, of the boat, of how it would feel just like being on a plane in the end, and a fear of coming back, of the losing the unfinished quality, the rough around the edges way of life I was used to living in Berlin.

Dreams of Greece

If I could I would leave everything behind and move to Greece. Maybe I could. I don't know. It's a big move. But it's something I think about ever since reading My Family and Other Animals. When the cruiser, which turned out to be just like a plane, only longer, and weirder, passed between the islands of Greece, I remember looking out at them for hours. I had a balcony in my room, which was just like a hotel room, only on water, and I would sit there for hours, looking back at the white foam line formed in swirls as the ship pushed forward, and at the horizon where pale white and grey montains rose off rocky islands.

I had never traveled between countries by boat before, except between France and the UK on tour. It was so weird. Most nights I spent in the bathtub hugging a bottle of vodka. The ship would go out to sea, and you would have nothing but endless blue around you, or black if it was night time, and then after a day or so it would reach a port, dock, and you could peek from your high balcony into the lives of the tiny people living in the port city where you happened to stop. Most people, who were on vacation – unlike myself, who was on a mission – got off at each port with money and cameras and walked around for half a day. I was trying to save money so I just stayed on board and stared into the town. We stopped in Bari, Rhodes, and then finally after five days, in Haifa, the port town of Israel, north of Tel Aviv.

I remember getting off in Haifa and boarding a train to Tel Aviv, feeling like an alien again, even though I was home. My Berlin apartment still silent and dark, same as I left it. Only I was here, in Israel, again. But I was neither here nor there in my mind. It was a different travel experience. I didn't just "hop" over to Tel Aviv. I had glided there, slowly, by foot, car, bus, train, boat. I had walked in between. Stopped to look. On the train I was looking out of the window at Highway 2 going from north to south in Israel, along the shoreline, thinking: I probably seem weird to everyone. I was surrounded this time by young, 18 to 19 year old soldiers in uniform, all looking at my skinny jeans, buttoned shirt and snow cap, ironic moustache and large sideburns, probably thinking I am some tourist. And perhaps they were not so far from the truth.

Tel Aviv 

Like I said, I wasn't supposed to stay in Israel. I came to see my grandfather. But since I had been away from the Tel Aviv music scene for so long I felt the urge to start a project while I was there. Vaadat Charigim's demos were in my suitcase and I joined two old friends, Dan Bloch and Yuval Guttman, around early 2012 to work on them. We worked on the songs during weekends, first in a school's bomb shelter/rehearsal space, where Dan's children were going to school, and later in Guttman's apartment (where we also recorded the album). After two rehearsals we felt a great "click". We had a lot in common, were all kind of older, kind of weirder than other people, kind of outsiders, kind of homeless, kind of tourists.

I can't say exactly why I stayed here, in Tel Aviv. Maybe it's because the band was doing so well. Maybe my new job doing PR and booking. Maybe I'm just still afraid of traveling again and feeling or seeing so much. Maybe I am tired of being homeless. But I have been here since I got off that ship in Haifa, and I have thought a million times about the dark room I had locked and left behind.

The World Is Well Lost is an album I wrote before, during and around this journey. It is infused with my inability to let the past be, my fears, my hopes. It turns out that even though I wrote big parts of it in Berlin, that it has a lot to do with the contemporary Tel Aviv state of mind: trying to make things last while war and injustice make everything seem fleeting and not worth it, wanting to be together, but at the end always feeling alone, loving the city and its people, but hating the way it somehow keeps you down and controlled, your dreams never too wild, never really outside the box. Today, I am happy to be here, but at the same time I am haunted with the thought that I have no real reason to be here but my fear. Fear not only of planes, but of everything  I cannot control, of life, of death, of everything with wings, of the pain that twists and turns in your chest facing the vastness of the ocean and the abstract notion of change which it represents. Today, from here, Berlin in my mind is like a lighthouse. Stable. Solid. But then again, when I was in Berlin, Tel Aviv seemed like a sort of lighthouse. So maybe in life, you are always stranded out at sea, and every shore seems like the place you ought to be.

Get The World Is Well Lost on cassette on Burger Records or pre-order the vinyl via Warm Ratio.

Women and Electronic Music: A Guest Post by Natasha Kmeto

21 Nov 2013 — Editor

When in the aftermath of the 2013 edition of CTM Festival last February, in and beyond Berlin more and more writers and artists became vocal about the glaring disproportion female and male electronic producers and DJs booked for and present at such festivals and events, we wrote that "f anything, what the festival revealed last month was the need for a discussion that’s still to be started". In that sense, we might cautiously suggest that 2013 has been a relatively good year, as at least it can now be contended that the discourse about gender issues that the (electronic) music industry should be concerned with – just like any other subsection of society – is now firmly established. Some manifestations of this discourse turned out rather underwhelming, such as the panel at the Berlin Music Days a few weeks ago, which never managed to reach beyond stale and shallow clichés while appeasing masculine compacency (barring Rosa Reitsamer's persuasive opening lecture), while others should be considered a step into the right direction, such as Electric Indigo's work with female:pressure, which mainly thanks to the discussions following CTM Festival is finally receiving the right amount of attention, or Berlin's Perspectives Festival in September – the latter also mainly initiated by female:pressure. Along those lines, this site has made an attempt to not only follow the unfolding discourse but to become part of it, mostly through the writings of our esteemed Montana-based author Evelyn Malinowski, who observed and pointed out that being a woman with a synthesiser or a drum machine is still regarded as an anomaly at places as different as her hometown Missoula and major West Coast hub Seattle. After reading Evelyn's piece about the blatant lack of female producers performing at this year's Decibel Festival in Seattle, Portland-based artist Natasha Kmeto, whose excellent LP Crisis we briefly covered back in May and who performed during said festival, asked us if she could write down and share her own perspective on the topic. Read her thoughts after the break. (ed.)

Stream Natasha Kmeto's live performance at Decibel Festival in full below, kindly provided by RBMA Radio.

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When I describe my music to people, 'female' is hardly the first word I would use. And yet, when described, written about or discussed, my sex is one of the first things used or at least always mentioned. I suppose it's easy to understand why: electronic music, and in particular electronic production and writing, is a male-dominated field. Clarification around the fact that I both sing for and produce all of my music is constantly needed. I guess this is because, generally speaking, women in this genre are singers exclusively. Frustrating to say the least. I will cherish the day that there aren't any genders attached to 'top ten DJ' lists or that my skills and talents aren't immediately underestimated or dismissed. However, before you start thinking that this is an article burgeoning on the verge of an angry, feminist rant, let me just say that what I want to write about has more to do with generalizations, suppositions and the subtlety of individuation than anything else. 

