Tag Archives: Electronic

Album of the Day: VVV, “Why El Paso Sky”

Austin-based Iranian-American Shawhin Izaddoost established his VVV project with a handful of singles in 2010, followed by the hyperactive, dubstep-leaning LP, Across the Sea in 2011. His latest, Why El Paso Sky, he’s calling a mixtape; the 16-piece collection is officially comprised of “B-sides and rarities” of the ambient techno ilk. These supposed loose ends shape up, though, boasting the tonal cohesion of something more centered and singular—you might almost call it an album.

Izaddoost’s flair for rhythmic experimentation via sub-bass frequencies and fractious time signatures remains intact on Why El Paso Sky, though he’s moved even further stylistically from the glossy digital euphoria of mainstream EDM. There’s enough low-end ammunition on tracks like “Gauss Patterns” and “Lens & Filter Repair Station” to cross over as club cuts, but there’s also a brittle, industrial corrosiveness that gives off a certain air of exhaustion, as if the factory workers are taking a creaking assembly conveyor to counseling. The oscillating machine sounds are channeled through a warm, static buffer that give them a humane, empathetic overtone. The shrieking gears on “Near War Path” bear a trace of Hieroglyphic Being’s shrill mechanics, while the arcing, minor key “Limestone” suggests Demdike Stare horrors, or Pye Corner Audio dramas.

With “follow up releases” being planned for arrival later in 2017, this collection appears to be the quieter and more modest of the offerings. At least that’s what the cassette-only format and press release might lead one to believe. Nevertheless, Why El Paso Sky is a rarity—seeming cast-offs bundled into a complete, lucid statement.

—Joseph Darling

The Bedroom Witch Believes the Dancefloor Can Be a Space for Healing

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Bedroom Witch. Photos by Kristin Cofer, part of “The Rose Project.”

Los Angeles artist Sepehr Mashiahof, who records and performs as The Bedroom Witch, uses catchy, danceable electronic music as a vehicle to explore—and to heal from—personal trauma. Her presence, both on and off-stage, is both soothing and quietly confident—she almost seems to glide instead of walk. Her performances, often accompanied by background projections she makes herself, are designed to inspire her audience to move. “I want all the struggling, beautiful freaks with whom I exist to find comfort in whatever way resonates with them individually through this other world that I designed for myself a long time ago.” she says, “This album is for them—it’s for us. and for our collective healing. Not for anyone else.”

As Mashiahof sees it, the sense of alone-ness that often comes with being socially marginalized can be both physical and metaphysical—which is why that dancefloor can be such a regenerative space. All of that feeds into the music she makes as Bedroom Witch. “My feelings of isolation from society definitely inform why I chose to set the Bedroom Witch [project] in a detached bedroom, floating somewhere in space and time,” she says.

The first full-length by The Bedroom Witch is set to come out on L.A.-based Practical Records, who have previously released work from Jeepneys, Julius Smack and Wizard Apprentice. The album, bluntly titled Injury, is due for tape release on April 21st. The album is a testament to Mashiahof’s fragility, vulnerability, and resilience in a world that sometimes refuses to make space for her. “My intention with this album,” she says, “was to source my own traumas and to confront them lucidly, in an attempt to make peace with the fact that they’ll never really go away.” The album feels simultaneously present, prophetically futuristic, and indebted to ‘80s dystopian cinema. Mashiahof’s dark electronics foreground her personal lyrics, where she calls upon those on the margins to imagine a future where they play a leading role. “When I think of Injury,” she says, “all I see is a vast land of volcanoes, statues, white balloons and shattered hourglasses scattered along seashores looking out into nothingness. That’s where I’ve been, and now I’m looking for the ones who dropped me off here and erased my memory.”

We talked to Mashiahof at length to explore this vision further.

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David Harrow Lived Through Punk, Post-Punk, New Wave, Industrial, and Dub Reggae but Isn’t Stopping Anytime Soon

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Adopted Los Angeleno David Harrow has been around the block a few times, but his passion for new possibilities in electronic music shows no sign of dimming. Under his prolific Oicho guise, he’s explored deep dub reggae roots, with a futurist sheen. But the latest Oicho tracks have moved further from reggae tonality and into more abstracted, ritualistic experiments with percussion and space that put him closest to bass music mavericks like Shackleton and Kode 9. All of this, though, is informed by a musical history that stretches back over three decades, and has been colorful, to say the very least.

