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KF Signing

[Failure performing with Pink Reason]

There is a street in the SUMMIT.3 sector called smt.1 that lies just off the main thoroughfare of our city. It runs parallel to the streams of people, transportation devices, and popular notions that populate the safety of GRID 1. However, spatially and socially, the sector of SUMMIT.3 could not be more far removed from GRID.1. Its boulevard smt.1 may run to the heart of the city just like the roads of GRID.1, but as one walks down the smt.1 it feels like the segregated zone that the cloud has labeled it to be. There is a quiet to the sector that comes from its social isolation. However, despite the tension that hangs in the air like the humidity on a hot summer day, the sector at least has fewer heat-lock cameras and you don’t have to deal with the pretensions of the folks out on GRID.1.

One thing is for sure, the people who have found there way to SUMMIT.3 don’t seek out the comfort of the orthodoxy. These folks may have found themselves in this sector by ascription or by choice, but the fact remains you can search for ideas, sounds, or object here. That’s why I live in SUMMIT.3. The sorts of things I am searching for aren’t found to be profitable for consumption by the nebulous cloud of global capital that controls 95% of what is produced and sold in GRID.1. If you ask me, things started going down hill when we let an A.I. decide what we needed to produce based on the aggregated yearnings of our social media ramblings. The cloud has created a mainstream culture that has become an endless mirror of itself. A cascading descent into simulation from which there is nothing but slight tweaks on past ideas. For many folks in SUMMIT.3, this is the reason we call this sector home. We are deep-sea divers dwelling in the heeps and mounds of “out-moded” styles, philosophies, and objects that have been cast off as the fat of the empire. We don’t need the cloud to produce for us and tell us what to consume. We don’t need to be spoonfed culture. We will decide what to produce and consume for themselves from the remains of the mainstream. Sure things ain’t as shiny as they are in GRID.1, but at least we have our own path to explore.  At least we have our autonomy from the cloud.

Future Maudit September Poster

[Flyer from September Future Maudit Show]

One of the most exciting developments to happen musically in the SUMMIT.3 sector recently is the work of Kevin Failure and his Future Maudit shows. With some of his contemporaries like Tyrant Manque, they have thrown out the manual on how to throw shows centered on synthesized sound. He and his associates have embraced an inclusivity and no-boundaries approach to shows that is celebrated widely around SUMMIT.3.  It makes sense his approach would resound with the locals. They don’t just give the audience what GRID.1 promoters and performers would give them. There is no polish or packaging. There is no pretense.  He gives them art. He gives them an experience that approximates the reality we all live. He gives them noise, experimental electronics, techno, improvised improvisation. He gives them the musical equivalent to the philosophy that guides their lives. He gives them a rough, unpackaged pieces of art that allows them to explore their own autonomy in a not-so-perfect world. This is all anyone in the SUMMIT.3 sector ever wanted: A haven where they could experience a soundscape that spoke to their lives. A place where all the bullshit of the manufactured simulation of GRID.1 fell away and we were left with the skeleton of human experience.

Savage Quality

In addition to the Future Maudit shows, Failure runs a record label called Savage Quality that releases EPs and LPs from his past band Pink Reason and other assorted projects of industrial and experimental music. Failure kindly passed on one of these records to me and it oozes that same boundary-defying qualities that all of his Future Maudit shows push. It is a sound born of another sector, but it is of and about the SUMMIT.3 sector all the same. It doesn’t try to fit into a niche. It boldly steps out of the niche and begs you to turn it off. It pushes your buttons and makes you bend your ears to understand what it is all about. It features a glitchy sound of technology gone haywire that forces you to confront the inevitable decay of that shiny GRID.1 reality. It forces one to confront the reality that in the age of the cloud all is not made to last.

Future Maudit Poster

Luckily, Failure, Tyrant Manque, and my compatriots THE FALLEN will be throwing another Future Maudit Show in the tonight in the  SUMMIT.3 Sector with glacial23, Kaptin Kirk, and Jacoti Sommes at Cafe Bourbon Street (DETAILS HERE). Next Door at the Summit the comrades CC & Dustin Knell will be playing with Nosferatu, Ethan Eschelon, and Shirtless Midnight at NIGHT MODE (DETAILS HERE). The SUMMIT.3 Sector will be bopping tonight with both of these crews exploring the far reaches of sound that we all want to hear. Hell, maybe even a portion of the GRID.1 element will explore these sonic outposts and convert to the teachings of our rhythmic bible. In the mean time, enjoy this interview I did with Failure in advance of the show:

Interview:

Local Autonomy: You have been in a band for over ten years, program music at Cafe Bourbon Street, and study the history of certain strains of music. What does music and sound more broadly mean to the way you live and experience life?
Kevin Failure: Music is like oxygen, or language. It’s how I live and communicate. It’s my hustle. It’s been that way as long as I can remember. I’ve been in the band I’m in now over a decade, but I’ve been playing in bands for over twenty years now, and have been booking shows for eighteen.
Everything positive that’s ever happened to me has come from music, and music has literally saved my life many times over the years. It’s also probably indirectly responsible for plenty of the bad shit I’ve experienced too, but, what’re you gonna do?

Local Autonomy: What does the future maudit event mean to you (i.e. what is the name supposed to capture in the experience you are trying to create)?
Kevin Failure: Our policy makers, scientists and technology producers are inspired by the same dystopian science fiction that inspires us in the counter culture. While we largely read these books as warnings or prophecies, they read them as instruction manuals. We’re holding a shattered mirror up to our contemporary reality.

Local Autonomy: One of the most interesting parts of the future maudit parties is the open format approach to programming with diverse genres being represented. Why do you think its important to have spaces where noise, techno, experimental, industrial, and punk can be heard side to side?

Kevin Failure: With the exception of punk, I think that the boundaries between the other forms you mentioned were probably defined by media and marketing teams with no real connection or loyalty to the underground. During the 90’s, I’d read about Merzbow in Massive magazine, the midwest rave bible. I’ve seen plenty of Skinny Puppy references in the techno community, in interviews, on records, and a large percentage of the people I know who ended up into electronic dance music and going to parties fell into that through industrial dance music. Techno is an experimental musical form. Some of my favorite tracks are all of those things mentioned at once, and maybe that’s where the punk comes in, is in the attitude and the presentation – not giving a fuck about arbitrary rules and definitions. 

Local Autonomy: I really enjoyed thinking out loud with you about if it was still possible to create new paradigms of music in our world where many people say everything has been done or is a re-hashing of something old. Do you think creating new music, new revolutions in how music is heard and experienced is still possible today? How do you think we do it?
Kevin Failure: These things will happen organically, whether we appreciate the results or not. I just like to keep things fun and challenging, for the artists as well as the audience.

Local Autonomy: We talked at length about the role of dance in communities and cultures across the world. What role do you think dancing and music broadly defined as “dance music” plays for our communities?
Kevin Failure: It’s obviously a primal need shared by humans of all backgrounds. It’s simple: Free your ass… and your mind will follow.