What with more people becoming exposed and involved with electronic music these days, many discussions about women in the industry are cropping up. They mostly center around the lack of women in the field, their under-representation in all aspects and the few brave souls that dare touch a laptop or midi controller despite the odds. It makes me endlessly happy to see these things being discussed because I believe that all conversations around this are a microcosm of women's experience in almost any industry. It also opens up the gates to a much needed discussion about gender roles and about women and technology in particular.

More so than this being a man vs. women thing, I think it's more of a battle on generalization, assumption and the roles we are raised with and bombarded with through media. In brainstorming my live show initially, I knew I couldn't have a man on stage with me else the majority of people think he produced and wrote my music. In speaking to a good friend and fellow solo producer/singer who toured with a band, she relayed to me that on tour, sound engineers and promoters would defer to her guitarist for technical details instead of her, the band leader. She performs solo now. Despite this being highly limiting and sometime infuriating, I hardly think that every person that has assumed that I don't produce my own music or assumed my friend didn't know a XLR cable from a 1/4" is a sexist. I just think that the dialog about women and what women generally do and don't do needs to change, or even be had in the first place. Same goes for men. It's imperative. 

This could open a whole can of worms about oppression, women's and men's roles in family, etc. I'm not up to or qualified to delve deep into the depths of politics, religion and philosophy, but I can relay how I'd like to try and make a difference. Those of us with 'androgyny' in our vocational desires within the 'normal' social confines must fight the good fight and change things up by merely existing, owning it and trying to be really fucking good at what we do. Be the exceptional exception, break the mold, try not to get too pissed.

Humans are programmed to differentiate, delineate and divide things in our minds to make sense of the world. We like categories, yet the suppositions that we use to categorize can become too broad, and oftentimes the things that make us unique and individual get ostracized, forgotten or marginalized. The danger of using something as broad as gender and the coarsely crafted roles we use to differentiate is expressed most eloquently in issues such as this.  

I hope that some day, female producers won't be mentioned as 'female' producers, but rather just 'producers'. I hope that no one ever tells a female DJ that they are their favorite 'female' DJ but rather, just their favorite DJ. To be viewed as a person, an individual, and not immediately thrown into a role based solely on one's sex organs would be a transcendent sensation indeed. By starting the conversation and continuing it, we can hopefully flip the script and make a woman behind a laptop, DJ decks or a synth less of a rarity. Until then, may the force be with you my fellow 'female' producers.

Natasha Kmeto's LP Crisis is out on Portland's Dropping Gems. Stream it in full below and get it over here.

Preview: Decoder Magazine #001

12 Dec 2012 — Henning Lahmann

Decoder

In the past 18 months or so, our dearest friends over at Decoder (fka, partly, Get Off The Coast) worked hard to step out of the internet and into reality the physical world by planning their much anticipated first magazine, i.e. something that you can actually hold in your hands and touch and smell, something that does not glow artificially while slowly ruining your eyesight. Remember? During the last two years, there has been a slow yet conspicious tendency among, sorry, 'digital natives' to revive the way we used to inform ourselves, the return to actual paper first marked by McGregor's acclaimed Report, followed by our Berlin friends' lovely Cartouche (in German), hopefully still Ad Hoc sometime soon, and, right now, Decoder. As far as we can tell, the first issue has become nothing short of stunning, with countless riveting contributions by underground luminaries such as Noah Klein, Joe Miller, Brad Rose, Liz Pavlovic, Michael McGregor, and others (we humbly submitted a small piece about Berlin), with much to see and read and enjoy. You may look at some pictures from the magazine right here, and exclusively read excerpts from the engaging editiorial, in which the founders present their vision of contemporary printed counterculture. Get in touch with their thoughts below, and get your copy of Decoder #001 over here.

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To some extent the first issue of Decoder may read like a “thought catalog.” In a manner of speaking, it is one. Each segment has a more or less extensive personal connection to “our” every day lives. “We” are the editors of Decoder and we see our personal histories as inseparable from the expression-to-date of Decoder. How we hear and write about the music we cover is conditioned by our experiences outside of music, as much as we focus on sound. In many frameworks for studying culture, music is seen to express something about the society that produced it. The interpretation of music can similarly be expressive of values, and so there are a multitude of interpretations shaped by more than just the format of an album or how it sounds in a car vs. a home. So, we see it as part of our responsibility to talk also about the significance of how we talk about music. In thinking about how we, as a group of writers, can morally orient ourselves toward a readership and a body of creators — people who become our stock in trade — we feel that our own personal morality must be represented in Decoder. An ethical Frankenstein, if you will. For the most part, our group has rarely had to compromise in how we organize ourselves. We sync up and so the project makes sense, allowing Decoder to resemble who we are.

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It's easy to pick up the thread of our personalities within. A presumed unity in magazines is that content will connect to editor A, B, or C; whether a friend we solicited work from in person or an artist admired from afar. We might like to think that an individual’s most generalized framework for understanding society is important to more than just that person, but whatever that insight might be is a hard sell, now as ever. We feel direction around us and presume a unity of purpose, the details of which are further described every day in the nature of our herding. I like to link this with the now passé fear of “globalization.” We feel a world (could be any) changing around us and presume it has a singular outcome. Globalization never meant we'd have to languish with a single bland world culture. It portends controversy over the access and categorization of information, which unfolds today in such profusion that our realities paradoxically stop overlapping with the same ease. The successive refinement of generations, divorced from a sense of community by a rural brain drain and a new reverence for urban living, is promoting neighborhoods as new "intentional communities". The new "cults", we might provocatively say. Like its predecessors, our generation helps police new norms for living in a fundamentally altered human aggregate ( the biggest ever).

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But what does that have to do with us? In line with the blogging movement that helped stabilize Decoder’s place in the universe, we keep a visible personal connection to our output, never obscuring the "men" in the "machine". We refuse to be only agents in an exchange. To that end, we try to emphasize transparency about our “process.” The ideal outcome of our interactions with anyone is friendship. Though we can identify markets that might partake of our offerings, we hope the whole range of our expression will rarely seem to service them.

Having said all that, Decoder is a music magazine because the group responsible is made up of music fiends, as opposed to video game nerds or foodies (though we’re just a bit of those as well). We decorate it elaborately with a fringe of miscellaneous creativity and positive social enterprises because music, like most creative projects, is fundamentally dynamic. The venues for appreciating creativity are rarely private or personal, so Decoder is our attempt at compromise and a clearer vision of the culture developing around us.

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An exclusive mixtape has been compiled to initiate and celebrate issue #001, and you may stream two widely different tracks from it below, our man Jef Barbara's "Black Caress", and "Eastern Danger" by Berlin-based one-man project Ghostandthesong. The whole mixtape is available directly here or over on bandcamp to order alongside the magazine, or you grab the whole, hugely recommended package deal over here.

