In the moment

Dezi Magby, aka DJ Psycho, is a prolific DJ and producer from Flint, MI. He has been honing his craft  ever since he was 11 years old and picked up the turntable as his instrument of choice and started wielding records like sonic weapons. He is affiliated with the all-important Detroit Techno Militia, which has helped carry the banner of Techno music for that city and for all of North America for some time. He is a part of a new collective of artists called Convergent, which focus on sound production and DJing that pushes the boundaries of arbitrary music rules. They also just found out that their releases will be distributed by Underground Resistance/Submerge. Even with this techno pedigree, he is not one that can be so easily put in a box labeled “techno” and placed to gather dust in this genre classification in your brain. He spins EVERYTHING. I do not exaggerate here. In my short time immersing myself in this form of music, he finds connections in beat and sound that I have heard few people even consider. Take this recent mix he put together called “Scenes From The Closed Doors”:

Or take his appearance on Detroit’s Fox2 where he found an innovative new way to introduce people to his sound through the use of the Charlie Brown Theme Song and another very interesting track I will let you hear for yourself:

His sets for dance floors are no different. One listen to his extensive set of mixes on his mixcloud demonstrates he is adept at taking the listener back to a place where disco, house,  jungle, techno, and Drum & Bass were all part of the same musical language not distinct, unrecognizable vernaculars.   Listen to those mixes HERE. ]

Nebula

Entering DJ Psycho’s world of sound is like stepping into an interplanetary portal and being thrown at light speed into an alternate dimension. A dimension that looks, smells, tastes, and feels like the world we are so accustomed to, but where the development of music took a left instead of a right turn. One might say going left wouldn’t have made much a difference than going right, but in DJ Psycho’s universe the result was dramatic. Gone is narrow minded listening according to the limiting rules of genre classification and the hype machine. Gone is defining oneself according to arbitrary definitions of “the cool” created to push product. Gone is that empty motivation of self-aggrandizement and party culture. What remains is the pursuit of art. The pursuit of self-expression and finding ways to link the power of the music in vast interconnected networks via the turntable device. What remains is Soul; that irresistible force that propels us to Live, Create, and “Point Ourselves in the Direction of Our Dreams”. Seems to me that going left is the only way any of us make it out of this existence with any sort of experience of really getting in touch with the human condition.

Flyer

Luckily, this saturday (May 11) you got a chance to take that left hand turn and enter this alternate universe for yourself with a night of sound curated by Squared. Dezi will be playing alongside like-minded local musicians: The Fallen, Lower Frequency, and Beckett. As excited as I am to see Magby spin live, I am equally excited to see how this night of music unfolds with our local support. I am a huge fan of the live PA sets of The Fallen (We are talking creating music on the spot here and not just spinning), the smooth roller coaster ride of Lower Frequency, and the downtempo sounds of Beckett. All the fun starts at 9 pm at Victory’s and there is no cover. Event Details HERE. In the mean time check out the interview with Dezi below to learn more about his art and approach to music:

Local Autonomy: How does sound and music influence the way you live and experience life?
Dezi: I was taught at an early age that everything around U influences U. Good, bad, pleasant, unpleasant. The oddest things influence me. Watching Looney Tunes. Talking 2 my kids. The news. It all has 2 go somewhere…and it locks its way in 2 my subconscious until it gets pulled out 4 some reason or another. Luckily, I keep my headphones on most of the time, so the thing that gets me going the most is what’s in them. I try 2 take in as much as I can in the course of a day and most times at night, because U never know when something will strike U. I’ve woken out of a cold sleep and made things. Still do.

LA: 2.) It took a lot of courage to end the Irrational outfit and start Convergent. What drove you to start a crew that was more like a family?
D: Irrational HAD 2 end. It had no choice. It reached the end of its course by not having a course 2 begin with. The ideas were there, but there was something holding it back. I kinda had this personal dustup over the winter, and when things like that happen, U naturally want 2 take a different course in life just 2 keep U from going insane. I decided at that point 2 ‘dead’ Irrational, since its purpose was muddy anyway, and true irrationality is just an ugly thing 2 witness, and I didn’t want that connotation anymore with what I was doing creatively. Luckily, as the lineup goes, it was already there. Nano Too Hype has been one of my best friends 4 over 15 years. I’ve had his back since he was 17, and I always accepted him 4 being him. Ryan Start and I are as close as it gets. Our philosophies are in sync. We’re both Geminis – he’s a G II, I’m a G III – so there’s an understanding that goes beyond just simple friendship. Dustin Alexander aka Dayda….he and I have been friends forever as well. We like a lot of the same forward thinking music. Kevin’s my best friend on the planet – we have a 26 year history of bashing clubs 2gether on a cerebral level. Me and Kevin bought records from Jeffrey Woodward when we met in ’87, and Jeff was also the first person I heard play house music in my city – outside of me. It goes on and on throughout the entire lineup. All of us have some sort of long LOYAL history 2gether….so when the idea of putting Convergent 2gether came around, the family unit was the BIG thing that I wanted 2 put forth. The name was thought up by family, voted on by family and perpetuated by family. That’s the key. No one man can take on this all alone. Your team is everything. The name says it all. Convergent. All of us individuals coming 2gether and making something that represents our relationship 2 each other.
What’s beautiful about Convergent is that I don’t dare hold any of the members back from doing whatever they want 2 do – any avenue they wanna explore, I say “go 4 it”. Learn something, get good at it. That just means that the next time we come 2gether, no one is afraid 2 say “I got this” or “I think so-and-so has a hot record” or “I think I wanna put this out”. Our lack of fear combined with our respect of each other makes us all better as musicians and DJs and FRIENDS in the long run….and that’s what it should be about anyway, right?

LA: I loved hearing you share some of your philosophy on music creation and group building when you said at the end of a recent interview: “Forward motion. Don’t settle. Try Anything and Everything.” How does this open-minded, present moment centered approach influence your music?
D: If U take a look at my record collection, U realize that I have very few limits on things. I think of music as a gift, regardless of the source. I get as much feeling from a Public Enemy record as I do a Billy Squier record, or a P-Funk record, or a YMO record, or whatever. People take 2 much time worrying about genres and where things are supposed 2 fit and categories and all that dumb stuff. I don’t have time 4 that. When I go 2 a record store, I’m all through the room. My friend Herm that runs Vertigo Music in Grand Rapids, MI kinda makes a game of what ends up in my pile at the end of my trip. Most times, he is flat surprised. Other times, he’s like “I expected 2 see U pick that up.” That’s my philosophy. That’s what makes me tick. If I stayed in one lane, the people who know me best would think I was sick or something.

