Ellis Swan “Dice Rolled”

20 Apr 2015 — Zachary Taube

Chicago-based songwriter Ellis Swan is a musician with a knack for mood. For me, his songs conjure up mythological imagery of the American south, of driving down an endless country road at night, of that mysterious glow that pulsates from beyond those trees, of cigarillos and longing and the devil and sweat. I listen to Swan and imagine Screamin’ Jay Hawkins trying to sing a lullaby to his granddaughter.  Dice Rolled, a song recorded for but ultimately left out of his brooding 2014 I’ll Be Around, is as ghostly as it is laconic, a murmured memory of loss and envy that pulsates to an unchanging beat, that builds into a whisper, that floats down the river and gets snagged on an ancient willow.

I'll Be Around came out last September. Check it out over here.

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Aural Cinema: An Interview with OOFJ

20 Apr 2015 — Andrew Darley

Reading the history of how OOFJ came together, it almost seems as if the realm of film was pushing them together. The classically-trained saxophone player, Jenno Bjørnkjær, was attending a New York conservatory before becoming disillusioned with the structures of jazz standards that he had to follow. He decided to leave the school in his third year and began composing his own instrumental pieces. One evening he saw a production of Twelfth Night, which featured the South African vocalist, Katherine Mills Rymer. The two hit it off and bonded over their shared love of their favourite directors: Bergman, Carax, Kubrick and Roman Polanski. By this time, Jenno was working with electronic music and creating Lars Von Trier’s Melancholia film score. The two not only fell in love and married – they formed a band. Performing as OOFJ (abbreviation of Orchestra of Jenno), they made an album of idiosyncratic electronica, strings and soaring vocals. OOFJ are now about to release their second album, Acute Feast, which pushes their established sound into new territories. Staff writer Andrew Darley chatted with Katherine and Jenno about their determined desire to add something new to the art world and how cinema has both formed and guided their unique bond.

Acute Feast is coming out tomorrow, April 21, via Ring The Alarm (USA)/Fake Diamond Records.

Read the interview after the break.

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How does this album’s energy compare to your debut, Disco To Die To?

Katherine: Looking back now it feels like Disco To Die To, the first album I ever made, was more icy in energy. In an emotional sense, I look back and see some of the grief and the distance I was feeling because my father had just died. I mean it was kind of like you have a numb heart and then you make sounds through ice cubes.

Jenno: Disco To Die To was more a question of feeling around in the dark for the sound, whereas this album's energy is almost like taking the sound we found and opening it up. It sounds like its reverbing around the universe.

Katherine: But also its underwater, both places are similar. And there is a warmth, even if the warmth comes from strange places – it's more nourishing.

Jenno: Hence the name Acute Feast.

So that’s where the album’s title comes from?

Jenno: When I first heard Katherine's suggestion, it sounded like "a cute feast". I'm Danish so this word ‘acute’ was a bit strange to me.

Katherine: At the time, I was revisiting my Peter Greenaway love affair which I developed while I was a lonely teen. The thing is that I was thinking graphically when I thought of the name. I like the idea of ‘terrible pleasures’. Extremities of the best and the worst kind interest me. So I suppose Acute Feast is the sumptuous, the warm, the tasty, the sexual and loving with the flipside of gluttony, the rot, the smell and the disaster of a heavy meal.

Jenno: It’s the extremes of things that are the most interesting, the most destructive.

Were there any plans made about how the band’s sound should progress after Disco To Die To?

Jenno: We never set out with anything definitive musically as to how we should sound on this record. We knew we found a sound together on our debut, so it was more a question of how to progress past ourselves.

Katherine: Without trying to be like other people or try to become a reggae band or something! This time around we made more than 40 songs and the process of throwing stuff away and sitting on songs for a year definitely carved out what we actually ended up pursuing versus what we thought we wanted. As much as we are into classics and a ton of stuff that is influential, we think it’s important to make music that you can hopefully listen to 10 years later and it still sounds fresh.

Jenno: Not to become a reference of a reference.

What was your initial intention for OOFJ to become?

Katherine: I had no clue. I just blindly did things without really thinking about it, besides from giving my opinion to what sounds I liked. I think as we began to be like "Okay we’re in a real project", we just wanted to try make OOFJ a complete world.

