Just when you thought it was safe to compile your year end lists: LA-based Not Not Fun unveils a stunning trio of cassettes ripe for road trips, sensory deprivation tanks, and slipping into abstract meditative states. While the three acts hail from various corners of these United States and beyond (Dallas, Los Angeles, and Tokyo, respectively), all bring their A-game and present lo/no-fi sound collages and pristine alternate reality soundscapes ready for your consumption December 7, with previews available below.
The first up is a deep, sprawling double cassette transmission from the early days of Texas journeyman Joe Knight’s “voyaging kaleidoscope kitchen sink-psych” project, Rangers. Europe on TV brings together two loose, genre-hopping no-fi sets originally released via As Above So Below back in 2009, prior to the slightly more polished yet equally epic Pan Am Stories and Reconsider Lounge. Each side is its own opus, consisting of vignettes veering between Knight’s scuzzy drifter rock persona to blasted new wave, warped basement dance vibes, and so much more. Four unique sides comprising over 100 minutes of music is a lot to digest, and the excerpt below is a mere nibble at what else lays beneath the gritty surface of this monster set.
The next tape is from lo-fi ambient L.A. resident Dravier, a.k.a. Caleb Draves. Spirit Channels expands on the myriad sonic twists and turns Draves both creates and curates on his stacked label Jungle Gym Records. “Canopy” fits neatly among the many experiments in ambient Not Not Fun has put out over the years, but elsewhere, the tape drifts in and out of “equatorial new age, narcotic lounge, surrealist exotica, desert island serenade, sunrise sky-surf, and devotional tape hiss,” as the label writes.
Last — but certainly not least — is a new collection of spirited down beat zones from Japanese collection UNKNOWN ME. Astronauts follows up the stellar subtropics cassette NNF released back in February 2017, and it’s every bit as precise, serene, and left field as its predecessor. “Orbicular Water” highlights the polished, high-rise oxygen bar vibe the group has refined to a T. In describing the tape, NNF writes, “the album’s eight songs float in an airless limbo of exploration and emotion, final frontiers and memories of home, zero gravity ambient zones conjured from an array of old analog Roland and Juno synthesizers.” All I can say is…sign me up for this trip into augmented reality and let me wander for a while.
Europe on TV tracklisting:
01. Europe On TV
02. Street Smell
03. Volvo Jungle Mist
04. Concorde Breakfast
After yesterday’s announcement of a new 100% Silk tape, I bet you weren’t thinking we’d be here, one day later, ready to unveil another cassette from the Silk-verse. Well, we are! What are you going to do about it?!
Not Not Fun has a new one from none other than H. Takahashi. The Japanese producer and architect, with many dope and/or killeralbums to his name — and who’s also one fourth of fuego ambient/chill out super group Unknown Me — is dropping Escapism, a most excellent collection of slow burning, meandering (in the best way) ambient zoners.
Takahashi is known for crafting subtle escapes from everyday life, and it’s always good to hop on and go for the ride. Scope the 8-minute opener, “Escape,” streaming down below, to see what I mean.
Escapism drops September 28, and you can escape the crowd by pre-ordering a cassette edition now.
As we round the corner on the end of summer, many of us are still subject to those late-July/early-August heat waves in which steamy, humid afternoons (hopefully) give way to slightly cooler, slightly less uncomfortable yet balmy evenings — with cool drinks on the porch to help ease the burden of facing an AC-less bedroom. Luckily, Los Angeles label Not Not Fun has been putting out some appropriately mellow, dewy, and island flavored ambient transmissions for just such occasions.
A perfect compliment to the anonymous shipwrecked vibe of Wave Temples or the adventure novel-inspired journeys of X.Y.R. — Lyon, France based Magnétophonique (real name Charles Belpois) offers a set of emotive, imaginative sonic adventure with his latest release, Une Cartographie Idéale, a collection of primo tracks culled from small-batch cassette releases on his own Carpi Records (co-founded and curated with roommate Baptiste Martin, aka Les Halles) and the dearly departed Dept Tapes out of Mexico.
