Sonic Terror : Inside The Heady Sounds of Videodrones

Videodrones is a synth duo from Denmark. What they create are the sounds of dread, doom, darkness, and those things that go bump in the night. They summon the spirits of Popol Vuh, Fabio Frizzi, Bobby Beausoleil; as well as countless soundtracks to late night horror films you watched growing up(especially if you grew up in the 80s and with local late night television at your disposal.) There’s a sickly sweet and queasy vibe to Videodrones. There’s the horror and Gothic vibe for sure, but they aren’t creating “spooky” sounds for the hell of it. There’s a purpose to their pulsating, modular madness. There’s also a serious improvisational spirit with the sound band members Jakob Skott and Kristoffer Ovesen create. It’s just the nature of synthesizers to make weird, “far out” sounds. But what these two do is take it to a new level. Obviously inspired by both synth artists and old VHS tapes filled with schlock horror films and exploitation trash(the best kind of trash), these two are taking Komisch and Berlin School noisemaking to new heights here.

For me personally, I listen to both last year’s excellent Mondo Ferox and their brand new(and equally excellent) record Nattens Hævn and I’m pulled into another place and time. I’m reminded of late night viewings with the lights off and everyone else sound asleep. But it’s not what I saw that stayed with me when I finally laid my head down to sleep, but what I heard. The music that accompanied the horror on screen. The synth-driven scores would echo in my head; square wave’s bashing on the walls of my skull as syncopated rhythms became in sync with my own bewildered heartbeat. Videodrones capture that spirit of music for me. They capture those childhood memories and add to them. They create their own sonic world of musical introspection and let you walk into these bubbly landscapes(at your own peril, of course.)

I sat down and talked with Jakob and Kristoffer about Videodrones, their influences, and their love of sonic mayhem.


J. Hubner: So tell me about the idea behind Videodrones. How did this project get started? Have you and Kristoffer Ovesen worked together prior to Videodrones?

Jakob Skott: We started simply by having a long overdue jam-session. Just a fun day of noodling with our synths. That’s where about 90% of the first album was recorded. The day we were working on it, the ideas just got better and better, and we recorded hours and hours, and it became more and more cinematic – which is probably no coincidence, because when we were younger we’d watch movies for hours from Ovesen’s vast VHS-collection. So we edited it in that style sort of reimagining the jams into something more cohesive – but it wasn’t something we’d really talked about ahead of it: “hey, let’s do a tribute album to all the movies we love” – it was way looser than that, without any real starting point and we didn’t figure out the name until we worked on the cover and titles. So the whole thing kind of just fell into place.

Kristoffer Ovesen: We’ve always had very similar film taste, so our friendship was always more about movies, than music. Although we had one or two jam-sessions about ten years ago, the day we got together to record the first album was the first time we ever got serious about making something coherent together. We’ve discussed films, and film-scores so many times before, that we didn’t really need to plan which direction to go. I think we both knew what kind of sound was common ground for us. I could elaborate some kind of grand idea, but it would all be something cooked up afterwards. It just kind of happened, really, without us ever discussing a greater concept. I think we might have discussed a bit more doing the second album, talking about which direction to go, referencing both the first album and other artists. But to say we had a plan beyond jamming might be stretching it….

J. Hubner: You two capture a very unique musical sound on both the debut album ‘Mondo Ferox’ and the newest record Nattens Hævn. Who or what are some key inspirations and influences going into the writing for Videodrones?

Jakob Skott: Like Ovesen says, I think we’ve pondered over these things for so many years that it’s embedded deeply into both of us – so to untangle it seems impossible. However I really do feel that the fascination of genre-movies from the 70s and 80s gets stronger and stronger. Directors like Jess Franco, Mario Bava, Dario Argento, Lucio Fulci & John Carpenter – the sheer WILL needed to create their works – under B-movie exploitation standards, they managed to make their movies soar. Furthermore they were all directors working in unison with a composer in a small cluttered home-studio – like Abel Ferrara & Joe Delia or John Carpenter & Alan Howarth. It was one of the things we talked about: Not killing the music in post-production, but rather letting it breathe – as some dude who’s been painstakingly arranging his music to the cues would: just leaving a single stringer note there for suspense…

Kristoffer Ovesen: I was always more into electronic, jazz or rock scores, than orchestral soundtracks. Goblin, Tangerine Dream, Fabio Frizzi, John Carpenter etc. The major influence of film-scores was allowing us to make small mood-pieces, instead of just full blown traditional compositions. The freedom to explore a single idea or mood, without the need of letting it go further. I enjoy listening to soundtracks because of those small pieces of psychedelic suspense-inducing freakouts, as much as the more elaborated “theme tracks”.

J. Hubner: Did you grow up gorging your brain on 70s and 80s horror movies? What was a trip to the video store like in Denmark growing up?

