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Review:

We Out Here 2019

Christian Jones, Oskar Jones

The inaugural edition of We Out Here arrived at a fortuitous moment for us. Following the immense disappointment of the cancelled Houghton, it promised a comparatively calm, expansive experience in a similarly picturesque niche of quaint rural England. It should not however sit in the shadow of Craig Richards’ leviathan – the line-up was suitably, refreshingly diverse and aimed squarely at the immense curatorial talent of Gilles Peterson. Performances from vast swathes of the Brownswood and Worldwide FM rosters were promised, alongside a motley crew of selectors and musicians offering everything from chilled out jazz to mind-bending tehcno.

As a comparatively infrequent festival goer even in light of this summer’s Texture coverage, it feels improper to rate or compare events against each other. Attending is like slipping through a wormhole into a remote sector of the galaxy for a few days, and given the choice on offer experiences can massively differ. As a result we’ll try and offer broader thoughts, highlights, and comments on the weekend as a whole. If you only take one conclusion from this piece, make it this: We Out Here was a hugely enjoyable and promising weekend, full of life, energy, and love of music. We can’t wait to see where it goes next, and for a fledgling outing it ran reassuringly smoothly.

One of the first things to notice on exploring the site was its scope and diversity in terms of stages. From the tiny Lemon Lounge to the surround-sound Forest and Brawnswood’s cosy interior, there was a bigger variety in terms of stage size than other events might deem necessary. In large part this catered to the range of acts scheduled; stand out highlights came from every direction. A much longer than expected stint in the tiny Lemon Lounge yurt provided an early taster as Auntie Flo laid down perfectly weighted house, disco and funk. Queues snaked out of the exits. People stood on sofas. Someone climbed the pole in the middle. We were all blinded by the weird strobe oddly angled on top of one of the speaker stacks. But everyone was having a blast: All 80-ish of us in that tiny, sweaty red tent. Other sources have corroborated this as their favourite spot over the weekend too, with Ahadadream and Zakia laying down equally effervescent selections. We even stumbled into half an hour of solid trance from the Bubble Chamber Takeover crew deep into one night, clawing us out of our slumber as we tenderly traipsed back to our tent.

Impromptu moments like these really nailed the all-encompassing vibe that such breadth and diversity in curation led to. On the first Thursday as we roamed we caught a pop-up performance by South London Samba. No stage or sound system was needed as people formed a big circle and just got down to business, dancing freely in dusky sunlight with an abandon rare even at festivals. There were smiles everywhere. The next day, as we sheltered from the deluge by the WWFM setup, we were entranced by the thoughtful and deeply insightful discussion with Francois K being broadcast live. It was the perfect background to wait out the sheet rain that had engulfed the site, and the broadcast felt like an oasis of sophistication in the face of muddy chaos to ensue. There was more talking to be done too: A discussion hosted by Stamp the Wax and Julie’s Bicycle featuring Matthew Herbert on the future of a music industry grappling with its environmental impact drew surprising numbers for a festival outing. As green initiatives were unpicked, with Herbert stressing the need for radical ideas in the face of a ‘crisis of the imagination’, the mood shifted. People were genuinely engaged with the issues at hand, and that passion coursed through the veins of the whole festival.

In terms of local environment, We Out Here certainly got it right. Rolling green hills and plenty of space meant that there weren’t any crushes, few queues, and no mud pits of despair as the heavens opened. In light of a solid Friday’s worth of rain, Tirzah’s evening set could well have been a wash-out, but her melancholic delivery was elevated in the face of the drenched audience, given a paradoxically fresh touch by the pervasively sombre mood. Such was the crowd’s engagement that what could have been a low point as my boots filled with water ended up being one of the best moments of the weekend as a whole.

When the sun came out as the days progressed, that same willingness to be taken on a journey unlocked the soggy frustration of the crowd at the main stage. I’ve never seen jazz fans mosh before but Steam Down summoned a whirlwind of energy on Saturday afternoon, and led by some familiar faces from Tomorrow’s Warriors those near the front allowed themselves to be carried into a huge pile of muddy boots, flailing limbs, and empty cans of cider. Similarly great performances from Maisha, Joe Armon-Jones, Harvey Sutherland and Sons of Kemet kept the tone forward-looking, even as the energy levels waxed and waned. When the guy meandering through the crowd with a saxophone on his back turned out not to be a random punter but instead part of Moses Boyd Exodus, appearing onstage minutes later, no one seemed phased. These moments of serendipity were refreshingy typical of the festival’s ethos as a whole.

That’s not to say that the operation was flawless: where the sound was mostly exemplary, with Danley Sound Labs providing the best I’ve ever heard at a festival in terms of clarity and punch, the Love Dancin’ soundsystem really hampered a performance by Mafalda I had been looking forward to. I’m not sure what went wrong but the beautifully decorated interior fell flat when buried in washed-out sound. Scheduling too, particularly when it came to the more dance-centric acts, felt at times misplaced, perhaps given the difficulty of meshing them with a lot of the live performances. Objekt and Call Super’s back to back was predictably nutty leading into sunrise, but the Whities showcase felt oddly timed. Forced to start particularly house-y, Minor Science and Nic Tasker didn’t really get into their stride of screwface, oddball cuts until about two thirds in, throwing Errorsmith’s wonky ‘Superlative Fatigue’ straight into Pev’s ‘ Dance til the Police Come’ in what came across as a kitchen-sink stretch to summon the required energy from a crowd more used to the perforating drum sequnecing of DJ Krust. ‘Topper Top’ was met with a suitably raucous reaction, but it felt like the Rhythm Corner had missed potential.

