Tribute

There is no off position on the genius glitch: loving a disappearing Dave

In 2016, I watched a lot of Letterman on YouTube. It kept me sane. It rooted and reminded me that the more things change, the more they stay the same. (Dave’s 20-year-old jokes about Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton could have been pasted from today’s headlines.) And thanks to two prolific uploaders—Daniel Poitras and Zschim—there is a wealth of shows to view from across the NBC and CBS years.

Embedded within these episodes, I began to notice interesting glitches: some were due to videotape malfunctions, others from some sort of encoding incompatibility. Still more were an indistinguishable combination of the two. I began collecting these as screen shots.

Quickly, I started to love cataloguing these images. Some were easier to grab than others: many sprawled out in time in beautiful deforming patterns, while others lasted for only a single frame. Each one seems to communicate something at once deeply intimate and far removed. Some are pure data. All of them are goofy.

In her essay entitled Loving A Disappearing Image, the author and professor Laura U. Marks writes: “Faded films, decaying videotapes, projected videos that flaunt their tenuous connection to the reality they index, all appeal to a look of love and loss.”

Writing on dupe aesthetics, the film scholar Lucas Hilderbrand says that each successive iteration of bootlegged media is “an illicit object, a forbidden pleasure watched and shared and loved to exhaustion.”

I suppose it was this forbidden pleasure—staring at the intersection of formats, of materiality and ephemerality, at history through the screen of the present—that compelled me to assemble these images.

I hope you enjoy them.

 

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Play Recent

The Soundtrack of Our Lives

My Alarm Clock, Pile Drivers

The pile drivers this week had fallen mercifully silent. That is, until this morning at 7:41am. There has been so much construction noise in the neighbourhood at all hours that I can scarcely tell what time of day or night it is anymore. By all accounts, this is merely the iceberg’s tip: more than twice the amount of roadwork seen in 2016 will take place before 2021, reports La Presse. The auditory effect—and proprioceptive affect (earplugs don’t work because you can feel the destabilizing concussive force) is almost identical to MK-Ultra psychological warfare research the CIA conducted clandestinely at McGill University in the 1950s—inducing sleep and sensory deprivation through indiscriminate noise—to break psychiatric patients down to a blank emotional slate. It’s all been meticulously documented in Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine, which our Sud-Ouest borough uses like an operator’s manual. To put a twist on O. Henry’s famous adage about New York City: Montréal was a great town, until they started rebuilding it.

 

Emptyset – Borders – Thrill Jockey

Speaking of pile drivers, Paul Purgas and James “Ginz” Ginzburg—the duo known collectively as Emptyset—are due to release Borders, their fifth studio recording, via Thrill Jockey in early 2017. Some reviewer somewhere sometime once said, and I’m paraphrasing here, that Emptyset’s signature infrasonic industrial drub reflected the sonic landscape of Bristol’s mid-naughties construction boom. Well, it’s not just Bristol now; it’s the whole world. Having the privilege of previewing this album at high sound pressure level over the past two days has provided reprieve from the jackhammers and pile drivers and beeping vehicles. They counteract each other.

 

Jóhann Jóhannsson with the American Contemporary Music Ensemble – Cinquième salle – 10/20/2016

Black-and-white video projections of fur-bearing creatures rotate on a screen behind the darkly lit stage. With a sense of ceremony befitting a Viking funeral, Jóhann Jóhannsson periodically arises from his piano stool and meticulously rewinds reels of ¼ inch tape, upon which are recorded processed loops of female voices counting out encoded alphanumeric transmissions in French, Spanish, German. A chamber configuration of the American Contemporary Music Ensemble fills in the gaps between Jóhannsson’s protracted compositions by elongating single notes from their stringed instruments, concealing the transitions that otherwise sewed the evening’s musical offerings together. “Seamless” would be one word to accurately yet inadequately describe the performance. Another might be “perfect.”

Orphée, Jóhannsson’s first recording for revered Classical music label Deutsche Grammophon, is a strong contender for my album of the year. I almost choked coughing up $42 Canadian dollars for the LP at “Cheap Thrills”—a misnomer if ever there was one. Still, if you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up.

