Monday, November 28, 2011

Ssg special - Bee Mask


One noticeable trend over the last year or so is that people are becoming more aware of some very creative and inspiring music emerging out of the synth / experimental / drone (tape) scene. Spectrum Spools - a sublabel of Editions Mego - has been central to this process by introducing some of the best of this music to a bigger audience. And one artist it brought to our attention is Bee Mask, who has had two standout releases on the new label: "Canzoni Dal Laboratorio Del Silenzio Cosmico" and "Elegy For Beach Friday". His sounds are expansive, wandering and totally captivating. When listening to the music you are quickly transported away to the weird and wonderful world of Bee Mask. I strongly recommend checking both of these releases, and I am really looking forward to the next one on Spectrum Spools in 2012. The mix that Bee Mask has put together for us creates a similar feel as much of his music - there is plenty going on here, but not in an overly messy way. Ordered confusion. Or perhaps confused order. Something like that. And much like the Motion Sickness of Time Travel mix we had earlier this year, Bee Mask introduces us to a wide range of artists and sounds that many of us might not be aware of. The mix is a captivating trip...

This is what Bee Mask had to say about the mix:

"There are few things I enjoy more than hearing my tracks in other peoples' mixes (a pleasure which mnml ssgs has already afforded me on a couple occasions) perhaps because it offers the furtive thrill of coming as close as one can to knowing how the work sounds to someone else, or at least what sort of sense they make of it and where it sits in their internal taxonomies. Making a mix like this one, then, seems to me to be about pulling back the proverbial curtain and showing off a bit of the infrastructure -- the dream architecture of half-baked theories about how all these tracks fit together and form preposterous, impossible objects in the mind.

Insofar as this mix has a theme, it's that nearly all of the material came my way through trades with other artists and labels, either in person or through the mail. I love having this sort of exchange in my life for a lot of reasons, not least of which is that it makes legible a unique and wonderful set of aesthetic connections that do not necessarily appear in any other way. The records that show up on one's doorstep unannounced or are handed off by old friends at shows and parties form an enormous, intricate, and ongoing potlach -- a parallel universe alongside the universes of, say, fifty cent water damaged electro 12"s from West Philly sidewalk sales, bootleg disco singles purchased on the upper levels of head shops, improbably horrendous demos discovered while auditioning every unlabeled cassette in a thrift store, etc, etc, etc.

It's very common now for people who care about the culture of records to express dismay at the sense of being overwhelmed by unmanageable abundance, and while I sympathize with this sort of frustration, I'd maintain that we've been overwhelmed by an unmanageable abundance of records for almost as long as people have been making them, and that what's changed in the last ten years or so is more that we've been forced to reckon with the underlying fantasy that we might somehow ultimately be able to hear them all. The real challenge is still what it always was: how do we create ways of living with records that allow us to experience that abundance as a source of joy rather than one of grim obligation? This mix, like every other one, is a snapshot of one among an infinite number of possible answers."

Ssg special - Bee Mask



As usual, we will post the tracklist for this later on. For more on Bee Mask, check his hompage and soundcloud. If you are interested, there was a great interview with him recently on Digitalis. And for anyone in or near New York, I would strongly suggest you check out the "No Way Back" night at the Bunker on this Friday 2 December. The front room looks to be one of the biggest and best attempts at bringing these sounds into the context of a techno club night. Bee Mask is playing, along with Outer Space, Container, Keith Fullerton Whitman, Mountains and Ricardo Donoso. This really is an insane lineup. Definitely make sure to check it if you are in NYC. And for the rest of us, enjoy this trip from Bee Mask...

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Sunday Sounds


Pulse Emitter is an artist I've only discovered relatively recently, but I have quickly been getting obsessed. "Meditative music", as this series is called, is a very appropriate description of his sound. He has recently made available these four releases for free download. Each is one, 60 minute, track. Beautiful and hypnotic droning synth music. Perfect for drifting on a Sunday.

Pulse Emitter - Meditative Music 1

Pulse Emitter - Meditative Music 2

Pulse Emitter - Meditative Music 3

Pulse Emitter - Meditative Music 4

If you like these, I strongly recommend checking some of his other releases, especially "Over Clouds" and "Spiritual Vistas". And for more info, check his homepage. Have a good Sunday...