Jenno: Before I met Katherine I was making instrumental music under this name so our partnership definitely changed my musical aspirations. We have similar taste but my sound before meeting her was slightly different. Katherine was born with a darkness that I tap into. More and more, we realize our controlling streak. From press images to videos to making music, we like to make everything ourselves. I think we just want to contribute to music and art – by creating something new.

It’s no secret that you're both creative and romantic partners. Making this album, did you feel that you knew much more about how each other worked?

Jenno: We are very, very close. We make our music wherever we are living so there is no break between things. Honestly there is nothing I didn't know about how she works. I think we just established more of a work flow. But making music like we do also gets into the details of things. Minute idiosyncrasies, ways of hearing and such. Since it was Katherine's first time doing all of this she had to work out what she was trying to say as an artist. As did I, but from a vantage point of experience. I think this time around both of us were more prolific.

Katherine: I knew more of the process of making something. I think I had more conviction in myself this time around. But honestly Jenno and I work in a very compatible way. I wish we could say we fight like Fleetwood Mac – that would make for a better novel!

Can writing lyrics be sometimes awkward or difficult, given that you could be referring to each other in the words?

Katherine: I write about life. The heaviness of it, I guess, is where it all comes from. Jenno will suggest changes once we lay stuff down. I like the feel of words more than concrete meaning. Words have different timbres. Jenno and I both feel like there is something very affecting in repetition.

Jenno: We never put out the lyrics Katherine writes and a lot of the time we're not letting it be very clear. But if you actually had to listen and hear what she writes, she is very clear about something secret. She likes this meta data thing which I think is great. You are affected on your own terms in your own life, without knowing why hopefully.

How do you agree or decide when a song or record is done?

Jenno: That's a good question. You can fiddle away on small things forever if you want to. The biggest fear for me is if I hear something we have released that I’m not satisfied with. I never want to have regrets, like maybe I should have changed the mix, or I don't like that synth completely. The list can go on on and on.

Katherine: Jenno is very detailed, so he can deal with the intricacies of things for a long time. Also he has the patience of Job. We listen and keep the record for a long time and see how a song can still be liked by us after that. Even if we are hearing it and rehearsing it like a 1000 times – from the beginning stages to the geeky mastering side.

Cinema and film are clearly important to you. The obvious giveaway is that you met during the making of Lars Von Trier’s Melancholia. Were there any films in particular which inspired the mood of this record?

Jenno: I think the films we watched at that time were very Russian. One film called Come and See was a big thing for me. It’s a horrible nightmarish but beautiful war film from 1985 – full colour horror.

Katherine: When we first met we went to see a film called Krystaliov My Car! which I suppose in some way was very influential. And as always and forever, we were both heavily interested in Polanski. Chinatown I would say threads through everything in Jenno.

Also, reading reviews of your music to date, one of the most common words that comes up is 'cinematic'. Do you hear your music in this way?

Jenno: Yeah, I understand it. If you have symphony music like we do in our music, of course you are going to hear that. But actually what is strange is that only the older films have really special composed scores that have a definite personality – composers like Morricone, Komeda or John Barry. Today a lot of films are sparse atmospheric so the cinema people hear in our music is there, but it's almost like an echo.

Katherine: I hear it in this way but more like you score your own soundtrack. Somebody said the other day that listening to us while driving to Tesco's made it a much more glamorous experience. This is what its about. I think we want to put you in another world, which is like cinema. Maybe we should come up with a new term: Aural Cinema.

Are there any songs on the album that you are particularly fond of or mean something to you?

Jenno: It changes, radically. But as of today. I would say "Cherry". It is really beautiful from the composition work, to Katherine's melody.

Katherine: I think we both have that as a favourite right now, because we are in rehearsal and we are finally working out how this song should work live. I enjoy singing it. It’s delicate with adult themes. Personally for me, its nice to sing on a track that is so refined and sing  the word 'sweat'. Its the meta thing again.

The video for "I Forgive You" pulls on both beautiful and disturbing elements and leaves a lot to the viewer’s imagination. How did its concept come about?