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Blue Fallen

[Photo by Dezi Magby]

There is something magical about going to see live music. There is a buzz in the air and a sort of excitement for what is to come. Whether I was going to see a rock, punk, experimental, jazz, or dance music show, I still felt that same excitement. That feeling was always waiting for me as the date of the show came closer. I would sit throughout the week and daydream about what I would hear, what the crowd would be like, and what I would learn about myself and the world around me by going to the show. This excitement became in those moments a close friend that I came to know well. It amplified and rendered meaningful my love of live music.

The shows I have always been most excited about and learned the most from are those where improvised instrumentation is going to occur. I spent a good part of my teenage years following and listening to bands that fused jazz, progressive rock, dub, hip hop, and psychedelia into dynamic live and studio performances. When experiencing this music live, I often had no idea where it would go and what boundaries would be crossed. This performances became a space where genre’s became nothing but toolboxes to tell stories and to take the listener on a journey. I gravitated toward dance music, because it has much those same qualities.

Much like free jazz, experimental, or “fusion” music of different types, I feel dance music performances have the power to re-write the vocabularies of genres. The vocabularies of House, Techno, Ambient, Trip Hop, Jungle, Drum & Bass, Dubstep, Glitch, IDM, Industrial, and Hardcore were made by people to render that section of the musical universe knowable and understandable. These genre are not mythical giants in far away dark mountains. We do not need to make offerings before the genre gods. Genre’s are false idols. They are sets of rules and norms we forgot we created to streamline listening and creating. Dance music performers that recognize this are able to wield these vocabularies as a starting point for crafting their own voice. They see these vocabularies not as a box they have to fit themselves in, but as the blueprint for breaking down the box and fashioning their own house out of it.  In such instances, records and a mixer or a live P.A. set up become the instruments through which we advance our dance music culture and express what it means to be a living, breathing artist in Columbus.

I feel the live P.A. work of THE FALLEN (And FBK & Plural Individually) has attained this level of genre bending and subversion. When Plural & FBK started playing sets of fully improvised material about a year and half ago, I really did not know what to expect. I came to understand the only way to approach these performances was to expect the unexpected. Every time I saw them play live, all my preconceptions of what I thought would happen were broken. I was slapped across the head, knocked on my face, and then picked up again by the beat.  Little prepared me for when FBK used a clandestine recording of a friend discussing women earlier in the day as a perfect vocal sample to accompany a performance of dark, funky dance music (WHILE THE FRIEND WAS IN THE ROOM). I was also not ready to see Plural craft and unleash crystalline gems of pulsing, beeping techno in just a few moments; his creations materializing out of the ether as sophisticated pieces of some futuristic dance floor armory.

Fallen at blur

My favorite moment of seeing them live was when they played together at my BLUR show last November. For 45 minutes, they took us down a cascading staircase into the heart of the molten core of their sound universe. They poured over their instruments creating walls of sound that flowed out of the speakers as hot, molten magma. It was like we were watching them crafting their own tectonic plates of sound that would be used as the crust of a sound world upon which we would all stand. The old brick walls of that former factory space melted away, and we were left exposed in the cavernous expanse of sound; standing on the ground that had been crafting for us.  We truly were on some sort of frontier.

In this moment, THE FALLEN had subverted the rules of genre and created music that told a story rather than fulfilled a checklist. In this moment, THE FALLEN crafted their own code and shared it with us as a cipher to work through the morass of commodified sounds pushed on us everyday. In this moment, THE FALLEN found those mythical genre giants cowering together out in those dark mountains and told them that they have their own way of creating sound and won’t be needing their services any longer. In this moment, THE FALLEN set out on their own, without the comfort of the crowd, to burrow deeper into their own sound world to tweak the tectonic plates of a sound universe of their own making.

Luckily, they will be playing live again next Friday as THE FALLEN at Future Maudit at Cafe Burboun Street. You can get more details about that event HERE and read about one of the other performers Tyrant Manque in an interview I posted up last week HEREFor now, enjoy the interview I did with FBK & Plural, as they discuss broadly what lived improvised sound means to them and why they think it is important for people in our community to appreciate the Live P.A. performance.

Fallen

Interview:

Local Autonomy: Both of you have been playing live P.A. sets individually and together as The Fallen around the city for the last year and half. What is it about performing live that you both enjoy so much?

FBK: I always enjoyed playing live because of the serious disaster that can happen when everything doesn’t go as planned. There is a thrill that cannot be replaced when ANYTHING can happen. I’ve spent 25 years on stage now, and the randomness, fear, excitement and overwhelming joy cannot be replaced. DJing is similar for both me and James (only because we’re both risk takers whilst playing with records)…but playing live adds in so many elements that something can go wrong in a near instant.
If I knew that our live set would sound exactly a certain way, I don’t think I’d have any fun.

Plural: Performing live is fun because you have that element of disaster that could happen. You could loose sync or a piece of equipment could freeze up.(Just to name a few things that could go wrong) I have to say Kevin and I are quiet the risk takers even when we DJ. Everything relies on timing as well so we have to pay attention when things are going on because one mistake equals off time and a clashing of sounds we don’t want to hear. We don’t really practice much either which my shock some people, we go on pure feeling. So yes usually when you hear us and your like damn thats dope! We are right there thinking the same thing lol.

Local Autonomy: How does playing live differ from DJ’ing? Are there unique challenges and rewards that come with making stuff up on the fly?

FBK: When I play records (or CD, Mp3s, Edison Cylinders…whatever)…there’s far too often a knowledge that I have built over time-for instance, beatmatching as a skill is now like a base element. I know most of my music inside and out (only because I make it), my memory of tracks borders sometimes on obsession. I know while playing music for a crowd (pre-recorded music mind you) what is going to happen (though I pick my tracks at random, go into sets without any plan what so ever, and barely ever ‘organize’ my music…this keeps me interested in what I’m doing).
Live performances are more fun because…oddly, I do LESS planning for live shows than anything else. I love to create on-the-fly, working without a net on a tightrope…it’s an old analogy, but it works here. James and I rarely practice-we’ll talk about what equipment we’ll use, talk about routing, setup, things we’d like to hear…but we don’t usually do a ton of ‘run-through’ sessions or ‘practice because this one’s important’ (shit, they are ALL important!!!!)
Every show we do is different. The week or two before, I usually figure out what 3-6 preconceived things I’ll do…but I leave myself so much room for add-ons later. The last show we did @ Social room? We improvised the last hour or so…and it was the best part of the show!

Plural: Djing is different than Live because when your DJing you are not creating anything new, these are prerecorded tracks you are playing with and you are mixing them an a way to make it continuous. While as Live you are making the tracks right then and there tweaking and freaking the whole sound at your command. They are all new material that know one has heard yet until that moment.

Local Autonomy: How does playing together live as the fallen change the dynamic of your live performances from when you play solo?

FBK: James and I have some common ground, but we go about doing music rather differently…we both have parts of music production that we think one is better at in some way shape or form (actually, I take that back-I suck at most parts of this production thing…I’m the extra set of hands;)
Ok…seriously? If you mix a Plural track and an FBK track together-they tend to fill in the spaces that one leaves by itself. That’s the reason for The Fallen.

