Sam Kidel spars with our surveilling tech overlords, preps new album Silicon Ear on Latency

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All albums are arguably “conceptual” when you consider their necessary derivation from a certain mental state, but Sam Kidel deserves some special attention for releasing music based on ideas that are actually both interesting AND explicit. Take his Disruptive Muzak, which came out two years ago: it’s a fascinating commentary on the simultaneous sadness/annoyance of call centers as a business facilitator.

But if prank-calling those call centers didn’t satisfy your desire for an enjoyable musical critique of 21st century capitalism, the Bristol-born artist has something new prepped for release December 14, via the Paris-based Latency label (which recently sponsored Laurel Halo’s Raw Silk Uncut Wood).

As the label description notes, Kidel’s new release Silicon Ear didn’t require airfare or the typical uniform of a cat burglar; instead, Kidel used the architectural plans to remotely and acoustically model the interior of Google’s data center in Council Bluffs, Iowa. For the album’s first track, he used that acoustical rendering to “simulate the notes, rhythms and melodies reverberating through the maximum security location.” (Take that, intimidating tech monolith masquerading as the harmless search engine of our hearts!)

The second track, meanwhile, revolves around an audio patch created by Kidel that kicks in and obfuscates whenever you try to speak. (More people do need to be creeped out by those smart home devices, after all.)

Pre-order BOTH of those tracks (which together comprise the entirety of Silicon Ear) here and listen to a piece of that Google-related one below:

Silicon Ear tracklisting:

01. Live @ Google Data Center
02. Voice Recognition Dos Attack

Martin Garrix continues his release spree with the highly anticipated collaboration with Dyro, ‘Latency’

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Martin Garrix continues his release spree with the highly anticipated collaboration with Dyro, ‘Latency’6.27.15 Martin Garri OMNIA Photo Credit Al Powers

Martin Garrix has released the third single and music video in his five-day release spree. On October 17, he dropped the highly anticipated track, “Latency” featuring Dyro, which premiered at Tomorrowland 2018.

With massive drum right off the bat, big synths are filtered in through anticipation risers and then fully introduced alongside everyone’s favorite instrument: the cowbell. The energy builds with notes of early electro house from acts like Dada Life and Deorro, and the drop doesn’t shy away from that theme. That big synth is back sounding louder than ever with a thumping kick pounding through the gritty, melodic notes. A second verse introduces a new, wind instrument-sounding synth that’s later accompanied by a vocal melody that congeals into the heavier original melody.

So far, all three music videos were directed by Damian Karsznia, and there’s no reason to think the next two aren’t similar. Glitchy, cool, quick-paced clips battle back and forth, showcasing different people. In the video for “Latency,” parkour clips complement the dangerous, big lead-synth on the track.

Music Review: Laurel Halo – Raw Silk Uncut Wood

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Laurel Halo

Raw Silk Uncut Wood

[Latency; 2018]

Rating: 4/5

This is not who I am. I am not who I appear to be. Yet the fiction of the truer self remains. Am I its remains of me? Am I what shimmers in the mirror still, after you shed a tear then parted? what shivers in the water’s gleaming when the wind surged in search of its longing? a disturbance of dust in an empty room? a quickening of the heart from nobody’s gaze?

An inimitable emptiness at the root of all things brings tears to the eyes as the moon its tide, and I try to focus on this void, to grasp its stillness that might soothe me. Yet like all abysses, it’s a mirror that fragments its illusions. Faced before it, you are a labyrinth, scattering yourself like dust on erstwhile winds.

There are love poems scrawled on prison brick. There’s a bouquet of flowers on the windowsill. A statue shudders while its shadow looms. Streetlamps and angels tremble for a moment, their light wanes then bursts. Why this sorrow? Why this seeking-of-yourself to-your-end? You’ve forgotten yourself, yes, but why then do you fear to be forgotten?

Anxiously swaying back and forth while convulsed in tearful tremors, you dearly hold on to what was lost. It becomes you, the tears and blush, as, the shard of remembrance having been caressed to no resemblance, you have become it. Internalizing loss, what was lost will be interred. You can’t return to yourself. Even though you are yourself, you’re even more the longing for, the being forsaken by your self, lost, looming, immanent.