 

The Public Psychedelic Reel

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It’s often said and seldom heard: cultivate your mistakes; they become your style. Two separate but connected events this week prompted me to collect and repost—in effect, to retweet—my published writing. The first was this excellent essay by Elizabeth Newton. In it, she urges: “To retweet oneself is to say, ‘I gave it some thought, and I meant what I said.’ Retweeting expresses a conviction that is the essence of reference, whatever its form: In case you missed it, here it is again.”

The second came when Dan Lopatin tweeted his personal approval of my “Play Recent” blurb about his latest video for “Animals.” It is apparently the first piece of my writing that 0PN’s legion fans have liked. The duty of criticism is not to please artists or audiences, but of course it’s nice when it does. I’d almost quit writing after the responses to my 2015 Garden Of Delete Quietus review—trolling comments that have since been… deleted. (S/he who lols last lols longest.) Revisit that review, as well as all the work that I’ve contributed to the public record over the past five or six odd years. Thank you for the support.

(Hack: to access the stuff hidden behind paywalls, copy/paste the links at sci-hub.cc)

 

Factmag’s Halloween Hip-Hop Mix

This is fun: Fact Magazine’s US editor John Twells has compiled a mix of Hip-Hop tracks that sample from Horror movie soundtracks—ideal seasonal listening. Personal fav: Busta Rhymes’ “Gimme Some More,” which deftly deploys Bernard Hermann’s Psycho Suite as counterpoint to Busta’s expeditious lyrical delivery. I saw Mr. Rhymes perform this track live at the Billboard Music Awards in Las Vegas in 1999. Impossibly, he rapped faster than the beat.

God damn, there ain’t no more. Is there?

 

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‘I get some of you all the time, All of you some of the time’

Lost Highway – OST Reissue – Music on Vinyl

“I like to remember things my own way,” says Fred Madison, the main character in David Lynch’s 1997 film Lost Highway, as he’s interrogated about his aversion to video cameras by two stereotypical police detectives. “What do you mean by that?” one of the cops presses. “How I remembered them,” Madison deadpans. “Not necessarily the way they happened.” These austere lines of dialogue convey a deeper truth: that an imperfect and highly subjective mode of remembering—what once was merely considered “memory”—is quickly disappearing. With commemorative cycles, archival releases, anniversaries, reissues, documentaries, hidden and expanded histories and the like, we are increasingly instructed on who, what, when, where, why and how to remember; forgetting in the process that memory itself is a muscle; forgetting in the process just how we might have remembered in the first place. These revisionist histories are like surveillance videos, offering the illusion of objective omniscience, all the while directing our attention through an ever-narrower window.

 

“Animals” – Oneohtrix Point Never – Dir. Rick Alverson – Warp

I get the sense that this video was completely conceived and executed by algorithms. It’s like how House of Cards was made because Netflix noticed from their metrics that viewers favoured both political dramas and Kevin Spacey. In some Brazil-like office, a report was generated: It revealed that 0PN fans also searched for Val Kilmer (86%); tabloid sensationalism (64%); red Nike tracksuits (73%); strobing visual effects (77%); non-sequiters (94%); steady-cam (81%); and beige (100%).

 

“Strong Proud Stupid And Superior” – Grebenstein – Downwards

Service.

 

Twin Peaks Season 3 – Dir. David Lynch – Showcase

After viewing the most recent teaser for the upcoming season of Twin Peaks, scheduled to air in 2017 on the Showtime network, and believing that there were no budgetary or creative compromises, I am genuinely excited. This is beginning to look less like a reboot and more like a band—like Pink Floyd or Godspeed—reuniting while they still have something great left in them.