Plural: When we perform as The Fallen you are getting basically Plural and FBK just Meshed together our tracks fit so well together its weird, but it works.

Local Autonomy: There is a rich history of people playing live P.A. sets in dance music. Why do each of you think its important for people in our community to consider playing live themselves or appreciate those who do?

FBK: (Soapbox and rant time): For this crowd now, who are getting into this music mostly from being deluged by the glossy, polished giant marketing game called EDM (WHICH IS A TERM I FU#K!NG DESPISE)…There is a gap in the understanding of how this music not only came to be, but what the process of creating this music we love REALLY is. I have been asked several times about a DJ and his music…and many believe that we all just buy or steal music from somewhere and then bring out a computer and the computer does all the ‘hard work’ (unless there are records-then the DJ is ‘doing something’)…because many fans of this ‘new’ (old) form of music come from watching traditional instruments being played (rock, country, folk, what have you), there is a disconnect between what is REALLY happening with a DJ set, and what constitutes a LIVE PERFORMANCE.
Many have been tricked into believing that there is no difference, and that electronic music should be free (because the DJs and Producers don’t have to pay for the music, buy guitar strings or amplifiers, y’know…they just all have computers and the computer just creates what they want to play-because internet!)
Part of it is a sign of the times. Technology is FANTASTIC and it allows me to do things that I’d never be able to do when I had my old studio (which took up a 25 X 25 room and was filled with literally 1 mile of cable). My laptop has the ability to replicate all of that gear times two now with only two cables or so being needed.
I say all of that to explain this: A live performance should, and I say SHOULD, be an experience that isn’t pre-recorded, pre-determined or just mailed in by someone who spends the entire set looking at his computer and simultaneously checking their Facebook account. The crowd should be able to ‘see’ and ‘hear’ the process, warts and all. This to me means allowing for mistakes. I believe that so many people now hear live performance and expect that they’ll hear something akin to everything they’ve heard before, performed by someone else. That’s not what you’ll get with FBK, Plural or The Fallen. If we don’t know ‘exactly’ what it’s going to sound like…you shouldn’t either.
Last point and I’ll end my rant…To all the crowds and fans of dance music in Columbus-IF YOU WANT SOMETHING DIFFERENT-DEMAND DIFFERENT! If you keep showing up to the same event with the same 4 people each and every time, the promoter has no need to change what he’s doing. McDonald’s doesn’t change the Big Mac for this very same reason. If you continue to go out and hear the same music over and over, let the same rotation of DJs occur and do the very same thing-you’ll get no more than that. Comfort is BORING. SAFETY IS BORING. Adventure awaits…but you have to find the adventurous ones-VOTE WITH YOUR FEET AND YOUR WALLET. If you want bigger acts to come to town, PAY FOR THEM WHEN THEY COME! If you want different DJs to play, TAKE A RISK AND SPEND $5-10 on seeing something DIFFERENT!
Most of you reading this will pay $20 to go to a movie based on a TV show that you watched as a kid, or a rehashed version of a movie that was done a decade earlier….yet you’ll not spend even $5 to see a DJ or performer who comes from 3 hours away to play in our fine city. It wasn’t always like this-Many of the ‘old guard’ remember a time when there were events every weekend filled with local talent playing alongside international DJs and producers-some who are legendary now. It can happen, but the CROWD has to support it! If not, you’ll never see anything but locals on the stages, playing the same things you heard them play a month or a week before. SHAKE THINGS UP FOR FUCK’S SAKE!!!!!

Plural:Good question,There are people out there like ourselves who would rather be the reason people have music to play that just be the DJ whos playing these tracks. Lets face it anyone can DJ but not everyone has the creativity or the push to make tracks. So yes I think there should be a level of appreciation that should go out to the people that make records and mp3s.You know? Without the producers making the music there would be no DJ.

Local Autonomy: Thinking broadly to the history of music, do you see your live performances as connected to the work of improvising jazz, blues, noise, or rock musicians?

FBK: Live performances are a bridge to understanding that this music does NOT exist in a vacuum. Neither does DJing…but during a live show, everything you’re hearing isn’t something that you can just buy or download on an mp3-it’s something much more organic-and it’s happening in front of you! It’s like going to see a Jazz concert in this way: You may even know the song the band is playing, but every night it sounds different. Live performances should be the same way…they aren’t always-but for us? They are!
Many people speak ill of the Greatful Dead (because of their fans?)…As musicians, they were all very gifted and talented. Dance music producers broadly have some of the same talents as well…some are great drum programmers, some create great atmospheres with samples, some are great at composition and structure. Doing anything that is free-form is a nod to all styles of performed music…not just jazz, rock, blues or noise. Dance music (Disco) was played on instruments at one time by groups of people (like 16 people on one stage!)…every part of the performance was organic in this way..because each had an independent mind and could find new ways to express themselves. This tradition is still around even in the computer age-you just have to realize the computer is an instrument if used correctly-it’s not just a crutch.
Recently, both of us have been getting away from the computer and beginning to focus on ‘hardware’ or ‘things outside of the box’…and the results have been fantastic. We sound different and we’re even MORE engaged than we were before. There’s no one way. And doing a Live PA is far more interesting when you have several boxes to control…with two hands…we’re both going to be busy as hell on Sept. 27th…

Plural: My homie FBK said it all in his rant at the end of his interview.Thats just how we see it read it and learn.

THE FALLEN

Photo Mixing q[photo courtesy of Ray of Hope Arts]

Much of how I judge my connection with an artist is based on the lessons Kevin Kennedy taught me about one’s musical compass. In a candid conversation we had on how we both relate to music, he shared with me an insight that has become a core idea to how I approach music. He said that one knows very quickly if a track or set speaks to them. If the music grabs you and leaves you bobbing your head then you know that you have a connection with that creation. I have carried this insight with me and it has helped me immensely in understanding and refining what I call my musical compass. This inner compass is pretty important in our time period of increased “connection,” screaming NOISE, and endless mounds of “news.” Like the magnetic forces of our north pole has provided a form of navigation through endless horizons of land and sea, our inner musical compasses now guide us through the mounds of information that we all have to move through to find the art and people we connect with most and want to learn from. It was this compass that has led me to a deep appreciation for Tony Fairchild’s work and his desire to take the long, scenic route through the valleys and mountains of skill building rather than the direct route of instant gratification.

Anyone present the the first time I heard Tony Fairchild spin could see how I instantly connected with his work. Prior to seeing Fairchild spin live, I had not heard much of his work. I knew from the little exposure I had with his mixes online that we had a common musical vocabulary and were interested in the same constellations of sound. However, it was not until that set that it really clicked for me. It was not until I turned off all the distractions and just opened myself up to that experience that my musical compass confirmed how much I connected with his vision of the world. From the minute that needle hit the first record, I could not stop bobbing my head and was soon propelled into strange, trance-like convulsions around the dancefloor. However, its not surprising that I connected with his work.

