Favorite Albums of 2017(so far) : Maine’s ‘V’

There’s been a gradual shift in my brain over the last few years to music that doesn’t necessarily tell a story through words more than through mood. Listen, I grew up devouring the Beatles, Rush, the Kinks, Flaming Lips, Radiohead, Wilco, and the list goes on. I was a song guy. I was moved by stories and words and grand musical statements in the classic songwriting tradition. I still love the songwriting tradition and even do it myself when time allows, but over the last three to four years I’ve found myself drawn to instrumental music. In-particular, heavy synth music. There’s something about synth music that feels ingrained into my DNA that I hadn’t known was there till about four years ago when I bought Walter Rizatti’s score for House By The Cemetery. The last time I’d heard that music was when I was probably 14 years old when I first watched Fulci’s trashy classic. Hearing it again at the ripe middle age of 39 I felt there was something that I’d unlocked in my head that had been stuck up there since that balmy summer night all those years ago. That music instantly connected with me. There was no warming up period. It just instantly hit me.

From that point on I began grabbing as many of those Italian horror scores as I could, and expanded into newer artists that had a kinship with the synth and all things eerie and Gothic. I’m always looking for someone who can move me with a turn of a melody, hypnotic repetition, and who can create a sonic world where I’m quite comfortable spending time in. One person new on my musical radar that can do all of those in spades is Michel Dupay, aka MAINE. While a lot of synth music is a synthetic creation, built on circuits, wires, tubes, and buzzing waves of noise, Dupay takes a much  more organic approach to his heavy synth sound. According to his Bandcamp page, MAINE’s music is “Fiercely analogue, pre-midi musique from Montmartre, Paris.” A lot of electronic music uses midi to help create and build songs. It’s a process by which an artist can connect and sync several pieces of electronic tools and gadgets allowing a pristine connection of different musical pieces. Dupay is creating music the old fashioned way, by performing these songs as a band without the safety net of midi and syncing.

“He makes music the old fashioned way. He performs it.” – John Houseman.

I’d seen Burning Witches Records talking MAINE’s new album V up quite a bit over the summer. A couple months ago I finally got around to checking it out and I was absolutely blown away by the record. It hits every dark, melancholy tone just right. It’s a slow burn LP, too. It allows you to work your way into the album gradually as to savor the bits and pieces without overindulging. You find new things to love each time you drop the needle. There’s something very European about the sound. It’s quietly alluring and subtly dance floor-ready. Something like the vinyl-only “Black Cloud” feels like a slow cloud rolling in over the Parisian sun. “La Pluie” evokes visions of cobblestone streets, centuries-old villages, and seaside walks. “Cadence” has a very early-80s vibe. Something that might have accompanied the opening credits to a “Satanic Panic” occult film. “Below The Landslide(featuring Nina)” is an exquisite piece of synth music. With the addition of vocals it becomes something far more emotional and engaging. “The World Without” is pure desolate beauty, like a slow crawl through some dystopian landscape. “I Never Wanted to Write These Words down for You” gives you the feeling of waking from some long, ancient rest. Tremolo-effected electric piano gives the track an almost pop sensibility. It’s like the moment when the clouds break and there’s shards of light hitting the earth once again.

This record is so sonically rich. It has the production value of an early 70s Alan Parsons production. There’s an aged refinement that permeates the record I can’t get enough of. It’s dark, but there’s a warmth in the songs. Like early OMD obsessed with Vangelis. The production and engineering is almost like another instrument altogether.

V is an hypnotic listening experience. There are not overwrought explosions of sound. It’s all very cool and calculated. Some tracks feel as if they feed right into the next, giving you the experience of one long, musical piece rather than individual shots of songs. The album’s organic nature only adds to the feeling that these songs sprung up from the earth. Dupay masterfully weaves these songs together like a Gothic tapestry for us to wrap ourselves in and embrace whatever journey they’re going to take us on. I cannot recommend V enough. It’s a masterpiece of restraint and storied beauty.

Buy the album right here.