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Oni Ayhun in Tokyo


First of all, a big thanks to everyone who came down to our Sound Garden chill out party last night, and to our special guest, Donato Dozzy. A very nice surprise... This weekend another artist we love is playing in Tokyo: Oni Ayhun. He played a great set in the MNML SSGS room at TodaysArt and I am really happy that I have the chance to see him again, this time in Tokyo. Oni is playing at Future Terror's 10th birthday party, along with DVS1 and DJ Nobu. It is at the Liquid Room, perhaps my favourite club in in Tokyo. So things are set up for a killer party on Saturday night...

Saturday 26 November: Future Terror 10th Anniversary in Tokyo

If you haven't yet come across the sounds of Oni Ayhun, head back and check out his mnml ssgs mx47, a highlight in our series. I think this will be one of the best parties Tokyo will see in 2011, so if you are in town, I'd strongly recommend coming along.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Ripping it up and starting again.


This is dave the silent ssg... breaking his silence. I want to talk about several very encouraging and exciting trends that have been developing both within and outside of the the techno scene. Trends that point towards the development of a new sound which i'm calling, for lack of a better term, "Post Techno" .

I've always felt that there was a strong correlation between techno and punk music. Punk music arrived with a particular sound but also with philosophies and ideologies which were probably even more important than the sound itself (rebellion, anti-authoritarianism, individualism and so on...) Punk music at its peak was dangerous, unpredictable, unique and challenged its audience. The music was able to carry the core messages of the punk music movement which is what drove the scene. However, the music soon became formulaic, institutionalised and predictable. This resulted in the emergence of post punk.

Post punk took the punk music template and took it in new directions. Some of these directions were more subtle refinements of the punk sound (such as The Clash and Wire) while others were more drastic departures (Public Image Limited, Suicide) but the one common theme was a movement away from the core sound in order to either maintain or upgrade the original punk philosophies and ideologies. This transition from punk to post punk is well documented by Simon Reynolds in his book Rip It Up and Start Again and is well worth a read.

Techno, like punk, has ideologies and philosophies as well as a sound. Many people may not agree with me but i feel that the principle drive of techno is the relationship between man and machine as they work together to create new sounds. If i were to simplify techno history you can see the relationship between technology and man in two primary ways: Extracting the human from machines (Detroit) and extracting the machine from humans (Kraftwerk). Yes that's simplifying things quite a lot but you get the idea...

People continued to learn to extract more sounds from machines as well as create new machines (and software) as technology progressed. This kept techno progressing and developing which is why, save for a few lulls along the way, techno remained relevant and interesting for a prolonged period of time compared to other genres. As a core ideology of techno has always been man's relationship with machines and technology, techno would always progress as technology progressed.

This progression came to a halt in the mid 00s. By that time it was the laptop which was the tool of choice for techno producers... However, technology was starting to lose its relationship with people in a creative sense... Software had advanced to such a state where many of the processes that people would need to do in the production process was being performed by the machines themselves. New software had created a wedge between man and machine, thereby resulting in the core techno sound no longer serving its initial ideologies and philosophies. The man/machine was replaced with man/software/machine. I could no longer hear the human expressed through machines or the machine expressed humans... all I could hear was software.

I should point out that I'm not saying the laptop killed techno. A lot of the laptop driven minimal techno that came out initially is my favourite techno sound... Then there's the 90s IDM and early 00s Mego sounds which to this day remain probably my most loved eras of music. I am, however, suggesting that techno had for a long time failed to progress beyond its laptop love affair... which, for me at least, lead to its downfall. I good example of this, I feel, is Richie Hawtin's development. Initially, Richie's use of software was fascinating... He was expressing himself through the software, using technology to develop his sound and express his vision. However, around the time the Transitions mix came out, his sets started to lose any human quality at all. The software consumed Richie and we were left with hearing a relationship between Richie's software and machine, rather than Richie himself. It was a logical progression for him to make, and one i feel he shouldn't be criticized for making. However, a soon as this progression was made, his music was no longer serving the ideologies of techno. It was techno in form, but not in spirit.

So, what is this post techno sound I'm talking about? Like post punk, it's a return to the core ideologies of techno: man/machine music. Much of this music isn't for the club, and a lot of it isn't being produced by people within the techno scene. It's not always loyal to the traditional structures (or bpms) of techno, however, much like was the case in post punk, sometimes traditional sounds need to be either refined or torn up and thrown away to ensure the original core values of the genre are maintained.