At that time, my musical compass had me exploring the darker spectrum of techno and house, which primed me to look deeply into the imagery behind Fairchild’s set. Fairchild spun a set that weaved together a string of sounds that evoked the dystopian soundscapes that seemed to really be capturing my imagination at the time. The set ebbed and flowed through an exploration of the space in-between precision and spastic syncopation. It moved from propulsive energy to the sort of deconstructed sputtering so characteristic of the music of the past 6-7 years. In this set, I saw the richness of our organized world revealed. I saw the “perfectly ordered universe” of our bureaucratic lives set against a backdrop of the contradictions and dysfunctions of the very human systems we have created. I saw past the rhetoric of how our world worked to see the simple realities of municipal bankruptcies, the convulsions of the world economy, and our inability to deal with simple social problems in a direct and non-partisan fashion. In his soundscape, I saw him revealing simple truths about the nature of our reality and the common space and organizations we share through the synthesis of sound. Quite pointedly, I saw that despite our best efforts to make things work the way we want them to we will always be human and have to adapt to the paths presented to us when life doesn’t go according to plan.

Aside from my connection to his music, it is quite obvious that Fairchild has embraced his own inner music compass and has let it guide him to construct his own path through the sound. His inner compass led him to not shy away from the challenge of embracing vinyl. He has embraced a deep respect for the music format and the lessons it can teach someone. His inner compass guided him to not shy away from making the transition from the “dubstep” that gripped him in the mid 2000s into “house”, “techno”, etc. He took the lessons he learned on how to focus on a single genre that he picked up listening to these artists and applied it to other constellations of sound he had yet to explore.  His inner compass led him to not shy away from the long, scenic route of attempting to master the craft of DJing. In our age of instant gratification, this is a powerful act. Fairchild rejected the seductive lure of building a social media following and its accompanying HYPE. Instead, he invested his time in building a toolkit of skills that would help him express his voice. He took on the never-ending task of mastering a skill, and in that act dropped out of the rat race of EDM. He just followed that inner compass and opened himself to what the experience will teach him. Is that not what all of us should do if we are truly paying attention to our collective soul and seeking to connect deeply with the sacredness of our community and the art we all love?

Photo mixing 2

[photo courtesy of Ray of Hope Arts]

Luckily, Fairchild was kind enough to do an interview and a mix for us all to share some of his art with our community. I hope you have the chance to check out the mix and interview. It really captures the deep respect and reverence Fairchild has for the artform we all love. I hope you too will show this same respect for this mix as more than just another 54 minutes and 6 seconds, but as an opportunity to see what Fairchild is trying to teach and reveal to us. Don’t come at it ready to judge. Come at it with no judgements at all.  Respect the music and the artist and amazing things can happen and you can allow the music to lift your mood, your spirits, and your heart. I know this mix he created has done that for me numerous times over the last two weeks as I let it float into my world. You can connect with Fairchild on his Soundcloud page and through his association with local dance organization Squared. He plays on a regular basis for Squared’s monthly at Victory’s.

Mix:

Interview:

Local Autonomy: How does sound and music influence the way you live and experience life?

Tony Fairchild: There are two sides to this coin. First, music inspires, stimulates and opens my mind to new ways of perceiving reality or giving shape and sound to a reality that may only exist in your head. Dance music, techno in particular, tends to either paint a picture of the reality in which the artist exists or create an alternate reality that the artist has dreamt up. Detroit techno is the textbook example of the first; guys writing tracks about the decaying, technology-driven city in which they lived. The whole minimal-Perlon-Ricardo Villalobos camp really exemplifies the second; guys writing tracks to give shape to some exotic alternate reality or future that exists in their head. Both approaches allow me to experience realities and aesthetics that aren’t my own and open my mind to a bigger world of ideas than the one I naturally inhabit. It’s a great experience to listen to a piece of music that conjures up the image of another time and place in your mind.

On the other hand, music distracts and consumes me. I have a very obsessive personality and the thought of the next record I buy, the next artist I discover, etc. can take up a bigger portion of my thoughts and attention than they should. I have to consciously temper this, otherwise I would have no friends and my only chance of getting a tan would be from the light coming off of my computer from the Discogs home page. It’s a double edged sword.

vinyl

LA: How did you get into dance music?

TF: Listening to a lot of electronic music in high school in and early college. Traditional music production (ie bands) lost its appeal and I sought anything that was produced electronically. At first I listened to a hodge podge of genres, trip hop, IDM, techno, it was all just electronic to me. Around 2007-8 I got really into dubstep coming out of the UK. The sound was so novel at the time. It all sounded like the music for a film noire score. In retrospect it was a good entrance into the dance music world because it was more cerebral than dance floor oriented and that’s the kind of stuff I had always been into. Guys like Skream, 2562, Hessle Audio and Digital Mystikz narrowed my focus to a single genre. Around 2009 as dubstep DJs started to slow their tempos and mix in house and techno, I followed suit and started exploring those genres. You’d heard a DJ mixing a 130-135 dubstep track with an Anthony Shakir cut for example. I loved those blending of genres. Basically I listened to Ben UFO mixes and played whatever he was!

LA: There has been much written about the resurgence of the popularity of people of our generation going back to vinyl. What got you into vinyl and what keeps you loving the medium?

TF: I had a really strong conviction when I decided to start spinning that I wanted to do it the hard way, the way all the old school guys did. I thought that if I took the hard road I would end up being much more skilled in the long run. There was also a gravitas I felt from the DJs I liked that spun vinyl. They had the dubplates and the super-rare old school jams. It showed commitment and I respected that.

Chain Reaction2

What keeps me at it now is the desire to master the craft. That and I am obsessed with buying and collecting records. I get sweaty hands every time I go to the records store. “What goodies will I find this time?” I was up in Toledo this past weekend and found some crazy shit on this German label, Chain Reaction. You can’t find those records anywhere, and here I got them for 50 cents from the back of a used record crate in Toledo! I used to think that you couldn’t find house or techno in Ohio, but its just a matter of digging hard enough and having the knowledge to recognize worthwhile artists and labels. Digs often end up fruitless but finding the occasional gem more than makes it worthwhile. I heard records referred to as the Black Crack lately. I’d say that’s a suitable description. If any of you readers want to unload, you know who to call!

LA: Each set I have heard you spin I hear the presentation of older house/techno tracks right alongside new, which I find extremely gratifying as I feel the music always holds up next to the “new”. What approach do you take to weaving together music of different eras?

TF: Its not really a conscious act for me. It might be a techno record that came out last week or an acid house tune that is older than me. If it complements the track that is playing or takes my set in the direction I want to go, I’ll mix it in. This is very much a Midwestern mentality that I’m proud to associate with. All the old school guys I look up to spin this way. They’ll mix a disco track into slamming techno back into a Kraftwerk tune. The contextualization is fun as a DJ and it usually makes for an engaging, diverse set.

LA: We are both from Toledo. I know that city influenced me in ways that shaped the type of music I listen to and who I am today. Did Toledo shape your tastes in music or your interest in music?