“Moist Jungle Mist II” is the first offering from the new tape, and its hazy keys and percussion combine for a perfect chill-out atmosphere. Check it out (along with another taste, “Hopeless Tropicalia”) down below and pre-order Une Cartographie Idéale ahead of its August 31 release date here.
01. Bon Voyage
02. Lush Islands
03. Forest Gazing
04. Quiet Village
05. Moist Jungle Mist II
07. For Mile After Mile The Same Melodic Phrase Rose Up In My Memory
10. Hopeless Tropicalia
11. The Only Survivor Is Now Alone On The Island
12. Tristes Tropiques
Back in April, I (virtually) sat down with Severed+Said for an in-depth look at his craft and history in the Florida underground. His latest, Incorporeality, dropped via Not Not Fun in March of this year, with only a few copies remaining. Now we have a hypnotic visual accompaniment to album standout “Pyretic Dreams.” Filmed and edited by Severd+Said’s John Touchton and his partner, “Pyretic Dreams” blends kaleidoscopic visual effects, eerie home video tracking lines and errors, and the seance-like performance of the man himself.
Like all of the Severed+Said catalog, stream “Pyretic Dreams” late at night, when the trippy visual tricks kick in and addle your sleep-deprived brain.
It’s as if you could listen to the photosynthesis of freakishly huge flowers found only in humongous rainforests. Or being in a limit, or a perimeter, or a forcefield, or a shield. It’s the sound of a period of absence that lasts — and is — a lifetime. An edge of a world. A landscape of quantum foam, where you finally step away from the center of the world, willfully. It’s the slipping away of life, of ego, of time. In the mountains, in a veil, in a clarity, where monks meditate and the Instagram accounts are wordy, motivating, and positive. And even beyond that. There is suffering even in this bliss. We are all in flight from reality; life readies you for not living. Our mutual misunderstanding of ourselves and of others means that music hinges on vast approximation. No consensus, just interpretation. The miasma of our brainlessness as we prowl the hours, trying not to stray off the chosen path. Chaosmosis, from one genre of music to the next, our emotions and bodies constantly changing. “In order to actualize a possibility, a disentangling potency is needed,” says the Italian philosopher Franco Berardi. To disentangle yourself, listen to Zephyr. Listen to it as if it were wind or warm weather or water. Ask yourself: Does a guru have time for Facebook? (Does the Pope?) What’s an ego to an ambient musician? (And do they listen to pop music?) Can your lifelong struggle to render yourself compatible with capitalism end? Can it? We always have to come down from our high. Zephyr knows that, and thusly contains New Age’s Fatal Flaw: that an emancipative illusion can only haunt the music, but never actualize. Moreover, anxiety lurks in the euphoria, because the euphoria is timed. A void guzzles the void. The abyss smiles at your skull. Ghosts all agleam wander with their aching. And when we enter Heaven, we have to pay an entrance fee.
Lyon, France-based musician Baptiste Martin is emphatically NOT not-fun: the dude makes new music out of old tapes of flute and panpipe under the nom-de-electroacoustic composition Les Halles (which is “The Halls” in English, for you brutes who don’t know French; the name may or may not be borrowed from Paris’ long since demolished fresh fish market of the same name). AND: he even has a new album called Zephyr blowing gently into the world on May 4 via Not Not Fun.
Zephyr follows a yearlong “sabbatical” from recording for Martin, and it’s also the first record he’s made entirely with a computer. His last release, 2016’s, Transient, was pretty well-liked here in TMT-land, and we published an interview with Martin a few months after its release.
Martin describes the new music on Zephyr evoking “landscapes with almost no human traces.” The album’s nine tracks are titled with the words “horizon,” “distance,” and “mirage,” which all bear the distinction not only of being very idiomatically appropriate, new age-y words; but also of being words that are the same in both English and French. (You’re welcome, you uni-lingual boobs!)
