Dark Energy is not for the faint of heart. While it would be possible to place the album in the context of legendary footwork producers such as RP Boo and the late DJ Rashad, it would be more accurate to say that Jlin, an up-and-coming producer from Gary, Indiana, has blown apart the foundations of footwork in order to make space for her own uniquely relentless sound. Each of the eleven tracks on Dark Energy subverts expectation at every turn, toggling back and forth between percussion-heavy urgency and equally urgent periods of spacious subtlety. Jlin’s quick transitions are both inescapable and unpredictable, making Dark Energy exemplary of the most controlled and skillful form of pure pandemonium.
Jlin’s debut album will be released on 23 March by Planet Mu. In the meantime, I sat down with the producer and together, we delved into Dark Energy.
Danish-Canadian polymath Sally Dige makes dark, minimal synthpop that might draw comparison to the likes of Depeche Mode - Dige's vocal affect is remarkably similar to thant of Dave Gahan - if she didn't already seem to be ushering in an italo-disco revival. "Hard to Please", the title track from Dige's debut album, fuses the ghostly humanism of Dige's new wave forebears with the pointed, synthetic narrative of contemporary electronica.
Ditching the glam and gloss typically associated with synthpop, the choppy black & white video for "Hard to Please", which was directed by Laslo Antal, has the almost vandalized, hyper-candid feel of something that might appear in the corner of an art gallery. The video then cuts between shots of an outdoor birth and ambiguously gruesome scenes of Dige mauling (what looks like) hamburger meat with fork and spatula until it bleeds. The video bears some aesthetic semblance to Eraserhead (which also has bleeding food) but has the loose, zoom-crazed cinematography of later lo-fi masterpieces like Slacker.
The slightly NSFW video (mostly for blood) is worth repeated viewings (is Dige giving birth to prepackaged hamburger? is that a slice of watermelon?), which is just as well: the song will be more or less inextractable from your head once you hear it.
Broshuda straddles the worlds of electronic music and illustration, casting a beguiling emoji-web of broken rave doodles from his base in Kassel, Germany (or, as Bro affectionately refers to it, Dorkville).
His latest record is maybe my favourite yet – murky but, unlike some of the other stuff on Seagrave, never heavy enough to drag you down. Rather, Broshuda's unfettered curiosity takes centre stage, as we dip in and out of conversations, undergo soft-focus techno flashbacks, and sometimes swear we can hear the scratch of sharpie across rough card.
One thread is a series of stone circle jams – primitive, Satie-esque piano meditations, tempered with subtle electronics and other intimate, unrecognisable sounds. The question is, how does he make it all?
Last November, Jerry Paper played his set at the Center for Digital Arts in Brattleboro, VT, wearing nothing but a pink satin robe and grey socks, bunched at the ankles. This was, apparently, not atypical. Before the show, I’d familiarized myself with the work of Jerry Paper, whose ‘host body’s’ name is Lucan Nathan, by reading his feature with The FADER, where he discusses his typical show attire, as well as his attraction to pre-linguistic sensory experiences, both in musical and religious settings.
During the set, Paper moved in ways I’d never seen anyone move. It was oddly seductive, the way he belted into his microphone, the farting and belching sounds he made between songs. Oftentimes, he’d crouch low to the ground, as though he were attempting to hide underneath his synthesizer, while also stomping his feet in alternate wide-legged strides.
In the other room, through a Christmas-lit doorframe, a set of iMacs displayed Jerry Paper’s new video game, which accompanied his latest album, Big Pop for Chameleon World. Nathan, in addition to being a musician, designs digital worlds in which he is the main character, pottering through his own dreamscapes. I’d been standing over the shoulder of my friend Julia, who was seated at one of the computers, when she pronounced, “I’m about to score some MDMA.” The digital version of Paper stood at the bar in a mostly empty nightclub. Julia hit the T-key on the keyboard, which prompted the digital Paper to give some of his virtual coins to the bartender in exchange for ecstasy. Immediately, the club began to quake and all we could see was the back of Paper’s head as his brain began to suffer the effects of the virtual MDMA. Julia hit a slew of keys, trying to get the shaking to stop. “I wish I hadn’t done that,” she said, sighing. On screen, in fancy print, appeared the words: I DON’T THINK THAT MDMA WAS PURE.
