In our year-and-a-half on the information highway, we had the good fortune of witnessing what was at once a very prolific time, a very confusing time, and a very exciting time in underground music. Instead of quoting ourselves, we combed through the 100 features and profiles we've published to bring you some reflections from the folks who inspire us.
Underwater Peoples' Evan Brody
I cite this moment when Sawyer and I were sitting outside our sophomore dorm room at college. We said to each other, "Man, we’re bored. We want to do something more exciting." --Interview with Jenn Pelly, May 2011
I see politics and art as separate trajectories. There's a political dimension to music, to the extent that it would be a disruption of the regime of the sensible... but it certainly isn’t collective mobilization against the state in the name of radical equality. The protest lyric is a poor substitute for radical political thought or a new idea of politics.
AZ: Is that why you have protest lyrics in your music?
The idea there is that sums up the impetus, lyrically, of all genuine art. It's an explosion. It's a Molotov cocktail in the fuckin' police station. It's rights for that which can have no rights, to the extent that it anticipates a world to come-- not this world. --Interview with Emilie Friedlander & Ric Leichtung, July 2011
All of these things operating in synchronicity: like ringtones, flat-screens, theater, cuisine, fashion, sushi. I don’t want to call it “virtual reality,” so I call it Far Side Virtual. If you really want to understand Far Side, first off, listen to [Claude] Debussy, and secondly, go into a frozen yogurt shop. Afterwards, go into an Apple store and just fool around, hang out in there. Afterwards, go to Starbucks and get a gift card. They have a book there on the history of Starbucks-- buy this book and go home. If you do all these things you’ll understand what Far Side Virtual is-- because people kind of live in it already. --Interview with Emilie Friedlander, November 2011
I remember during the [Harald] Grosskopf panel at Unsound Festival, Laurel Halo said something interesting about grappling with a world that is completely and totally inundated with technology. There's something about dealing with period technology that makes us feel more human or more relatable. Something about getting the whole machine purring feels very cosmic and brings technology back in harmony with art. --Interview with Daniel Gottlieb, June 2011
AZ: It’s funny that there are indie bands coming up now that would kill to use the equipment that was frustrating to you back then.
I like the idea of it as well, but there are too many problems! --Interview with Blondes, Emilie Friedlander, & Ric Leichtung, May 2011
People like to ask me where I live, and sometimes I give different answers. There is a new 7” coming on Baselic records, and the label guy asked me what city I was from. I was with a friend, and we were talking, and he said I should say I was from Djakarta. So I did, and then it was on many websites. On the High Wolf MySpace, it says that I am based in Brazil. Many times people think I’m from Los Angeles. When you hide something from people, they really want to know it. --Interview with Samantha Cornwell, March 2011
Cleaners From Venus' Martin Newell
I’m very flattered that people like my old stuff so much but really, it was me and Lol [Elliott, from Cleaners] in the kitchen! We were broke but inspired and enjoyed listening to it. But I think the biggest pleasure we got out of it at the time was that I used to make homemade beer, and Lol used to make these candles, 'cause he didn’t have enough money to pay his electricity bill. So I used to swap some of the beer for some dope that someone else used to grow, and we would make our own music on cassettes that Lol stole. And I thought one night-- stoned, drunk, listening to music by candlelight--, "We’ve thoroughly enjoyed ourselves tonight, and it’s cost nothing!" That was sort of the epitome of anarchy for me: generating our own everything. It was fantastic. --Interview with Richard MacFarlane, June 2010
After getting a sense of his musical tastes, I finally asked [Speculator's Nick Ray] what kind of music he played (I hate to assume genres these days). "Pop," he replied, then let a beat pass before explaining. “But not in the popular music sense. ‘Pop’ is no longer defined by what’s actually popular; it’s defined by a structure. You know, melodies, guitars, catchy hooks.” --Marissa A. Ross, December 2010
AZ: Recently you’ve toured and collaborated with Ariel Pink. How has that been?
