Saturday, December 31, 2011


On behalf of PC and myself, I just wanted to thank everyone for their ongoing support during 2011. This year we have been a little bit less active here on the blog, which was partly a conscious choice, partly because we've been very busy with our day jobs, and partly because we've been expanding what we are trying to do with MNML SSGS. On the whole, it has been another productive and interesting year. It was good getting out into the 'real' world more through some parties in Tokyo and Melbourne, as well as collaborating with TodaysArt in the Hague and continuing to do some CD-Rs with Disk Union. I am looking forward to extending these kind of activities in 2012, with our next chill out party on 15 January, and then a MNML SSGS party in Tokyo with natural/electronic.system. playing all night at Module on 3 March (more info soon). And of course, we are thinking about what to do with the blog for the next year... We actually came very close to deciding to finish the blog a couple of months ago, but we found fresh energy and motivation to continue for the time being. In particular, I'd like to thank the various people we turned to for input and advice when we were considering how to proceed. And of course when I think about 2011, a defining moment was the March Tohoku disasters here in Japan. This was a very difficult time for us here, and the support shown by most of the techno community (I stress the word 'most', i.e. not RBMA) has been deeply valued by myself and others here in Japan. I'd actually like to write more about everything that happened outside of the world of music, because it has been an especially tumultuous year, but I am still processing it all and don't feel like I am in a position to say much right now. But 2012 is definitely shaping up to be another eventful year, to put it mildly...

Thank you for continuing to read and engage with us. Thanks to everyone that has contributed to MNML SSGS in 2011. We are looking forward to continuing this in 2012. Lets make it a good year.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Stream of thoughts on 2011 - pt 1 (maybe)

I have been wanting to write some kind of end of year wrap up post, but have not really known what to say. Putting together lists didn't feel appropriate, certainly not in 2011. I have some clear favourite releases and labels, but for the most part, the common thread of 2011 was exploration, education and digging, digging, digging. Much of this has taken me outside the bounds of what has been released this year, and much of what I did like this year (notably the creme of the synth scene owes a heavy debt to its kosmische forefathers). Also I am still finding amazing music - in the last week I have encountered two albums I have totally fallen for. The first is Prurient's 'Bermuda Drain'. If you can get past a bit of screaming (it took a few listens and being in the right headspace for me to do this), what you have is an incredibly powerful, arresting album, one that really takes a hold of your psyche. On the day I connected with, I listened to it 6 or 7 times. I think Kuedo's album is the only other one I had a similar response to. And care of Regis' EoY chart for Boomkat I have just picked up HTRK's seductive 'Work Work Work'. I am expecting this will be getting plenty of listens in the future. And there are quite a few other artists and releases I am still working my way through. So when it comes to thinking about the end of the year, I kind of feel like this time the ever arbitrary distinction between 31 December and 1 January feels particularly irrelevant. Then again, even if this break is abitrary it does not mean it is without meaning or significance. And EoY lists certainly do have their place. I am not sure the aggregated ones really add much value. When looking at RA's lists about all I could work out is they must have plenty of reviewers with shitty taste writing for them (not to mention quite a few with poor writing skills). But hell, given the quality of most of the reviews on that website, I cannot say I was particularly shocked. Where people have put serious time and thought into the EoY selections - such as with many of the Boomkat contributors - then you do have a treasure trove of potential winners. I have already made some exciting purchases and I am sure there will be more... Saying that, more often that not I kind of feel like the EoY lists can betray how superficially we listen to our music and how quickly we consume it. How many albums have stayed on your mp3 player for months? How many have you gone back to time and time again? I know my list would be pretty short. Kangding Ray, Tim Hecker, Kuedo, Nuel and Vatican Shadow are the ones that most easily come to my mind. There are some others, especially if I think about vinyls (primarily the LP from Imaginary Softwoods), but these tend to get played less, in part because most of my music listening is done at work, and also because they get put somewhere and after a few days my restless music brain forgets about them and moves onto something else. I could go back through my music library, flick through the vinyl, to work out which where the other releases that I really loved this year, but I guess I couldn't have loved them that much if I can't remember without checking. So no specific EoY lists from me, but I am going to go stream of consciousness style and see how successful that is. I'll focus on labels and this should also hopefully allow me cover most of my favourite releases too.

Rush Hour might have had a fantastic year, I got no idea, I didn't buy one of their records. What they have been doing is of no interest to me. Delsin put out some cool stuff (Morphosis), but I also got the nagging sense of it being a bit overly conservative - albums like Conforce and Dehnert might be fine on their own terms, but I barely even got through listening to them. They left my cold. I want some more daring in my music, well at least this year I did. 100% Silk? Perhaps 80% over-rated would be more appropriate. A couple of good EPs / tracks does not make a stand out label, unless if you want to ride the cool wave, which as always, many people do. Nothing new about this, but what did frustrate me about the excessive attention on 100% Silk is that its parent label - Not Not Fun - was largely forgotten about, despite having a far more interesting and worthwhile year, at least in my books. They ended in fine form with a lovely record from a new Japanese artist, Sapphire Slows (who happens to be playing at our next chill out party on 15 January). And reflecting the way my tastes veered for much of this year, some of my other favourite labels were coming out of / related to the synth scene. Aguirre put out some very cool stuff, the J.D. Emmanuel re-release had some special moments, and the new split from MSOTT and Nova Scotian Arms is pretty cool, as is the one from Je Suis Le Petit Chevalier. The big find on this label, though, is Innercity. This dude is seriously fucked in the head, but that is fine when the results are so weird and wonderful. His releases on Aguirre were tops, as was his 7" on NNA tapes. That one was perfectly demented.

