Top Ten Albums of 2014

Okay not really.

In 2008, Have A Nice Life released a double LP, Deathconsciousness. It is as close to a perfect album as a record can get when it’s this lo-fi and raw. It sounds like it was recorded in the basement where you first learned how hard life was really going to be.

That’s what it sounds like to me at least, maybe your basement was actually quite nice.

From the amazing Sputnik Music review of Deathconsciousness that you should really read:

On this album, I feel I wouldn’t be able to sum up my feelings on the countless moments that make this album amazing. Deathconsciousness has a dense, reverby wall of sound and a dense, lofty concept that is opaque and difficult to see through. Moments blend together and amble along for minutes at a time in the swirling mass of ideas that permeates this album. This album is the antithesis of one created by a band like Hot Cross. It is impenetrable and atmospheric, instead of tautly constructed and brittle. Deathconsciousness is an album to be enjoyed on a long car drive or a pensive late night.

Now there is a new record.

Have A Nice Life

It leaked after being up on the Pitchfork advance streamer, and I have been listening to it non-stop since. They’re posting a few of the tracks in on the Flensner Records Soundcloud. You should try to find a full copy if you can. It’s perfect music for these short days and cold nights.

Are there winter clouds in your heart? Have a nice life.

Top Ten Albums of 2013

Photo by Chris / CC BY NC SA

There are a lot of great 2013 records that aren’t on this list. And there are a lot of great 2013 records I haven’t heard yet. And hierarchies are bullshit constructs. And yet here we are!

10: Eluvium – Nightmare Ending

Guitar drones and ambient synths mixed with moody neo-classical. The only ambient record on this list that stays ambient the entire way through, without drifting into abraisive noise solos. For fans of Stars Of The Lid and Eno-style ambient.

9: Melt-Banana – Fetch

2013 comeback records that don’t suck #1: Melt-Banana. I know that japanoise bands are not everyone’s cup of tea, but just listen to Zero, this album’s closer. How can you not love this record? We all have a little noise in our hearts.

8: Roly Porter – Life Cycle Of A Massive Star

Probably the shortest record on this list? This or the Melt-Banana. Beautiful concept, beautiful tones, beautiful progression from rich melodic Tangerine Dream style ambient into moments of brutal power electronics and back again. Fun Fact: When I first listened to this album, my music player locked up and looped a 10-second clip over and over, and I didn’t notice for nearly ten minutes.

7: Chelsea Wolfe – Pain Is Beauty

This record is like if Zola Jesus listened to Doom growing up instead of Industrial. The production reminds me a lot of Earth’s last few albums, but if you dragged it through the mud and then accidentally used the ‘shoegaze’ preset when you mixed it. Basically it sounds like a lot of good things is what I’m saying here.

6: Le Matos – Join Us

I don’t even know what kind of music this is. Italian Troncore. Vangelis does Georgio Moroder on the set of Zombi 2. Sega Master System racing games fondly remembered through fever dreams.

5: Fuck Buttons – Slow Focus

Fuck Buttons is the band that proves all this whining about kids today being too soft for noise music is bullshit. Listen to this fucking record, man. This is an Ant-Zen record, this is a Tympanik record. Except the band is playing huge festivals and people are losing their fucking shit over it.

4: Diaphane – Lifeforms

I’ve loved everything I’ve heard from Régis Baillet, each album more than the last. Whenever I listen to his music, it makes me want to be a better musician. Beautiful, melodic, haunting, beautiful. Long, progressive washes of synths and loops with rare moments of driving, frenetic energy.

3: The Haxan Cloak – Excavation

If the Eluvium record is Eno-style background ambient, this is lights-off / headphones-on ambient. It is not for playing in the background while you work on wrapping Christmas presents or make dinner. It is for deep listening. There is so much here. Also there are a lot of beats so probably ambient isn’t the best word to describe this anyway.

2: Gary Numan – Splinter

2013 comeback records that don’t suck #2. The best 90s industrial rock record since the 90s. Seriously. If half the tracks on this were released by NIN as instrumental demos from The Downward Spiral no one would bat an eye. Gary Numan is one of those rare vocalists who can make any style of music sound like he invented it, and after listening to this record, I’m not sure he didn’t.