 

Maiof On Maiovvi : A Conversation With Composer Anton Maiof

I think it was close to two years ago I stumbled across a split single on the record label Foreign Sounds. It was a split between Slasher Film Festival Strategy and Antoni Maiovvi. I hadn’t heard either artist before but I was in the moment it started playing. I’m sort of into that whole horror/electronic/synth gumbo that these two were throwing my way on that 12″ vinyl so I was a fan immediately. I was especially struck by Maiovvi’s track “Psychic Driver”. Hypnotic melodies and a driving, electro disco beat gave you the feel of cruising down some desolate stretch of highway where you may never find your way back from.

I started digging into Maiovvi’s musical past and it seemed to be an endless list of albums, EPs, remixes, in varied degrees of Giallo, heavy synth, and Italio Disco for every day, mood, and psychic trauma. But who was this Antoni Maiovvi, really? I imagined a cross between Giorgio Moroder and Abel Ferrara, this music composer and producer who would only come out at night in a blaze of leather jackets, analog synthesizers, mysterious women in lanky dresses, and possible concealed weapons. Turns out that’s not the case. Antoni Maiovvi is the nom de plume of musician Anton Maiof. He’s not Italian, but a Brit raised in Bristol. Though, throw one of his records on and you’ll think you were in the midst of some serious Italian groove fest.

Maiof recently released an imagined film score called Cuckoo. It’s brilliant and seedy and all those things you want out of an imagined horror film score. I sat down and asked Anton a few questions. He was kind enough to answer them.


J. Hubner: Thanks for taking the time to talk. Let’s start at the beginning, where did you grow up? Was music a big part of your life even as a young boy growing up?

Anton Maiof: I was born and raised in Bristol in the South West of the UK. To be honest I wasn’t really interested in music until I was a teenager. I thought music was for pretty people and I thought music was pretty boring. Then I heard The Jesus Lizard and I realised that maybe things could be weird and I was very interested in it. 

J. Hubner: With your music being very cinematic, has film and cinema always been a big part of your life? Were you a horror film fan growing up? Who were some of your favorite directors?

Anton Maiof: I’d say I was more interested in movies than music growing up. Horror movies were something I had to become acclimatised to. But once the nightmares stopped I was hooked. Favourite directors would be Stanley Kubrick, William Friedkin, Paul Verhoeven, Robert Altman, Ken Russell, David Cronenberg, Shinya Tsukamoto, Karyn Kusama, and Shane Carruth.

J. Hubner: What was the first album you bought with your own money?

Anton Maiof: It was Kick by INXS on tape.

J. Hubner: When did you become interested in making music? What instrument did you start out playing? Did the synth music come later?

Anton Maiof: I started with guitar and piano, I would borrow things later. At a friend’s house his father had an old 4 track reel to reel so I taught myself to multitrack with that. Then eventually someone showed me how to record on a computer. By this point I could play guitar, keys and drums. The computer offered more possibilities, I got into sampling and eventually when soft synths started coming along I would mess around with them. Then I went to University to study music and that’s where I learned synthesis and some more advanced digital music techniques. It’s not that exciting a story. 

J. Hubner: What were some bands you were in before stepping out on your own?

Anton Maiof: I played in the noise rock group Geisha, we released 2 albums on the Maryland based freak metal label Crucial Blast and 1 on the great UK label Super-Fi. I had a solo project called My Ambulance Is On Fire which I made some weird CDRs. I played in a improv duo called Defibrillators with the very talented Seth Cooke. I played bass in a country band called Papa Molasses & The Dane County Paragons with Dan from Sex Swing. I also played guitar for my friend Rose Kemp. I played bass for Bronnt Industries Kapital and I played guitar in a Goblin cover band called Il Goblini. I also played in the noise group Menschenfliesch with Greg Godwin and Nick Talbot. Once in Europe I played in the noise groups Ultraspiecer, The Superusers and Kottbusserdamm Terror Corpse. I also played in the folk group The Cold Hand. I also play in a duo with Umberto called Law Unit.