Jerry Paper’s set came as a relief seeing as I had spent the last half-hour trying to force myself to enjoy the opening band, whose conceptual drivings had almost certainly overshadowed the consideration of musical craft. A tall skinny boy with long black hair had sung into the microphone the way one sings into a comb while pretending to be a rockstar in front of the mirror, at home, alone. He used his other hand to make wild gestures above his head, arm outstretched, fingers reaching for the stars. He sang in a mostly broken and frantic falsetto while twirling his lean body around the carpeted stage. Occasionally, he knocked knees with the people sitting in the first row. This did not faze him. “Everybody wants to be somebody upstairs,” he crooned, over and over, during one particularly heartfelt song, whose background track played on his iPod and which he sang over. After each song, the iPod would immediately begin to play the next track and the boy would rush to it, pause the music in order to consider which song he wanted to play next, and then press play. Throughout all of this, a sea-themed screensaver projection colored the stage, the boy, his iPod.
When he was done, the audience screamed for more. This both baffled me or did not baffle me at all. While I’d found the music itself intolerable, there was something about the performer’s abandon, the bright reverb-laden tracks, and the porpoise projections that seemed important. I was skeptical of this sentiment then and still am, but I can’t shake the feeling. In the middle of his set, I turned to another friend, who was seated to my left. “Maggie,” I said, in the quiet between songs. She turned to face me and I stared at her for a moment before whispering, “What is happening here?” She laughed, but I stared on. I gestured toward the Christmas lights, the metal folding-chairs, the dorm-style lamps, the eroding carpet. “This all feels so familiar. What is happening to us?” She shrugged, but not before nodding in agreement.
There is a sound I hear all the time now, in the music that surrounds me. Or rather, it is a type of sound that I can only describe by listing the things it reminds me of. It sounds like nostalgia for the future, like robots at the beach, like the darkest depression and the brightest cheer you’ve ever felt. It sounds like carefree but not because I don’t care but because I can’t care. Like, these are the times we’re in, the world is ending, we have no future but I promise I’m having fun.
For her fifth studio album, Susanne Sundfør vowed to put herself to the test. After building a repertoire of producing for herself and others, as well as collaborations with Röyksopp and M83, she committed herself to self-producing and arranging a body of work. This autonomous approach conceived a frenetic collection of songs, comprising several stories and characters as she embarks on a crusade of love. Ten Love Songs expands on her signature brand of dramatic pop that interweaves classical and electronic elements as she hops between menacing electronics, sweeping synthpop and organ ballads. The initial assault of her diverse palette soon gives way to lyrics of complexities of love; obsession, unfulfillment, vengeance and trust. Her voice is both the anchor and the vehicle of the music as she brings these stories to life in the way she heard and imagined them. I spoke with Susanne about the intent of the record’s literal title, the learning curve of her career so far and the confidence she has developed to carry her music.
We have covered several of Lobster Theremin's limited edition releases since their genesis, ranging from Imre Kiss to Route 8 to Ozel AB. While there are several more excellent EPs coming your way from new LT artists, here are three that we would like to highlight.
Pairing with sister label Mörk, Raw M.T.'s La Duna is a calm cab ride along a coastal region. Seeing as how the "M.T." stands for music theory, this Italian producer surely has more goods to offer than what is briefly seen in this enjoyable EP. The title track starts us off in the usual LT aesthetic of lo-fi quality, and the beat is experienced with a type of jovial skipping stone counterrhythm. Midway through the track, a friendly, curious melody hits all the while the shimmering pad persists in the background. "Untitled" is an entrancing, beachy song, nearly balaeric. It bears a steady and simple hum next to an indecipherable, perhaps Arabic, vocal sample. "Strike" is slightly darker. An applicable analogy for the listening experience of this EP is an afternoon in a beachy destination: it starts slow and sunny, perhaps accented by consumption of local food and material goods. The taxi ride to the social event of the day is like "Untitled," private, transitional, and meditative. Then, "Strike" is the dirty transition from participation in one's own beachy day to an acidic situation in either a bar or an underground party. Take what you will from this alternative construction, but take lots from this gorgeous piece of music.