 

Responses to “999 Words” on RBMA and underground scenes

There are three things I now understand about the nuts and bolts of Red Bull’s relationship with Mutek—and with other non-profits like it. 1: Red Bull requires a liquor license to sell the Vodka part of the Vod-Bomb, so they need to partner up with an entity that has one—preferably a festival that can arrange licenses for a wide range of events and venues. 2: Mutek is co-opted into deploying their social networks to promote RBMA events: Mutek RTs Red Bull’s Twitter posts, not the other way around. 3: Red Bull gives money to the festival in exchange for subtle brand infiltration: i.e. ubiquitous logos displayed onstage during Mutek musical performances. In this way, a gigantic corporation is able to infiltrate a non-profit organization that was largely funded by the public: governments; granting agencies; fans like you and me. It’s the privatization of public resources routine at work, the logic of neoliberalism.

The question then becomes: do corporations do it better? And the answer is still a resounding no. Why? Here are two good reasons.

The first disturbing trend about Red Bull Music Academy’s infiltration of the musical underground is the sidestepping and in some cases re-writing of its histories. Rather than acknowledge existing journalism and scholarship on artists, scenes and cities, they order up their own. Again, Red Bull has deep pockets and pays handsomely. So this attracts enough authorities—say, Will Straw writing on Montreal’s disco scene—to lend an air of unified legitimacy, reinforcing the “academy” part of RBMA. Instead of sharing an article or interview from The Wire or The Quietus, or local papers like Voir or Cult MTL, they will poach someone to write a standalone piece, thus keeping the centre of cultural knowledge contained within their own branded ecosystem.

But the biggest reason is this: Once scenes enter into a monetary relationship with corporations, the scene must adhere to corporate logic, not the other way around. Music and its criticism becomes content for corporate benefit; the corporation is surely not in operation to assist local music communities. If musical output or even the entire scene starts to wane, rather than nurture or cultivate it (as a devoted public might do), the corporate benefactor will simply move on and find another site of production that they can latch their logo onto. Growth becomes imperative. It’s capitalism.

Since penning my “999 Words” column, I have been inundated with responses, both positive and negative. I have been called a “hater.” (Not true. I deeply love this music, this city and its scenes.) Other people have asked me what solutions exist. One that I can think of, and it’s not far off, is to make being skeptical of Red Bull so popular that they are forced to commission works that are overtly critical of their own brand. Hey RBMA, this gun’s for hire.

 

“Killing A Little Time” – David Bowie – Lazarus – Columbia Records

Heavy, confessional insight and drum-and-bassy riffage from what we now know were the Thin White Duke’s last days. Echoes of Reeves Gabrels, Mike Garson and Charles Mingus fuse particularly well on this recording, the third of Bowie’s final three musical offerings.

A friend of mine once said to me, in a time of dire need: there are two ways of looking at the world: 1: we’re all fucked 😦 Or 2: we’re all fucked 🙂 A truism if ever there was one. We’re all just singing our handful of songs here, killing a little time.

 

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Don’t Grab My Pussy

Robert De Niro on Donald Trump

There are few greater cinematic pleasures than a legitimate Robert De Niro sound-off. Frankly, I’d forgotten how cathartic and downright gratifying it is to hear him righteously direct the word “mutt” at a deserving target (i.e. regarding the newly-dead Billy Batts in Goodfellas: “Fucking mutt dented my shoes!”) Thump’s Emilie Friedlander prefers “Bozo”, but it’s pedantry. Heavier than any satire, the anti-Trump video that briefly appeared everywhere online this week is a gut-felt, timely and necessary distillation of De Niro’s finest, angriest moments on film. The only difference: Trump’s whole crew won’t be looking for him come November 9th.

 

Alicia Keys vs. Edie Brickell

Compare and decide. (Just the first ten seconds of each will suffice)

 

 

Report Spam: Oblivious Histories

I’ve been noticing an unfortunate and deeply problematic trend in music journalism of late: supposedly “secret” or “hidden” histories that sidestep existing and often far more rigorous ones. This is kind of a big deal. It’s not quite plagiarism, but it’s almost plagiarism. It’s definitely lazy, ignorant, insulting. And ultimately, it undermines a more failsafe system of knowledge production—how we know what we think we know. Take for example Lawrence English’s Fact Magazine history of sonic warfare, which doesn’t bother mentioning foundational scholarship by James Kennaway, Suzanne Cusick or Steve Goodman. Or Robert Barry’s article for Red Bull Music Academy on Slow Music, that willfully disregards a substantial body of literature (including research by yours truly—not to be all “read my work”, but read my work!) If you’re smart enough to write, you’re smart enough to cite. Only Stanley Cavell should get a pass for a book that ignores entire disciplines. Because he’s 90. And because Harvard. Editors: please: if you sense a contributor is overlooking something important, nobody will fault you for suggesting further digging. You don’t need a PhD to Google.