One label that had a really fantastic year (or two) but has been almost totally overlooked is M=minimal. Don't be put off by the name. This is updated krautrock, done so in a very caring and interesting way. They re-released some special stuff from Conrad Schnitzler, and Borngräber & Strüver's work has been brilliant. I asked them for a mix. They never replied. Shame, I would love to feature their sounds on ssgs. Kranky is another label that had an excellent 2011. Steve Hauschildt put out a pretty cool album of soothing synths, A Winged Victory For The Sullen was not really my thing but a lot of people - including PC - rated it very highly. 'Black Earth' by Implodes was a strong release on the dark wave tip, and then you had Tim Hecker making most of his peers sound a bit crap in comparison. On a side note, I found it rather odd seeing some of the EoY lists 'Ravedeath' turned up on. How did it make the RA list? If Nicholas Jaar was number 1 it suggests they like Jaaring music, not Hecker's jarring style (what a clever pun). I mean Hecker demands serious listening. But if you also listen seriously to Jaar, you should be able to work out it is a bit shit, no? Well there is the weighting system they use for the RA charts, but still... I guess once you get down to the 9th or 10th album you need to list (or the 19th or 20th), you just go with the flow.

Other labels? Spectrum Spools was a very welcome addition to the music landscape in 2011. To be honest, I have not been able to keep up with their releases - I think they pumped out 10 this year, which is too many for my liking, especially when these are weighty pieces of music, you need time with them. Of their releases, I liked 'Elegy for Beach Friday' from Bee Mask the most, with the Fabric, Mist and the first Bee Mask all having some great moments. Mordant Music continued to be one of the most interesting and worthwhile labels out there. While it was Ekoplekz who got the attention (which I don't really understand to be honest, he does little for me), the standout release from Mordant slipped past most people - the killer "Receiving Calls" by Thanet (who is supposedly Mr Maxted, even though I don't think we actually know who that is either). The Thanet album is ambient and downbeat with echoes of the 90s, amidst the roughly 3 hours of music there is at least 1 - 1.5 hours of top quality music. Definitely worth getting. Continuing along, Digitalis is another label strangely missing from most EoY lists. They put out some great stuff from MSOTT, Ricardo Donoso, Emuul, along with my favourite releease of theirs being 'Science of the Sea' by Jürgen Müller. It reminds me of that underwater movie with Bill Murray in it, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, that one. Another one is Amethyst Sunset. Ok, they didn't release much. But they deserve to be here simply for "The Path Of Spectrolite" by Imaginary Softwoods (which is John Elliott and maybe someone else). This is quite easily one of the best records of 2011. Stunningly beautiful record. I really hope John Elliott does some more work in this vein, he definitely has a talent for it. I also recently got the 1958-2009 LP and love the A1 on that.

Last, but certainly not least, is Hospital Productions, run by Prurient. As I have mentioned before, much of the stuff on it is too harsh for me, but this is probably one of the reasons I like the Vatican Shadow releases so much - it maintains some of that aesthetic but is a bit restrained and refined in its presentation, which makes it much more palatable for a soft listener like myself. I have talked about Vatican Shadow here before, so I won't repeat myself, suffice to say this is easily some of my favourite music from 2011. Another very promising example of an artist moving from power electronics into more techno territory is William Bennett with his Cut Hands project. 'Afro Noise 1' is a stand out release for 2011, as was his live version of it. I was lucky enough to see him play twice this year, and both times he delivered very impressive performances. If you have a chance, see Cut Hands, trust me. On a vaguely similar tip, there was a lot of praise for Haxan Cloak's album. On initial listen I liked it, but it didn't really stick with me, I am not completely sold. But his 'Observatory' EP is an absolute killer. Totally shits all over the album. I had the same feeling to Roly Porter's album as I did to Haxan Cloak's. Don't quite understand all the love for it. I'd rather just listen to Ben Frost, of which it sounds more than a little bit reminiscent.

You may notice the lack of deep house and techno labels I have mentioned. Well I don't really see much point. The discussion online about these is so saturated, there are plenty of other charts that can show the way to any releases you may have missed. I don't see the value in repeating the same things. Beyond that, the other main reason for not really talking about techno and house is that I have simply not been particularly interested in it this year. Sure there were plenty of good releases in these genres, I am not denying that. But I just wasn't so interested in 2011. My head was elsewhere. Perhaps I have reached saturation point. Or perhaps some of the sounds have, especially what Hardwax has begun to aptly call 'droning blue techno' (like with so many of their one line descriptions, somehow this makes perfect sense to me). Anyway, there is more I want to say on this, but I shall leave this for another post.

Ok, there were other things I wanted to talk about, the content monster, podcasts, techno, and some other things I cannnot think of now. But I have run out of juice. So this stream of thought post shall come to an end. Perhaps time and energy permitting there will be a part 2.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Chill out in Tokyo

Hope everyone is having some good rest and time with loved ones, regardless of religious inclinations. The year isn't quite over yet, and I'm planning on penning some end of year thoughts, time and headspace permitting. But this is just a quick post to say that next Friday 30 December I am also going to be DJ'ing for 3 hours in the chill out room at the 'Sound Slugger' party at Tabloid in Tokyo. From what I have been told, this is a very cool event space, and it is great to see a chill out space being included in the party (the other rooms seem to be primarily dub, reggae and bass music). I'm looking forward to playing and hopefully opening a few people's minds to some different sounds. Still working out exactly what I will be playing, but given that I have 3 hours, it should give me plenty of time to explore... For more info, check the Sound Slugger page.

After that, we have our next Sound Garden chill out party on Sunday 15 January. As always, it is 16:00 - 23:00 at Bar Orbit with free entry. We'll post more information soon, but our special guest this time will be Sapphire Slows, a new Japanese artist who has just released a lovely EP on Not Not Fun. Details for the party are here, put it in your diary!

For me, one of the most positive developments this year has been our Sound Garden parties and in 2012 we are going to be working hard to continue to try to develop a bigger space for ambient and downbeat music in the scene in Tokyo, and more generally through our online presence. Hopefully you'll be seeing more like this in the months ahead...

