Post Tagged pbk

You are your own archive

Monday, 11 November 2011

You Are Your Own Archive

An informal response to David Grubbs’ presentation “Remove the Records from Texas: Parsing Online Archives”, given at the Sound Art Theories Symposium at the School of the Art Institute, Chicago, Illinois, November 6, 2011.
(quotations are taken from a transcript of Grubbs’ presentation at the symposium, not from the paper linked above)

Ubuweb’s Kenneth Goldsmith says “if it isn’t on the internet, it doesn’t exist”. Internet aside, can it exist if it hasn’t been described?

In my time as a creative individual, I have been involved with three international underground art networks: the mail art network, the cassette underground and the netlabel underground, each with its own culture, each having received different responses from academia.

My discovery of the mail art network was a personal revelation and an inspiration for me as a poor, young, creative person. I stumbled onto this network as a ‘zine publisher in the late 1980s, and I continued to work in the mail art net throughout the early 1990s. Via the free and open networking facilitated by the network, I met an large number of enthusiastic creative people, by exchanging art and ideas in written letters. I made some good friends who expanded my worldview and pushed me into creative directions I wouldn’t have otherwise followed. I became a prolific mail artist, mailing out uncounted scads of original work to every name and address I came across. This culminated in my assisting the brilliant mail artist Julee Peezlee in her 1993 mail art exhibition “Cold Snap”, a raw and non-academic approach to art curation with a punk aesthetic.

I was involved in this network for a few years. There was a lot of written documentation floating around the network, and I read all of it that came my way. I noticed over time that almost every piece of documentation mentioned about 4 or 5 different artists exclusively, and never made note of any of my favorite artists, none of the ones I knew. I sought out a few of these “famous” mail artists, and found them incredibly devoted to the networking aesthetic, incredibly giving of their time to any mail artist who came their way. John Held Jr. & Crackerjack Kid were great guys and especially good contacts to have, even if they were so connected with the whole wide network that you couldn’t necessarily get the level of friendly intimacy with them that you could with a lesser-known mail artist.

Over time, this exclusive focus on these few artists began to wear on me, these very few artists who had been canonized were great folks, but they were not the be-all end-all of mail art. When would some of the people I knew get their due? They wouldn’t, of course, these were essentially mail art invisibles. It seemed they were the mail art peasants, just goofing around, not serious. Not able to discuss or defend their work on an academic level. Merely practitioners. I found this narrow historical representation offensive and in an angry response I made my last pieces of mail art, an artistamp which had a stark black and white text stating “Fashion: The Networker Look in Style”, and another stating “I am One of the Mail Art Elite”. With these minor works, distributed to a very few friends, I quit the mail art network for good. I lost contact with many of my mail art friends, but I hope they are doing very well, I have very fond memories of them.

In the meantime, I had found something more personally appealing… the cassette underground. I had been nursing a desire to make music, and I found a group of people using the same network and barter method as the mail art network, but instead of visual art, they traded tapes. I networked the same way I had in the mail art culture, trading with countless artists, making deeper connections with some, and otherwise enjoying single, non-repeated trades with others. My first contact was Terry Burke of Set Cassettes, and not long after I met Ian Stewart of Samarkand / Bizarre Depiction, possibly through Terry, since this was also Ian’s first contact in the network. Ian ended up becoming one of the key figures of the cassette underground by starting a review / interview ‘zine called AUTOreverse which focussed exclusively on the cassette underground, (in the process documenting a small section of the history of tape trading). AUTOreverse followed in the footsteps of Jim Santo’s Demorandom column in Alternative Press and Gajoob magazine’s spotlight on work from the cassette network.

The cassette underground seemed to know that it was a unique phenomenon in the world… when I interviewed the noise artist PBK, whose real name is Phil Klingler, for AUTOreverse issue 12, he said: “What you are getting here is a post-modern response to technology, disenfranchisement and the complications of our age as we move into the 21st century. The cassette underground has created an important body of work, diverse as it may be, that is informed by, and draws from a whole 100 years of modern music theory, and also responds to millenial issues in a profound way. Some of the underground are getting better known, but there are many who dropped-out and disappeared. There is a wealth of obscure material out there, ripe for rediscovery. Guys like Carl Howard, Al Margolis, Jon Booth, Chris Phinney, any of those who had big tape labels, they must have hundreds and hundreds of tape-only releases in their collections, one day the musicologists will come knocking.”

This final print issue of AUTOreverse was publised in the Spring of 2001, well into the decline of the so called “golden age” of cassette networking, and as yet, the musicologists are still sitting on their hands. The efforts of someone like Carl Howard, whose important and influential tape label audioFile tapes released a massive and diverse collection of weird jazz, rock and noise with attractive tape covers and a fully realized label “personality” has essentially disappeared to history. After a catastrophic computer crash destroyed Howard’s own personal archive in 1999, the label abruptly ceased operations. “Watch fifteen years of ones life vanish… before… your… very… eyes!” Howard emoted during an interview with AUTOreverse online magazine.

Where is the Wikipedia entry for audioFile records? At least there is one for a minor football personality sharing Howard’s name. Phew, we don’t want any of that important minor sports trivia to pass out of our collective memory!

Neither is there a Wikipedia entry for someone like Zan Hoffman, an extremely prolific artist active in the cassette underground, and still active today, whose thousand-plus releases on extremely limited release cassette and CDr have included uncounted thousands of collaborations with artists of both the ‘notable’ and the extremely obscure branches of the musical underground, somehow, his almost inconceivably vast body of work is just not important enough for Wikipedia, nor for academic research. Why not?

Well, why would anyone care? The cassette underground were just a bunch of failed rockstars, pretending they could actually make music, right? The cassette underground wasn’t serious. Not serious music, not serious people, it’s okay if this thing is skipped over, no one needs to write about it, it wasn’t serious, nothing can be learned from it, get it out of my face.

