There was a time when Terre Thaemlitz couldn’t imagine making her music available online. The reasons—outlined in great detail on the producer’s own Comatonse Recordings site—were both philosophical and political, but they also stemmed from a string of bad experiences, where songs were sold without her permission.
“I had a six year struggle between 2003-2009 to get my old catalog taken off major digital stores,” Thaemlitz explains over email. “They were totally non-cooperative, and refused to tell me who had given them my albums or who they were paying royalties to.”
Thaemlitz has refused to embrace those necessary evils because they strip the context away from music—everything from liner notes to artwork—and any semblance of control over how it’s consumed or distributed. In a perfect world, she’d maintain a one-on-one relationship with fans and avoid the “populist model” of posting everything she’s ever made across countless digital channels and seeing what sticks.
But now, Thaemlitz has decided to join close friends like Will Long and Lawrence English on Bandcamp. The purpose of her Comatonse page is to exclusively host rare or long out-of-print titles that won’t be returning in physical form any time soon. The titles on the Comatonse Bandcamp page favor her experimental and ambient recordings, as opposed to the deep-house cuts she has produced under such aliases as DJ Sprinkles, K-S.H.E., and G.R.R.L.
In the following interview, the underground icon breaks down the releases on her Bandcamp page.
This 7-inch was commissioned by the German label and record store A-Musik. At the time, I was re-reading Constructivist manifestos and came across this rather strange social realist painting of Lenin “conducting” society. Within its social structure, music seems to play a large role, symbolized by marching bands. There were also women to the upper right, and some increasingly androgynous figures to his left. I think I was also going through a heavy rotation phase of Devo’s Muzak album. All of that collided into this anti-Muzak record, the manifesto on the outer sleeve being an old Constructivist manifesto with some words changed to suit my agenda.
Chugga: A Big 7-inch (2003) / Memphistophelis (2010)
Chugga is from the trip-hop era, if anybody remembers that genre. Think hip-hop without lyrics. It was a one-off project that never found a full release at the time. Lester Fuero and Jeff Hanes are friends from Memphis; I did the mastering for them. The tracks all have very low basslines, which will be totally inaudible on standard computer speakers. If you are previewing these and don’t hear any bass, and the tracks don’t make any sense, try using a good pair of headphones.
Comp x Comp (2019)
As the title implies, this is a compilation of tracks originally released on other compilations, spanning 1995 to 2011 or so. I vaguely remember making “Get In and Drive” around the time of starting work on Soil, but everyone hated it—including the owners of Instinct, where I was under contract at the time. Had anyone liked it, Soil could have been a totally different album.
Couture Cosmetique (1997)
This was my first album after getting out of my contract with Instinct, so I was finally free to include an essay. It outlines the metaphorical relationships between my use of audio sampling, and gender representation via cross-dressing and other practices I also see as “sampling” cultural norms.
Die Roboter Rubato (1997)
I once heard a great bit of gossip from a colleague who visited Kraftwerk’s Kingklang Studio. They said there were only two CDs on the mixing board: Señor Coconut Y Su Conjunto’s El Baile Alemán and this.
Love for Sale (1999)
Track one—”Taking Stock in Our Pride”—pretty much sums up why I never found a sense of community in the SF queer scenes while living in Oakland between 1997 and 2000.
Means from an End (1997)
The harsh opening to this album was a deliberate fuck you to the P.L.U.R.-laden ambient bullshit of the day. But the album also contains my personal favorite quiet track, “Means from an End: Means from an End.” You really need a good sound system to hear it properly. I wouldn’t advise putting it on loop all day, though. I distinctly recall feeling nausea from the high frequencies after working on the record for longer than six hours at a time.
Replicas Rubato (1999)
Gary Numan’s manager was super helpful with faxing me old interviews and research materials while writing the accompanying text. For the youngsters out there, faxes were like emails made from trees that would come out of special telephones.
Another 7-inch originally commissioned by a German label, this time Bottrop-Boy. I was already living in Japan at this point, and working on my album Lovebomb / Ai No Bakudan. This was one of the last releases before Mac OS X broke all my old software. Imagine the software equivalent of dumping an entire studio of analogue synth gear into a dumpster. My productions never recovered. If you wonder why my ambient albums suck now, that’s why.
The album title was a play on my first name, which most people presumed was some artsy-fartsy reference to the French word for “earth.” Actually, it’s a reference to St. Teresa of the Roses; the spelling is from my parents, not a stage name. Again, as a kind of fuck you to the spiritual and romantic ambient fodder of the day. I was thinking about how my name can also just mean dirt. A lot of people seem to like the track “Elevatorium.” It was basically copying the ambient sounds heard in my Spanish Harlem apartment at the time—from non-stop bodega music to the sub-bass rumble of trucks a block away. The apartment was an old public school, so the space was like a huge cube with windows only on one wall facing the street. Horrible air circulation. It felt like a mix between an elevator and aquarium… an “elevatorium.”
This was a collaboration with Bill Laswell, done around the same time as Soil. I’ve included bonus tracks of my base compositions for tracks one and two, which Bill layered on top of, so hardcore fans can get a sense of who did what. (Track three was composed by me using samples provided by Bill’s engineer.) Yes, what reviewers and fans have often called “classically Bill” scraping metal sounds were actually my contribution. [Laughs] Maybe they’ll be interesting for a few maniacs.