Above is a picture of Dubai Dream Tone, one third of James Ferraro’s current exhibition at MoMA PS1, a Queens-based adjunct of the Museum of Modern Art. Of course, a photo (and a bad one, at that) doesn’t do the work justice, seeing as it’s a sound piece. But the picture helps give an idea of the Dubai Dream Tone experience. It’s elevator music, and were it not for its placement in a museum and the fact that James Ferraro made it, most people wouldn’t think twice upon hearing the piece, instead making their way up and down the museum, surrounded by shiny elevator walls and nothing else, waiting until they leave the elevator to take in the actual “art.” Dubai Dream Tone probably doesn’t even register at all for most of PS1’s visitors, its calming nature sounds and robotic narration about current events quietly blending in with the elevator’s sterile environment-- as it should. Elevator music, whether by Ferraro or by whatever anonymous composer, is meant to blend in. It’s often referred to as “muzak,” implying that it’s not “music.” It’s innocuous at best and generally ignored completely. But is it “muzak” when James Ferraro makes it? Is it “music”?
Well well well, the Teklife boys have another round of tasty treats. The footwork dream team of DJ Rashad, DJ Spinn, and Taso has remixed a cut off Dam-Funk's and Snoop Dogg's collaborative LP, 7 Days of Funk. This comes within a week of Taso dropping recent AdHoc favorite "Droga de Diseño" and around the same time as DJ Rashad just rolling out of bed and yawning out a killer EP. The remix of "Do My Thang" sprinkles crusty drum samples and synth straight out of Herbie Hancock's Sunshine over the unrecognizably mutilated, underwhelming original. Listening to the Teklife remix of this song feels like routing a power drill through your ear canal to burst open the full cache of seratonin.
Last year, Krill released a special edition of its breakthrough album, Lucky Leaves, as a USB drive embedded in a ball of mozzarella cheese. They sold it for $100. Nonsensical and expensive, the mozzarella cheese ball is the novelty medium par excellence. If mass market media emphasize ease of reproduction and distribution, novelty releases prioritize impracticality and gimmickry. Probably a response to the resurgence of interest in supposedly obsolete, material mediums in the past ten years, novel approaches to distributing music have seen increasing use. The Flaming Lips released EPs in 2011 as flash drives encased in gummy skulls and fetuses. These weird mediums for distributing music culminated in the relase of a 24-hour song, placed on a hard drive and encased in a human skull.
It is highly unlikely that anyone shelling out money for the Krill album would actually eat the cheese that encases the MP3s. Instead, such a novelty release demonstrates the arbitrary nature of physical mediums for the distribution of recorded music. They make it immediately obvious to the consumer that the music is merely encased within the medium, mozzarella or otherwise, and not at all intrinsic to it. After all, the files stored inside the Flaming Lips’ human skull are no different from the songs one would download on the internet. A non-traditional medium begs us to compare its oddness and impracticality to the more standard types of physical releases, like vinyl and cassettes. The digitization of music has revealed the arbitrary nature of such mediums by providing us with music removed from a physical form—intangible, infinitely reproducible and thoroughly mystified.
The digitization of music seems liberatory in that it opens up democratic possibilities for the distribution of music. Never before have more people been able to access more music, and never have more arists succeeded in disseminating their music themselves. That being said, MP3s shouldn’t be seen as a utopian medium, freed from the imperatives of the market. However arbitrary releasing an album on cassette, CD or vinyl may appear to us now, there are still meaningful and important ways that specific and novel mediums are being used to comment on the relationship of music to mass production. Toying with the medium creates space for imagining new sets of relationships—between musicians and their audience, musicians and their art, and between the music and its listeners.
DJ Rashad dropped a brand new four-track EP called We On 1 out of nowhere yesterday via Houston DJ Wheez-ie's new label, Southern Belle Recordings. No word on who else SBR'll be releasing yet, but this EP sees some great collaborations with Teklifers DJ Manny, Gant-Man, and of course DJ Spinn.
