New Music

Listen: Gardland – Syndrome Syndrome

It comes as no surprise that Gardland, the Sydney techno duo we’ve covered extensively before, has chosen to record this debut LP in the desert. Gardland’s unchartable minimal techno focuses on blank space, like a planet left at its default setting, unthumbed and unmanipulated by god hands. On the evidence of ‘Syndrome Syndrome’ though, they’ve started to populate it. The track is unusually intemperate, haunted by a gathering storm that’s vaguely reminiscent of Hunter-Gatherer labelmate Gareth Psaltis.

This debut album, which is also called Syndrome Syndrome, releases October 29 through RVNG International. Pre-orders are open. We’re probably gonna have a bunch to say about it, be forewarned.

Standard
Features, New Music

An introduction to Hunter Gatherer’s Nander

nander

Nander is the newest addition to fledgling Sydney techno label Hunter Gatherer, which has already spawned EPs by Gardland and Cassius Select in 2013. Originally from the Mid-North Coast of New South Wales but now based in Sydney, producer Nick Anderson played guitar in high school punk bands before he discovered electronic music via artists like Autechre and Aphex Twin.

For those familiar with the other two Hunter Gatherer artists, Nander’s material won’t come as a huge surprise.  The gentler, less pummeling mood of Streamer / Speech positions him halfway between the tech-dub dreaming of Rhythm & Sound and the dense, enveloping ambience of Wolfgang Voigt’s Gas LPs. If neither of those references mean anything to you, just imagine stormy, indifferent synths pressing against and deteriorating the steady 4/4 pulse beneath. These otherwise functional beats sound endangered by the melee they inhabit, like they’ll just rust away with time.

Nander’s 12 inch releases on May 8. Its A-side, Steamer, is streaming below, and further below is a short introductory interview.

Hunter Gatherer will host its official label launch at Sydney’ Red Rattler on Saturday night, featuring Gardland, Cassius Select and others. Check out the Facebook event.

How did you become involved with the Hunter Gatherer label?
I was really interested in Gardland after seeing them perform a few times and hearing their EP. It was exciting to know that this new Gardland / Hunter Gatherer thing had come out of nowhere. The label’s mentality and purpose seemed to embody everything I love about music. So, without expecting a reply, I sent through an email one day to tell them how much I liked the label and linked them to some of my songs.

There seems to be a techno renaissance in Sydney at present. Do you agree? If so, why now?
Yeah, it definitely seems like it. There are so many different people putting on different nights now, which is cool because it allows for different styles of techno/house to be exhibited and keeps it exciting. I worked at Goodgod Small Club for a while, and it was interesting to experience the development of different parties run by various promoters and to see how the crowds and music would vary each week.

I’m really not involved or educated enough in the local (or international) electronic music communities to know why techno is gaining such momentum in Sydney, but to me it feels like, by now, everyone knows whether they are legitimately interested in modern electronic music or not, and now people are sharpening their tastes to more specific areas of the genre.

Why do you make the type of music you do? What are some influences?
Originally I was making sample-based music with a lot of vocals, but everything I made felt like a total failure. I made an EP last year with that sound and it sucked, so I started stripping things back and making mostly instrumental music.

When I started making techno-esque music I wasn’t chasing a certain sound, [but] rather just making sounds with the influence of the raw production and spacey atmospheres of early dub-reggae music. A friend of mine later showed me some Basic Channel / Rhythm & Sound tracks and I instantly loved it. It’s also worth noting the influence of Ricardo Villalobos because I listen to his stuff a lot.

Conceptually I try to make music with an illusion of movement — kind of like in movie scenes where characters sit in a car with a moving image displayed on a screen in the background. The songs aren’t really developing or moving to a new point, even though it feels like it is. Like pseudo-dance music or something?

Your EP leans more on the ambient side of the spectrum. Is that indicative of all your work as Nander, or is it just one facet?
I think it’s just how the music naturally ends up sounding most of the time. I’ll often make something then listen back to it the next day and think that it’s too upfront and hyper active, so I’ll change it to sound more level-headed and spacious. As a guitarist I’ve always been into washed out reverb and delay-heavy sounds, so that must carry over into the music I make on a laptop. Almost all of the music I’ve ever made has been pretty drenched in reverb and noise, so it’ll probably continue like that. Growing up with Aphex Twin’s Selected Ambient Works 85 – 92 LP is probably left to blame.

