By counts of duration and gravity, tape has been the most important instrument in electronic music. It was literally the first technology that was used to make a electronic music, and its experimental potential explored in the early musique concrète and BBC Radiophonic Workshop compositions has helped it sustain as an actively used medium into the 21st century.
Surely as the number of methods of creating electronic music has multiplied, especially in this millenium as the computer has supplanted the main use of tape a recording apparatus, tape appears less and less.
But there are still artists doing inspiring and innovative work with tape, and this post focuses on a few that show new possibilities yet with the oldest electronic music tool. Last decade’s wave of tape noise is more or less avoided here since a lot of that has been properly lionized.
Groove Cafe has covered Whitney Johnson before and probably will again. In her solo work as Matchess, WJ was using tape as a long time as a method of playing back samples, but recently she’s been employing it for long, overlapping tones in an Eliane Radigue type style:
With Laura Callier in Simulation, WJ would record the first half of their set in real time, and then play it back for the second half of their set, creating, yes you guessed it, a live simulation. Erica Gamble has provided both of these videos.
ADT’s new record Insecurities is totally fricking phenomenal. It’s also something of a moment for the Chicago scene. Yes, Insecurities is the culmination of years of work by one of the most exciting bands in town. But it’s also a snapshot of a group of players who come from all these different pockets of the Chicago scene, making the band something of a local super group.
So, to give you a little context for who these people are and what they do. Here are a whole bunch of videos of members of ADT playing in other projects. Most of these videos were shot by the incredibly Erica Gamble. Ok, let’s do this alphabetically by band member.
Jake Acosta writes the songs for and leads the sophisitipop band Famous Laughs.
Smokin’ post-post-Kraftwerk beatdowns from one half of Chicago’s gonzo noise rock /electroterror duo King Tuts Tomb. Kurt Vise has been the relatively recent solo project where Kenny Klemeir dives into some quantized groovin’ over the course of these sets where elements like bass lines, drum machine patterns, and synths blend into each other endlessly. Truly the man machine at work. Very Deutsche.
Kurt Vise might now be known more often as KV, but be sure to check out the tape that he put out on Potions‘ Pretty Alright label last year. Kenny also played on Jake Acosta’s stellar tape on that very label, First Corridor.
Sick Llama is maybe the best noise solo act in America? The best noise comes from Detroit, and Sick Llama may just be the best classic noise jammer jamming in Detroit. Especially the past few years, Sick Llama sets have often veered out of harsh territory into the deep, heavy, and incredibly psychedelic. This video provides a really good example of where he’s at, with plenty of broken tape loops, fried manipulations of synth recordings, and, of course, the clarinet.
Heath Moerland is also proprietor of the soon-to-be-finito Fag Tapes label (once it hits 1000 releases, sometime soon apparently). He is also a purveyor of all sorts of merchandise brandishing the truly excellent graphic that goes “Music is a Natural High.” Sure is.
This was video was recorded by Erica Mei Gamble at an edition of the Resonance Series, booked by Ben Baker Billington and Sullivan Roger Davis.
In a city with one of the most richest active jazz traditions alongside one of America’s most vibrant avant music scenes, a band like ADT may be inevitable. Chicago’s a place where various lines are always intersecting, where sounds and ideas float around and mutate rapidly, resulting in this hodge podge group of free jazz, noise, and pop musicians making the deepest, psych burner free music imaginable. So yeah, ADT’s occurrence in Chicago makes a lot of sense, but their excellence is not a foregone conclusion.
And fuck are they good. They consistently rip at just about any gig they show up at, and this set at The Hideout acts as something of a showcase of all the little niches they have developed over the years. The band’s own Kyle Drouin worked the projections throughout the set. This recording was taken just this past weekend at the record release show for the band’s new album Insecurities on Hausu Mountain. It’s a really really good album, and pretty stunning on account of the fact that the band improvised all of those intricate, melodic compositions on the spot.
This video was shot by Erica Gamble at a show organized by Doug Kaplan.