LA: I loved working through your back mix catalogue. Everytime I thought, “Oh, I get Dezi.” I was thrown a curve ball and you were spinning late 70s prog rock or you would throw in some disco, D N’ B, etc. How do you fit all these musical pieces together into a mosaic? Where do you see the connections?
D: Musically, everything has a pulse….the trick is 2 find it and make it relate 2 U. My influences are so freakin’ scattershot that writing it down kinda confuses even me. U never think of an inner city Black kid with a good set knowledge on The Beatles or Billy Joel or Todd Rundgren….or could talk 2 U about bands like Strapping Young Lad or Santo and Johnny or what have U. All of those things have a pulse that I can relate 2. I’ve always worked on the theory that the only thing that separates good music from working 2gether perfectly is BPM.

LA: Finally, what are some of the place, moments, people, or practices that inspire you to create?
D: I wish I could say that there was an individual time or place. It’s more like this running series of events. Seeing P-Funk at the height of their musical powers at age 9 at the IMA Sports Arena. Seeing Prince as many times as I have (16 and counting). Again…the cartoons. U have NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO idea how much Looney Tunes inspires me. It’s the whole warped sense of humour that I believe that people have lost touch with, especially in electronic music. The history of that music is so vast and so deep, yet people are happy 2 put them in their little categories, shut off their minds and pay attention only 2 that point in time. I have pre-dubstep records in my bedroom that the hardest anti-dubstep dude would lose his mind over. I can pull out Underground Resistance records that would make the nearest electrohouse fan drop a load of bricks in her pants. It’s all relative…and people need 2 see that. Maybe I’m the bridge. I don’t know. I haven’t gotten that far yet, and I’m the furthest thing from being done.
As far as people, my family comes first. My moms, she was all blues, old Stax and Hot Wax stuff, Sam Cooke, Motown and Atlantic sides, James Cleveland…music that spoke 2 the soul. My dad….man!! His taste was wide. Doo-wop, early rock and roll, anything funky, anything DETROIT, fusion jazz. He would bring back records and tapes from his friends at the shop all the time. He introduced me 2 Chicago “IX”, Bonnie Raitt’s first 2 albums and Stevie’s “Songs In The Key Of Life” in the same day. He and I discovered a lot of stuff 2gether – Frampton, Pablo Cruise, Steely Dan. My uncles gifted me with deep jazz, all the funk stuff that was coming out of Atlanta and Florida, Heatwave, Brothers Johnson. My brother and me were all about Funkadelic and Parliament and Kiss and stuff like that. Both parents sung in the choir, as did I and my siblings. I hated my own singing, so I picked up instruments. Of course mom and dad indulged me there. Drum sets, guitars, build-it-yourself keyboards. I got records 4 Christmas all the time. I didn’t care much 4 anything else anyway. The trips 2 my grandparents were big. Dad would flip the radio and keep driving. That brought me pop and rock. My cousin Jessie in Detroit put me on 2 the B-52s and whatever crazy stuff Mojo was playing. My aunt’s now ex-husband was a cabaret DJ in Pontiac, so whatever was hot, I was on be4 my classmates. He gave me lots and lots of records. Ugh. That’s only the first 10 years of my life….
I could go on forever, really, but again, it’s the whole thing about everything U hear, good or bad, or from whatever source U get it from, there’s an effect…and if U look close enough, there’s a tie. There’s a funk in early Andrews Sisters records that’s as hard as any James Brown jawn or in any of DJ Premier’s scratches. The middle finger that’s strong in Dead Kennedys records is united in spirit with Johnny Cash’s Sun Records output. I see as much syncopation in a Derrick May record as I do listening 2 George Shearing’s piano solos….and if U are listening 2 Kraftwerk and don’t hear Parliament’s playfulness, U gotta listen harder and looser, man. The uniting point of all of this great music is right there.

live

Sam Harmon, aka glacial23, is a electronic music producer, instrument builder, noise explorer, record label head honcho, etc. from that sprawling settlement on the southern reaches of Lake Erie, Cleveland. I have not delved much into the people and sounds coming from this city, but I have been continually impressed by the quality of the events and forward-thinking folks that are up there. Whether it is the spiritual melodicism of Forest Management, the open format deconstructionism of TEXTBEAK, my favorite record store Experimedia (run by the amazing sound artist Jeremy Bible), or the 500 other amazing folks and venues up there (That radio station up at Oberlin seems to just churn out amazing events). Like his contemporaries, Harmon has pushed his own singular music vision and has explored the beats, sounds, and musical ideas that interest him most by splicing together elements of noise, house, techno into his productions. However, he is more than just a musician. He also runs a label called Glacial Communications releasing his own and other artists work digitally and in limited run special format releases that would interest any collector of hand made physical releases.

Acetic

I have been following the work of glacial23, ever since his amazing release Acetic in March of last year (Which is available for free for a limited time right now on his Glacial Communications Bandcamp). On that release, he deployed a menagerie of drum machines, synths, and other hardware to explore the sounds of acid. Yet, these experiments weren’t necessarily your run of the mill “acid trax”. His tracks on Acetic took you down the dark, claustrophobic hallways of our existence with the sort of menacing sounds you would envision accompanying a film rendition of Franz Kafka’s “The Trial.” The type of sounds that bring to life the sonic environment of the labyrinths that we all navigate in our complex, bureaucratic societies where we are at the whim of authorities and rules we vaguely know and never consented to. I feel this is perfectly captured in “The End Track” where you seem to be penned in on all sides by the methodical machinations of the drum machine and synth, as it chugs on and on creating a whole world before your ears.