1: Pet Shop Boys – Electric

2013 comeback records that don’t suck #3. The last few Pet Shop Boys records sounded like they were made by people who hated music. It was only with a sense of deep obligation to the 80s that I listened to this in the first place, actually. It’s hard to pick a #1 between this and the Gary Numan, but it was so incredible to hear a return to form for PSB that it gets the top pick. All Pet Shop Boys greatest hits albums need to be recalled so they can add Love Is A Bourgeois Construct to the tracklist.

lifetime fan rapport

I could write a dozen different pieces about The Album That Changed My Life and each would be different, each would be a perfect cross-section of who I was, where I was, and how everything changed. Coil. Front Line Assembly. NWA. Tori Amos. The KLF. Haujobb.

This is about Fixed, by Nine Inch Nails.

I was young. Fourteen? I had a copy of Pretty Hate Machine, the Head Like A Hole single, Broken, and Sin. I loved Broken. It had all of the tearing guitar aggression of The Offspring’s Smash but with a kind of obsessive nihlist production that I had never heard anywhere else.

I remember borrowing Broken from a friend. Picking it up at her house. I remember her roommate’s performative dismissal when she learned what I was borrowing. “Nine Inch Nails? They’re shit now. Past their prime.” It was 1994.

When I heard about Fixed, I thought it would be like the Sin single. Or Head Like A Hole. A few clubby remixes, a few quiet remixes, maybe an extra track.

It wasn’t like that. It wasn’t like anything I had ever heard.

The remixers on Fixed include:

  • Butch Vig (Garbage)
  • J. G. Thirlwell (Foetus, frequent collaborator of Lydia Lunch and Marc Almond, currently the composer for The Venture Bros)
  • Bob Flanagan (Subject of the documentary “SICK: The Life & Death of Bob Flanagan, Supermasochist”)
  • Peter Christopherson (Co-founder of Industrial Records, Psychic TV, and Coil)

I had heard albums before that changed the way I thought about music. Albums with sounds on it that I didn’t know it was possible to make. Songs about the personal, the occult, and the psychotic. What I hadn’t heard before was an album where I wasn’t sure that it was music at all. Vocals chopped up and syllables rearranged into a violent glossalia. Songs suddenly crashing in on themselves, reduced to a half-second of guitars and drums looping absurdly on a stuck needle you can’t reach. Walls of noise cutting out to cheery commercials and back in again before you’re sure what it is that’s happening.

I didn’t listen to anything else for at least four months. Likely longer. I played that tape until all of its sharpness was lost and my walkman had been closed so long the rubber seal had started to fuse.

From that album I discovered Coil. Foetus. Industrial Records. Can. Cabaret Voltaire. Swans. William Burroughs. JG Ballard. Godflesh. NEU!. Neubauten. Test Dept. Gary Numan. Ministry. Stockhausen. Killing Joke. Brian Eno.

Everything.

Years later, Trent Reznor took some time between winning a Grammy and winning an Oscar to personally say “fuck you” on my Facebook after I said I missed the old Nine Inch Nails sound.

There’s no substitute for that kind of lifetime fan rapport, friends.

I am not good at following advice

I’ve been thinking a lot about Other Jairuses. (Other Jairii?) If I had made different choices, focused my energy on different things. What would I be doing now. What would I be good at.

Eight years ago I was trying to decide where I should put my creative efforts. In design and visual art, which I had done professionally off and on — In writing and storytelling, where I felt very confident and capable — or in music, where I had been DJing for a while but I had no idea if I had any of the necessary skills to put together a song that anyone might want to listen to.

I asked a lot of people which they thought I should focus on, and almost everyone said writing. It was my ‘strength’. A few people said design. No one said music.

Eight years later and I have a couple of releases out, I’ve done a lot of touring, and I am for sure Jairus The Electronic Musician to a lot more people than I am Jairus The DJ. I haven’t been writing regularly or doing any design that isn’t paid work. I didn’t realize it while it was happening, but I traded those outlets in to make music.

One of the things that happens when you don’t do something for eight years is you stop being really good at it. Or you stop being good at it on demand, at least. I can still write things that I feel good about, but that’s the exception rather than the rule, and oh my god is there anything less interesting than someone writing about how challenging they think writing is.