Skee Mask cancelled for undisclosed reasons, but he had been asked to play a peculiarly scheduled 7:30pm set. In light of his recent closing stints at more established festivals like Dekmantel and Dimensions this felt like a head scratcher. In the Forest, Theo Parrish started his five-hour marathon in an uncharacteristically grooveless manner and suffered a couple of power outages along the way. I was reassured by our camping neighbours the next morning that it had gotten great eventually, but in the moment we joined a snaking line of punters heading away from the stage to look for some more energetic performances to take us through the early hours.

The thing is though, apart from some issues with specific food vendors, predictable need for ever increasing numbers of toilets, and the vintage British weather, We Out Here was a hugely enjoyable festival. As a coherent experience it was perfectly weighted to allow those moments of spontaneous emotion and joy to spill out, reflecting the passion of everyone involved in its organisation and execution. A friend remarked that they may well have lost money given the spacious and not particularly densely populated campsite, but it didn’t feel like a concern. This was a family affair under the watchful eye of Gilles Peterson, and exuded charm uncharacteristic of its tender age.

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Interview:

Organ Tapes

Tom Graham

Tom Graham chats to the Tobago Tracks affiliate about mumble rap, defining his style as ‘pop music’, and how he uses lyrical obscurity to heighten his music’s emotional resonance.

“I’m not making music so that you can know about me,” states Tim Zha AKA Organ Tapes. The Shanghai-born, London-based artist’s latest album, Hunger In Me Living, came out on TT (FKA Tobago Tracks) this summer, and is filled with tender ballads that draw from hip-hop, dancehall, emo and indie rock and pop. The opener, ‘Servant’, features muffled, reverb-soaked keys accompanying Zha’s heavily auto-tuned vocals. His melancholy murmurings entangle, as if the layers are interrupting each other. No string of words dominates, nor can you completely recognise what all of them mean. It’s like trying to decipher the words of someone crying, too emotionally overcome to communicate clearly.

Much of Zha’s music adopts this technique of foregrounding emotion through incomprehensibility. With a vocal style inspired by ‘mumble rap’ artists like Future, Zha soaks his words in auto-tune in a way that causes them to blur into one another, meaning you can just about make out the odd word or phrase but rarely decipher entire verses. But the unintelligibility of Zha’s lyrics in no way dampens their affective resonance. Individual lines on the emo anthem ‘Condition’ – ‘Something in me falls apart… / … I don’t wanna stop, I don’t wanna go’ – are delivered in a way that is enough to evoke distinctive feelings even if you can’t connect those fragments together. It’s the kind of music you can sing along to without knowing the words, and emotionally identify with without being able to describe exactly what it is you’re feeling.

Courtesy Organ Tapes

Zha’s expression of ‘pure’ emotion and his desire to conceal himself from the listener are something of a fruitful contradiction. “I’m someone who’s incredibly averse to expressing vulnerability. Not on the level of me thinking that it’s bad to do so, just that I find it incredibly difficult to do so… But I still have this compulsion to make myself vulnerable like that and to make this music that I feel is emotional and intimate.” He resolves this tension between self-exposure and self-awareness precisely through the intangibility of his vocals. “That’s kind of like my cowardly way of navigating that I guess – to make this music in such a way that I can only show so much but at the same time I know I’m creating something that will let you know the feeling.” What he achieves is a beautiful, paradoxical balance between transparency and opacity; the absence of specific details in Zha’s intonations never detract from their stark honesty. It’s a cloudy means of portraying a cloudless emotion that can only be expressed through its inexpressibility, like a dream that dissipates as soon as you try to put it into words.


Maybe it’s all part of the project of making oneself feel more solid

Organ Tapes

Occasionally, the decision to conceal individual lines or verses according to their subject matter is a deliberate aspect of the creative process. “Sometimes I’ll try and second guess myself and obscure certain things, even on the level of how I mix the vocals. If there’s a line I just don’t want people to hear too clearly then I will sometimes just be like ‘let me adjust that and make it sound hard.’” However, Zha admits that his overriding approach is to let the obscurity arise naturally. “I’m not the kind of artist who thinks about a track and how I want it to sound and then enacts that, and that extends to the lyrical content and the delivery of the singing as well… If I write something, and then realise that the way it’s going to sound on the recording is clearer, then it just needs to be that way because that’s what the song is gonna sound like.” Although the obscurity of his lyrics may be a conscious stylistic choice, the flow between clarity and obscurity in Zha’s music is mostly a natural product of whatever is being felt in those moments of recording.

The emergence of fluctuating lyrical clarity from Zha’s current state of mind is something he discusses in relation to his development as an artist. “For me I’m like ‘everyone can hear, everyone knows what I’m thinking’, but then people are like ‘nah I don’t know what you’re saying’,” he laughs. “But then certain close friends have said to me ‘I know what you’re saying’, and they clock that it’s got clearer over the years, and that’s purely as a result of me becoming more confident about being in that position and having an audience that is consuming these things that are intimate for me.” There’s something beautifully poetic about the connection between Zha’s change in mentality and his friends recognising a change in his characteristically obscure lyrics, as if his increasing confidence enables those around him to access a new level of meaning in the music. Whereas Zha’s words on earlier releases fold into each other, like on his dancehall-infused 2015 track ‘Besitos’, the lyrics of some tracks on Hunger In Me Living tentatively rise to the surface. The refrain on the final track, ‘Sunset In E5’, partially emerges from the blur – ‘Everything was different back in ’02… / …Was I happy then or was I lonely?’. The feeling of nostalgia is fused with a sense of dislocation, yet the words are at their most recognisable. Deep piano chords swell before culminating in sunset afrobeat percussion, and Zha’s vocal layers harmonise like they’re coming together to form a new, more confident voice. It serves as a climactic, yet subtle, end to an otherwise tender and sensitive album.