Guest Post: Scorched Psyche with John from Solar Bears

10 Dec 2012 — Tonje Thilesen

At the close end of June this year, our Dublin-based friend and 1/2 of the electronic duo Solar Bears wrote us an excellent audio-visual guest post, introducing exciting new musical acts from Ireland, suitably giving it the name "Landscape Strain". John Kowalski is perhaps one of the earliest when it comes to discovering new tunes from his homeland, so it actually made no sense to stop where the fun had started. Below, enjoy a fantastic selection of audio and photography merged together, this time (visually) curated by Dorje De Burgh. (ed.)  

Seasons have morphed since the last Landscape Strain, and so has the sonic terrain along with the faces and spirits behind it. Thankfully the standard has remained a constant. This piece is co-curated by my good friend Dorje De Burgh, who supplies his exquisite photography to compliment the work of the ten selected artists. We consulted each over the duration of five weeks to pick what we believed outlined what is going on from the Irish point of view, but that being said, there was much we reluctantly excluded. They will more than likely surface in their own right, their own time, in their own way; however is it is a real privilege for us to bring these people to your attention, as obliging and responsive as they are.

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Ships

With strains from classic disco and Fleetwood Mac comes Ships, a Dublin-based duo comprised of Simon Cullen and Sorca McGrath. It is not often one comes across such luscious vocals and supreme production values, boasting a formidable live reputation together with Cian from I Am The Cosmos on bass duties. I cannot get over the sequencing in this second half of this cut.

I was immediately drawn to Ickis Mirolo on account of its quality, but also how it somehow echoes from Vincent Gallo. The sparseness in the mix allows you to imprint your own experiences and images, something a lot of producers could capitalize to a more personal level too, in a way. One thing I frequently look for when it comes to art is alluding an event that has happened or is just about to. A veil being lifted to reveal a set of characters.

Yet another prodigy from Dublin, this time from a folk background: it's inevitable to fall for Tara Masterson's sultry charm if you have a soft spot for shoegaze and daydreaming. I am really looking forward to see how everything transpires for her in the coming months and years, especially considering her particularly broad and refined taste for such an early age.



Heralded by the likes of Aphex Twin and Autechre, my teenage friend Lakker creates beautiful techno at of the finest quality, producing sterling work for many years and are undoubtedly on the brink of a much deserved breakthrough.



David Kitt and Diamond Dagger have joined forces, together forming another exciting Dublin project under the name New Jackson. I had the distinct pleasure of watching their performance at Electric Picnic this year, which featured a stream of conscious vocals from David on a vintage Russian vocoder. A brand new EP will be released on John Talabot's label Hivern Discs in the near future, so keep your eyes peeled on this space.

Simon Bird is a unique composer who is impossible to pigeon hole, as his sound fluctuates from hip-hop to electronica or industrial. He possesses a palpable sensitivity of which is clear in the track provided, also receiveing a great deal of acclaim for his live performances. "Cinema" is unquestionably an influence on his style and aestethic.



A friend introduced me to Lumigraph this summer and I have been an avid follower ever since, as his particular rub makes me visualize a motorized music box in the distant future. It is going to be interesting to witness where he goes next and what else he reaches out to in terms of sonics: you can truly tell he has researched his craft at length.



It has been a really rewarding watching Monto develop over the past year or so, displaying an acute ear for percussion that definitely dates back to his training in jazz music. "Homage" is my personal favourite to date. 



Highly distinctive in both persona and output, Katie Kim is considered by many as an unsung hero and a supreme performer. Her narcotic lullaby tones, ghosted photography and experimental influences (of which she posts on a regular basis), frequently gives us the sense that she's is hinting at something that was cherished and lost in her wordings.



From my point of view, Sunken Foal might just be one of the most inspiring producers in the country, here showing off his extensive remix chops on Goodtime's wonderful "Like A River". You may want to investigate his Friday Syndrome Vol. 1, that was released earlier this year via Countersunk. It is a superlative sci-fi oddity from beginning to close.

To be continued.

Words by: John Kowalski 
Photography: Dorje De Burgh

Zoe Polanski: Thoughts from Tel Aviv

26 Nov 2012 — Henning Lahmann

Last week, once again it turned out that the people on the eastern shores of the Mediterranean Sea simply don’t focus on falafel enough, instead leaving the field to the IDF and the Al-Qassam Brigades in order to do the job that simply won’t be done this way. For now, further escalation has been stopped, with another ceasefire in place that might or might not serve as the foundation for something more sustaibable. So far however, there surely is no reason whatsoever to become overly optimistic in this regard. I will abstain from doing you the favour to put this whole mess into context or even suggest a causal nexus, as all too many people have done so already; that’s business as usual. Looking at the public opinion in Europe in particular, what has always been most striking in view of Israel and Palestine is the odd correlation between ignorance and assertiveness: The less you actually know about the conflict, it appears, the stronger your opinion will be, and the louder you’ll be heard. Sadly, thanks to ineradicable resentment and preoccupation, ignorance is by and large prevalent, which in a better world should lead to the opposite conclusion: if we don’t know, who the fuck are we to judge?

Above all, having an opinion is certainly easier when you don't live in the war zone, or close enough to be an actual target during fighting. Last week, the people of Tel Aviv, one of the most vibrant and culturally rich cities on this planet, received a few reminders that they do, after the first successful bomb attack in years and after Hamas had proven that the city now lies well within the reach of their rockets. In view of that and the media cacophony that we all have been and continue to be confronted with, it's a relief to have someone offering words that are distinctly different from the clichéd opinions that we've read over and over again. Tel Aviv-based artist Zoe Polanski, who has been part of the city's underground music scene for years and who nowadays performs under her solo moniker Bela Tar, has agreed to share some personal impressions on the situation at home during these last days, and what it feels like to be an Israeli artist. Read her thoughts below.

(Photo of Zoe Polanski by Jennifer Abessira)

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I live in a suburb north east of Tel Aviv. My house is located on a hill across from the Samaria mountain ridge. Some days I can see the mountains crisp and clear from my driveway, other days they are wrapped with heavy fog. They always intrigue me and as time goes by I feel a growing curiosity and attachment to them. Needless to say that I can never actually go there because it is considered to be unsafe. I am sure that the counter position, that of people who reside in Arab towns and villages on the mountains, is very much like my own. We all see a great wide open and yet we are constrained and restricted within it.

I believe that the community of artists and musicians in Tel Aviv may be experiencing an effect that resembles this illusion of space. To us, it usually feels like we are a part of a global happening in terms of culture because Tel Aviv is extremely cosmopolitan in nature, and it is packed with young, up to date individuals who constantly open communication channels with the world. But Tel Aviv is just one small city inside a Middle Eastern country and we are so adjusted to living inside this box that really seems to give us all we need, intellectually speaking, that we often forget --and choose to forget-- where we are. The missiles are just a reminder. But regarding art, I personally don't feel it changes anything. We mastered escapism before and we still do. Pain influences us all the time, because this place is constantly tough, but the enemy is a bogus one. It changes form all the time, usually thanks to a manipulative media force which is flooded with commercial content. I think that struggles to survive are always being made, not only by two different sides but by countless different sides. The politicians with their supposedly aerial perspective are trying to bring order into chaos with different master plans, that aim to change micro through macro. My personal way to deal with the chaos is to focus on the micro and let little things naturally grow and spread. The way I write is the same, no master plans.