Post script: looking for something original, smart and sincere on war, sound and affect? Read this.

 

Amazon Music (Un)limited

Amazon this week introduced its own proprietary streaming service, Amazon Music Unlimited, a “full-catalogue disrupter”, whatever that means. Another country heard from. Destined to go the way of the Zune ecosystem. It starts life devalued, in the bargain bin. What I don’t understand about capitalism is why companies can’t just be good at the thing they’re good at. Why does everyone have to be a weak constellation instead of a bright star?

Are we treading toward a world in which all music is walled-in, a gated community, confined to specific streaming services, devices and formats? Imagine Miles Davis releasing a record that could only be played back in a Chrysler DeSoto.

 

Paramusical Ensemble

Meanwhile, there are those out there using digital technology to cultivate more—not less—compatibility. Praise them.

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The Cranes Are Flying

 

“III” Fousek / Hansen / Tellier-Craig – No Sound Without A Misunderstanding – Spring Break Tapes

A mention of Fousek / Hansen / Tellier-Craig is long overdue. Like “a trio of sentient refrigerators,” says the Quietus.

 

CF-18 Flyby – Montreal Alouettes vs. Toronto Argonauts, 10/02/2016

A peaceful Sunday morning was broken by the sound of CF-18s after-burning overhead. I found out this was for a football game. Jock contempt.

 

Meeting the Factmag Crew

“This is the best electronic music I’ve heard all week,” I said to @in_sh_a@chalravens@MilesBowe and @johnxela, who were jamming on various synths at Moog Audio in Montréal on Monday. They thought I was joking. For the most part, it was just random bleeps and beats. But every now and then, it broke into something conceivably 7.4-worthy on the fork.

Every single instrument in the Moog showroom is connected through the main speakers. I can’t imagine working there.

 

“Revolution 9”- The Beatles – The Beatles – Apple Corps

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This isn’t Revolutions 1 through 8. This is Revolution 9. This is the one that worked!

 

“Cranes in the Sky” – Solange – A Seat at the Table – Saint / Columbia Records

The “it” in “Cranes in the Sky”, which goes unnamed is, I believe, that everyone’s problem is your problem, and we are all in this together.

 

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999 Words

Red Bull Music Academy Blues

As I write this, at least a dozen cranes are presiding over Southwest Montréal’s up-and-coming condo boom. It’s a story that Williamsburg Brooklynites, or Mission District San Franciscans, or Gastown Vancouverites, or Londoners of Hackney will find only too familiar: once a light-industrial and staunchly working-class community, the area known locally as Griffintown is undergoing a massive “revitalization”; read: sweeping gentrification.

Culturally speaking, gentrification typically wipes out whatever creative community might have previously thrived there. But Griffintown is different: here, cultural events have been woven right into a cunning redevelopment narrative. Rebranded as part of the city’s “Quartier de l’Innovation”—a hub for the creative class—Griffintown in particular has been sold as the city’s newest hipster neighborhood, an alternative to the Plateau and Mile-End’s cultural hegemony: an “urban oasis”.

Look for example to last Friday’s Red Bull Music Academy Drone Activity In Progress. This event series began in 2013 at the Knockdown Center in Queens, and is franchised out to reconditioning communities around the globe. Staged in a disused warehouse that ironically now serves as a sales office for the chic SE7T condo project, the Griffintown edition boasted most of Montréal’s fiercest noisemakers including Drainolith, Kara-Lis Coverdale and headliner Tim Hecker.