Kristoffer Ovesen: I grew up in small town where the local supermarket had a video rental section, just next to the newspapers and cigarettes. My mom used to drop me off in front of the shelves, and I would contemplate what was behind the strange artwork and punchline on the boxes while she was shopping. We never had a TV set during my childhood, so the rental stores were mostly just some weird display of inaccessible wonders for me. I became obsessed with videotapes during my childhood and i bought a television and a VCR and began collecting horror movies as soon as I could afford it. A lot of the classic Eurotrash and exploitation were available on Danish rental tapes in the 80’s and tapes could be rented not only in rental stores, but gas stations and supermarkets often had a small rental section too. You could find stuff like Cannibal Holocaust, Tenebre, City of the Living Dead, Texas Chainsaw Massacre etc. I guess it was the same as in the US or UK, but we did never have censorship like in UK or Germany. Although I did spend some time at university reading about more conventional stuff, I consider fanzine-reading and watching Dutch bootlegs of Jess Franco and Lucio Fulci movies as my real film-education….

J. Hubner: Can you tell me a little about how you two write in Videodrones? Do you get together and just start making sounds, or do you have motifs you work off of?

Jakob Skott: I have one secret weapon, which is a special way of doing live sequencing – I use the same figure at different speeds and in different variations for each voice in the track. So basically every figure is very similar to, say, the bass. It can be reversed or permuted, but it’s the same scale and basic figure that creates all the sounds. It also turns out very massive, and you can jam with 4 different polyphonic voices changing keys at the same time. It allows for vivid improvisation, but also creates a lot of great variation and motifs popping in and out of nowhere – as opposed to most other synth-jams where you usually just run an arpeggiator through chords. That’s one essential thing about this project: it’s born through improvisation – even when it doesn’t sound like it.

Kristoffer Ovesen: I used a two voice modular systems for both albums. Jakob would feed us different sequences, as described above, and the actual “writing” didn’t go much further on my behalf than “could you make that sequence faster” or “could you reverse/transpose that sequence”. I would have three or four sequences that I would feed to different voices, sometimes using a polyphonic sequence that I would split up into two or more monophonic voices. The approach was very minimalistic, allowing a maximum of freedom to improvise, without losing too much structure. The modular system also allows me to split gate and pitch signal, hence use the rhythm of one sequence together with the pitch of another sequence to create a third variation.

J. Hubner: How long does it take usually to build up enough material for an album? Is there an extensive editing process that goes with these records? The albums are so well sequenced, and everything seems to bleed perfectly into the next piece. I imagine the mixing/editing/sequencing is just as big a part of each record as creating the sounds.

Kristoffer Ovesen: Both albums were basically cut from a one-day jam, but on Nattens Hævn we recorded more tracks afterwards, than on the first album. The editing and mixing, all done by Jakob, is essential to the sound. He sends me tracks while he mixes and I sometimes record extra sequences, but all the hard work of listening through hours of endless noodling around is done by him. Both albums were actually completed quite fast, as we talked about not overdoing the post-production.

Jakob Skott: Yeah, I try to keep it fresh. The first one I think I spent no more than a few hours mixing each track. Just really cropping out huge parts and reassembling hours worth of jams – folding the layers on top of each other and immediately sending the highlights to Ovesen – trying to decipher whenever something interesting was happening. For the latest one, I spent a bit more time – and it has more depth simply because it’s mixed better – adding stuff and automating a lot of effects, pitching and tweaking as well. But still with a sketch-like mood in mind. I try to empathise the weird coincidences, sudden shifts and dropouts, rather than edit them out.

J. Hubner: With the albums, from the titles to the names given to the songs, it feels like there’s a definite theme on these albums. Do you go into these with a direction? Are you writing as if you’re composing for a film? Do you go so far as to come up with an idea for an imagined film and write around that idea?

Kristoffer Ovesen: Not really. There was never a real concept behind it, it was more an extension of watching and discussing movies. We did joke around with different fictive titles during coffee-breaks between jams, though. Some too offensive to mention…. Some track titles might be referencing a certain movie, some just a feeling, but as said before, there’s not much of a finished story  going on. It’s all just a product of our shared memory bank of psychotronic cinema, I guess.

Jakob Skott: I’m very happy that we didn’t settle on the “lost movie” theme – it’s just everywhere – it’s weird. I remembered we did the first album in May last year, and in June when Stranger Things popped up on Netflix, I watched it and thought “holy shit, this synthwave soundtrack-thing is going to explode – I need to hurry up and finish this album”. Well then it kind of happened ten-fold. But I think our inclination towards more weirded out stuff sets it apart enough to keep it fresh – at least I hope that’s how it works to the listener – maintaining a rougher edge through that whole improv-aspect. I’m as inspired by modern electronic music as by the grand synth-maestros – stuff like Autechre still sounds almost as fresh as when I first heard them 20 years ago, and I try to channel that ethos as well.

J. Hubner: Can you tell me what’s some of the go-to instruments Videodrones uses to make albums? It all has a bubbly analog warmth to it. Do you record to tape or is that aesthetic created in the engineering and mastering side of things?

Kristoffer Ovesen: I use a Eurorack modular system and a Roland HS-60, and some effect pedals. While jamming we record onto separate tracks on Jakobs computer, allowing him to mix and edit the tracks afterwards. I think the “warmth” is partly a result of Jakob not overdoing it in the mixing process, but the mastering Jonas did for us was definitely the final touch. Just like The Dude’s rug, it really ties it all together.

