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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.

live2
LA: I was drawn to your work, because it trudges across the terrain of noise, experimental, and more traditional dance forms (like acid) and shows how they are all connected. What has prompted you to explore the interconnections between these music forms people often try to separate?

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Glacial Communications & glacial23 on the Web:

Glacial Communications Facebook

Glacial Communications Bandcamp

Glacial Communications Website

glacial23 Soundcloud

Post 90--Tactil Vision

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

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

TV2

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

TV5

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

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

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

TV Eres

LA: How did you get into making music?

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

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

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

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

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

TV3

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

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

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

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

TV4

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

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

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

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

AP

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

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

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

Frames of thought

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

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

Alessio Pili – “Local Autonomy Mix”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sound Of Plaid - large

I did my second spot on Trademark Gunderson & Frillypant’s Sound of Plaid Radio Show two weeks back. You may remember my first spot on the show in November. You can listen to that HERE. This time around we played some local music, some old & new music, talked big ideas, and had a great time. Take a listen when you get a chance.

Tracklisting: Click on Artist Name for more info
(Band — Song)
Jay Dee — Airworks
Elizabeth Waldo — Balsa Boat
A Tribe Called Red — The Road
The Fallen — Raw Times
sKewn — Circling
Jeff Central — The Day Of Attack
Druid Cloak — Sun Elf
Glass Teeth —BB EYEZ (FUNERALS Remix)
tactil vision — illusion
Glacier 23 — The End Track
Walleye — Burn 4u
Mike Shiflet —1917
Mike Shiflet — Zahlentheorie
The Evolution Control Committee — The Fool On The Hill (Major-Minor Swap, incomplete)

I was milling around on the internet and compiling links for the multitude of work that has come out of our city over the past few months. Man, I was seriously impressed. There were a multitude of mixes, original production, and live events that just blew me away. I figure I would do the community a solid and put together a rough list of some of the recordings that have been posted online from people in our community. This is obviously not exhaustive, but consider this a first attempt to update the sorely outdated archive. All the listing are in alphabetical order and numbered so you can see that there are 27 unique pieces of music to explore. These numbers do not correspond with a ranking. They are given more so you can see each piece of music as a unique entity and to give you a sense for our overall aggregate output over the course of 2-4 months as an artistic community. If you like someone’s work try to look more deeply into their other releases and go see them live! (Note:  If I have missed you send me a link and I will put you up here. Also, feel free to point anyone in this direction if they are saying that Columbus doesn’t have a thriving “electronic” music community.)

1.) 9star: “Tangible Thoughts”

2.) Aaron Austen: Promo Mix

3.) The Beat Oracle Radio Show: “Saturated”

4.) Ben Bennett: Spoilage (New LP out on Jeremy Bible’s Excellent Experimedia Records)

5.) B-Funk: Thump Show

6.)  Bohno: Sink Deep

7.) Burgle: Jack Shack TV Mix

Burgle 53 Min Jack Shack DJ Set by Jackshacktv on Mixcloud

8.) Conner Campassi: GRVTY

9.) Creamz: Basement Sessions 002

10.) Crucial Taunt: Frito Flip

11.) Dave Espionage: Jack Shack TV Mix

Dave Espionage 51 min Jack Shack DJ Set by Jackshacktv on Mixcloud

12.) DJ Push: There Was Sun

13.) Doctor Zapata: Promo Mix Enero 2013

14.) Doctor X — His latest mix “Ambient Evening” on his Perscriptions Radio Show

15.) Druid Cloak: The Groove EP

16.) Dustin Knell:BACK & FORTH: A LOVE/HATE Mix

17.) The Fallen: “Live at BLUR”

18.) FBK: “Where Their Love Still Exists”

19.) FBK: “In This Deadly Light”

20.) FUNERALS, Druid Cloak, and Others (BOO SRA Remixes):