Still, hold no illusions that Red Bull cares about this district. They don’t care that the cost of a single-family home in the Southwest borough rose by 18% over the past twelve months—the highest increase seen anywhere across the city; they don’t care that a nearby 18th century archeological site was recently demolished with no consultation or oversight; or that an historic housing co-op was irrevocably damaged and razed without warning, its longtime residents losing all of their earthly belongings; or that industrial noise from around-the-clock work is disturbing sleep; or that dust and debris deteriorate air quality; or that frequent water main breaks make drinking water unsafe; or that, despite this localized influx of capital, the entire city is suffering from what the CBC, in an on-the-nose nomenclatural gesture calls “extreme neglect”.

Red Bull doesn’t care about this music scene either, or especially about music in general. Red Bull’s sole purpose is to sell Red Bull—wherever, to whomever, however—in as much quantity as possible. Kanye loves Kanye like Red Bull loves Red Bull. In 2015, according to data-gathering website Statista.com, the company raked in nearly one US dollar per person on the planet, making it by far the world’s most profitable energy drink, and among the more ubiquitous global brands. How? Since the 1990s, Red Bull’s advertising tactic has been to get involved in absolutely anything and everything. Slowly, we bought it.

The former New York Times “Consumed” columnist Rob Walker coined a useful term for this strategy: “Murketing”, or murky + marketing: blurring the borders between what we consider to be traditional advertising and authentic daily life. Defined by Walker, murketing is increasingly confusing the things we buy with our fundamental identities: simply, who we think we are is ever-more based upon our marketplace choices. Lifestyle branding is nothing new. What is new, though, is how apparently every possible lifestyle now seems to sport a Red Bull sponsorship: from windsurfing to space jumps to art spaces—and musically speaking, from Mumford and Sons to last Friday’s drone show.

Yet, Tim Hecker’s audience is a far cry from Mumford and Sons’: it’s not particularly popular culture. For Red Bull, ostensibly, there is no pile too high, and no hole too deep. What does it say when even our most underground artists and effervescent scenes are not beyond the reach of a behemoth branding machine? The question becomes: Is the scene fundamentally different because of corporate sponsorship? And after the fog clears, the answer is a resounding yes.

Previously, this kind of thing might have taken place in a DIY loft or other venerable venue, with little advertising beyond perhaps a Facebook event page (or a flyer before that) and word-of-mouth—precisely the sort of murky strategies Red Bull has appropriated. It would be organized locally and cost relatively little money—another façade that RBMA worked hard to construct. But people would arrive on bikes and on foot, not in Ubers. There would be no valet parking, no hastily installed ATM machine, no guest-list exclusivity and no omnipresent trademark imagery, as there was at the RBMA event.

Superficially, the fifteen-dollar entry fee for thirteen acts in a sprawling abandoned warehouse seems like a steal, until you realize who really ends up paying. Friday night’s show didn’t take place in an established locale. It was a pop-up event. This is an alarming and dangerous trend representing the Airbnb-ification of festivals, with no cultivated relationship to a permanent venue or staff, and no ongoing responsibility to the community. If a scene is defined by a group of people engaged in collective activity around a common interest, what we are left with, then, is a group of people collectively engaged in replicating a scene for commercial benefit—a scene-simulating scene.

This particular scene has been nurtured in Montréal since 2000 most visibly by the Mutek festival; a non-profit organization principally supported by the municipal, provincial and federal governments, and dedicated fans. Then Red Bull waltzes into town and drinks their vod-bomb milkshake. How can Mutek refuse partnering with an overwhelmingly profitable brand, its tendrils embedded in deep pockets? How can local artists say no to playing a stage with nothing else visible save a Red Bull logo? All of this community’s political momentum—chiefly its public, grassroots origin—has been co-opted into an elaborate energy drink sales pitch. We are forced to face the fact that this once-resistant music scene is now indelibly branded, and ultimately inextricable from the urban gentrification process. It’s murketing at work.

The lineup on Friday night was stacked with eight hours worth of performances—an impressive bill by any standard. Just how was an audience expected to stay alert for the entire evening? There’s always that fridge-full of sugar water behind the bar.

(Read Part II of this story here.)