These fluctuations in clarity indicate the importance of wordlessness in Zha’s artistry, and he traces the indescribability of certain feelings back to his early exposure to music. He speaks of his first experiences getting into hip-hop and R&B as a teenager: “You have pretty crude impressions of things. The same reason I got into skateboarding – I just thought ‘that thing looks cool and exciting and makes me feel excited’, and that was basically it. It’s amazing because you don’t have like a framework of understanding anything like that when you’re younger. It’s so demystified when you’re older but when you’re younger it’s like magical and mind-blowing.”

It seems like some things exist most compellingly in their semi-wordless form: their refusal to be unambiguously captured by language is central to their resonance. For Zha, attempting to communicate emotions in this manner is a way of solidifying those feelings without distorting them. “One of the qualities I like about making music is that when you make a song, it’s like an object that is separate to yourself… It still feels intimately connected to yourself, like there’s something of you in it, but it’s externalised and has become something else. It’s like fusing this concrete part of yourself, the voice, with something else or putting it into something else and externalising it, making a little monument out of it that stands there and that other people can interact with or have a relationship with. Maybe it’s all part of the project of like making oneself feel more solid.”

Courtesy Organ Tapes

This honest connection between himself and his music illuminates Zha’s resistance to defining his sound in terms of any specific genre. “I don’t have a very strong sense of grounding in one specific thing… I don’t listen to music and feel like I’m a part of it, or like ‘that’s me’. I listen to it as someone who has a relation to it that is meaningful but not one of belonging. Because of that I don’t get a sense of any particular style being my own, aside from – and this is what I tell people when they ask what kind of music I make: I say pop music. I have to go to these really broad categories to feel like I can make a valid claim to belonging, which is also to say that I don’t feel I belong anywhere in particular really.”

Zha’s free-flowing, open response to music may be what allows him to integrate various styles in a meaningful way, such as his blending of soft, ambient pads with rattling trap snares on ‘All’. “I just don’t think of [genres like trap and ambient] as opposed. I understand why someone would, but the way I relate to them as styles or forms is not like that – I don’t feel like there is a distance or gap there… In literature, writers don’t conceal the fact that they’re referencing other things, in fact they foreground it explicitly, and a lot of music does that too with sampling. But there’s this far greater tendency in music to view oneself as special or having a unique voice. And you do have a unique voice, but your unique voice is just like a writer’s – it’s comprised of many other voices that you’re channelling.”

Acknowledging the fluidity with which artists draw from their lexicon of musical material relates back to the contextual ambiguity that’s so pervasive in Zha’s music. Although the value of many works lies in their invitation to the listener to experience the deeply intimate details of the artist’s life, some music is different; some songs become powerful means of self-expression through the mistiness of the person trying to express themselves in the first place. In foregrounding emotion in the way that he does, Zha obscures the individual history with which his emotions are associated, leaving behind raw feelings that seem universal and intrinsically human. Perhaps that’s why his music is so moving and emotionally identifiable: ‘what it’s about’ is inaccessible, but the intonations are nonetheless relatable. Zha’s oceanic vocals are wordless, and thus they dictate a similarly wordless response; even if we find ourselves able to decipher a word, line or phrase, his music remains preciously indescribable.


Buy Hunger In Me Living here or stream below:

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All Jokes Aside:

100 gecs, Neil Cicierga, and the Art of Transcending the Gimmick

Orlando Jones

An absurdist exercise in musical volatility, an album trilogy largely consisting of Smash Mouth mashups, and ‘Old Town Road’. What do these things have in common? On paper they really shouldn’t work. And yet, somehow, they do. That wasn’t a punchline, but rather an observation indicative of a wider trend that has caught my attention. It’s related to the rising potential of the gimmick not only to disrupt the mainstream, but also to be utilised in the pursuit of something beyond mere schtick. Earlier this year, outsider pop duo 100 gecs released their outrageously eccentric debut album 1000 gecs, kicking up a real fuss amongst the usual suspects of online discourse, Pitchfork and The Needle Drop in particular.

Two years earlier in 2017, internet humour elder statesman Neil Cicierega dropped Mouth Moods, the third and (hopefully not) final instalment in a remarkable mashup discography spanning back to 2014. These two have orchestrated sonic train wrecks of seismic proportions, both as catchy as they are unlistenable, and both utterly fascinating in their quirky mannerisms. There’s often a strong love-hate relationship between this music and its listener, and yet it amounts to so much more than a gimmick. Earnest engagement perhaps seems an inappropriate response to such heinous acts of aural shitposting, but the presence of devoted fanbases betrays the captivating allure of this music, as well as its capacity to elicit genuine emotional response.

1000 gecs wasn’t designed to make sense, and thus attempts to make heads or tails of it rapidly disintegrate. Discernible artistic cohesion seems to be the least of this album’s concerns – a brazen absence of stylistic consistency is amongst its most compelling features. For starters, let’s try assigning a genre. Alternative Emo-Trap? How about Electro Glitch-Hop? Anyone for some Deconstructed Bubblegum-Trance? Okay, well that’s just the first track. Unfortunately, trying to conjure up an applicable umbrella term for this mess doesn’t really work. Sure, the word ‘experimental’ works as a neat catch-all tag, but at the same time it barely covers it. If one were forced to find a common thread between these tracks it would be the overtly processed vocals, which tend to occupy a dreadful space between T-Pain, the Gummy Bear Song, and those awful Nightcore remixes people used to put on YouTube. Fleeting nods to Gabber, Chiptune, IDM, Jungle, and Ska (yes, as in Ska, as in Mighty Mighty Bosstones sorta Ska) complete this kaleidoscopic concoction. Each track offers a unique spin on numerous distinct genres at a time, albeit regurgitated in their most mangled, nightmarish forms. This is no smooth blend, but a deeply fractured and wilfully obtuse record.  At times it feels like the result of a botched experiment, an attempt to pool together the most irritating noises a computer can possibly make. You’d be hard pressed to find any lyrical content with even a shred of nuance or meaning, hence I’m not ashamed to admit that I find it very difficult to take this thing seriously. 