Jakob Skott: We use all kinds of stuff – there’s tons of digital stuff in there as well – we’re not purists, but use the best of all ages. Ovesen’s modular has a lot of really noisy and weird filters – for the stuff he puts out on Interzone Tapes – I used wavetable-synthesizer, as well as the analogues – there’s even an Ipad in there. But usually with some sort of analogue pre-amp or drive boost at the end of the chain to warm things up. I actually tend to make my mixes too dark, so Jonas actually adds some sizzle (which tape will absolutely not do) as well as ties the low-ends together – by using some hardware compressors, etc. So he adds definition to our blurriness – I’m always really happy with that, because in the end it has tons of murky vibe, but still packs a good punch.

J. Hubner: If you could only choose one, who’s a director that had the most influence on you growing up? Was there a film that affected you more than others?

Kristoffer Ovesen: That’s a tough question, different directors through the years, of course, but i think George Romero, David Lynch and Tim Burton were some of the first directors I were into in my early teens. I guess the film(s) that kicked of my interest in horror movies was the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise. I watched most of them one summer night when I was 13 and it had a profound impact on me. I think being a horror-buff grew into some kind of identity for me, and to this day I like to see myself as a horror/exploitation collector/expert more than a musician, actually. The first time I remember noticing how different a film score could be done must have been watching The Texas Chainsaw Massacre or Argento’s Profondo Rosso. Especially the pounding prog/synth scores of Goblin still resonates in my brain whenever I turn on my synths.

Jakob Skott: Right now, finishing Twin Peaks: The Return I feel inclined to say Lynch as well. I watched the first Twin Peaks series when I was about 11 or 12 – needless to say, Killer Bob has caused a fair share of night terrors for me. I also remember watching Lost Highway when I was about 17 – yet another crucial turning point: watching a world of cinema you thought you knew and understood just literally go up in smoke in front of your eyes. And of course the outer-worldly role of music in his films. The way they’re not bound to regular structures, but invents their own deeper and more emotional logic – that’s very inspiring. And this new 18 hour opus is just as heavy. I’m blown away – the old weathered faces – and also that he’s not keeping it very clean stylistically – just messing up with poor video-effects, style changes in every scene. Zero fucks given to his own legacy – that’s awesome!

J. Hubner: Can we count on more from Videodrones? If there was a once-a-year release I’d be perfectly happy with that.

Jakob Skott: The first session we had at my apartment – the 2nd was at the Studio where Causa Sui records, so I played all of Jonas Munk’s synth gear. We had a third session a few months ago, but I actually haven’t listened to it yet – that was at Ovesens place in the country side. So sure, we have to finish the trilogy just like any good movie-franchise…

Kristoffer Ovesen: What he said….

J. Hubner: So what’s on the horizon for El Paraiso Records? What musical tricks do you guys have up your sleeve for us? I’m asking so I know just how much money I need to start putting back.

Jakob Skott: Ha, sure – there’s a lot of stuff in the pipeline. I’ll give you the first 3: New Causa Sui studio album, New Mythic Sunship – and Nicklas from Papir is doing a follow-up to his first solo album. All moving up to a new level and all currently being printed. The X-mas LPs are already causing really long delays at the printers, so we’ll probably have to wait til next year. But will be worth the wait! Our best stuff yet to come!


A trilogy of Videodrones, new Causa Sui, Mythic Sunship, and Nicklas Sorensen. The future’s so bright I’ve gotta wear shades. You should wear shades, too. And grab Videodrones’ Nattens Hævn over at El Paraiso Records.

Sounds of the Universe : A Conversation With Astral TV

For me, a record has to pull me from my surroundings and put me in another headspace. I want an album to paint something in my brain and make me psychically open up and let some of the universe inside. Music should be more than just mere entertainment; it should make you feel something. As a kid music affected me in a way that cartoons, movies, and books never did. My imagination bloomed when a song hit me the right way.

I think that’s why I’m drawn to synth music. There’s nothing obvious about the musical world an analog synthesizer is creating. You’re not being told what to think or what it means. There’s a visceral aspect to synth music that you don’t get with a rock album or pop single. It’s pure, raw emotional content that’s being pushed through tubes and circuits via the composer. They can lead you down a path to contentment and beauty, enlightenment, or sonic anxiety. They open a portal and you’re allowed to step in and see where it leads.

Astral TV is a synth duo based in Copenhagen, Denmark. They released their debut with El Paraiso Records, titled Chrystal Shores, back in July and it’s a record that opens many portals. Rasmus Rasmussen and Keith Canisius have created a modern ambient album that pulls from both a New Age lean and a Sci Fi vibe. If this album was a movie it’d be a cross between Kubrick’s 2001 : A Space Odyssey and Tarkovsky’s Solaris. Musically these two are taking some of the headier vibes of Tangerine Dream and giving them a bit of light, though at times the light feels a ways away. Astral TV create a warm and inviting sound that you can easily get lost in.

I had a chance to talk with Rasmus and Keith about the record, their influences, and the large amount of wires it takes to make the magic happen.


J. Hubner: So tell me about how Astral TV came together? How long have you two been making music together?

Rasmus Rasmussen: Actually Astral TV have existed less than a year. But the two of us have played together for some years now, accompanying each other in various projects. Then Keith was asked to play a concert last winter, and he suggested we do it as a duo instead, and that was the beginning of Astral TV.