He’s one of my best friends, and it was totally effortless. I think artistically we are the same. It’s like "skillful non-skill." The greatest advice that he’s given me was, “Whatever it is that you’re doing, don’t figure it out.” --Interview with Samantha Cornwell, January 2011
The core concept of now age is we're living in “ghost-modernism.” It's not really like post-modernism; it's beyond that now. It's gotten to a point where the past is just recapitulating itself through kitsch and nostalgia. Every new gesture is just an imprint of an old gesture. We're haunted by so many other past styles and tastes in so many ways. I'm interested in the creation of a new relationship to time, where it's not being recapitulated, but instead looking into the present moment and really seeking out music, materials, structures, people, fashion, and whatever is within this lens of the present. --Interview with Ric Leichtung, November 2011
I've always had a powerful sense of the space-- physiological, emotional, spiritual-- invoked by music. I've always used music that way in my life, using it to create, augment, and enrich experiences. I don't think of myself as a songwriter at all, because what I'm after is some distillation of that effect, creating environments with certain properties and relationships. So often those moments in music that have powerful effects on me are fleeting-- like an outro, or a couple bars right before the second chorus. I'm interested in evoking those spaces so that I can stay a while. --Interview with Michael C. Powell, September 2011
NNA Tapes' Matt Mayer & Toby Aronson
Matt: With harsh noise in general we both noticed a shift in the mid '00s. Like Toby mentioned, a lot of the dudes doing the harder noise started doing ambient, which seems like a total 180 shift. It created a lot of interesting results, where the noise influence would rub off on the ambient and vice versa, creating this cool hybrid. And now where we are in 2011, it's all become smeared together.
I feel like the pendulum has to swing back at some point. I’ve always really liked lyrics, and I’ve always really liked vocal stuff, and playing a lot and going to noise shows, I’ve felt in some ways unwelcome. There’s this unwritten rule saying, "You can’t use lyrics that people will understand." I thought there were supposed to be no rules. [Noise] turns into the most codified, regimented form of music, which is not what it should be at all. When Gowns first started off, some people didn’t know how to take us. They were like, "This band might be cool if they didn’t sing." I wonder if it's something about the idea of masculine, abstract sound experiments, and not allowing a range of emotions to come through. For a lot of people who are doing experimental music, at some point it becomes like, "I built this Max patch that does this." It's about the experiment, and the set of parameters. You’re supposed to be tuning out everything but your ears. --Interview with Samantha Cornwell, June 2011
Emeralds' Mark McGuire
We have always somewhat embodied our surroundings and our heritage in our sound. In Ohio, there’s a huge middle class, and a lot of people work their whole lives... there’s always a feeling of struggling, and the feeling that Cleveland's like the joke of the world... We're not a cultural mecca; it's not where all the big stuff's happening. There’s definitely a lot of people out of work, and there’s poverty: it makes people, it's a tough city. But people from Cleveland are proud that they’re from there... It's this kind of tense, dark, and industrial place that has a lot of hidden beauty and a lot to offer, and that comes across in our music. --Interview with Ric Leichtung, February 2011
I got an e-mail once after I was like, "Holy shit, I'm going on my first tour!" I put it on Facebook or something, and Dominick Fernow wrote to me saying, "Congratulations." He had just joined Cold Cave, things were happening for him, and he was like, "Best of luck to you, thank you for having the courage to succeed." It occurred to me that for so many people, it's very hard to feel okay with success, because success is not cool. It supposedly tarnishes your thing; it ruins little pockets of scenes and the self-importance that comes from thinking you're the only people in your town that are doing something. That's what stops a lot of really talented people from sharing their music and turning it into a career. --Interview with Emilie Friedlander, November 2011