Prior to listen to this release, I had only really connected elements of the acid sound with the club tracks of the 1990s acid house. On Acetic, glacial23 still retained some of the dance floor sensibility, but also brought in his penchant for damaged/deconstructed techno/experimental music. I guess thats what drew me to his sound, as he finds much creative fodder by playing sets of formulaic “genre” rules up against one another. Though not as abrasive in his embracing of deconstruction as say Pete Swanson’s recent work, glacial23 brings in just amount of the “damaged” sound and the dance sensibility to bring us to a new place with these sort of acid sounds. This is directly evident in his track “Sense” from the 9/09 EP where he utilizes these sort of crystalline sounds that  jut up against and fight for attention with the infectious acid melody he plays over the top of the track:

His two most recent releases, a compilation of noise-influence techno “Four on the Noise Floor” and “Chute”, explore similar territory and showcase the work of contemporaries up in Cleveland that orbit in similar musical territory. Such work highlights not only Harmon’s approach, but the vibrant creators he is surrounded by in Cleveland.

glacial23 was nice enough to answer some questions for me in advance of his performance at Frequency Friday this Friday, May 3 at Wild Goose Creative. He will be performing alongside Yanktronics, Jazz improv group Brett Burleson/Ryan Jewell/Aaron Quinn, and Sam Hoar. Should be a burner. Event details can be found by clicking HERE.

Interview:

Local Autonomy: What does music and sound more broadly mean to the way you live and experience life?

glacial23: It’s pretty important. I’ve probably been fascinated by sound as long as I can remember, and interested in finding ways to reproduce what I hear, whether exactly through sampling, or in some kind of approximative way through synthesis.

set upLA: How did you get into making music and building your own instruments? Did one come before the other?

g: In school I played trumpet and euphonium from 5th-9th grade. By the time I got to college in 1993 I had a definite interest in electronic music, and had a friend in my freshman dorm who had a “real” synthesizer (a DX7) and drum machine he let me borrow for a little while. By the summer of 1995 I had started acquiring my first couple of pieces of gear- a Yamaha DX27, Realistic MG-1 (the so-called “Radio Shack Moog”, which I still own), and a Roland TR505 drum machine.

Building instruments happened a little later and followed a convoluted path- I tried building a little mixer in high school, but really had no idea what I was doing at the time and it didn’t work. After I had taken a real circuits class I decided I’d try my hand at putting some kits together. The first was a little bass drum synth called the ADV-Bass in 1998. By some miracle it worked correctly on the first try, so I got cocky and bought a couple more – a snare drum synth and a MIDI-CV converter. The snare synth never worked very well, and the MIDI-CV converter didn’t work at all (I finally fixed that a couple of years ago!). Frustrated by these second attempts, I put DIY gear on the backburner except for some very small projects (modding a morse code practice oscillator into a light theremin, for example)

At some point in the 2000s I received a Theremin kit as a gift which I eventually got working, and then in late 2006 I first read about this wondrous-looking microcontroller board called the Arduino(via this article: http://todbot.com/blog/spookyarduino/). By 2008 I knew enough of this electronics stuff to give introductory talks on it at the Notacon and Penguicon conferences. At Notacon that year, I met Pete Edwards (a well-known circuit bender and synth-DIY guy) who provided encouragement and chided me to up my game when he saw the terrible soldering iron I was using at the time.

Also in the summer of 2008, Bob Drake (aka Fluxmonkey, who has been doing this kind of stuff far longer than I have) did a summer workshop on building simple electronic music devices (you can find notes from those at http://fluxplayshop.blogspot.com and http://fluxmonkey.com/electronoize/). Some of the output from that workshop led to Ryan Kuehn offering to put out what became “DIY Volume I” on his label (Everyone Else Has A Record Label, So Why Can’t I?). I decided that the premise of that album should be a release where every instrument used would be either built, modified or repaired by me in order to be used (the “repaired” clause allowed for use of the MG-1 and my 4-track cassette recorder for multitracking), so I had to build the equipment I needed to make the sounds I wanted.

LA: When did you start Glacial Communications? Were you releasing music before this?

g: The label officially started around 2002. Before that I had put out a few things with The Button, a band/collective that had emerged out the radio show I did on WRUW from 1997-2010. Our first CDR came out in 1998- that group was more of the Negativland/ECC sample-heavy collage variety, so I decided to start my own little imprint for my solo synth-oriented material.

My earliest unreleased (or barely released- some were on mp3.com for a while but are now not online) date from late 1995/early 1996. At some point I’ll probably reissue some of them.

doodling

LA: Being an engineer and a musician, What does it mean to you to be able to make music on instruments you have built yourself?

g: Initially, some of the reason was cost- I wanted synths capable of certain things, but the commercial version was prohibitively expensive, and after trying software synths for a while(I really did!) those interfaces weren’t what I was looking for. DIY just seemed like the right way to go. It also provided me with a reason to use some of the hardware end of the Computer Engineering degree I have.

Nowadays, my day job doesn’t allow me to write code or things like that as much I’d like, so some of that creative urge to build has to come out in other ways such as building synths or working on projects at the hackerspace.

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LA: I was drawn to your work, because it trudges across the terrain of noise, experimental, and more traditional dance forms (like acid) and shows how they are all connected. What has prompted you to explore the interconnections between these music forms people often try to separate?

g: That’s been a weird journey. Some of that has come from being influenced by the intersection of the “industrial dance” scene and the techno scene of the early 90s, and by my own research into the history of what came before those (i.e. learning about the industrial scene of the 1970s, or the history of techno & house in the 1980s)

I started off making sort of off-kilter techno & industrial, as that was what I wanted to make and was sort of dictated by the gear I could afford at the time.

Since I was friends with a lot of people in the Cleveland experimental/noise scene, I decided I’d give “the noise thing” a try for a little while and put the more straight-ahead dance stuff on the backburner- so I’d be doing things like playing a x0xb0x (TB-303 clone) and modular synth together in an odd way- sort of acid house without beats. In November of 2010 I went to see Oneohtrix Point Never and Laurel Halo at a house show here, and was utterly blown away by Laurel Halo’s performance, which was straight-ahead techno, and the crowd seemed to at least be digging it a little bit. I had a show of my own a week or so later on a noise night at the now-gone Bela Dubby and whatever I had been planning wasn’t working in my head, so I decided to try adding the drums back in. It got kind of a mixed response at the time, but it did lead to my getting suggested to open for a huge show at the Grog Shop a few months later.

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LA: You, like myself, have been an Ohioan for some time and have picked through many of the same bins in record stores I now go through, gone to the same venues, etc.. I am incredibly inspired by our state. Does the landscape, architecture, and terrain of Cleveland and Ohio more broadly influence your work? How?

g:  I’ve been a lifelong Ohioan- the first half or so in greater Columbus, and then I came to Cleveland for college and liked it here enough to stay.

