To resolutely answer your question: I think if we take the idea of para-academia seriously as a true alternative, an oasis for uncompromising thought rather than a safe haven for anti-academic hubris and individualistic amusements, then we need to have a much lengthier conversation about the adoption of objective constraints, addressing the issues of financial infrastructure, organization, and the ethics of auto-didacticism.
The latter is particularly important, how to train ourselves, how to turn our lives into an open-ended philosophical life while at the same time grapple with social and economic limitations and survive, how to build a platform for self-discipline that can psychologically and materially sustain us, and so on and so forth. Auto-didacticism in philosophy is not just about the gradual implementation of intellectual self-discipline but also about logistics, of how to stay alive, to live a satisfying life, to financially survive. Without sounding as if I’m romanticising auto-didacticism, I would say that an autodidact has a better chance of identifying and being conscious of both negative and positive constraints in philosophy or theory than an academic. Auto-didacticism is a drudgery, it’s like fighting on multiple fronts while the supply line has been cut off. Nevertheless, in the end—provided you have survived—it can prove more useful in the study of philosophy than academic training insofar as it makes you desensitized against the ephemeral trends. Over time, your philosophy becomes your life, and vice versa. One becomes intellectually insecure, an insecurity that fuels more learning, more work. It is celebrated rather than repulsed. Having dispensed with the cosy academic position, you never settle for anything, whether it is a research trajectory, your position in the landscape of theory or your conception of yourself as a person.
Despite having released fifty-plus records since setting up shop in 2011, I was unfamiliar with the Infinite Machine label prior to coming across Tomás Urquieta’s impressive Duñeos de Nada album, which effortlessly joined the dots between industrial-grade, club-focused beats and technoid sound design. The label has now followed up that record with Latvian producer W3C’s debut LPEvent Horizon since first catching my ears with the cavernous drums of his Atmospheric Entry twelve for Pinch’s Cold Recordings and the eight tracks see him continuing his singular fusion of UK bass pressure and industrial percussive bombast in fine style. Very much worth checking out….CODEPENDENT is a wildly prolific European label that releases music existing on the margins and last month they released a serious oddity in Roulund’s CODE023, containing twenty-five thirty-eight second tracks, each recorded in a single take, of fragmented, deconstructed dub. Check it out….Last week was a glutted one on the dance reissue front, with Delsin repressing the sole album from Repeat originally released in 1995 , the intelligent techno supergroup of Mark Broom, Plaid, and Dave Hill on the A13 label. Two platters from early 90’s UK techno fellow GPR alum Hi-Ryze’s early catalog are out via the Frame Of Mind and Hi-Ryze labels alongside an early release from Dutch smartypants techno powerhouse U-Trax in the form of Peter Aarsman’s incredible debut EP, which features the spiritual embrace of “1B1 Mesomorph.” Elsewhere, house reissue specialists All That Jelly bring back DJ Duke’s 1992 deep house bomber “I’m In Need 4 U,” including the positively delightful “Deep Instrumental” version. And lastly, R.A.N.D. Muzik Recordings has repressed Cloud City ‘s sole 1997 single, the hazy, unfolding bomber “,” which I couldn’t resist posting up top as it’s, in my mind, the Platonic ideal of “deepness.”
Mojuba sublabel a.r.t.less is always a solid source for thoughtful, if somewhat traditional, dance music and has scored a real triumph with the debut effort from widescreen boffin Vivian Koch. Taking an assortment of genre tropes and blowing them up to IMAX proportions, Koch’s work exudes a supple restraint and an assured, refreshing sense of pacing. When so much contemporary electro can feel overly riff-driven and noodle-y, The Owleon’s six tracks embraces a stylized minimalism that never feels austere. There’s an hint of elegant soap opera melodrama coursing across the record that never threatens to turn maudlin, arising from the record’s more intensely subtle moments, be it the introduction of a snare hit on “The Owl Is Watching You” or the simple, carefree melody that floats above the surface of “Blondy Electrogoerl.” I found myself thinking of Helena Hauff and Analogous Doom, producers whose tracks move at a somewhat less frenetic velocity without sacrificing an ounce of intensity. Absolute belter status.