After the advent of the internet essentially destroyed the cassette underground network in the early 2000s, and after it began to reform itself in the early 2010s, Don Campau, himself a longtime participant in the cassette network, took it upon himself to document and archive the experiences of those involved in the cassette underground, I’m sure as a reaction to noticing the obvious lack of interest from academia, popular culture and pretty much everyone not thus far described. The cassette culture had to archive itself or else it would disappear to history. Campau’s “The Living Archive of Underground Music” began in November of 2009, and, as he notes in an email, was conceived “not as an academic history, but as a personal reflection.” The website contains brief interviews and essays from many of the personalities who had been involved in the cassette underground, each giving personal accounts of their experiences. As Campau describes in the mission statement of the Living Archive website: “Simply put, “Cassette Culture” was a group of individuals worldwide who recorded their own music at home and distributed it themselves. This all began at the beginning of the 1980’s when home recording devices became affordable and cassettes were plentiful and cheap. These were not “demos” but fully realized art projects primarily traded with other like minded artists around the world. This was a decentralized scene although there were publications that addressed it at the time.”

Noting the near impossibility of archiving the cassette underground’s activities, especially so long after the fact, Campau’s mission statement is humble: “The Living Archive is not meant as a comprehensive history but more about my personal relationship with the people who participated in this home recorded music scene. That being said, there is a history to be gleaned from these memories and of the others who have helped me out here.” Campau is filling an important void in the archiving of the history of the huge output of this art network, but in some senses the cassette underground is being underserved by this single individual’s efforts. In asking Campau if he knew of other efforts to preserve the history of tape culture, he noted the online forum at and also the work of (curiously enough) mp3 blogs.

Academia has ignored this subcultural phenomenon for the most part, perhaps now that someone has begun to archive some of the personal histories of these tape traders, this will change. On the other hand, is it perhaps a good thing to be ignored? The danger exists of non-authorities who become authorities by dint of being the only one writing about a subject, this could lead to a focus on a select few artists who would then be described for posterity, and the remainder of artists would be alluded to in the vaguest possible way. “This important person did this, this important person did that… and other stuff happened (unimportant by implication)” Follow up academic research might echo this approach, citing the previous paper, naming the same names, and then an echo chamber effect would set in, elevating the work of a few, and ignoring the huge number of artists who poured their creative lives into this medium, and into this culture. Is this better than being forgotten?

This nightmare scenario is not what happened in the mail art network, each of the “famous” people in the network were doing very important work to document the movement from within, so they deserved all the credit they got. The problem existed that very few scholars delved any deeper, which is still an injustice.

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, the growing access to the internet, not to mention the affordable access to CD-r recording technology sent the cassette underground into a decline that all but destroyed it for a time. The letter writing and tape trading that people had engaged in for decades suddenly seemed hopelessly antiquated with the ease of email.

It was a confusing time for me, personally. I was still interested in the personal connection that could be had with a trade of a physical product, so I clung to the CDr media for a while. I set up my label, Vuzh Music, online with a catalogue of purchasable CDrs, and an open invitation to trade. I began a project called Vuzh Underground Editions, which re-released some of my favorite recordings from the cassette underground on CDr. Eventually I grew frustrated with the unreliability of the CDr medium, and felt guilty about selling and trading such a flawed product. I happily migrated my whole catalog into the netlabel underground when it began, and I haven’t regretted it a bit.

The netlabel underground sprang up organically, and curiously contained among its participants very few who had been involved in the cassette underground, certainly no one I had known. Home recording musicians who might at a different time have joined the cassette underground, instead saw the internet as an easy and quick way to transfer their work from composer to listener directly, without having to produce a solid object to mail off. From the earliest days of the netlabel phenomenon, artists gave their work away for free, primarily in the mp3 format. Netlabels rapidly adopted the Creative Commons as a new form of licensing upon its founding in 2001 by Lawrence Lessig, Hal Abelson and Eric Eldred. With its focus on attribution of authorship, in opposition to the tradeable ownership certificate of the copyright, the various Creative Commons licenses offered netlabels a working model for pridefully claiming authorship of a commercially-free product that nevertheless held value.

Where the cassette underground was based upon a barter system, a tape for a tape, or a CDr for a CDr, a letter accompanying each… the netlabel underground eschewed the barter system being that there was no physical object to trade. The best way to distribute your music, if you were an unknown artist, was to give it away for free, the fewer barriers the better. The standard American dream of the rock and roll musician: “submit a demo, get signed, record an album, get your promo photos done after teasing your hair up & wearing special clothing, tour, become famous, screw lotsa groupies, do drugs, get STDs, be interviewed by Rolling Stone magazine, live happily ever after” had been completely subverted in favor of the more straightforward model “record the music that you want to, no matter what it sounds like, release it for free, if someone digs it, then cool… if not then fuck ’em”, a sentiment originating in the cassette network.

Sadly however, by making music available over the internet, the one-on-one networking and letter exchange of the cassette underground -the human element- was lost. For me, though, it was better to have anonymous downloaders accessing my music without any comment than no one at all. Even if there wasn’t a community and there wasn’t much networking, the netlabel model was, I felt, the best there was at the time for an unknown experimental, electronic composer of abstract music.

With the rise in popularity of social networking tools Twitter and Facebook in the late Zeroes, however, the community aspect of the netlabel underground did finally begin to form. Having started with an “everyman for himself” attitude, netlabels and artists naturally gravitated toward connectivity, at first to grow the base to whom they could promote their own releases, and later to share experiences and thoughts with their colleagues on creative work in this new framework.

Netlabels took some of their form from the standard music label model, but at a more homegrown, DIY level: individuals curating collections of musical releases based on a set of highly personal aesthetic values. There are netlabels for ambient music, noise, dub, abstract experimental, pop music, and probably any other genre you can think of. Each label with its own personality, Just Not Normal, Earth Mantra, Modisti, BFW Recordings, Petcord (just to name a few at random that I personally have enjoyed) each have their own unique flavor based on the curatorial preferences of the label heads. While the promotional focus is always on the newest release, the older releases remain available in perpetuity for free download (in most cases). The netlabel list maintained by David Nemeth at the Acts of Silence blog lists over five hundred netlabels at the time of this writing.