There are definitely some Cleveland landmarks I consider influential- some of the interesting terrain you pass by when taking the RTA trains, the Sidaway Avenue suspension footbridge (it’s been closed since the 60s, but you can still see it as you’re driving down Kinsman), the area underneath the Detroit-Superior bridge where the Ingenuity Festival was held for a couple of years, and certainly some of the terrain just on either side of the Cuyahoga River- the so-called “Industrial Flats”. There is something about the look of decayed infrastructure- not necessarily the “ruin porn” you see in stories about Detroit, but more of a mild unkemptness with just a little rust on the girders.

 

Glacial Communications & glacial23 on the Web:

Glacial Communications Facebook

Glacial Communications Bandcamp

Glacial Communications Website

glacial23 Soundcloud

Post 90--Tactil Vision

I was talking to the person behind tactil vision, Stevey7, last night at a show. We were having the type of conversation that him and I usually have. One that explores the oddities of being a human being enmeshed in a society, in vast complex systems, that one got enrolled in upon birth.  I have really grown to love these random conversations I have with him.  They have given me a viewpoint into his perspective on life. Not surprisingly, him and I both seem to be observers of the world and are quite interested in paying attention to the vast amounts of data that seem to flow by everyday and how technology has changed the world we live in. These conversations have greatly enhanced my appreciation of his art and his approach to sound and visual media. I can tell his art really allows him to work out his place in these system just as much as my sociology work and this media project help me find my place.

When one sits down to take in the music and art of tactil vision, bentwithlight, or any of his other names he releases under, you are stepping into his universe, his thought process, his interrogation with sound. This is obviously true with any artist whose work you pay attention too, but with stevey7 that world you to step into has been carefully and meticulously set out for you. He has an attention to detail in his music and packaging that shows his deep engagement with the post-industrial world we live in.  As in most of his work, his recent tremors live mix features an array of his original productions that demonstrate his characteristic glitched, multi-layered sound that drives forward, sputters, and always keeps moving into the horizon like the machine-like society that we are all a part of.

TV2

One of my favorite parts of the trermors live mix is the last track “kemwar” where he allows some of the distorted, ghost-like voices that hang in the background of his tracks to come forward.  These voices speak like a choir of crisis, as the cacophony of voices lists the numerous population, political, climate, and economic problems we all face today. I really appreciate how the drum and synth play off of these vocal samples. Sometimes stevey7 allows the drums and keys to wash over the voices and obstruct them from audibility, but there are moments when the voices cry out from the track and overtake your sensory perception.  Just like in life, sometimes the crisis comes to a fever pitch and no amount of “noise” can prevent us from seeing it clearly.

TV5

This one mix is just the tip of the iceberg. The back catalogue of 5am Conductions (stevey7’s label for tactil vision, bentwithlight, and other side projects) is extensive and impressive. Like his music and artwork, the catalogue reveals the multiple layers and explorations of stevey7. I highly suggest you step into his world and walk around for a bit. It is replete with physical, sonic, and video media for you to experience the vision that Stevey has of the world around him. Make sure to check out his mixcloudbandcamp, Youtube Channel, and facebook to stay up to date with all the releases and art work. I hope you enjoy this really in-depth interview with him, as it is full of interesting ideas.

LA: What does music and sound more broadly mean to the way you live and experience life?

TV: Recently i have been trying to get into more of the subconscious; i was just watching a movie recently and noted the soundtrack is most effective when you don’t notice it. Of course, there is the power of the story/filmmaking itself, but the idea, anyway….So i guess i see music as a soundtrack and i suppose that goes well with the name “Tactil Vision”, (ha ha). Also, as a producer i have learned to not take popularity or unpopularity too personally- it really has to do with timing when we experience art regarding how we perceive it, i suppose. Like reading a book- you may have read it a thousand times but pick it up once more and notice something for the first time. When was young, i noticed a sort-of inner clock in my brain that either sped up or slowed down, so i first became naturally attuned to percussion. I actually used to clack my teeth together, (not long ago i found out i wasn’t the only one), maybe it was a nervous disorder, but it has to do with the pulse of “being”- like the heart, or the solar cycles. Music is very primal to me and as they say, the Universal Language.

TV Eres

LA: How did you get into making music?

TV: Well, i dabbled as a kid, the first thing i really was excited about was drums, but didn’t really pursue an instrument until i was really inspired by what i had been listening to and was in early adulthood. It actually started from cassette recordings of noise and whatever i sounds could dub and then overdub them as much as i could without the layers getting lost, through a Radio Shack mixer. I believe it was Einsteurzende Neubauten that really hooked me. A person could just bang on some metal or whatever and make music with it. It was liberating. Eventually, several pawn shop visits later, it was get an old keyboard here, buy a drum machine, hook up a cheap mic…

LA: I know your output has ranged between more instrumental works and ones with vocals, but can you think of a common set of music and and ideas that helped shape your music?

TV: Well, i didn’t come from a musical background, and as a kid you think the only relevant music is pop music- with Baby Boomer parents that grew up with American Bandstand and records and such…i think culture has really shaped my music, actually..looking back in a hundred or so years, i am sure i would probably be a fairly common example of the times; where technology, commerce, culture is all fusing at a rapid pace and that anything has an audience, you just need to connect. I actually had a crisis with my own duality for a time and i suppose that explains some of it. Now, i learned a bit more balance, but the opposites are always there- between doing and thinking, or speaking or listening. So things with vocals seemed more related to outward, the yang- and instrumental is more yin, where the left-brained (words) are gone, meter and whatnot is open and is more observant, i guess. But this duality is only at the surface- both interchange, where the further i go in one direction, the elements of the other are more apparent. So what shapes it is really letting go as much as possible of control, or for me, being centered- doing, but still being aware and receptive. Observing, but still interacting. Mostly, it a need for some kind of beauty, as in Nature, i guess. Like some mad painter working feverishly on the “perfect” still, never ceasing, because they are all flawed; “flaws being the essential requirement for beauty.”

LA: You spoke to me about feeling like you are at a cross-roads in terms of your music. Where do you think you have been with your music and where do you think you will go next?