J. Hubner: Before I knew that Antoni Maiovvi was a nom de plume I really did think you were a 50 year-old Italian music producer. A cross between Giorgio Moroder and Abel Ferrara. How did you come up with the name? Who or what was the inspiration behind the alter ego? Why not make music as Anton Maiof?

Anton Maiof: Maiovvi was the italianised version of Maiof. I was performing as Anton Maiof all over Berlin doing improvised guitar performances. It was fun.

J. Hubner: You have quite an extensive discography with a wide range of styles ranging from electro disco to more ambient, darker tones. What’s your writing process like? Do you go into the process with a definite idea, or do you let the muse take you where she may?

Anton Maiof: Sometimes I have an idea I want to try out. Sometimes I’m just messing around. The other day a chord pattern came to me in a dream and then I wrote a song about when David Bowie said the lord’s prayer at the Freddie Mercury tribute concert with it. 

J. Hubner: I first came across your work on the split you did with Slasher Film Festival Strategy. I absolutely loved “Psychic Driver”. Jumped into your world from there. Do you enjoy collaborations? Do you prefer working alone to working with other artists?

Anton Maiof: Yes I enjoy collaborations. I just like making music. 

J. Hubner: Speaking of collaborations, how do they work normally, using the Law Unit and SFFS collaborations for example. Is it strictly file sharing online or did you actually get together in the studio with Matt or Christopher respectively?

Anton Maiof: With SFFS we didn’t collaborate it was a split. Two tracks of his and one if mine. With Matt it was a little more complex. We started sharing files but then he came to stay with me in Madrid and we worked together in my living room in between movies and cocktails.

J. Hubner: You released two film scores this year, one for a real film and for one imagined. Can you tell me about the “Karakura Orchestra” on ‘Abdullah’? What was the writing and composing process like on that project?

Anton Maiof: Technically three as Thug also came out this year. But that is an aside. Abdullah’s music existed before the film, it was my attempt at making a sort of techno out of Turkish folk music that I recorded with this radio that Milo Smee AKA Bintus who runs Power Vacuum gave me for my birthday. The radio I named “The Karakura Orchestra”. Karakura being a Turkish sleep demon. So they edited the picture to those tracks and then I edited the tracks to make the soundtrack more graceful.

J. Hubner: Your most recent release was the imagined film score ‘Cuckoo’. What was the concept behind that album? Who or what were inspirations for this album? It’s a great record, btw.

Anton Maiof: Thank you. I was living in Berlin and it had been a few years since I worked on a film soundtrack, I was a little bit frustrated by that, so I thought I’d do another record of the kind of soundtrack that I like. So there are shades of Giallo, Maniac and Nightmare On Elm Street. I tried to arrange the album so there is a narrative. The title I had for many years. I was supposed to do it as a record for Seed who released three of my albums before, Bruce really does believe in me and I appreciate it. I failed him by not making it sooner.

Sorry Bruce. 

J. Hubner: Is film scoring something you’d like to do on a more full time basis? You seem to have a knack for creating cinematic music. Yellow is one that I revisit quite often.

Anton Maiof: Yes these days I’m more interested in making film scores, I find it the most rewarding part of my career. I recently did the score for Can Evrenol’s Housewife. Though I have started enjoying DJing a bit more recently, but I am playing mostly italo and “fun” music these days. 

J. Hubner: Are there any recent records, films, books, or shows that you’ve been getting into? Anything inspiring? 

Anton Maiof: I saw an amazing film recently called ‘Valerie & Her Week Of Wonders’ which has an amazing score also. I also enjoyed the last Com Truise album and the recent Drab Majesty album and the last Boy Harsher album. 

J. Hubner: Are you doing any touring to promote ‘Cuckoo’? 

Anton Maiof: No traditional touring, but I have a band now. We will perform some it live.

J. Hubner: What are you working on next? Anything you can share? 

Anton Maiof: At the moment I have found myself writing songs again and I am close to finishing an album.