J. Hubner: Who are some influences you guys are pulling from? If you had to name one album that you looked to for inspiration in creating the Astral TV world what would that be?

Rasmus Rasmussen:  I guess it’s really a wide range of stuff, and quite different for each of us. We both love newer electronic music like Boards of Canada, Tim Hecker and that kind of stuff, but for me the classic kosmische kraut stuff is definitely a huge influence as well. The same goes for Eno and also late 90’es / start 00’es electronica and ambient. One album that has influenced the way I approach what we do with Astral TV would be “New Age of Earth” by Ashra.

Keith Canisius: I think we can pull a lot of inspiration from small things. I definitely wanted to bring the film music aspect into the picture. Allowing us to work with shorter sequences and mood presentations. I’m more interested in what people think it sounds like, than the few bands I could mention, when I think hard about it.

J. Hubner: Similar to the previous question, are there any films or film soundtracks that blew your collective minds that went into molding the Astral TV sound?

Rasmus Rasmussen: The Blade Runner soundtrack would definitely be an essential key to the Astral TV sound. That’s a record which has stayed with the both of us from quite early on and still is a big influence. For me the Popol Vuh soundtracks from the 70’es have also been a big influence.

Keith Canisius: Blade Runner yes. For me most sci-fi movies from the 80’s and 70’s. I liked Interstellar too. But mostly the sci-fi movies from my childhood. Some newer movies like It Follows was really nice too. Movies play a bigger inspiration for me than actual music artists in this project.

J. Hubner: What’s the writing process like for Astral TV? Do you two get in a room together with tons of gear and improvise until you like the vibe? Or do you share music files via the internet and just add to each others ideas? Do you each have your own futuristic-looking music stations, surrounded by synths like Edgar Froese or Rick Wakeman?

Rasmus Rasmussen: Some tracks are written by one or the other, and then the other supplies his stuff, but mostly we just get in my basement and jam. We both have our gear set up down there and live right next to each other, so when we are up for it we just meet after work or in the weekends and jam out for a few hours. We’ll record it all, and at some point we go through the recordings and see what works. Most of the tracks on the album were done this way, based on improvisations. It might be edited a bit afterwards, but as little as possible. We like to keep the spontaneity of it.

And yeah, both our synths setups are quite extensive. We are gear nerds, we like knobs and don’t do well with limitations.

J. Hubner: You’ve just released your new LP Chrystal Shores via El Paraiso Records, but this isn’t your first release. You released ‘Stations’, a limited edition tape in April via Funeral Tapes. Are there any significant difference between the two? Is ‘Stations’ available digitally?

Rasmus Rasmussen: Some of the material is the same, but there are differences in the track list. Some tracks are on the tape and not on the vinyl and vice versa. Also the production is a bit different. It was the tape that actually made us realize we had some material worth putting out. One of our friends runs the Funeral Tapes label and asked us to do the tape, and that made us dig through the recordings we’d done when jamming and found that there was stuff we could use. The tape is not out digitally. It’s a very limited release of fifty tapes, which can be bought from the label.

J. Hubner: First off, ‘Chrystal Shores’ is a stunning record of beautiful electronica and heavy synth. How long was the writing and recording process for the LP? It has a really heavy 70s vibe. A basement spin for sure, complete with beanbag chair and incense burning. Was that the aesthetic you guys were going for?

Rasmus Rasmussen: Thanks! Most tracks are essentially first takes and have only been played that one time of recording. So both the writing and recording process was quite short. The mixing as well. We only did what was necessary to make it glue and work as self-enclosed tracks. Some times new stuff was added, but it was all a very spontaneous process, without too much fiddling around. That way of working is completely opposite to how I’ve done my solo albums, meticulously building it up until you have a finished track. Here you just listen to hours of jams, occasionally going: “Wait, stop, there was a track!”. There was never a conscious intent on sounding retro, but I guess there’s something inherent in using these instruments in the way we do, that’ll pull the sound in that direction. With that said there was no attempt what so ever of avoiding that thick new age vibe – on the contrary really. I’m a sucker for that kind of stuff, and if we can do anything to mend it’s crummy reputation just a little, I’ll be happy.

Keith Canisius: This project is also opposite from most my solo stuff. Keeping it to the idea of music for film scenes makes it easier for me to free. Then I have some simple borders to work out from. We also want to be able to perform it live without any back tracks going on. Above mentioned ideas gives it a border, that makes it much easier for me to be creative. A track like “Surveillance” is really wild. The thought that we did that suddenly in the middle of a jam without speaking about it is pure magic. A lot of tracks happened like that, but that long track was something special. Special how the whole thing came alive in one take without any communication.

J. Hubner: I wanted to ask you Keith, you live in Copenhagen but you’re originally from Massachusetts, right? How did you end up in Denmark?

Keith Canisius:  My father (Dutch) moved to Cambridge Mass., where he met my mother. They got married and had me. Later on they went to Holland, but the marriage ended. My mother took my brother and I to a friend she had from Harvard university, who had moved back to Denmark. She got settled and remarried in Denmark.