As i mentioned before, technology is no longer advancing in a manner that can be used to make interesting music. So what post techno appears to be doing is looking at primitive technology and using that to create different sounds. Yes I'm aware that this has been done plenty of times before... the Chicago and Detroit sounds have been revisited countless times... as has acid techno. Post techno, however, is taking older gear and pushing them in new directions. They're also incorporating methods previously used in other genres (industrial, noise, electroacoustic, krautrock, drone) that haven't been used in techno before. Tellingly, many of the major players from this scene were previously from the aforementioned scenes and have crossed over.

Not only does post techno appear to be ignoring new technology, it almost appears to be flat-out rejecting it. In some cases very primitive gear, previously used well before techno was created, is used. Lo-fi recording methods are employed. Many releases are on cassette only and digital downloads are very rarely offered. This could be seen as rebelling against technology... however, i also see it as a form of asceticism, where luxuries that make producing music easier and more convenient are intentionally avoided in order to increase creativity. As has been discussed before, new software makes producing music easier than it used to be... however, this convenience comes at a price whereby creativity and risk taking are sacrificed as a result. That's probably why these new releases sound so exciting to me... they sound raw and unpredictable... they sound human and they sound like they have been made by machines played by humans. Machines as instruments, not as tools. While many of the releases are highly inappropriate for a club or for DJs in general, they sound like man-made machine music. and to me they sound more loyal to the original ideologies and philosophies of techno than anything else I've heard for several years.

So before i go through some of the releases and artists involved in this scene, it should be mentioned that I'm analysing the releases and scene from a techno perspective. As many of you are probably aware, most of these releases are from people and labels who have been operating in the cassette synth/drone scene for several years now. If you were to ask people from that scene, they'd probably perceive this new sound as just a natural progression within that scene... A progression where people already within the scene have moved from just flirting with techno to a fuller embracing. It could then be said that these techno-flavoured releases are just a temporary infatuation... one that will soon pass. However, i feel that the involvement of techno people suggest more than this. This isn't just simply "outsider techno." Also, it could be argued that the industrial and post punk influences of Sandwell District and Blackest Ever Black were early steps taken from within techno towards this new sound too. So there is more going on here than drone people embracing techno... While the drone/cassette crew have perhaps done more of the heavy lifting thus far, it could be fairly argued that there is a convergence between the drone and techno camps happening here. Also, if this sound catches on i think we'll find the amount of movement within the techno scene to grow rapidly. The Container album and his reportedly amazing live sets (check out youtube and you'll see what i mean) is already making significant waves within techno.

Regardless of what these releases mean (or don't mean) to techno, they're all really bloody good and and interesting. Some of you like new genre tags and movements... it can be interesting to analyse waves of releases and and classify them. However, some of you probably hate it too... and that's fair enough. If you fall into the latter camp, all i ask is to not let my theorising and ranting dissuade you from giving any of the below your attention.

OK so anyways... on to the music!


Container

Container's LP on Spectrum Spools is the most well known release in this list and the first to crossover into mainstream techno. While it's also quite closely aligned to traditional techno sounds, there is also an undeniable rawness which is why it feels very much to be a post techno release. Ren Schofield, the man behind Container, was previously recording under the drone alias "God Willing" and runs the cassette label I Just Live Here which has Container releases dating back to 2009. His label is also doing much to push this new scene forward with its "Fake Sound Routine" compilations containing many new artists producing these new sounds. The highly anticipated 2nd volume of Fake Sound Routine is currently available for sale at his website.

KPLR

These guys already have 9 releases since their debut last year. However, while I personally like all of the material I've heard from them i'd have to say that much of their earlier work is more akin to noise and industrial music than techno. However, of late they have taken a definite turn towards techno sounds and structures... Particularly on their recent EP (and first release on vinyl) "TEK NO MUZIK" and upcoming self-titled debut album.

