Global Goon – Horizon 8.2

                Global Goon patents his peculiar brand of nostalgia IDM. The sounds used hark back to the earliest aspects of electronica before the humanity was scrubbed clean out. Digital is not what Global Goon does. Human is what Global Goon does. Each song is imbued with a sense of childlike wonder at the world. These are some of the most relaxing meditative pieces of work. Compared to the rest of electronica Global Goon is not interested in grooves or beats. Instead with ‘Horizon’ Global Goon wants to show an entire environment. Part of this feels like a strange combination between electronic and bossa nova. It is mellow while still displaying a great sense of complexity. 

                ‘Rho Goon’ begins things off with a relatively moody beginning. Things become much more minimal following the perfected wistfulness of ‘Tin Riots’. Goofy sounds that filter in contribute to this feeling. Others show a hesitancy to fully embrace happiness like ‘Brogan Hill Zoo’ which is lovely in its sadness. By far the best track on the entire album is ‘Welkin’s Runt’. Over the course of the track it goes from sheer calm to absolute heart-breaking epic size. How Global Goon manages to let it appear so natural is quite remarkable. 

‘Horizon’ exists on an entirely different planet from almost every other form of electronic music out there. Few have taken this lonely path. Unlike various chillwave bands he makes no references to any specific decade. Hipness does not matter to Global Goon. Quality, melodic progression, and emotion matter more than any specific ‘cool’ factor. Age cannot define this music. What Global Goon makes is timeless. It could come from the 70s, 80s, or 90s. Thankfully it exists now.

Global Goon – Plastic Orchestra 8.4



                Global Goon’s music exists in a whole other world. Despite what the rest of IDM and music in general did, Global Goon has essentially carved out an exclusive niche for himself. When IDM fizzled out and its main practitioners gave up, Global Goon kept going. The mix of IDM and folk on ‘Plastic Orchestra’ brings to mind a moodier version of Goodiepal. What is contained within this short, short album is a sense of simple calm with the world. 

                ‘Dance Seven’ gives the listener a good idea of what they are in for: seemingly naïve melodies that gradually snowball in complexity. The strumming is particularly sweet as it is nicely complemented by the uncluttered synthesizer and minor percussive elements. Indeed the strumming keeps time more than any beat. Unlike his peers Global Goon is almost completely unconcerned with any form of a beat workout. He relies on the natural rhythm formed by his fractured grooves. ‘G.O.L.D.’ is typical of this approach: seemingly unrelated sounds merge together to form a cohesive whole.  Meanwhile the duo songs of ‘Morphon Diezepad’ and ‘Clanging Buttress’ give a sense of narrative. The former sets up a rather sad atmosphere while the latter creates a feeling of hope, of triumph. 

                The music on here may seem overly simple at first, indeed, almost childlike. Yet upon closer inspection it serves as a ‘Where the Wild Things Are’ for music. While it appears so simple there are complicated emotions beneath the calm. Overall ‘Plastic Orchestra’ is a testament to someone doing his own thing for so long and doing it so well.

Global Goon – Plastic Orchestra 8.4

                Global Goon’s music exists in a whole other world. Despite what the rest of IDM and music in general did, Global Goon has essentially carved out an exclusive niche for himself. When IDM fizzled out and its main practitioners gave up, Global Goon kept going. The mix of IDM and folk on ‘Plastic Orchestra’ brings to mind a moodier version of Goodiepal. What is contained within this short, short album is a sense of simple calm with the world. 

                ‘Dance Seven’ gives the listener a good idea of what they are in for: seemingly naïve melodies that gradually snowball in complexity. The strumming is particularly sweet as it is nicely complemented by the uncluttered synthesizer and minor percussive elements. Indeed the strumming keeps time more than any beat. Unlike his peers Global Goon is almost completely unconcerned with any form of a beat workout. He relies on the natural rhythm formed by his fractured grooves. ‘G.O.L.D.’ is typical of this approach: seemingly unrelated sounds merge together to form a cohesive whole.  Meanwhile the duo songs of ‘Morphon Diezepad’ and ‘Clanging Buttress’ give a sense of narrative. The former sets up a rather sad atmosphere while the latter creates a feeling of hope, of triumph. 

                The music on here may seem overly simple at first, indeed, almost childlike. Yet upon closer inspection it serves as a ‘Where the Wild Things Are’ for music. While it appears so simple there are complicated emotions beneath the calm. Overall ‘Plastic Orchestra’ is a testament to someone doing his own thing for so long and doing it so well.

Dead Chimp - Astounding Subject and the Event 7.2

               Astounding Subject and the Event is a different approach for Dead Chimp. For one thing, it is much cleaner. The tempo has been brought down a bit. Fewer songs, longer tracks times and a greater tendency to explore make it a bit more instantly enjoyable. One of my main concerns with the previous outing was a whole 26 tracks to listen to, to figure out. With this album, there’s a greater clarity to the work. 