The vinyl edition of We On 1 drops April 28th, with digital downloads going live May 13th. Stream it below until then.
Institute is an Austin-based post-punk band made up of members of Wiccans and Glue. While there's not much out there beyond a demo from last year and the promise of a release from Canadian punk tastemakers Deranged Records, New York's Katorga Works just shared the title-track from the band's upcoming 7" called "Giddy Boys," which is set to drop sometime in next May during their US tour with Breakout. Stream it below.
L.O.T.I.O.N., short for "Legacy Of Terror In Occupied Nations," is a New York hardcore band with an industrial edge, made up of members from local scene staples Nomad, Dawn of Humans, and Zatsuon, and fronted by Survival's Alexander Heir. "Alienation" is taken from their latest demo, Second Audio Document, and mixes a throbbing drum machine beat, ear-piercing noise, and sinister screams with great results.
Hand-dubbed cassettes of Second Audio Document 2014 are limited to 100 and will sell out soon, but you can download it for free from NYC's Burn Books. Alexander Heir's also releasing a new book of punk flyers with Sacred Bones, which drops May 13th.
Max McFerren is a name you'd recognize from chilling at various dance parties around north Brooklyn, providing a welcome antithesis to the dark, minimal sounds that often seem so pervasive on dance floors these days. With his new MCFERRDOG, McFerren shifts his focus to a headphones experience which channels all of the energy of dance music in the name of creating a vibrating, musical cartoon. The project's debut, Club Amniotics, smashes vaporwave sample-craft with numerous house tropes to create a groove that often flirts with Black Dice's manic streak.
Club Amniotics is out today on 1080p.
Last summer, we saw Blondes release Swisher on Brooklyn's RVNG Intl label. Now, the New York electronic duo has gathered other makers of weird dance music to rework select tracks off the album, to be collected on a new EP called Remix. Collaborators include Simian Mobile Disco, Claro Intelecto, Function, and our favorite midwestern beatsmith, Huerco S. For his remix of Blondes' "Wire," Huerco expands the track into ten minutes of churning, layered loops.
Blondes' Remix EP is out today on RVNG Intl. Blondes will be performing this weekend at North Carolina's Moogfest Festival, for which they created this mix.
Even in the internet age, there are still lost gems and buried treasures. For every William Onyeabor or Lavendar Country, there is a bands like Craw, still wallowing in obscurity and waiting for the fortuitous affair between classy reissue and contagious internet buzz. A Kickstarter run by music writer Hank Shteamer is looking to remedy this, giving backers physical or digital access to Craw's first three albums, made from 1993 through 1997. The Kickstarter info puts Craw in the leagues of Jesus Lizard, Fugazi, and Slint, and indeed Craw was one of the better post-hardcore bands out there. At least that's what many have gleaned from the group's swan song released on Hydra Head in 2002, Bodies for Strontium. Regardless of a more prominent release for their final album, the first three Craw albums have been out of print until now. Well, hopefully until now. The Kickstarter still has about $10k to go, with only 37 hours remaining at the time of this post. Give Craw your money. 25 measley bucks gets you digital remasters of all three albums.
Just over a year ago, Locust put out its first album in over a decade, You'll Be Safe Forever, a collaborative effort between Mark Van Hoen-- the British producer behind Locust's original string of records in the 1990s-- and his friend Louis Sherman. Now, Nathan Cearley-- an electronic musician best known as a member of experimental outfit Long Distance Poison-- has remixed “The Worn Gift,” a track from the album. Cearley's intricate process for creating this remix involved using cassette tapes to craft granular samples from stems of the original song, and then using those tapes as signal generators to compose the remix live on his own modular system. The results are arresting: an initial analog drone slowly builds in intensity, eventually bursting forth into an extended exploration of deep, resonant rhythmic motifs.
You can stream Nathan Cearley's remix of the track just below. Locust are also prepping another new album for release later this year.