TF: If Toledo is responsible, its only because the Airport Hwy library branch had a copy of Aphex Twin’s Selected Ambient Works that I rented when I was 14! Much more is owed to the friends I had in high school. They were all in a band and I got to hang around while they wrote songs, practiced and shared other music they were into. They turned me onto a lot of the music that would have a large influence on my tastes. Radiohead, Four Tet, MF DOOM. I have them to thank.

Later in life, I have come to have an affinity with Detroit and its music. I actually used to live further up in Michigan, about 30 minute away from the city. It blows my mind that I grew up so close to such a powerful cultural revolution but only realized once I moved away. The Midwest is the birthplace of all the music I love so much and, despite its lack of popularity these days, I am very proud to be from the same fertile lands.

LA: You have begun dabbling in production doing what you term “Sketches”. What has been the most surprising thing you have found in that creative process?

TF: Its embarrassing to even talk about because of how undeveloped and uninspiring my stuff has turned out so far. The biggest thing I’ve learned is that loops are easy to make. Arranging them into dynamic, fleshed out tracks is hard as hell. Also, a lot of work goes into refining your overall sound. Just because you have 909 samples, a Juno and a 303 doesn’t mean its going to sound old school. Regardless, its been a fun experience and I look forward to learning how to use my gear in new and interesting ways. Also, big shout out to Kevin Parrish for all the knowledge he’s shared and patience he’s had showing me how to use my own equipment!

Introduction: Connections to the Past 

For those that pay attention to this humble little outpost, it may be obvious that I am much more interested in hearing and sharing other peoples ideas than in invoking my own voice.  I rarely ever post my thoughts on our community and my relation to it. I am much more comfortable being the learner and the sharer than being the “voice” of our community. I have too much respect for the music, the listeners, and the community to pretend I speak for all of us. However, every six months or so, I come to a point where my conversations with people from our community prompt me to want to discuss a topic that lies right beneath the surface of all our actions. You all have indulged me in the past as I have explored how I re-found my romanticism for the music in a disenchanted age of fabricated authenticity (Read That Essay Here) and how I believe our scene will live on long beyond the boom and bust cycles of dance music popularity due to the traditions, sounds, and norms that create our common cultural infrastructure (Read That Essay Here). Well, It seems my experiences have come to a head once again, and I am ready to share some more of the ideas floating around our community.

Over the past few months, I have been fortunate enough to speak to some very special people with beautiful, powerful ideas about the SOUL of music and community. These conversations have had a profound influence on me not only as a listener, but also a human being. These ideas of the soul of the music have re-calibrated and fine tuned how I approach this local autonomy project. They have prompted me to move away from discussions of our community infrastructure and our fights with media hype. I am not moving toward a new direction; our collective soul.

When I say I am seeking out our collective soul, I am talking about trying to pinpoint some of the common ideas and values that we all believe in, use to guide our action, and make our attempts to build and protect a community meaningful. A simpler way to think about the collective soul is to consider it as a sort of guiding philosophy that is filled with all the values and attitudes we use to relate to each other, the music, and the rituals in our community. I believe that it is only though the collective soul that we are ever able to get in touch with the the very heart-strings of our community to see the deep meaning in all our actions together. I believe it is only through the collective soul that we are ever able to truly understand the importance of building a thriving, creative community full of sound producers, synthesizers, and listeners. I believe that it is only through the collective soul that we are ever able to understand our community as a sacred privilege to never be taken for granted.   This essay attempts to point out three of the broad values that I believe make up our collective soul in Columbus. It is my hope that by putting these values into works we can get more in touch with the deep beauty and significance of our common action in our city.

One: Mutual Obligation

One key value that unites many people within our community is a sort of mutual obligation and trust between people. There is an unspoken rule in our community that one needs to help and support the other people working within our community if they want to expect that help in turn.  Its not just our common love of a set of frequencies and vibrations that fosters this sort of outward-focused love and loyalty to the person next to us. This does establish a shared vocabulary we all speak, but it goes deeper than this. This mutual obligation and trust is hardwired into us through the fact that in our small community we know we need that person next to us if we are to share the messages and emotions that the music has to offer. As a result, most everything we do to build our community is not for us. It is all centered around a focus on helping others and spreading the message of the music.

Now some of you may scoff at this characterization, but you need to hold up a second. Its too easy to explain this away by saying that people are only rationally motivated and only do things that will help themselves in the long run. This is, in effect, making the argument that all our entire community is held together by a ceaseless stream of ego plays for status, prestige, and money. I am not prepared to make such a statement, because there is not much ego, prestige, and money to be made in what we are doing. Rather, I think we have quite different motivations for doing what we do in Columbus. The value we place on mutual obligation creates a community that transcends these rational concerns alone and instills in all of us an altruistic, love-based motivation to act. It is this altruism that has us asking: “What can we do for our community?” and not “what can I do to help myself?”

When I first entered the community, I was quite taken by the level of trust that develops among people in our community. Building and maintaining a community results in the establishment of deep friendship and camaraderie on an artistic and spiritual level that few common activities can match. You can see the results of this trust and loyalty in the massive events thrown by multiple dance music organizations or the events that bring together multiple “electronic” music communities. You can see it in the generous act of all the people that donated performances and sound to the BLUR event I helped throw for the Fuse Factory. You can see it in the time people take to answer questions and make mixes for this humble project. You can see it in the humble act of someone helping move equipment at the end of the night. You can see it in the willingness to pay 5-10 dollars to go to an event to support the artists that performed. In all these acts, we come to know who we are and who others are by giving of ourselves and experiencing the generosity of others. It is through this core value of mutual obligation that we begin to love one another and protect the community that helps us understand more deeply what it means to be human.

Two: Music As A Teacher & The Fellowship of Learners

The second core value that unites us is our orientation toward the music. We all value the messages and teachings that music has to offer us. We are the sort of self-selecting, deep-sea divers that are not content to just passively listen to music. We have a burning desire to tunnel deeply into the machinations and history of the sound to understand how and why it was created. Through this orientation, music becomes more than just a good beat and collection of synth pops. It takes on a quasi-magical quality that propels our bodies and minds out of  the mundane into the interconnection of history, place, and vibrating sound waves. It becomes a teacher about the human experience and our place in the universe. It becomes a spiritual repository where we look to learn lessons about how to love, rise above, and celebrate being alive. Viewed through this orientation, music is no longer just a hobby for us. It becomes a blueprint for engaged living.

Above our common approach to music as a teacher, we are all united in a fellowship of learning on the path to musical discovery. When we open ourselves to understanding what music can teach us, we are embracing a common path of learning and curiosity. This is a vital commonality, because it shows that we are not just united by what we listen to and are interested in. No, it is much deeper than that. We are unified by our common love of learning and being willing to continually change how we think the world in line with our interactions with others. This is something I have witnessed directly in myself and others. My love of learning overlaps fundamentally with all the other people in this community. How else would I be able to talk to complete strangers about the fundamental importance of music for 2-3 hours if we did not share some fundamental curiosity and membership in the fellowship of learning? How else would a project like mine even be able to get one reader if people were not curious and wanted to learn how other artists in their community approached learning and working with sound? How else would countless others in our community with seemingly different tastes and interests be willing to collaborate and appreciate each others work? Yes, we do share a fundamental belief in music as a teacher, but above all, we also share the fact that we are all but humble learners on this common path of life trying to live an engaged and worthwhile existence.