J. Hubner:  What is one album that you think everyone should own? And why?

Anton Maiof: Scott Walker’s The Drift because it is a tough listen but rewards those who are willing to put time to invest and revisit. It is also a wonderful piece of work. 


Head over to Data Airline’s Bandcamp page and give Cuckoo a listen. It’s brilliant heavy synth electronica. And check out Antoni Maiovvi’s Bandcamp page and clear about a day to indulge in those heady tunes. 

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.

Exit…Stage Froese

I don’t think there’s any other band that was as prolific as Tangerine Dream. In the 70s and 80s they were dropping albums once or twice a year. Once they started doing film scores that rate of creativity and productivity increased even more. Edgar Froese and whomever was in the band with him at the time were constantly moving forward, adapting with the times(at least through the 80s.) I have these vague memories of being a kid and having this fascination with the name “Tangerine Dream”. The name evoked so many things in my childhood noggin. Something like this colorful, sweet flavor mixed with semi-consciousness. It was both mysterious and inviting.

I think the first time I actually saw the name Tangerine Dream was when I watched Firestarter for the first time. Drew Barrymore was intriguing, Keith David was a solid dad with telekinetic abilities, and George C. Scott was scary as hell. The music was this hazy calm in a sea of frightening powers and disturbing scenes. In retrospect the movie was pretty terrible, but the music was and still is amazing. It wasn’t until many years later that I bought my first Tangerine Dream LP. It was Tangram and I found it for the low, low price of $1.00. If it hadn’t been that cheap I probably wouldn’t have bought it(sorry Edgar.) Glad I did, though. I ended up loving it and it began my love of all things Tangerine Dream.

I hit up most of the mid to late 70s stuff, and the soundtrack stuff as well. I need to hit up Alpha Centauri and Zeit soon, but on a recent trip to Half Price Books I found an excellent copy of 1981s Exit. Tangerine Dream have once again grabbed my attention and adoration.

Like I said, Exit came out in 1981. They had done the score to Michael Mann’s Thief the same year so they were riding high from that exquisite piece of synth heaven. Exit is decidedly more low key than Thief. There’s a darkness on this record not heard since their work on the Sorcerer S/T. It seems to be a warning kind of album. A plea for the world to get its head out of its ass. This record is just as relevant now than it was then, me thinks.

First track “Kiew Mission” is a slow burner that has one of the few vocal tracks featured on a Tangerine Dream record. An uncredited Berlin actress chants in Russian the names of the continents of the world. It’s a protest song of sorts, as we were in the throes of a pissing match with Russia and the possibility of nuclear war was frighteningly just around the corner. For an album in Tangerine Dream’s 80s collection it’s a very sobering opener.

“Pilots of Purple Twilight” is a little more upfront but still carries with it an air of trepidation. It’s most definitely an “80s feel” kind of track, with Edgar Froese, Christopher Franke, and Johannes Schmoelling digging deep into the sound of the neon decade. It’s reminiscent of Tangram, and really foreshadows the sounds rock bands like Rush and Van Halen would pepper their future records with.

Speaking of sounds, I must share the equipment used on this album. The synths here are like the color palate of a painter. They make up what the record ultimately becomes. On Exit, the following equipment was used:

Moog Modular Synthesizer, Project Electronic Modular Synthesizer and Sequencer, Sequential Circuits Prophet-5Roland TR-808 Rhythm Composer, ARP OdysseyOberheimOB-X, ARP Pro/DGX, Minimoog, Elka string synth, SynclavierPPG Wave 2, PPG 360 Wave Computer, PPG 340 Wave Computer/380 Event Generator.

Just reading that list makes my palms sweat.

“Chronozon” reminds me of the opening music to some early 80s post-apocalyptic movie. You can see the protagonist driving down dusty open roads in a ’72 Nova with sheet metal attached to it and a flames coming out of the exhaust. Dilapidated vehicles and burnt out buildings pepper the side of the road as a glowing, orange sun drops into the horizon in front of him. As the song plays you can just tell this guy is going to have some great, dystopian adventures with scantily clad she-warriors and kick some serious mutant ass. At least, that’s what I see when I hear this song. Apparently it was used as the opening music for a Hungarian political show called Panorma. Who knew?