Regarding the Palestinians, I guess that I always thought that in order to come together and mix with other people, different from ourselves, we need to form together some product of love such as art, music or well... babies. So giving up a separatist approach is probably a good idea. I love venues and artist communities in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem (Uganda, The Zimmer) that are completely liberal and really open themselves to a variety of performers and audiences.

In short, we may feel solidarity but our life is not changed. Me and everyone I know, we just keep doing what we do under the familiar limitations and misconceptions, and we feel elevated.

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After spending her early years in Haifa, Zoe Polanski moved to Tel Aviv where she started playing in numerous bands and projects before starting her solo venture Bela Tar, making guitar-centered dream pop heavily influenced by classic, late-80s shoegaze. Her debut recording Pulsar was released in 2010 via Uganda and is still available via bandcamp. Below, you may listen to Zoe's latest single "Black Mark", which was released about a month ago, and watch the accompanying video, directed by Valentina Dell'Aquila.

 

Guest Post: Landscape Strain with John from Solar Bears.

25 Jun 2012 — Tonje Thilesen

A few weeks ago, John Kowalski of the irish electronic duo Solar Bears asked us: when are someone going to write an article about all these irish sounds that have been popping up lately? As an almost natural reaction, we decided to give John the challenge to peak into the chaotic growth of irish sounds himself, and shortly after he also sent us an astounding catalogue of his experimental Holga photos, photos that have never seen the light of day anywhere on the internet before. Below you can get a brief insight into what's been buzzing on the green island lately, presented alongside glimpses of Ireland through the eyes of John himself. - The editors As of late, a nucleus of musicians and beat makers have changed the international perception of what Irish music is, with club tracks getting just as much critical acclaim as traditional instrumentation these days. Since starting a band, I have become far more informed about the music scene around here, as recessions bring creativity as well as hardship. Of the current pool, genres, normality and expectations are being rendered void, and as a result of that anticipation and expectation is rising all the time caused by the sheer quality on offer. There are countless young producers coming through on a monthly basis, inspired by and spurred on by each other, and it is humbling to witness and to be involved in this exciting evolution. I would like to take this opportunity to shine a light on what is going on here at the moment, even though I could do numerous versions of this article and still not cover a fraction of this ever-growing, sonic terrain of Ireland. Frank B has already been producing for a couple of years, but only recently returned with a new sound and new moniker - and this particular cut has been garnishing acclaim in many quarters. Without missing its novel elements, the influence of 80's Chicago House is highly evident in his music. "Chain of Fools" introduce us to a beautifully simplistic melody, building up the rhythm with sharp percussion and textural nuisances. Cutting up a distinct vocal is always a risky task, but Frank B pulls it off with ease, obviously having a large collection of records from that very era. This one was released earlier this month. Next up is an exclusive number from Lemonada. With an exemplary production, the 21-year-old Dublin resident has received much acclaim for his beat tapes, employing a new kind of cut-and-paste juke style. Chopping clips in this fashion is frequently associated with the likes of J DIlla and Daft Punk, but Lemonada has undoubtably added a personal touch to his glitchy beats. It takes a lot of skill to make compositions in these veins, taking a leaf out of footwork's morphing blueprint. As I've only recently discovered Clu (the Dublin-based, audio-visual duo comprised of Sean Cooley and Kevin Freeney), this slightly older track particularly caught my interest when browsing through their respective Soundcloud collection. The spliced vocal is both psychedelic and sun-kissed at the same time, giving a perfect example to Sean's arrangement skills and use of light and shade. Clu will be gigging in NYC this summer, so be sure to catch them there. Moving along to the other side of the spectrum, we meet the acoustic instrumentalist Cian Nugent from Dublin, that I originally came across at Elastic Witch, an independent record store in Dublin. It is not often you hear a guitarist as accomplished as Robin Williamson of ISB fame, such as his ability of finger picking on display. The supreme lack of contrived elements makes it all the more gratifying, too. With deep roots in disco and house music, I Am The Cosmos is another duo from Dublin. The streets of places like Saigon or Singapore seem strangely familiar when browsing their tunes — designing a sound that has an almost eastern tinge to it. Their recordings radiate colour and charm; harkening back to the greats like New Order or Depeche Mode. Check out the mid-section of "Take What You Want" for proof of their guile — one of the finest live shows I have been lucky enough to witness. Other than the music that has been released online up to date, little is known about Dublin's Faws. The atmospherics are pivotal to each track, creating a sparseness that embeds out a sense of isolation. Compared to most modern music, Faws work around a very cinematic sound — like post industrial landscapes under a veil of rain. Having just released their debut album, Forrests is (yet another) two-piece from Dublin, featuring past members from the previous band Channel One. "Billions" is reminiscent of a hybrid somewhere between M83 and Fuck Buttons, leaning on a krautrock-motorik groove. An understated approach is really appealing to me as most mixing and mastering engineers try to make everything as loud as possible. Sometimes subtlety and suggestion can be lost, but here it is at the fore. Rejjie Snow aka Lecs Luther is a prodigy of an immense talent with an exceptional flow. One of the hallmarks of a true artist is reaching out to other creators with a blank canvas, having no ego. In recent interviews he's done, it's apparent he wants to be an individual and be seen as such, even though comparisons have been made with the likes of Odd Future. I also appreciate how he approaches video directors and beatsmiths to elevate what he does. One of the success stories in Irish music over the last while has indubitably been Jack Colleran aka Mmoths, originally hailing from Newbridge but based in Dublin at the moment. People try to explain why things have gone the way they have for Jack, but then again some things should rather be felt instead of articulated and analyzed. Showing off a sheer sensitivity through his photography, his music tends to get a very 'human' touch, something that shines through both in his visual and aural works. This recent rework he did of Vacationer's "Trip" has a bit more of a pop slant than usual.  Signing off with Krystal Klear, this superb producer creates stunning tones and grooves in each number, having trained at RBMA in his earlier days. You can easily hear how his huge amounts of knowledge in funk, boogie and soul has been channeled through his music, having had parallels made with artists like Hudson Mohawke. This dude has his own thing going on, however. There are rumours of big collaborations in the future, so make sure to watch this space.Ten tracks barely do justice to the constant stream of beautiful music from our island, but despite the economic climate, things look brighter all the time. There is a tax on anything worthwhile in life just as there is an advantage to any hardship. I imagine in the time it took me to compile this list another young producer has uploaded a song on soundcloud that safely warranted inclusion. Trends come and go, but in the end it is the quality that echoes. --- Edit: Tonje Photos and words: John Kowalski