Katherine: Banal things are terrifying but also comforting. As I said earlier, there is something to this life, at least to me, where everyone is shut inside their minds. Language can only do so much.  How we function with all this unsaid stuff and hidden dark thoughts are very interesting but it’s also about how we manage not to lose our minds. I like images that are a bit strange. A lot of the times we work off  the idea of making something normal become expectational in some way like the close-up scene of the man cutting his toenails.

Do you think visuals, both in music and film, can be too explanatory or literal in the time we live?

Katherine: I think the problem in this age is maybe we are all iconizing ourselves. I mean it's weird that everyone is connected to technology. Creating a simulacra of themselves, which if you're in a band involved in this process is something very odd and interesting. I think the problems comes in when people become too perfect in this realm. Everything is a calculation. There is a danger of explaining yourself into the ether.

"Sailor" features a saxophone which Jenno is classically trained in. What was it like playing that instrument, especially in a completely different context?

Jenno: I like playing saxophone in environments that are not strictly jazzy. I prefer making the instrument new. I don't really dig 'shredding' on a saxophone playing the classics like I did for years. Its seems pointless to me. I like the sound of the saxophone – the voice, not the jazz association of it. Even though I love jazz, our live set has a lot of improvisation built in, as a jazz band could have. However, we are doing it with electronic music instead which in some way is our take on what jazz can be nowadays.

You’ve said previously regarding your background in jazz and classical music, that the idea of making an album that doesn’t exist already is what’s most interesting to you. Do you feel you’ve done that with Acute Feast?

Jenno: As egomaniacial as this sounds, I think we have come pretty close. The trick I think is using all the influences we have together – jazz, classical music, modern progressive music, pop music, dance music, bossanova – and swirl them into something that hasn't existed. I think our sound is pretty special, obviously otherwise it would be very depressing right now here for us. Luckily we are in a position to make stuff we like and are not constrained by making things to fit within a specific time or sound that is happening at the moment.

Katherine: At best we hope that Acute Feast sounds like the 'past-future'. We are not into nostalgia and glorifying analogue or digital moods or sounds. We like to jumble it up and almost squeeze it through our filtering system. We make what we think is honest and uncalculated and that comes from us. So I think in that respect we have done that.

Watch: GABI “Falling”

17 Apr 2015 — Ethan Jacobs

The tracks on Sympathy, Gabrielle Herbst’s official debut as GABI, are not songs but full fledged compositions. Herbst’s crystalline vocals are at the epicenter of every piece’s distinct atmosphere – other interwoven echoes and instrumentation ripple outward into oblivion. Every detail is calculated and adds texture, and every track is consuming. The spacious quality in GABI’s music demands to be bolstered by visuals that explain more of the story. In her video for "Falling", her aesthetic proclivities give us a clearer picture of the mastermind behind this music. GABI and a few other beautiful people, who appear to have survived the apocalypse, traverse a blank landscape, intermittently breaking out into interpretive dance. The energy that flows throughout "Falling" encounters chirpy highs and distilled, empty lows, and the dance routines gain fire and crumble away as the song's drama continuously climbs and falls. The last line of the song is 'Love as debris', which echoes three times as the sky lights up pink above GABI and her surviving clan. The various working parts of the track gradually dismantle until all that’s left is the debris of the place GABI created.

Sympathy is out now on Software.

GABI is playing at Berlin's ACUD as part of a Torstraßenfestival Warm-Up on May 20. More infos here.

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Devon Loch “Sleep Scale”

15 Apr 2015 — Nestor Burma

In a dreamy collab project, relative unknown producer Devon Loch somehow ropes pop noirette Ela Orleans and Portland noise artist Best Available Technology into a septet of somnolent, instrumental tranquilizers. On "Slow Wave", BAT lends some 'sonics proper' to the mix, corrupting Devon's dissonant, Bartok-inspired chords with swells of static and ghostly interference. Plodding and otherworldly, this really shuts down your brain and takes you to another place. Or, as one listener observed, it sounds like 'Tony Hart in a haunted submarine'.

Sleep Scale is out on vinyl via Kit Records on April 21, complete with an entire set of seven remixes (Yaaard's rework is particularly lovely).