November 5th & 6th, 2011 I attended the Sound Art Theories Symposium, hosted by the School of the Art Institute in Chicago, Illinois. I attended as part of my research into sound art with the goal of curating an exhibition in the Spring of 2012 as a student project, an independent study which grew out of the Museum Studies class taught by Jennie Kiessling at Front Range Community College in Fort Collins, Colorado.

Among the thirteen presentations at the symposium was one by David Grubbs, Associate Professor in the Conservatory of Music at Brooklyn College, CUNY, former member of the rock groups Gastr del Sol, Bastro and Squirrel Bait. Grubbs’ presentation was titled “Remove the Records from Texas: Parsing Online Archives”

Grubbs describes the concept of archive as being in flux with the advent of the internet, with websites like Ubuweb, and various mp3 blogs serving as new kinds of archives, making available otherwise rare or impossible to find experimental music, film and various documents. These online archives do not by any stretch offer the promise of eternal availability, as is usually expected with an archive. As Grubbs notes “Unlike online sources that stream only content, Ubu allows its users to download its files. Ubu makes no promises about its futurity, and the point, the unspoken point seems to be a desire that files should be downloaded and saved and not be presumed to float in the data cloud in perpetuity.”

Grubbs’ presentation included a description of online archives as reducible to three forms: “1.) Online archives, authorized or not, organized around a particular artist, an institution or the vision of one or more curators, 2.) Blogs that are usually the work of a single individual, that are more informal, but often substantial in terms of the amount of recordings hosted, and 3.) File sharing that occurs with little or no contextualizing apparatus.”

Where, I wondered, are the netlabels in this description?

If the definition of archive is fluid enough to contain mp3 blogs and Ubuweb, both of which are iffy when considering futurity, and both of which collect contemporary work from the ‘now’, if we’re considering online archives of experimental sound, then why are netlabels excluded?

Grubbs explains: “In the chapter entitled ‘The Historical A Priori and the Archive from the Archaeology of Knowlege’, Michel Foucault describes the archive as fundamentally separate from the discourse of the present. In Foucault’s words the archive is ‘a privileged region, at once close to us, and different from our present existence. It is the border of time that surrounds their presence which overhangs it and which indicates its otherness. It is that which outside ourselves delimits us. It is not possible for us to describe our own archive since it is from within these rules that we speak.’ Now, adhering to Foucault’s fundamental distinction, that the archive is separate from the present that the archive defines the discourse of the present through the separateness, it would seem inapt to speak of any of these examples as archives. They participate in the discourse of the present by circulating work made by living artists.” So obviously, some forgiving is being done to include Ubuweb, and mp3 blogs into the category of archives, but this same generousness isn’t expansive enough to include netlabels?

I had an emotional response upon hearing this presentation, and confronted Grubbs, ineloquently, with my concerns; however, in reflection, my beef is not really with him or his presentation at all. I suspect (although he did not explicitly admit this) that Grubbs may have simply been ignorant of the netlabel underground, and not, as I had concluded in the heat of the moment, that he excluded them because netlabels are not serious, are comprised of silly, goofy people pretending to be composers of experimental music, not in his purview, get it out of his face. Given my experience with academic documentation of the mail art underground, and the cassette underground, this highly suspicious and emotional response from me was to be expected, I suppose, perhaps overly earnest and undisciplined, but hey, that’s me.

In a brief discussion with Grubbs after the presentation, he defended his exclusion as primarily an instinctive place to draw the line for the purposes of his paper, and suggested that the difference may be that archives collect primarily work otherwise unavailable from the past and that netlabels don’t seem much different from standard labels in making available primarily new work, (never-minding that mp3 blogs sometimes collect and make available some work so new it hasn’t yet been officially released) He requested more info from me and feeling rather intimidated I kinda choked up. I feel like an idiot for stumbling all over my own words and not making a watertight case for netlabels when the perfect opportunity arose. Some ambassador for netlabels I am!

The fact remains that there is a level of perceived amateurism that excludes netlabels from “serious” consideration. Ubuweb, (from my perspective I find this strange), considers itself an amateur operation. Grubbs’ presentation quotes Ubuweb founder Kenneth Goldsmith: “We know that Ubuweb is not very good, in terms of films the selection is random and the quality is often poor, the accompanying texts to the films can be crummy, mostly poached from whatever is available on the net. Ubu is a provocation to your community to go ahead and do it right, do it better, to render Ubu obsolete.” I somehow doubt, however, that Ubuweb would deign to archive the work of any currently practicing netlabel artist… is it because netlabel music exists on an amateur stratum below its own? I suspect this may be partially the explanation, but the more important one is that Ubuweb probably recognizes that netlabels themselves are their own archive, and they don’t need Ubuweb to document their history. (Yet?)

Are netlabels archives?

Thomas Park, who records under the names Mystified and Mister Vapor, (to pick one good example from among very many who would just as easily fit the bill) has a mission for near total availability of his own prolific creative work. By his estimation about 80% of his entire body of work (no accurate discography exists online of Park’s prolific work, so it’s impossible to give a count) is currently available on some format, about 80% of that hosted on about two dozen netlabels. Of the work that’s not officially available, he says, the work is still accessible and can be sent out to interested listeners upon request in any format they desire. As anyone who is involved in the netlabel underground can attest, Park is a tireless artist, and even more tireless when it comes to assuring the availability and public awareness of his output. Is he merely a self-publishing artist, is he not the archivist of the work of Thomas Park? Who else is going to archive the work of this artist?