Three: The Sacred Rituals of our Community

The final core value that I feel unites us is our orientation toward all the practices associated with being a part of our community. Whether we consciously know it or not, we all approach listening, spinning, creating, dancing, and curating events as sacred acts of self expression. We all exude a humble reverence while doing them that shows our deep appreciation for being able to express our singularity and experience others expressions. This appreciation has profoundly altered how many of us approach the world around us. We have let our respect and reverence flow freely into our actions and it has transformed mundane acts in nightclubs into spiritual technologies that help us transcend this world of flesh and bone and burn wildly on fire in the Churches of Soul around our city. Through this perspective, our practices of creating and listening become our common instruments to sing the triumphs and sorrows of living in this imperfect world that is so immensely gorgeous in its flawed condition. What else is there to being human than humbling yourself before a practice that lets you express deeply these fundamental truths of our world.

Beyond the power of self expression, we are all united by approaching these sacred practices as parts of rituals of renewal, healing, and rites of passage. We do not hold these spiritual technologies in such a high regard just because they allow us to express ourselves. This is obviously an important part of it, but they also satisfy a much more fundamental need. We all continually re-use the solemn rites of the dancefloor every weekend with its practices of dancing, mixing, creating, and listening because it nourishes our soul with reminders of the love and beauty that surrounds us and heals our wounds inflicted in the dramas of life.  Even further, these rituals in the Church of Soul help us get over and symbolize us making our transition toward love, generosity, and humble learning. Viewed through this perspectives, each of these practices is nothing more than one star in the constellation of the services of the Church of Soul that we all continually draw on in order to re-fill our hearts for dealing with the troubles of our times. I have felt the power of these rituals in every room and show that I have gone to in our city. I know you have felt it to. Why else would we smile at complete strangers and be willing to trust them to share a very intimate experience of expressing the core of oneself? Why else does time seem to slow and space seem to fall away as we get in touch with that rhythm? Why else would all colors, smells, and sound seem to be more vivid in these moments of ceremonial connection? Why else would getting little sleep and dancing till the middle of the night leave you feeling fully charged and ready to love again? No matter if you are religious or not, we are all united in seeking out the sacred and beauty of life through the rituals of the dancefloor. We are all united in continually seeking out healing and nourishment in these solemn rites.

Conclusion: Breaking Down Division In These Rationalized, Categorical Times

I feel that pointing to and celebrating our unity through the collective soul is an incredibly important act in these rational, categorical times. “Dance music” in our city and all over the world has to some degree fragmented into infinitesimally small groups of people all exploring their own highly specialized category (genre) of music. When we break off into these small nodes and define ourself through sounds we are really closing ourselves off to all that the music and the community can teach us. We are allowing powerful organizations, whose goal is profit, to dictate to us how we will run and act in our community. It was these large-scale promotional groups, blogs, and recording companies that have always saw a potential pay day in twisting very loose, local definitions for genres [which were nothing more than ambiguous labels for people to use to understand the music anyways] into a rigid moral universe of Right|Wrong, Good|Bad, Cool|Uncool to sell us music, experiences, and identities.  When we continue to divide ourselves off by genre, we are allowing these organizations to trap our communities and ourselves in iron cages of genrification and monetization that suck the soul out of the music and community.  Luckily, these iron cages are never welded shut and can be sold for scrap metal if we have the desire.

Our collective soul lies right beneath the surface of most of what we do. Some individuals may be more intentional about how it guides their action, but we are all guided by forces outside the world constructed by blogs, promotional grops, and record companies. We all crave to learn about and get in touch with the ancient traditions that naturally emerged from the foundational moments of our community. We all crave to unify our community and be more in touch with the sacredness of our common practices and rituals. I think the road we can use to get there is a more intentional inclusion of the very values highlighted in our collective soul. Let’s stop falling into the trap of talking about how we are going to push the scene to get bigger and continue to think and talk about how we can all come together better and help each other (Mutual Obligation).   Let’s continue to talk about what we can learn from the music, events, and each other and not just how we can throw a well attended party (Music as a teacher; Fellowship of learners). Let’s continue to use a different metric of success for our community. One that keeps in mind that success can be measured in the degree to which we humbled ourselves before the practices and rituals of our community. One that takes seriously self-expression and finding healing in ritual as key indicators of a good event, production, or set.  It is only then that we can step out of the iron cage and allow ourselves to full express our collective soul. It is only then that we truly embrace the humanity behind all that we do in this city and take back our community for ourselves and no one else.

flyer

This saturday (May 18) ele_mental re-emerges with a 20th anniversary event at Kobo to celebrate the continuation of underground electronic music in our city (Event Details HERE). A focus on continuity is so vital, as ele_mental has never really left our community. Sure, they were not planning weekly or monthly parties over the last 5-6 years and many of its core members now live outside the city, but one does not have to be physically present or be screaming louder and louder to have an influence on the shape of our community. Sometimes the best thing a person or organization can do is to do nothing and let the creative pulse and vision one has created reverberate within the community in smaller ripples. Such is the simple way that ele_mental has come to inspire a whole new generation of people to work to keep the scene alive and offer a safe space for artists to explore ways of opening the  “eyes and ears and minds” of listeners

In my own way, this is how I came to know and be inspired by Ed Luna, Todd Sines, Titonton Duvante,  & Charles Noel and their artistic approach to dance music without even meeting them. I was caught by one of those smaller, barely perceptible reverberations that still echo out from the core years of their time in Columbus, 1991-2003. Even though I wasn’t there, didn’t here the songs, or feel the powerful rhythm of those days, the stories, pictures, sounds, and conversations I had with people shaped by those days influenced me in important ways. It was the high ideals of ele_mental  to rise above hype and push art that gave me the courage to push the boundaries of what music was acceptable and to not settle for the genres of acceptability that were in vogue at the time. It was the focus on education and scene history, charted by Ed Luna and others, that gave me a template and background knowledge on which to build. It was their hot burning fire of creativity and the will to build in new directions on the edges of sound that poured gasoline on my own kindling flame and showed me how to harness language as a system to express what was inside me. In short, as I stand on my own two feet, I recognize I walk on the ground built by their actions.

It only seems fitting that ele_mental would re-insert themselves into the conversation in a more direct and pointed way now. After 5-6 years of development, the scene has ramped back up. New clubs have opened in the old spaces. New organizations have arisen to fuse the experimental and dance sides of our scene. New publications, photographers, and videographers have taken advantage of advances in technology to document what people are doing creatively in our community.  New faces have mixed in with the old to create a new community. However, the newer members of our community have never experienced an ele_mental event. What will transpire when we all get under the same roof and dance to the same beat? I am, with Ed Luna, hoping for a Chain Reaction. The sort of chaotic, unstable synthesis that merges the ethos of DIY creation and sound barrier bursting so characteristic of ele_mental with the energy of the next generation to give another injection to the most recent wave of underground scene building in Columbus.