Read more →

A few weeks ago, John Kowalski of the irish electronic duo Solar Bears asked us: when are someone going to write an article about all these irish sounds that have been popping up lately? As an almost natural reaction, we decided to give John the challenge to peak into the chaotic growth of irish sounds himself, and shortly after he also sent us an astounding catalogue of his experimental Holga photos, photos that have never seen the light of day anywhere on the internet before. Below you can get a brief insight into what's been buzzing on the green island lately, presented alongside glimpses of Ireland through the eyes of John himself. - The editors As of late, a nucleus of musicians and beat makers have changed the international perception of what Irish music is, with club tracks getting just as much critical acclaim as traditional instrumentation these days. Since starting a band, I have become far more informed about the music scene around here, as recessions bring creativity as well as hardship. Of the current pool, genres, normality and expectations are being rendered void, and as a result of that anticipation and expectation is rising all the time caused by the sheer quality on offer. There are countless young producers coming through on a monthly basis, inspired by and spurred on by each other, and it is humbling to witness and to be involved in this exciting evolution. I would like to take this opportunity to shine a light on what is going on here at the moment, even though I could do numerous versions of this article and still not cover a fraction of this ever-growing, sonic terrain of Ireland. Frank B has already been producing for a couple of years, but only recently returned with a new sound and new moniker - and this particular cut has been garnishing acclaim in many quarters. Without missing its novel elements, the influence of 80's Chicago House is highly evident in his music. "Chain of Fools" introduce us to a beautifully simplistic melody, building up the rhythm with sharp percussion and textural nuisances. Cutting up a distinct vocal is always a risky task, but Frank B pulls it off with ease, obviously having a large collection of records from that very era. This one was released earlier this month. Next up is an exclusive number from Lemonada. With an exemplary production, the 21-year-old Dublin resident has received much acclaim for his beat tapes, employing a new kind of cut-and-paste juke style. Chopping clips in this fashion is frequently associated with the likes of J DIlla and Daft Punk, but Lemonada has undoubtably added a personal touch to his glitchy beats. It takes a lot of skill to make compositions in these veins, taking a leaf out of footwork's morphing blueprint. As I've only recently discovered Clu (the Dublin-based, audio-visual duo comprised of Sean Cooley and Kevin Freeney), this slightly older track particularly caught my interest when browsing through their respective Soundcloud collection. The spliced vocal is both psychedelic and sun-kissed at the same time, giving a perfect example to Sean's arrangement skills and use of light and shade. Clu will be gigging in NYC this summer, so be sure to catch them there. Moving along to the other side of the spectrum, we meet the acoustic instrumentalist Cian Nugent from Dublin, that I originally came across at Elastic Witch, an independent record store in Dublin. It is not often you hear a guitarist as accomplished as Robin Williamson of ISB fame, such as his ability of finger picking on display. The supreme lack of contrived elements makes it all the more gratifying, too. With deep roots in disco and house music, I Am The Cosmos is another duo from Dublin. The streets of places like Saigon or Singapore seem strangely familiar when browsing their tunes — designing a sound that has an almost eastern tinge to it. Their recordings radiate colour and charm; harkening back to the greats like New Order or Depeche Mode. Check out the mid-section of "Take What You Want" for proof of their guile — one of the finest live shows I have been lucky enough to witness. Other than the music that has been released online up to date, little is known about Dublin's Faws. The atmospherics are pivotal to each track, creating a sparseness that embeds out a sense of isolation. Compared to most modern music, Faws work around a very cinematic sound — like post industrial landscapes under a veil of rain. Having just released their debut album, Forrests is (yet another) two-piece from Dublin, featuring past members from the previous band Channel One. "Billions" is reminiscent of a hybrid somewhere between M83 and Fuck Buttons, leaning on a krautrock-motorik groove. An understated approach is really appealing to me as most mixing and mastering engineers try to make everything as loud as possible. Sometimes subtlety and suggestion can be lost, but here it is at the fore. Rejjie Snow aka Lecs Luther is a prodigy of an immense talent with an exceptional flow. One of the hallmarks of a true artist is reaching out to other creators with a blank canvas, having no ego. In recent interviews he's done, it's apparent he wants to be an individual and be seen as such, even though comparisons have been made with the likes of Odd Future. I also appreciate how he approaches video directors and beatsmiths to elevate what he does. One of the success stories in Irish music over the last while has indubitably been Jack Colleran aka Mmoths, originally hailing from Newbridge but based in Dublin at the moment. People try to explain why things have gone the way they have for Jack, but then again some things should rather be felt instead of articulated and analyzed. Showing off a sheer sensitivity through his photography, his music tends to get a very 'human' touch, something that shines through both in his visual and aural works. This recent rework he did of Vacationer's "Trip" has a bit more of a pop slant than usual.  Signing off with Krystal Klear, this superb producer creates stunning tones and grooves in each number, having trained at RBMA in his earlier days. You can easily hear how his huge amounts of knowledge in funk, boogie and soul has been channeled through his music, having had parallels made with artists like Hudson Mohawke. This dude has his own thing going on, however. There are rumours of big collaborations in the future, so make sure to watch this space.Ten tracks barely do justice to the constant stream of beautiful music from our island, but despite the economic climate, things look brighter all the time. There is a tax on anything worthwhile in life just as there is an advantage to any hardship. I imagine in the time it took me to compile this list another young producer has uploaded a song on soundcloud that safely warranted inclusion. Trends come and go, but in the end it is the quality that echoes. --- Edit: Tonje Photos and words: John Kowalski

Guest Post: Meet Pakistan’s DIY Generation.

