Tuesday, October 20, 2020
Following a 12” EP on Polish label, Syntetyk and contributing the searing “Healthy Correction” to an Altered States Tapes compilation earlier this year, Warsaw-based producer, Wiktor Milczarek, joins AST for his first EP. The connection to Dyktando was established via his friend (and fellow Polish artist) Chino, who’s 2017 tape, Old Practices, remains one of my favourite releases to grace the label. Where Chino mines various genres in his productions, Dyktando’s focus remains more firmly fixed on a mutant hybrid of EBM and industrial-techno. I have followed the Poland electronic scene from afar for the last few years and it has produced some of the most interesting club and experimental music I’ve encountered in that time, Dyktando being one of the most recent revelations. The entirety of this release, meticulously selected from work made from 2014 through ‘til last year, bangs with an assertive single-mindedness throughout. I find that EBM / industrial can often get stale quickly for me, especially over a full-length, but Milczarek keeps his feet firmly on either side of the “weird shit” and “immediately accessible” spectrum in perfect balance.
Rory McPike is known under various pseudonyms, including Rings Around Saturn and as one half of the excellent Turner Street Sound. 2200 has generally been an outlet for Rory’s more adventurous ideas and experiments than being strictly club (or dub)-bound and, for me personally, has always bore the sweetest fruit of his endeavours.
World’s Fare features some previously unissued, early 2200 recordings, in addition to more recent tracks informed by similar approaches that sit seamlessly aside one another. The album strays further from the single-minded raw, industrial techno of the first Black Iron tape and the dense, otherworldly electro of Live (both previously released on AST). Instead, these 8 tracks find McPike harkening back to the fused, beat-driven post-punk found on one of the genre’s highlights, ‘Outlaw’, taken from his first 12” on Cult Trip years back. The use of indiscernible vocals and guitar added to his more than adept production touches make for what feels like the fully cumulative 2200 release so far, both sonically and in its thematic grounding.
Croatia’s Strahinja Arbutina has forcefully sliced out a niche in the last five years over a slew of tapes and a few 12”s (for the likes of Bank NYC and London’s Natural Sciences amongst others), as well as running his own formidable imprint, low income $quad. Across them, Arbutina has been unrelenting in his pursuit of Total Heaviness, using all available modes of electronic assaultery. Assuming clubs are able to re-open again one day, I could envision many of the tracks from PKMMS throttling audiences from sound systems the world over in more adventurous sets.
Mikey Young is a name I’d hope would ring out in the ears of any discerning music fanatic of the last while. Mikey has lent his nimble fingers to the strings in bands like Total Control and Eddy Current Suppression Ring and click’d and drag’d a good portion of the southern hemisphere’s recorded output from “unlistenable” to “glistenable” in his mastering palace. He also quickly released two cassettes (and later vinyl) solo albums in succession in 2017, before disappearing back into his burrow. The few solo communiques to have been emitted in the interim have been contributions to film soundtracking, including 2017’s FANTASTIC independent Australian production, Strange Colours.
Where Your Move Vol. 1 and You Feelin’ Me? both adhered more clearly to song / pop forms, be they spacey Italo numbers or psychy excursions, this release effortlessly situates itself between the more ambient and abstracted moods of recent AST vintage. Mikey’s experience in atmos-carving for celluloid largely informs the mood of Curtains, his third solo album, many of these pieces starting their life as ideas for his scoring work. The pieces are instrumental, predominantly foregrounding electronics and (somewhat surprisingly) guitar, with occasional contributions from regular collaborators, Raven Mahon (of The Green Child) on sax and Al Montfort (of many things) on “lots of stuff”.
There are definitely enough pretty tones on Curtains to soothe the more adventurous of ambient-trekkers, but the regular wrongness that pervades these otherwise serene scenes is what really grips me. The teetering effect of the juxtapoz creating a sense of tension that won’t release, compelling you to tread on and make sure the chopper arrives to pick up the protagonist before the curtain drops. But this isn’t Predator, this is a cassette tape so all you can do is keep flipping it over in an attempt to find the resolution you so crave. It’s like a parable, ay?
I have no clear ideas about who they are or where African Ghost Valley hail from, even after doing a little digging. I am told they are an “Erythrean and Canadian” living in the “Swizz Mountains”, but how legit any of that is can neither be verified, nor is it ultimately important. The prolific output of African Ghost Valley weaves a consistent thread of ghostly (original, huh), nay disembodied miniatures that flicker mostly on the periphery, out of frame. They seem to tap the same hauntolgical forgotten futures convincingly proposed by Mark Fisher and sonically expounded by folks like The Caretaker, Korea Undok Group and, more locally, Hour House. PEG&X is a space where you’ll find more each time you stalk its halls, but it won’t always be the smoothest passage.
Amelia Besseny is the better half of experimental duo Troth (of which I’m also a half). Scene At The River is her debut full-length release (following a limited, self-released tape of rough recordings earlier in the year).
I first encountered Amelia while organising a series of gigs after moving back to my hometown of Newcastle, Australia two years ago. In the ten years I’d spent smoking it up in the big smoke, not a great deal had changed in Newcastle - the one guy who was actively making interesting music still made it in his garage, most of the few others who had previously no longer did. Everyone else in the city (town with cranes?) continued playing in covers bands and believing that the true path of virtue lay in being “signed” based on your JJJ Unearthed profile.
The exception to this was Impatiens. I first heard the few songs Besseny had available online after contacting the Newcastle Conservatorium in a last-bid seeking interesting local artists, one of her fellow staff members pointing me in her direction. The songs were relatively simple, yet experimental-inflected takes on synth-pop. Not only was she creating these in the complete cultural isolation of Newcastle, she was performing the songs herself live using a rudimentary assortment of hardware, a rare occurrence anywhere. The early Impatiens track, ‘Osaka’ (released on a compilation tape) is an undeniable pop hit. Besseny is a trained vocalist, however the instrumental compositions in her tracks have quickly evolved beyond being serviceable backings for her voice and now have a distinct character entirely of their own. Scene At The River’s recordings were made over a period of close to a year in-between other projects, so there are various moods captured throughout. ‘Cold Hands’ is possibly the closest to a straight pop song in the collection, ‘Lost Translations’ representing the furthest reach in the opposite direction. Along with them comfortably sits four more tracks that take Besseny’s grounding in classical and folk modes, but uses these approaches to reimagine a refreshingly unique interpretation of rhythm and pop.