David Nemeth’s recently initiated blog “the Easy Pace” is essentially a monthly aggregator of new releases in the vast netlabel landscape, with artist, titles and cover art presented along with a link to the main release webpage. As long as this project continues, it provides a wealth of quantifiable historical data documenting the releasing activity of the scene. While only going back to August 2011, its intentions could be easily divided between alerting potential listeners to new music and archiving the information for the future. Other similar aggregators exist (although Nemeth’s is the most informative by including cover art) and hopefully in comments some people will list some of these others.

And what of netlabels themselves, each housing their own unique catalogs stretching back to the beginning of the movement? The promotional focus may be on the newest work, but these sites continue to host the older works and assure their availability on the same terms of service as the new work. Who else is going to store this stuff for history but the labels that originally released it? Nemeth points out in an email “Very recently Abracadabra went silent and now all their releases are gone. They didn’t use or sonic squirrel etc. Meanwhile, look at Digitalbiotope (one of my favorite dead labels), all their stuff is still available.” When a netlabel goes dark, sometimes another will pick up their catalog and sometimes the label acknowledges itself as an archive and stays live, but unchanging, but sometimes the material is simply lost for good, because no other functioning archive exists.

I guess what I’m really shooting for with this blog post is a wake-up call to the netlabel underground, much more this than some demand of attention from the academy. Are you going to wait for the bearded men in the corduroy suits with elbow patches to describe your history? Are you going to wait until the fog of time clouds your own memories before bothering to document your history? Netlabels are a significant phenomenon, the music and culture are unique and important to this time in history, whether or not popular culture, or the academy notices it. This thing you are involved in matters, and it belongs to you.

Will a Don Campau of netlabels arise? Will scads of netlabel versions of Don Campau’s archive arise? Will we allow more netlabel catalogs to disappear with nothing more than a shrug of the shoulders? Will we begin to write our own history in such a way that it is less likely to be misrepresented? Where do we even start? Well, I can suggest one thing: what about that Wikipedia entry on “netlabels”, are we all happy with that description that someone else has written about our culture? If not, then what are we going to do about it?

And then, more importantly, what next? You tell me.

Postscript added 11/16/2011:
David Grubbs has responded in an email to the question of whether the exclusion of netlabels in his paper was intentional :

“Thanks so much for sending me the link to your post. I really enjoyed it and I learned a lot from it. You are absolutely correct that I didn’t understand the reference to netlabels. To be frank, it wasn’t even a term that I was familiar with — and you (and one of the folks in the comments section) are right that my not considering netlabels within the context of the category “archive” comes entirely from my unfamiliarity with the practice.”

This brings up another point that I don’t touch on in this essay, but have frequently stated in other forums, and that is that -as a community- it is needed for us to stop ONLY self-promoting, and begin to raise the overall awareness of the whole netlabel underground. Using all of your efforts only to promote yourself while ignoring the frame on which you hang your own work is a disservice to the whole community, and ultimately a disservice to yourself. Raise awareness of the netlabel underground and we ALL benefit.

Do you think you’re just some brilliant composer flying solo, or are you part of an international cultural movement? If you’re a bootstrapper then good for you hope you do well, but I’m probably not interested to follow your work anymore. I’m proud to benefit from the netlabel community, and I will do what I can to boost it whenever I can.

Now Playing: Netlabels

Wednesday, 09 September 2011

I joined Google+ recently, (here’s my profile: C. Reider on G+).

I struggled for a while trying to think of what to use the new social network for, then I decided to just start an opt-in circle with a link to whatever random netlabel thing I was listening to at the time. I began by making tiny little comments on the music. Commentlets? Commentitos?

In time this became short first-listen impressions, then running commentaries and finally I started approaching full-scale reviews. I’m probably scaling back again now, maybe just a link, otherwise I’ll think I have to review everything, and listening will be a chore, like back when I actually DID have to write reviews.

Still, I feel this kind of thing should probably be broadcast to a wider audience than the 20 people who are in the circle that can see my “Now Playing Netlabels” reviews, so I’m cutting & pasting them here with added hyperlinks.

Taken as a whole, this is a skatter-brained bunch of not-reviews with the occasional review thrown in for good measure. Some are totally uninformative, but there’s always the link. (well, not ALWAYS).

Now go listen to some of this stuff.

NP: Chiodata – Copla (it’s pretty much bad-ass, so far). Also the netlabel name Cocodriller is kinda funny in a bad bi-lingual pun way.

NP: Restive – Generative 2 (Gorgeous spacious industrial-drone stuff by Modisti labelmate Restive)

NP: Various Artists – Dead Voices: White Noise out on one of my favorite netlabels of all time Just Not Normal!

It’s got Miquel Parera Jaques on it, and I’m totally enamored of his music for the last year or so. Damned cool compilation. I’m pretty certain it’s going to make an appearance on my best of 2011.

NP: Jeff Sampson’s SoundCloud page.
This ambient music dude lives in Colorado Springs and he is someone who takes time to promote music that he himself doesn’t make, which makes him immediately cool in my book. I’m tired of guys who do nothing but self-promote. I rather like his stuff, too.

Viva Colorado weirdos!

NP Noise Research – A Proof of Fermat. I have no snarky, nor informative commentary, as I’ve only just begun to listen to it for the first time. … Ah, well it sounds a bit formless and improv-like. I’m not sure if it’ll congeal into something or just go on like this, it’s nice & whooshy though.

ETA: It actually reminds me a little of a less musical Supersilent.

NP Grégory David – Artificiel

Giving it a first spin now. Sorta elecronic experimental music with an obscure techno flavor, like Alva Noto or Ryoji Ikeda? Probably bad comparisons. I missed the first half, but the later bits are nice.

Warning: the link I’m listing here has an auto-play widget.
The Artificiel album is there if you scroll down.

The Nowaki netlabel has a really nifty little streaming player with a way cool waveform animation. Extra points!

