So Long, Sleazy

Yesterday, Peter Martin Christopherson, a.k.a. Sleazy, died suddenly in his sleep. He was 55. A founding member of Throbbing Gristle and Coil, as well a solo artist in his own right, Sleazy leaves behind an incredibly rich musical legacy and a great deal of gutted friends and fans. This shocking news comes just a month after the remaining members of Throbbing Gristle announced their regrouping under the name, X-TG, following Genesis P-Orridge’s departure.

Sleazy’s contributions to music and culture are immeasurable. From naked stage antics with Throbbing Gristle as one of the founding fathers of the industrial genre back in the mid-70s, to starting Psychic TV with Genesis P-Orridge and forming the intense, dark, trailblazing Coil with his partner, Johnn Balance, in the 80s, Sleazy has always been a fervent innovator. He designed iconic album covers, built his own instruments, created countless radical videos, spoke out against homophobia, and when Balance passed away after they spent over twenty years together, Sleazy held it together and started The Threshold HouseBoys Choir – a music project featuring computer-generated vocals and video. He continued creating until the very end.

In one of his most recent interviews, Sleazy said:

If I can die knowing I’ve helped put a few of us outsiders in touch, helping one another, particularly helping pass on what we know to other new people, and encouraging each other to be more proud of who they are, I will be a happy man.

Rest easy.

A Wistful Video-salute to the Dark Side

From 1995 to 1997, Sleep Chamber was my lullaby. Perhaps due to my taking the band’s name a little too literally, Sirkle Zero was on repeat every night. Soon after, Psychic TV entered orbit and the floodgates ov darkness were officially open.

Psychic TV testcard, used at beginnings of videos, performances, etc. Also my desktop. Also, I’m putting this on a T-shirt.

Yep, nostalgia abounds with the resurgence of darque music [and imagery, and the accompanying, deliberately lo-fi videos], that’s been steadily creeping forth over the past couple of years.

The video-playlist ahead began to take shape because all this new gloomstuff is blowin’ up and the pioneers of dark/experimental/noise/etc. deserve re-visiting and acknowledgment more than ever. And because the music below has managed to remain visceral and electrifying and relevant as ever. Also, having all these videos in one place? AWESOME. A shamefully incomplete tribute, the playlist features Sleep Chamber, Coil, Swans, Psychic TV, Nurse With Wound, and MOAR. Add your favorites in the comments section to flesh this baby out!

BTC: Bagger 288

Neck not supporting head? Eyes won’t focus? Daily grind? Sausage grind? Welcome, sons and daughters. Welcome to the machine. Specifically, the infamous Bagger 288:

0:47 = tragically accurate visual metaphor for the author’s current state.

Yep. An internet classic. When in doubt (or too sleep deprived to think straight), Joel Veitch to the rescue!

Linotype: The Film

A trailer for those who appreciate moving images of complex, obsolete machines doing their thing. Linotype: The Film is a look at the Linotype printing machine. Invented by Ottmar Mergenthaler it revolutionized typesetting upon it’s arrival in 1886, allowing for a much smaller number of workers to set type. Calling to mind an enormous typewriter, its inner-working are best left to Wikipedia:

The Linotype machine operator enters text on a 90-character keyboard. The machine assembles matrices, which are molds for the letter forms, to a line. The assembled line is then cast as a single piece, called a slug, of type metal in a process known as “hot metal” typesetting. The matrices are then returned to the type magazine from which they came. This allows much faster typesetting and composition than original hand composition in which operators place down one pre-cast metal letter, punctuation mark or space at a time. – The name of the machine comes from the fact that it produces an entire line of metal type at once, hence a line-o-type.

Directed by Douglas Wilson, the trailer for Linotype features some top-notch machine porn, shot by Brandon Goodwin with some excellent sound by Jess Heugel as well as looking at the people who adore these mechanical relics. Just my kind of movie.