Austin Brown is one artist in Berlin that I admire a lot. He is someone who knows entirely what he is doing. Not just by the action, but by the intellectualization of it as well. When it comes to music, Austin can tell you everything from the difference between sine and square waves to the forces behind his favourite records. On the last EP of my band 케이프 you can hear Austin's self-built amplifiers coming to work.
This experience doesn't come from anywhere specific. At the age of five, Austin began playing violin and has been playing music ever since. The US-native used to play in more than 50 bands, most notably Why?, the Anticon hip hop rock outfit. In 1991, he began studying audio engineering and experimented with recording techniques for a long time. In the 2000s, he worked as a professional sound engineer in the states before moving to Berlin in 2008. Here, he made several records for local bands and worked in different venues; "My education was just trying out a bunch of bad ideas to see what might work."
The two new songs "Pendulum Swing" and "Collide" from his moniker High Heels are a demonstration of Austin's skills. We hear perfectly arranged dense rock music with a warm organic sound. Distorted lead vocals catch up with clouds of noise produced by guitar and powerful drums. The music has a great dry '90s vibe, reminding me a lot of Sonic Youth records from that time along with newer reverb drunken noise music like No Joy. With the two songs, Austin perfects the style of his older records out under the same name.
An important part of Austin's working process is to collaborate with other people. In the course of the last years, he has recorded with over 20 other musicians. These are people he worked with in studios or wanted to work with, but didn't have the chance to. For each musician Austin carefully picked the material knowing pretty well their individual playing styles. This way, he could compile the best parts together and add them to the songs the way he wanted without making compromises. "The results are fantastic. People do their best work, when they are doing whatever they want," he says.
Especially nowadays where everything primarily seems to be about style you don't come across many people who are real maîtres of their metier. Hanging with a perfectionist like Austin is always quite refreshing. It reminds you that dilettantism and irony, as interesting as they are, are not the only things that are cool.
This little website is turning five today, and there will be a proper party sometime this spring – or so we hope. We'll keep you posted. For the time being however, without further ado, here's our Special Anniversary Editon of the NFOP Show on Berlin Community Radio, which aired last Friday. We only played songs from 2010, the first year of the blog, when it was tiny and even more irrelevant. It was the age of blogging however, even though decline yould already be felt. In June of that year, Altered Zones entered the playing field, which first seemed to make everything even more exciting but ultimately engulfed everything into the abyss along with itself (*full disclosure: this author used to contribute to AZ). The rest is history. In any case, we're still here. Thanks for bearing with us.
That being said, another announcement: The NFOP Show on BCR will from now on be biweekly, two hours long, and air from 7 to 9pm CET. The next edition will be on March 6. Tune in.
Stream both parts of our anniversary show below.
(1) Games ”Shadows In Bloom“
(2) Autre Ne Veut ”Drama Cum Drama“
(3) Hype Williams ”The Throning“
(4) Girls ”Broken Dreams Club“
(5) LA Vampires & Matrix Metals ”Berlin Baby“
(6) Twin Sister ”All Around and Away We Go“
(7) The Sweethearts ”Burnin' Thru the Night“
(8) Herbcraft “Road to Agartha”
(9) Velvet Davenport “Warmy Personal Routine”
(10) Holy Strays “Faint Beams Ceremony”
(11) Big Troubles “Bite Yr Tongue”
(12) D’eon “Keep The Faith (Airbird Remix)
(13) Philip Seymour Hoffman “requiem for the ghostbuster”
(14) Perfume Genius “Look Out, Look Out”
(15) Rangers “Deerfield Village”
(16) Tamaryn “Love Fade”
(17) Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti “Bright Lit Blue Skies”
(18) Pigeons “Fade Away”
(19) Julian Lynch “Mare”
(20) Demdike Stare “Caged in Stammheim”
(21) Ensemble Economique “Forever Eyes”
(22) LA Vampires & Zola Jesus “Bone Is Bloodstone”
(23) Sun Araw “Deep Cover”
(24) Woods “Blood Dries Darker”
(25) Herzog “Cautiously Optimistic”
(26) Coma Cinema “Only”
(27) How to Dress Well “You Hold The Water”
(28) Jeans Wilder “Blanket Mountain”