Tag Archives: Experimental

On “Contact,” Pharmakon’s Bracing Noise is a Vehicle for Self-Discovery

Pharmakon

The Greek word ‘pharmakon,’ riddled with bizarre contradiction, refers to both a poison and a medicine. In ancient times, the related term ‘pharmakos’ was used to refer to a criminal, slave or deformed person who would be cast off from society as a scapegoat during times of famine or violence (and were often bombarded with stones as they ran from the city). Yet these same people were often considered ‘medicine men;’ in other words, the people that the city found most repulsive were also their saviors.

A similarly perplexing duality runs through Contact , Maragret Chardiet’s latest album as Pharmakon. Contact exists in two places at once: its arrangements, comprised largely of a harsh clatter of distorted percussion, piercing, nail-on-chalkboard synthesizers, and Chardiet’s scalding howl, evoke a cruel and meaningless world. Yet the album’s creation, as Chardiet explained on yet another day of weird weather in New York City, is rooted far more in wary hopefulness than nihilism or despair. Through these six compositions, she doesn’t so much conjure the apocalypse than to inspire the listener to find power within.

Listen to Contact in full exclusively at Bandcamp Dailly:

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Album of the Day: Fire-Toolz, “Drip Mental”

As the human experience grows increasingly entangled with technology, the idea of “sensory saturation” has gone from a minor annoyance to an everyday fact of life. Music—particularly sample-based music—reflects this; with the advent of mashups and memes, all media has become fair game for recycling and re-use, a process that, at its worst, flattens all of its source sounds, images, and ideas into an endless barrage of kitsch.

On the surface, it would be easy to mistake Chicago-based electronic producer/multi-instrumentalist Angel Marcloid for just another mashup artist. On Drip Mental, her second album under the pseudonym Fire-Toolz, Marcloid combines blood-curdling black metal howls with the kind of bubblegum synth-pop that used to soundtrack VHS workout videos in the ’80s. Yes, Marcloid plays up the contrast between those two elements for maximum absurdity, but Drip Mental is more than just an orgy of stimulation.

Campy and disturbing at the same time, the album illuminates, challenges, and ultimately makes art out of our relationship with media. The samples on Drip Mental bob and weave in the music like loose space junk—a reverb-drenched smooth-jazz saxophone figure, courtesy of Richard Elliott, pings against an iconic riff by math metal outfit The Dillinger Escape Plan; a punchline delivered by cartoon character SpongeBob SquarePants brushes shoulders with a spooky voice whispering “Look behind you,” a sample from a Halloween item she saw at a big box store.

Drip Mental creates an almost dementia-like effect by wrenching its various samples free from any context. Marcloid has been releasing music for years under a host of monikers, including ambient titles like last year’s Blatherskite Empath Analysis of Omen Puzzle ’92. And while she draws from a harsher, denser palette on Drip Mental, her affinity for wide-open soundscapes shines through all the abrasiveness, binding together the music’s disparate sounds. On opening track “Subconscious Pilsen Relics Pt 2 [CODENAME_AIRPLANE MODE],” Elliott’s saxophone decays into a vaporous swirl that, for a few seconds at least, aspires to the majesty of, say, Vangelis’ Blade Runner score.

The album is just as effective when it gets ugly. Marcloid’s muffled screams of the words “I dreamt that every man who didn’t fight for me was shot” at the end of “All Deth is U [CODENAME_FINAL TOUCH LOCATION]” cut through the darkness, evoking a violent kind of anguish. It is in moments like these, or when Marcloid sings that “Guns don’t kill people unless the guns are me/ In a sea of semen a slug can still be free,” that Drip Mental is at its most disturbingly provocative and, paradoxically, its most human.

Throughout, Marcloid references early-’90s artifacts of internet and computer culture—a sound evoking the familiar ping that once announced a new e-mail message, the fonts and the tower-style PC that grace the album cover—but she operates in a universe wholly separate from smiley-faced chiptune artists who romanticize dated media formats.

As well she should. In the age of Gamergate and cyberbullying, we are too well-acquainted with the internet’s menacing underbelly to focus solely on tickling ourselves with its surface joys. Though Drip Mental‘s lens is aimed at the past, it’s hardly nostalgic. Instead, it offers stark insights into contemporary online existence. For years, sci-fi and cyberpunk have warned of soon-coming future dystopias. On Drip Mental, that dystopia is now, and it’s an internal condition. Angel Marcloid explores that treacherous terrain with sharp insight and skill.