                Don’t worry Dead Chimp hasn’t lost his sense of humor. The track titles are still particularly funny “I Stomped on your fire, You choked on a Biscuit” being the clearest example. But there’s an evolution shown in the longer tracks. “Knuckle Boom” work through its sounds slowly, extending and sprawling out at over eight minutes. It is probably my favorite thing on here. The strings sound well-placed, something that can be hard with IDM. Considerably less glitch influence is present on here; Dead Chimp appears to be channeling long-gone IDM ghosts. 

                Beats are all over this thing. Dead Chimp does appear to enjoy them. Moments where the beats take a back seat are few but wonderful. “Scotland 2005” ends with a surprisingly tender approach at the end fading into strings supported by a quiet synth background.

                 This is good album which remembers the best of the IDM movement (now gone) without repeating their insistence on endless beat programming. Most of the beats are straightforward, the sounds carefully arranged, and it shows a logical progression from his last effort earlier this year “JPEGZ”. Overall a careful move forward.

Dead Chimp - Astounding Subject and the Event 7.2

               Astounding Subject and the Event is a different approach for Dead Chimp. For one thing, it is much cleaner. The tempo has been brought down a bit. Fewer songs, longer tracks times and a greater tendency to explore make it a bit more instantly enjoyable. One of my main concerns with the previous outing was a whole 26 tracks to listen to, to figure out. With this album, there’s a greater clarity to the work. 

                Don’t worry Dead Chimp hasn’t lost his sense of humor. The track titles are still particularly funny “I Stomped on your fire, You choked on a Biscuit” being the clearest example. But there’s an evolution shown in the longer tracks. “Knuckle Boom” work through its sounds slowly, extending and sprawling out at over eight minutes. It is probably my favorite thing on here. The strings sound well-placed, something that can be hard with IDM. Considerably less glitch influence is present on here; Dead Chimp appears to be channeling long-gone IDM ghosts. 

                Beats are all over this thing. Dead Chimp does appear to enjoy them. Moments where the beats take a back seat are few but wonderful. “Scotland 2005” ends with a surprisingly tender approach at the end fading into strings supported by a quiet synth background.

                 This is good album which remembers the best of the IDM movement (now gone) without repeating their insistence on endless beat programming. Most of the beats are straightforward, the sounds carefully arranged, and it shows a logical progression from his last effort earlier this year “JPEGZ”. Overall a careful move forward.

Happiness in Aeroplanes – Hunted Like a Ghost Machine 7.0

               Happiness in Aeroplanes is a misleading titled band. Nothing about these fourteen tracks expresses anything verging on happiness. In fact, many of these tracks tend to dwell in the lower part of the sound spectrum. They might as well be underground due to all the murk.

                Eddie J Palmer appears to have a certain degree of affectation for early IDM. I consider the entire homage as something of homage to the old IDM sound. The sounds are weird, percussive. All of the melodies are skewed and somewhat dark. Considering their origin of Brooklyn, New York this does make some sense.

                Personally I happen to enjoy the longer songs where he stretches out for a bit. “Exchopraxia” is one of my favorites. The effects happening in the periphery create tension. Even the melodies on this work with the length to make something rather affecting. “Autobahnen” is a sweeter, lusher song. I’m reminded of “I am Robot and Proud” whenever I hear this one.

                The album works best for late-night listening. All of the songs are rather tense. Don’t look for any light in these tracks. Expect a great deal of tension due to the percussion, noises, and constant modulations on the low end. It is a good album but it does take some patience. Find the whole thing here on his mysteriously vacant bandcamp page along with multiple choices of the album artwork.

Gescom – Gescom EP 7.5

For me, Gescom appealed to me as the place where I got to hear Autechre cut loose. Usually they concerned themselves with making another extremely relevant and critically acclaimed album in their day job. Gescom allowed them to explore more of their impulses, so you could get a better idea of what they’d do if nobody was watching.

This particular release ends up being probably one of my more beloved Gescom releases. Containing some excellent melodies and that beautiful smell of early 90s IDM, before IDM became extremely stuffy, it works. Only four tracks long, it manages to keep out all filler, leaving only the ‘best of’.

“Dan One” sounds a lot like “Djarum” from their Anti EP of the same year. No worries, it is fine to have two different variations on the same theme. This take has a bit more on it compared to the sparser Autechre version.  “Five” has one of those builds on it. You know, one of those fantastic layers upon layer. Each little segments snaps so perfectly into place, with the slight melodies being embellished more and more as the song grows. 

Finally, the latter half is a bit more ambient in scope. It isn’t the boring type of ambient, it remains teeming with life. Honestly, the latter songs could be placed into an early Future Sound of London album and I don’t think anyone would notice.

I’m thankful that throughout the years they’ve kept up this little side project. By hearing them with some of their defenses down, it shows just how talented they really are in such a crowded field.

Yes, that means there were at least 16 volumes before this.

The Death of my first Musical Genre (IDM)

Everyone remembers growing up with a certain musical genre, one they truly could call their own. For me, that meant the Intelligent Dance Music, or IDM moniker. Used generally for electronic music that remained classified only by its unusual structures and lack of actual dancing, it served as the perfect gateway music for budding music snobs. The price of admission into this genre remained very low, basically anyone with a sense of melody and an interest in non-rhythmic music could join, so long as they had some ultra-cheap music software. 