J. Hubner: What drew you two to the synthesizer? Did it start out with piano lessons as a kid then progressed to a Buchla set up in the family room?

Rasmus Rasmussen: I started playing keyboards when I was nine. It was the first instrument I learned to play. It was a fascination with 80’es synth bands that drew me to it. Aha and stuff like that, but more specifically the synth theme in Phil Collins “Another day in Paradise” played an important role. I was very much into that. So my parents sent me to keyboard lessons. I lost interest for a while, focusing on the guitar in my teens, but when I got into electronic music in the late nineties, I invested in samplers and synths and the collection has just expanded from there.

Keith Canisius:  My brother had a Juno 60 and my stepdad had a piano and later on a grand piano in our home throughout my childhood. Although guitar became my main instrument in my early teens, I’ve always be fiddling around with keys in some way. When my music became more serious I got a Prophet 08, which I still use all the time. I also think guitar got a little boring at a point. So diving into the synth world was exciting for me.

J. Hubner: With the album officially out, will you guys be taking Astral TV on the road? I can only imagine that being a daunting task. Lots of wires I imagine.

Rasmus Rasmussen: Yes, we have a couple of shows lined up in the near future. Most of the tracks are essentially recorded live, so in that way it makes good sense, but we are still trying to figure out the perfect way of bringing it to the stage. We want to keep the spontaneity and improv vibe but avoid too much aimless noodling, so it’s about finding the right balance. And yeah, the amount of wires are enormous. We’re trying to limit ourselves, but it’s not working out very well.

J. Hubner: What’s next for Astral TV? Could we see a follow up to Chrystal Shores at some point?

Rasmus Rasmussen: A follow up is very likely. We’ll focus on playing shows for a while, but in that process we’ll probably be working on a new album. We are recording continuously and already have a good deal of material and a bunch of tracks that’s more or less done.

Keith Canisius: We have some nice new stuff already as Rasmus mentioned, and we are looking forward to exploring this world much much more for many years hopefully.


 

Astral TVs Chrystal Shores is still available at El Paraiso Records and at Forced Exposure.

Videodrones : Nattens Hævn

Videodrones makes music that grabs you by the jugular and doesn’t let go. It’s dark, brooding electronic music that conjures up late night flicks you’d come across when you were a kid in the witching hour. Vampires, zombies, demons, witches, and the supernatural emanating from your television as a strange, buzzing wave of music accompanied it. Sometimes(most of the time) the music would somehow transcend the film it was scoring. Those special soundtracks made an impact on a whole generation of both music lovers and lovers of horror cinema. Two of those music and horror lovers make up the Danish duo Videodrones. On their debut record, 2016s Mondo Ferox, they showed their chops for the musically macabre and dense, analog sonics. It was a fantastic debut that kept those who found it clamoring for more, like zombies scratching at the door wanting flesh.

These two master musicians wasted no time in delving back into the dark corners of Frizzi, Rizatti, Carpenter, and Bobby Beausoleil. Nattens Hævn sticks to the formula laid out by Mondo Ferox, but opens the musical doors even further into straight up kosmiche music. It’s dark, pulsating, and feels like falling into a strange, recurring fever dream.

“The Jugular Gate” starts things off with a pulsating feeling of cosmic dread. Percussive stabs emulate a robotic heart beat as synth drones wheeze by. There’s a more prominent sense of melody here, too. “Maniac City” pulls a bit from Brian Gascoigne’s Phase IV soundtrack. It harkens back to the days of the mellotron and synthetic choirs. Fabio Frizzi haunts this one as well. Even the name brings to mind a film Lucio Fulci might’ve released in the late-70s. “Dream Within A Dream” has a lighter touch, sounding more Le Matos than Popol Vuh. “Hero” wavers and krinkles like some lost, unearthed cassette you found under the seat of an ’81 Skylark. If a sound could be sepia-toned, this track would be that. “Domains” sounds like space madness. It’s oscillating doom on a grand scale.

Videodrones is a musical vehicle for dark sound explorations, but these two also take the album into different musical atmospheres. “A Column” bubbles up like Vangelis in the throes of a cosmic revelation. “Night Dome” grabs some of the Bobby Beausoleil magic, while “A Blade In Your Mind” has a neon-lit 80s feel. Something you would’ve heard on a Commodore 64 game. “Shape Shifter” sounds like John Williams in 8-bit form. Closing track “Nattens Hævn”(which translates to ‘Revenge of the Night’) is a tip of the hat to John Carpenter and Phantasm‘s Fred Myrow and Malcolm Seagrave. Gorgeously dark.

Nattens Hævn makes good on the promise of Mondo Ferox in that Videodrones continue the dark synth improvisations while still keeping a very cinematic feel. But Nattens Hævn also beautifully opens the sonic doors and windows a bit to allow just a smattering of light in. Not enough to scare the things that go bump in the night away. Just enough to keep them at bay for a bit.

8.3 out of 10

 

Astral TV’s ‘Human’

Imagine the moment the universe reveals itself to you, openly and without hesitation. Those ancient, intergalactic secrets brought out into the bright, all-encompassing light of knowledge for you to finally understand and appreciate. Misunderstandings of existence, the afterlife, religion, death, and love are displayed to you -to anyone- for the first time ever in all of this or any world’s lifespan. This is the moment the meaning of it all comes to fruition….