NP: Elma – Kotohogi

Zow! Exceptionally harsh noise. I figured that’s what it’d be once I saw the Japanese bondage cover art. You know, I love seeing this kind of sound art in live performance, (seriously, I absolutely adore it) but it loses something in recording. Still, I think everyone should own at least one really amazingly harsh noise thing, in case you get in a mood where head-clearing might come in handy. If you’re not up to buying something from Merzbow, well, this here’s free.

ETA: The more time I invest in this, the better I like it.

Now Playing: Cezary Gapik, celebrated Polish experimental composer. He has a new release called ‘1998’, apparently a re-release of works from that time period. The first track sounds like someone slowly, rhythmically pounding the inside of a water tower.

It’s a bandcamp release, name your own price (incl. zero), you don’t have to give your email.

Now Playing: AODL – Wanted Valley
We saw this SLC Utah based noise artist at Denver Noise Fest, he was a stand out. This is nice, textural, harsh noise with a relaxed pace and varied electronic noises.

NP: Humeka – m_area

Looks like they’re getting all Scanner up in this bitch: “All the samples in this release were captured through some kind of communication device (i.e. mobile phone, answering machine). From the streets of Paris to the private messages, this is a very sophisticated and tasteful way of putting technology to good use. Go listen! ” — I’m streaming on Sonic Squirrel.

Now Playing: Coppice – Vinculum (Courses)
The reputable longtime netlabel Stasisfield comes out of its… er… stasis with this 20 minute electronic composition.

Its high electronic tones remind me of a kind of miniature, fairy-version of a hurdy gurdy or harmonium.

Now Playing: PBK / Das / Jeph Jerman / John Hudak – Chain Mail Collab 1988

(these won’t all be new things, you know)

A 1988 rarity reissued on PBK’s blog in late 2010. A dense, churning, rumbling bunch of industrial racket. I’m particularly a fan of PBK & Jeph Jerman (I’ve had the privilege of seeing Jeph perform several times), so yeah I like it. Not the best work by any of these artists, but certainly good for fans of lo-fi industrial noise. Which I guess I am.

Now Playing: Noine – Cheap Non-Routine

Strange, reedy, warbling techno-pop. Straddles some sort of line between generic promotional/instructional video soundtrack music, and outright unusualness.

At least based on the tracks I’m streaming now, this is pretty fun stuff…

On Sunday Recordings… apparently a Japanese netlabel. Hadn’t heard of them before.

Now Playing: Noine – NOI-mprovisation.

Same group / netlabel as the last one. Had to listen to a little bit more from these guys ’cause they kinda weirded me out. This is calmer, I’d be hard pressed to call it an ambient improv, but the pulse is pretty subdued. Kind of nice, especially in contrast to the last thing.

Now Playing: Le Berger – Shhhh… even more peaceful (A remix, of sorts)

Well then, it appears that this is a stretched out version of Miles Davis’ famous “quiet” work “In a Silent Way” It’s about thirty minutes of whoosh, which does, nevertheless, sound familiar and cozy to anyone who cherishes Miles.
(Link no longer exists – Taken down by copyright worries?)

Now playing: Radere – Maple Drip

Suggested by Kevin Stephens of Saffron Slumber, this 2010 release is a fine bit of latter-day guitar looping á la Fripp’s soundscapes. I wonder why so many ambient guys are using this method, and not very many (OK, none?) are doing the old-school Frippertronics method with two reel-to-reels strung together? OK, so two reel-to-reels is a pain in the arse, but LISTEN to the early Frippertronics, it sounds awesome… I like antique looping better than modern looping, so sue me.

OK, so now that I’ve spent this whole post complaining, I should probably point out that this is rather lovely music. Starts off sparse and builds into a huge wall of shifting tone with little blippy flowers stickin’ out of it. Just like it should.

After posting this, I remembered that I met this guy at Communikey 2011. Nice fellow.

Now Playing:
Alura Une – “Dybbuk” (as reported on by the ever-reliable Disquiet)
Purportedly this is drone metal, and who am I to dispute that? It is droney, and it does have heavily distorted guitar.
What I like about this is how the music is essentially minimal, but at all times it feels exceedingly shakey and uncertain, as though it might either build in intensity or fall apart completely at any given moment.

This is just one nine minute long track. Free to stream or download, goes w/o saying.

Now Playing:
Various tracks by Ground Zero Mosque on SoundCloud

He lists all of his stuff as “noise”. Someone recently commented about the narrow connotations of the word “noise”, how it evokes total, screaming, high-decibel assault only. I think that is a true thing to say about what the word “noise” evokes, but it is not true about the actual music you will find that describes itself as “noise”. The more you are exposed to noise music, the more you realize what a big tent the genre can be. I could see an ambient musician successfully courting a noise audience, while the converse is obviously not true. This says something, but I think I’ll avoid saying it aloud.

So this is “noise” music. It is comfortable with itself as noise, and I am comfortable with it as noise.

NP: The SoundCloud page of douglasmseidel

Experimental music comes in lotsa different flavors, not just the noisy, droney stuff that I tend to prefer.

This guy’s SoundCloud has a few different variations… for his “songs”, he builds upbeat, jazzy, vaguely avant-proggy groove-beds over which a very young boy improvises some hilarious melodic flights of fancy. At times this reaches a manic blend that makes me think of a weird collaboration between Bob Drake and Aphex Twin.

More introspective and atmospheric are his several banjo reveries with modular synth oscillations going on in the background.

Definitely different, and worthy of a listen.

ETA: My friend Dave Seidel, aka Mysterybear is this guy’s brother… he informs me that Doug was in the incredible RIO-ish slash No Wave-ish band No Safety. I completely loved that band’s album “This Lost Leg” back in the nineties.

NP: John Kannenberg – Three Hours of Infinity

Three separate hour-long recordings of John Kannenberg meditatively scooting a charcoal pencil attached to a fishing line across a piece of paper to make shapes like a circle, or the symbol for infinity. He did 100 hours worth of these many-hour-long drawings, recording each one. This release documents three drawings, three hours.