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Ozy “Distant Present” (exclusive)

13 Apr 2015 — Anaïs Duplan

Thirteen years after his debut release, Tokei, Icelandic producer Ozy has come out with a new 12-track LP titled Distant Present. As a producer, at least upon first listen, Ozy’s vision is straightforward. The record sticks close to its name, conveying nostalgic dreamscapes that seem to hark back to a more remote era. The tracks are a slow-building arrangement of anthemic strings, glitchy bass-lines, and the occasional sensuous vocal sample (sometimes recalling Balam Acab’s 2010 See Birds).

During the album’s less intricate moments, tracks like "Drama Club" and "Dis-en-gaged" provide uncomplicated downtempo listening; however, something interesting happens about two-thirds through Distant Present. Its sleepy rhythms are replaced by stranger and more irregular percussive arrangements as the vocals become less sensuous and more atonal. The relative absence of strings, which facilitated a sort of dream-state, begins to feel quite jarring, in a beautiful way. The tracks become sparse – and the dissipation of background layers reveals a more intriguing landscape. These are the sounds of waking life. A track like "Chrome-drip", for example, demonstrates a simultaneously harsher and brighter reality. The sounds of Space Age radio signals and difficult-to-place percussion samples interact in unexpected configurations.

In essence, Ozy spends the first part of Distant Present constructing a dream-world which he later methodically and gradually destroys. The distant present comes into sharp relief as the songs themselves begin to signal awakening. The waking world turns out to be even more unusual than the land of dream, recalling Twain’s expression: “Truth is stranger than fiction.” Then, in a perhaps self-conscious move, the final track “Atonement” makes an attempt to return to the ethereal peace of former half of Distant Present. Nonetheless, it is clear that something has shifted in the overall sound. If “Atonement” is a peace offering for having disrupted our sleep-state, it is only an incomplete apology. The eery and aggressive (eerily aggressive) glitch of waking life is still present, if subdued. We never dream in quite the same way again.

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Baby Birds Don’t Drink Milk “Bombchu Girl” (exclusive)

13 Apr 2015 — Zachary Taube

After parting ways with a band member and relocating to New York City, Kansas natives Baby Birds Don’t Drink Milk have marked the turning point with the release of their first ever studio-recorded (mini) album, Kill The Fuzz, recorded by Ava Luna’s Carlos and Julian at the Silent Barn. Kill The Fuzz is a departure from BBDDM’s earlier work, and while their lush reverb-soaked incantations that were so present in 2013’s Think Tone still remain, Fuzz appends tight structural punch to the glorious aura. Check out "Bombchu Girl", an aural ode to the eponymous Zelda vixen that combines ethereal harmonies with hypnotic rhythmic drive before descending into gorgeous chaos, streaming below. 

BBDDM’s Kill The Fuzz is out April 21 on Fire Talk Records. Preorder the digital and cassette versions on their bandcamp, and be sure to catch them on their short April tour in support of the release (see dates below), where hopefully you’ll be able to snag a very limited 10” copy of the album – handmade artwork included.

4/18 Cold Spring, NY, Mountain Show
4/21 Brooklyn, NY, Silent Barn (Record Release)
4/22 Philadelphia, PA, Eris Temple Arts
4/23 Athens, OH, Lobster Fest
4/24 Lawrence, KS, Pizzapalooza - The Replay Lounge
4/25 Kansas City, MO, Minibar: Middle of the Map After Party
4/26 Des Moines, IA, The Fremont
4/28 Chicago, IL, Slow Pony

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Moving As One: An Update on Gender Equality in Electronic Music

08 Apr 2015 — Evelyn Malinowski

In geology, a fault line is caused by tension which refuses to move harmoniously with the neighboring sections of crust. Subduction zones and transforms are aspects of these geological breaches that influence where the rock is going and pressure other areas to move in ways against their normal flow. Prior to the rift, all the rock was connected and moving as one. 

