Anybody who spends any significant amount of time listening to electronic music knows that the REAL action takes place across mixtapes, 12″s, DJ mixes, remixes, EPs and SoundCloud. By the time an artist gets around to releasing a Long Player, they’ve been toiling away for years, working out the kinks and wrinkles. Singles and SoundClouds are where the true cutting edge of the electronic world happen.
But digging out gems from the datastream can be a full-time job, if not a miracle, what with trying to separate the ore of genius from the millions of sub-par trap remixes extant. Enter Portland’s SadoDaMascus Records, the publishing arm of the Sonic Debris Multimedia collective, who have been panning for audio gold in Portland’s electronic underground with their seasonal Copulation mixtapes since summer of 2012. Wait, wait… I know what you’re thinking. Electronic underground? It exists, lurking in basements and run down saloons all over Stumptown, but it can be hard to find for the uninitiated, making what SDM do such a necessary and much appreciated public service.
2013’s Summer Copulation features 20 tracks by 10 different artists, a real wormhole of retroactive radiophonic real-time audio manipulation. The styles run the gamut of the entire underground, from straight-up digital noise, to trance-y rock ‘n roll; grimey introverted hip-hop to synthwave sequencer worship. This collection is a good introduction to what’s going on in the electronic underground, all over the world — not just in the City Of Roses — so it’s a good place to start out, if you love beats, but are burned out by dancefloors, and the inevitable ecstatic crash.
SDM’s Copulations are put together like a DJ megamix, and work best taken whole. There are highlights, however. The bulk of this record features two artists, Noise Agency and Ras Mix, that seem to be the focus and centerpiece of this compilation.
Noise Agency are an experimental 2-piece that incorporate hypnotic loops and powerful layering with boundless manipulation of sound and instrumentation. In short, an experiment in how much racket two humans and their machines can make. The template would be Josh Faber-Hammond playing some furious breakbeats on a drum kit, while Arjuna Dingman lays down a foundation of bass guitar and soars into the stratosphere with vintage Dr. Who electronics. The overall mood reminds me of live “jamtronica” acts like Lotus or Eoto – humans jamming along with their machines, a cyborg melding of soul and precision. This set-up yields for revelatory live experiences and is tons of fun to dance yourself stupid, so don’t sleep! Both musicians sing and sample, and I can’t wait to figure out who does what, and how they pull it off live.
Ras Mix is the noisy solo vessel of laptop musician Aaron Salomon. Started as a late-night headphone experiment in 2006, Ras Mix has sprung to full life like some cyberpunk Pinocchio. It’s is pure unadulterated analog worship, knob-twiddling at its finest, existing in the zone between Detroit techno and deep space listening, spanning 5 decades of avant-garde electronics. This style is huge in Europe, but has not fully permeated the States yet. I want more!
It would take a small book to comment on every track of Summer Copulation, so here are some highlights from my notes:
2. Friends Of Don Quixote – “Deepspace Jam”
Sparse, effective trance ritual; a slow tin pan breakbeat with think, growling bass. Like Public Image Ltd meets Klaus Schulze.
4. Ras Mix – “The Problems Of The Peoples”
A creepy-crawl thrift store drum machine jam, in front of a wall of TVs, with a bass player frozen in carbonite. The Mos Einley Cantina band, chopped ‘n screwed.
5. Noise Agency – “Thwomp”
The band live up to their name. Plodding industrial electronics, hand-dialed and deliciously slurred. Makes you bang your head like a gastropod. Luscious radioactive shards of Throbbing Gristle. Discipline!!!
7. Lab Rats – “Lab Rats”
A super spastic, super crisp footwork beat, cut-up with didgeridoo and sunshine dust. Lab Rats have some rare tempo variation on their track – an anomaly in electronic music, that usually sets the BPM and just goes. Lab Rats’ tempo rises and falls like Hokusai’s wave, pushing and pulling the dancer into ecstatic tribulations. An adventure.
9. Sister Mamie Foreskin – “Whi, Whi, Whi Not Now”
With a name and track title like this, one expects some sort of extreme noise terror. But with noise, no one ever knows what to expect; there more strains of noise than there are types of postage stamps. “Whi, Whi, Whi Not Now” is even more disorienting than a 10-minute wall of radio static; it’s drilling rhythm rears at the bit, desperate to get free, to lose control, right on the brink of chaos. May induce seizures (preferably on the dancefloor).
12. 1000TrashCans – “Furniture”
Did you know we make grime in Portland? We do. My vote for bass of the month; this needs to blast out some 12″s. Features rapping from an 8-year old and way more interesting and engaging than this season’s batch of trap rappers, repeating the same dumb mantra ad nauseum; dare we call this old school? There is something new and militaristic in this bass, true late-night doom trance, with some tight rapping.