Title track “Exit” is glorious in its mournful, analog buzz. It feels like a title track. Le Matos captured this kind of magic with their Turbo Kid S/T. For my money this is where Tangerine Dream are best, wrapped inside a dense, heady melodic piece of music like this. Froese is the master of mood and this track proves that. A little side note about the song, it was used in episode 6 of Stranger Things. It’s okay, I’ll wait while you go cue it up and check it out…..Yes, episode 6……Cool, huh?

“Network 23” sports some four on the floor rhythms and wavering, hypnotic synths that lay in the air just out of reach. Strangely enough, this track sounds like Kraftwerk doing the theme for Law and Order(having just typed that I really want to hear Popol Vuh do the theme music for Barney Miller.) Anyways, this one a great, driving Berlin School slow burner.

“Remote Viewing” is classic Tangerine Dream, regardless of the decade. It’s ghostly and dark, with an almost space western vibe. Sinoia Caves has pulled these vibes for inspiration for sure, as this sound is all over the Beyond The Black Rainbow S/T. Endless black space permeates the song throughout it’s 8 minute time span. Froese, Franke, and Schmoelling let their Komische flags fly high on this excellent album closer.

It took me years to find my way to Tangerine Dream. Like, REALLY find my way to them. They were in my peripherals even as a kid(Firestarter, Legend, Near Dark, Three O’Clock High), but it’s only been the last 8 years or so that I’ve found that real connection with them. It’s like a Vulcan mind meld going on between me and the old TD. I adore the classics like Phaedra, Rubycon, Ricochet, Stratosfear, and Cyclone, but I also like these little records. Albums like Tangram, Le Parc, White Eagle, and of course Exit. They’re like these bite size versions of epic. They show that Tangerine Dream can write a concise, on-point piece of music without using up a whole album side(nothing wrong with that, though.) Exit is turning into one of my favorites.

It’s the Komische mind meld.

 

 

 

 

Scoring Horror : Steve Moore’s ‘The Mind’s Eye’

I find myself listening to more soundtracks than I do watching the movies they score. Is that a bad thing? I’m sure the film directors and writers and producers might think so. It’s not that I have anything against watching movies, it’s just that a lot of the time I have easier access to the scores, and the soundtracks are usually better than the film. That’s just a cold hard fact of life, people. I give the filmmakers credit, though. They’re smart enough to hire top notch musicians to score their films. And I’m not saying all those films are bad or anything. I’m just saying the soundtracks usually grab me right away.

There are a crew of great people making some amazing music for indie and low budget films that are really classing up these flicks. Jeff Grace, Wojciech Golczewski, Disasterpeace, David Wingo, and Steve Moore.

Not familiar with Steve Moore? Well he’s one half of the heavy synth/progressive rock duo Zombi. Not familiar with Zombi? Really? Just, well see yourself out the door, okay? Close the door, too. Okay, they’re gone. So anyways, Moore has been making some pretty incredible noise in Zombi for years now, and a few years ago he started scoring films. The first that I saw was The Guest, which was both a great film and an incredible score. Cub was another one he scored, and again he hit it out of the park with that score. Last year he scored the low budget horror film The Mind’s Eye.

So as I stated earlier, I don’t see a lot of these films I pick up soundtracks of. The Mind’s Eye is on my list of films to see, for sure. But I was more interested in hearing Steve Moore doing what he does best, and this soundtrack does just that. It’s got all of those great early 80s synth sounds Moore is known for. The moody, rhythmic arpeggios…the swaths of dissonance…the new age-y interludes…they’re all there. He tends to stick to certain motifs. I can hear repeated sounds and expressions in each of the soundtracks I’ve heard of his, but I think that’s true for a lot of film scores. Certain build ups during scenes, creating tension for a scene, yadda yadda. It’s sort of like a hallmark of a Steve Moore film score.