TV: Well, at first, a person thinks that the work is going through change, when in fact, it is the worker. I guess that is what that is about. The internet has it’s advantages, with the ability to reach across time or space, but inversely, the need to engage and effect those closest to me is coming about. I guess it’s like that digital versus physical argument-most people need balance in their lives…like the saying, “Live locally, think globally”. Giving something that you have made with your own hands carries with it all the energies- conversing face to face, with the nuances involved. It has to do with experience and expression of the self. I have not consciously made the decision, but overall, the music i buy and experience fully more often than not, is live performances. I get to meet the person behind the art. I learn about them and not just some image they are projecting for a time. It means a great deal to meet in person those whose work i admire. Usually, that image i project dissolves into the reality that they are human, too and perhaps ordinary, yet doing extraordinary things. So for me, that reminds me people are more similar than different. That it’s okay to be “ordinary”, one person among many, simply trying to create something with the time they have…

TV3

LA: What sorts of equipment do you use to make your music? Do you feel as though you have built a relationship with these machines?

TV: A chuckle there, James…”relationship” is a good word! Never been too good at those, ha ha…but yes, they certainly are. Each piece has it’s own character and quirks…basically, i have used the same gear for the last 15 years or so. Some stuff, actually, abandoned children i guess. But if you know how to utilize them….a lot of stuff that records- basically everything that records. Everything is put together on the ASR10 sampler. It took me a long time to master that one. I still use MIDI, outboard keys, effects, and the same 1202. Basically, it is a lot of pre-production -finding/editing/making the sounds. When things get strung out, you go back to the basics and build up again. But for a time, your process gets down and you’re at the factory. Whatever goes down, if you weren’t all there that night, you can always resample and rework it into something else…so everything basically is a remix, as they say. You use limits to your advantage.

LA: I like your focus on physical items. Is there a reason you have been going back to mail order limited editions?

TV: For most of my time producing, i didn’t have a web presence, so the only way people heard what i was doing was if i gave them a CD, which usually were burnt in real time and had different tracks on them. I like putting things together, painting/assembling stuff.. it’s a way to sort of capitalize on the roughness of handmade releases as opposed to pre-packaged. It seems to work design-wise, since the art is abstract and usually there is left-field sense to the music ..the latest is cut-up art, which i put together for performance swag. The runs are only as large as the material available. In this case, i had some large paintings done on corrugated plastic cigarette and soda signs lifted from a carry-out. These work well since they are water-resistant and basically indestructible. The large paintings came out too busy, but cut into smaller CD-sized they worked. So if i can attach a CD to it somehow and paint it…I much rather prefer individual pieces, so even if they don’t care too much for the music at least they have something interesting to put with all their other collections! So every one has a character of it’s own- it has a sense of honesty, maybe: so the image fits with the process and attitude. Things are so transient now and the production is constant, so an item is sort of a snapshot in time.

TV4

LA: A lot of your thought pieces on your 5AM Conductions blog find you analyzing the musical and societal systems that you are trying to inhabit/navigate as one person. I myself, also find myself continually trying to navigate these systems as a writer. What difficulties do you see artists having in our age of post-industrial media saturation?

TV: It’s pretty scary you subjected yourself to that…mostly, it’s the demands or duality (again) of the individual and the whole. I am not trying to critique as much as work things out- where do i put up limits? Where should i be more flexible? I started out writing poetry, so things are in that context- where i am trying to resolve a conflict, or just see things as they are. It’s more of “this is my thought process”. Usually things work out and i realize where the errors in perception are and if i am just owning more than i should. As in my reply, you get older and more discerning. You realize every scream and holler isn’t for you. I can’t even watch the news anymore- everything has become entertainment. It seems the average person would rather die of anything than boredom. Whatever happened to that television commercial volume legislation? So, we’re forced on the internet- not only that, but to be hooked into it all the time. People don’t want to know what color underpants i am wearing, or if i am at the coffee shop…because everyone already knows i don’t wear underpants and home-brew anyway. They Googled it. I hope people really don’t do background checks as much as i hear, because people with shady histories are a lot more fun, anyway. So i’ll just let it all hang out on the interwebs, kind of play with it, like everyone else sometimes. I suppose it’s like that prophecy: “Shouted from the rooftops.” Everyone is going to know everything about everyone and when it’s all finished, wished they hadn’t. In short: Me? crazy- yes, dangerous? You got to be kidding. And we have already bought everything, sometimes, the same things over and over again- i am personally really perturbed about all the car commercials you see- like we need 9 billion cars on the planet, all humming 24 hours a day. So, don’t get me too far off an a tangent; it’s a program, like it always was, but now it’s like everyone buying a bottle for the village drunk and not expecting him to misbehave.

LA: When listening to your catalogue and reading your discussions of your work, I keep thinking about ideas of freedom and power. Do you think music and art has a freeing capacity or the ability to empower individuals and groups of people?

TV: Oh, certainly- without getting political, although politics is everywhere, i am most interested in the individual’s personal freedom- not just in the context of their society, but the inner psychic life-breaking down barriers in themselves first before “wanting to change the world”. One person changes, the whole world can change. It may sound idealistic, but i am convinced of the inter-connectivity..much of the world’s problems, individual’s problems, after all, can be distilled down and attributed to lack of love. Now, me, i am not some old hippie, but i do have a strong sense of self-preservation. Primary mission: survival. Not just the basic needs being or not being met, but the way it is set up that an organism has to evolve or die. This does not mean just physical death, but powerlessness. To evolve, to an extent, one has to face adversity. So we do not demonize adversity, necessarily- but we do see that when people fear change, when they cut themselves off from opportunity and each other, decay ensues. So, in my past of being quite isolated, i realize the fact that man is a social creature- even that one’s personality may not be self-created, but a product of experience and those he/she experienced. This opens up a new way of seeing things, that, especially in the West, individualism has sort of run amuck, that instincts have become distorted and things are swinging back to more social-centered programs. Like the self-centered program insisted in a way that if we build a modern and successful society, the individual would prosper; now, it seems, for me the focus on individual progress can also build a society from the bottom-up. And we see this with break downs in institutions and paradigm shifts from sex to drug use and so on. If the United States, as a prototype for the rest of the world, was founded on the philosophy of self-governing- that change cannot be legislated from the top down, then individuals need to develop themselves; which is only personal responsibility. But individuals cannot develop themselves when their basic needs are not being met. We cannot say “it is progress” if we have 30 different brands of soda to choose from, but not altogether sure what’s in the water. I do not call myself an “environmentalist”, because that suggests i am separate from my environment. I just love Nature. It is simply self-preservation.