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Porpoises into the Past: is common ground a word (or just a sound)?

‘They were obliged to have him with them,’ the Mock Turtle said: ‘no wise fish would go anywhere without a porpoise.’

‘Wouldn’t it really?’ said Alice in a tone of great surprise.

‘Of course not,’ said the Mock Turtle: ‘why, if a fish came to me, and told me he was going a journey, I should say “With what porpoise?”’

‘Don’t you mean “purpose”?’ said Alice.

‘I mean what I say,’ the Mock Turtle replied in an offended tone.

After Chris and I decided on not doing EoY lists this year (at least until it was too late to matter), my first instinct was to do a list ranking all the published lists. But, like the much applauded James Ferraro album, it was probably best left in the concept stage. And might come off looking smug. So I gave myself three point five stars – then promptly forgot who I was (ie: what I was googling for). Because I was so distracted, you know, managing my downloads folder. I mean: you have to check out all those links your friends send you of ‘album of teh year, IMHO’, don’t you? Do you? Really? Why the urgency? Would you listen to any of them come January 1? As a friend emailed only this morning: ‘a bunch of shit people having shit conversations about shit records.’ The various number ones were mostly a bunch of number twos. Shit. I replied that I thought the lists were fascinating overall, and contained a staggering variety of titles: with almost no overlap! But yes, the number ones did seem marked by the cumulative blanding effect of a Keynesian beauty contest. We really have given ourselves the third degree:

‘where we devote our intelligences to anticipating what cool expects cool to be’.

But somehow, in spite of I See a Blandness, the re-release of Moby’s Play to rapt audiences (figuratively speaking), and the sound of a bunch of bad listeners ‘getting it wrong’ on nearly everything (which is what nearly everyone I’ve spoken to has accused everyone else of doing), the EoY lists were great this year, worth thinking about: for the tale they tell about us; the way we listen in 2011; the meaning music carries; and the power of stories.

1) our |virtually| common

What’s the context of music listening in 2011? The starting point has to be: not this.
“I believe that the way most of us experience music is not in a system of weights and measures and lists, but in a way that is red-blooded and vibrant and vital: we feel it in our bones and our bodies, in our hearts and our hips; we feel it dancing on a Friday night, charging right up from our stockinged feet.”
It’s not just that I don’t wear stockings; it’s just that this is a romantic phantasm. I wish it were true. But it isn’t. But as Papa Freud would have told you: the wish tells you a lot. But the wish is not the truth. That would be wishful thinking. The truth, the everyday truth, is a downloaded truth. A streamed truth. A mediated truth. Why?

Overwhelmingly, most listening is done via the internet. Not just the streaming, downloading, podcasting, pirating, but also the sharing, discussing, and evaluating. I mean: it’s 2011, not 1911. Ah, the good old days. Ani: “People used to make records/ As in a record of an event/ The event of people playing music in a room/ Now everything is cross-marketing/ It’s about sunglasses and shoes/ Or guns and drugs.” It is nice to go out and have a dance on a Friday, but what makes this more authentic and meaningful than the internet, given that, overwhelmingly, this is where all the ‘community’ is present? Ours is an era in which, mostly, we make a musical home for ourselves from the recorded traces of what was, once, Ani DiFranco's nostalgic 'people in a room'. But the people are gone now, dispersed. A lesson of Occupy is: dispersed is just how the authorities want us to be. All there is, mostly, is simulacra. I’m not saying that we don’t go out dancing on a Friday night. Some of us do. And we should. Lesson from dispersal: we should assemble! And some of us travel around the world for festivals, hankering after presence. The difference is all the difference in the world, and in that sense, what Laura Barton says in the linked article is true. But the point is that it’s not what’s common, which is... virtual. What’s virtually common is that nearly everything is mediated. I can see why you’d have the nostalgic wish for ‘Dancing Pete’, but when was the last time any of you people saw him? Hint: his photo on the guardian website. This is how we know him. Baudrillard was... mostly right.

2) practice makes imperfect

We live in a world of names. This is how we hold a place for ourselves in the virtual common.

‘Have you heard of Porpoises into the Past?’
‘Yeah, but I’m more on the Slain Impala tip, you know?’
‘Oh yeah?’
'Yeah, it’s the synth project from the guy from Lambs Casino...’
‘Oh yeah, right...’ ‘
It’s based on Sokurov’s Power Tetralogy. He set up three old cathode ray TV screens, made degraded VHS copies of each, then looped them out of sync, like, all at different speeds and shit, and stayed up for days with his synth and a whole bunch of drugs – all the shit that Michael Jackson was on when he died.'
'Fuck, wow...'
'Yeah man... It took him eight months to set it up, mostly to find all the drugs, but in terms of the music, he reckons that it all came together in like, eight hours or something... he said the hardest bit was remembering to turn the cassette over... ’
‘Yeah, he’s doing it live at Saccharine Valley - are you going...?’
‘When’s it on again?’
‘Oh, it’s in April, but tickets have already sold out...’
‘I heard they were really hard to get and expensive?’
'Yeah, but I know someone, so...’

It’s true we listen because we’re curious, and we love music. But listening habits are also strongly driven by cool. Never mind if it’s good: is it cool? Weirdly, Top Gear’s cool wall has been telling us about the age we live in. Never mind that Top Gear isn’t cool and that Jeremy Clarkson is a fucker, as Stewart Lee captured perfectly. It’s a matter of social capital, social competence. Cool is a scarce resource. Accumulate, accumulate, then deploy, and destroy. Winner (cool) takes all. You can’t horde it though: cool has a definite shelf life. It's like milk... So there is a very special timing to ‘deploy and destroy’. Cool is a cow who must be milked, and a milk that must be ingested/squirted before it turns sour and makes you vomity sick. This is, of course, why the EoY lists must be deployed before the end of the year. None of this knowledge is worth anything – online – in January. It’s valueless and meaningless. This also means that people I know – and no doubt people you know – are currently in a Mr Creosote-level linkswapping and download binge. From a market perspective, the real winners of this pervasive binge are not the artists – though they will accumulate some cool, guaranteeing slots at festivals for the next few months – but google, the internet providers, touring and promotion companies, and the various one-click download sites. And probably those ambulance-chasing IP lawyers, if they catch up with you. You know it’s true. And all this, in part, because of our deep, deep need to be cool and stay cool. Apart from your curiosity, and love of music. Of course...