—Saby Reyes-Kulkarni

The Auris Apothecary Label Has the “Very Real Desire to Destroy Everything”

Auris Apothecary

An island of blue in a swallowing sea of red, Monroe County is one of Indiana’s few liberal outposts, thanks particularly to the control of Bloomington, a laid-back college town of a little more than 80,000. There are essentially two brick-and-mortar record stores: one is a mainstay that caters to collectors and novices alike and has a good working relationship with Secretly Canadian, Bloomington’s indie-music administrator. The other is a basement-dwelling offshoot with a curated inventory that leans toward avant-garde, metal, and hardcore punk. There’s an art-house movie theater on campus, and a repurposed silent-movie house augmented by an ancient marquee. And on the outer fringes of the cultural scene is Auris Apothecary, an obscure micro-label operated by one guy acting as three who has become more fascinated with the destruction of music than its production.

Dante Augustus Scarlatti would seem a pretty ostentatious moniker if it weren’t for the ornate and cryptic label to which it’s inextricably tied. (That Auris Apothecary’s owner/operator requested to only be identified by said alias helps add to the label’s mystique.) To date, Scarlatti has overseen the production of nearly 150 releases, many of them experimental and naturalistic in sound—and all of them painstakingly designed and packaged. However, it’s been the label’s “anti-releases,” the records that require actual physical toil to unearth the damaged music contained within, that have confused, confounded, and delighted listeners the most. Scarlatti has become so enamored with his “very real desire to destroy everything” that he’s gone as far as to regard 2017 as “the year of the anti-release.”

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Big Ups: HIRS’ Queer Thrash Fury is Taking Over America

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When JP, founding member of the queer thrash band HIRS, gets to the copy shop, the person helping her doesn’t blink an eye at the graphic insert for the band’s forthcoming Trans Girl Take Over tour tape—which happens to be a cartoonish act of violence. They’re similarly unfazed by the silvery glitter-colored HATE MALE button fronts JP has printed, nor do they raise an eyebrow when she asks for “the hottest pink” paper they have. After all, this is Philadelphia, and while the political atmosphere here has its own peculiarities, the overall atmosphere is decidedly tolerant.


On the upcoming Trans Girl Take Over tour, which takes the band to cities like Minot, North Dakota and Bozeman, Montana, the audiences may not be quite as sympathetic—which is exactly what JP wanted. “I love playing places that don’t get as many shows as all these cities on the East Coast,” she says.

“I’m really excited to meet the people [in those areas] who have been booking weirder shows for stranger people—or even just booking shows for marginalized people, period,” she continues, before adding, “and also intimidate the assholes I know are going to be there.” She’s not kidding about that last point; at the start of every HIRS set, JP asks the marginalized people in the audience to come to the front and tells the cis white men who tend to dominate punk and metal shows to, “fall the fuck back.” While this is usually met with little resistance at the shows the band plays in Philadelphia, it’s hard to tell what might happen on tour.

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The Sound of Folk, Experimental Electronics, and Avant-Garde Music in Ireland

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Roslyn Steer. Photo by Mary Kelleher.

“There was a club night called Lazybird active in Dublin in the ’00s,” recalls Paul Condon, founder of the Fort Evil Fruit label. “This was the first time I recall having a sense of a consolidated underground scene here. They put on the likes of Christina Carter, Flaherty / Corsano, Circle, and Josephine Foster alongside local bands. After being turfed out of the venue—a narrow, windowless upstairs room in a city centre pub—they struggled to keep it going elsewhere, and it fizzled out. But it had an enduring impact in that it represented a sense of possibility and sparked off a lot of connections.”

There’s more than a few comparisons to be made between a contemporary underground in Ireland and the US-based movement dubbed by writer David Keenan back in 2003 as “New Weird America.” While both the Irish and U.S. scenes have roots in 1960s music, they also refuse to sit comfortably within the auspices of “folk.” The American groups Charalambides or MV & EE dealt in acoustic guitars and sprawling verses, but they also relied on heavy doses of dissonance and improvisation, filling out their sprawling discographies with psychedelic sidelong experiments. Similar rumblings have been taking place in Ireland.

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