To start the non-non-fun as soon as possible, you may pre-order Zephyr here. But be forwarned: in addition to digital, it’s also coming out on a crazy-limited vinyl edition of 100 (and the vinyl comes with a bonus cassette of reinterpreted tracks), so don’t sleep. Check out “First distance,” an advance track from Zephyr, down below while you wait.
Since 2014, a handful of deep, otherworldly synth transmissions emanating from Floridian mystic Severed+Said have carved an exciting niche within the fervent, if underrated, independent music outposts of the Sunshine State. Across four releases, Jacksonville’s John Touchton composes sounds that draw inspiration from the ritualistic undertones of creation, performance, and consumption. The latest Severed+Said cassette, Incorporeality — released last month via Los Angeles’s legendary Not Not Fun — is a collection of pulsing, hypnotic songs that stands as his strongest work within a stellar discography.
John and I discuss the influences of mysticism on his work, the fertile, under the radar music scenes throughout Florida, and the impact of mood on the creation and experience of music. At the end of the interview, check out a playlist compiled by Severed+Said, featuring fellow Florida artists, label mates, and friends connected through Touchton’s travels and tours around the country.
What have you been up to between the release of Occlusions (2015) and now? Were you impacted by Hurricane Irma last year?
I’ve been concentrating on my personal life. I’ve been staying busy with writing and recording music, but I specifically decided to withdraw from playing much live last year. It’s important for me to share my work with people in a live environment, but I wanted to dedicate some time to my personal relationships. I married my partner and we took some time to travel together. I’ve also been studying human anatomy and physiology. But, consistently, I ritualistically stay involved in Severed+Said. It’s a therapeutic catharsis. It helps me to cope with modern existence. As far as Irma goes, yes we were affected by the hurricane. I live near the St. John’s river so we experienced flooding and massive power outages A giant oak tree fell on my car. If anything, it evoked more of a reverence for the dispassionate ways of nature. I was less upset about the damages to my car than I was inspired by the destructive forces of the universe. Fortunately for us, North Florida was less affected than, say, Puerto Rico, but it was still a humbling experience. Though, it was actually quite beautiful to roam the neighborhood amidst the aftermath of the storm. Ancient trees were put to rest and modern luxuries, temporarily suspended. I did, however, manage to work on new synth patches for future songs by battery power, some of which are currently in the works.
Can you discuss the origins of Severed+Said? What inspired you to pursue these sounds and themes over these four releases?
The instrumentation came from my interests in manipulating guitar through various effects pedals. I feel it was a natural progression from seeking to further control and manipulate guitar through pedals to exploring synthesizers. The sounds of Severed+Said just progressed from learning the gear to understanding and getting it all to work together. After that, the music came quite natural. But the themes behind Severed+Said are less technical. I’ve always been inspired by certain motifs; whether from film, literature, philosophy, or music, I always thought that I was using these inspirations to inform what the music was going to be about. After releasing Occlusions, however, I realized that I was less in control than I thought. I started to understand that it wasn’t my intentions informing what the music was about. Instead, it became clear to me that the music was actually more of a message from my subconscious to my conscious. In affect, the song writing process acts as a conduit for learning more about myself or hopefully our collective experience of reality. Occlusions showed me that the truth was behind the veil of intention. Now I try to let go of control when it comes to themes regarding Severed+Said and let the music speak to me. Through synchronistic messages or heavy contemplation, hopefully more concrete concepts begin to emerge from the work. Maybe I’ll have key words for song titles or album titles, but over time the music actually, in turn, ends up informing me. I’m looking forward to gaining a better understanding of “Incorporeality” as this process unfolds.
In this interview with Delayed Gratification, you said, “The first track, “Occluded,” is an interesting word that implies being unable to see what’s right in front of you. You can be occluded from the truth.” The new album’s title is Incorporeality, and ‘incorporeal’ means no physical or material existence. How did you decide on the title, and how does that meaning relate to how you approached the writing and recording of the album?