Social and cultural interaction operates the same way, really. You have a cluster of likeminded people, some of whom end up on the edge of the group, eventually acting as an overlapper or shifter, torn between two movements, pressured into choosing a side. Influencing all the movement are their respective subduction zones (ulterior motifs) and transform fractures (self-important leadership). A rift, then, must be a result of a disagreement or a series of accusations, actions that intimidate others. It has ripped the plane so wide open that magma is spewing out. A movement led by such subduction and transform eventually focuses on separating from the greater block and appropriates other people's low-self esteem or greenness in order gain backing. They join the ranks because they don't want to be melted. With thus, the deviating or rifting movement begins to browbeat other portions, triggering even more aggression, harsh differentiation, brash collision, and eventually prejudice.

Although differentiated movements produce cataclysms such as landslides, earthquakes, and eruptions, they generate fresh and wholesome land in doing so, all on the same hunk of rock floating through space. Cultural rifts along the enormous, so-enormous-there's-room-for-unbelievable-diversity planetary plane, occur in patterns of assertions which normally divide people, and those rifting patterns begin with stress and strain built up undernearth the surface. What we need are ways to assert without dividing.

The gender imbalance and women in electronic music issue, which I now consciously deem a “topic” (in order to encourage open debate and to avoid offense), has permeated the greater EDM scene, as it has due right. With the effort, pathos, and censure afforded by several journalists and artists, we are now talking about this “topic” more than ever, and it has even shaken the mainstream. For example, Robyn, the relatively mellow and agreeably talented pop singer, has stepped in on the issue and plans to organize a festival where female producers will gain fair exposure and promotion. The young touring collective Discwoman has been getting a lot of attention for their out-of-nowhere leadership and forward thinking business model, where significant percentages of their event profits are donated to places like the Sadie Nash Leadership Project, and local Girls Rock Camp groups. Their vibe seems to be one where, they don't only want to spread the word about sexism, but are proceeding in the creation of an all female or female-identifying scene completely independent of the more central one(s).

Undoubtedly, there is a feeling of movement under our feet; yet, it is proving to be a movement of stress which inspires rifting and fractioning off rather than convergence. Over the last few years, we here at NFOP have been collaborating with artists, journalists, and festivals alike to help promote discussion of this topic. Our interviews with Jessy Lanza and Natasha Kmeto in particular hit home for advocates of equality. After reading Tone Deaf's recent bulletin which offers a clever visual example of gender imbalance within festival booking mentality, I realized, whoa, there absolutely is a present and emergent series of related articles appearing one after another. They evidence the issue - or topic - but latently, some of them are adding stress to the rift in our music culture. Yes, we are talking about it more and more, which was part of the collective fight; however, in doing so, we sometimes resort to language that decries rather than proposes solutions. How can we host dialogue without nourishing dispute? A saunter through some of these recent publications might facilitate a release of the preexisting strain as well as new subterranean rifting, and deliver us to a platform where we can discuss without accusation. 

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Well-reputed Philip Sherburne has received a decent amount of flak in regard to his not long past Pitchfork diatribe against Skrillex. While the overarching concern is overtly more about visual objectification of women rather than inequality when it comes to booking and promotion, Sherburne seems sure of himself in countering the alleged offense that the Skrillex/OWSLA aesthetic has caused him. This is precisely where underlying, rifting stress can be spotted. At once we are hit with aggressive blame that Skrillex is personally doing Sherburne harm because the EDM producer "keeps putting butts in [Sherburne's] Twitter feed." Shortly thereafter, we again come across accusatory, victimizing language which is somewhat upsetting: "[consider], too, the way the viewer is treated to both back and front views of the woman's nether regions: it's like she's been put on a spit and left to rotate for our visual pleasure." A graphic analogy to be sure, Sherburne establishes the viewer as the victim by saying he or she is "treated," i.e. the object, sight of sexualized areas of the female body. If anybody has an issue with these types of "treats," shouldn't he or she look away? Shouldn't a pesky Twitter user simply be unfollowed? These problematic images and attitudes aren't being done to any of us per se, for they certainly are meeting some kind of demand. Nevertheless, it is vital to criticize such pressing matters in healthier, pacifistic ways. 