Yet it’s there — riven from you’ll be given to — your self — and, forgotten, forgiven. Although disintegration’s reach is far, infinite abandonment, even imagined, can’t be contained, but it can be uttered in a cry. All vibrantly tactile, this realization that it took self to cry for a self with which you’re now commingled in song. This threshold past, there’s touch, there’s breath, and nearness, you.

“Stop being holy, forget being prudent,
it’ll be a hundred times better for everyone.

Stop being altruistic, forget being righteous,
people will remember what family feeling is.

Stop planning, forget making a profit,
there won’t be any thieves and robbers.

But even these three rules
needn’t be followed; what works reliably
is to know the raw silk,
hold the uncut wood

Need little,
want less.
Forget the rules.
Be untroubled.”

Laurel Halo announces new mini album Raw Silk Uncut Wood on Latency

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While it was only this time last year that Laurel Halo blew minds on at least five continents with her album Dust, the Berlin-based experimental electronic doyen has already announced another expectation-resetting release with a new, six-track “mini album” titled Raw Silk Uncut Wood, out July 13 via Latency.

We say “expectation-resetting” because you’re already thinking squelchy synths and angelic vocal lines — and you’re wrong. Raw Silk Uncut Wood is an instrumental album that forms “a meditative, cinematic listening experience” inspired by “recent film score work for Metahaven and Ursula Le Guin’s translation of the Tao Te Ching.”

Raw Silk Uncut Wood is ALSO a six-track mini-LP featuring percussionist Eli Keszler (whose name you might associate with the likes of Oren Ambarchi, Loren Conners, Jim O’Rourke, and David Grubbs) and cellist Oliver Coates (who has collaborated with Mica Levi and a little band you might have heard of called Radiohead).

Now that you’ve been properly humbled, stay tuned to Latency for ordering info, and check out the album’s first taste, the titular and delicious-sounding combination of “Raw Silk Uncut Wood,” which you can sample below now.

As some Italian reviewer is bound to say…”bellissimo!” And who are we to disagree with Roman trendsetters?

Raw Silk Uncut Wood tracklisting:

01. Raw Silk Uncut Wood
02. Mercury
03. Quietude
04. The Sick Mind
05. Supine
06. Nahbarkeit

Music Review: Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe – Kulthan

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Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe


[Latency; 2017]

Rating: 3.5/5

I once watched a performance of Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe playing a houseplant. Yes, there was a big box of modules bristling with patch cables, and he was blending in shards of his own voice, as he is wont, but it was the plant — still yet not silent, as much a participant in the proceedings as Lowe — that really attracted my attention. Much in the same way Lowe draws his own voice through his tangled wilderness of modules and cables, the presence of the plant, speckled with electrodes, constitutes a gesture toward synthesis, a meshing, and an assemblage. He’s not the first such person to turn an alocasia into an alto or make a cantor of a cactus, but there is this feeling of approach toward Garsonian plantasia, a world where technology can lend a mouth to the formerly mute.

Kulthan is an old and alien divinity. All cultures that worshipped him/her/it/them recognized only otherness. An invasion performed by immaterial marauders, infecting and investing each captured civilization with a singular fixation. All attendants of Kulthan see a face scarred with seams, a visage seemingly patched together from the potsherds of older, obsolete gods. Luxating each star from the sky and chasing the Lares from their dinner tables, Kulthan unseats and undoes.

Even though that performance was a one-off, even though Lowe has probably not converted his local nursery into a burbling, vegetal chorus, this is still my prevailing image of him: the cybernetician, or, rather, the facilitator between old world organics and the sleek ontology of the transistor. And he is very much that figure. His fundamental methodology has remained relatively unchanged from the earliest formation of Lichens; he merges the oldest instrument with the newest, and what emerges is the ecstatic music of a new century. Longform drone and New Age compositions are filled with his plangent vocal articulations, but also complemented by light rhythms, sharp synth melodies, and an assortment of acoustic instruments. Luckily for Lowe, his basic approach can, and undoubtedly will continue to, offer him a wide, unexplored continent to stake his claim.

The deity of libration, Kulthan knows only repose and frenzy: the stoic and static of meditation or the rage and rend of mania. In some depictions, swinging an axe, a staff, a thyrsus, yet in others carpeted over in moss or smiling warmly as carrion-eaters find sustenance in Kulthan’s living flesh. Blind or bedaubed in countless eyes, flailing electric limbs or amputated and mournful, its image occupies all contraries and reconciles all difference. The mad king offers refuge to any who so seek in the dreaming court.