In order to get you ready for the show, I gave seven different members of ele_mental and our community the opportunity to reflect, just as I did above, how ele_mental influenced their lives and our city. I hope you enjoy the result. I think it really captures some of the importance of the organization and its ideals for our community. Below you will see the question I posed to all participants and their answers In alphabetical order by their first name:

Its the 20th aniversary of ele_mental and its got me in a reflective mood.  How have your experiences with the ele_mental influenced your life, your relationship to music, or your art?

Charles Noel aka archtyp, monochrome, A.R.S.:

archtyp

“ele_mental was something that came into my life at the perfect time. In 1990, I was in the middle of an important transition creatively speaking. I was fresh into my 20’s and ready to explore the universe of creativity. I was looking very optimistically and somewhat scientifically into the future. A few years into college, I was banging my head against a few disciplines that I had almost no business messing with, music theory/performance and electrical engineering. The situation was that I wanted to be an audio engineer and at OSU in the 80s they had set up an audio recording degree that was half music and half electrical engineering. I gave it the college try, but really couldn’t hang. I was expected to learn how to play an instrument (a school of music requirement) and get heavy into math and physics for the electrical engineering, but deep down I just wanted to get creative with sound. I wanted to chart unknown sonic territories, help develop new sounds for the future, and contribute to the furthering of the art.

I was pulling inspiration from many areas that were not overlapping much at that time. I had my ear into hip-hop, techno, house, industrial, punk, noise and experimental. In my mind, I wanted to draw lines between all of these and connect a visual aspect that took elements of art and design. This is a very common theme in today’s digital omni-connected world, but nothing you would randomly stumble upon in the late 80’s and early 90’s. 
Around the time that I came to this realization, I made a connection with some guys who had been hangin’ around in the small but active Columbus underground music and indie art scene. These guys had some of the same crazy ideas that I had, but coming from a different angle.

Archtyp as poor boyLooking back on that moment, it was a very odd window into the future. It wasn’t very defined in terms of looking at the past and just doing what you did then but better. We could see elements of change coming. The idea that the rules that we previously abided by were fading away was the fuel for lighting our art-student-collective/event-promoter/dj-producer-label owner fire. 
A fire had been lit and in a very short amount of time it would grow out of control. I’ll admit that I was along for the ride during much of the original inception, but being around motivated people that are willing to take risk is quite inspiring when you want to get shit done. From the get-go, ele_mental was about things that didn’t actually exist and as someone that had young creative energy who wanted to chart new territory with all that was in reach I was drawn into the collective. Many others where drawn in as well to varying degrees. We were all worker bee’s working toward a greater collective good. Heavy camaraderie came early on as we would learn to pull resources from anywhere in the collective to get our individual and collaboratory ideas into reality. We were all so motivated to teach and learn and to make things happen.

We took ideas and stripped them down to what was important. At that time, everyone was doing the opposite of that, so we stood out. Ironically though, we were not doing something just to stand out, which is a common motivation to do something. We simply followed a creative curiosity that told us to do something because it doesn’t exist and it is interesting enough to put some effort into. 
That force was responsible for those things that elemental gave to us all; Friendship, friendship on the level that was somewhere between a family member and a significant other, Creative, the idea that every creative step should be taken for a reason and to further the art, Knowledge and Motivation, how to make beautiful things happen when you don’t have enough resources. Networking, find those who inspire you personally and professionally and reaching out to them. ele_mental has given me all of that and so much more. 
To sum up, elemental gave me life; the means to create things, navigate problems and forge relationships, to keep forward momentum, and do what makes you happy.”

Ed Luna aka Lunar

Ed luna

“For me, ele_mental really allowed me a forum and venue to bring things together not only to benefit my own growth, but to nurture growth in others. I think its impact on Columbus, and other places here and there, is almost undetectable, but is secretly incalculable. No one did anything even remotely resembling what we were doing at the time, and few have even tried since. The reason it didn’t leave much of a visible impact was because it wasn’t really designed to. It lived on (and lives on) in the idea of collaboration and sharing itself, rather than in some need to prove how influential we were. We’ve never lived in the past, or in the need to prove anything, and we’re not about to start doing that now, even as we’re entering a new phase of understanding our own history.

I think this might be the most lasting legacy of ele_mental: it was about asking the right questions at the right time, and manifesting these questions into events and moments that people could participate in. In that sense, it’s as relevant now as it was twenty years ago.”

Jeff Chenault of ten-speed guillotine/circuitry room/Jeff Central:

Circuitry Room7 (1)

“The ele_mental events were an important time in the history of electronic music in Columbus, Ohio. Ed Luna had the brilliant idea to bring a diverse family of sound artists, performers and DJ’s together under one roof. Columbus at the time was bursting with so many talented people that it seemed more like a demented family reunion than a concert gig. Steven Wymer, Mark Gunderson, The Weird Lovemakers, Central Inhabitants, Kevin Kennedy, Todd Sines, Titonton Duvante, Charles Noel, Mike Textbeak, the list goes on and on. To say my work was influenced during these times would be an understatement. I learned new ideas from the “new school” of kids as much as I hope they learned from us old farts. I’ve also made friendships that will last a lifetime. There was no egos, no discrimination, no boundaries, and no rules. We were family and the DNA that held us all-together was sound.”

Kevin Kennedy aka FBK, Powerhouse, Sleep Engineer:

fbk“Before meeting the Body Release crew (which was the nucleus of the ele mental crew) in or around 1991-92, I was a crazy kid that was part of an iconoclastic hip-hop group called Poets of Heresy (we were one of the first hip-hop/rap groups to perform regularly on OSU’s campus…playing with rock bands like the New Bomb Turks-who gave us our first show).

I was introduced to Charles Noel by a mutual friend-a bass player named Diego Rivera…funny, I know. Charles and I hit it off quickly, and arranged to trade gigs that summer. I was also invited to some of the early house parties. I spent that summer of 1992 on campus mostly…listening to people like Doug (doughboy) Holmes spin Hardcore and Gabber, charles and others playing Drum and Bass, and becoming very influenced by the new electronic sound (which I was familiar with from my youth as a breaker/wanna-b-boy). I realized that this music had power.

The more Charles and I talked, the more interested I became. Charles actually CHALLENGED me to begin creating dance music. I was in the process of building a ‘home studio’ in the basement of my mother’s home, and started to ask TONS of questions…I started picking up little bits and pieces of gear…by 1994 I was in the beginning stages of doing my first recordings…to which I would annoyingly rush over to the ele mental house (by this time, on 14th street) and play my newest creations. Somehow, I had a level of artistic merit, and began to come along for the ride. I played my first show (a NYE party at the house, playing experimental records before Mark Gunderson took over). I had been into the DMC/battle scene for quite some time…I could scratch, but I couldn’t beatmatch.

Thank goodness that most everyone was occupied or in school at the time…it gave me a chance to come over and play records at a better level than I could at my house…and learn to beatmatch on better decks (I had a pair of Technics D-1s at the time).