Indeed, the language throughout Sherburne's piece is pseudo and incriminating, and that only sparks more accusation. Agata Alexander, director of Destructo's very explicit video, was centrally scrutinized by Sherburne. She backfired publicly, haranguing him for “not doing [his] homework," as it originally appeared that Sherburne assumed the video was envisioned by a man. In a slightly more friendly response, Zel McCarthy, Editor-in-Chief of THUMP, jumps into the surge of disapproval by pointing out that Sherburne's article is problematic specifically because of the language implemented. By naming his piece EDM Doesn’t Have a Women Problem, It Has a Straight White Guy Problem, McCarthy subverts Sherburne's assessment entitled EDM Has a Problem with Women, and It's Getting Worse, before wandering off into broader territory. Sherburne's title undeniably reads as if the problem is women, although that is not what he acutally meant. Alas, McCarthy also slips into inaccurate language out of good intention by stating that it "isn't merely the representation of female bodies that is at issue: it's the sheer lack of women in the dance music industry."

It seems that what he means is that there's a sheer lack of representation of women in the industry. There is by no means a lack of women in the industry, whether they be recognized artists or not. More importantly, stating this dubious observation offhandedly turns the blame back onto the women, as if they're (we're) guilty of not producing music, even if the statement is designed to be a helpful attempt at admission of the sad truth. It is similar to Sherburne's attempt to stand up against objectification of women and demonstrate that viewers of OWSLA compilation covers and fliers are innocent bystanders with grotesque images being shoved into their faces: it's not their fault for looking.

Much to his credit, McCarthy takes his listing of the media's gender imbalance discussion into a bigger context of race, orientation, and class, reflecting on how dance music culture started out as a safe place, undividedly diverse. This ties easily into THUMP's coverage of Discwoman's go at discussing sexism on a panel, which lauds the collective for being a most diverse and not-yet-bitter start-up, reminding us of the real root of our music culture: "Considering that all of the panelists identify with non-white cultural backgrounds, the topic of diversity hit particularly close to home."

While things have changed, it's interesting to see efforts that reverse this rift, one that has been reversing a now forty five year old unifying investment. And while Sherburne's presumably empowered critique of EDM aesthetic offended an artist who happens to be a woman, it feeds the gender disparity most especially because of its combative, reactionary tone. Further, in publishing an article written in what can be called politically careless language, feet have certainly been stepped on. Some would argue that such tone has become necessary; but, it's a pattern we'e seen before, and like M.I.A. says, "if we only live once, why do we keep doing the same shit?"

Implementation of things like visual argument is wise and more incontrovertible. We've seen this from Tone Deaf and, quite famously, female:pressure with their statistical 2015 survey of female bookings. It offers pie chart after pie chart of concrete surveying without names (apart from club and placenames), blames, or shames. It neutrally displays the still existent imbalance and tends to leave critics unable to attack back, to counter-rift.

A certain secret Facebook group populated by empowered promoters, producers, and DJs has been steadily informing ideation in regard to collaborative resolution as well as new forms of leadership, promotion, and problem solving. It is an all-equality group, touching on more than just gear and techno. Even more recent than the Sherburne piece was shared in this group, an article by novelist Rebecca Solnit was posted. Solnit narrates her experience with what she avoids calling "mansplaining." Her purpose isn't to define or criticize such a meme; in fact, it plainly offers personal testimony. Still, she touches on how it seems that men "have a problem explaining things." Is part of this problem related to accusatory language? Or is it related to the problem with EDM's "problem with women?" Isn't the problem that there is a "shortage of women" and men talking about it aggressively, as if insulted? Coming across this piece within that sphere helped me contemplate the ways in which Sherburne and McCarthy both are and are not speaking for the Other. I don't necessarily think they are mansplaining; what I am concerned with is their language and unintentional (at least I hope so) aggression, how that feeds rifting. 