Eight years later and I feel the hole left in me where I used to tell stories. Eight years later and I remember how good it felt to be up late creating something beautiful in photoshop that wasn’t for anyone but me. Eight years later and I’m not a writer, or an artist, or even really a DJ anymore.

Eight years from now, what I am going to wish I had spent more time doing? What am I going to wish I had gotten better at? What art am I going to wish I felt comfortable making?

That’s what I need to work on today.

#MP3Tribute

I think Aaron Swartz’s death hit us all differently. I felt like we weren’t just dealing with the loss of an incredibly talented and driven mind, but also with having our collective future robbed of all of the things Aaron had yet to do. People wouldn’t have the same access to music that they do today if it wasn’t for Aaron, and I wouldn’t have had the opportunities that I’ve had as an artist if it wasn’t for Aaron. I want to celebrate what he’s given us.

I’m asking artists to join me in making 100 albums free to download in Aaron’s memory.

Things I Have Been Enjoying Lately, Third in a Series

Front Line Assembly – AirMech

FLA - Airmech

Front Line Assembly changed my life.

They were the first industrial band I ever heard, way back when a friend gave me a tape of Tactical Neural Implant in 92. I remember putting it in my walkman, hitting play, and listening to Final Impact completely stunned. I had been listening to Guns N’ Roses, Led Zeppelin, and N.W.A — nothing that prepared me at all for what I was hearing. I didn’t know music like that existed. I didn’t even know it was possible to make those kinds of sounds. The same friend clued me in to Delerium, Noise Unit, Intermix, and the rest of the FLA side projects. (Synaesthesia has always been my favourite of those, and their Ephemeral record is one of my desert island disks.)

Tactical Neural Implant was twenty years ago, and FLA’s still releasing albums. They’ve got new blood in the band, and whatever combination of people and equipment it took to make AirMech should probably be flash-frozen and preserved for future generations.

Fair warning: AirMech is completely instrumental. It’s also a video game soundtrack, and not a club record. And, like a lot of FLA records before it, the production is heavily influenced by whatever was blowing up in electronic music when they made it (which in this case is dubstep, so get your haterade ready).

The thing that makes this album amazing isn’t the wubs or the lack of vocals. This album is great because the diversity in the production spans very nearly the entire FLA discography. There are sequences that sound like they could have been taken off of Tactical Neural Implant, next to parts that could have come from lost Delerium or Synaesthesia tapes. There are elements of it that are unmistakably modern, and without any vocals in the mix the electronics shine in a way they aren’t often allowed to.

I don’t know if I’d say that this is FLA’s best record since the classics — I think Artificial Soldier is as good as anything else that got released after Millennium, and it’s hard to compare a heavy club record to a soundtrack — but I’ve been listening to it more than I’ve listened to any other FLA record since the 90s, and I’m not putting it down anytime soon.

If you were ever a fan of FLA’s less aggro material, you should listen to Airmech.

[soundcloud url="https://soundcloud.com/jeremy-inkel/12-prime-empiricism" params="" width=" 100%" iframe="true" /]

We can do better.

It has been a very long and unlikely week.

Last Thursday Nick and I got on stage at Kinetik and played the best set either of us have ever played — a 50 minute performance, but it’s the last five that everyone’s talking about.

We had a message we wanted to deliver, and we did it. And a week later, the conversation about it is still going strong. It’s funny, before Nick and I went on stage we were talking about what could happen. We thought maybe a few people might get behind it. We also thought maybe we might get booed off stage. Worse yet, we thought maybe no one would notice or care.

Seven days, hundreds of shares, and 10k+ views later, people are still talking about misogyny and racism in industrial music. We’ve had hundreds of people get in touch to tell us how much they appreciate what we did. I’ve lost count of the number of women who’ve told us that this kind of imagery is exactly why they left the scene. And if I told you how many people (men and women alike) cried when they spoke to us about it, you wouldn’t actually believe me.

So, it’s a week later. The message is as clear as I could make it. Andy and Thomas have both said their piece on it. There have been articles, interviews, and editorials. And people are still talking about what it all means. About sexism, about racism. About art, communication, and community.

What does it say about our scene, that this resonates so strongly with so many people? What does it say about the conversations we haven’t been having? And what will happen if more people continue to say: We demand better.

