This has been going really well; thanks for everyone's comments & words of encouragement on the "DAT era" project! It's been a time-consuming, often therapeutic, occasionally painful, but overall rewarding exercise to reconnect with all of this music & get it back out into the world. I've just posted the November installment, meaning we're at the six month mark; I'm embedding the September, October, and November offerings here ::
Oren Ambarchi's "Hubris" (Editions Mego #227) is out this week; I had the pleasure of spending a few afternoons with Oren & Joe Talia tracking parts for it at Joe's home studio up the street in Brunswick, just before he moved to Japan. It's a great record, using the framework of Wang Chung's impeccable score to William Friedkin's "To Live And Die In L.A." as a blueprint (you likely have the same recollection of the deadpan gaze of this band's unusual-looking lead singer as most implanted right now, but the music & film are beyond compare).
It features an amazing roster of artists - friends and/or heroes, all - including Arto Lindsay (doing his best DNA-era deconstructed guitar skronk), crys cole, Jim O'Rourke, Jorg "Konrad Sprenger" Hiller, Mark Fell, Will Guthrie, Ricardo Villalobos, and Joe & Oren, all feeding into a three-part, linear build of locked-grid rhythms that recalls an uptempo rewiring of Neu & Can's motorik inasmuchas Agharta / Pangaea -era Miles.
You can find "Hubris" on LP, & CD, & digital at your local sources - Melbourne folks; I recommend Round and Round & Polyester - or online at your preferred source (I have a few c/o my online-only "Broken-Music" outlet).
"Hubris continues the exploration of relentless, driving rhythms heard on Ambarchi’s Sagittarian Domain (2012) and Quixotism (2014). Where those records looked to Krautrock and techno for their starting points, the sidelong opening track here begins from the perhaps unlikely inspirations of disco and new wave, drawing particularly from Ambarchi’s love of Wang Chung’s soundtrack to William Friedkin’s To Live and Die in L.A. Leaving behind the song-forms of these reference points, Ambarchi weaves a sustained and pulsating web of layered palm-muted guitars from which individual voices rise up and recede, eventually setting the stage for some lush guitar synth from Jim O’Rourke. Arnold Dreyblatt collaborator Konrad Sprenger contributes overtone-rich motorized guitar, pushing the piece into a satisfying intersection of shimmering minimalism and rhythmic drive that smoothly builds up until the entrance of Mark Fell’s electronic percussion in its final section.
After a short second part, in which Ambarchi, O’Rourke and Crys Cole pay tribute to the skewed harmonic sense of Albert Marcoeur with a track built from layered bass guitar figures and abstracted speech, the long final piece pushes the concept of the first side into darker and denser areas. Joined by electronic rhythms from Ricardo Villalobos and the twin drums of Joe Talia and Will Guthrie, the layered guitars of the first piece are transformed into a raw and tumbling fusion-funk groove that calls to mind early Weather Report or even the first Golden Palominos LP. As this stellar rhythm section rides a single repeated chord change into oblivion, a series of spectacular events emerge in the foreground: first, aleatoric synthesizer burbles from Keith Fullerton Whitman, then slashing skronk guitar from Arto Lindsay, until finally Ambarchi’s own fuzzed-out guitar harmonics take center stage as the piece builds to an ecstatic frenzy. Few artists could hope to include such an incredible variety of collaborators on one record and still hope for it to have a unique identity, but Ambarchi manages to do just that, crafting three pieces that emerge directly out of his previous work while also pushing ahead into new dimensions." -Francis Plagne
I was asked to preface an article entitled "The 50 Best Ambient Albums of All Time" on Pitchfork & obliged, mainly as Mark Richardson's week-of-release review of "Playthroughs" back in 2002 was both incredibly insightful, enthusiastic coverage & a much-needed boost of confidence as I segued into making more difficult, long-form, laminar music following the slow, steady decline of enthusiasm surrounding the explicitly anti-functional dance music I was making & performing as Hrvatski*.
The list itself has, even in the day or two immediately following its publication, stirred up a miasma of dissent amongst followers of the genre, with seemingly everyone chiming in about their own ignored nominations, including several valid takedowns offering alternate frameworks for what is - and isn't - ambient music. Despite the hyperbolic title, It's important to see the list for what it actually is: the personal favorites of the 13 Pitchfork contributors that tend to cover this sort of music, ordered by a rank of crossover.
Yes, it writes many of the obvious titles out of the canon, and the focus on more recent work - much of it infuriatingly still in the midst of its respective press & marketing phases - is a bit much. I'm just glad I get to pepper such a thing with references to Joanna Brouk, Tony Conrad, JD Emmanuel, Eliane Radigue, Terry Riley, Damion Romero, & Carter Thomas. The article & preface are here ::
* A bit of trivia: both "Playthroughs" & "Swarm & Dither" were released on the same day; while "Playthroughs" still gets referenced - it occupies a totally respectable number in said list - I don't think "Swarm" even recouped its manufacturing expenses.
I was surprised to learn that one of my neighbors here in the vibrant Brunswick neighborhood of Melbourne operates a fantastic dub-plate service called Small Run. After a series of emails with the proprietor, I decided to go ahead and produce a micro-run of 25 copies of a recording I'd been revisiting often, made on the "Voigt-Kampff Machine" Hybrid Digital-Analogue Modular Synth back in 2013, while sound-checking the debut of the "Dream Cargoes" performance in the titular city in East Germany.