21.) FUNERALS: Vessel Mix 2012

22.) George Brazil: Jack Shack TV Mix

George Brazil 59 min Jack Shack DJ Set by Jackshacktv on Mixcloud

23.) Hawstyle’s Most recent mix on his Bus Bass Show:

24.) jMac: January Promo Mix

25.) Kevin Parrish: Squared Online Podcast

26.) Lower Frequency: Squared Online Podcast

27.) Midislut:

28.) Mike Shiflet: “Secret Thirteen Mix”

29.) Mike Shiflet: Three Tracks from new LP “The Choir, The Army” 

30.) NetworkEDM: Post Day-Glow Hangover Mix

31.) Ohioan: “Buoy”

32.) Plural: “The Beatings Continue”

33.) Quality: February Live Recording

34.) roeVy: PROXY – Raw (roeVy remix)

35.) Self Help: Jack Shack TV Mix

Self Help 50 Min Jack Shack DJ Set by Jackshacktv on Mixcloud

36.) Single Action: Bus Bass Mix 55

37.) Sybling Q’s most recent mix on his Q Factor Radio Show

38.) Tactil Vision: “savage”

39.) Titonton Duvanté: Live Mix 2012

40.) Todd Sines: Live at Mister H

41.) Tony Fairchild: February Jack Trax

Jack Shack TV is a boiler room-esq video mix show that our own local (I count Athens as part of our broader scene even though they have their own distinct community) jack-of-all genre’s DJ Barticus runs out of his basement in Athens, Ohio. You may recognize the name. DJ Barticus was one half of the duo (With DJ Self Help) that ran the widely popular Athens & Columbus Dance or Die party that ran for 6-8 years.Just like in the Dance or Die Parties, DJ Barticus has used Jack Shack TV to push an open format approach to music that place hip-hop, dance, and pop styles of music on an equal pedestal. Just take a quick listen to the show he did with George Hertzel. Look at that Keytar! Man.

What Barticus did with the whole concept really impressed me, because he was not scared to take a really popular model and bring in his own flavor to make it his own.  Watching just one of the episodes, you can see how Barticus and his friends have taken the Boiler Room model and twisted it to their own purposes.  The show presents their own unique perspective on music and is devoid of the hype machine-esq trappings of so many other video mix shows. Instead, it is injected with a sort of public access TV vibe that is rooted in notions of their local Athens community.

DJ Pro Bono 63 min Jack Shack DJ Set from Jack Shack TV on Vimeo.

Most importantly, I think it also reaffirms how much people in our community can do with very little. Barticus decided one day, “Hey, I want to do that.” And so he did. This is the story I hear again and again in our scene. He didn’t wait until he had the right equipment, the right premium accounts on youtube or vimeo, or a complete online identity. He created a name, got his VHS camera ready (He has since upgraded), contacted musicians, and started filming. Then all of a sudden a new video mix show was born. If you take away anything from this story, I hope you feel inspired today to do something creatively you have always wanted to do. You can do a lot with the cheap or free tools you already have at your disposal. Anyways, I hope you enjoy the interview and my collection of some of the Jack Shack TV shows. See there accounts on YouTube and Vimeo for the complete video catalogues and listen to audio of all the shows on their mixcloud :

Thunder St. Clair 60 min Jack Shack DJ Set from Jack Shack TV on Vimeo.

Local Autonomy:  It is obvious from listening and following your eclectic output that you are a big proponent of staying open to a diverse range of influences and sounds. Why are you such a big proponent of an open format approach to music?

DJ Self Help

BARTICUS: It all comes down to 2 things: Hiphop and ADD. Being a hiphop DJ got me open to all kinds of music, because hiphop takes its samples and influences from everywhere. The ADD part means that I don’t want to hear the same thing for an entire night.

LA: How did the idea for Jack Shack come about?