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I Think Therefore I Ambient

On Mute

Everyone hates auto-playing ads. They blast us unexpectedly when we’re most immersed online. Which is why Facebook and other advertisers are attempting to make video ads eye-catching, especially on mute. From avoiding annoying pop-up ads to watching political debates, “in silence” is increasingly our prefered mode for browsing the internet.

Film scholar Tom Gunning, in his essential 1986 article for Wide Angle entitled “The Cinema of Attraction: Early Film, Its Spectator and the Avant-Garde”, defines a useful term for scenery-chewing silent film as “a cinema that displays its visibility, willing to rupture a self-enclosed fictional world for a chance to solicit the attention of the spectator.” Silent cinema at the turn of the 1900s, according to Gunning, was less about telling a story and more about senselessly grasping for audiences’ fleeting attention.

What we are seeing (but not hearing) is a return to this base-level solicitation—a retreat to what Gunning succinctly called “exhibitionist confrontation.”

 

Sonic Sea, (2016) – Dirs. Michelle Dougherty and Daniel Hinerfeld

A few months ago, I stumbled upon this outstanding but profoundly troubling documentary about how industrial and military noise is altering the world’s oceanic soundscapes, and devastating delicate marine ecosystems in the process. This week while on a morning jog, I witnessed a full-grown man screaming at a squabble of seagulls at rest on the Lachine canal’s banks. Our sonic aggression toward the animal kingdom knows no bounds.

 

Alan Turing’s Computer-Generated Music

What is more interesting than the music itself—which is neither the first computer-generated music, nor the most aesthetically pleasing—is the commentary caught on this 1951 recording restored by researchers at the University of Canterbury, New Zealand. After a painfully out-of-tune rendition of Glenn Miller’s Big Band hit, the voice of a woman declares with wit, “The machine is obviously not in the mood”.

 

St. Henri’s Beeping Machines

Along with the rest of the neighbourhood, I can’t sleep much of late for the constant beeping of all-night construction. Enjoy it while it lasts. Remember what happens in Montréal come wintertime:

 

Report Spam: P4K’s 50 Greatest Ambient Albums Listicle

Canons are dangerous. They oversimplify and tend toward various biases. In short, they exclude. And exclusivity is the opposite of inclusivity. Still, revisionist canons run another risk. Once a canon has been established, it becomes an imperative historical document—a broad survey of items and ideas that powerful stakeholders found interesting and important at the time. Ripping into a canon can efface certain traces of discourse, and de-historicize concurrent modes of classification. Even when the impetus is good—finding the lost, remembering the forgotten, championing the damned—revisionism overlooks the very act of overlooking.

Having said that, I’m about to eviscerate Condé Nast’s bullshit Ambient list. “Pitchfork Staff” are re-stocked with benighted, lifestyle-shilling millennial twits who seemingly never benefited from this music’s highest possible spiritual ambition: to ease the exit and eventual re-entry of inter-dimensional astral traveling whilst under strong acid and/or cheap whizz. It’s like a Catholic priest trying to teach Sex-Ed: the man doesn’t even have a zipper on his pants. There are so many astonishing Ambient albums—and not overly obscure ones—that had nary a chance of making this catalog. Here’s a baker’s dozen, in no particular order. Happy travels:

 

Klaus Schulze – Mirage – Brain

Aptly titled The Ultimate Edition, German Ambient pioneer and former Tangerine Dreamer Klaus Schulze released a 50-CD boxed set in 2000—all 50 of which eluded Pitchfork—of his extensive oeuvre spanning a nearly 30-year career. One could go straight from owning nothing by Klaus Schulze to owning everything by Klaus Schulze. Notably, he was also a member of the prolific Dark Side of the Moog project with Pete Namlook (see next entry).

 

Namlook – Namlook – Fax +49-69/450464

The Frankfurt composer Peter Kuhlmann (aka Pete Namlook) was responsible for a number of Ambient classics, collaborating with Bill Laswell and Richie Hawtin among others, and releasing over 450 records through his own Fax +49-69/450464 imprint. His debut solo album, Namlook, is live and entirely improvised. Kuhlmann died of a heart attack on November 8th, 2012. He was 51.