I'm very happy with how these turned out; "Halle-Saale" is now available for purchase via Broken-Music ::
Debut release on a new label run out of the same Melbourne garage as Broken-Music; these are Hand Cut Long Playing records - think Dub Plates rather than Lathe Cuts; high-spec, wide-dynamic, low-noise LPs cut one-at-a-time - complete with full color labels. Each copy comes inside a black poly-lined inner sleeve housed inside an eye-popping, pre-stressed, full-color hand-assembled jacket.
Issued in a micro edition of 25 & produced in collaboration with Nathan Sawford / Small Run Vinyl & Shannon Adams / Smada Design, "Halle (Saale)" presents a 36-minute piece, performed & recorded on a Hybrid Digital-Analogue Modular Synthesizer in a gigantic concrete bunker on the bank of the Saale river on October 11th, 2013, during room-tuning & sound-checks for the debut performance of "Dream Cargoes."
"The initial wave of excitement on having captured something particular, yet inexplicable - by chance, or by dedication - can often give way to an ambivalence on successive listens... then fatigue. This is especially true for those who work with such ephemeral arts as systems-based music; excruciatingly so with the self-automating Modular Synthesizer patch. The embrace of just so much randomness and chance can be exhilarating in practice as new, inexplicable events are conjured & reined in... but a certain ennui in the authorlessness of it all can, and often does creep in. A hard drive full of hours & days of consequential-seeming, yet directionless audio can be a burden; a curse. So many possibilities, so little time & energy to step in & corral it all into something approaching a significant, shareable work. This condition has been at the center of my inward inability to release "studio" music for the past half-decade, preferring the immediacy & finality of live performance & documentation thereof.
With all that said, I've revisited this particular recording on a number of occasions in the years intervening its capture & have marveled in its staying power. The first playback, the morning after, led to a giddy excitement. A few months later, after the inanities of the particular patch had faded, I was forced to contemplate the actual sound-palette utilized: a selection of stray pings, earthy groans, and almost subliminal risings & fallings that belie the opulence of the machine used to generate them, harkening back to a simpler technological age. Now, years later, I can clearly hear echoes of the music I was especially obsessed with at the time: Baudouin Oosterlynck, Dominique Lawalrée, and Raymond Dijkstra; proponents of a certain "limited-resource, maximum potential" approach to sound-organization. Another frame of reference: I was & remain enamored with "Structural" FIlm, a healthy investigation of the work of Michael Snow, Tony Conrad, Standish Lawder, and the like led me to ponder the equivalent in music - a rule-set wherein variables were left to unravel, uncontested, for a given length. In perhaps a less-than-entirely-subconscious way I was channeling these ideas with this music." - KFW, Brunswick, September 2016.
After some internal hemming & hawing following conversations with a series of extremely rational people, I caved in & set up an account on the Bandcamp platform to explore what was possible there. After considerable research & a brief romance-phase (segueing into a lasting, meaningful relationship) I've decided to begin publicly offering music thereon, focusing, at first, on an archive of DAT tapes containing virtually all of the music I recorded between 1993 & 2002.
I know, I know, major late pass needed - plus my track record of public opinion on the matter of digital-only releases isn't exactly sterling - but seeing where we are at this particular point in time with regards to the reality of that twilight, epoch-spanning box full of physical media things, this feels like a way forward; one with little to no fiscal investment from me, or, most importantly, anyone else to get it all happening. Cruise on over to ::
...where I'll be posting the contents of a different DAT tape on the first of each month, for at least the next few years, covering damn-near all of the music I recorded during the 90s & early 2000s. There's a distinct concentration on the "Hrvatski" era of 1996-2000, but also on the music I had recorded as DJ Hekla, Gai/Jin, all of the various "Attention: Cats" aliases & with bands such as El-Ron, The Liver Sadness, The Finger Lakes, and so on.
As you can see from the background image, there's an enormous amount of material to contend with (those are 45 - 120m tapes!); going through & trying to make sense of it all has been a rewarding process & thus far I've been happy with how everything ends up getting presented. I love how stressing the built-in aesthetics of the individual "Blank" DAT tape (I was in no way a brand loyalist & each make & model of tape has its own look & feel) in accord with the music frames it all in a very specific way (never has our sleek digital future seemed so distant, ancient).
In addition to the straight per-DAT retail packages - each of these include the running order of individual tracks in FLAC or MP3, carefully & sensibly remastered this year, plus ultra high-res scans of every flat surface of the tapes themselves - I'm offering a per-month subscription, which grants access to each new title, plus all of what's already up. Not a bad deal, all things considered; said box, even a slimmed-down 10-disc "hits" package, would have been in the AUD$120 ballpark anyways. Asking AUD$2.29 for 13:42 or music - or $19.75 for just under two hours - seems manageable.
Below are embeds & links to the first three (following a short mid-May "teaser" with various takes of a couple of remixes from 2002); please get in touch if you have any desires for particular material to be made available sooner rather than later, or if you have any suggestions as to how to streamline this whole process; I'm all ears. I'm also contemplating producing facsimile editions of each tape on disc with a similar aesthetic to Creel Pone (printed discs inside round-bottom sleeves in professionally printed booklets in slim sleeves; if you have the specific desire to own such a thing or things, please get in touch).