What’s coming next?
I’ve started working on a few tracks for an EP that will hopefully be done around June. I’m starting to build up a live set as well for the first time, so it will be fun to maybe get out and play music outside of my bedroom. At the end of this month I’m moving to Berlin for the rest of 2013, where I plan to become immersed in both music and Bundesliga football!

nanderalbum

Nander’s Steamer / Speech 12 inch will be available through Hunter Gatherer on May 8. Order on the Hunter Gatherer website.

Standard
Reviews

Two Sides of the Future: Multiple Man and Gardland Reviewed

multipleman

For us, the relatively privileged, the appeal of the future now is iterative consumer technology and nothing else. Our simplest, most achievable visions of the future are usually dreams of services rather than conditions: the proto iPad in Inspector Gadget. William Gibson’s Cyberspace. Star Trek’s anticipation of the mobile phone. We learn from science fiction that, while consuming may get better, the world itself will probably get worse. The world in Zamaytin’s We may be impressive (modular bedrooms, sex with anyone!), and you may not be left wanting for much, but it’s an oppressive Commie nightmare all the same. Similarly, Dick, Haldeman, Bester and many others give us great tools in horrible worlds.

For the most part this holds true. Tools – objects, technology, gadgets – can only get better. Conditions – owning a house, having a safety net, living with a semblance of ethical comfort (not to mention those on the rough end of that ethical dilemma) – can only get worse. Yet we don’t see these current trajectories – the rise-and-rise of neoliberalism, the stripping of government and public services, the unaccountability of corporate criminals – as a dystopian future, yet at one point they were. We’re natives here: this happened slowly enough for the shock to not register. This is just the way it is, and besides, aside from objects and their iterative improvement, what actually constitutes an imagined future in 2013? Do we still imagine?

Typecast

Brisbane duo Multiple Man make dark music, yes, but the darkness they conjure is more of an objective truth than a sensation you will feel. This debut cassette is stylistically adept: sunk, bass-oriented synth lines oscillate amid charcoal guitar distortion. Monotone vocals surface with the lurid haziness of a chewed VHS tape. Cabaret Voltaire, The Screamers and Chrome all come immediately to mind, if you know them. If you don’t, you’re probably more likely to imagine the techno action films you watched in the ‘80s: Videodrome, The Running Man, Escape From New York.

There’s no escaping the dead end of reminiscence. So instead, it’s better to ask why Multiple Man doesn’t sound as nasty as it probably should, or wants to. The reason for that, I’d suggest, is because there’s nothing especially alien nor bracing about these sonic decisions. It sounds antiquated, like a menace we’ve already shot down, picked apart and created names for. Multiple Man comes with no mythology and no reason to wonder. It’s purely what it is: a practice in style. Why they selected this style isn’t explained, as the elements that might signpost the fact that this was recorded in 2013 – lyrics, subtle sonic developments or fingerprints that are this duo’s own – are obscured by an embrace of reverb and griminess. They probably do it because they like it, which is fair enough.

This tape is enjoyable, even brilliant in terms of execution, but it’s hard to be invested emotionally in this music. Not everyone will necessarily want that, but I do – very much so. This particular strain of ye olde synth punk is so intrinsically linked to dreaded past imaginings of a future – the spiritual dysphoria and techno-fear of New Wave sci-fi; the ensuing popular culture that fed off it – that in 2013 it just sounds like an affectionate period piece.

Because the future is rarely imagined in terms of seismic change now, for better or worse. There’s no looming threat of forced progress. Instead we expect the opposite. In the evil empire, the futurists (Soviets) have been exchanged with luddites (Muslim extremists). The future we imagine now will be wrought by minute policy change (or lack thereof), iterative development, and the comfortable inevitability of preservation. The future Multiple Man trades in is no longer frightening. It seems innocent, and as a byproduct, you almost want it back. It’s the result of an anticipation of linearity: the technology will seize us because it can only get better and thus capable. It has, but it’s merely a distraction. Multiple Man is the future as past-tense, a remembrance of its potency. Linearity be damned.

gardland

Repetition is the Key

Gardland’s debut EP has a better hand in the spook stakes. The Sydney duo’s whitewashed minimal techno is one that’s frequently conflated with notions of ‘the future,’ and has been ever since production units like Berlin’s Basic Channel birthed this strand of minimal in the early ‘90s, three years after the Wall fell and thus, the end of a great threat.