Myspace and its associated atrocities appear to hold a major role in the shaping of 1000 gecs. The album plays like an unceremonious 23-minute romp through the graveyard of online subcultures both mainstream and underground since Y2K. While the rest of us would prefer such events to remain firmly dead and buried, the duo instead partake in a twisted act of musical necromancy, parading our sins in a glitzy, hellish procession of reanimated corpses. Each time I listen to this comprehensive ‘Worst Of’ compilation, it manages to jog another memory that was best left unjogged, be it the autotuned yelps of Crunkcore, the emo-fringed theatrics of Scr(E)a(mo)-Pop, or the general neon-infused dirtbaggery that defined so much of 2000s counterculture. ‘Gecgecgec’, one of two much-appreciated interludes from the turmoil, seems to have been created by idly cycling through the world’s wackiest sample pack, a sort of millennial response to The Beatles’ ‘Revolution 9’. In a way, it serves as a microcosmic summary of the album’s ethos: as the music wildly oscillates between MIDI-preset noodlings, grotesque brostep gurgles, and jagged drum machine convulsions, no semblance of trajectory is ever achieved. Each motif is discarded as swiftly as it was introduced. This overwrought, disposable approach to production bears an eerie resemblance to the loathsome excesses of landfill EDM. I don’t think you can ‘enjoy’ this music as much as you are made witness to it, wallowing in a mix of confusion, terror, and awe.

By this point the internet mashup carries with it a rich, convoluted history littered with copyright lawsuits and viral sensations. In 2011, a baby-faced bedroom DJ by the name of Madeon flaunted his blending capabilities in an ostentatious display of launchpad-bothering which subsequently catapulted him into electro superstardom. Recent years have borne witness to the horrors of ‘Biggie Smalls feat. Thomas the Tank Engine’ and ‘Lil Uzi Vaporwave’. Even today, minor internet celebrities such as DJ Cummerbund continue to make waves by churning out curious pairing after curious pairing to satiate a desire for the throwaway skits that our short attention spans require. However, these often feel hastily cobbled together for a cheap thrill, heavily relying on the initial novelty of the combination before promptly wearing thin. Cicierega on the other hand vastly outstrips such attempts, ensuring that hilarity persists. His tracks constantly evolve and morph in a manner betraying lovingly detailed craftsmanship. Indeed, while the brunt of the work is presumably taken on by Cicierega’s unhinged thought processes, he nonetheless displays the impressive audio-editing chops of someone with a more than adequate mastery of their software. Though individual tracks function perfectly well as standalone gut-punches, it is his firm command of the longer album format that brings his penchant for thematic flow and comic narrative to the fore, often cross-referencing tracks through recurring aural signposts both subtle and conspicuous. 

Copyright Crack Magazine / Nick John

However, it never feels like parody music for the sake of it, as it could so easily be. Instead, it feels like Neil purposefully challenges himself to identify the largest possible gaps between samples in terms of genre, tone, or time-period in order to bridge them with suitable aplomb. Cicierega takes your preconceptions of what constitutes harmonious synthesis and tears them to shreds, suspending the listener’s disbelief and pushing the art of the mashup far beyond the point of decorum. He’s just showing off really, and it’s great. Through his distinctive procedures, Cicierega articulates a unique mode of expression, the results of which serve artistic entities greater than the sum of their parts. And if that wasn’t pretentious enough, one could even argue that Cicierega’s work is testament to Marcel Duchamp’s belief that artistic value can lie in the selection and arrangement of existing materials as much as it does in the creation of original material, or indeed that the former is tantamount to the later.

Likewise, the disorienting power of 1000 gecs lies not in its constituent parts as such, but more in how said influences are cobbled together, spliced into an eclectic patchwork of competing musical identities. Cicierega similarly specialises in consummating matrimonies most unholy. A favourite technique of both is a musical bait-and-switch, lulling you into a false sense of stylistic security before whipping the rug out from under your feet in a screeching U-turn. Cicierega often allows the turbulence to set in at the earliest possible stage (‘Wallspin’, for instance). In the case of 100 gecs, the descent into chaos will instead occur a little way into the track, allowing you to find your bearings before sending you into a tailspin (for reference, try ‘xXXi_wud_nvrstøp_ÜXXx’). 

Both Cicierega and 100 gecs prey on a very specific form of nostalgia, that rueful guilty conscience which questions how we ever gave so many things a pass. These aren’t forgotten treasures or diamonds in the rough, but cherry-picked pieces of pop-chart detritus. They leech upon our unfortunate familiarity with this music like cultures vultures scavenging for the most rotten meat. A Cicierega mashup cannot rest on the laurels of its source materials, for they have long lost their currency as fresh or intriguing works (if they had any first place). As ‘Back in Black’ is squawked over the cutesy, dulcet piano from Vanessa Carlton’s ‘A Thousand Miles’, you find yourself confronted head-on with just how terrible a singer Brian Johnson really was. In a way, the least enjoyable tracks are the ones on which samples are manipulated beyond the point of immediate resemblance to the original, as half the fun lies in the recognition. For example, remember ‘Banana Phone’? Well, that irritating ‘boop-be-doop-be-doop’ part from the intro has now been repurposed on Cicierega’s ‘Shit’, the erratic grand finale to Mouth Moods, vying with such esteemed company as the Spice Girls, Seal, and Gwen Stefani. As Fred Durst whines the chorus of Limp Bizkit’s ‘My Way’, the brassy synth hook from ‘You Can Call Me Al’ blares atop the ‘Where is the Love?’ bassline. These jumbled sound collages can turn into a strange game of musical Pictionary as you scramble to identify each successive sample before the next one is thrown into the melee.