Update: Wilson has set up a Kickstarter to help fund the project. If you enjoyed the trailer you can donate a couple of dollars to help get this bad boy made and get some cool swag in return.


Laurie Lipton’s “Machine Punk” Series


In a new series titled Machine Punk, artist Laurie Lipton (previously on Coilhouse, with a cameo appearance by Caryn Drexl) skillfully renders a series of cumbersome, beautifully sprawling machines whose tangled wires and polluted textures conspire to create a sense of unease. Lipton states that the series was inspired by steampunk, but notes that the machines in her images run on “madness and electricity” rather than steam. “I was vacuuming one day, and noticed the amount of plugs and cables on the floor… a veritable wasp’s nest of wires and sockets connecting a hoard of gadgets and doo-dads intertwining around the house and my life. I was trapped like a fly in an electrical web. What had happened? Were these things making my life easier or more complex?” The resulting series features contraptions ranging from rickety flying machines to torturous exercise equipment, and critiques – among other things – CCTV surveillance, a broken recycling system, and the empty thought-calories of spending too much time online. Most of the images in this series are best enjoyed at a larger size, so click here to see them all.

Machine Punk will be on display at La Luz de Jesus Gallery in Los Angeles from November 5 – 28th in Gallery 1, side-by-side with artist and Coilhouse collaborator Jessica Joslin in Gallery 2. Also, if you’re a fan of Laurie Lipton’s ghostly older work, it’s worth mentioning that she recently collaborated with clothing company AllSaints to produce a line of t-shirts featuring the wraiths and skeletons of her previous work, and that some of these shirts are now on sale. [Many thanks to the awesome Coilhouse reader who sent this in – I received your submission a while ago, but can’t find it now to credit you! Was it via Twitter?]

The Fates

Sketches Of Babylon

A frantic time-lapse of artist Meer One creating images for his mono-distortion series Sketches of Babylon. A set of 33 individual paintings sharing a common style, Sketches of Babylon depicts the rising, skeletal spires of a totalitarian society on an alien world, rendered in fiery oranges and yellows. They make me think of 60s-era science fiction paperback covers. Baurmann Gallery is going to begin selling them today at 1pm PST for $500.00 apiece. If you’re interested and have the cash you can email them.

via OMG Posters!

Contribute Sound Art to SYZYGRYD

Syzygryd Software Preview
from nicole aptekar on Vimeo.

Currently in the Bay Area, a team of artists, engineers, hackers, musicians, designers and makers of all stripes is working around the clock to produce an ambitious interactive sound/light/fire sculpture called Syzygryd. As you read this, chances are someone is welding, grinding, riveting, plasma cutting, wiring up LED lighting, finalizing the touchscreen control panels, or installing fire effects at the Nimby DIY space in Oakland, where the project is rapidly coming together – tube by tube, cube by cube, burst by burst of flame.

A collaboration between Interpretive Arson, False Profit Labs, Gray Area Foundation For The Arts (GAFFTA), and Illutron, this 2.5-ton, 60-foot sculpture will act as a giant electronic musical instrument. Designed as a traveling installation, Syzygryd will debut at Burning Man in under a month. The Syzygryd user experience, as explained by Interpretive Arson’s Morley John, will be as follows: “Three strangers [will] come together and visually compose a unique piece of music. The beauty of Syzygryd is that the entire sculpture responds to what you’re creating in sequenced light and fire. Each touchscreen controller has a grid of buttons which allow you to input musical patterns.” The initial Syzygryd proposal elaborates further:

Syzygryd is a collaborative musical instrument for three non-professional players. We are not naive. We’re not shoving guitars into the hands of novices and expecting symphonies. This is a very carefully designed canvas that guides beginners to harmony (in fact, discordant notes are literally impossible.) The interface is rhythmic, visual, and dead simple. We’ve been meticulously developing the software for months, playing with iPhone prototypes on busses, tweaking sounds, testing it out on our friends. We knew we were getting warmer the first time that three people, with no formal training in music, got bystanders grooving involuntarily…

Though most of the heavy lifting takes place Oakland, people from around the world are invited to contribute to the build.