Intelligent Dance music had to be the first musical genre created by and for the internet. Created in the US of A for the IDM list it was probably one of the first obsessive email lists dedicated exclusively for a specific type of music. Due to its origins in the US, a great deal of artists often described as “IDM” declared the term to be an American construct, particularly Richard D. James (Aphex Twin). Rather than just come to peace with the fairly stupid term, he decided to coin an even stupider term “braindance” and used that heavily for his own Rephlex record label. For whatever reason, the term “braindance” never caught on, probably because it looked so dang awful.

The weird thing remained how I never saw or heard the term “IDM” anywhere besides the internet. Even in what is commonly referred to as “reality” rarely did people bring up any artist who might have been considered “IDM”? What was going on? I later learned that this was an ultra-nerdy sub-sect of music which involved large doses of gear worship and familiarity with various avant-garde composers.

Just as I got it all together, that vast web of interconnected artists, it ended. That knowledge became useless, how this artist related to that one, when this one last put out a record, what record label released their first album. Genres never end swiftly, there’s always a few stragglers, a few artists who continue to follow their path. Listeners are even worse, I can’t tell you how many fans of Aphex Twin I’ve met, of undetermined ages, longing to stay young by listening to the music of their youth, when they were last relevant. 

Putting a year on it, I’d say 2004 marked the end. By then, only a few artists continually brought out a solid product, like Autechre, O9, and Venetian Snares. Most of the others had begun moving in other, more boring, directions. Squarepusher had passed his prime, Aphex Twin remained quiet. Pan Sonic came out with that absolutely monstrous Kesto 4 disc set, but those Finns could easily move themselves into the Glitch/Noise category if push came to shove.  

 

Snobby music changed in 2004. The indie renaissance began. Whoever were the arbiters of true taste decided that elitist music didn’t need to sound as masochistic as IDM. Instead, dance became simply dance music. DFA records confirmed that it was alright for us to re-explore the past, of what had gone on in that period between 1978-1989 in New York City. Dance music flourished, indie rock flourished. Even those who went the more masochistic route, by taking on noise, found that noise remained a less heavily curated genre than IDM ever was. Lacking the pretention of IDM while maintaining the weirdness, it fit those looking for something less accessible like a glove.

I remember releasing this genre had ended around 2004. As I looked around at the beach I was wandering around my friends put on Clap Your Hands Say Yeah and I simply danced. No longer did I have to use obscure terminology for what I listened to. Instead, simple words like ‘dance’ and ‘rock’ became usable words again. I felt human, like part of a real community, a community that didn’t exist exclusively online. 

Part of me still misses the deeply weird musings of IDM. For that I have a few artists left who occasionally let out a great hurrah every now and then. But for the most part the scene left without announcement into cataloged internet posts, various dusty corners of the web, still keeping them warm with the music of the past.  

 

What was the hardest genre death for you to handle? Will Chillwave live? Is Witch house a real genre? What will 2011 bring, new genre-wise?

Farmers Manual – No Backup 8.9

I think Farmers Manual embodies the myth of the nerd. The amount of information floating around about these people is ridiculous and not all of it is accurate. Among the more interesting tidbits: they recorded in a disused auto repair shop, they worked in the advertising industry, were influential wiki makers before it was cool, and heavily participated in the Viennese electronic scene in the early nineties.  Due to the conflicting information, I can only confirm the last bit.
Numerous anonymous web junkies were involved in the proceedings, but the main anchors were Mathias Gmachl, Stefan Possert, and Oswald Berthold. Together these three brought much weird music into the world, but I’m going to focus on their first effort, No Backup.
What distinguishes this record from so many other Mego releases is how it merges the normal with the sublimely weird. Usually Mego releases (especially the early ones) were either dance or extremely experimental. No Backup included both, so you could play it for your friend who grew up on Aphex Twin, and he’d know it was different, but would not be able to put his finger on it.
According to the few interviews that existed with this trio, the music’s focus was rhythm, not melody. Upon starting up the disc, you see what they mean. “Macro-Woeb” does consist of a warped sense of time keeping. “Biomagic I” could pass as a dance track, except the infinite ratcheting of suspense and an ever insistent near-melody makes such a thing impossible. The follow up of “Biomagic II” is like listening to the previous track getting dissembled into its most basic elements. 
Most of the music on here has a sense of humor to it, whether it is of the sorts of sounds used or the extremely bizarre references. “Perimeter 87” gives off the impression of a lackadaisical spy with its stuttering guitar-like sounds. But one of my favorite songs on here has to be “Farmers Manual”. It is nothing more than oddly delayed high-hats, which remove any sense of dance. What is interesting is how the background noises are the actual song, and the synthesizer in the background, giving the only hint of progression, is going through a quiet breakdown.  

Farmers Manual are currently on hiatus following their release of every live performance they ever did (the RLA) in 2003. But this is perhaps the easiest way of getting acquainted with their sound. Consider it a Rosetta stone for their later recordings.