Music is a social thing, and being social means being stuck in sticky situations (which makes mp3 make you incredibly sluttly and glutty). Social competence also creates social adherence. Which creates the semblance of coherence. Cool only works if the others you talk to – the ones who count, the cool ones and the loved ones – either know the name in question, or know that they should no the name in question and are deficient for not doing so. Nobody bothered to ask granddad what he thought of Ravedeath, 1972.

It's all about the ~herence: friends stick together. The glue of friendship is trust, loyalty, love and gifts. As a teenager, liking a band could be grounds for a whole romance. At the time I never would have admitted that I had crushes on girls because they liked Nine Inch Nails or the Pixies (showing my age!). But... now that the bulldust and hormonally-induced stupidity has (hopefully) settled, I must concede: it couldn’t have been their looks, personality, or wisdom. Love runs the gauntlet of friendship’s gamut of juicy, squeezy crushes and globs: sex and money are social glue-brication. The milk of human kindness is... viscous... We are more about the social contractions than the social contract... But so is music. This is so essential, and we know it, but are constantly forgetting. We exchange. We crush. We squeeze, hold tightly to, clench against: disseminating our favourites all over our others, and excreting all the rest. The lists are an artefect of this form of juicy symbolic exchange, presented as an evaluative hierarchy. This year, most of them provoked in me a bemused, low-level alienation. Because, you know, I was off in my little globular bubble. Dirty Harry rule. Peering out, but mostly feeling cosy. It’s a matter of degrees between snug and smug. And even happy cosy can turn smothery claustrophobic.

And then: what do we use music for? Ssg readers will know my thoughts on this: for work. While commuting. While doing desk work. While at the gym. While friends are over. While seducing someone. While coming down, after a whole night dancing... maybe with Dancing Pete. To dull the pain and boredom of existence. This really, really affects the names we nominate. In my view, a lot of the best recordings this year were demanding, exhausting – they were not do-while accompanists. I hear more stories from friends (re)discovering the joys of undivided attention and close listening, but really (and me too! mea culpa!) most of the time, music is merely there, in the background. It’s not only that Kompakt were the Ikea of techno; most music, to most people, most of the time – it is just lifestyle equipment. It's all Eno, really. This is the only way I can fathom the massive popularity of Nicholas Jaar. You put it on – for mother or lover or other – and (I guess), people say, ‘oh, this is niiice – what’s this?’ Actually, Jaar, Bon Iver and James Ferraro (the respective number ones of RA, Pitchfork and the Wire) have more in common than you might think on first listen... the difference would merely be the relation to shallowness and ‘niceness’ being expressed. It’s enough to make you smash your face with an iPad, while listening to Cut Hands or Prurient. Dirty Harry rules.

3) ‘A man could lose his bearings in weather like this.’ (what is the meaning of this)?

Practice tells you a lot about the lists. But more than anything, the lists make meaning. ‘What is meaning?’ ‘What is the meaning of meaning?’ You tell me, Derriger! I mean it. But I’d also have to be listening to hear it, or even get a sense of what you're trying to say. Which makes all the difference. In English? Telling stories is one way of making things meaningful. Friendship gives us glue-brication, which helps the ~herence to go along and get along, which, potentially, opens our ears to listening to one another. As one of my favourite storytellers said: stories have no point if they don’t absorb our terror. And our fascination. We have to suspend our disbelief (analyse the grammar of that phrase, it’ll do your head in). A world told as a story is a world rendered meaningful via a beginning, a middle, and an end. There are agents, there are actions, there are intentions. There is a point. Which is not a bit like ‘reality’, such as it is. But that is the point. Reality is terrifying - and boring. Hence why we need stories, to absorb that terror.

But stories are not information. Arrangement aside, the sheer fucking genius of the Beatles’ Day in the Life is the way it tracks that: ‘10,000 holes in Blackburn, Lancashire...’ before turning to the other truth (I’d love to tuuuuuuuuuurn yoooooooooou oooon). Shudder to think. Whenever I log out of my webmail, I’m confronted by the psychotic juxtapositions inherent to the online presentation of information in 2011:
‘Sex Fiend Killer Loose’ ‘Britney Spears to Wed’, ‘30,000 feared dead’, ‘Justin Bieber: what has he been doing?’ ‘Man Attacks Baby with Hammer’ ‘Panda baby walks on hind legs’.
And so on, and so on, and so on. So fucking meaningless. So fucking much. So fucking endless. In the same year as the Arab Spring, and Fukushima, and the London Riots, and Occupy... I feel like Thom Yorke, singing ‘It wears me out...’. And you know, like most things Radiohead: that’s depressing. Actually, it's really nice to have a year without 'a serious discussion of the substantial merit of the new Radiohead album'.

So: stories give us a way of ordering the incoherence, the mad fucking babble of this incessant information. As I said at the begining (bringing us to the end of the story, after the baggy middle) what’s was striking about the End of Year lists this year, in an amazing vintage for music, was their diversity – there were virtually no consensus albums. Perhaps Kanye wrote the last one in 2010. Good riddance to bad narcissists (yes, the beats were amazing, I still don't care). Perhaps 2010 was the last year that any kind of consensus was possible; maybe the EU is set to ‘prove’ that theory on a much more consequential stage. Lou Reed, who charted this year with Metallica (WTF?!) once wrote:
‘oh common ground/ is common ground a word, or just a sound?’
One from the other, Lou - ground from sound. We will build the ground from the sound. Because the craving – for music, for love and friendship, for stories, for meaning – that never goes away. Not while we're still contracting, at least. All of which is why, strange as they seem, annoying and alienating as they may appear, the End of Year lists can tell us the story of who we are, as music lovers, music friends, in 2011. True story. Happy Birthday, Jesus, Happy Birthday, ssgs. Thank you for listening.