16 Feb 2012 — NFOP

In the world according to the majority of Western media, Pakistan might well the scariest place on Earth, the real-life Mordor so to speak, a menace to all so-called free societies, and after all, the archetypical rogue state. Whenever Pakistan is mentioned in the news, the topics you almost unconsciously expect are those related to terrorism, drone operations, or nuclear weapons. Sure, there are reasons for that which can hardly be denied, yet during the last few years, a level of imbalance has been reached with the result that every story coming from Pakistan that does not deal with these things comes across as a surprise. Yet even "over there", young people are breathing, eating, sleeping, and in between, making music. Then again, dialectically speaking, to emphasize the fact that someone who's just submitted a musical work of his has done so while actually living in Islamabad is of course in itself reinforcing the bias: We wouldn't feel the urge to explicitly stress the fact if we considered it a normal occurrence. Despite our best intentions, Western media obviously got us here. That being said, after featuring a little piece about the music of Islamabad local Asfandyar Khan roughly a month ago, we were introduced to a (very) small, but indeed interesting DIY scene that is starting to take shape in Pakistan, highly influenced by the development in the electronic, experimental and ambient scene in Europe and North America of the last couple of years. Asfandyar kindly agreed to give us some further insight into contemporary Pakistani pop music, which you may enjoy both aurally and visually below. The editors Words: Asfandyar Khan 2008 was a tumultuous year for Pakistan (and the world in general, as the recession finally kicked in). After nine years of military rule the country held its first general elections, which were swiftly followed by the resignation of Pervez Musharraf, architect of the coup d’état that plunged Pakistan into martial law. The country’s armed forces too, embarked on a sustained counter-terrorism campaign. It was also the year of Mooshy Moo. The brainchild of a few young ‘uns from Karachi (Pakistan’s biggest city; a sprawling metropolis home to 18 million people, it is at the centre of the country’s industry and culture) it is the closest Pakistan has to an indie label, despite having only two artists on its roster, Dalt Wisney and Mole.

Though it would undeniably make for a great feel-good story, or be perfect for a NYT soft piece, music in Pakistan is in fact quite rampant, rather than banned - whether it’s imported Bollywood dance numbers, or local pop fare. The country’s general political travails end up supplying the country’s musicians with a fair bit of material as well, though for Pakistan’s indie musicians, that’s surprisingly not the case. Unlike the rest of their musician brethren, Pakistan’s indie outfits deal more with stories that aren’t (overtly) political – or at the very least aren’t home to brazen, yet simple moralizing. Though politics do affect musicians in the country (security issues are the primary reason why live shows have become a rarity), indie music in Pakistan exists in spite of politics, rather than because of. The greatest precursor to the rise of indie in Pakistan isn’t politics but something far more humdrum: technology.

While bedroom artists represent an established phenomenon in the rest of the world, for a lot of Pakistani musicians that idea was incongruous. Primarily, that was because most of Pakistan’s musical history has been resigned to manufactured pop or standard 4-piece rock, both of which require studios for production and recording. To quote Ahmer Naqvi, “The role that technology has to play here is two-fold. On one hand it is providing previously expensive production equipment, inaccessible samples and loops right into the hands of anyone with a computer and an ability to download torrents. On the other hand, the prevalence of technology is also important on a creative level. Bands and artists might not have gigs to play, but they can check out each other’s music online and build up an audience there as well, they can learn from each other, and explore ideas others have spawned.” With technology then, and the internet to bounce ideas off of like-minded musicians, or to actually be able to listen to Slowdive’s discography, music for many Pakistani’s tip-toed beyond the confines of local pop-rock fare. It led as well to greater appreciation for experimentation, for music that flirted with the edges of what many of us had come to hear on the radio and the television in Pakistan. A lot of it had to do with the trajectory of indie as a whole — more people heard Modest Mouse because more people wrote about them. Indie music’s development in Pakistan is linked inextricably to indie music’s rise in the rest of the world (thanks OC, Gossip Girl, One Tree Hill!). Many of these musicians are very young as well, born either in the late 80-s or the early 90-s. Consequently, even though Pakistani music has always been strong, many of these musicians would’ve grown up inspired less by popular mainstays such as Junoon and Noori than by the Arcade Fire or Neutral Milk Hotel. The internet, again, is a common denominator here. Dalt Wisney - Under The Radar

But back to 2008 and the Mooshy Moo boys, Dalt Wisney and Mole. Though now dormant, Dalt Wisney’s Lifetime Psychedelic Dance Lessons EP charted through the murky depths of generic pop and alt rock in Pakistan, giving every wide-eyed listener a glimpse of music only heard before on Aphex Twin videos played by MTV. I personally remember listening to Dalt Wisney and thinking, ‘sounds a bit like Four Tet’, oblivious to the machinations that made it possible for a Pakistani kid to make music of that nature. Nodding to DJ Shadow with his use of samples over trip-hop driven beats, Dalt Wisney employs interesting and complex melodic structures over multiple layers, creating a sound that’s as manic as it is understated. Mole followed up with We’re Always Home, borrowing inspiration from a myriad of genres (post-punk, 8-bit, IDM, indie rock). Though it’d invariably be easy to lose one’s collective self when inspiration comes from so many corners, Mole do a fantastic job of making music that’s never overwhelming or hard to follow because it’s disjointed. "Brother", though, shows Mole at their strongest and most focused. With emphatic drums and swirling synths, buoyant vocal lines and a trenchant atmosphere, Brother has Mole recalling the best of Grizzly Bear and Animal Collective. Mole - Brother

Karachi, it seems, is singularly hell-bent on making sure there’s enough local indie to satiate everyone’s tastes. //orangenoise plough through warehouses with their own brand of shoegaze mayhem; guitars drown in fuzz and reverb while the vocals seem to be in a constant state of glorious flux. "I Know Everything", from the band’s Veracious EP, is a nearly-seven-minute long primer on this lot, as well as an exquisite treatise on shoegaze. But that’s not entirely where //orangenoise’s story ends – band members Talha Asim Wynne and Daniel Arthur Panjwaneey have solo electronic projects too, Toll Crane and Alien Panda Jury (respectively). //orangenoise - Trust Marrying electronic music with bass guitar driven post rock, Basheer and the Pied Pipers are another fantastic outfit from Karachi whose efforts are surprisingly organic and a worthwhile testament to the talents of this two-man act. At times B&PP sound like Leeds band Vessels, with delirious cymbals and ostinato driven bass lines breaking though the electronic haze. With both band members originally from the sleepy capital of Pakistan, Islamabad, one can hear a curious dichotomy in B&PP’s songs, as the sanguine nature of the instrumental work contrasts against the wandering austerity elicited by the band’s more ambient travels. "Margalla Winds" is a mammoth of a track, showcasing every trick the band has up their leave – a simple, exquisite bassline forms the base, allowing for a multitude of electronic flourishes, only to eventually give way to the song’s actual arrival where  the drums are lashed left, right and centre. Basheer and the Pied Pipers - Margalla Winds