For the past couple of months, we've relished in the ECM vibe heard on Harmonizer's most recent LP, World Complete, but on this remix of "Landline," Matthewdavid trades the track's deep world beat for a warbling glacial drone that burns as brightly as the original. --Ric Leichtung, Altered Zones
Pick up World Complete from Mexican Summer
CMJ is finally here! While we couldn't be more stoked to present our own party at the New Museum this Saturday with Trash Talk, Eric Copeland, araabMUZIK, and Atlas Sound, among others, there's four other nights of music to behold. Read on to see the CMJ shows that you absolutely can't miss. --Ric Leichtung, Altered Zones
Last year, after returning from travel in Mali and Mauritania, Sahel Sounds released Music From Saharan Cellphones, a cassette compilation of found tracks copied from memory cards via Bluetooth wireless transfer. The tape was then ripped, uploaded, and shared through the internet (as music often is), where it quickly grew in reputation as a source for new world sounds. Now, Sahel Sounds has teamed-up Boomarm Nation to release a remix compilation, featuring a slew talented oddball producers, such as Matthewdavid and Ensemble Economique, to be distributed and uploaded back into the cellphones from which they came. --Ian Pearson, Altered Zones
--Previously from Saharan Cellphones
Last time we mentioned Serengeti, the Chicago MC had just dropped his first solo album for Anticon, produced by Why?'s Yoni Wolf and Casiotone for the Painfully Alone's Owen Ashworth, aka Advance Base. This summer, he rapped over some warped beats by Los Angeles beat producer Matthewdavid, giving birth to a collaborative project called Davis. "Levert" is a cut from a hyper-limited tape collection of those sessions that Matthew just released his own Leaving Records imprint, and it packs a strong punch of snowy, overheard-over-somebody-else's-cheap-car-radio goodness. --Emilie Friedlander, Altered Zones
Davis cassette it out now on Leaving Records. A digital version of the tape drops Oct 11th, though you have to grab a hard copy to hear the b-side, which we hear is one extended slice of ambience and spoken word
On July 26th, Leaving Records will release SWEDISH FISH, a split cassette of ambient music from Odd Nosdam (co-founder of Anticon Records) and LR guru Matthewdavid. Most of the A-side is "Swedish Tapes," a live recording of Odd Nosdam opening for Fennesz at San Francisco's Swedish American Hall. The B-side is Matthewdavid's, featuring four extended droners including "Reunited," a wispy piece of mulched tape that's received Miko Revereza's psychedelic analog visual treatment. This time, Revereza pairs the sounds with a rotating wheel of rainbow colors that makes you start seeing things if you stare long enough. Revereza manipulates raw film and edits in real time, and detects a parallel between ambient music and the abstract video feedback he uses. Both are equally open-ended, he says, and the video "is not the kind of thing to make one feel happy or sad or to give an opinion." This allows the viewer "to experience the film as an individual." --Ian Paul Roger Nelson, Friendship Bracelet
SWEDISH FISH is oiut July 26 on Leaving Records
[image by Max Capacity]
In celebration of one full year of Altered Zones, we're going back to where we began and observing our very favorite tracks of 2011 thus far. We pulled together all of AZ's contributing blogs' top picks and assembled a 25-song list of cuts that can't missed. --Ric Leichtung, Altered Zones
Balam Acab: "Oh, Why"
Bill Callahan: "Baby's Breath"
Clams Casino: "I'm God (Instrumental)"
Devin Gary & Ross: "Four Corners"
Dirty Beaches: "Lord Knows Best"
Ford & Lopatin: "Emergency Room"
Gang Gang Dance: "Glass Jar"
Holy Other: "With U"
Iceage: "White Rune"
John Maus: "Believer"
Julian Lynch: "Terra"
LA Vampires Goes Ital: "Streetwise"
Light Asylum: "Dark Allies"
Matthewdavid: "Like You Mean It"
Panda Bear: "Alsatian Darn"
Peaking Lights: "Tiger Eyes (Laid Back)"
Pure X: "Don't Wanna Live, Don't Wanna Die"
Purity Ring: "Loftcries"
Puro Instinct: "Stilyagi"
Sic Alps: "Do You Want To Give $$?"