The purpose of this essay isn't to quarrel with these welcomed responses to the gender imbalance, nor is it to suggest new models with which we can effectively alter the imbalace (although we all have plenty of plausible ones, several in the works). Rather, I believe that a critique of the hasty and exacerbating language found within these critiques is in line, especially if we really want to make a change and slow the rifting down. The ways we can ask the right, unifying questions and make the right assertions are basically infinite, provided we don't set out to attack. In fact, it is quite easy to address concern on the matter without perpetuating the rift. For example, we can start off by discussing shared interests, like music. That's something we all have in common. Something else we share is a wish to have the matter solved. We are attacking each other, and yet we mutually express that none of us want the issue to exist. Even the oblivious, apolitical, stereotypical misogynistic EDM-heads who, when confronted by something that might spoil the beach party, hear of the issue, they have their own way of saying “I wish this didn't exist.” Meanwhile the campaigning, empowered side of the dichotomy likewise doesn't want it to exist. To this end, sexism and misogyny is archaic, cruel, ignorant, and, by this date and time, inexcusable. Some other individuals, who want to take a more radical stance, state things like, “I don't hear gender in music,” which quickly shrinks next to the grandiloquent rumor that one might be able to sometimes tell whether the producer of a track was a woman because of structure, because it's maybe somehow softer and more girly, even if it is hard techno. The fact is that the rift is very much so existent, and ignorance of its existence is worse than antagonization of it.

Attentiveness to such a huge thing surely dictates that we look around a bit and recall that we all stand under the same banner, or, more appropriately, on the same hunk of rock. Yes, this is idealistic to say the least, but it does serve the global interest in minimizing our giant rift. How can we transform electronic music's transform fracture so that it becomes fuelled by creative, collaborative resolution, where the divided movements work back towards all-equality, where they move as one?

Let's altogether use our varying skill sets and lithospheric frictions to come up with a way to converge without losing anything other than what needs to be let go of, like hostile locution. Such large-scale seismic activity will certainly cause some tremors, maybe even one big earthquake; still, if it's for a new and all-inclusive platform, it'll probably be worth it because, if we act similarly to the way the earth does, fertile and bright landscapes await us and our different ways of speaking passionately. In order to make this new land, we have to blow up, and maybe all this hostility is just that. But I'm not a geologist. 

 

Psychic Reality “Harness” (exclusive)

07 Apr 2015 — Henning Lahmann

Back in 2011, when the Internet was still young and the blogosphere alive (not kicking though), and words such as "hazy" and prefixes such as "psych-" were employed without shame, Leyna Noel put out an album with then-unsurpassed and massively influential LA-based imprint Not Not Fun. Both the name of her project and the name of the album, Psychic Reality and Vibrant New Age, were children of their time, a time when longish elaborations on the differences and resemblances between hypnagogic pop and chillwave were considered the pinnacle of music journalism. Not that it mattered: Vibrant New Age, timely as it was, would have graced the zeitgeist of any artistic epoch. Dark, eerie, danceable and yes, psychedelic, we became obsessed with "Fruit" and "Expla", songs that for a while would become essential ingredients of all out DJ sets. Having worked with the unforgotten Pocahaunted, put out a split with Amanda Brown's LA Vampires, and generally being part of the scene around Sun Araw and M. Geddes Gengras, Noel was obviously influenced by Southern California's psychedelic underground while at the same time serving as a precursor of the take on contemporary dance tropes that some would start calling – please forgive me – 'hipster house' shortly afterwards, with Brown's 100% SILK label as its creative focal point.

It's been four years but it feels like a decade ago. The musical landscape has shifted and, if anything, has grown increasingly cynical and jaded. Musicians that offer escape by evoking images of sundrenched beaches or summer nights aimlessly spent with friends and blunts still exist, but if they get any attention at all then it usually comes from a decidedly distanced, piercingly ironic standpoint. "Psych" as in psychopath, not psychedelia. It is, in other words, an interesting moment to release the follow-up of Vibrant New Age. Surprisingly, or perhaps not surprisingly at all, Chassis takes up the debut's motifs without getting stuck in creative stasis, instead presenting a careful evolvement of Noel's artistry. The predecessor's defining house beat is absent, but the ethereal cues are as pronounced as ever. This is still "psych-pop": Without a hint of irony, already the first track "Life is Long" sports mild distortion, a shuffling rhythm reminiscent of mid-80s charts pop, and the word "hazy" proudly chanted into the blurry, dreamlike and simple melody. "Harness", premiered below, is this album's "Expla": melancholic and mysterious, the song gently emerges from a carefully woven carpet of expanding synth chords, floating into the warm August night before it fades out with a quiet sigh. Just this once again, for five delicate minutes, no cynicism, no irony. Only bliss.

Chassis will be out via Intercoastal Artists on May 5.

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