The album title for Incorporeality came after I had recorded the material, as did the album title for Occlusions. Language is, of course, a technological device for communication, but words can provide meaning for profound, intangible concepts. Being an instrumental project, I’ve always relied on the album and song titles to imbue meaning into the sounds of Severed+Said. The word, incorporeality, came to me while reading about the secret rituals of various mysticisms throughout history. Some modern interpretations understand many of these rituals to be allegorical of the evolution of human consciousness and what was our gradual awareness of the self. Furthermore, some postulate that our deepening material awareness has made us less acquainted with our subconscious.
But, at the same time, I was studying human anatomy and physiology in a scientific light, which contrasted with these concepts in a befitting way. On one hand I was reading about meditation, dreams, and astral projection. On the other hand, I was studying about organic matter, the central nervous system, and the cellular activities of the body. My new understanding of the body in tandem with what I had been reading about consciousness evoked the idea that to be absent from the body is almost a return to our inner selves. From this, I gathered that the meditative, or even somewhat transcendent, state I experience when I can really get lost in the music is a way of reaching back to a higher level of self: a borderline between consciousness and subconsciousness. And when you bridge the gap between these two levels of being, ideas and meaning can flow through the medium. Through dreams, subconscious thought, art, or, in this case, music, maybe we can experience an incorporeal state even if only for the duration of the set, before the house lights bring us back to reality; it’s, essentially, a temporary escape from the anxieties of being human.
It’s interesting to think about your readings of mysticism and rituals, and parallel that with the act of creating music for recording or live performance. From a listener’s perspective, nighttime or dawn and dusk seem the most appropriate times for experiencing your sounds. Do you have a particular mindset, time of day, or setting required for working on Severed+Said material?
I think that mood is an important aspect of listening to music. At night, sounds really come alive. Dusk and dawn are perfect times for a contemplative drive while listening to your favorite cassette. Mood and atmosphere are also important, if not more so, for creating music. But most importantly, for me, to flourish creatively is my state of mind. Whether I’m practicing my set or working on new material, it’s important for me to ritualize the process. Sometimes this means having a contemplative daydream before I work with new sounds, or maybe I will take a walk. Reading also helps to put me in a creative mood. I also enjoy the combination of coffee and marijuana while working. The introspection provided by the flower combined with jolt of caffeine gets gears spinning in a weird way that focuses me. With the creative process and recording for Occlusions, I was enjoying a lot of wine, as any creative Dionysian can appreciate. All of these things can help to ritualize the process. Sometimes I’ll even dedicate a performance to something abstract, whether I’m all alone or sharing in a live environment. If I have anxiety about something or if someone dear to me is experiencing a dark time, I like to make a sort of offering through music. I don’t know if it has any real effect on anything, but it helps me, personally, to exorcize the feelings associated with these kinds of things. I feel that this is part of the catharsis behind creating something.
I’ve only visited Florida a pair of times, both of which were visits to the theme parks near Orlando. Listening to your music, I get a sense of a darkness beneath the happy-go-lucky vibe of Disney and beach tourism. Was it your intention, or merely coincidence, that your music gives an outsider a gloomy, dark, yet enticing view of the Sunshine State?
Florida is an ecological paradise. The springs here are beautiful and there are some great beaches. Our ancient, moss-bearing trees can be hypnotic in the haze of summer. But yes, I believe there is a darkness that exists beneath Florida’s majesty. The state was once inhabited by an array of native cultures who were intentionally wiped out of existence. I think the kind of negative energy associated with genocide and cultural displacement lives on and takes new forms. Violence, poverty, and drug addiction are huge problems here. Floridian politicians are often found to be corrupt and self-serving. For instance, Governor Rick Scott was found to have family ties with drug testing companies after he tried to pass a law requiring mandatory drug testing for food stamp recipients: a process that would have proven more expensive than just distributing food stamps without the drug testing.