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I was having a conversation with someone last night about music and they asked me: “what do you listen for in music?” The short of my answer was it has to move me. I learned this from a wise soul a bit of the ways back, and it still holds true for me today. I don’t care what genre it is. I don’t care if its hot or no one even know who the hell the cat who made it is. It just has to move me. That sort of movement you feel deep down when everything just clicks and for one short moment the world just makes sense. Those moments for me are what makes music worthwhile and why I share the stories of people from our community and from people abroad.

Walleye‘s music is a great example of the type of sounds that grip me and help me see new facets of the reality I live. He is a guy who used to live in Columbus, but has since moved to another locale. However, his music is steeped in the influence of our city. From the minute I heard his first ep “Everything is Black”,  I was hooked. Beautiful, atmospheric tracks like “Creepers” are perfect music to help you get lost in the middle of the loud world we live in.

 

The Four bonus tracks accompanied the re-release of the EP on Halsteads this past May added some really interesting elements as well. The track that really stuck out was “Hell is Heaven”. It is a eighteen minute journey that successfully shows how beats can ripple and vibrate in the same slow-burning fashion as the tones in the first three tracks. The affect is both comforting and disorienting at the same time, as you never have any firm ground to stand on while listening. As soon as you get comfortable with a ripple, its ripped out from under you and he is onto another beat meditation.

 

Over the past few months he has released a number of other EPs on his bandcamp that really show his exploration of all forms of beatless and beat-driven sound. One of my favorite of these releases is an incredibly honest and beautiful EP of music called “Alive For No One”. The track “This is Your heart, This is my House” is my favorite piece of music he has created. In the track, he fuses the playing of a few chords on a guitar, some sounds I cannot really identify, and his voice to make an incredibly emotionally-moving piece of music. You can hear him breath and singing. You can hear him playing for no one, but for the whole world at the same time. Just strumming and living, as if the guitar was an extension of his being. I can feel these sounds. They aren’t just data particles on my hard-drive. They are a living thing.

 

Lucky for me, he was willing to sit down with me and talk about his music and share a mix he just created with our community. He is such a generous guy. Hope you enjoy the mix and his interview below. Don’t sleep on his mix making. His track selection is always on point and moves through the same beat-driven and beatless meditations as his music. I think it will help you work through some interesting ideas and sounds.

Mix:

Interview:

LA: What does music and sound more broadly mean to the way you live and experience life?
WALL: I think music and sound is the key to living and experiencing the life you live in. Even silence is music. Everything you hear in every place you go creates an atmosphere. Sound is so strongly linked to memory and feeling, and the atmosphere natural sounds create help form how you remember particular moments in your life. It’s important, I think, to pay attention to the way our environment is formed, because the one thing you will always take with you is your memory of an experience. Money comes and goes, things come and go… clothes, people, etc. move in and out of our life all the time. But listening to rain hit your window while you’re trying to fall asleep in a foreign city stays with you, also the sound of trains coming and going as you sip on a coffee in a station waiting for yours to come and take you away to see a loved one. These are the sounds we sometimes take for granted in our life.

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LA: You had a successful mixtape series called SayNoToTrack before you started releasing your own music. What prompted you to make the move from mix-making to original compositions?
WALL: Well, I was making music long before SNtT even started. I started the mixtape series because growing up it was a passion of mine. I remember sitting in my room with my CD’s and tapes strewn all over the place, hitting play and record on my parent’s stereo for hours at a time, listening and carefully selecting songs I wanted to put together. When I was in elementary school my bus driver was one of the only ones that had a tape deck on his bus, and I would bring in mixtapes all the time for him to play on the stereo. I would also make tapes for my family and friends, and then eventually I started making mix CD’s for girlfriends and friends in high school and later. I always had a good response from them, and it made me feel pretty good to introduce people to stuff I liked. I liked that people liked what I liked. It was sort of the first thing I ever felt like I was “good” at. After some time of not doing anything I started having friends ask me if I recommended anything for them to listen to. I decided I’d start a blog where I’d just make mixes a la mixtape-style for people to download, enjoy, discover something new, etc., and I chose this format as an ode to my mixtape days.

As for the music, I’ve been making experimental music since I was in high school, off and on since then whenever the inspiration struck. Each time inspiration WOULD strike, I had already passed some phase in my life where I had to have sold all my gear, and I was stuck with a whole new arsenal of equipment. If you listen to stuff I did back in high school, and then a few years later, and then a few years after that, and then up to what is now the “Walleye” era (and even within it to an extent), you’ll hear different styles and experimentations. This is due to the fact that almost every album I’ve released is made with different equipment, so my thought process and experimentation has had to evolve to utilize whatever I’ve been able to get my hands on. I’m not complaining, it keeps things interesting and fresh for me. Keeps me on my toes.

LA: What are some of the musical influences that helped shape your sound?
WALL: Oh jeez… when I was young I really loved Aphex Twin, Boards of Canada, Autechre, Squarepusher, Plaid, Luke Vibert, Mouse on Mars, etc. It was a big change to what I was normally listening to at the time, and I really liked how different it sounded. At the same time I also discovered Ambient music and instantly fell in love. I realized that there was a time and place to listen to aggressive music, but overall I just wasn’t feeling fulfilled by harsh stuff all the time. Sure I was an angsty kid, but more than anything I just wanted to feel peace, and Ambient music helped me find it. Aphex Twin’s Selected Ambient Works Vol. 2 was my first leap, and then it moved to Brian Eno, Harold Budd, Laraaji, and so forth. With the help of the internet I was able to discover even more Ambient artists like Stars of the Lid, and eventually bands such as Grouper, Aidan Baker, Tim Hecker, Thomas Köner, Shuttle358, and etc.