I imagine that moment would sound something like Astral TV’s new track “Human”.

Astral TV is the duo of Rasmus Rasmussen and Keith Canisius and they seem to have captured a perfect mix of ambient music, sci-fi sounds, and heady existential sound explorations within 14 tracks on their debut album for El Paraiso Records titled Chrystal Shores.

So will Astral TV appeal to you? I don’t know, do you feel general human emotions? Do you ever ponder the bigger questions about where we come from or what is the meaning of it all? Do you enjoy staring across a darkening horizon to watch the sun sink into the abyss of evening? Do you love, long, or yearn for another person that may be out of reach? Would you rather read Philip K. Dick instead of Michael Crichton? Have you ever thought you can’t get enough Tangerine Dream, Popol Vuh, or Klaus Schulze? If the answer to one or all of these is “Well, yeah”, then Astral TV is certainly for you.

The newest track to be released into the world from Astral TV(the first being “Sun Flares” back in June) is “Human”, and it’s exquisite. In its 2:16 running time, it pulsates and opens like some lost Blade Runner track. Synths percolate and bloom, revealing new layers of sonic joy. It’s both a sci-fi-sounding piece and also hints at some lost musical interlude you may have heard in the early 70s that Boards of Canada might’ve sampled on Music Has The Right To Children. Rasmussen and Canisius sound like two space age wizards laying out a map to the universe with nothing more than various analog toys and circuit boxes.

“Human” is yet another stellar track off what will be one of the best heavy synth releases of the year. Put on some headphones and hit play below and get lost for a couple minutes in the warm, bubbling tones of Astral TV’s “Human”, then hit the link right here and go preorder this record.

Astral TV’s Chrystal Shores arrives July 21st via El Paraiso Records.

Black Cube Marriage : Astral Cube

Okay I’ll be honest, I’m not really sure what’s happening on Black Cube Marriage’s Astral Cube. Listening to it for the third time I’m considerably more intrigued than I was the first time I listened. That’s not to say the first listen wasn’t intriguing. The first time I put this record in my ears I was in the midst of an antihistamine haze and had laid down early with headphones on. The otherworldly noise that drilled its way into my brain was like a cross between interplanetary messages, various instruments being dropped into a worm hole, and a dentist’s drill running through my back molars. It’s like all the noisy bits of Agharta and Pangaea morphed into one single blistering moment. It was chaos multiplied. On my third listen it wasn’t any less dense and chaotic, but I found a center to plop down into and let it all soak in nicely.

Black Cube Marriage is the brain child of Chicago cornetist, sound manipulator, and improvisor Rob Mazurek; as well as members of his Brazilian connection Sao Paolo Underground, Austin-based freeform unit Marriage and special guests Jonathan Horne (guitar, saxophone) and Steve Jansen (tapes, guitar). This is the essence of experimental free form noise. This isn’t college kids playing power chords over a motorik beat while under the influence of several cups of Sumatran pour-over. It’s not some dudes jamming with an occasional squall of noise or some tape loops. This is deep, heavy noise. It’s like Morton Subotnick devoured a string quartet, a horn player, and some cafeteria silverware and regurgitated it all in front of a microphone. It’s not for the faint of heart. But if you’ve got an ear and head for true intellectual music journeys, Astral Cube might be your trip.

According to El Paraiso’s press release: “Formed in the wake of a couple of Austin, Texas shows in late 2015, this 11-person strong ensemble creates waves of sound that can best be described as cathartic. Astral Cube draws from multiple styles and traditions and the result is a sonic eruption where past, present, north, east, south, organic and electronic collides and is poured into the unknown. Traces of cosmic jazz – think Don Cherry, Pharoah Sanders, Sun Ra – appears alongside abstract electronics and heavily manipulated instruments – not unlike Autechre or Matmos.”

There’s mention of the music conjuring visions of flowing mountain streams, colorful wildlife, and ancient rituals, as well as buzzing power lines and technology gone haywire. I would agree with all of those. At times the music is an absolute catchall for a schizophrenic noise filter. Album opener “Spectral Convergence Wing” greets you with the sound of hysteria. It buzzes and wheezes with chaos. There seems to be no rhyme nor reason. A mental breakdown put to tape. “Fractal Signal Clone” has the essence of Miles calm within a storm. Strings chatter as Mazurek’s cornet plays a mournful melody. Think something like Godspeed You! Black Emperor falling into some sort of sweet abyss with Ron Carter close behind. “Magic Sun Ray” puts me in mind of Nels Cline’s solo records, while “Time Shatters Forward” sounds like oncoming traffic in some post-apocalyptic world.

If there’s a centerpiece on this record its the 13+ minute “Syncretic Illumine”. It opens like noise coming from a distant jungle, but slowly builds into a mammoth groove number. Latin flavors mix with a steely hard bop attitude to give the track a feeling of both history and intergalactic travel. The past and present colliding beautifully.