To get an idea of what Steve Moore does, you should hit up albums like Zombi’s Surface To Air, Escape Velocity, and Shape Shift. For my money, those three records really show his compositional skills(along with drummer AJ Paterra.) Then once you’re fully committed to this synth wizard’s chi(sorry, been watching Iron Fist on Netflix), I’d suggest you find his score for The Guest and put that in your ears. I think that’s the ultimate power punch in regards to his scoring prowess. It’s got it all, really. Want more? Then The Mind’s Eye should be your next stop. This thing is a massive chunk of synth-heavy goodness. It’s a double LP, so there’s plenty to enjoy here. 85 minutes of music, to be exact. It’s an epic collection of heady sounds.

The film itself? Here’s the trailer:

Like I said I haven’t seen it, but it seems to do a lot with a little. Low budget horror can be a tricky thing, but done in the right hands it can do what major studios do with millions more bucks and far better. This one sort of puts me in my of Cronenberg’s Scanners, just from the trailer. That was a classic of the genre, and a low budget flick to boot. If Joe Begos does just half of what Cronenberg did then The Mind’s Eye will be pretty damn good.

Well I’ve rambled enough. I think I got off point a bit, but that’s typical on a Saturday morning. Steve Moore. The Mind’s Eye. Film Composers. Indie horror. GO!

 

 

No Country For Black Mollies

So I saw this show once on TV where there was this ragtag group of kids that befriended another kid that was different from them. These kids had lost one of their pals and the pal was presumed dead by everyone. But these kids(and the missing kid’s mom) knew different. They knew their friend and son wasn’t dead. He’d been taken away to a dark place. A place where the world had been turned inside out…upside down, even. It was a pretty amazing show. The acting was great, it was shot beautifully, and the music was absolutely unbelievable. Dark, hypnotic synth that surged throughout the entire series. It was wonderful.

No, the show wasn’t The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. Yes, it was Stranger Things. I’ve been obsessed with the show and its music since I first double-downed on the entire 8-episode series on a Friday and Saturday night in July. By the 3rd episode my son had even said “Too bad they didn’t have this soundtrack on vinyl.” Well by October they did and I had it. Played it with vigor, and relish. That soundtrack was created by Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein(yeah, I’m sure you know that already.) They’re in the Austin, TX band SURVIVE, which is a heavy synth 4-piece. I thought they’d released their debut album RR7439, which I bought up as quickly as it hit my local record shop. It ended up being one of my favorite albums of the year, but it also ended up that it wasn’t their debut album. Well, it was their debut with the most excellent Relapse Records, but they self-released a record called mnq026 back in 2012. After much procrastination and contemplation I found a copy of that debut on the fantastic(and quite dangerous) Discogs for a decent price and couldn’t pass it up.

img_2837After a few listens I’m comfortable in saying that I think it’s my favorite SURVIVE release. I love RR7439, but mnq026 feels a little darker; heaped up with the atmospheric haze and woozy soundscapes. There’s less beat-driven songs and more dreamy noises on this one. I’m pretty impressed with fact that they’ve been doing the whole heavy synth thing since 2009(though Slasher Film Festival Strategy has been rocking the synth game since 1998, son.) This album certainly sounds like three years worth of EPs and lots of basement jams with Junos and Moogs. mnq026 sounds like a group that’s found their sound and are relishing that fact.

I love an album that after a couple listens starts revealing hidden messages and layers. SURVIVE are a band that layer. With 4 dudes all playing synthesizers you can be sure there’s some heady layering going on. “Deserted Skies” opens the record with some of those dense layers. It plays like a film score. Some strange sci-fi flick, I’d imagine. Something from the mid-80s, I’d imagine. Seems to be this Austin crew’s modus operandi, and I’m good with that. Another major banger is “Floating Cube”. It sounds like a cross between Tangerine Dream and The Human League. If there were some female vocals hanging overhead this could’ve been a hit in 1984. Speaking of 1984, “Hourglass” is another time machine of a track and one of the few tracks with some serious Casio-leaning drum programming. It also puts me in mind of Brad Fiedel’s underappreciated score to Fright Night(the 1985 original, that is.) “Omniverse” keeps that vibe going nicely with a pulsating synth throughout. “Black Mollies” has a Rudiger Lorenz vibe, but more dark synth and less new age-y. It’s also an epic track that lingers on for over 6 minutes.