I’m always surprised by the fact the exceptional Nous Disques label isn’t more of a “household” name as, for my money, they are one of the more consistently inconsistent (or inconsistently consistent?) labels out there, moving erratically across genre from release to release while always remaining on the fringes, be it house, techno, fourth world ambient, or fwd-facing bass music. Last year, the label released two top-notch compilations, Anonymous Delusional Eros and Organized Sound that both managed to achieve something that I hear too little of these days and that was to feature dance music that actually sounded like it was made in the twenty-first century. In addition to having recently released the patchy-yet-promising Stoned Ghost EP by Otik, the label dropped an absolute face melter last month in the form of J - Shadow’s brilliant Dissociations EP. The label describes the producer as existing in the hinterlands between “ambient techno and a hyper-real take on proto-jungle as an alien experience” and that feels as good as anything I might come up with to describe the six tracks featured on the release. With the sonic debris flung from the tracks’ rhythmic exoskeletons at a near-constant rate, Shadow’s productions are not dissimilar to the sonic science being conducted by Lee Gamble’s UIQ label and the sounds emanating from the algorave sect (Renick Bell comes to mind). J - Shadow excels at carving out an inviting middle ground between esoteric sound design and formalist demands, employing conventional-enough melodies and progressions and stretching them over a nonstop succession of pretzeled grooves, rhythmic dead drops, and sudden sonic chasms. Clearly well-versed in many ascendant club vernaculars and knowledgeable of convention, Dissociations rejects any single categorization, reflecting the multiplicitous relativity between truth and genre and will be a welcome addition to the arsenal of those DJ’s who remain focused on articulating what dance music’s future will sound like rather than capitulating to what has already come before.
You might be familiar with Germany’s Midgar Records from last year’s excellent reissue of Susumu Yokota’s seminal Acid Mt.Fuji album or recent platters from the likes of Ruff Cherry and Nuel. The label has kicked off their 2019 with a lovely double back from deep techno wizard Prg/M (née Pier Giuseppe Mariconda) and the Radiant Fields EP sees the producer crafting six immersive cuts of tripping technoid magic. The opening title track is stuffed to the gills with cinematic, skipping rhythms and steely atmospherics while “Hirpinia-231180” is a hovering, Millsian chin-stroker. Elsewhere, like on “Line Fault” and “Fligrei,” he opts for a more traditional 4X4 pulse before delving into one last round of knotted rhythmic alchemy on stand-out “Magnitudo.” Solid wares.
In just a few short years, Belgian STROOM 〰 has established itself as one of the more consistently exciting labels with a catalog that flits between inspired reissues and compilations and wide-ranging contemporary ambient works to posit a world where synth pop, ambient house and techno, trip-hop, and atmospheric soundtracks are all connected by a shared mood. The label’s latest release harkens back to Alain Pierre’s Jan Zonder Vrees OST that occupies the first spot in their catalog, tapping into environmental anxiety and discomfited atmospherics. As Aponogeton, Jachym Vandenabeele takes a painterly approach to creating fluid musical ambiance, building musical furniture bedecked in synthesizer-generated patchwork. On A Place Of Solace, his debut album for STROOM 〰, Vandenabeele takes his sound into the wilderness, taking inspiration from Tarkovsky’s dystopian sci-fi masterpiece Stalker, inviting listeners on a tense yet cathartic journey through The Zone, “a place that disobeys all of our notions of reality, a place both unpredictably dangerous and welcoming to those who find nothing worth living for outside of it.”
The always on-point Italian label Black Sweat has done everyone a favor by uploading their catalog to Bandcamp and I’ve been revisiting a number of favorites from their catalog as well as some records I had overlooked (seriously, I can’t recommend checking out the post-minimalist compositions of Wayne Siegel if you never have, majestic stuff). Anyway, I wrote about David Edren’s DSR Lines project after coming across 2017’s Spoel, but just to recap, he’s a(nother) Belgian synth maven who excels in a post-minimal mysticism that sounds at least partially indebted to Terry Riley’s keyboard work, braiding innumerable strands of rhythm-melodies into compositions suffused by a kosmische-baroque sensibility. Although Edren hasn’t released much since 2016, he did contribute three tracks to the A side of a split with psychedelic droners Bitchin’ Bajas, which make up some of his strongest work to date, opening odyssey “Panorama” sounding like the acid-tested cousin of the Chariots of Fire theme song. Each piece feels resolutely triumphant and organically realized, allowing the listener to observe each melodic seedling travel its own, evolutionary path, like watching a sapling become a mature tree via time lapse photography or collection of tree roots interlocking into a complex network.
Lastly, following on from two essential collections documenting Carl Stone’s twentieth-century output, Unseen Worlds has digitally released the electronic music performer’s first solo album since 2007’s Al-Noor. As I’ve discussed at length before, Stone’s position in electronic music history is an oft-overlooked one that can at least partially be attributed to the studied subtlety of his work, making ample use of samples while applying a minimal amount of surface alteration. When listening to Stone’s back catalog and his new album, I often get an image of someone cutting up a photograph into hundreds of strands and then weaving them back together, the content of the image remaining unaltered while forming a new piece of work. Or, imagine a vase that has been smashed and reassembled, the cracks still visible. In the text on the release’s Bandcamp page, Stone discusses his decades-old method “wherein sound files are metaphorically shattered in time like glass and then reorganized into mosaic patterns.” And that statement really does capture what is happening across the five tracks on Baroo, the listener following Stone in his sonic travels as he takes in ethonographic-like instrument studies, weirdo jazz, and highlife guitars, cutting them up and piecing them back together in a manner that is weirdly unsettling as one strains their inner ear to make sense of what it’s perceiving, resulting in a funhouse mirror effect. It’s a bizarre journey and one worth taking.