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Ancient Methods tracklist

Below you'll find the tracklist for the 'Some Strings Attached' mix by Ancient Methods. We are really happy with the response to this one, and looking forward to the Disk Union promo CD-R coming out soon. This will be our final mix for 2011, so we would like to thank all the artists who contributed this year, and to all of you for downloading, listening and encouraging us to keep the mixes going. And special thanks to for their ongoing support; it is absolutely crucial for what we do and we really appreciate their hosting of all our mixes.

Ssg Special - Ancient Methods 'Some Strings Attached'

    •    Reformed Faction – Hollerei (Soleilmoon)
    •    Northern Structures – Powertools (Sonic Groove)
    •    Gigi Galaxy – Interview with an alien (Teknotika vs. Eye Q UK edit)
    •    Orphx vs. Ancient Methods – unreleased
    •    Pan Sonic – Lähetys/Transmission (Blast First Petite)
    •    NHK – Entire Set (Raster-Noton)
    •    Sawf – Zelo Radial Rmx (Perc Trax)
    •    Karl O’Connor & Peter Sutton – Under Skin (Tresor)
    •    Silent Servant – El Mar Svreca Remix Two (Semantica)
    •    Carl Michael von Hausswolff – The North is protected (Sähkö)
    •    Edge of Motion – Del Motimiento (Djax Up)
    •    Monolith – Tribal Globe (Daft)
    •    Waldteufel – Das wilde Heer vom Hörselberg (Percht)
    •    Space DJ’s – Statistical Mechanics (Perc Trax)
    •    Robert Hood – Minus (Tresor)
    •    Mike Parker – Untitled (Geophone)
    •    Instincts – The Mystery Visions track 2 (Cyclic Law)
    •    Ugandan Methods – unreleased
    •    Frown – Untitled (Clip)
    •    Trans Am – I’m coming down (Thrill Jockey)
    •    Go Hiyama – Quibble (HueHelix)
    •    Regis – Blinding Horses (Blackest Ever Black)
    •    Makai – Beneath the mask (Prescription)
    •    Rory St. John – Noughtsmith (Singularity)
    •    Back Pack Poets – Objective G (Electric Deluxe)
    •    Siamgda – Andrumeda/Caravan Celebration Loop (Mind Plug)
    •    Surgeon – Radiance (Dynamic Tension)
    •    Mordant Music – Symptoms (Mordant Music)
    •    Forward Strategy Group – Code 02 (Perc Trax)
    •    Hecate & Kareem – Medusal (Zhark)
    •    Steve Stoll – Machine Riot (Earwiggle)
    •    Death in June/Iesope Drift – Fields/People Drift Loop (Leprosy Discs/E-Com)

That's it. More mixes in 2012...

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Upcoming in Tokyo

Just a quick post about a few good parties coming up:

This Thursday 22 December there is a Hessle Audio party at Unit featuring Pearson Sound and Pangaea. I am really looking forward to this night, as it is a sound I don't spend much time with, but what I've heard I've liked. The Pearson Sound Fabric and Essential mixes are excellent, and the sound system at Unit is great for music like this. And for those in the mood for an adventure, they are playing the night before in Hakuba!

On Christmas eve, Dave Twomey is back in town for another one of his Mariana parties at Warehouse702. PVH is playing live. Not much more I need to say about this one. Anyone who reads this blog, should know I kind of like PVH...

And it has just been announced that Mindgames is hosting a special charity party on Saturday 7 January at Unit. Donato Dozzy will be playing the whole night, with Labyrinth residents Hiyoshi and So downstairs. All the DJs are playing for free, and all money raised will be will be donated to "Smiles & Dreams: Tohoku Kids Project". Not only will this be a great party, it is for a great cause, so kudos to all in involved for making it happen. More details about the party can be found at the Mindgames page.

Also for those wondering, the "Composure: Ambient Techno for Japan" compilation will be available soon in digital format through bandcamp. So please hang on, you'll be able to buy a digital copy soon!

Our next "Sound Garden" party at Orbit will be on Sunday 15 January, so that is another date to put in your diary. Ok, that's about it. Tonight I'm off to see Traversable Wormhole at Module.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Uncover tracklist

Here is the tracklist for my 'Uncover' mix for Smoke Machine. We will post the tracklist for the new Ancient Methods mix in a couple of days.

Thomas Koner - "Teimo"
Ricardo Villalobos and Max Loderbauer - "Rekondakion"
Audela - "Zonked" 
The Haxan Cloak - "Parting Chant"
Demdike stare - "Matilda's Dream"
Eleh - "Pulsing Study of Sine Waves Part 2" with excerpt from "The Diane Tapes"
Anduin - "The Voyeur's Wall of Glass"
Thanet - "Sand Plant"
Vatican Shadow - "Bin Laden's Corpse"
Anduin - "The Number Twenty Seven"
Coil - "Tainted Love"

I'd recommend checking the Anduin, Audela, Eleh, Thanet and Vatican Shadow releases. All are very strong. Anduin is a relatively new name for me, but I really like what he is doing. Slightly dark and introspective. The Audela compilation is some captivating dark ambient. If you can connect with the extreme minimalism of Eleh, you'll find it amazing, at least that has been my response. And despite Mordant Music getting more press this year, most people slept on the Thanet. Their loss. For me it is pretty easily one of the best ambient releases of 2011. And I've talked about Vatican Shadow before, so no need to repeat myself. So hopefully this mix might introduce a few new names/sounds to some of you... 