6LA8 and Air Liner round up the Karachi noiseniks – both acts might be labelled post-rock for accessibility, but that would negate the various permutations their music goes through. 6LA8 are frighteningly prolific as well, churning out nearly an album a quarter (though Air Liner is no slouch either – seven releases since 2009 ensure that spectacularly). Stereotypes of Tomorrow is probably an apt realization of previous 6LA8 albums and the band’s general efforts – as it veers towards ambient and drone, electronic and post-rock, 6LA8 seem quietly confident about the sound they’ve arrived at. Guitars encircle synths and bleeps, while every now and then we see a brilliantly executed, ear-shattering crescendo. Air Liner’s Short III also capably puts on display Taha Badar’s brilliant sense of melody. Though the album moulds modern classical pieces in the vein of Olafur Arnalds, it’s the progressions and effervescence of Air Liner’s stuff that is so joyful to listen to. 6LA8 - Eroded Signals Air Liner - Short III Poor Rich Boy (and the Toothless Winos), from Lahore, are one of Pakistan’s more conventionally indie outfits, though that does considerable disservice to their quality. From a single singer-songwriter, they’ve developed into a folk outfit in the vein of Great Lake Swimmers, while simultaneously nodding to Scott Walker, Tom Waits and Bill Callahan. "Alice", from the band’s upcoming album, finds them comfortably in their element. Umer Khan’s vocals sway over plaintive, fingerpicked guitar, while brushed cymbals meet up with a slide guitar, ensuring that the music is never excessively subordinate to the vocals. Poor Rich Boy (and The Toothless Winos) - Alice

Karachi Detour Rampage

Yet for Pakistan’s indie musicians, the biggest problem is perhaps the lack of opportunities to play live. Often, these musicians will play a show every six months, while the possibility of a nationwide tour remains highly unfeasible. This, in turn, quashes any hopes of an indie label turning up. However, there is some hope – Karachi Detour Rampage, a collective of electronic musicians in Karachi have been trying to regularly put on shows in their city, leading to an aesthete built on collaboration and collective representation. Smax and Dynoman are two brilliant musicians who are part of KDR. Venues too are slowly popping up in Pakistan’s major cities, looking to facilitate local indie and electronic musicians who would’ve previously been stuck just playing house parties. Smax - Follow the Feeder Dynoman - A Lullaby The lack of opportunities to play live isn’t the only thing keeping indie in Pakistan on the fringes – paradoxically enough. As with genres that are new to a country, indie too is still fighting with preconceptions and misconceptions about it, leading to a stunted listening populace. As indie starts to enter the mainstream consciousness in the rest of the world, there’s a greater chance that more listeners in Pakistan will emerge too, creating a vacuum that hopefully is filled with labels, and bands able to tour. But for now, bands like //orangenoise, Basheer and the Pied Pipers, 6LA8 and Mole are finding greater success internationally, with concentrated radio play, reviews and general appreciation. It is, in many cases, easier for indie musicians in Pakistan to send their releases to blogs and sites like No Fear of Pop, than to try and appeal to local listeners – for fear of remaining stagnant, if nothing else. In doing so however, they face criticism – some claim derivativeness while others argue that a severe lack of local influences tempers the music, rendering it servile rather than novel. Despite these constraints, despite the lack of gigs, labels and listeners, indie music in Pakistan is on an upward trajectory. There are more musicians collaborating with each other, providing a constant stream of content for anyone interested. In turn, this leads to not only music of a greater quality, but also of significantly experimental value – more and more musicians are trying different things rather than sticking to old formulas, egged on by each other. It’s slowly and effectively turning into one of those ostensibly annoying by-words; a ‘scene.’ And a quite legitimate one, at that. Asfandyar Khan - Trails

Read more →

In the world according to the majority of Western media, Pakistan might well the scariest place on Earth, the real-life Mordor so to speak, a menace to all so-called free societies, and after all, the archetypical rogue state. Whenever Pakistan is mentioned in the news, the topics you almost unconsciously expect are those related to terrorism, drone operations, or nuclear weapons. Sure, there are reasons for that which can hardly be denied, yet during the last few years, a level of imbalance has been reached with the result that every story coming from Pakistan that does not deal with these things comes across as a surprise. Yet even "over there", young people are breathing, eating, sleeping, and in between, making music. Then again, dialectically speaking, to emphasize the fact that someone who's just submitted a musical work of his has done so while actually living in Islamabad is of course in itself reinforcing the bias: We wouldn't feel the urge to explicitly stress the fact if we considered it a normal occurrence. Despite our best intentions, Western media obviously got us here. That being said, after featuring a little piece about the music of Islamabad local Asfandyar Khan roughly a month ago, we were introduced to a (very) small, but indeed interesting DIY scene that is starting to take shape in Pakistan, highly influenced by the development in the electronic, experimental and ambient scene in Europe and North America of the last couple of years. Asfandyar kindly agreed to give us some further insight into contemporary Pakistani pop music, which you may enjoy both aurally and visually below. The editors Words: Asfandyar Khan 2008 was a tumultuous year for Pakistan (and the world in general, as the recession finally kicked in). After nine years of military rule the country held its first general elections, which were swiftly followed by the resignation of Pervez Musharraf, architect of the coup d’état that plunged Pakistan into martial law. The country’s armed forces too, embarked on a sustained counter-terrorism campaign. It was also the year of Mooshy Moo. The brainchild of a few young ‘uns from Karachi (Pakistan’s biggest city; a sprawling metropolis home to 18 million people, it is at the centre of the country’s industry and culture) it is the closest Pakistan has to an indie label, despite having only two artists on its roster, Dalt Wisney and Mole.

Though it would undeniably make for a great feel-good story, or be perfect for a NYT soft piece, music in Pakistan is in fact quite rampant, rather than banned - whether it’s imported Bollywood dance numbers, or local pop fare. The country’s general political travails end up supplying the country’s musicians with a fair bit of material as well, though for Pakistan’s indie musicians, that’s surprisingly not the case. Unlike the rest of their musician brethren, Pakistan’s indie outfits deal more with stories that aren’t (overtly) political – or at the very least aren’t home to brazen, yet simple moralizing. Though politics do affect musicians in the country (security issues are the primary reason why live shows have become a rarity), indie music in Pakistan exists in spite of politics, rather than because of. The greatest precursor to the rise of indie in Pakistan isn’t politics but something far more humdrum: technology.

While bedroom artists represent an established phenomenon in the rest of the world, for a lot of Pakistani musicians that idea was incongruous. Primarily, that was because most of Pakistan’s musical history has been resigned to manufactured pop or standard 4-piece rock, both of which require studios for production and recording. To quote Ahmer Naqvi, “The role that technology has to play here is two-fold. On one hand it is providing previously expensive production equipment, inaccessible samples and loops right into the hands of anyone with a computer and an ability to download torrents. On the other hand, the prevalence of technology is also important on a creative level. Bands and artists might not have gigs to play, but they can check out each other’s music online and build up an audience there as well, they can learn from each other, and explore ideas others have spawned.” With technology then, and the internet to bounce ideas off of like-minded musicians, or to actually be able to listen to Slowdive’s discography, music for many Pakistani’s tip-toed beyond the confines of local pop-rock fare. It led as well to greater appreciation for experimentation, for music that flirted with the edges of what many of us had come to hear on the radio and the television in Pakistan. A lot of it had to do with the trajectory of indie as a whole — more people heard Modest Mouse because more people wrote about them. Indie music’s development in Pakistan is linked inextricably to indie music’s rise in the rest of the world (thanks OC, Gossip Girl, One Tree Hill!). Many of these musicians are very young as well, born either in the late 80-s or the early 90-s. Consequently, even though Pakistani music has always been strong, many of these musicians would’ve grown up inspired less by popular mainstays such as Junoon and Noori than by the Arcade Fire or Neutral Milk Hotel. The internet, again, is a common denominator here. Dalt Wisney - Under The Radar