Incredibly on techno set from Smart Bar’s newish Research & Development series, bringing artists who are a little more explicitly weird or underground in for free Thursday shows. This particular Opheliaxz set is that rare blend of jubilant vibes and super hard techno. So many DJs seem to skew dark when it comes to techno this aggressive, but it just doesn’t have to be that way!
Opheliaxz has also put out some really choice mixes recently through the c- label on Soundcloud. Kelsey Knots, the real name behind Opheliaxz, is also integral to the Terry Radio crew, and therefore involved with some of the best radio on the internet.
Here we have an absolutely killer techno set. Saw this one live in the flesh here in Chicago and I was pretty floored, especially given the probability of seeing a totally meh techno set in a big pseudo-warehouse space with concrete floors. ADAB hails from Cleveland and helps organize the Heaven is in You party at Now That’s Class, very likely a party worth checking out if you’re in the good old CLE. The party put together a comp a couple of years back that has some real Cleveland heavy hitter on it, like Forest Management and Glacial 23.
The Neon Falls party is pretty excellent! It’s organized by dynamic duo Glenna Fitch who DJs as SOLD and Alex Bond, who has been spinning recently as Hi-Vis. This incarnation was especially primo, and it’ll be very exciting to see how the party continues to develop in its second year.
You could have caught me back in 2013 trashing Eurorack culture (especially at that inevitable moment in the middle of the 6-hour long module demo set when some switch was flipped and the 4/4 kick started) and I’ll be damned if you still do not want to get me started on it today.* But sometimes you actually see a damn musician use one of these things and it’s pretty fucking magnificent.
Here we have beloved Chicago scene presence Tim Nordberg presenting a smokin’ hot modular synth composition under his Wish Fulfillment project. Tons of open space that wonderful tension between slow, wistful melody and machine freaking. Kinda one of those you’ll just have to listen to it sets, so go for it. TN was involved with the Rubicon space down in Pilsen while it was open, and is often seen around town working sound and making other people’s DJ sets pop.
This video was shot by Erica Mei Gamble at a show organized by Ben Baker Billington.
*If you want to get me started, get in the Cafe Chat.
Today’s Groove du Jour focuses on some really exciting people making what are often dubbed “live visuals.” It’s a funny term (like, sure we call stuff we smell smells but uhh…) and who knows when it even entered the lexicon, since projections during music have been happening since at least the original hippie moment when liquid light shows were very much so a thing.
Anyway, here are some really good video artists jamming around the wider American experimental scene. This post focuses on some of the fresher faces, and is kind of limited to a certain broad genre of music. Would love to get some videos up here of projections from dance parties and raves, so hopefully that’s part 2. Without further ado:
Christine Janokowicz aka armpitrubber
Christine Janokowicz is a video artist based in Chicago and does a pretty amazing job with a cobbled together array of video synths and computer tools. She’s been all over the local scene recently, lending some psychedelic delights to many of the musicians in the Hausu Mountain nexus. Venomenema is her AV project with Max Allison aka Mukqs. First video courtesy of Erica Mei Gamble.
The last video in the previous entry contains contains very similar imagery to that used in videos Angel Marcloid made to play during her Fire-Toolz live sets. While AM doesn’t really make video work for anyone else, it’s very much so worth highlighting the work she makes for herself. You can see a lot of it posted on the Fire-Toolz YouTube channel. Super wild glitched out vaporwave collage vibes there. AM is also based in Chicago.
Fire-Toolz is a lot of things: vaporwaved nü metal, bionic id, industrial jazz fusion, a reliable source for videos of a CGI baby going in and out of a womb. It’s also the most fully conceived project from the hyper prolific Angel Marcloid, formerly Pregnant Spore and proprietor of the Rainbow Bridge label. Fire-Toolz sets and albums are equally high-production-value affairs, with a savvy sense of structure and more stimulation than an audience could possibly ever crave.
This video is from the Fire-Toolz album release show at the Empty Bottle, for the tape Interbeing. It came out right around the same time as a new release by AM’s vaporwave project ᴡ ᴇ в s ɪ ᴛ ᴇ ツ and precedes another Fire-Toolz LP coming out later this year, which itself follows an Angelwings Marmalade release. Additionally, Suite 309 just put a Fire–Toolz remix tape.