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Ssg Special - Ancient Methods 'Some Strings Attached'

Occasionally a mix comes along which re-defines what you think is possible within a style of music. In my view, what you are about to hear is that mix for techno in 2011. It makes almost everything ‘techno’ I’ve heard this year sound a bit lame, emaciated, and rote. In fact, it’s so powerful, I’m scared of it: I have to handle it with care, respect. As if my puny human arms can barely lift this warrior God hammer... indeed, it's many times more powerful than their previous mixes for us (ssg mx 26, handmade blend mix) building on their already unique style, which was aptly called 'pitch black techno war funk'. It's also more subtle: this mix totally hammers, but it never pummels or resorts to 'bangin' it out'. There's a beauty in the power, a swing in that hammer. It's martial, yes, but it's also very artful.

Most of the time, mixes are our accompanists: for commuting, for desk work, for the gym. Or perhaps, like the commercial '04 electrohouse fan who lived above me in Paris, for noisy lovemaking. Fine, we all need accompanists. I dare you to make love to this mix. On a third date. Or try commuting. This is not ‘another mix’, or your faithful servant. It demands you submit to it. It’s ssgs fourth birthday this week, so the original plan was to offer this mix to ourselves and you people as a gift... but I ended up having to offer myself to it, as a sacrifice, to bless the impending intergalactic warfare. If there’s a great big dancefloor in Valhalla (can you imagine the system?!), this is the music the warrior Gods dance to... both before they destroy their transdimensional demonic robot enemies, and in celebration when they have vanquished them.

Ssg Special - Ancient Methods 'Some Strings Attached'

After placing our hearts back in our chest cavity post sacrifice, we decided to offer the mix to Disk Union, who’ve agreed to make it the next in our ongoing series of collaborative CD-Rs.‘A Few Strings Attached’ is now all set to follow in the fine footsteps of other classic mixes by the artists we’ve been so proud to present over the past four years: Dozzy, Cio D'Or + Dozzy, Steffi, Peter van Hoesen, SCB and Marcel Fengler. If you’re in Tokyo over the next few months, don’t forget to keep an eye out for it. If you’re not, well then: here, my dear. For old fans and new converts, Ancient Methods also have a new EP, Ancient Methods 6, coming out in late January. If you haven’t let the five published so far bend and pierce your ears, you should.

Shamanic tradition teaches us of power animals; Ancient Methods’ power animal... is techno. Are you ready for full power? It's time to submit...


Sunday, December 11, 2011

From Melbourne to Berlin...

In this post, Sanjay (pictured) offers us a direct and personal reflection on his trajectory through the music. I met Sanjay when he was giving a lecture on Detroit techno to a room full of would-be poetry PhDs (true story). Since then, our paths have kept criss-crossing through the music; thus we both ended up in the labyrinth, and became friends. This piece builds inter-actively on conversations we've had, with points from Chris' piece over a year ago on the Climate of Electronic Music, and my own ramblings, like the soufflé post. For me, what Sanjay says resonates, it rings true - not tinnitus from too long near the speaker stack, more the sting from caring about something that purports to be carefree but also carries so much that might be careless or uncaring, 'in the wrong hands'. Not that we don't all also have a bit of tinnitus, or occasionally ask ourselves 'whose bad hands are these?!'... Anyway, no more cryptic preamblin'; here's Sanjay's story, one of many to come. - PC

Partying hard in Melbourne for the last three years has left me exhausted. And so, in some confusing logic I’ve chosen to tread that all-too-familiar and clichéd path to Berlin. A fresh start. An escape. A junket. All of the above?

I spent the last few years in Melbourne befriending punters, promoters and producers who have a stake in the city’s house and techno culture. I’d like to think it happened organically, but it’s more likely because I had a few articles on Resident Advisor. The deeper I immersed myself in the culture that accompanied electronic music, it became more and more difficult to be honest and critical. I got proud.

I’m thankful that the move (along with an incredible trip to Labyrinth in September) has given me a lot to think about. For many people electronic music is a refuge, as are the scenes that surround it. As a punter your first inclination is to be part of it, to build it, grow it and love it. As a writer, however, the scene tests your allegiances and loyalties. Between criticism and culture is an extremely fraught tightrope.

There are those who can easily engage with music on its own terms – those hardheaded music critics whose words are bombs. These are writers who have outgrown the scene, or have fallen out of love with it. As a 23- year-old, aspiring writer I am neither too old, or out of love.

A few months ago, PC wrote a ssgs post taking a swipe at mundane music writing. His words on ‘peer acceptance, boot lickers and boosters’ were spot on and he might as well have been writing my biography. I don’t think he quite got to the heart of it, however. When it comes to being involved in a small, local and tight-knit scene like Melbourne there’s another perspective to consider.

It’s a safe and sad assumption that some music critics will err, or compromise their integrity for all free drinks on offer. The ‘scene’, however, is also caught up in a completely confused relationship with its scribes. Promoters and musicians have inordinate expectations of writers, who always bear the brunt of not living up to these ‘standards’. I myself lost a job with a prominent Melbourne touring agent when I refused to write him into my profile of Melbourne’s club scene for RA. When a friend of mine wrote a scathing and honest review of a gig in Melbourne for a national, online music press the promoter not only emailed her abusive messages, but also complained to the publication and they took the piece down! Imagine that – a music publication beholden to the very people it aims to critique. In Melbourne, and perhaps the rest of the world, ‘critique’ (or honesty, for that matter) is not seen as the positive service it actually is. It’s fair to say that no promoter, producer or DJ likes to be criticized. No one takes criticism as feedback. In a cliquey subculture, criticism equals betrayal. There is undoubtedly bad, ill-informed, biased criticism, but in Melbourne I see less of this than I do weak criticism (my own work included).