BART: Jack Shack is a combination of many ideas that have been floating around my head. I was inspired by the Talking Heads song, “Found A Job” and Mission Man’s “Do What You Love”. The format for the show was obviously stolen/borrowed from Boiler Room. I would watch episodes of Boiler Room full screen while i was on the other side of the room doing dishes. I just loved the whole setup, the people behind the DJ were just there hanging out in the DJ booth, and the person on the other side of the screen was the audience. Like hearing the Ramones and starting a punk band the next day, that’s how i felt about the Boiler Room.

I made a list of 30 people that I would want to book for Jack Shack. Everyone who I told about the idea was very excited. it felt like such a good idea. It didn’t take long for me to get the idea to want to record and share my friends DJ sets. The more I thought of it the more up sides i saw to it. I still can’t see any downsides.

I also wanted to capture the vibe of what it was like when i first started DJaying. I would go to a friends basement and we would take turns working on our skratches. I was hoping some one just getting started could find some inspiration in these videos.

LA: Youtube is your prime medium. Why did you choose the video sharing site to release your shows?

BART: Youtube is the spot people go to quickly share music. Something on youtube will reach more people than any other video sharing site. The problem with youtube is we have different interpretations of what is fair use and what should fall under Internet Radio Equality Act. I’ve had to move some of the content over to vimeo and not as many people see those videos.
At this point if i want to keep using youtube i am going to have to switch the format to original music, and i really hate being forced into that. I really don’t value originality in music that much. i think the best things in music come from freely building on each others ideas.

LA: As a fan of what many people consider obsolete technologies, I loved your use of VHS recording for the first few episodes. What made you turn to the VHS?

Burgle

BART: I turned to VHS because i wanted it to look crappy, but sound amazing. I’m not a very visual person and for most things VHS is really ‘good enough’ for me. I have a collection of VHS tapes (and VCRs) because i sometimes project VHS behind me whlie i DJ. I like how VHS movies have no menu, i like how the flicker when paused. i like how it looks when you play them in fast forward or rewind. I like how a tape looks after you re-use it too many times.
The only reason i’ve started to go with the webcam is because of how much time it saves me in the editing stage.

LA: What do you hope to achieve with the Jack Shack concept?
BART: I would like to start doing more episodes at different venues, keep it as different as possible. I would like to see more people make their own version of jack shack. realistically the shows I produce are going to not happen as often. I just started to run for public office and that is going to keep me busy.

Mission Man

There has been much written about the boom and bust cycles of dance music ( i.e. when is the edm bubble going to burst?). The boom happens when certain strands of dance music attract wider “pop” audiences and bring new listeners into dance communities. During this time, audiences swell, more records are sold, and it is “cool” to be associated with that music community. Much like other “pop” fads, these boom-time periods always come to an end. The bust of a cycle results when the luster of dance music fades and many of those new listeners abandoning dance communities. We are entering what appears to be the tail end of one of these boom periods (Its debatable I suppose), and a lot of keystrokes have been spent trying to decide what is going to happen. The resounding answer people give is that it is natural that dance scenes ebb and flow in popularity, but their survival is not in jeopardy.  The problem is that writers often stop there and don’t explain why dance scenes will survive. Looking to how our Columbus scene has weathered these boom/bust cycles in the past provides one way to provide an answer to this question. By drawing on my conversations about our local scene’s recent history, I want to argue that dance music persists in columbus because there is an underlying infrastructure that is kept alive by the people who continue to use the music, ideas, and traditions we all share even when dance music culture is not popular.

Rewind 6-8 years ago. The underground ele_mental parties had ended, other crews associated with the underground had slowed their activities, and many of the clubs across the city had closed. Both the underground and more obvious club oriented activities had slowed from their once feverish pace. Local dance and experimental record labels like 21/22 and Exoteque Music went into disuse. A whole generation of fans seemed to disengage from dance music as its popularity reached a low point in Columbus and across the nation.  At the surface, it appeared as if the scene in Columbus had died.