I should point out that these guys are pretty abrasive, and their own PR releases point out that their music "is not techno music in any sense of the term." They describe their music as mechanised, minimal, repetitive acid. Going by my earlier definitions, I feel that such a description is as "techno" as you can get. KPLR make repetitive, machine music.... they push their gear, themselves and the listener to the limit. In that sense, I actually think they have a lot in common with Pansonic, who would also explore the boundaries of their machines. The one key difference however, was Pansonic were always very precise and disciplined with their compositions. Everything was always in its right place. KPLR, on the other hand, seem happy to push beyond that point where their machines will produce errors or imperfections. In the spirit of post techno, their sound is looser, unpredictable and raw.

The abrasiveness will be a turnoff to many, but what these guys are doing is absolutely brilliant and I'd place them as the best producers of 2011 so far. If you are up for the challenge, they are very much worth your time.

Carl Calm

This is an alias for one of the members of the popular drone group Caboladies and his self-released album "A Party Tide" is one of the best releases of the year. Like the other releases mentioned, this is quite raw and lacks the polish of mainstream. However, Carl Calm's sound does contain some traditional techno synth sounds and structures, making it a relatively easy listen. Despite the lack of a techno background, the limitations of sounds used, and the low-fi recording techniques, A Part Tide sounds confident, bursting with ideas and effortless. It's the kind of release that sounds fresh and inventive but at the same time like an obvious development that could have easily been done earlier. It's releases like this that show the potential benefits of people from outside of the techno scene producing techno. Their fresh, unbiased perspective allows them to see ways of development that those from within can't.

Diamond Catalog

Previously known as Expressway Yo-Yo Dieting, Diamond Catalog's debut LP "Magnified Pallette" is one of the highlights of the year... While this isn't the most unique release soundwise, (it almost sounds like a lost Basic Channel release) the LP's 2 long tracks are constantly mashed up, dissected, then reassembled in a way that is both disorientating and entrancing. It is a divisive release and it won't be for everyone but if you're feeling adventurous then i strongly recommend it. He also has more releases on the way, including a track on Container's label compilation, so it's someone you should keep an eye on.

Mark Lord

This is an alias of the man behind the experimental/noise group (noticing a pattern here?) Kites. His Mark Lord releases are heavily influenced by early industrial music and use primitive electronics and minimalism. You can purchase his latest cassette here:

Of all the artists on this list, Mark would be the one most closely aligned to post punk and industrial music. I'd say his sound owes more to punk and industrial than techno actually. However, techno and industrial has always had a lot of overlap... particularly in the early/mid 80s... which is the particular sound that Mark Lord is pushing. Much like KPLR, his sound feels like techno to me. The man/machine relationship is there and minimalism is employed.

Peter Rehberg

Better known as Pita, co-founder of the Mego label, Peter Rehberg allegedly first coined the phrase "Post Techno" in an interview back in the early 2000s when describing his DACM project. Although he has spent much of his time making drone music with Sunn O)))'s Stephen O'Malley of late, he did put out the Kubu/Zikir EP with snd's Mark Fell which and it's absolutely brilliant. While it's quite abstract, the use of loops and even a drum machine on the track Zikir (my fave track of the year so far), gives it a strong techno influence. Perhaps this release is the beginning of a return to Pita's post-techno sound? Even if it isn't, Peter's contributions to outsider techno can not be overstated.

Patten

Patten's GLAQJO XAACSSO is another great post-techno release. The way it effortlessly pulls together many influences is reminiscent of Carl Calm, only Patten's sound is busier and more glitched out. I've read some comparisons to Actress, which are not without merit but i don't think his sound is directly comparable with anyone else.

Vatican Shadow

Chris has already sung the praises of Prurient's alias and rightly so. While many of Vatican Shadow's influences vary from the rest of the artists on this list, its ties to noise, industrial and post punk is enough to justify a spot on this list.

Kassem Mosse

The reason why Kassem is on this list is not for his releases but for his label Ominira as he is, to my knowledge, the first established techno artist to attempt to crossover into this new scene. As I've already mentioned, much of this sound is coming from those outside of the techno scene. While this has its benefits, involvement by those inside the techno scene is required for this new sound to progress from a new trend to an actual techno movement which has a lasting influence.

Kassam has released a track on Ominira's "The Weekly Contract Events EP" under the alias Kareem Moser. I haven't heard this release myself but i have heard the EP by IMG_6502 which is a brilliant mix of industrial, techno, world music and god knows what else. By all reports, the other releases are just as good.