Unfortunately, there’s a dirty word I can’t feasibly ignore any longer: Memes. Memes have become a vital part of how music is now circulated and consumed, unsurprising considering their increasing potency as markers of cultural capital in the age of social media. Virality – an off-kilter and sometimes heart-warmingly genuine means of subverting the status quo – seems almost integral to breakthrough success these days. ‘Old Town Road’ and its unlikely fusion of country with trap makes perfect sense as the upshot of such a scenario. Its record-breaking stint atop the Billboard Hot 100, in tandem with the initial uproar surrounding its generic classification, to me signals a key victory for the cause of the consciously incongruous. The ‘Official Movie’ recently attached to the track deals with themes of contrast and bewilderment, exploring the socio-cultural fissure between the traditionally juxtaposed monoliths of hip-hop and country. As the tinkering mastermind behind his own story of overnight success, Lil Nas X epitomises a climate in which the fickle gods of online clout can make, break, or even rejuvenate careers (looking at you, Billy Ray). Although it draws from a much narrower selection of styles than 100 gecs or Cicierega do, this allows ‘Old Town Road’ to hone in on the inherent conflict which defines its identity. While the gimmick reigns supreme, its power has also been harnessed in the creation of something altogether more ambitious. 

Returning to my opening gambit, why even mention these two artists in the same breath? Back-to-back listens of their output wouldn’t prompt you to place them in the same category, musically or philosophically, but hear me out. You can just about squeeze either into a classifiable genre, and yet both provide far more to unpack than such designations might initially suggest. In terms of approach to source material, both toe the near-invisible line between hyperbolic satire and creative transformation, shamelessly bearing influences on their sleeves and yet entirely evading the possibility of being labelled derivative copycats. Neither artist brings anything new to the table with regards to core elements of style and composition, and yet through staunchly idiosyncratic means both achieve end products that are simultaneously unmistakeable and unforgettable. In the same way Cicierega and 100 gecs have given a new lease of life to cultural artefacts well past their sell-by date, Lil Nas X represents a breath of fresh air for two genres often criticised for growing stale and uninspired. Crucially, the Atlanta rapper has demonstrated the criminally underrated ability to reconcile the seemingly irreconcilable and ultimately transcend the gimmick in a way that is, all jokes aside, pretty cool.

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Listen:

Texture Tape 036:

Georgie McVicar

Assembled by Georgie McVicar, Texture Tape 036 is a kaleidoscopic journey as refractive as their new album – the quietly stunning Tiny Grassland. The mix weaves a sea of samples and instrumentation into a blanket of many threads, a patchwork quilt of influences and musings. It’s a fitting accompaniment to the album and it’s adjacent book, both out now via Mutualism – get comfy and dig in.


Who is Georgie McVicar?

Musician, writer, customer service advisor, Boudica impersonator.  

Tell us about the inspirations and themes behind the mix – how does it relate to Tiny Grassland?

This was a tricky one to make because I was trying my best to include as much influence and inspiration for Tiny Grassland as I could. It features some film soundtracks, prayers, sound effects, organ drones, poems, and some repetitive electronic stuff. It’s a bit of a patchwork quilt but I hope you can trace the threads within it!

What were you listening to and reading whilst making the album?

The album took 3 years to make – so I’ve been through a lot in that time! Big shout outs to: John Coltrane, Anna Meredith, Iannis Xenakis, Klara Lewis, Actress, Laurel Halo, peb, Bach, Virginia Woolf, Gribs, object blue, John Milton, Laraaji, Ann Annie, Tara Rodgers, Beyonce, Günter Grass, AJA, Mozart, The Knife, Karin Bijsterveld, Tony Conrad, Cocteau Twins, James Joyce, Richard Dawson, Wolfgang Voigt, Machine Woman, Erik Satie, Stereolab, Alan Partridge, Joanna Brouk, AYA, Thomas Köner, Aircode, Virgil, Laurie Anderson, Ellen Arkbro, Penderecki, Okkyung Lee, Mark Fell, Anthony Braxton, Harold Budd, Thomas Mann, and Lotic.

Tiny Grassland explores the voices and internal dialogues that reading produces, nestled amongst intricately assembled soundscapes. How might the messages and ideas of the book and music develop in separation from each other?

Yeah it’s an interesting one. The album was about 80% done when I started writing the book, but I got a bit carried away and began retrospectively adjusting things in the album to align more closely to the accompanying literature. I would even go so far to say that this process of triangulation compromised the music in some ways, but I really wanted the two things to tell the same story through different modalities, if that makes sense? I like the line in Emile’s introduction about allowing the two to feed off one another, that’s a good way to approach it I think. 

Have you found that the music aligns with other pieces of text or indeed that the book works in concert with other pieces of music?

Interesting thought! There are a lot of literary allusions in the music, and a lot of musical allusions in the text. In the book, there’s even an ekphrastic poem written by Laurel Uziell about one of the tracks. I do like the idea that the book lends itself to further listening beyond the album, to the many other musicians mentioned in the text. If you’re anything like me when you read, those reference points will encourage pauses in reading to make room for YouTube rabbit-holes. In a way, a lot of the music was also written with certain texts in mind: litanies, catechisms, prose poems, plays and so on, but I don’t know if the music has the same cross-pollination into literature. 

How does physical media intersect with your experience of music, both in composition and consumption?