Astral Cube isn’t for everyone. It’s dense noise making and experimental art of the highest order, but not for the musical window shopper or those with a weak constitution. But for those with unique tastes in intellectual noise and those who’ve taken heady trips with the likes of Pharaoh Sanders, Sun Ra, Bitches Brew-era Miles, as well as electronic noise makers like Morton Subotnick, Pauline Oliveros and Oneohtrix Point Never, Black Cube Marriage may just have what you need.

7.9 out of 10

 

Causa Sui Revisited Part Three : Return To Sky

I’m not really sure how I revisit an album that came out less than a year ago, especially one that I loved right off the bat. But really, this is a series not of albums I’m going back to and seeing if they’re a better fit after some time has passed. No, these posts are for the benefit of you, dear reader. Yes, I’m writing these in the hopes of helping guide you on your journey to Causa Sui enlightenment. A psychedelic road map that will take you on an existential journey to find some serious space rock, brothers and sisters. I want to help you blow your mind in the best way possible. Causa Sui wants to blow your mind, and I’m here to help you find the right record to do that. Open that head of yours and let some light in.

So Summer Sessions seemed too daunting of a task you say? Information overload you say? And Pewt’r Sessions 3 was just a bit too much of a mind f*ck? Too heady and dark for your bright, sunny days? Well, that’s okay. You see, I’ve got something here that even the lightest and cheeriest of space travelers can get into. Return To Sky, Causa Sui’s newest album(released spring of 2016) feels like a wave of both 90s alternative rock and breezy early 70s pastoral Big Muff noise. It feels like what I’d call Causa Sui’s gateway album. It’s the one that pulls you into the Causa Sui universe and from there you begin exploring. It’s 5 songs -tightly wound and beautifully chaotic- headphone-ready and catchy as hell.

“Dust Meridian” blows out of the speakers like “Spoonman” on mescaline. It’s a heavy groove joyride that pulls in tribal beats, Sabbath riffs, and trippy Doors-like interludes thanks to Rasmus Rasmussen’s keys work. It’s a microcosm of classic and modern sounds coming together and working things out in the eye of the musical storm.

“The Source” is a mainline of chugging boogie and stoner rock abandon. Jonas Munk about blows this one through the roof with a megaton rock riff that would make Matt Pike cower in fear. There’s a great mix of mystical vibes and sludge-y doom in “The Source”. Causa Sui sort of throw all their strengths into this one and just go for it.

“Mondo Buzzo” is the sound of the natives getting restless. War drums are beaten seductively and with purpose. The slinky guitar riff is the warning shot across the bow, and the bass and keys press on like good soldiers. The song explodes into big riffs and Kyuss-like purpose.

Desert rock in the heart of Copenhagen, folks.

If you didn’t guess, Return To Sky is a rock and roll banshee. Causa Sui went into the studio to record an in-the-raw rock monster of an album. Little overdubs and big riffs. Where previous records sprinkled in dreamy atmospheres and psychedelic shadings, Return To Sky turned the amps up to 11 and laid down some serious grooves. There’s no pastoral wanderings or dreamy soundscapes. With this album it was all about the visceral push.

“Dawn Passage” does have a bit of a “break in the clouds” feel with phaser-effected guitars and a ride-driven drum part, but it doesn’t go all navel-gazing. Underneath the breezy disposition there’s still a kinetic flow. Munk, Kahr, Rasmussen, and Skott work together musically on a gut-level here. It’s an instinctual thing between these four.

“Return To Sky” sounds like some fuzz box version of the Midnight Cowboy theme. It’s got a bit of an open horizon vibe. It seems to capture this technicolor space where sky and earth meet, just before they explode into swaths of red, pink, and orange hues. Fear not, kiddos, this day doesn’t end before some serious guitar power pummels us into submission.

If you’re looking for an easy way into the Causa Sui world, this is it. Return To Sky puts you into the studio with the band. You can feel the electricity as the music is being pulled from some other plane and arrives in our world through buzzing amps and the joy of creativity. Raw power and seriously heavy melodies grab you and pull you in.

Nuff said. Put it in yer ears.

 

 

That Copenhagen Sound

I may have mentioned this little Copenhagen, Denmark outfit called Causa Sui a few times here. I may have, I can’t quite recall. If I haven’t, I’ll give you a quick rundown. If I have, well bear with me. You see, Causa Sui is this quartet of musicians(Jonas Munk, Jess Kahr, Rasmus Rasmussen, and Jakob Skott) out of the most excellent Copenhagen. I was introduced to them way back in late 2013 when their album Euporie Tide came out. “Check ’em out!”, this friend said. “You’ll dig ’em!”, this friend said. Well the friend was right. I did dig them. I came into the Causa Sui world just as they were hitting a most fruitful time. 2014 saw the release of drummer Jakob Skott’s masterpiece Amor Fati, Causa Sui’s brain melting Pewt’r Sessions 3, guitarist Jonas Munk’s Absorb…Fabric…Cascade, and right before 2015 took over for old man 2014 Skott put out another stellar solo effort called Taurus Rising. So if you were counting, that was four Causa Sui-related releases in 2014, and all on the band’s own record label, El Paraiso Records. I mean, what the hell? If ever there was a prolific group of dudes it’s these cats that hail from the same place as some of my other favorite creative people; like Lars Von Trier, Mads Mikkelsen, Lars Ulrich and Nicolas Winding Refn(if things get too bad here, I’m trying for dual citizenship in Denmark, people. I think the kids will love it there.)