Jan Jelinek

Released under his Farben alias, "Xango" is another great post techno release. Interestingly, Xango contains the unpredictable, tilted sounds that the other mentioned releases have. However, Xango isn't raw or lacking in detail. As you'd expect, it's quite complicated and obviously the work of a very talented producer. These key differences shows what "techno insiders" can contribute to this new sound.

-------------------

I've discovered the above music in the past 2 months and most of it has come out in the second half of this year. This is all new, fresh and exciting music that deserves your attention. I'll apologise to readers who don't appreciate people tagging new genres to sounds all the time. I'm not doing that to try and be first in to place a label on something... i wouldn't expect anyone to use the tag post techno and nor should they feel the need too... the only reason why I've mentioned the term is in an attempt to take a look at what is currently happening in music and what appears to be on the horizon... I'm aware that I could be taking a snapshot of something and trying to make it out as something it isn't... but maybe... just maybe... we are witnessing the beginning of a new movement in techno. If we are then that's pretty fucking fantastic... and if we aren't then that's fine we can just enjoy the new sounds coming out. Either way, try to track some of this stuff down and give it a shot... it could be the best decision you make all year.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Next chill out party - Monday 21 November


Thanks to everyone who came down to our October edition of Sound Garden, and to our guest DJ, Yusaku. Again it was a really excellent vibe and we were glad to see lots of new faces there. We are happy to see the way the party is slowly building up. Due to scheduling issues, this month's Sound Garden will be on at a special day and time: Monday 21 November, starting at 19:00. While it might be a different day and time, we will make sure the feeling will be just the same. You can expect quality downbeat and ambient to soundtrack an easy evening with your friends.

Sound Garden - November party

Residents: David Dicembre (Combine) / Jelomu (Drone) / Chris (MNML SSGS)
Monday 21 November
19:00 - late
Bar Orbit, Sangenjaya
FREE

Come down after work to have some drinks and relax with us. It'll be another fun night for sure!

Friday, November 11, 2011

lzy chf ssgs prsnts: A Winged Victory for Depleted Music? (Birdy Numb Numb?)



Read this first.

Over the past few years, I've been making an effort to become a better listener. In practice, this has meant taking more time with fewer recordings, being patient with ones I didn't get immediately, and aggressively filtering out hype by actively avoiding review sites and people raving about things released yesterday – or next week (ahem).

Circumstances have also meant that a lot of this listening has been done on my mp3 player, which is a hand-me-down from my friend Dave S that he donated after mine was incinerated in that pesky little bushfire that nearly killed me, back in early 2009. Dave gave me his player mostly because he's a nice guy. Hi Dave. But the headphone jack was slightly busted, which is the main reason why he'd replaced said pod with a smaller, lighter flash drive version. I had my hand-me-down repaired for about sixty bucks, and it serves me well enough to this day.

I can't say I love my mp3 player, really – does anyone? It works, but I don't identify with it or through it, the way some people do with their iPhones (that Siri thing is especially creepy). I can't say I love my mp3s, either. Is it even possible to really love files?

Still, I'd be fucked without mp3, my hand-me-down player, and the internet, music wise. Being a PhD student and living in Australia means that I can't afford to satisfy my appetite for new music with the physical objects, especially vinyl, that I so prefer. I still buy vinyl, but only sure things that I've already had for months on file, in big orders, to cut down on shipping costs. Net effect? I am almost completely dependent on mp3. Quite the full-blown user. I slam that shit right directly into my pod; streaming is for pussies.

Facilitating this habit in an acceptably ethical way means that increasingly I rely on friends of mine sending me sendspace links to their copies, and I do likewise when I've got something new, as well as taking full advantage of soundcloud, and listening to a lot of podcasts. I'm right back where I was in high school: one of us would fork out for the CD, after which we'd fill all reasonable requests for a cassette copy, knowing that our friends would do likewise for us when it was their turn to take the hit on the CD (at a time when 30 bucks was an obscene amount of money). The rest was all radio, which I'd also tape. In quantitative terms, my biggest 90s music spend was on TDK AD cassettes and a series of Walkmen. I listened to my tapes a while back, on a 4 battery 80s Walkman (one of the early 80s models with the double jack) in good nick that I picked up in an op shop; the tapes now sound like shit, but they're easy on the ears. You can listen to their muddy renditions of your faves for hours and hours and hours. They make mp3 sound pretty good.