Gardland’s template is as well laid as Multiple Man’s is, but the former duo have it easier. Their music isn’t comprised of gestures. There’s nothing vaguely didactic or persuasive about it. Gardland’s music is neutral: these 4/4s and oscillations can’t be challenged, because more than anything they resemble systems. Cold, non-sentient systems processing interminably. Gardland doesn’t explicitly ask you to feel anything: this music depicts a state, or a reflection of a state, of being. These sounds are reined by numbers and movement. It’s exacting, precise, unforgiving of error.

And yes, it’s a template of 20 years’ vintage, but it still feels epochal. It doesn’t deliver epochal sentiments like a modern chart pop artist might, but instead charts the ambiance of our condition. During the EP’s second track, ‘1767’, the record’s sole vocal passage emerges in the form of a neutral, female spoken word. These words stand out:

“Repetition is the key. We take it as a given that tomorrow the sun will rise in the morning, and we have no reason to doubt it.”

Amid a passive and unchanging surface of functional 4/4, these words are basically a manifesto for Gardland. Because this is eternity: this empty grey vortex of space, punctured by a steady immutable pulse, permits no development nor fresh permutation worth speaking of. Gardland’s music speaks of a condition where big change is neither dreamed nor expected. Gardland is what happens when there’s no New World Order to fear. If Multiple Man is tapping into an extinct fear, then Gardland live in the ensuing reality and strive to depict it.

Boy Bear

The Future

It’s gauche to conflate electronic music with ‘the future’ in 2013, but Multiple Man and Gardland are both borne of lineages that prize that association. It’s unlikely that either will penetrate the mainstream in Australia, nor even the sub-mainstream of community radio rotation or alternative print and online coverage. These audio dreamings are not hot currency. Best we lick our wounds to the sepia tones of blue blooded indie rock or affirmative, rags-to-riches Australian hip-hop.

And maybe that’s not so bad: maybe that’s the closest music can get to depicting what our condition manifests: the fact that we want and need music that makes us feel better. Maybe even our angry, demonstrative music need only be a catharsis, a placeholder for real rage, a place to withdraw to. No hardcore fan is going to burn a building to the ground. Rappers espousing rote liberal sentiments in Australia often appeal to the Southern Cross set. Many describe popular rock music as an adjunct to lifestyle – a simple marker of identity – but that in itself is a pursuit of some comfort, of camaraderie.

But that’s what distinguishes Multiple Man and Gardland, even while neither sound anything like the other. One is a fear and the other is what is, or should have been, feared. One has come to pass, the other is right now. There are no boyfriends or girlfriends, no growing up, no getting a job, no dead fathers or mothers, no butterflies in stomachs, no inchoate rage, no burgeoning nor bloomed sexuality, no incendiary politics or chest beating manifestos. They’re just states. One is old, the other is now. Before and after. But what’s next, if anything.

***

Multiple Man’s self-titled cassette is released by Major Crimes. Gardland’s debut EP is released by Hunter Gatherer. Both can be purchased at the source.

Standard
New Music

Listen: Cassius Select – One EP

cassiusselect

The debut EP from Sydney producer Cassius Select has finally released via Hunter Gatherer (the label responsible for the Gardland EP), and it reinforces the young label’s fixation with disquieting and greyscale techno compositions. The guy behind Cassius Select is also responsible for Guerre, but this EP stands in stark contrast to the latter project’s sentimental and (allegedly) abstract RnB.

First impressions suggest that One is sober and functional, but as the EP progresses the tracks become increasingly ornate and strange, culminating in ‘Jamo,’ which takes an unexpected and not unwelcome turn into house territory. If the first three tracks sound like impermeable and cold stainless steel, ‘Jamo’ is kinda like getting tossed a blanket. Still, One serves to reinforce Sydney’s newfound fascination with sonic coldness and gridded, infinite space. Play this between the aforementioned Gardland and this Asger Jorn track, and it’ll all make sense.

Standard
New Music

Listen: Gardland – Live at the Civic Underground

gardland

A live recording doesn’t usually warrant a mention here, but this Gardland set from a recent show in Sydney – in support of Oneohtrix Point Never – is pretty great, and available as a free download. The duo’s set is improvised on their usual analog setup and the recording is pretty good fidelity wise, so all you’ll need to do is have a few stiff drinks, close your eyes, and imagine you’re there. Music for ruined Soviet monuments and endless / permanent vectored grayscapes.

Gardland’s debut EP is out now. Check out an interview here.

Standard