Kulthan is no exception, to either his formula or his results. Cut in two, his Latency release displays, as strongly as ever, Lowe’s particular rheology of sound. As always, the texture and timbre of his compositions remain the cornerstone, but the prominent rhythmic elements of each side give shape and weight, as opposed to the more diffuse, billowing sound that defined early Lichens material. Strict classification is always a dangerous proposition, but some might be urged to slot Kulthan into the dub or minimal techno worlds. At least techno-informed, though largely resisting locking into a single groove, both cuts maintain a free-flowing sensibility as particles joyously collide with and seamlessly elide into one another.

Modes of worship were as multiform as depictions. Oirat cultists would dance deliriously about a cauldron of boiling water and drop to embrace the earth in sleep when there was none left. In enclaves around the Peloponnese, rhyta filled with animal blood, honey, and sour wine would spill their guts on Kulthan’s crown. Parthians would electrify themselves using early batteries. One city of Andean followers populated their homes, markets, and legislatures with the dead while they lived silently in the tombs. A Gallic set would take martinet to the flesh and scourge themselves to shivering strips. In the Far East, devotees would dress themselves in robes impregnated with maggots. Those of a higher order would thread daily, in so precise a location, a needle through the abdomens of flies, so that still living they would form a squirming, futile chain about the worshipper’s neck. These days, adherents conduct inscrutable ceremonies via Skype, mimicking the telluric lines between centers of power with technological ones.

In fact, “Heart of Sogguth” is pure rhythm. Rubbery drums bounce and weave around each other as Lowe’s equally elastic vocal cut-ups inject themselves into the mix. It is abandon with a frame. There’s a drum circle insistency, anchored by the pulsing cosmic heart of the title — which comes from an episode of The Tomorrow People about a cult attempting to resurrect an ancient, evil divinity by way of a beating drum. And really, its stupor-inducing tumult is more suited to soundtrack some arcane, malign ritual than to transition between Shpongle and Juno Reactor at your local trance night.

Not surprisingly, Kulthanic cosmogeny is as convoluted as its worship. Kulthan is both the skull of the sky and the belly of the earth, the voice of the wind and the blood of the seas. It is each dreaming star and each detonating galaxy, but it also walks among us in many-muffled forms: as the fingers of forests, as the redoubts of basalt, as the wisdom of bears, as the electron skittering through wire, as the days themselves. The universe was not formed by Kulthan nor was it ever shaped by its countlessly pronged hand, rather it has come from outside to occupy and transform from within, a silent and subtle restructuring.

However, it’s the front that really shines on Kulthan, where each disparate element commingles and interlaces. Where the flip represents the ardor and thrash of ritual, “Magnamite” is its placidity and restraint. Minute percussive blips summoned from the modular synthesizer cut and scurry across the surface of a wide respiring drone. The rhythm moves too quickly to track with your feet, so you are left to follow it without moving, emphasizing its minor shifts and major ruptures. Lowe’s plaintive voice arcs over the horizon eoan and roric. It is in those moments, when his voice settles into the interstitial space of his already dense composition, that “Magnamite” strikes its grand balance.

One text to have been discovered, coated in wax and stowed in a cask of wine, was found in a ruined monastery near Shiraz. Titled “The Ambit of Air,” it reads primarily as a yogic manual, describing the circulation and flow of air throughout the body. There are a handful of illustrations depicting braces and curious contraptions designed to assist proper breathing. Of great interest is a passage imagining a human augmentation, a set of bellows in place of the lungs, that would perfect this action. Near the end of the text, it is made clear that these breathing exercises were intended for a ritual referred to as “The Kulthanic Lustration.” Speculation rages as no consensus has been found regarding the purpose or practice of this ceremony.

Kulthan is less than 30 minutes, but it limns a microcosm of the work Lowe has been engaged in over the past two decades, from the human-machine mathiness of 90 Day Men — which, like many similar groups did and do, plied its tight arrangements toward an illusion of falling apart — to the technological pure simulation of nature he completed with Ariel Kalma. It bridges and harmonizes contradictions, it makes non-exclusionary categories many might consider antagonistic. Kulthan, like many of Lowe’s past works and like many sure to come, joins the organic and the synthetic, makes grandeur from minimalism, and plumbs the bipolarity of ecstasy.