The combined effects of my efforts at better listening and my mp3 dependency have had interesting effects. I listen to things a lot more. Not just more closely, with undivided attention (which is the ultimate scarce resource in the age of the iCon), but more often. The play count bar, which I activated in iTunes a while back, indicates that I've listened to John Maus' Pitiless Censors... 20 times, Peaking Lights' 936 19 times, and the Menahan Street Band 13 times. This is more than you'd think. In fact, since activating the play count, I also learnt that I've only listened to some albums (I purport to know and understand) three to five times. Which is kinda rubbish, no? The fact that I have a 30 gig mp3 player and prefer 320 or lossless, in tandem with my listening policy, also means that I continually prune the shit out of my collection. If it's NQR, it doesn't last long. But on the other hand, if I've so much of an inkling that a recording has something amazing or exceptional about it (or if a person I trust insists it has), I persist with it. Thus Destroyer's Kaputt stayed on board for months, even though I thought it was a bit naff at first, based on silent ssg DW's rave. Now I fucking love it. As hardwax would say: tip!!! Just had to sit with it for a while, until it clicked into focus with my mood. See? If you're careful about what and how you use what you use, you can learn: not just about the music, but about yourself and the way listening works its way in to you. Give it a go. But then a little something happened...

Anyone who's come within five feet of me this year has heard me gab on about John Maus, Tim Hecker, and Kangding Ray. My wife's father has been on the receiving end of some of these gushes. He's a muso and a boomer and a recorded music aficionado; that rare beast, a man in late middle age who is still actively seeking out, and genuinely open to, new sounds. He's also picky, and will often surprise me by liking things I hadn't expected, and hating things I was sure he'd dig. It turns buying presents challenging, nerve-wracking fun.

I went into a record store - a real, physical record store - to get him the John Maus for his birthday after pump-priming him with a superenthused rant about it, and (seduced by the cover yet again), I also bought him Winged Victory for the Sullen – Christmas sorted. I hadn't bought CDs for years. It felt... weird. I don't dig CDs as objects. Ugly data carriers in cheap plastic cases. Well, the discs themselves were cool when they came out. Frickin' laser beams. So 90s. But, you know, in 2011 in Melbourne, a city where a pint of beer costs ten bucks (USD 10; 6.3 GBP; 7.5 Euro, at least for the next few days) and a burger in a pub costs 19, 25 spaceclams isn't really that much to pay for a CD.

So I pedalled home with the CDs, and cheekily (is it okay to play a gift before you give it?) I fired up Winged Victory, which I've been listening to it very closely on the phones and over the speakers at various volumes for the past few weeks. But on CD? Holy shit balls. Holy fuck. What the fuck was I thinking? Who the hell was I kidding? The CD sounded about 30% better than the mp3. An instant and expensive revelation... I had got so wrapped up in mp3 – by habit, by circumstance, and by active practice – that I straight up jilted myself out of the music. I mean: with mp3, it was all there, all audible, but by comparison it is just manifestly lacking in punch, vitality, body. The CD was just in every way a more visceral, engaging experience. So: if, like me, you are mp3 dependent and think you have heard all your favourite recordings have to give, you are jerking your jack (and not only when you wiggle it 'cos it's crackling).


It made me think of this quote from RA's interview with Ben Frost:

I read this interview today between Nico [Muhly, labelmate on Bedroom Community] and Jonsi [Birgisson, lead singer of Sigur Ros] talking about [Jonsi's new album] Go, where Jonsi was saying he limits what he listens to in the same way he limits his diet to raw vegan food. While I crave red meat and couldn't dream of being a raw food vegan, my approach to music and film and literature is very similar. It's not that I hate music as much as I know I just don't need 99% of it. I don't need to hear every half-baked rehash hipster band Pitchfork is trying to ram down my throat, just like I don't need a fucking quarter pounder meal. But conversely, submitting myself to an hour of like, Darkthrone, is in a way overstepping a naturally occurring inclination to not consume that music and to not submit myself to that sound and that volume. It's more like forcing yourself to go for a run to get rid of the hangover instead of staying in bed. There is a physiological reaction to the experience that translates into this big release of endorphins. It's punishing, and that's the point I think. It's not supposed to be enjoyable in itself, it's a submission. You can't ignore the Norwegians, and I wish more music commanded that kind of commitment.

