How to Make a J. Biebz Song Bearable…

…Slow it down 800% using time-stretching software, maybe slap some sort of reverb on it, and presto change-o, you’ve got an unexpectedly stunning piece of downtempo ambient that ranks right up there with M83, Sigur Ros or All Sides. Who knew?! Kudos to Shamantis for turning the slick, overproduced sow’s ear of “U Smile” into such an expansive sonic silk purse.

(Via Antony, ta.)

RIP, Larry Cassidy (Section 25)

Larry Cassidy, Section 25 frontman. Photo by Yeled.

Ugh. Larry Cassidy, a driving force behind Section 25 –the criminally under-appreciated, completely fucking wonderful post-punk/electronic group from Blackpool, England– has died, age 56. Cause of death is unknown at this time.

Produced early on by Ian Curtis, and sidelined somewhat by their label Factory Records in favor of more “iconic” bands, Section 25 never quite climbed out from underneath Joy Division’s long shadow, which is a shame. They had a haunting, punk/electronic/ambient sound that was unquestionably unique. As musician/writer  John Robb recently said in an obit for his old friend Cassidy last week:

[Section 25] were organised and had invented their own sound- a deceptively doomy, powerful, stripped down, bass driven, dissonant, post-punk that combined the nihilism of the times with Larry’s art school cool…

Section 25’s records stand the test of time and they deserve to be re-appraised– please don’t put them down as JD copyists, because they were anything but. They captured the darkness of the period and were psychedelic renegades with freaky music that they somehow shoehorned into a tough disco punk of their own– they were making this sound before Joy Division appeared, and I know that because they were doing it on our local Blackpool circuit.

Another great lost genius- maybe Larry Cassidy’s sad death will wake everyone up to how great his band was.

Indeed, and I sincerely hope that’s true, because Section 25 deserves a whole lot of love and recognition. Quickly culled from YouTube, here’s a sampling of their beautiful songs.

Drifting Away With Headphone Commute


My favorite web discovery of the past couple of weeks is Headphone Commute. First of all, I love the name. It instantly conjures images of foggy morning train rides and late-night buses – hands in pockets, head in space, bobbing along to the music. From the “About” page:

Headphone Commute is an independent resource of candid words on electronic and instrumental music. The range of covered genres includes electronica, glitch, idm, drum’n’bass, breakcore, dubstep, trip-hop, modern classical, post-rock, shoegaze, ambient, downtempo, experimental, abstract, minimal and everything in between. HC is not associated with any artist, band, record label, promoter, distributor or retailer covered by the reviews. There is no hidden agenda behind these words. What you see is what you get. All that means is that we share our love for music because we want to – not because we have to.

A word of caution – this blog is is easy to get lost in upon first visit! Between album reviews, in-depth interviews with labels like Somnia and bite-size interviews with artists like Max Richter, on top of my favorite Headphone Commute feature – mixes available for download, it’s kind of impossible not to spend hours reading, researching and hoarding new music. It’s thanks to Headphone Commute that I found out about The Kilimanjaro Darkjazz Ensemble and had my ears taken to their special place by this incredible Best of 2008 Modern Classical mix. I actually can’t recommended this one enough, especially if you’re somewhere that’s beginning to show signs of autumn. Stunningly beautiful, moody, inspiring. For more mixes see Intelligent Breakcore mix and Ten Favorite Mixes of 2008. Happy listening, comrades!


“Scintillation” by Xavier Chassaing

Via DJ Dead Billy.

This exquisite short –watch it full screen in high def at the Vimeo site– is described by director Xavier Chassaing as “an experimental film made up of over 35,000 photographs. It combines an innovative mix of stop motion and live projection mapping techniques.” The score, a haunting, slightly ominous sample-based piece by Fedaden called “Contrecour”, has been on repeat in my headphones for an hour. (Can anyone identify the ubiquitous classical piece from which that looping, opening strain is taken? Gah, it’s on the tip of my brain!!)

Related items of interest:

Cthulhu Meditation: Listen On Dry Land!

A spectrogram of the mysterious “Bloop.”

Y’all know about “The Bloop”, right? Via Wiki:

The Bloop is the name given to an ultra-low frequency underwater sound detected by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration several times during the summer of 1997. The source of the sound remains unknown. The sound, traced to somewhere around 50° S 100° W (South American southwest coast), was detected repeatedly by the Equatorial Pacific Ocean autonomous hydrophone array, which uses U.S. Navy equipment originally designed to detect Soviet submarines. According to the NOAA description, it “rises rapidly in frequency over about one minute and was of sufficient amplitude to be heard on multiple sensors, at a range of over 5,000 km.” According to scientists who have studied the phenomenon, it matches the audio profile of a living creature but there is no known animal that could have produced the sound. If it is an animal, it would have to be, reportedly, much larger than even a Blue Whale, the largest known animal on the earth.