LA: Your sound moves gracefully through elements of beatless drone, noise, and more beat driven compositions. What are you thinking about as you are creating music and trying to synthesize all these musical forms?
WALL: To be honest, most of my music doesn’t begin with a plan. I’m used to setting up all possible equipment (keyboards, synthesizers, guitar pedals [I’m a huge pedal head], guitars, drums, microphones, amps, really whatever I can get my hands on) and then having at it. I’ll begin my strumming a chord on the guitar, tweaking all the pedals it runs through, moving to a drum machine (or just drums) and starting a beat, go to the keyboard and play a couple chords on there, tweak something else on a pedal or two, and keep going until it feels like it’s time to stop. I try to immerse myself into it as much as possible, because each time I begin to work or create something it becomes a whole experience for me. I become so focused on what I’m doing I lose track of time, where I am, everything. At the end of it I don’t even remember what happened most of the time. It’s as if I blacked out. For me, this is what making music is about. It doesn’t matter if people like it or not, it just matters if I like it or not, and most of the time I do. I just sort of let go, and if I was thoughtful enough to hit the record button at the beginning of the session, I’m able to go back and hear it. There are so many incredible sessions lost because I forgot to hit one little button, and alternately, there are an incredible amount of sessions that will never see the light of day because I just wasn’t feeling it.

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LA: You recently left the confines of Columbus to move overseas. I know you haven’t been there long, but what has that experience been like? Have you found new sources of inspiration?
WALL: Moving overseas was a big decision for me. When I left I was actually very productive with my music making, and in fact I finished Promise and SUM DRONE within the month before I departed. I was trying to envelope myself in as much creative output as possible before leaving because I was selling my gear and I wasn’t sure when I was going to be able to get my hands on anything again for a while. The itch is still there, and I find plenty of inspiration being here for sure, but I haven’t found a good way to really let it out yet. Money is a problem, and the resources for equipment aren’t nearly as available to me as they were in America. But, like I said earlier, it’s about adapting, and I’m exploring every possible avenue to get my hands on what I need to do what I want. I have found a semi-regular gig DJing, however, at a bar just a few minutes away. That experience has been nice, because even though I stopped doing SNtT, I still kind of get to do it live for a whole new mess of people. Sometimes I go for five hours straight, just mixing and mashing together all different kinds of music for the sake of creating an atmosphere for people hanging out and relaxing on a Saturday night. It’s nice, and I’m grateful for the opportunity.

LA: Though you are now overseas, I am sure Columbus did shape your artistic approach in some ways. Can you think of any ideas, places, or events in Columbus that inspire you as a musician?
WALL: The Dube, which was not only my home away from home, but was also part of a family in Columbus which I held very close to me. I had good friends that I collaborated with, like Justin Burkett (of Cat Swallower) and Josh Ganzberg (of dollchimes), that helped me realize some of my musical path. They were an excellent source of support and inspiration for me. Columbus in general is a strange place to make music though… there are all different kinds of people, “scenes”, etc., and every one of them is supportive in their own way. I liked seeing my friends be successful, and whether or not I was on any level is moot, but I liked creating alongside with them in any capacity. It was like being apart of a club, where we got to create and share with each other and the public and it didn’t matter if you liked it or didn’t, you still got props. I remember, however, a friend of mine told me something that stuck with me and I would pass on to anyone else who asked the same question… I had gone through a moment of crisis one time and asked why no one took me serious, and she replied to me saying “because you don’t take yourself seriously”. From that moment on I began to, and I saw the change in attitude from myself and from my peers. It was a great feeling to take pride in what I did, and it might have been the biggest turning point in my creative “career”.

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AP

Some of you may know I have a soft spot for the box of ideas that people call techno. Now, I am not one of those discriminatory listeners that sets up border security in my brain around genre labels. I happen to dislike genre labels, since they do more to close off listening habits than help you understand sound. However, I do happen to enjoy the toolbox of themes and emotions brought out with “techno”.  This may be obvious from the fact that the only outside interviews and mixes I have done in the last 5 months have been with Penélope Martin and Chance McDermott. Both artists play with techno ideas in different, but I think interesting ways. Today, I continue exploring what like-minded artists outside our scene are doing with sound.

Alessio Pili is an artist I have grown to really enjoy his music over the last year. I first found him while exploring the back catalogues of Panel Trax Records when local artist Plural released an EP on their label a while back. I checked out Pili’s soundcloud and was really drawn in by his EP “How The Few Control the Many” for Aconito Records. As someone with a love of Sci-Fi and dystopian futures, I was immediately drawn to the release and how he articulated a cyber-punk aesthetic with his music.  “Melancholia” just really griped me with its fragile “boot-up” loop that dances over the top of his aggressive drum and synthesized backdrops.

“How The Few Control The Many” also really interested me. The track teeters on the edge of anarchy for its entire duration, which brings to mind the sonic equivalent of how a powerful regime would bend and flex in response to external challenges.

Frames of thought

This same approach is highlighted in his label Frames of Thought, which is a collaboration between Pili, Scam, & Ness. Their first release builds on Pili’s core sound, and shows how Scam & Ness are working with very similar ideas in their music in equally interesting ways. Just listening to the samples from the EP demonstrates that all three of the artists are embarking on the kind of sonic ruminations about the state of the world that drew me to Pili’s solo work.

Listening through this back catalogue, it is evident that Pili has paid careful attention to past forms of “electronic” music, but he has carved out his own unique approach to creating sound that really captures the tension of living in the 21st century. Due to this, I felt I wanted to share his story and a mix he created for this project with our community. I hope you enjoy it and support him by picking up one of his releases.

Alessio Pili – “Local Autonomy Mix”

Local Autonomy: How did you get your start producing & DJing?
Alessio Pili: I started when I was 18 years old on my first technics turntables and a very simple mixer. I remember the day really well! My life was completly changed! During that period, I lived in the country, and so I spent most of the time listening to music. So, the step was natural! Later, in 2007, I started to produce. I think it is the same for everyone. If you are a dj and you really love the music you play, the first thing you need is try to create your own music.

LA: What has it been like growing up in and around the Italian dance music community?
AP: In the past, I really enjoyed the Italian style. Until 2003/4, there were were a lot of big producers in Italy (especially in the naples and rome scenes). Later, with the arrival of the “new” minimal style, everything changed, and I felt like the italian scene was losing his quality. However, I always prefered the uk and german scene in Europe, and obviously all the detroit scene! Fortunately, there are now a lot of interesting producers coming up here, so I’m confident for the future. Moreover, I’m Sardinian and I have to say that in Sardinia we have lots of great artists, and this is really inspiring for me!