While still in his teens, at the end of the ‘70s, the east Londoner got swept up in punk and post-punk, playing keyboards with the likes of Genesis P-Orridge’s Psychic TV, Jah Wobble and new wave poet Anne Clark. Always footloose, he spent time in Berlin—in the orbit of industrial godfathers Einstürzende Neubauten—and San Francisco, where he became a house keyboardist/producer for Razormaid Records, including on records by disco icon Sylvester. Later, back in the UK, he fell in with the On-U Sound collective around Adrian Sherwood, regularly working in the studio and on stage worldwide with Lee “Scratch” Perry, Mark Stewart, Bim Sherman and many more. Their work ethic was boggling, their output was stupendous in its volume and influence, but the collective was also chaotic and as dedicated to living on the edge as to sonic innovation.

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How Gato Preto Use Post-Apocalyptic Sci-Fi Narratives to Explore the African Diaspora

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To watch the video for Gato Preto’s “Barulho” is to be haunted by the images of band members Gata Misteriosa and Lee Bass transforming from war prisoners into futuristic superheroes, clad in leather, silver and mirror, glow-in-the-dark sunglasses. Their mission: to use their self-described “super ghetto mobile” to save humanity from a villain who wants to control the world’s grooves.

It’s the kind of fantastic, post-apocalyptic sci-fi narrative that has been the backbone of Gato Preto’s style and music since the femcee and the producer united in 2012 in their hometown of Düsseldorf. But to hear them explain it, stumbling into their aesthetic was less a specific vision and more of a happy accident. Mixing Afro-Futurism, steampunk, goth-punk, and tribal culture, Gato Preto first sought out to create a different artistic world for themselves, one where they could perform their borderless, African electronic bass without reducing or trivializing their heritage (Lee is Ghanian-German and Gata is Mozambique-Portuguese) while also appealing to a wider, pan-African audience. As lifelong sci-fi fans, they realized the power of African visibility in science fiction narratives and its ability to address real world issues of power, race, and culture. It wasn’t long before the pair gave both their visual aesthetic and their music a political edge.

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Album of the Day: Various Artists, “Oz Waves”

As fringe subcultures go, electronic music from Australia’s ‘80s underground is arguably one of the more neglected. Aside from deeply influential acts like Severed Heads, much of that era’s gems have languished outside of popular memory, at best graduating from tiny tape runs to obscure internet uploads.

Aussie reissue label Efficient Space excavates 10 such lost wonders on the new compilation Oz Waves, curated by Sydney-born DJ Steele Bonus. Though united in their unpolished, DIY vibe, the selections cover a wide range of sounds. Some are disturbingly dark (the engrossing bass throb of Prod’s “Knife on Top”; the jarring, competing layers of The Horse He’s Sick’s industrial-edged “Larynx”). Others are almost contagiously bright, like Moral Fibro’s bossa nova-kissed “Take a Walk in the Sun” and Zerox Dreamflesh’s dubby instrumental “Squids Can Fly.”

Of them all, the gleefully sacrilegious “Jesus Krist Klap Rap (Orthodox Mix)” from MK Ultra & The Assassins of Light is the most immediately danceable. Irena Xero’s punch-drunk “Lady on the Train” and He Dark Age’s itchy “Holding Out For Eden” feel like fever-dreams, while the previously-unreleased “Will I Dream?” by Andy Rantzen (half of seminal Aussie techno duo Itch-E & Scratch-E) has a frazzled, mechanistic hypnotism. Meanwhile, Software Seduction’s squiggly slow burn “New Collision” and Ironing Music’s twinkling “Don’t Wish it Away” seem to anticipate the likes of Stereolab and Broadcast.

The result of a diverse scene that extended to zines, visual art, and beyond, Oz Waves is a valuable invitation to explore these and other overlooked outliers of the time. Many of the artists featured here are still at it—among them, Ratzen and Irena Xero . Both then and now, they emerge as misfits seizing the means of production—via affordable synths, drum machines and cassette duplication—and bending it to their will.

Doug Wallen