 

Beaumont Hannant – Texturology – GPR

Beaumont Hannant came to my attention via the Artificial Intelligence compilations released on Warp Records in the mid-1990s. The exceptional Texturology was only one of three LPs Hannant released in 1994, before disappearing into obscurity by the early 2000s. His crunchy Industrial remix of “Enjoy”, taken from Björk’s Telegram, is one of that album’s standouts.

 

Autechre – Incunabula – Warp

I’m surprised, what with the pending reissue of Incunabula and two other Autechre classics, that Pitchfork didn’t further ingratiate themselves to Warp by including this with their list.

At 16, I had a proper out-of-body experience while listening to this album. I’d taken mushrooms alone in my bedroom. At one point, I physically disintegrated and felt as though I were flying over a series of shining metallic orbs. I reached what appeared to be the end and flipped around, floating back on the inverse side. I remember thinking, “Is this it? Was that the end of the universe?” When I returned to my bedroom / body, the album was over.

I confided the trip in a headbanger friend, Marc Cross, the next day. Marc was about 40. He wore shoulder-length black hair and a black leather jacket, with a string of long white tassels hanging across the back and down the sleeves. “One of those, eh?” Marc said, bobbing his head knowingly.

 

Neotropic – 15 Levels Of Magnification – Ntone

British musician Riz Maslen began in the mid-1990s performing as Neotropic and Small Fish With Spine, as well as with Future Sound of London (see next entry). Her excellent 1996 album 15 Levels Of Magnification is a meditation on surveillance and privacy in an increasingly watched-over world. Maslen still produces work, albeit of a very different ilk, under the Neotropic moniker.

 

Future Sound of London – Lifeforms – Virgin

Rather than two Oneohtrix Point Never records, Pitchfork might have been wise to include one from Future Sound of London. Across a cycle of remarkable albums including ISDN and Dead Cities, FSOL created their own vernacular of infectious rhythms interspersed with deep-space ambience. Following a few foolish psychedelic missteps, the band released Environment 5a return to form—in 2014.

 

Black Light District – A Thousand Lights In A Darkened Room – Eskaton

In 1996, Coil were stuck between two worlds: the Industrial and Acid House work of their Love’s Secret Domain era, and a more durational strain of glitches and drones that would find outlets through other incarnations like ELpH, Time Machines and Black Light District. A Thousand Lights In A Darkened Room marks a contemplative phase for the band—their “Low” period.

 

Scorn – Zander – KK

Devastating Illbience from former Napalm Death member Mick Harris.

 

Lustmord – The Word As Power – Blackest Ever Black

How much more black could this be? None. None more black.

 

Function / Vatican Shadow – Games Have Rules – Hospital

2014 was the year of Power Ambient, according to the very smart observations of writer Maya Kalev. In that year, 21st century American Techno stalwarts Vatican Shadow (aka Dominick Fernow) and Function (Dave Sumner) released a surprising Power Ambient record that showcased both these artists at their dreamiest. NB: Paul Corley mastered this album (great mastering engineers deserve more credit), which makes it sound immaculate.

 

Daniel Lanois / Rocco Deluca – Goodbye to Language – Anti-

Earlier this month, legendary Québécois record producer and frequent Brian Eno collaborator Daniel Lanois quietly released Goodbye To Language. Who could predict that one of the greatest Ambient records of our current age would be performed solely on pedal steel guitars?

 

Miss Dinky – Melodias Venenosas – Traum Schallplatten

In 2001, Chilean-born New York producer Miss Dinky (Alejandra Iglesias) created this Minimal Techno mistresspiece, which sounds something like a cross between Ambient Works-era Aphex Twin and Dan Wül’s electronic Sid and Nancy score. Melodias Venenosas is also uneasy and deeply creepy at times: i.e. the album’s standout track (which is not on YouTube) entitled “Chinatown Rape.”

 

Spacetime Continuum with Terence McKenna – Alien Dreamtime – Astralwerks

In his lecture about lessons imparted by the “self-transforming machine elves” he encountered after smoking DMT, the late American mystic Terence McKenna said: “The real secret of magic is that the world is made of words. And if you know the words that the world is made of, you can make of it whatever you wish.”

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