But back to 2008 and the Mooshy Moo boys, Dalt Wisney and Mole. Though now dormant, Dalt Wisney’s Lifetime Psychedelic Dance Lessons EP charted through the murky depths of generic pop and alt rock in Pakistan, giving every wide-eyed listener a glimpse of music only heard before on Aphex Twin videos played by MTV. I personally remember listening to Dalt Wisney and thinking, ‘sounds a bit like Four Tet’, oblivious to the machinations that made it possible for a Pakistani kid to make music of that nature. Nodding to DJ Shadow with his use of samples over trip-hop driven beats, Dalt Wisney employs interesting and complex melodic structures over multiple layers, creating a sound that’s as manic as it is understated. Mole followed up with We’re Always Home, borrowing inspiration from a myriad of genres (post-punk, 8-bit, IDM, indie rock). Though it’d invariably be easy to lose one’s collective self when inspiration comes from so many corners, Mole do a fantastic job of making music that’s never overwhelming or hard to follow because it’s disjointed. "Brother", though, shows Mole at their strongest and most focused. With emphatic drums and swirling synths, buoyant vocal lines and a trenchant atmosphere, Brother has Mole recalling the best of Grizzly Bear and Animal Collective. Mole - Brother

Karachi, it seems, is singularly hell-bent on making sure there’s enough local indie to satiate everyone’s tastes. //orangenoise plough through warehouses with their own brand of shoegaze mayhem; guitars drown in fuzz and reverb while the vocals seem to be in a constant state of glorious flux. "I Know Everything", from the band’s Veracious EP, is a nearly-seven-minute long primer on this lot, as well as an exquisite treatise on shoegaze. But that’s not entirely where //orangenoise’s story ends – band members Talha Asim Wynne and Daniel Arthur Panjwaneey have solo electronic projects too, Toll Crane and Alien Panda Jury (respectively). //orangenoise - Trust Marrying electronic music with bass guitar driven post rock, Basheer and the Pied Pipers are another fantastic outfit from Karachi whose efforts are surprisingly organic and a worthwhile testament to the talents of this two-man act. At times B&PP sound like Leeds band Vessels, with delirious cymbals and ostinato driven bass lines breaking though the electronic haze. With both band members originally from the sleepy capital of Pakistan, Islamabad, one can hear a curious dichotomy in B&PP’s songs, as the sanguine nature of the instrumental work contrasts against the wandering austerity elicited by the band’s more ambient travels. "Margalla Winds" is a mammoth of a track, showcasing every trick the band has up their leave – a simple, exquisite bassline forms the base, allowing for a multitude of electronic flourishes, only to eventually give way to the song’s actual arrival where  the drums are lashed left, right and centre. Basheer and the Pied Pipers - Margalla Winds

6LA8 and Air Liner round up the Karachi noiseniks – both acts might be labelled post-rock for accessibility, but that would negate the various permutations their music goes through. 6LA8 are frighteningly prolific as well, churning out nearly an album a quarter (though Air Liner is no slouch either – seven releases since 2009 ensure that spectacularly). Stereotypes of Tomorrow is probably an apt realization of previous 6LA8 albums and the band’s general efforts – as it veers towards ambient and drone, electronic and post-rock, 6LA8 seem quietly confident about the sound they’ve arrived at. Guitars encircle synths and bleeps, while every now and then we see a brilliantly executed, ear-shattering crescendo. Air Liner’s Short III also capably puts on display Taha Badar’s brilliant sense of melody. Though the album moulds modern classical pieces in the vein of Olafur Arnalds, it’s the progressions and effervescence of Air Liner’s stuff that is so joyful to listen to. 6LA8 - Eroded Signals Air Liner - Short III Poor Rich Boy (and the Toothless Winos), from Lahore, are one of Pakistan’s more conventionally indie outfits, though that does considerable disservice to their quality. From a single singer-songwriter, they’ve developed into a folk outfit in the vein of Great Lake Swimmers, while simultaneously nodding to Scott Walker, Tom Waits and Bill Callahan. "Alice", from the band’s upcoming album, finds them comfortably in their element. Umer Khan’s vocals sway over plaintive, fingerpicked guitar, while brushed cymbals meet up with a slide guitar, ensuring that the music is never excessively subordinate to the vocals. Poor Rich Boy (and The Toothless Winos) - Alice

Karachi Detour Rampage

Yet for Pakistan’s indie musicians, the biggest problem is perhaps the lack of opportunities to play live. Often, these musicians will play a show every six months, while the possibility of a nationwide tour remains highly unfeasible. This, in turn, quashes any hopes of an indie label turning up. However, there is some hope – Karachi Detour Rampage, a collective of electronic musicians in Karachi have been trying to regularly put on shows in their city, leading to an aesthete built on collaboration and collective representation. Smax and Dynoman are two brilliant musicians who are part of KDR. Venues too are slowly popping up in Pakistan’s major cities, looking to facilitate local indie and electronic musicians who would’ve previously been stuck just playing house parties. Smax - Follow the Feeder Dynoman - A Lullaby The lack of opportunities to play live isn’t the only thing keeping indie in Pakistan on the fringes – paradoxically enough. As with genres that are new to a country, indie too is still fighting with preconceptions and misconceptions about it, leading to a stunted listening populace. As indie starts to enter the mainstream consciousness in the rest of the world, there’s a greater chance that more listeners in Pakistan will emerge too, creating a vacuum that hopefully is filled with labels, and bands able to tour. But for now, bands like //orangenoise, Basheer and the Pied Pipers, 6LA8 and Mole are finding greater success internationally, with concentrated radio play, reviews and general appreciation. It is, in many cases, easier for indie musicians in Pakistan to send their releases to blogs and sites like No Fear of Pop, than to try and appeal to local listeners – for fear of remaining stagnant, if nothing else. In doing so however, they face criticism – some claim derivativeness while others argue that a severe lack of local influences tempers the music, rendering it servile rather than novel. Despite these constraints, despite the lack of gigs, labels and listeners, indie music in Pakistan is on an upward trajectory. There are more musicians collaborating with each other, providing a constant stream of content for anyone interested. In turn, this leads to not only music of a greater quality, but also of significantly experimental value – more and more musicians are trying different things rather than sticking to old formulas, egged on by each other. It’s slowly and effectively turning into one of those ostensibly annoying by-words; a ‘scene.’ And a quite legitimate one, at that. Asfandyar Khan - Trails