Sleep ∞ Over: "Casual Diamond"
The Weeknd: "The Morning"
Woods: "Pushing Onlys"
Tonight, Los Angeles bids adieu to Show Cave, one of its most vital and active DIY venues. Founded by Eric Nordhauser and Hazel Hill McCarthy in 2006, and located at 3501 Eagle Rock Boulevard, it was the kind of place locals would pack into on a Friday night to catch musical performances, video art shows hosted by pygmy goats, dance parties, and people in little black wigs doing god knows what. Tonight's send off features performances by Zones favorites James Ferraro and Matthewdavid, in addition to some ghostly electro from Octavius and a plethora of dark dance sounds from DJ M.E. The reasons for the venue's closing have not been publicly disclosed, though it certainly represents the end of a gloriously weird era for the Los Angeles scene. Fortunately, according to an announcement posted on the Show Cave tumblr, a reincarnation may be in the works:
"Thanks to all the amazing artists and people that have made this last year at Show Cave so very fun, weird, abstract, obscure, hilarious, dirty, and danceable. Do not shed too many tears…….Show Cave will continue to live in a new location(s) in a future space and time." --Samantha Cornwell, Visitation Rites
Just last month, Matthewdavid suggested to me that I check out fellow Brainfeeder resident Samiyam. He's certainly not a newcomer, having put out several albums and EPs in the past five years. His newest record, Sam Baker's Album, is a funky exploration of hip-hop. Earlier this week, our friends over at XLR8R posted the "head-knocking, smoked-out" track "Cushion"; and now we have "Where Am I," a slightly frantic cut that creates a hazy sense of atmosphere via sparkling synths and properly mirrors the song's title. --Jheri Evans, Get Off The Coast
Grab Sam Baker's Album on June 28 via Brainfeeder (CD, LP, digital formats available), and continue reading for a fascinating account of Matthewdavid's first encounter with Samiyam:
Los Angeles producer and sound collagist Matthewdavid is set to release Outmind, his first LP, on April 19th. His tunes are indebted to no one genre in particular, but he can riff on anything from glitched hip-hop instrumentals and hypnotic Eastern rhythms to rippling ambient soundscapes and gritty nature phonography. Known for his DJ show at non-profit radio station Dublab and his involvement in the LA "Beat Scene" (spearheaded by Flying Lotus, who is releasing Outmind on his own Brainfeeder imprint), Matthewdavid melts everything he touches into a psychedelic heat-haze, painting a vibrant and thickly textured SoCal landscape with a slew of warped samples and field recordings. This goes for both the heady ambient zones on tracks like "Group Tea (feat. Flying Lotus)," "Floor Music (feat. Niki Randa)," and "Cucumber-Lime," and the headier, beat-heavy material on "Like You Mean It" and "Today, Same Way".
Album centerpiece "Like You Mean It" slaps like a screwed AraabMuzik instrumental, but with so much sonic meat on its rhythmic skeleton that it's easy to get full rather quickly. This super-thick aesthetic is what sets Matthewdavid apart-- but it's also what makes his music so challenging, throwing the ambient-leaning crowd for a loop while testing the patience of the beat contigent. It's not so hard to imagine someone skipping through the MP3s in search of the handful of banging entries like "Noche y Dia / San Raphael" and "Like You Mean It." But there's a reason why Outmind is being released on vinyl; it's first and foremost an album, one that adheres to a foggy, drugged mood throughout, and is filtered through the kaleidoscopic lens that could only be Matthewdavid's.
Outmind is out April 19th via Brainfeeder
Matthewdavid's newest record, Outmind, is due to drop in just two weeks via Flying Lotus' Brainfeeder imprint. The cathartic, slow-melting album has been seeping into our every pore for a little over a week now, and it's with great pleasure that we get to drop this brief snippet of sonic ambience, with FlyLo himself adding to the already vast sonic palette Matthewdavid has tapped. A heady, exploratory effort from both parties. --Jheri Evans, Get Off The Coast
Outmind is available April 19th via Brainfeeder
[image by Miko Revereza]
Say hello to the seventh installment of our monthly mix series. Every month, we invite an artist to compile their favorite Altie Zonies tracks from the previous month, plus whatever they've been jamming lately, and to chop, screw, or straight-up destroy said tracks in a one-of-a-kind piece of music. We've been obsessing over the lo-fi beatscapes of Leaving Records label head matthewdavid for a while now. But we're not the only ones who are over the moon with the young producer from Los Angeles; Flying Lotus signed the young talent to his label, Brainfeeder, and will be releasing his next LP, Outmind, later this month. We even put him on the Altered Zones SxSW showcase alongside heartthrobs John Maus and Pictureplane. It's no surprise that matthewdavid's mix hits all the right spots, highlighting guest poster Maria Minerva and mix-submitting sisters Puro Instinct. He even treats us to unreleased tracks from the artist-profiled Speculator and our Japanese friends from Bun, not to mention an infectious groove from Ethio-Jazz pioneer Mulatu Astake, from a cassette compilation of African music called Ain't It Strange? on Mississippi Records. Legit. --Ric Leichtung, Altered Zones
01 Ray Cheser: "Elysium"
02 MC A.D.E AND POSSE: "Rockin' All Over"
03 Maria Minerva: "California Scheming"
04 Bun: "Devil"
05 [mystery zone]
06 [mystery zone]
07 Mulatu Astake: "Emnete"
08 Puro Instinct: "Stilyagi (Feat. Ariel Pink)"
09 [mystery zone]
10 [mystery zone]
11 Speculator: "Sweet Emotion"
Update: Girl Unit has unfortunately had to drop out of SXSW due to visa issues. However, we're thrilled to announce that Montreal dream-pop artist Grimes was kind enough to fill in on short notice and will now be opening the showcase on Wednesday at noon. Her debut full-length, Halfaxa, dropped last fall on Arbutus, and if you haven't checked it out yet, you should really do that. You can download the whole thing here for free, and donate if you like what you hear.