fullsizerender-1Here’s the thing with Causa Sui, they feel like this true art collective. All of them work outside of the band on solo projects, they create music communally with mood lighting, lots of cool electronic toys, and plenty of longnecks of IPA. They record other artists they dig and want to help share with the world via El Paraiso Records(check out Papir, Mythic Sunship, Brian Ellis Group, Landing, and Videodrones for further proof of El Paraiso’s stellar lineup.) There’s just this loose, earthy vibe with the band that draws me in. Everything they do is interesting. There’s this sort of hippie vibe going on, but without the patchouli, peace and love overtones. These guys create a sort of practical magic. The art that they commit to cd and vinyl is a real journey, man. Causa Sui explores the far reaches of the universe in the course of an album. It’s heady, trippy musical explorations that are far beyond dudes just “getting buzzed and jammin'”. You want Miles-influenced musical mazes to get lost in? Put some Summer Sessions or Pewt’r Sessions in your skull. Feeling the need for some breezy summer vibes to surround your noggin while you’re checking out beach bods at the local dunes? Euporie Tide will suffice nicely. Needing a triple shot of espresso-fueled music juice that’ll remind you of both Sabbath and Joshua Tree? Hell, Return To Sky will abide. All of these are done earnestly and from an honest place. Nothing feels contrived with these guys. They take their influences and inspirations and mix them with their own brand of musical paint to create a whole new musical hue. The practical aspect of Causa Sui comes in the form of always working. Always expanding and evolving their sound. They never seem content to stick to a formula. They’re also regular dudes with regular jobs. They punch a clock, then blow minds after work. They know the value of time and properly spending said time.

For my money, they’re one of the most innovative rock bands working today that don’t make the world stop turning when they drop from social media(hello, Radiohead.)

So why am I going on and on about Jonas, Jess, Rasmus, and Jakob? Well I guess it’s because they’re putting out a new live album. Now I’m not much of a live album guy. I think most fall flat because the magic of that space, the heat of the moment, and the electricity that burnt through the air just doesn’t come through on live recordings. There are a few exceptions, and Causa Sui’s first live release Live At Freak Valley is one of them(the other is Papir Live At Roadburn.) Causa Sui’s Live In Copenhagen is a 3-LP boxset that was recorded at two shows: the release show for Euporie Tide and the release show for Return To Sky. From the look of the set lists it’s a smorgasbord of classic, deep cuts and the latest and greatest. They’re joined onstage by Danish saxophonist Johan Riedenlow for some dynamic accompaniment, as well as Papir guitarist Nicklas Sørensen who adds some of his tasteful musical chops into the proceedings.

Did I mention it’s 3-LPs?!?! And there’s 300 bonus 10″s that are available with extra studio goodness for those quick on the buying draw?

If there was one band I could bankroll a trip to the US for some shows it would be Causa Sui. What I’ve seen of them live they seem like a band that likes to get it on live. They bring it. They explore plenty on record, but live they slice open those tunes and explore even more. When you’re going to a show that’s what you want to see. At least that’s what I want to see. I don’t want the hits and some extended jams. I want serious exploration and Causa Sui are all about that.

Want to know more? Well that’s all I got, but here’s some cool words from the El Paraiso site:

This limited boxset captures Causa Sui at two very special nights: At the release parties of Euporie Tide (2013) & Return To Sky (2016). While the two albums are tight and meticulous sizes, that helped propel the band to the very pinnacle of European stoner-psych, this heavy package documents the band at their most free and adventurous. Since the band seldomly performes live, this may very well be your best chance to experience what the band is capable of at their best! One show is recorded at avantgarde institution extraordinaire Jazzhouse, while the other captures the sounds of legendary underground venue Dragens Hule in a warm summer night of 2013, where the band played in front of a small, ecstatic crowd until the wee hours. Both shows were recorded multitrack with an A-grade selection of mics and mixed and mastered by Jonas Munk.

During these three discs Causa Sui aren’t merely running through classic cuts from the catalogue. Each track is explored, reinterpreted and given new life – often straying far away from its original roots with a fervent energy. One minute the band is bluesy and heavy, the next they’re repetitive and blissed-out or venturing into a cacophony of Albert Ayler-like sax bursts, free-form electronics and feedback. Swedish saxophone player Johan Riedenlow joins both shows and Papir-guitar player Nicklas Sørensen occasionally adds his magic to the Dragens Hule set – including a towering 13-minute version of Eternal Flow, that seems to channel the energy of mid-1970s Popol Vuh, as well as a breezy cover version of Agitation Free’s ”First Communication”.

Want to know more? Then go here.

fullsizerender-2This wasn’t a paid endorsement, guys(though I do have quite a collection of Causa Sui stickers.) This one is from the gut. I’m a big fan of Causa Sui and pretty much everything they do. I will gladly wax ecstatic about these guys ad nauseum(like I just did here.)

I think in light of this great live set coming out next month, I’ll revisit some of my favorite albums from the Copenhagen crew over the next few weeks and share with you all. Cause, why not?

Happy Monday.