What's this got to do with the price of dark metal hamburgers in Oslo you ask? Ladies and gentlemen, we live in a depleted age. Depleted fish stocks, depleted tomatoes, depleted uranium: we're loving the convenience, but we're also living the consequences. We are the consuming causes of it all. And all of us have pitchforked the odd 'quarterpounder' when we're in a hurry, no? All of us have partaken in the depleted feast; so all of us have further depleted the feast. The datasea is, weirdly, a hyperabundance of mostly depleted music (just as our real oceans will soon be full of Nomura jellyfish, jumbo squid, and PET bottles, all turning around in the great gyre). What's the problem?

When you eat depleted food, it tastes okay, but it's all in Dr Evil style quotation marks: 'tuna', 'tomato', 'lettuce', 'laser beams'. It tastes 'nice', and makes you 'full', but it lacks... it's not satisfying. And that perpetuates the lack. Which makes you want more. And so you go back, and go back, and keep consuming, and never feel full. Which suits those pimping the depleted stuff just fine. When I visit my mum, she feeds me fresh lettuce from the garden. It tastes deeply green, and deliciously bitter. Winged Victory on CD was just like that: there was more there, there. More space, more dynamism. The silences were more silent, and the strings were stringier. Like mum's lettuce, it was much more satisfying, more nutritious.

So then this week, I went back to the CD shop. I bought Ravedeath, 1972 on CD. I came home, and listened to it, start to finish, at high volume. It was amazing. It was moving. It was also actually quite exhausting. Full on. You had to submit to it, just like Ben Frost's hangover run and Darkthrone marathons. What does this mean for my precious mp3-dependent practice?

Mp3 is incredibly convenient, and, used thoughtfully, mp3 players can offer us all really interesting new ways of moving and listening to music at the same time. They're do-while devices, for using while we commute, work, sit at screens, enter data into the datasea (that's your job, back to work!). Sony invented this paradigm with the Walkman, and with its incredible success, it also proved that most people prefer convenience to quality. Or at least: provided quality is perceived-to-be-sufficient, convenience wins. Most of us will cop a depleted whopper to conveniently address our lack. But are you getting what you need?

So: it's obviously much more important to listen carefully to good music on whatever media you can afford (spending 100,000 on a hi-fi you then play bilge through is most likely a profoundly foolish conclusion to take from what I'm saying). Little speakers, lo fi, a range of setups: they can all offer interesting ways to listen, and they all potentially have value. But don't diddle yourself: our dependency has consequences. Our convenience comes at a cost. Most of us, most of the time? We are listening to depleted music.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Ssg special - Jonsson/Alter live from Sonnenallee


We like Kontra-Musik. Ulf, who runs the label, is a nice guy. He is pretty good behind the decks too, as we found out earlier this year with his excellent ssg special (he also played a great set at TodaysArt). When something comes out on Kontra, you can be pretty sure it'll sound good. High quality techno and house is what Kontra does well. And the latest example of this is a series of releases, culminating in an album, from the duo Jonsson/Alter. This music doesn't rewrite any templates, it is essentially analog deep house. Think Reagenz and you have a pretty decent idea of what it might sound like, and how you might react. And as with Reagenz, it doesn't matter that it has been done before, not when it is done this well. Operating within a deep house framework, Jonsson/Alter execute their vision with great aplomb. The music lures you in: it is warm, seductive, charming, just like good deep house should be. And this is why we love their album "Mod". It is the way we like our house music: warm, grooving and executed right. It makes you smile. It makes you tap your feet. It makes you want to move. And their sound is on display for us this week in a recent live session they've kindly provided for all the ssgs:

Ssg special - Jonsson/Alter live from Sonnenallee

The debut album by Jonsson/Alter "Mod" on Kontra-Musik is available now and comes with a big ssg stamp of approval. We'd also recommend you getting their "Olidan" EP from earlier this year, which features one of your favourite tracks of 2011 - "J├Ątten". And if you happen to be in Berlin on Saturday 19 November, we would strongly advise heading to Panorama Bar to catch Jonsson/Alter playing live. For more info, check the Kontra-Musik website. Thanks to Ulf for sorting this for us, and to Jonsson/Alter for the lovely sounds. Enjoy!