I hope we’ll get to find out.

Six Degrees of Awesome

From me to Johnny Cash in 5 steps.

  1. I (Ad·ver·sary) was remixed by J.F. Coleman (of Phylr)
  2. J.F. Coleman was in Baby Zizanie with J.G. Thirlwell
  3. J.G. Thirlwell was in The The with Sinead O’Connor
  4. Sinead O’Connor wrote “Don’t Give Up” with Willie Nelson
  5. Willie Nelson was in The Highwaymen with Johnny Cash!

Huzzah!

The War Against Free (or: Oh Crap!)

Why record labels will never win the war against free: An experiment.

The whole file sharing phenomenon (and legal music downloading) is largely driven by a powerful psychological aversion to being cheated.

It turns out that free is so powerful not because it’s free, but because it allows us to minimize the risk of being cheated. Duke University behavioral economist Dan Ariely conducted an interesting experiment to understand “free”, which he writes about in his book Predictably Irrational.

First, he and his colleagues sold random college students two kinds of chocolates. One was Lindt Truffles from Switzerland. The second was Hersheys Kisses. The truffles were 15 cents and the Kisses were 1 cent. The students reasoned that the difference in price between the two chocolates was due to quality. 73% chose the truffles and 27% chose the Kisses.

Then Ariely did something interesting. He introduced free into the experiment. He lowered the price of each chocolate by 1 cent, so the truffles were now 14 cents and the Kisses were free. All of a sudden, preference for the Kisses skyrocketed.

Ariely concluded that free is so enticing because it eliminates the risk of buyer’s remorse, or what I like to call the “Oh, crap!” factor. Nobody wants to buy something and then discover that it’s not what they expected. Even if the price of that thing is just a few cents, the psychological aversion still exists. When something is free, that risk is eliminated entirely. It may still not be what you expected, but at least you didn’t lose anything by paying for it.

Cuts Me Up

The Top 20 Alternative Videos of 1990, as recorded by the 120 Minutes historical playlist archive.

  1. Depeche Mode “Enjoy The Silence”
  2. Jane’s Addiction “Been Caught Stealing”
  3. Peter Murphy “Cut You Up”
  4. Sinead O’Connor “Nothing Compares 2 U”
  5. Sonic Youth “Cool Thing”
  6. The Sundays “Here’s Where The Story Ends”
  7. The Charlatans U-K “The Only One I Know”
  8. Midnight Oil “Blue Sky Mine”
  9. The Cure “Never Enough”
  10. Concrete Blonde “Joey”
  11. The Soup Dragons “I’m Free”
  12. World Party “Way Down Now”
  13. Nine Inch Nails “Head Like A Hole”
  14. The Jesus and Mary Chain “Head On”
  15. Cocteau Twins “Iceblink Luck”
  16. The Pixies “Dig For Fire/Allison”
  17. The Stone Roses “Fool’s Gold”
  18. The House of Love “I Don’t Know Why I Love You”
  19. Iggy Pop “Candy”
  20. Happy Mondays “Step On”

(Via MeFi.)

Goth·ver·sary

Gothtronic reviews A Bright Cut Across Velvet Sky:

Ad·ver·sary is the powernoise/IDM project of Jairus Khan. In 2008 he made quite a name for himself with his album ‘Bone Music’, which was available as regular cd edition on Tympanik Audio, but could also be downloaded for free in high quality. [...] A very good remix album. Although some songs get remixed three times, all the tracks have a reasonable different sound, so it doesn’t get repetitive. Together with the addition of a couple of new tracks this is really an album you should have in you collection!

I agree with this man! You should download the album (it’s free!), or pick up a CD (on sale now!) from Tympanik.