How can you help build Syzygryd? By submitting sound sets. You’re basically submitting 3 (or more) types of sounds that mesh well together, and people will make music with them. For Syzygryd’s sound palette is not limited to the three electronic tones you hear in the software demo above. You can make it play anything: chirping bird noises, breathing, machine/factory sounds… the more creative the combination, the better. To submit a set, all you need to do is have Ableton Live, download Syzygryd’s MDK (Musician Developer Kit), and consult this handy video tutorial for extra help as needed. There’s also a forum where you can ask questions and get advice. All submitted sets will be reviewed by Syzygryd’s Music Team, and a selection of the top sets will played by the sculpture.

Having observed and participated in the Syzygryd project build, it’s clear that everyone involved is deeply invested in crafting an experiential zone that will be the first of its kind. As the proposal states, “[Syzygryd is] the most beautiful expression we can imagine of the joy we take in community, music, technology, fire, sculpture and architecture. We have assembled an international team of artists with extraordinary talent and experience. All of us are in love. Every day we see things that no one has yet imagined, and it’s been our delight to work within a community to make them real. We’d like to create a space in our city where others — people who don’t normally do this sort of thing — can feel at least a little of that.” That’s a wonderful thing to be part of on any level, and in Syzygryd’s case, people from around the world can get involved.

The deadline for submitting sounds sets to Syzygryd is Tuesday, August 24th. More info on the sculpture and music submission process, after the jump!

A Post Nuclear Life

Donald Weber takes a heart wrenching look at the city of Zholtye Vody in Ukraine. Located near two nuclear waste sites and an enrichment factory in the hub of the Soviet Union’s uranium mining and enrichment area, the homes were built using highly contaminated materials. With a higher radiation level than Chernobyl, over half the population of 60,000 people suffer from some sort of radiation sickness.

Upon first viewing this slide-show I was immediately struck with the strangest memory. Specifically, a memory of being a child, sitting in the ophthalmologist’s office and leafing through a copy of National Geographic which contained a large article on the Chernobyl disaster. The same hollow and broken faces are here in Weber’s essay. There is some joy here too, but it never seems to truly outshine the pain.

The image below was especially affecting and I had mixed feelings posting the set. It struck me that my vision of these post Soviet states is largely informed by images like this — a collection of gnarled women in babushkas, all furrowed brows and vacant stares, and emaciated youths, bald and hurting. It’s a world where lives are lived entirely within tiny, cramped apartments in stark, concrete tenements whose facades and walkways are slowly succumbing to an inexorable army of vegetation. I find myself thinking that there must be more to these people’s lives than this and fearing that there isn’t. I worry that I am passing on a misconception; proliferating a stereotype. I suppose that if the purpose of art is to make us question then, at least in my case, Daniel Weber has succeeded.

BTC: John Hurt, Experimental Sound Artist

Since Ross has been on a bit of a John Hurt kick lately, writing up both Jim Henson’s The Storyteller and Krapp’s Last Tape in recent editions of FAM, this week’s better-late-than-never Better Than Coffee follows up with Hurt’s more musical side: his turn as an experimental composer in Jerzy Skolimowski’s 1978 horror drama The Shout. The above is a scene from the movie with absolutely no spoilers; just a tactile landscape of metallic noise. [Via Wobbly]

Tyskarna Från Lund – Global Fussball OK

via Melody, thanks!

And so, with a melange of yellow cards, red fury and vuvuzela farts, the World Cup has come to a close. In adjunctive honor of the ensuing global FIFA spaz-out, here’s the raddest Swedish synthpop football anthem ever made, courtesy of Tyskarna Från Lund. (Extra points of awesomeness for that Nina Hagen reference.)