For me, a task of critical music writing is to recognize and reveal the potential of music and parties. It’s really heartbreaking when the potential continues to be wasted, but worse still is when this ‘waste’ passes with little reportage or consequence. In Melbourne, with a handful of exceptions, what has resulted is backslapping and stagnation.

Before I left for Berlin I worked for a bush festival where the line-up was as good as any I’d seen in Australia. Fred P, Donato Dozzy, Minilogue, Move D, Trus’ Me, Max Cooper and Pantha Du Prince. What you think about these artists is really beside the point. To get them all playing at one festival in the bush was a task in itself, and perhaps I should have known it was a little too good to be true. The shit storm that was the festival organization was quite incredible.

Whether it was equipment fuck-ups - like Pantha du Prince only being given a two-channel mixer for his live show - or power cuts, or scheduling issues, the festival not only compromised its ticket-holders, but disrespected the artists who it had paid so much money to bring out to Australia.

At the end of a long drive to the middle of nowhere and on one hour’s sleep, Move D arrived at the site without being told where or when he was going to play. Taking things into his own hands, he set up shop in a small, independent stage and began playing to a handful of people who had realized what was going on. Unfortunately the stage was home to two blown amplifiers, which meant the bassless sound was carried away in the wind. With punters and Move D barely able to tolerate the impotent kick-drum, the performance stopped half an hour in and caravanned to a main stage. This was where Move D was originally billed to play, so you can imagine the confusion when he arrived and there were no turntables in sight. Fifteen minutes later, with the technics finally set up by everyone but the festival organisers, Move D blew the audience away in a most typical fashion (albeit for the 25 minutes left on his allotted time).

The festival had been scheduled to end with a much-publicised Dozzy marathon. A four-hour delay meant that he finally began to play half an hour AFTER the festival was scheduled to finish. Soon enough the cops arrived and Dozzy, the nicest, most well-meaning person on the planet, was left fuming after his sound was cut TWICE after playing little more than two 25-minute sets. After the shit settled, Minilogue (armed with their live equipment) and Dozzy were left stranded at 11pm without a ride back to their hotel, which was nearly half an hour away. Similarly, a French psytrance duo, who had been billed for 10am, had been wandering the festival all day and night and had still not played. Behind the scenes the festival came to an excruciating end.

I have no doubt that the whole event would have been a logistical nightmare BUT as promoters you have to know your limits. The big bill may have been nothing more than a ploy to woo punters. The artists’ performance certainly seemed secondary.

And still these festival promoters provided condescending explanations that dismissed any criticism as whining. And when I think about how this post mortem (on a forum like mnml ssgs) will be received by the promoters of the festival I suspect they’ll be incredulous as though I was somehow damaging Melbourne’s reputation with unnecessary cynicism. The festival did more damage to its own (and Melbourne’s) reputation in its treatment of these DJs than this post will ever do.

A year ago I was watching Bill Maher’s Real Time on HBO. He’s as close to an anarchist as you’d have on network television, and I remember he said something about loyalty that has really stuck with me. ‘Loyalty,’ he remarked, ‘should feel like a lover’s quarrel’. The logic is simple and beautiful - I always love, but not without heartfelt reflection. Of course, few people can take criticism humbly and so critics are beaten into submission. Few people appreciate that my words, as critical or as positive as they may be, are written because I care. (I almost vomited over my keyboard typing that, but clichés are true for a reason.)

There’s been nothing dishonest about my writing in Melbourne, but the ‘responsibility’ to be consistently positive about the city’s club scene has become a little too heavy to bear. I’m forever a censor of my own honesty and I’m finding more and more that it’s a censor that’s become internalised.

There are local promoters and producers that I love and respect to whom these ramblings don’t apply. And for those who think I’m ‘burning bridges’, it is not the case. The people who really need to read this probably won’t, but I’m hopeful at some point down the track they’ll treat criticism (from punters and writers alike) as something to be considered rather than dismissed.

Arriving in Berlin and not knowing or being connected to anyone has been cathartic. Moving here and extricating myself from Melbourne has crystalised my thoughts, and I hope this post from afar will leave my hometown better for it. Maybe it’s the case (though I hope it’s not) that small scenes can’t accommodate music writers. Writers and critics have a role to play and it does not involve being the lackeys of promoters and producers. Similarly, the role should not exclude writers from involvement in electronic music scenes. I’ve learnt a lot hanging with promoters and producers – about music, taste and fun. I firmly believe it’s impossible to separate the music from the social culture that courts it and treating music as an asocial phenomenon leads to sterile chin-stroking. Scenes and sounds need to search out honest criticism. Music writing and local club cultures will benefit from this, but it will take some brave people on both sides to make it happen.

- Sanjay the 2nd wave ssg

Wednesday, December 7, 2011


Smoke Machine has been doing a nice job curating their podcast series in 2011, and they have been featuring some excellent contributions from many friends of the ssgs. As part of their Smoke Machine series, they've had recent mixes from Yves De Mey, Nuel, Eric Cloutier, Neel, Abdulla Rashim and Yuka, while A.P and ASC have been part of their Uncover series. I'd recommend checking all these mixes, and many of the other ones they have. And now, it seems, it is my turn... 

What I have put together is a reconstructed version of the set I played at our last ‘Sound Garden’ chill out party here in Tokyo. My aim was to showcase the darker and more sombre side of the sounds I have been listening to lately. In doing so, however, I was trying hard to keep the balance right, making sure that the overall mood would not be too heavy or oppressive. I think I managed to do this.

Thanks to Josh at Smoke Machine for the invitation, and to everyone who has contributed to making our 'Sound Garden' parties a success. We'll be back at Orbit for our next session on Sunday 15 January. I hope you enjoy the mix.

Monday, December 5, 2011

omg: th mnml ssgs xms prty s ths frdy!