This album was a bit unusual for me in that it’s based on some recordings I made at Stockholm’s EMS studios, and particularly on their massive Buchla synthesiser. I recorded probably about 80 hours of music there but most of it was just bleepy bloopy nonsense. Tiny Grassland is the cherry picked bounty of what I recorded there. Beyond that, physicality in music doesn’t play a big part of music for me. I have lots of physical relics from music, like old equipment, instruments, controllers, turntables, cassette players, and other stuff. But I’m quite a lazy person and I usually can’t be bothered to set it up in order to start writing or listening. Most of the ‘physical technology’ on the album is not musical, but there are a lot of household appliances which operate as set design for the ‘rooms’ featured along the album’s narrative. I’m particularly fond of the kettle recording I made for the end of the first track. That’s one of the my favourite bits on the whole album. 

Do you find it easier to convey ideas through words or sounds?

I’m a lot more experienced in using sound as a medium and writing is a little newer for me (especially in the creative sense). So I do feel more confident in using sounds to express ideas. There’s tonnes of enigmas and puzzles in the music which are usually the reserve of literature. I had great fun trying to incorporate scenes, characters, symbolism, jokes, metaphors, cliffhangers and stuff within the music. For me it’s just a way of trying to capture more within the medium, and using novel techniques to create new sounds. Tom Nolan once said that Brian Wilson shifted his focus to film in the 60s because, “if you couldn’t get a sound from a carrot, you could show a carrot. But he would really liked to have made music that was a carrot.” I fully endorse this approach.

Listening to the music and reading to the book simultaneously really reminded me of the near-overload of the video piece “Felt Tip” by Elizabeth Price. It feels natural but equally, as expressed in your writings, synthesised. A balm for endless recordings of water trickling and birds whistling that clog our digital arteries. I’m wondering if the process of creating the album and book changed your perception or attitudes towards the division between the natural and the constructed.

In a way yeah, if only in that it made the line between natural and constructed even fuzzier than before! For a while, I got super interested in the prevalence of artificial nature soundscapes online. The kind of audio that is made for relaxing and falling asleep etc. I think people today are really stressed about their disorderly lives, and about the impending environmental catastrophe. They feel in need of a kind of deep calm and tranquility, and the audio of waterfalls or sand-raking are a kind of short-term solution to that. So the promise these constructed sounds offer of a luscious natural world (albeit an artificial one) is as a kind of antidote to these anxieties. I hope this album can also offer some help or refuge from those anxieties (or even better, a motivation to overcome them!)

Your influences bubble through to the surface at times but it can be hard to separate the myth from the fiction from the reality – if they are even intended to be separated! I’m curious how you feel releasing music and conducting interviews across digital spaces and how you feel that influences or frames the work that you create.

I’m always quite hesitant about interview answers because there’s no fun in being told how to understand something. To be honest, all of the resonant interpretations of the album/book so far have come from other people, who are much smarter than me. The process of writing is so often a messy and incoherent process. I usually find that the themes and concepts only begin to crystallise as the process of writing is nearing its end. So please don’t take my explications too seriously – take what you will from it, your thoughts are probably more coherent.

I’m really interested in your relationship to technology, and utilisation of synthesis to try and probe or provoke more critical approaches to its utilisation in music. What sort of future does Tiny Grassland envisage, and what role might technology play in the sonic spaces of the future?

I guess more than any other genre, it seems as though electronic music has been consistently spawned out of new technological innovations. There are whole genres that have come out of the drum machine, amplification methods, DAWs, sequencers and so on. So if you track the history of electronic music, it seems like the significant cultural changes seem to occur at points where significant developments in technology also occur. I think this close relationship to technology can sometimes lead to quite an uncritical admiration of tech, and its relationship to work, politics, society, and the environment. I get pretty irritated by the lack of political commitments made by contemporary electronic musicians who obsess over technology. It seems like so much electronic music these days wants to present our current situation in an exaggerated worst-case techno-dystopian scenario. But is that the extent of the comment? ‘What if the world was the same, but worse?’ I really believe technology and capital will continue to infiltrate our lives in ways that are far from positive, and I don’t think uncritically submerging them into our music is a good idea. Call me old fashioned but I want something more. I want a way out.

On a similar note, your discussions of the music as mutable, unfinished really reminded me of some reading I’d done for an essay about afrofuturism and the need for a human component of a listener or dancer as part of the core of electronic music. It’s an attitude Kodwo Eshun communicates really well. Does Tiny Grassland need an audible footprint, or a listener, in physical space? Also, does it ever move you? How?

Interesting! I do have a habit of overthinking music and other stuff that I make, so in a way I will always consider things I do as unfinished. I think at a certain stage in the process you have to accept it for what it is, warts and all. I’m definitely very against the hyper-competency of a lot of computer music and much prefer sound that is fallible and broken in some way. Some of my favourite albums, films, and books are complete sprawling shambles and I love them for that. There’s so much in Tiny Grassland I would change if I had the chance, but maybe those errors can act as their own portals of discovery.

The book moves between the minutely personal and the densely abstract. Are myths more alive than ever before? How do we recognise them?

Well, as peb writes in the book, “self-mythologising is fun”. I think so long as you’re doing it with fun in mind, and not in some grandiose in-the-stars kind of way, then I’m all for more mythology. Mythologies that take themselves seriously have no resonance with me – but I don’t mind a bit of good old-fashioned world-building. I just hope the book, and the mythology within it, helps to provide some more shape and colour to the music. I wrote it for fun, not as a textbook.

What is your favourite noise?

Never underestimate the smack of a perfectly executed high five.

Is there a show you would love to go back in time and experience again?