As far as sonic varity goes, you’re not going to find much in these three hours, there is background hum, there is the skritching and skittering of the charcoal pencil, sometimes there is a low frequency ebb of a passing car. Sonic variety is not really the point. This release shares a meditative art experience at its most intimate, where the pencil meets the paper. The detail is such that you can visualize the shape that is being drawn with each piece.

It’s not so much hypnotizing, as coaxing your focus to remain in the present, staying perpetually at the front edge of the line.


Yes, you read that right, I’m Now Playing a band called ‘NP’. I imagine that’s about as confounding a name as it is un-googleable.

The album is called “Couleur ACSII” and it’s out on the Petcord netlabel.

The sound is post-IDM, clinical, mechanical sound assemblies, with more than a hint of rhythm, but such rapid changes of scenery that there is never a groove to get into. MRI-bop on speed? Laser-cutter tango-spasms? Manic composing, for sure. This is my first listen so I am hoping that structure becomes more apparent with further listening. I will be listening again, because it’s an intriguing set of whooshes, buzzes and bloops.

NP: Jeff Sampson – “Some Are”

A “space music” piece that’s quite nice. I was certain this was some sort of derivation of the David Bowie track of the same name, but it turns out it is not.

Now Playing: Bob Ostertag – Motormouth

Plucky analog percolations from this guy and his Buchla 200E.

I like it.

NP: Mystified – Stress Test

Lovely hybrid of American krautrockish drone slash industrial. I like the mixture of minimal musical themes plus drone plus phonography with samples.

You’ll also find a bit of repetitive and slightly unsettling porn-funk. I think I remember reading that Plaid or someone like that did music for pornos for a while. I wonder what it pays? Now that I think about it, it was probably Matmos, don’t you think?

PBK interview

Wednesday, 08 August 2011

I interviewed PBK for AUTOreverse magazine.
This is the second time I have interviewed him, the first was lengthy & comprehensive… this time it’s a lot more laid back, but very interesting & informative.

You should read this:

Abstract Noise Catharsis

Monday, 05 May 2011

I have just released my new album on Vuzh Music:

C. Reider – Owning Extinctions

This collection of recordings was my response to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, and the strong feelings of despair, anger and the shame of sharing some of the blame for a country that consumes a quarter of the world’s oil. Instead of physically assaulting people who pointlessly idle their SUVs for half an hour while waiting for someone to come out of the store, I made this album.

Underwater Plume by vuzhmusic

Includes sound contributions from PBK, John Ingram, John Kannenberg, Kristina Spurgin and Joe Barton

Best of Netlabel Releases 2010

Sunday, 12 December 2010

It was a good year for netlabel releases, and that is for certain!
I mean it: download everything on this page. You had better.

We’ll start with a brief roundup of my releases this year and then move on to my favorite releases by other artists.

It was a bit of a sparse go-round for Vuzh Music this year, but I did put out a really great remix of a split tape from 1991 by PBK and Vidna Obmana which I hope you didn’t miss:

C. Reider – Fragment Three Re-Works

Dark Winter netlabel also put out a collaboration between me & Desohll of a longform guitar darkambient piece. Quite dark, somewhat ambient as well.

C. Reider / Desohll – Falling into Disrepair

I’m pretty sure 2011 is going to see a whole lot more activity at Vuzh Music, so watch out!

Now on to my favorite netreleases this year. All but one are free to download. They are presented here in alphabetical order, because I could not rate them, they’re all too good.

Andreas Brandal – Breaking a Mirror
Calm cinematic soundtrack-ish atmospheres and scenarios. It is constructed like a kind of collage music, but breaks into intimate little musical themes with real instruments. Quite lovely. I will need some more of this composer’s work.

Das, Jeph Jerman, John Hudak, PBK – Chain Mail Collab June 28, 1988
Old school looping industrial noise. This sound never gets old for me.

Christian Doil – Eis
A chilly collection of pinging synth tones, plucky percussives and arctic belltones working through fluctuating musical themes while accompanied by icy, ghostly drones. The crystal cathedral, indeed.

The Euphoric Hum – A Circle of Equal Altitude
Churning noisy ambience that intensifies and dissipates in dramatic ways. New sounds continually enter the mix, keeping things interesting. A sort of diffuse industrial/minimal techno throb emerges from the ambient noise.

Fosel – Problem of Universals (C. Reider Remixes)
Is it bad form to nominate this as a best of 2010 when it’s a remix of my own music? Well, for me it honestly is a great album. Ambient beat music done beautifully.

Gurdonark – Butterflies of North Texas
Gurdonark’s unique brand of sampling-synth musical fancies takes a move into slightly darker territories than last year’s wonderful “Seven Virtues”. Don’t look for scary dark ambient or anything though! Self-described “kid music” with odd modes, interesting sounds and unexpected changes.

The Implicit Order – s/t
I’ve been a full-throated advocate for the music of Anthony Washburn for years. This new effort does not disappoint. His haunting blend of looping samples alternate between creepy and jarring, and is always intriguing. “Dumb Generation” = great song title!

Miquel Parera Jaques – nx004_Automatic
Tinnitus drones moving along algorithmic flight paths. Computer music for hypnotizing organic life forms.

John Kannenberg – Oculus
The basis of this album is a set of site recordings of various video projection mechanisms in art museums. High strength of concept and execution. Those gorgeous ultra high frequencies in “Television Monitor”, jeez, how did he do that so beautifully?

Christopher McFall – A Long Time Running for the Suicide Strays
Sepia loops of tones & textures clustering and spreading apart. Unmissable.

Meteer – Unless
Blocks of odd samples move in rhythmic patterns a la Biosphere or Taylor Deupree. Somehow, even with all the ring modulation and lo-fidelity and occasional distortion, (not to mention lack of overt beats) it still feels like a lush ambient techno piece.