Yet, I question whether the scene actually “died”. Did all the people so instrumental to dance music flourishing in our city in the 90s and early 00s leave the scene?  Did all the fans “grow up” and stop liking dance music? Sure some people did leave and others “grew up”, but the vast majority of people that held dance music so central to their lives never left. Consequently, all the know-how of how to build record labels, dance music crews, clubs, and build a scene from the ground up was still in the city. The rich traditions of how a scene is supposed to operate were not lost. The love of the music and the artists need to express themselves never waned.

The scene didn’t die in the early 2000s. The infrastructure of the scene just went into a period of dormancy. Dormancy is very different from death. A state of dormancy is characterized by re-grouping and contemplation that naturally comes about after a common routine has resulted in stagnancy. Activities continue, but in a much less pronounced way.  Death is, well, its death. An end of a form of expression or life. Culture doesn’t die. It carries on in the cracks of the system. After some 10-15 years of doing dance hard in Columbus, it was natural for the scene to shift into a slower, more underground phase as the popularity of dance music waned. However, expressing oneself through dance music did not die. The most visible organizations throwing parties became less active and many of the recognized venues had closed, but the infrastructure of the scene was still intact.  All the rhythms, know-how, and traditions were still used by people, but the scene had receded back into the cracks of the city.

Quickly after the disbanding of many of the most visible crews and clubs, other events and crews took their place. By 2006, Sweatin’, Squared nights at Bristol, Restart House, and other underground parties were regular events that gave DJs and fans a space to express themselves. The scene wasn’t filling the newport, Skully’s, or BOMA, but it certainly couldn’t be pronounced dead. A core group of new and older scene members took the lead and brought dance music back to a prominent place in Columbus nightlife. In the short period of 5 years, the Columbus scene went from dormancy to again having 5-10 dance events a week. Our scene is again pushing out in a multitude of directions. New routines have replaced the old. New crews have replaced the old. The dance and experimental electronic music community is again thriving and sharing their music with Columbus and the rest of the world. We have new events, radio shows, record labels that offer you the opportunity to get exposed to new sounds. We have a multitude of innovative, dedicated people still pushing the scene forward into new spaces and concepts. (Check out the links on sidebar to see all the different people working to make our scene great with video projects, record labels, record stores, and events).

What we can take away from this short history?

1.) Well, It is quite evident that dance music persists in Columbus because it matters to us and we want to share it with one another. We are the core elements of the infrastructure that give life to something bigger than our selves: a dance music community.  The boom/bust cycle may affect how many people show up, how many records one sells, or how cool someone may think you are, but there will always be a scene as long as people come together and use the music, ideas, and traditions we share.

2.) Having a scene go into a state of dormancy is not necessarily a bad thing.  Dormancy is vital for weathering those periods when dance music is unpopular in the mainstream and growth is hard to come by.  By receding back into the cracks of the city, we can regroup and find a ways to keep our community together when there is less support in the mainstream. Gauging back the frequency of events can also be really healthy and important for a scene to shed old routines and think about new ways to innovate. It can also help foster community and build the type of committment that is needed to push the scene out of dormancy and back into a prominent part in a cities night life.

I feel these two lessons are important, because they remind us that the scene is in our hands. Its not in the hands of abstract economic, political, and cultural forces. Sure, these influences shape what our scene looks like, but in the end its all on us. These lessons also prod us to have a more realistic assessment of our scene’s development. We do not need to be New York, LA, Las Vegas, Berlin, or London. We need to be the best version of Columbus that our city has ever scene. I for one feel lucky to be a part of our scene. Our community is constructed of a teflon-tough DIY fabric that has endured the tests of the Boom/Bust cycle.  We have done more with nothing than all those many market cities have done with immense financial resources.  Just look at all the dance music related record labels, radio shows, events, and organizations that are now active in our city. If that doesn’t give you faith in our community then I do not know what will.

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