I once saw Animal Collective play an acoustic set of the entirety of ‘Sung Tongs’, including bits from the Vashti Bunyan EP! But I found I didn’t get a job I wanted that day, so I wouldn’t mind watching that again in a better mood.

A track you’ve always wanted to play out or perform but never had the chance?

I’ve been trying for years to learn the Frog Galliard. One day.

A track that never fails to make you dance?

I’m dancing to Oli XL’s ‘Ribbon Bone [Silk Chaser]’ as I write this.

Your favourite club or venue?

I’ve had some really nice pints in the Pride of Spitalfields.

The soundtrack to your funeral?

Vindaloo.

And on a lighter note, the tune you’ll still be listening to in 50 years?

Happy Birthday.

Lastly, any upcoming projects or gigs we can look out for?

I have 3 records coming out of some super repetitive electronic stuff, which I’m mega excited about!! The first should be out before the end of the year.

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Texture Tape 035:

Mistareez

Texture Tape 035 has been brought to life by ANE label head Mistareez. A distinguished producer in his own right, the mix covers the spectrum of contemporary ambient sounds, from dusty to dubby, spliced vocals to supple warmth. Drawing on a trove of mystery trax and personal influences, this one comes straight from the source. It’s the sound of a cozy day in or a hazy morning after. You decide.


Tell us about ANE! What is the philosophy behind the label/show?

So ANE started as a residency on the Bristol radio station Noods and was a vehicle to showcase the less functional music I was exploring whilst part of a couple of club collectives. After a while I wanted to be able to use it as a platform for artists to be able to explore experimental and beatless work.

Has your approach to the music you listen and play changed with the pandemic?

​It’s become even slower I suppose but the lack of clubs has had me turning my living room into a nightclub for one on occasion. I’m desperate to dance with my friends again soon.

And similarly, have you noticed any particular changes in the way you produce and record music?

I think having less distractions from outside sources has exposed me to new levels of existentialism at times. I’m starting way more than I finish but every day is a chance to experiment and I’m learning more and more rn.

ANE’s latest release was accompanied by a limited edition floppy disc run (adore this). What role does physical media play in your relationship to music?

My personal music consumption is almost entirely digital. It’s likely that one day I’ll be building a personal physical collection but at present it suits me to be able to plunder the depths of the online and fit it all my 320s on hard drives and my phone. The floppy project was Crosspolar’s baby but I jumped at the chance to help make it happen. My thoughts were that through the use of recycled disks we were playing about with the tropes and pitfalls in the industry surrounding environmentally unfriendly distro methods, obsolete formats and snobbery. Solidifying a release in a physical format is always a special thing.

And what’s it like releasing on an old-fashioned medium when so much of our listening is digitised and streamlined?

People were crazy enough to buy them all so we must’ve done something right! The files are crushed to shit to get them on such old formats so I really hope some kid out there has had the facilities to give them a listen. Perhaps I’m doubting what old gear people have on them though. I suppose old fashioned mediums still represent an attachment to a type of authenticity in a lot of music circles and some people will have more of a sense of humour than others. We just wanted a chance to experiment and play around though which harks back to why I wanted to do ANE as a platform in the first place. More physicals soon too…

As a producer how do you approach creating a distinct sound within a genre that often tries to be so nondescript?

I have a few methods and techniques that I stick to when working on my beatless tracks but in hindsight I don’t think I’ve really displayed them in my music that is currently available to buy. This ambient new wave is really exciting to me though as there’s a relative anything goes ethos combined with an obfuscation of identity online that drew me away from the egos I’d encounter in club music spaces.

I’m currently going through a phase of applying flangers to everything in efforts to make everything airy af! My production approach is through sound collage mostly. I don’t have the patience for too much synthesis and much prefer processing artefacts until they sound like they’ve had acid poured on them. I guess conceptually my main focus is on trying to create intimate otherworldliness. I’m sitting on a load of slippery music that I’m excited to share in the future.

Onto the mix! It’s luscious, soft, textural, and although I’m hesitant to label anything ‘ambient’ it certainly can be a useful descriptor. What role has ambient music played for you in the past few months?

It’s a ballast for me tbh, I find it super grounding but also like a dissociative. It can be heavier than a lot of dance music at times so can still give me weird screwface moments lol but I think a lot of the calming moments have aided me throughout the last year or so especially. Woozy and disorientating stuff is a good reflection of my general state of mind too.

What were your ideas or plans approaching the mix?

I wanted to give the best example of what ambient is to me at the moment. I always like to keep it as textural (buzzy but thicc) as possible so the listener can decide for themselves how much they’d like to dive in or use it to compliment surroundings. There’s some unreleased bits from myself and friends in there alongside some of my biggest inspirations in the online ambi scene.

What have been your favourite releases and events?

The recent Exael on Soda Gong has been on repeat recently and TIBSLC is doing a lot for me atm too. The events I miss the most are probably the b2b2b2b2bs I used to be part of in smaller venues in Bristol. There’s so much foundational stuff going on in the city that it’d be hard to pinpoint which events I attended as a punter had the most impact on me. The grassroots scene here is really something special and I just hope our spaces can remain relatively untouched by the developers who have already taken numerous scalps in capital’s war on nightlife

Is there a show/event you’d love to go back in time and experience (again)?

Literally any club night at this point.

How do you organise your music?

I think if someone looked at how I “arrange” my files they would enact some kind of intervention. I tend to have an act now, think later approach when I’m trying to reach a flow state and I’ve lost a fair few tracks to the curse of indecipherable project names.

What’s a track you’ve always wanted to play out but never had the chance?

Peverelist – Roll with the Punches

Your dancefloor saver?

Le Dom – Le Tom

The soundtrack to your funeral?

Hard trance chopped and screwed.