Of course this is only one recent example of the level of political corruption here. Developers have been destroying Florida’s natural ecosystem for decades, compromising the purity of our water. People have been fighting to keep the Sabal Trail Pipeline out of Florida to prevent further damage to the ecosystem. This has been an ongoing process with ups and downs. Of course, this kind of corruption isn’t unique to Florida. But to answer your question, no, it’s not my intention to interpret this through Severed+Said. That doesn’t mean, however, that these concepts are not somehow channeled through the music. As I said, there is a lot of unconscious meaning imbued into the songs. If the music sounds dark, maybe it is because of the darkness around me. More than anything, however, my intention with the music is to create something mysterious that deepens the more you listen. And if it causes the listener to look deeper into it or if it evokes a concept unique to their perspective, then maybe I’m doing something right.
I found another project you were involved in, Ascetic, with a split cassette on Florida label Rainbow Pyramid. It featured a quieter, meditative sound compared to that of Severed+Said. Do you continue to record under that moniker, or was that a one-off project?
Ascetic was a project I did for a few years. It started as just a side project that allowed me to learn the synthesizers I was getting into. At the time, I had been getting deep into unconventional guitar work and, as I said, the effects pedals lead to synthesizers. At one point, Alyssa Silva started doing vocals for Ascetic. We lived together at the time, so she was exposed to the music I was working on on a daily basis and, therefore, knew the material. We did the split on Rainbow Pyramid then moved to Northern California for a little while. We got to play some really fun shows in the Bay Area, specifically at this venue, Life Changing Ministries, a d.i.y. community space where they had shows on a regular basis. After moving back to Florida we started working on recording new material, but we never finished it and eventually laid Ascetic to rest. It was around this time that I had been venturing into writing music solo. So the end of Ascetic was the beginning of Severed+Said.
With Popnihil, Rainbow Pyramid, and I’m sure countless other labels, I’m catching a glimpse of some of the underground/DIY sounds coming out of Florida. Even with these two labels, it’s as vast and as varied as anything you’ll hear in L.A. or New York. The internet, without a doubt, connects us better than before, but without venues or a group of people, a real scene cannot thrive. Where do you see yourself in your community in Jacksonville, and do you stay active and connected with other cities in Florida?
I’ve been trying to tell people for years that something is brewing in the Floridian music scene. We have a lot of creative people here, but it’s difficult to tour out of Florida because of its geographic location. So many Floridian artists often go under the radar nationally, while cultivating and thriving within the confines of the Sunshine State. As far as Jacksonville goes, it’s kind of a drinking city that loves heavy metal. There are a lot of talented and creative people here, though. Some of my friends who lie low here actually have more of a presence in the national and international arts and music community. I do try to keep experimental music alive here by facilitating shows for artists I know who are on tour. Even that is difficult, because the majority of venues are just rock bars, so it can be problematic curating something like an ambient/experimental/noise show. I did, however, recently curate the Jacksonville pre-show for Miami’s International Noise Conference. I was able to secure an art gallery for the venue, so these things are possible. We also have a great historic movie theatre here, called Sun-Ray Cinema. They are open to booking musical artists if they can schedule around their calendar. Last year they even launched their inaugural Sleeping Giant Fest, a film and music festival that they are doing every year now. In 2017 Xiu Xiu performed their Twin Peaks cover set during the festival. And Hexa performed a live score to the photography of David Lynch, one of only ten or so performances of this collaboration. Severed+Said even performed too. They also got SUNN O))) a couple of years ago, which was amazing. They are the only band that ever induced me into having visual hallucinations without the use of substances.
And when possible, Sun-Ray has been open to working with me and a few others to bring some great d.i.y. touring artists through, including Kevin Greenspon (Los Angeles) and Darsombra (Baltimore). As far as connectedness in Florida, yes, there is a thriving network of musicians throughout Florida and we all collaborate to help touring artists find shows from city to city. It’s possible for an artist to book an entire circuit just within Florida. In fact, Severed+Said and Proud Father (New Orleans) did a Florida tour together back in 2016. And every year for the last 15 years, Rat Bastard has been putting together the International Noise Conference in Miami, which serves as a noise pilgrimage for people from all over the world, but mainly draws from within Florida. It’s a free event so it’s less of a gig, and more of a five-day party where artists can connect and be exposed to new music.