Elsewhere, “Scalar Wave” is ominous synth groaning. Much like RR7439′s “Low Fog”, this one feels like a trip through a black hole with your mind on fire with hallucinogens. “Shunting Yard” and “Dirge” end the album nicely, complete with existential motifs and analog beauty to fall into the abyss to.

img_2839I’m interested to see where these guys go from here. At the moment they’re still the current favorite flavor. Whether that remains the case for long remains to be seen. They’ll at least get a bit of momentum when Stranger Things 2 arrives next October, but I hope that’s not all they get. SURVIVE are a unique beast in the genre, as they seem to be able to find a nice balance between heady noise making and catchy melodies. There’s a real intellectual side to the music they create, yet even the novice can walk into the middle of a SURVIVE song and dig it.

mnq026 is one hell of a debut. It’s inspired some pondering, meandering, and some serious air synth. Yes, air synth is a real thing. Google it.

Wojciech Golczewski : End Of Transmission

Just when you think you’ve got the year in music all wrapped up with a nice, decorative bow an album pops out from the great ether and grabs you by the lapels andtransmission says “You’re not done yet, pal!” That album for me is Wojciech Golczewski’s End Of Transmission. Golczewski is a film composer that also likes to put out music under his own name that’s heavily influenced by older synth music. Earlier this year he released his debut album Reality Check and it was an incredible science fiction-inspired collection of songs that could’ve been the score to some long lost space epic. It had all the bells and whistles. But now Golczewski has gone back into recording mode with nothing more than a miniMoog and a recorder. The results feel primitive yet warm. It’s a visceral listen that harkens back to both early 70s synth pioneers and the primitive scores to those cult sci-fi flicks of yesteryear.

End Of Transmission is a relatively quick listen, with just 7 tracks that all but one are around the 2 to 3 minute mark. With analog synths there’s not much subtlety in the sound. It’s big and brash at times, but they’re also so much more emotive and present than they’re digital counterparts. There’s an organic quality to the instrument and the 7 musical movements collected here feel as if they’re telling a story. Space exploration, time/space journeys, and life forms from other dimensions could all be soundtracked to these songs. The songs, simply title “Transmission 01” through “Transmission 07”, flow nicely into each other. If you’re familiar with Wendy Carlos, Morton Subotnick, Jean Michel Jarre, Klaus Schulze, and even John Carpenter’s earlier film work then you’ll feel right at home in this musical world. While Golczewski definitely brings up visions of other worlds, space travel, and existential ponderings with his synthesizer compositions, these musical pieces also bring to mind early video game music. “Transmission 06” sounds like early Konami; in particular the classic Castlevania for the NES. I sat listening to this record with my son and I just wanted to break out the old console and play. “Transmission 07” also brings to mind some video game vibes. There’s a hint of Disasterpeace’s Fez S/T in there, which warms this middle-aged heart.

Wojciech Golczewski has a knack for creating real emotions and visceral musical experiences through his compositions. Reality Check was his big screen sound, while End Of Transmission is his late night rental cult score. These are mini revelations that get the synapses firing and take you on a journey that leaving the house isn’t required for.

Hey, all you vinyl heads. There’s like 26 copies of this left out of 400 pressed on vinyl. Once they’re gone they’re gone. You could probably snag a copy off Discogs for $70 or $80, but why do that when you can still get a copy for $15? Grab one while you still can. It sounds AMAZING on vinyl. 45RPM, heavy duty vinyl, pretty black sleeve to stare at while you zone out? Do it!

8. 5 out of 10