And on a lighter note, the tune you’ll still be listening to in 50 years?

Gang Of Four – Damaged Goods

Finally! What’s next for ANE/Mistareez? Any exciting projects we should keep an eye out for?

TT’s Crosstalk EP is out at the end of the month on digi & limited cassette!

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Texture Tape 034:

FYI Chris

Our next instalment of the Texture Tapes series comes courtesy of South London-based duo FYI Chris, whose eagerly anticipated debut album Earth Scum arrives on 5th March via Black Acre Records. They’ve already shared a handful of head-turning teasers from the album, including ‘Scum of the Earth’, a belter of a track which layers Thick Richard’s gnarly poetry over bruising broken beats.

The pair’s tape is an assortment of swirling jams, each track a trip down a new twisting corridor towards something weird and wonderful at the other end. Perfect listening material for floating round on a hazy Sunday afternoon.


You’ve said that ‘Scum of the Earth’ was a way of “tying in two real inspirations of ours in one song”. Tell us a bit more about those inspirations and how they’ve made their way into the track.

Watson: Matt (Thick Richard) is an uncle of mine, so he’s been showing me music and films since I was twelve or something, he originally did Scum of the earth beaned up in Corsica studio years ago, and Corsica is an inspirational/foundational place for both of us too (Coupe used to work at Corsica) so that tune is tied to people and places that have shaped us musically in some ways.

​The video for ‘Scum of the Earth’ is nuts. What’s the story behind it/the story in the video itself?

It was footage of Matt in Manchester that was filmed by Danny and Jacob, which we got our good pal Dil Patel to do his thing to. After his trilogy of datamoshed videos for us on Rhythm Section, we had to get him back for one on the album. We’ve always buzzed off what he comes back with, this one is probably our favourite of the lot too.

What can we expect from the mood of the upcoming album?

Moodwise I think it’s a mixture of mild paranoia and optimistic hedonism.

How has the process of making Earth Scum compared to your approach to some of your other releases?

Largely similar really, a continuation of what we’ve always done – just over a longer time period. We’ve always really just got to four tunes and thought ok, let’s do something with those. Being asked to do an album was maybe the only way we were gonna do it. After that it was just like always, jamming with mates, and going back and forth between tunes and ideas. We did a lot more stuff with vocals than usual and got to visit a few more studios which is always nice.

You’ve mentioned how Earth Scum is an album that’s tightly connected to the people and experiences you associate with South London and the North. How have you found the process of drawing together these memories and influences from two different places?

It’s more just through the people who helped work on the album that gives it that vibe more than anything, we weren’t trying to say much – geographically speaking. Some of the tunes definitely speak on stuff that applies pretty universally.

What were your ideas or plans going into the mix?

It was recorded as two parts separately due to lockdown. We both treated it like a bit of a chance to have a tea and go through some of our listening records. Bits we wouldn’t pack with us for a gig usually. It’s a bit melancholy at points but these are things we like to put on when we are chilling or cooking.

What have been your favourite recent releases?​

Everything Silvestre has been releasing has been golden recently. Likewise, with the Local Action crew and sub labels. Al Wootton has been relentless. Naïve records also amazing.

Keep listening to Stockport artist K.S. Eden – Passed Beyond (on Belgian label Stroom), proper magical stuff.

Have your listening habits changed since the pandemic started and clubs and venues have closed? Are there any styles you’ve been listening to more or less?

Coupe: I have been listening to a lot more albums and radio than I think I would have before. A recent fave is going through archive shows of Gary the Tall’s “The Reign Set” on NTS Radio.

What’s the music scene like where you’re from?

W: Between Manchester and Stoke pretty much everyone has a mum dad, uncle or whatever who went to all-nighters, northern soul onward basically, so there were always people willing to let us put speakers in a pub, or bar and put gigs on, bands and djs a lot of the time. Some real messy ones. Good early practice.

C: Growing up around Whitby it was mostly folk and pub stuff I was exposed to live. I still listen to some of the local bands from Aldershot area when I lived near there. Bands like Shield Your Eyes and Sly and the Family Drone. Well worth checking out! There was a great venue called the West End Centre.

Your dancefloor saver?

W: Marlon D – Jesus Creates the Sound 

C: Jammin’ Gerald – Pass It To The Homie

Is there a show you would love to go back in time and experience again?

Sabbath in Hyde Park maybe. We got tickets for a fiver! Couldn’t fuckin believe it.

How do you organise your music?

W: Pretty chaotically.

C: Yea there isn’t really a system atm. I moved about 6 months ago and my records are a jumble. I found a few old favourites for this mix while having a look through forgotten piles of records last week.

A track you’ve always wanted to play out but never had the chance?

W: Thin Lizzy – Jailbreak (I probably have tbh)

C: RSD – Pretty Bright Lights

Your favourite club?

W: Sankeys, before they re-did room one, there or rye wax

C: I will forever have a very soft spot for Corsica Studios.

What’s the song you’re most looking forward to playing when clubs reopen?

W: Probably X by Scratchclart. 

C: Davina – Don’t You Want It. I’ve thought about which tune I would love to hear in the club when we next get the chance. I think If I heard this on a system/dancefloor I might cry.

The soundtrack to your funeral?

C: Awesome 3 – Don’t Go

W: The Gonk

And on a lighter note, the tune you’ll still be listening to in 50 years?

Loefah – Horror Show

Calibre.

Lastly, any upcoming projects we should keen an eye out for?

We’re always working on new music. No plans but maybe soon. Radio on balamii is second Wednesday of the month 7-9GMT say hi in the chat room if u want! Thanks a lot x


Earth Scum is out 5th March via Black Acre Records and can be pre-ordered on Bandcamp.

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