How did you get involved with your local DIY music community? How long have you been playing shows, for S+S or other projects, and what drew you to underground, underappreciated sounds and scenes?
It was a gradual process. I was introduced to the underground music scene probably 12 years ago when I first attended a show at “The Pit,” a d.i.y. venue here in Jacksonville that is no longer around. There was a handful of people who ran the building. They would have movie nights, often projecting film; they also did shows there. I remember the first pre-international noise conference I ever witnessed back in 2004 or 2005. It was crazy. Maybe 20 artist played from all over. It was a free show, but through donations they raised plenty of funds for out-of-town artists. The space also hosted touring bands on a weekly basis. It was where I first realized that there was an entire network of artists and musicians all working together to share their work. It was a fresh breath of air, compared to what I had been exposed to before. There were no ticket pre-sales, booking agents, or even promoters, in the traditional sense. There was an organic reciprocation happening: networks of artists sharing contacts and helping each other with shows. Once I started booking my own regional/national tours, about 10 years or so ago, I began to become aware of the interconnectedness between artists all over the country. At this point, I can’t meet a new artist that doesn’t know at least one person that I’ve worked with in the past. I’ve kept in touch with some people over the years who I really only see once every few years, but we are as old friends when we can reunite. The beautiful aspect of meeting someone who thrives in the underground art/music scene is that the first few barriers that normally exist between two strangers are almost nonexistent. I think that interconnectedness is what has kept me involved for the last decade or so. But as far as S+S goes, I started in 2014. I was performing live before I had recorded anything. The first recording, Crying In Dreams was more like a recording of ideas, rather than full songs. It all just evolved from there.
I’ve seen a few videos of full sets from your last bout of touring. Digital hardware allows solo acts to recreate as much as possible from the recording, but it appears you work with a lot of analog gear in a live setting. How do you approach recreating recorded material for live performances?
I’m actually not recreating anything in a live setting. The music I write is written to be performed live, so what I end up recording is the live performance. This is an approach that I adhere to as Severed+Said, with the exception of two collaborative tracks I’ve done for recordings only. One was for a comp on Atrocious Symphonies, a label based out of Madrid. The other is a new track on “Incorporeality,” called “Communion.” There is a grand piano in the studio we recorded in, so I asked my partner, Rebecca, to play keys, while I played guitar and Jeremiah, my friend who recorded all four S+S albums, played the melodica. I wanted to have one track on this album that could only be played live if the three of us were in the same room. For everything else I’ve done as S+S, I start by trying out new sounds and piecing them together over time. Then I’ll begin performing them live to see what I like or don’t like. In this, the songs continually evolve in a live setting until they are recorded, and even after. Of course there are limitations as to what I can do, but I like working around limitations. And without using any midi syncing, it keeps the songs vulnerable to mistakes, which I also like. There is something thrilling about performing Severed+Said live, because it could all go wrong if I trigger something out of time. I’ve learned how to work around this, of course, but it’s still possible.
This is your second release with Not Not Fun, and you spoke earlier to relationships with local Florida labels. What qualities do you look for in a label when you get ready to write an album or plan a release? How did you and Britt make the connection for your two NNF releases?
I don’t ever plan on writing an album or planning a release. The process is kind of reversed. The songs I write come from experimenting with sounds and seeing how they fit together. Over time, a body of work emerges from this process and then I record. If I like the recording and everything fits together, I’ll share it with friends and labels that I’m in touch with. This is essentially how it worked with the two Not Not Fun releases with Britt. I initially was in touch with Britt about doing a release for Ascetic. We were recording the material we had been working on since the Rainbow Pyramid release, but we never finished it. As I said, toward the end of Ascetic, I had already begun working on solo material. After releasing Crying In Dreams with Popnihil, I sent it to Britt and told him I was working on some new material. When I finished recording Occlusions, I sent it to him. He was really encouraging and so we did the release. As far as label qualities, I guess I look for diversity in a label. I don’t think Severed+Said fits into one specific genre, so I feel it fits best with diverse labels. I guess the only other quality I look for would be that the people who run the label make music, too.