I love my job (first in a series)

This is a list of near-mint records that my boss just gave me:

  • Bauhaus – Bela Lugosi’s Dead (!), 1979-1983, The Sky’s Gone Out
  • Blondie – Autoamerican
  • Gang of Four – Entertainment!, I Love A Man in a Uniform, Solid Gold, The Yellow EP
  • Joy Division – Atmosphere, Closer, Substance
  • Love and Rockets – Ball of Confusion, Express, Love and Rockets, Seventh Dream of Teenage Heaven
  • Minor Threat – Out of Step
  • Mojo Nixon & Skid Roper – Root Hog Or Die
  • New Order – State of the Nation, Subculture, Substance, Technique, The Perfect Kiss
  • Pere Ubu – The Tenement Year
  • Public Image Ltd. – Album
  • Simple Minds – Sister Feelings Call
  • Siouxsie and The Banshees – Cities in Dust
  • Skids – Days in Europa
  • Squeeze – Babylon and on
  • Talk Talk – It’s My Life
  • Talking Heads – Wild Wild Life
  • The B-52s – The B-52s
  • The Cure – Boys Don’t Cry, Concert (Live), Standing on a Beach
  • The Jesus and Mary Chain – Automatic, Darklands
  • The March Violets – Walk Into The Sun
  • The Mission – Carved in sand
  • The Screaming Blue Messiahs – Gun-Shy
  • The Sugar Cubes – Life’s Too Good
  • NME C86

(They were sitting in a milk crate on my chair when I got in this morning!)

10 * 365.25

Ten years ago today, I waited outside HMV for it to open in the morning so I could pick up a copy of The Fragile at the very moment it was released.

Ten years later, I’m cursing ebay regularly trying to find a non-bootleg vinyl copy for less than $100.

This lot is what dreams are made of.

A Bright Cut Across Velvet Sky

The new Ad·ver·sary disc is finished. I’m listening to the final master now to make sure there’s no glitches, and then off it goes.

Tracklist:

  1. Ancients (Cyanotic Remix)
  2. Waiting for Gira (Patience is a Virtue Perceived Remix by ESA)
  3. Creatura (and the sea)
  4. Just (Spookier Remix by Iszoloscope)
  5. Bone Music (Disparition Remix)
  6. No Exit (Sartre Wasn’t Kidding Remix by Candle Nine)
  7. Friends of Father (Oil Sands Remix by Monoculture)
  8. Dresden
  9. Waiting for Gira (Still Waiting Remix by Stendeck)
  10. Darker
  11. Just (Boo! Remix by Synkro)
  12. Waiting For Gira (Phylr Remix)
  13. Number Nine (Square Prime Remix by Autoclav1.1)
  14. Just (Passed Away Remix by Salt)
  15. Cyanotic – Deface (Ad·ver·sary + Dirtybunny = Industrial Strength Mix)

Fuck yes.

We’ll all float on, ok?

From a new Genesis P-Orridge interview:

Just recently some young students moved in to the apartment downstairs from us, so we went down and said “Hi welcome, we’re your neighbors,” and they gave us a cocktail because we’re all sitting there trying to make friends, and one of them said, of course, “What do you do?” So we said rather shyly, “well we kinda make music, do some art and stuff.” And one of the guys goes, “Oh what kinda music man?” And we said, “well the first band that we were in played music and we called it Industrial Music.” And he looks at me and he goes, “Yeah!” and he pulls up his T-shirt and he’s got a big Nine Inch Nails tattoo on his arm, and we went, “well, not really like that.” (laughs) And he went, “what do you mean?” “Well it was quite a few years before they were Nine Inch Nails.” and he went, “What? What do you mean? I thought Nine Inch Nails was Industrial” and so we thought, it’s not worth trying to explain this, and then the girl said, “Oh like Modest Mouse!”

First time anyone’s caught the sample in No Exit, too.

A new review of Bone Music, this time from the Grave Concerns e-zine:

What really sets apart Khan’s work from most of his contemporaries in the dark electronic scene is a fondness for more traditional sound sources. While there’s no shortage of electronic ambience and computer-generated percussive sounds, there’s also plenty of mostly unadorned rock and classical instrumentation. “Waiting for Gira” backs its rumbling percussion with the heavy throb of low-end bass guitar, for example, and “Friends of Father” sees what sounds like old-school guitar distortion and clattering snare drum emerging from a fuzzy wash of static. This more organic sound translates especially well to Khan’s use of rhythm. Often, his beats sound less like programmed sequences than tribal percussive ensembles, especially on the ominous “International Dark Skies,” which evokes imagery of some midnight voodoo conjuration, and title track “Bone Music,” which despite the morbid imagery of its title is actually possessed of a sense of fun not unlike Einsturzende Neubauten’s mellower instrumental experiments.