Memorial Day weekend means one thing and one thing only for most of Detroit: techno. For the past 17 years (on and off due to regulatory restrictions, budgeting issues and exponential crowd growth) Detroit celebrates its role as the birthplace of true, nitty-gritty electronic music. From the likes of Carl Craig, Kevin Saunderson and Moodymann, a world was forged from heart-racing bass beats and dizzying spins of discordant manipulation.
Well, this post isn’t about Movement. This is about TRIP METAL FEST. Companion, rival, and a deeper, more brooding assemblage of sound, TRIP METAL FEST (a pay-what-you-want weekend of musical shock therapy) kicks off this weekend at Detroit’s El Club. We’ve handpicked a few unsettling tracks to scare off the unwanted BBQ leeches this Memorial Day.
Aaron Dilloway: The Beauty Bath (Side A)
A relentless buzzing occupies the space of this 23-minute long track like a fly trapped between a window and a screen. To call Aaron Dilloway’s “The Beauty Bath” ambient would be missing the point all together. His static distress call is manic and sedated while maintaining a level of complete neutrality.
WOLF EYES: Interference Part 3
The lead curators of the event, Wolf Eyes have given “dark” a new scale on which to be measured. Known for their maddening orchestral cluster-fuck, Wolf Eyes excels at all things unnerving. The trio’s latest record Interference (released earlier this month) exploits the Lars Von Trier-esque rabbit hole of sound that tangos with beauty and mortality in equal measure.
Elysia Crampton: Panic Glue (Demo)
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Panic is right. California based Elysia Crampton delivers a soundtrack suitable for that episode of Are You Afraid of the Dark? with the cigarette-smoking funhouse clown. Although her other work is more verbally haunting, with guns cocking and twinkling harpsichord layers, the underlying theme of disturbia is ever present no matter what track you click.
BONUS: Performance Artist Bailey Scieszka, a.k.a Old Put, is down with the clown and promises to suck you into her twisted world of chaos and love of WWE Smackdown.
It’s New Years Eve-Eve, and I’m flooded with the sounds of the past year. 2015 saw the rise of Detroit music in an unforgettable way. Our musicians took to the stage and to the studio with an unmistakable fire under their asses, in turn producing one of the most emotive soundtracks for the year as a whole. Detroit had something to say and people listened. I could go on and on about how I feel about the textural landscape of what this city produced this year, and how for the first time in years I felt moved and compelled to share my findings with the same enthusiasm one might reserve for opening Christmas gifts. I could talk about how Wolf Eyes‘ I am a Problem: Mind in Pieces broke my heart in ways I thought impossible, or how Moonwalks‘ Lunar Phases pushed me back to being in smokey concert venues, chasing after psychedelic rock bands when I was 16, making me feel younger than I did when I was actually young. So instead, I asked a few Detroit artists, most of whom released music this year, what local release stood out to them in 2015, and what they are most anticipating in the coming year. If what we heard is any indication of what’s to come, my suggestion is to brace yourselves: Detroit just got started.
FAVORITE OF 2015: My favorite release is a single track. Absofacto’s “Dissolve” hit me hard out of wintery nowhere in early February of 2015 (and I’d been working in studio with Jon Visger on and off for a while at that point) – but that’s how he works. Lurks, rather, within shadows. Jon Visger wrote, produced, and released this song himself. Nostalgic alarms reminiscent of mid-90s Boards of Canada fire the song into motion and are quickly joined by the fast-approaching outer edge of the track’s structural spine: the drums. They weigh about a thousand pounds each and somehow I feel weightless upon their anticipated arrival. (Sweaty like Black Moth Super Rainbow, yet crisp like Com Truise.) You’re soon swallowed up by the groove in its entirety, where bass is vicious and Visger’s vocals emerge. Lyrics speak out from a character’s entangled, love-sore point of view: a last-ditch effort farewell letter/self-evaluation. Love’s magnetism paired equally with its potential volatility.
MOST ANTICIPATED IN 2016: Recently, I listened to a bunch of new demos at Assemble Sound studio in Detroit with bassist Jeff Cuny of the band Valley Hush. I was pretty taken aback by how much things have blossomed sonically and vocally for them since hearing them in 2014. They’re a newer band, and for me it’s exciting to watch a group’s sound evolve and sometimes quite rapidly. It sounded like they have been experimenting, which is great, so I’m excited for what’s to come.
MOST ANTICIPATED IN 2016: It would have to be my bandmate and roommate Anna Burch’s new batch of solo songs that I’ve been thick in the midst of watching her create over the past year or so. Her melodies and lyrical voice are both really captivating. She hasn’t officially said it will come out this year, but I’m hoping.
FAVORITE OF 2015: Dwelling Lightheartedly In The Futility Of Everything by Matthew Daher was an early 2015 release, but stuck with me for the whole year. It’s not a pop or dance album and the songs are challenging – they seem to be five different animals that live together in the same cave. But like magic, they opened up and travelled through me like a dance. “Cyclicity” seemed like it was written just for me, and I was lucky enough to collab with Matt and produce a video for the song. Just a beautiful exchange of energy on that collaboration.
MOST ANTICIPATED IN 2016: My most anticipated local release is whatever Ritual Howls put out because holy crap, their 2014 release, Turkish Leather, makes my eyes roll back in my head with my tongue hanging out like cartoon dog drooling over a steak or bone or whatever dumb food item cartoon dogs like to eat. I’ll be spying on them online until I see something released!
FAVORITE OF 2015:I would by lying if I said a local release stuck out enough to be regarded as a favorite in 2015. Most of what I heard locally was a recollection of once unsuccessful “indie” bands until the 90’s came back, hip/trip-hop and grunge were openly repurposed, and Ableton was accepted as everyone’s backing track. If anything, Tunde Olaniran had a track I dug off of Transgressor. In my opinion, the only good thing that happened in Detroit and nationally in 2015 is that more female artists demanded and took the attention of listeners. At this point in time and in the bigger picture, this is more important than any best of the year list.
Wolf Eyes reemerges with their Third Man Records debut (the label created by Detroit’s own prodigal son, Jack White) with I Am A Problem: Mind In Pieces. After an aggressive and perplexing takeover of Third Man’s Instagram account last week (they lost over a thousand followers as a result, which warranted a regretful apology from the label), Wolf Eyes is doing what they do best: making noise that is as jarringly tragic as it is sonically eruptive. Considered the “kings of U.S noise” and pioneers of trip-metal, Nate Young, John Olson, and Jim Baljo have not departed from their signature nuance of dismal, distempered dystopia on I Am A Problem as explored previously on their exhaustive, extensive catalogue. But don’t assume that Wolf Eyes are wading in stagnant waters. In fact, this time around they’ve managed to turn their chaos into discernible, tortured transcendence. Although celestially despondent, I Am A Problem never runs away from itself; each track cascades into a cosmic rawness that warps, wraps, and entangles you. From start to finish (and back again) it’s difficult to put a finger on what makes this album seem like it’s on the precipice of undiscovered territory, yet remaining familiar simultaneously. Perhaps it’s the vocally palpable despair paired with the bombastic layering of intergalactic pulsations reminiscent of both heartbeat and heartbreak. Wolf Eyes finds a way to make abstraction relatable and intoxication desirable.