Forest Swords Engravings Tri Angle Records (2013) It's been three years since Forest Sword's beautiful EP Dagger Paths was released -- enough time for some of us to forget about how awesome those tracks were and to write producer Matthew Barnes off as an occasional dabbler rather than forceful new figure. Fortunately, he's used that time well. His first full-length, Engravings, takes airy vocal samples and spaghetti western guitars and stretches them out over an expansive skyline, evoking an aerial view of monochrome industrial landscapes and overcast rocky beaches long abandoned by human investment or presence. Engravings inhabits the spaces we've left behind, pooling the essence of detritus together in celebration of the act of being. Sampled voices, percussion, and melodies are scraps littered about the countryside and united in the single cause of radiating their true potential rather than their perceived obsolescence. It all culminates in an utterly gorgeous and unique vision that combines modern technology and organic material as both means and message.
"Obviously everywhere has history, but when you grow up [somewhere] it contextualises it a lot more. It’s a lot more impressive when you can see physically where those things are. Thor’s stone, for instance, is a place in a village called Thurstaston. Local legend has it that it was used as a sacrificial place for Vikings and settlers and stuff. So to find all these things… it kind of felt right for me. And it came at a time when I maybe wanted that connection with my home. You get to a certain age where you want to reconnect with where you were born and where you grew up." - Matthew Barnes on "Thor's Stone" via FACT Mag

Dim Past - Black Dolphin Album ReviewDim Past Black Dolphin Other Electricities / Roofless Records Dim Past probably isn't going to get too much DJ love for his new EP, Black Dolphin. That's not a statement about the quality of the music therein, mind you -- nor do I mean to suggest that it isn't danceable. The thing is that this lo-fi rager sounds like the shredded fragments of techno waveforms managing to escape from the confines of your local basement show's shitty PA speakers. Where many modern producers aim for precision and clarity, hoping to have their babies pushed out through Funktion-One speakers or blasted into miles of Euro festival goers, Black Dolphin is submerged under a dank ass layer of lo-fi resin more commonly found caked around Bay Area psych rock tapes and ultra-limited hardcore 7"s. I mention those unrelated genres because while there are certainly people out there making harsh techno (Regis and Marcel Dettman come to mind), it's been a while since electronic dance music has sounded this DIY; the record has the feel of Surgeon's Force+Form in terms of presentation. Case in point is lead track "Ghostlord Masterclock", a 4/4 stomper that shreds with the intensity of Jeff Mills' dystopian Waveform Transmissions. The track says something about the adrenal dump of techno in its rawest form; this is the way it sounds in your gut rather than your ears after hours of sweating under the glare of a nonstop kick drum pounding on the one. It also serves as a wonderful example of the American underground's turn towards EDM. Where once our oscillators churned out heaps of white noise into surrealist oblivion, recent years have seen those feedback loops start to wrap themselves around that instantly recognizable beat -- that not only harkens back to the club, but to the instinctual metronomic pulse on which we humans have based our movements since time immemorial.

 

"Music for me is ooooold Tom Jones," croaked the homeless man with a weathered smile. He'd boisterously wandered into Robert Henke and I's conversation a moment ago. He mumbles a few other lines -- classic no doubt, but indecipherable -- before we tell him that we need to get back to our interview before Henke's lecture that evening. Jarring as it was at first, I felt that the old man's last quotable words were hilariously relevant to the talk I was having with Henke. As Henke and I talked about the evolution of music production and consumption as it relates to the tools involved with both, the old man was a reminder of just how far everything has come.
Henke has much to say about the use of engineering and interface construction as creative mediums -- ones that are practiced by unsung hierophants of the esoteric arts of electronics and software development. Being the last man standing of influential minimal techno pioneers turned multi-sensory space voyagers, Henke is a learned man on this subject. His electronic dance project Monolake is world-reknowned for its 6-channel, audio-visual performances, and his work as one of the principle designers behind Ableton Live has contributed to making the music software an industry standard. One could even say that Henke has had more influence over the last ten years on the way millions of people create and perform their music globally than any bigger-selling musicians or producers, simply because he helped build the instruments we're all using to bring our ideas to life. Not that he would jump to point that out, mind you; Henke isn't quick to list his accomplishments, but he is sincere in noting his place in the lineage of artists who have fashioned their own tools. Out of the joy of solving puzzles and the need to make that sound, image, etc. their own way, those engineer-artists have inadvertently come up with novel technologies that the rest of us can not only enjoy, but use to create our own works.
"I see a lot of similarities between fascinating engineering and fascinating art. Both have to do with craftsmanship; both have to do with finding a simple solution for a complex problem. And it has to do with elegance and needs inspiration. It’s underestimated how much inspiration goes into good engineering, and how much artistic thinking is involved in good engineering." - Robert Henke
   

 

There is a moment on the new Flying Lotus record -- let's call it the first five seconds -- when one has to decide whether to climb aboard Steve Ellison's shimmering magic carpet for the next half hour (or century... drugs like this tend to distort time a little) or to simply survey the beautiful landscape he's laid out on his newest album-trip, Until the Quiet Comes. I say this because like all Flying Lotus records, there are a myriad of experiences to be had within the layers of subtle details, ranging from active to passive and or up and down to goddamn spiritually ecstatic.

 

At this moment, your mind is receiving stimuli that defines the space around you. Infinite waves of molecular interactions are coursing through your body, separating isness from notness, being from perception, object from space; determining the contours of your physical and mental limits while daring you to shatter them. Space is your space, the loop from your mind to subject and back. There is room for much confusion here due to latency -- the time it takes to complete the loop -- but there is also room for exploration, for realization, and for creation. How we fill the space is up to us. The opportunity a wonderful gift which can be made even more powerful when we share it with other people -- when we bottle the loop so that others can trace its orbit. We do this through every creative act, and yet, some are more obvious than others. Architecture, for example, or sculpture, but what about words? What about music? There are sounds that define and create spaces that feel more real than those confirmed by visual or physical cues. These are the sounds that characterize the music of both Sun Araw, M. Geddes Gengras, and The Congos. All three artists are prone to constructing material hallucinations from sonic vibrations. And now, in 2012, we have Icon Give Thank, a record combining Sun Araw's desert acid zones with The Congos' Kingston temples into one heroic dose. Cameron Stallones of Sun Araw, Geddes Gengras, Ashanti Roy of The Congos, and director Tony Lowe all chime in on this interview, to offer a glimpse into the divergent cultural and creative worlds that intersected in the creation of a final record and short film product.

Sun Araw

"Crete" from Ancient Romans

M. Geddes Gengras

April 2012 Tour Set

The Congos

"Fisherman" From Heart Of The Congos

 

Throw this on when the fractals have dissipated. This is music for the come down. Time to ruminate on lessons learned, ladies and gents. Curated by Troy Micheau, REDEFINE Staff Writer

 

September 15th, 2011 - Rotture, Portland, OR After sleepwalking through a night and a half of slick, mismatched suburban rock of MusicfestNW, the scent G-funk spilled forth through the weathered slabs of inner SE's Rotture was like blood in the water for those of us begging...

September 15th, 2011 - Dante's, Portland, OR Alex Zhang Hungtai's desert-dwelling, sunburnt Suicide jams didn't really do much for me on his debut LP as Dirty Beaches, but the man's set at Dante's on Friday night of MusicfestNW was absolutely mesmerizing in a most bizarre and...