Mutamassik – That Which Death Cannot Destroy
Messed up hip-hop instrumental music with middle Eastern samples, the beats start off totally mutant and then they go and mutate some more. Fans of Muslimgauze will enjoy this.

Mystified – A Pale But Lasting Hope
Mystified puts out a lot of good stuff, and then he puts out some fucking great stuff. This release falls into the latter category. Rattling percussion elements and zigzagging synthetics form imaginary sonic structures. Loops that fall out of sync. Among my top favorite things I’ve ever heard from this artist. Please note that this release is on Magnatune, and so it streams freely, but you need to pay a $15 fee before you can download (but then you can also download everything else in their catalog).

Kurt Nimmo (Fosel) – Complex Silence 8
No fair, Mr. Fosel made it to the list twice this year! This guy puts out some great damned percussive ambient music. Includes a remix of Phillip Wilkerson and two remixes of C. Reider. Bonus points for the Kurt Vonnegut reference. Not sure whom to credit, because the cover says Fosel and the ID3 tags say Kurt Nimmo. Ah well.

Olifaunt – Innocent of the Smoke and Noise
Olifaunt just keeps improving and improving. I think this is the best outing yet from this composer. Extremely minimal, quiet, calming string work with elements of drone/trance and musical progression. Very pretty ambient album.

PBK – Appeal
A newly remastered digital re-release of a cassette from 1989. Early PBK tapes were pretty heavily loved by me, so it’s great to hear them again all cleaned up! Industrial quality machine noise that accumulates a calmed atmosphere better than most ambient music… pricks at your imagination.

V/A – Despite the Downturn: An Answer Album
Marc Weidenbaum’s sonic activism compilation reacting to an article by Megan McArdle in the Atlantic Monthly, in which artists used the article’s accompanying illustration as a graphic score. Nice concept, and lots of cool music on here, including one piece by yours truly.

V/A – No-R-Mal II
The only person that can out-do Mark Stolk, it appears, is Mark Motherfucking Stolk! His five hour long compilation of netlabel artists from last year was followed up by a SEVEN hour long compilation this year… seven fucking hours of cool underground music, as good an overview of the netlabel underground as you can get, period.

Fragment Three Re-Works

Monday, 07 July 2010

I’ve just released my newest recording, compositions based on twenty-year-old tracks by both P B K and Vidna Obmana!

Vidna Obmana is as close to a household name for ambient music as you can get, and he was gracious enough to not only let me transform his music from pretty calming ambient music into spiky / noisy / weird not-quite-ambient music, but he okayed its release for free on my netlabel!

P B K is a highly regarded noise musician, he and I have worked together somewhat frequently over the years, most recently on the collaborative CD “Discorporate“. His music is a constant source of inspiration to experimental musicians worldwide.

The two of them released a split tape in 1991 called “Fragment 3“. This new recording is a track-by-track deconstruction of each song, rendering something new with the raw material provided by these two incredible artists.

With amazing artwork by Anna Guseva, and music by turns frightening and mesmerizing, this one is not to be missed by any lover of experimental noisy ambient music.

artist: C. Reider
title: Fragment Three Re-Works
format: mp3
keywords: experimental, noiseambient, drone

Download the whole thing here

Review of PBK/C. Reider Collab

Friday, 01 January 2010

Heathen Harvest posted a review of my collaboration with PBK that was put out this last Summer by Impulsy Stetoskopu

It’s kind of a funny review. It makes it sound like PBK was knocking on my door at all hours all doe-eyed hoping for a collaboration, and I was cruelly turning him down for ten years. The actual story is that Phillip had done several mixes from sources I sent him towards the goal of a collaboration. Those mixes appear on the CD as the first, fourth and seventh tracks. I was really impressed with those mixes, and I didn’t feel originally that I could match the quality of them, and so I kinda psyched myself out. Ten years later, I snapped out of it! So it goes.

Meanwhile, here’s the review, there are only a couple of copies left with me (here), I don’t know for sure, but PBK might have some left if I run out, regardless they’re going fast!

Artist: Split Album / Collaboration
Title: PBK + C. Reider – Discorporate
Label: Impulsy Stetoskopu Records Poland
Genre: Drone
Track Listing:
1-7: Untitled

Over the last decade, drone machine PBK has been trying to get the attention of C. Reider in hopes of doing some sort of musical collaboration. Alas, nothing ever came of this correspondence. But hold on there, the story’s not done at that point. Earlier this year, Reider finally responded by sending in the mail to PBK a parcel with a finished master in it that would be the building block if you like, the foundation for what has become Discorporate. PBK, the drone-meister of the indie-underground listened to the source material and liked what he heard. What fascinated him most was the mood of the music – a number of untitled mixes that were neo-psychedelic in nature; spacey, ethereal, atmospheric and very ambient-drone oriented.

Well, PBK put in his own two cents’ worth to make it a genuine collaboration and the result is this 7-track drone-lovers wet dream. Something that will numb the mind and body. At certain points he is content with just letting the pre-programmed synthesizers do the work and just twist some knobs to tweak it just so.

C. Reider is a man from Colorado that has been putting his own mark on the drone scene of late. Although Discorporate was recorded on Poland’s Impulsy Stetoskopu record label, Reider records his stuff for the indie label, Vuzh Records. If you go to Reider’s MySpace page you can check out for yourself what he sounds like on his own. No newcomer to the indie DIY drone scene, Reider’s got a lot of brilliant ideas flowing through his head, There again you come to that thin line between genius and madness – is he a brave new world of sound and vision or just a nut who’s warped brain has turned him into a nightmare soundtrack-making machine? Hard to tell sometimes, but the answer is definitely the former. Just take a listen to his “October22wCR-78”, the first track on his front page, profile MySpace playlist, or the following cut, “February 14 f TR-606”.