Altered Zones is coming to SXSW, and we are basically throwing the party of our dreams. Now it might be our first year repping in Texas, but we're no strangers to the flood of options spread over those four days in March, where another crowded, ass-reeking backroom beckons you at every turn. We wanted to do more than just put some bands we like up on a stage. We wanted to do something that not only supports the artists we love, but also brings the visual aesthetic of our site into the real world. Ideally, something that lives up to our name.
So we thought about our favorite kinds of parties-- the ones you find yourself in at 3 a.m. on your last night in Texas. These are the parties this pilgrimage is supposed to be about, but which we're often too exhausted to embrace by the time they roll around. So instead, we're throwing that party on Wednesday afternoon, deep inside the dark, windowless, neon-blazing wolf den known only as 'ND,' a black box we'll have bursting with massive visuals, flashing lights, and fucking amazing music.
Taking full advantage of ND's potential for sensory overload, we've hooked up with Austin-based multimedia artists Tommyboy and VidKidz, who'll be casting mind-shredding live video genius onto the venue's eye-popping 30x20-foot, floor-to-ceiling HD projection wall. We can barely count the hours we've spent transfixed by these dudes' insane online video mixes, but we always come out the other side feeling like we just time traveled through an internet k-hole. It's something we're pretty sure everyone should experience at least once.
Like AZ itself, the transportive environment is just a visual extension of the music, and we could not be more excited that this party is being graced by performances from these artists who, to us, are among the most creative in the DIY underworld. Their music isn't just 'new' in the temporal sense, but truly new in the progressive sense-- artists we admire for their rulebook-burning approach and dedication to the advancement of the form.
Btw, we don't really believe in too much mystical shit, but we just realized this is our 1,000th post, and somehow that seems like a good sign. Just keepin' it weird, bros.
Wednesday, March 16th
ND @ 501 Studios
E. 5th + Brushy St. (map it)
05:00 John Maus
04:00 Puro Instinct
02:15 Sleep ∞ Over
01:30 Laurel Halo
+ Weird Magic DJs
+ Visuals by Tommyboy + Vid Kidz
Leaving Records founder Matthewdavid's International EP is out today on Flying Lotus's Brainfeeder label. The four-track EP's title track features a guest spot from past MD collaborator Dogbite as well as video treatment by Miko Revereza, who's been hot on the fucked up VHS vimeo clips as of late [Mane Mane "Skin Fox" (yuk. remx) + Delofi "Med Scene #3/In Search of the Fantastic"]. "International" is yet another of MD's completely warped takes on LA beat music (see "Truss," "Trivial Pursuit," "Desert Moon"), huge bubbles snapping thick and fat above the surface before rejoining with the dense collage of field-recorded muck below. --Ian Nelson, Friendship Bracelet
International precedes MD's debut full-length record Outmind, which will see release in mid-April and features collaborations with Dogbite, Flying Lotus and Niki Randa of Blank Blue.