Well, it never rains, it pours, huh? After excellent sets from Move D and Fred P (including an apparently astonishing crate-emptying 11+ hour marathon set by Fred P at Killing Time, which I missed) and PvH showing everyone how it's done last Friday at 161 (still trying to locate my brain, actually), it's time for this side of the ssg machine to get together with Virgo Four, Magda Bytnerowicz, the Two Bright Lakes lads and Noiseinmyhead to light it up this Friday at the Buffalo Club.

If I do say so myself, this is a great gig: one of the best spaces in town (if you've never heard of it, its the ballroom of an actual gentlemen's club [not the Spearmint Hippo kind, mind], more or less as it was in the 60s), several of the most talented and interesting people playing together, a 90s cheap cover (only 20 Antipodean Spaceclams tickets available here) and an eminently reasonable series of set times. Come down for music kick off around 8:30pm: Virgo Four will hit the stage round 12am, Magda will close things out after they finish... we should have you all heading for bed just as KLF start singing '3am eternal'...

Also, for those of you who were/are planning on attending the Marcel Fengler gig, but were worried about clashing set times, we have managed to wangle it all for you guys: Marcel is playing an early set, so you should be able to attend, see him finish, jump in a cab, and make it over in time for Virgo's set. Really looking forward to seeing you all down there. Seriously, how is it that not only are there two gigs of this calibre on, but they are singin' in harmony...

Aaaaand... Magda Bytnerowicz has been hard at work, as usual, and has come up with an exceptional mix for us. This is a pearl: not Chicago, no no no, this one pays serious homage to Chez, Kerry, Timmy, Danny, François, MaW - a proper NYC style house mix. Full tracklist to follow in the fullness of time, but in the meantime, here it is in all its glory - a sparkling representation of one of the sides of the sound that Sydney's first lady of house will be laying down.

   MagdaBytnerowicz kenny&louie&timmy&danny by Magda Bytnerowicz

Very excited, looking forward to it, can't wait...

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Bee Mask tracklist

Here is the tracklist for Bee Mask's ssg mix. If you haven't checked it yet, I strongly encourage you to give the mix a listen. It is a fascinating and deeply rewarding journey. And for me, at least, it is also a very educational mix - plenty of new names here to investigate. This mix also

1. Telecult Powers "Thoughts through Space", from "Zion Traveler" lp (Baked Tapes, 2011)
2. Fluxmonkey "a2", from "Sorry Jack" cs (Everyone Else has a Record Label so Why Can't I?, 2010)
3. Jonathan Zorn "You Cannot Do Everything" from "You Cannot Be Everywhere, You Cannot Do Everything" cs (Autumn, 2011)
4. Sam Goldberg "Untitled 2", from "Dark Corners" cs (Tusco Embassy, 2007)
5. Schurt Kwitters "Untitled 2", from "Schurt Kwitters" lp (Open Mouth, 2010)
6. Quicksails "A Walk to Forget", from ", from "Diamond Servants" 7" lathe (Cylindrical Habitat Modules, 2011)
7. HNY "It's All Ending", from "How I Learned to Live" cs (Ranky Tanky, 2011)
8. Robin Fox "Melophobia (Final Edit)", from "A Handful of Automation" cs (deMego, 2010)
9. Chemtrails "Stolen Time Capsule", from "Final Society" cs (Cylindrical Habitat Modules, 2010)
10. Michael Shannon "Untitled 1" from "Sensa Atmospheres" cs (Autumn, 2011)
11. Son of Earth "Upward Impetus, from "Improvements" lp (Amish, 2009)
12. Three Legged Race "Untitled 1", , from "Scattered Duels Thawing" cdr (Mountaain Door, 2009)
13. Matt Carlson, "Desert Level", from "Gecko Dream Levels" cs (Gift Tapes, 2010)
14. Drainolith "Hilux", from "Hilux/Pushing Sand" cs (private press, 2010)
15. Positive Shadow, "Untitled 1", from "Replication Slave" cs (Catholic Tapes, 2010)
16. Satanized "The Fear (to Penetrate)", from "Technical Virginity" lp (Skin Graft, 2011)
17. Skin Graft "Dystrophy", from "Dystrophy" cd (Hanson, 2011)
18. Tusco Terror "Fire Extinguisher", from "LiveNYD2007" cs (Tusco Embassy, 2007)
19. Aaron Dilloway "Labyrinths and Jokes", from "Modern Jester" cdr promo (Hanson, 2011)
20. Steve Hauschildt "Different Directions", from "The Stairwell is Long Gone" cs (Deception Island, 2008)
21. Night Burger "Profligate", from "What Happens Next" cs (Deception Island, 2011)
22. Dania Shapes "Art People", from "Holograd" cd (Paper Cities, 2007)
23. Bromp Treb "Welp", from "AudioVisual Cassette" cs (Yeay!, 2007)
24. John Clyde-Evans "Solfaard Time Change", from "Go Gracious Kiki Change" cs (Autumn, 2010) 
25. Container "Rattler", from "LP" lp (Spectrum Spools, 2011)
26. Joe Lentini "Firefly", from "Status in the Ballroom" lp (Schematic, 2011)
27. Harmonizer "Landslide", from "World Complete" lp (Software, 2011)
28. Amazing Births "Whelm", from "Younger Moon" lp (Cylindrical Habitat Modules, 2011)
29. Walter Carson "Untitled 1", from "Recalcitrants" lp (Gods of Tundra, 2007)
30. Colored Mushroom and the Medicine Rocks "Sore Subject", from "Colored Mushroom and the Medicine Rocks" LP (Wagon, 2011)
31. Fragments "Untitled 1", from "Underground Ocean" cs (Hanson, 2008)
32. Spare Death Icon "Whispers" from "Survival" cs (Gift Tapes, 2011)
33. Ryley Walker and Daniel Bachman "Sunny Side of the Blue Ridge", from "Of Deathly Premonitions" cs (Plus Tapes, 2011)

Thanks again to Bee Mask for this mix.