What these guys may lack in imagination in naming their songs, they make up for with the little nuances and tics here and there throughout; because really, without a little something spicy mixed in at certain (layered) levels, the “drone” aspect of it all becomes a bit, well droll after a while. So the musical marriage of these two drone and experimental music machine-toolers reflect a future that is both enticing, ominous and right on the knife’s edge – anything can happen (and usually does).

Favorite Net Releases 2009.

Tuesday, 01 January 2010

You know how you’re like a netlabel and stuff, and you release some new recording, and you can see from your stats that only one guy listened to it? I might have been that guy!

Here were my favorite netlabel releases of 2009, all are freely downloadable, so maybe YOU can be hit number TWO on someone’s statcounter!

1. Gurdonark – Seven Virtues
At a time when it would have been much more fashionable to put out an album dedicated to the seven deadly sins featuring dark and gloomy doom sounds, this charming collection of light musical fancies celebrates what’s to be admired about the human spirit. (some of Gurdonark’s thoughts on making this album)

2. Hannah M.G. Shapero (a.k.a. Altocumulus)My Name is Marietta Cashman
Not many of us can claim to have recorded experimental music on a Buchla modular synthesizer in the late sixties when merely an adventurous teenager, but Hannah Shapero can. Culled from forgotten tape reels, unheard for 40 years, this treasure of naive noodling sounds fresh and innocent, a stark contrast to modern noodles by hipster cognoscenti. At the moment the accompanying photo of Hannah was taken in 1970, in her futuristic silver jumpsuit and glasses in front of the synth modules, she looks like she may have been the coolest nerdy girl in the universe. Modern Noodles by Hipster Cognoscenti would make a damned fine band name.

3. Mystified – Collusion (with PBK, the Implicit Order, KR-Ohm & Kwalijk) – A collection of guys I admire working with sound sources provided by another guy I admire. This is a collection of the kinds of sounds I love, loopy and squiggly and gritty and crunchy. Quietnoise of the highest order!

4. Various Artists – No-R-Mal
Oh, hullo! What’s this? FIVE FUCKING HOURS of top notch weirdness from 50 underground artists? I keep coming back to this and finding new gems all the time. Stunning.

5. Chubby Wolf – Meandering Pupa
A brief collection of smooth ambience, dancing slowly, exactly in-between light and dark. The prolific artist behind Chubby Wolf, Dani Baquet-Long, (also one half of celebrated ambient artists Celer) passed away in July, suddenly, at the age of 26. The entire underground network was saddened by the loss.

6. Pavonine – Pavonine
Dark, vaporous, mysterious, alluring? Sure, all that and more.

7. Dexp Lab – Sectors LP
A fine collision of rhythm and noise.

8. PBK – Asmus Sources (plus pretty much everything else on soundgenetic)
I have to admit, somewhat embarrassedly, that when I bought the Asmus Tietchens / PBK collaboration from Realization way back in the early nineties, it didn’t entirely gel for me. I loved both artists apart, but this album just didn’t quite get there. This year, PBK released the sound source files that he originally sent to Asmus for their collaboration, and upon hearing these imagination-pricking sounds, I decided a re-evaluation of the actual collaboration was in order, and now I find that it all makes sense. I’m not at all sure what I was thinking back in the 90s. I may simply not have been mature enough to get it! Now, I love both the collab, and these raw, stripped down sources equally. This is a rare chance to compare and contrast the working methods of two great minds in abstract music.

9. Olifaunt – Three Crows Become Four
Slow growing drone ambient with stringy textures and melancholy tones.

10. Zondagmorgen – La Fin du Monde
So apparently the end of the world is slow, blurred and extremely melancholy. The world ends with us gazing at our shoes. Alright then.

Don’t forget to also check out my blog post about all the stuff I did this decade, including my own big project for 2009, the Electret Quintet.

Mystified – Collusion

Sunday, 11 November 2009

One of my favorite releases of the year has been put out by Mystified on the Clinical Archives netlabel.

Mystified’s “Collusion” collects the work of three of my friends and peers into one densely packed work of abstract quietnoise. I could be subjected to criticism for being biased in this recommendation, because my much admired friends and collaborators Phillip from PBK and Anthony from the Implicit Order, and Patrick from Kwalijk (also known as Desohll, with whom I collaborated on a recent release of darkambient) have contributed some remixes of music by my equally admired friend Thomas from Mystified for this release. Given the participants, one could almost expect nothing but the finest of challenging soundwork that exists on the quiet and calming edge of noise, that weird hybrid area that has been described elsewhere as “noiseambient”. Perhaps I am biased, or perhaps I have managed to make the acquaintances of several extremely talented composers on the outskirts of musical exploration. I tend to think the latter is more the case.

On “Collusion” you will find an admirably cohesive set of gritty, yet calming collection of music that treads the border between ambient music, with its calming background qualities, and noise music with it’s upfront challenging qualities.

Also contributing some remixes to this collection is KR-Ohm whom I don’t know personally, but who holds their own in very respectable company. For that she/he gains my respect.

It’s nearly a perfect music, this.
I could not recommend it more.

First Review of Discorporate

Thursday, 07 July 2009

The first review of the PBK / C. Reider collaboration CD “Discorporate”

Written by Todd Zachritz of Goat’s Den:

Ten years (off and on) in the making, this 7-track, 46-minute collaboration between drone composer C. Reider and abstractionist PBK is a curious and immersive set of noisy, textured, alien soundscapes, with a very proto-industrial feel. Beginning with the befuddling, loopily surreal opener (we’ll call it ‘Track 1’), the album gels into a far-out set of abstracted sounds, textures, and sound collages. Track 4 is a densely-collaged mass of squelch and what sounds like manipulated and layered field recordings. Track 5 is more woozy, like waking up from a horrible anesthesia experience with your head spinning and throbbing. Track 7 wakes from the dream to a lilting, ambient journey at the beach, complete with what seems like distant waves and seagulls (or was I imagining that? Didn’t hear it the second time through). It’s a fitting conclusion to an otherwise disorienting journey, and a marvelous one, at that.

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