Another year, another recurring feature named after a Numan song. Observer is an outlet for short, capsule style reviews of the type you might see in your town’s free weekly: basically a place for us to quickly throw some light on some things we don’t have the time or inclination to review fully, but still feel like we would be remiss in ignoring. Check it out, and feel free to leave suggestions of recent releases to cover in the comments section.
The technoid/IDM axis of Our Thing long enough that you sense a kind of traditionalist strain in many of the current artists flying its flag. Tympanik recording artist Chase Dobson, aka c.db.sn, certainly works with some familiar sounds on odds n’ sods collection Terrestrial, although the diverse origins of each track serve to point out the wide range of he’s capable of within the abstract rubric. You can hear Beefcake in the piano-laden trip-hop of “Calm Amidst the Turbulent Seas” and traces of Gridlock’s shredded metallic percussion and washy pads on “A Silent Sea”, and even traces of Xingu Hill’s fluid composition of stringed instruments and digital synthesis on “Ghost of a Piano”. It’s all well executed stuff, that does an end-run around accusations of imitation simply by being entertaining to listen to, although it’s in the remixes for others that Dobson’s own identity is most apparent, particularly on his retake of Brim Limski’s “Fight”, where all the elements of c.db.sn’s palette come together in one shining, quivering arrangement of delicate sound design.
Some real rough trade type stuff from California’s Ssleaze, raw back alley punk electronics. What these tracks lack in shine (one imagines the LA-based trio might have huffed the polish intended for these songs during the recording sessions), they make up for in head-scratching aggression and screechy sexual come-ons. You’re unlikely to find your next party starter or chill-out jam amongst these three songs, but there’s something appealingly weird and fun in the power-electronics-on-slimfast groove of “No Shame” and “647”‘s bitcrushed sample fuckery. The name of the project isn’t intended ironically in case you were wondering, although by the time you get to sweaty Casio synthpop of “Puppy Play” there shouldn’t be any confusion. This is one of those acts where I hope the finished versions (if the word “demos” in the title is to be believed) don’t sand off too much of the grit; filthy suits ’em just fine.
BLVCK CEILING is the ghost of party music, recorded just before daylight when everyone has either gone home or passed out. As demonstrated on the Lady Gaga sampling GAGAOCEAN MAX BETA, BC has a talent for reapproriation, ferreting out contexts in which his vocal hijackings seem less gimmick than legit parts of his own style. Whether or not you’re pop-saavy enough to know the original versionz of MIA’s “Bad Girls” or Lana Del Rey’s “Body Electric” isn’t really the point, it’s how well suited each vocalist is to the kind of sweeping, high drama haze that BLVCK CEILING spreads around them, filling each cranny with tittering hi-hats and reverbed claps. Drag remixes are widely viewed as an evolutionary dead-end of the witch house genus, and while that viewpoint isn’t totally without basis in a thousand abandoned Soundcloud accounts, the fact that some gold can be spun from the dross that is songs like Emma Hewitt’s “These Days Are Ours” shouldn’t be ignored.