OMG, R’YLEH?! But seriously. That is some mind-rending, scary-ass, dont-think-about-it-too-hard-or-you’ll-shit-a-squid kinda stuff, people! Forget about alien invasion from outer space. Our destruction shall come from the depths. I’m telling you.

Some kooky Thelemite going by the humble title of Frater Tanranin Uhcheek Gozaknee, 222 has composed the following “Cthulhu Meditation” using original Bloop sound files (as well as what sounds suspiciously like a human left-cheeky-sneaky thrown in for lulz) and put it on YouTube. Quite mesmerizing, actually! I recommend popping some ‘luudes and listening to it in the bathtub. With the lights on.

Favorite Youtube comment: “Maybe it’s Cthulhu farting!” Second favorite: “Maybe it’s Amy Winehouse!”

A Room Forever: Listen Carefully


The oft aforementioned musician/filmmaker Joshua Zucker is a bit of a hero around these parts, thanks to his Roadside Picnic radio podcast (the most recent episode, “Solemn/Nostalgia” is one of his best yet).

Zucker’s considerable talents as a dj and curator tie directly into more personal reasons why I adore the guy: I’ve never met a better listener or a more relentless seeker. It has always seemed to me that Zucker’s primary ambition in life is to make this lonely world more beautiful –and therefore more bearable– through tireless creative striving. His latest, arguably most stunning offering yet is A Room Forever:

A Room Forever is an art project realized as a curated series of limited edition 12″ record LPs. Packaged in a custom-made box with high quality digital c-print covers and letter pressed inserts, each record features and original musical composition on one side and a field recording on the other.


Pressed in one-time editions of 300, A Room Forever takes a unique and personal approach to the vinyl record LP. Conceived as a physical manifestation of the Roadside Picnic Radio Podcast, the project draws upon the rich history and mythologies of audio recording to produce a final object of art that will resonate uniquely within each listener.

More than anything, A Room Forever is inherently about the act of listening.

My copies of the first three records arrived in the mail today. Machinefabriek & Matt Davies (EVP – 001), Svarte Greiner (EVP- 002) and Koen Holtcamp (EVP-003) are all huge talents working in relative obscurity, but with worshipful cult followings. Each edition is beautifully designed and printed, featuring exquisite photography by Kurt Mangum and individually hand-stamped/numbered.

Cover for EVP-002, featuring work by my favorite Norwegian, Erik Skodvin (under his Svarte Greiner moniker). In keeping with Zucker’s fascination with the haunted history and mythology of audio recording, the abbreviation for this series is “EVP”. A wee hint to those who already own one the records: look closely for the mysterious messages etched into the vinyl. My hair stood on end when I realized what they were.

The LPs are selling out very fast. Order them now from Aquarius Records, Boomkat, Other Music or Forced Exposure. Painstakingly well made, rare, and imbued with a sense of mystery and longing, A Room Forever is one of the most collectible limited edition vinyl runs you are likely to see for years to come.

An ocean of static, a desert of sound

Mer mentioned the Roadside Picnic podcast here a few weeks back. Hosted by a gentleman named Joshua Zucker, this podcast’s chewy contents are some of the best brain fuel I’ve had the pleasure to absorb in quite some time. The past couple of episodes were especially fitting with the belated arrival of rain in Angel City, and I must take a moment to reflect.

Each installment has a somewhat melancholy-sounding theme, but I’ve so far found this to be the ideal multi-purpose station. It’s marvelous for letting the sound flood and take over just as well as having it as low ambience while painting, writing, reading, or whatever sinister activity you choose to engage in. I suggest you try the former, first.

Roadside Picnic is a blend of ambient drone, atmospheric distressed instrumental, and occasional vocal tracks. At full volume the experience is akin to drifting through walls of dense noise, sometimes falling into pools of melody and being pierced with emphatic shrieks. Like tuning a radio in a radiation apocalypse; faint signs of life puncturing the static of a scorched world. Listen.

Roadside Picnic Podcast

Musician/filmmaker Joshua Zucker is one of very few folks whose tastes I trust implicitly. Episode 13 of his thematic Roadside Picnic podcast just went up. As always, it’s an astonishing mix of sounds and genres, lovingly and seamlessly compiled. Put on your best pair of headphones, and drift.