LA: You are open about your love of vinyl. Why do you think vinyl is still important in the digital age?
AP: For sure, I think vinyl can keep the actual underground techno scene alive and can keep it at a state of high quality. I’m happy to see a partial rebirth of this music medium. Vinyl had been in decline for years. Eveybody says that it doesn’t interest to them release in vinyl, but if they could choose, I believe everybody would choose to have their music released on vinyl. The new technologies are welcomed, but are a little bit abused. I heard a lot of boring sets made with controllers. If you buy vinyl, you are more accurate in your choices. Now, everybody can become a dj in a really simple way. But true passions needs sacrifices. The record industries are inflated by thousands of labels that are born every day! HOME MADE MASTERS and strange mixes. I think the audio quality in the gigs has decreased due to this. It’s my personal preference ,but I like to hear and see good DJ’s. I like to see their hands working, repairing errors, foreheads sweating! This is, for me, what a dj has to do! It is much more than just pushing the sync button.

LA: I love how your music creates a sort of soundtrack for a dark dystopian future. What makes you so interested in thinking about the sounds of the future?
AP: I dont know how the music could be the sound of the future. Sincerely, when I’m making music, I dont try to make “the music of the future”. I think that in the electonic music all has just been written. When I think about the music of klaus shulze or brian eno (and many others), years & years ago, I think it is almost impossible to make it better with virtual instruments and PCs. Today, to make dark stuff is cool. I really like this moment in the underground scene, but for me, the music of the future is still the old electronic music. In those years, people were afraid of the cold war, possible atomic explosions, radiocative fallouts,and the music was contaminated by this elements. Now, we live similar times in a climate of uncertainty, and consequently I think techno is becoming “dark”. Since my childhood, I have been really interested by all the post apocalyptic and cyberpunk culture..books,movies,videogames etc. Now, I found my way to make music inspired by this background!

LA: What ideas/themes/emotions were you working with in this mix?
AP: Usually when I’m doing a mix I am full absorbed. I have no time to think. I work with all my collection on my side, so I don’t choose tracks before. I think doing this in the moment is the better way to put what’s in your mind in the mix! I always play new and old stuff toghetar, because I think techno music knows no time. Instead, there are only good and bad tracks, and with every new good release it increases our musical baggage and our culture.

Alessio Pili 
http://www.discogs.com/artist/Alessio+Pili


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A few wise individuals taught me that techno is supposed to have soul. The type of soul forged from an artist taking inanimate tools like analogue synthesizers, drum programmers, and computer interfaces and making them sing of the human experience. The type of soul built from creating when few are looking for no other purpose than to express oneself. The type of soul that makes a techno track more than just a collection of rhythm, pulses, and discordant sounds, but a living, breathing force of nature. Whenever I listen to techno, I go searching for the soul of the work.

At the core of Panel Trax 031, I found eleven remixes from ten different artists that not only pay tribute to the 15+ year career of Chance McDermott, but also breath new energy into the musical ideas he was playing with in those releases. If you are unfamiliar with McDermott’s work then you are missing out. He has carved out a unique approach to techno that harnesses multiple layers of drum patterning with skittish, synthesized loops to create dense, immersive techno. Columbus, OH based artists like FBK & Plural along with others from around the globe pay homage to this man’s style, but twist the originals to work within their own unique approaches. FBK‘s remix of “Blonde Xpress” marks a distinct departure from the original production. He brings a pounding rhythm to the front of the track in his characteristic style found on his recent releases on Diametric and Absoloop Records.

Plural reworks all the elements of McDermott’s original “Blackbird” and puts them together into an interpretation that ebbs and flows through periods of tense restraint and outright frenzy characteristic of his works on 6one6 and Audio Textures Records.

The hazier, ghost-like treatments deployed by Alexander Dniel, Synus0006 & Maks, Laslowb, and The Machinists are characteristic of the core aesthetic of the Panel Trax catalogue that highlights the darker side of the musical form.

While the works of Ozaka, Scott Fraser, Matt Saderlan, Francesco Bonora & Mirko provide funk-filled remixes that add in touches of acid, cacophony, and four to the floor rhythms to McDermott’s past tracks.

In all, these artists showcase an intricate understanding of soulful techno and skillfully deploy their hardware to sing hymns of praise or the blues.

Make sure to check it out if you get a chance. I know I have enjoyed listening to and living with these tracks over the past week. I was richly rewarded with works from artists I had not encountered before and others I am more familiar with. I was especially excited to see FBK & Plural on the release since they have continued to garner attention outside of our city for their excellent production work individual and collectively as the Fallen.  You can find the release on Beatport or JUNOdownloads.

Panel Trax Records

Chance McDermott and remember I Interviewed him too–Read that HERE

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(***PLEASE SHARE THIS WITH ALL YOUR FRIENDS***) Whether you are into dance music (techno, house, dubstep, jungle, post jungle, post inverted dupstep, freakcore, etc) or the many meandering paths of experimental music, we are all united by our love of our community and the many different sonic strands that pull at our heart strings. This community needs our support in order to keep it alive and moving forward. Often, this means buying local releases or checking out local shows. Today, you got a chance to help fund the shows of one of the most diverse electronic music and art non-profits in town, The Fuse Factory and Digital Arts Lab. This organization is built by community members for our scene. There is no profit. There’s only the love of the music and the art that we all cherish so much! There is no angle. There is only the heartfelt desire to show people new ways to appreciate and make music and art. Such an approach could not be more important when so many other people and organizations are trying to brand your experience of music and art and don’t allow you the space to interpret, feel, and experience the music in your own way.  This present kickstarter campaign will be used to finish the funding they need to put on the rest of their frequency friday shows that their grant money from the Greater Columbus Art Council does not cover. This event brings sound experimenters from all over the globe come here to share their art with our community. Not only do these shows provide amazing performances, but they also provide a central meeting points for all people in our community working with sound in different ways. You can read more about the non-profit in my interview with its director and founder Alison Coleman HERE.

Trademark Gunderson

However, they need Columbus’ help to bring the grant home! They are only 435 dollars away from their goal. Yet,  they have only 1 DAY LEFT!  70 individuals in our community and abroad have donated already.  A donation in any amount helps and is important to keep this excellent programming alive in our city. This is a great way to say that you gave back to your community. I have already pledged my money to the cause and I hope you do to!

CLICK HERE FOR THE KICKSTARTER PAGE

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