After the recent release of Incorporeality, what’s next for you in 2018 and beyond?
I’m not sure. I don’t like to plan too far ahead. I look forward to learning more about myself and developing through music. I hope to work more with others in the future. I have a few collaborative projects in the works. I also intend to perform Incorporeality abroad before moving on to something new. But eventually that will be the case. I’d like to share the new album live before it runs its course. I’m already working on new material. I like to keep things moving.
As I say every year when October steamrolls through our conscious present, it’s hard to believe another year is coming to a close. Thankfully, sonic road markers can help us make sense of the bleak and bewildering news from around the globe, which is where Not Not Fun comes in. The seminal Los Angeles purveyors of the weird, wild, and miscellany have three cassette offerings for the pyre of 2017 that soothe, shred, and go deep into the darkness. TMT has the pleasure of premiering one song from each tape, courtesy of label mainstays Filthy Huns, Swanox, and Chikiss.
First up is Filthy Huns, the solo moniker of Nick Koenigs (guitarist for Daughters of the Sun), who returns from a three-year break with twisted ragers for the open road. Forever Beast takes the skeletal foundation of previous Filthy Huns tunes and, with the addition of Aaron Steinberg on keys, blasts into the stratosphere. Preview the title track below.
Next up is Swanox, Anthony Boruch-Comstock Orion’s Bay Area journeyman project. Swanox last dropped Duskrunner on NNF in 2014, and the tracks that make up Jokes About Rain were “recorded from 2010 to 2015 in various apartments, bedrooms, and bunkers across San Francisco.” While he’s always carried a loose vibe of guitar, scrappy beats, and electronics, “Tess” suggests a mellow sound, which is fitting for this time of the year.
And, finally, marking her third release with NNF — the first being the underrated compilation She Knows More Than She Thinks, followed by the equally underrated Video Salon (a collaboration with Brian Pyle) — Galya Chikiss is due to drop her first solo tape for the label, under the name Chikiss. New Season features icy electronic production under Chikiss’s heavily processed vocals. Scope “Baby, Bye” below and feel as if you’re in the dead of winter, frigid wind blowing at your face, staring at a bleak, unforgiving world. (Before you do that, though, be sure to scope an interview I did with Galya after the release of She Knows.)
Stream all three tracks below, look for the tapes December 1 via Not Not Fun, and prepare to soon wade through the recent past to try to make sense of what the hell just happened this year.
In late 2015, Japanese composer (and architect…) H.Takahashi (birdFriend, Constellation Tatsu, Not Not Fun) released the second volume of Where To Now? Records’s ‘Where To Be’ ambient cassette tape series. As the label writes, “Contributing artists were given a brief to create works of total ambience, incorporating the idea that the power of the music presented is in that which is barely there.” Hear Takahashi’s misty exploration here, and then stream his new full-length LP collection for Where To Now?, Raum, below.
In my head, I hear “raum” as “roam,” befittingly, as these pieces were composed using Garage Band on an iPhone while Takahashi wandered around his home town of Tokyo. As Where To Now? writes, “[the iPhone] is no gimmick, rather a conscious decision which allows Takahashi to constantly create ‘on the go’ without the constraints of space.” The phone also lets him interpret and respond to environments without the unavoidable spectacle created by gear, and to be at once fully present while creating, privately, in public. To an observer, he could be texting, scrolling through social media, or otherwise absorbed. This mysterious naturalism is so much of what makes Raum feel like perfect “music to work to, to sleep to, to help us find a sense of space and oneness within a world that is increasingly wild and untameable.”