Had it not been for the elementals-I’d probably be a frustrated and bitter ex-rapper. The love, guidance, and sheer community of the group was enough to make me a better artist. I thank my lucky stars that I was able to meet lifelong friends like Charles, Todd Sines, TiTonTon Duvante, and Ed Luna….A debt I will owe for the rest of my life.

They brought the world of dance music to Columbus, and to me. And now it’s time to give it back to the world. Can it really be 20 years? Wow.”

Mike Textbeak:

Mike Text“Well I was in Body Release before Elemental existed and left Columbus and B|Re to move to Minneapolis in 1992. Working with Todd, Charles, and Titonton definitely had a great impact on me.
All 3 had great artistic drives to constantly create and I totally identified with that. Also, we all had such unique likes even though we were all basically from the same scene and we all had an insatiable hunger for new music. I remember going through records for sampling one day at the house on (I think it was on 17th) with Titonton and he played me Plight and Premonition by David Sylvian and Holger Czukay and completely blowing me away. I remember Todd blasting AFX “Tamphex” early in the morning while eating cereal and the insane alien sound echoing all the way up the stairs. I ran down and planted my head in the speaker. I remember Charles playing me a cassette of music he was working on solo that was was slow bassy breakbeats back at Todd’s old dorm. I was totally astonished by how cool and deep it sounded. It was such the polar opposite to what we were doing with breakbeats in Body Release at the time.

We all each had pretty diverse taste. Charles had an awesome collection of industrial and also hip hop and breaks records and would scratch them equally well. Todd was always pushing out for new sounds. Like in high school he was always researching new music and exploring new ideas with sound. Titonton was just so absolutely talented at playing and composing music. I remember we would be sitting around and he would just smash out the riffs from 808 State songs for us. He would write songs on his Ensoniq VFX and pound them out manually part by part in long sequence mode without quantize.

It was so awesome that all of us brought these different things with us and then combined it into B|Re.”

Scott Litch of Squared:

Scott Litch

“ele_mental was one of my first exposures to the underground electronic culture in Columbus. Their events were always very thoughtful. I remember Ed Luna handing me his “think” article to me at a party. I read it and thought it was really interesting. The ele_mental crew was always thoughtful with their events. They always incorporated a mixture of art as well. This always brought out a really eclectic group. When things started to die down around 1999, I felt that I wanted to create my own production company that kept some of the same aesthetic going. I still continue to work with the ele_mental crew to this day, as we just hosted Titonton at victories a few weeks back.”

Steven Wymer aka tactil vision + djvd:

Post 90--Tactil Vision

“For me, in the mid-90’s, the “rave” scene was pretty much where the cutting-edge music was at the time..”techno” became a movement so much to a degree that it even elicited some feelings of contempt artistically, i admit, as i even tried to avoid the trend. So there was both a feeling of being inspired, but also overwhelmed. There was all this music and all these people that had started a movement of sorts apart from the “industry” and succeeding. So when i was starting out, i guess i tried to maintain my own identity to a degree, but the overall feeling of community was indescribably refreshing. The best part, i suppose, it prevented me from being too stuck in my own ideas, or being pretentious starting out…the genre or method is really secondary to the experience of being in front of people and the connection. So it enforced my need to stay true to myself, but also be open to others; the social aspect (if there is any other aspect) of music took root. I suppose then, i took it all for granted…being involved in ele_mental’s events basically was where i first got my opportunities to perform live and eventually i found they knew quite a bit more about the history of electronic music than i, it was more inclusive. They were actually carrying on much of the underground “industrial music” philosophy, with random Coil and Kraftwerk fans, when industrial music was going mainstream. So i was introduced to all these various forms and media, which opened my mind. Obviously, that was the point. It wasn’t a lot about dancing for me, i remember. I was sort-of taking it all in at the time and managing to contribute something remotely interesting. I guess at the time i was becoming a bit of a purist or an isolationist and this seemed to be challenging that; akin to a naive virgin finding himself in the middle of an orgy.

So the scene was broader and more encompassing…i don’t even know how it all happened, i knew a guy that knew a guy, who i don’t even think heard my music, but there i was opening up events with other live acts before the DJ’s took over the rest of the night. I was doing noise stuff. And these guys like Kevin (Kennedy) were basically dragging their studio and equipment out in a garage and doing everything live. DJ’s hauling around crates of vinyl. No laptops then! I don’t remember any computers- everyone was using MIDI. If they were, it was Atari’s or something. People were hacking stuff and hooking up VCR’s for video. I remember Ed having that funky haircut and rarely could i get a convo going with him, because he was mostly interested in the girls, i suppose 😉 So even now by habit, i keep in mind stuff might get dirty or damaged. You might get rained on setting up. Live: be prepared, keep an open mind and meet as many people as you can.

For the most part, i remember the DJ’s having the most impression- using the turntable as an instrument and the skills they had. It was all “street” back then, like the alleys and garages started breeding kids. Actually, in my own work, i guess now i realize where the grittiness and funk comes from that still permeates my own work. I even ended up incorporating a turntable in my own sets. The DIY ethic. There was quite a bit of sampling and cross-pollination. Whether you were into James Brown or Joy Division, it all was in the mix. So right off the bat it was about live performance, trading music with people and diversity. To this day, i still have a hard time labeling tings or getting narrowed-down creatively…after an ele_mental event, you’d come home and your mind would be swirling around, it was almost information overload. Maybe it was a portent of the internet culture to come. So, the experience was everything; the love of music was really the only thing we had to bring us together..it was actually quite genius, really, in the way it tapped into the sexuality and freedom of expression. It was about being a part of a whole, where the individual and the mass had a delicate balance for a time- both physically and psychically. I guess it could even be compared with a modern-day brothel, without the actual fornication. So for the most part, as beginner, i was having some illusions being challenged and such being exposed to that and perhaps even saw myself and others in a different light…”

Todd Sines aka xtrac + A.R.S. :

“ele_mental is simply… just that.

Ed came up with elemental and I thought we should fragment it — just to give it some “space”. What was essentially thought up out of the thin air, without too much thought, ele_mental has come to symbolize the nature of our activities, for work, art, and personal endeavors. It is a permeating cohesion that governs my every movement; the multi, inter, cross and trans-disciplinary nature of what we began 20 years ago has covered my career for + SCALE, my music, my friendships, my relationships. It is seeing the parallels in life; the elementary nature that forms deep, lasting friendship bonds for decades.

As there’s almost a decade + stretch between the various “electrons” of ele_mental, our events in the past decade, particularly since our move to NYC (and New Orleans, SF, Portland, LA, and beyond) have become a family reunion; whether it be a wedding, a group dinner, “waffles at da crib”, or concert & DJ sets in various spots across the globe.

While I wasn’t as focused as I should have been in college, nor siblings; I think I made up for it in the “ele_versity” with fellow student/teachers Charles, Titonton, Ed, Anthony, Chris, the Kevin’s (FBK, MWK, TWK, TSK, FWK, et al), Michael, David, and countless others. They have provided insight, perspective, inspiration and most of all, friendship that is 20+ years strong.
Todd Sines
14 May 2013”

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

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