I began listening to Gagged In Boonesville by Russian Tsarlag when I was in a real rut. It was during a period while I was buying reefer around the block from where I worked. At the time, I worked in the hood of Westbury, NY and bought it from a co-worker’s cousin, who was hooked on codeine, bad. But he really never looked at me, nor did I look at him or his friends. However, this co-worker and I would smoke mad blunts for hours after work just chilling because I wasn’t in a good place with my girlfriend at the time, and I didn’t want to be home yet. It was a sex thing. So as long as I kept eye contact with the people I knew, we were all square. Backup to: this co-worker called me weeks before on speaker with another co-worker (who later became my manager), called her a “bossy-boss” in front of my bother at a party, and probably thought I was fucking this co-worker whose cousin I bought weed from around the corner from our work. I was not, but we did have unaccounted-for fun times baking up clouds in our cars.
At any rate, this co-worker was always so impressed by me, and I missed this feeling, enduring it from her, falling further into its gaze. Frozen. Stoned. She also had a great laugh, and I told her that a lot and told her a lot of my secrets because she never spoke to other people at work. Work was horrible and soulless. I was writing there for 12 hours a day. Money was mad, though, and so was the reefer. I’d watch various seasons of television shows in the corner of my PC one-by-three inches above the [Start] menu from start to finish. Sometimes just straight up watching porn after hours. My co-worker was also the only person there, grinding away words for the dollar — double time — because it was pay-per piece, which meant triple or quadruple pay-per hour, realistically. Nobody was watching.
This co-worker thought cameras were following her, btw. Cameras owned by the person who owned our company. Who owned our paychecks. Who could buy our lives. Who were buying our lives but not even watching us. They weren’t even watching us (!!!!) with all the cameras set up in our office turned ON. The constant reminder that this security is for them from us. If someone came in shooting up the office because of our product, they’d have evidence for insurance claims. Nobody watching to save our lives. The corporate office; our owner’s office; somewhere a computer mainframe of 12 computer monitors framed a desk. I’d made a zine at the Westbury, NY office on Saturday, using loads of ink and paper the company bought; nobody noticed our existence unless we weren’t working. And we were high on the job, forever. Huffing duster while driving, jerking off to porn on my phone via screen-on-screen w/ Google Maps while my care blares “One Way Out.” A semi-truck trying to turn into a gas station during rush hour.
Listening to Gagged In Boonesville by Russian Tsarlag, listening to the depravity in the vocals, the minimal instrumentation, the half-ass 100%… I was up until 2 AM on a Tuesday crying into a bottle of waterbong tequila pissing cough-medicine meth into the toilet, on my girlfriend’s rabbit turd, foot on the sink, cleaning a scab on my knee at 3 AM, and the warehouse cemetery-shift siren goes off. My girlfriend runs out the bedroom claiming a tornado is on the way (as one had recently torn through Queens), telling me to put pants on because we’re heading to the basement. But everything is fine. I calm her back to bed. Huff every last bit of fake air we have canned in the house. I go into the living room, turn off all the lights, take off all my clothes, and play Gagged In Boonesville. Eventually, “Become Solid” slithers through my three-piece shit-sound speakers, and I’m immediately erect and soaked in tears.
One of the many nights my co-worker and I were smoking — it was around 9 PM after work — and we were blowing down the rest of this thick blunt; our third blunt: she was laughing at something I said, which (always) took me off guard. She was paranoid about people hearing us in a car together, parked, because she had an echoing laughter [which I still can hear and adore], but she was also nervous being seen sitting next to a white guy in a car parked within a predominantly black neighborhood. Nobody was watching. We weren’t watching anyone. Until this man walks out his Corolla across the road, opens the trunk, and took out a large bag that made a *thud* on the ground before dragging it in the middle of the street. He dumped out the bag, and cats from all corners of the neighborhood came out. Bushes, trees, garages, sheds, fences, from under cars, etc. And my co-worker was bugging, which was relatable, but also cute at the time — I think she lives in Washington DC now. I stopped going back to her cousin for reefer after I witnessed a large gang fight, around the time he and I both lost our front teeth, only he lost his from a bottle breaking over his face, all during my girlfriend’s birthday.