Wednesday, January 11, 2017

MIDWICH ROUNDUP (HIDE Flesh For The Living 12"; ALEX BARNETT Chew From The Mind LP; MOON POOL & DEAD BAND Humanizer LP)

Every record Chicago's Midwich label has put out thus far in its two years of existence is excellent, and they continue to resist easy overall labeling. "Techno" is a decent start, but it doesn't fully summarize any of this stuff. For example, the Chicago group HIDE has vocals and comes off as some sort of dark industrial club music, jacking the house beat and taking it into the gothic dungeon zone, with minimalist menace coming from the cold vocal melodies by Heather Gable and the hard electronics & hypnotic beats by Seth Sher (who was in 21st Century Chicago legends The Coughs and Ga'an). Side A has the 5-minute "Flesh For The Living," which is strangely both one of Midwich's poppier cuts and most underground cuts, followed by a change-up half-time dare-I-say trip-hop remix by someone called Watts for American Primitive, while Side B stretches out with the creepy 12-minute monster-track "Limb From Limb" and its killer layered rhythms.

HIDE: A night on the town. 


ALEX BARNETT's record Chew From The Mind is a completely different electronic music subgenre that on paper might sound like nothing new (guy with synths and drum machines writes and records music that could be the score for a VHS-only 80s horror movie), but there's a quality to the composing and playing that sets it apart. Patience is key, and Barnett's tracks play a waiting game, percolating with creative polyrhythms while the stark melodic themes (and a certain unsettling recurring electro-groan) carefully pick their spots. The theoretical film this is soundtracking is more about suspense and alienness than gore and luridness.

ALEX BARNETT: A day at the beach. 


And, while these two are still digesting, along comes the full-course meal that is Humanizer, the second Midwich release by MOON POOL & DEAD BAND. Again, you could call these guys a techno group, and Humanizer has hard-driving Detroit beats throughout, but there's a lot of musicality and left-field technique on here, and the overall effect is something like high-level uncompromised underground prog rock or fusion jazz compared to the other more generally stripped-down records on the label, especially on long cuts like the dense 10-minute opener "New British Blues" and side two's 9-minute "A Grey Glow." Or on 2nd track "Cycloid," which sounds like a hit techno single but also has Soft Machine overtones, like the synth had the 'Elton Dean' patch on it... As a two-man band, it's hard not to see it as David Shettler bringing the extensive musicality, while the other Dead Band member Nate Young (of Wolf Eyes) supplies a decentering "noise not music" presence. Maybe side one closer "Sea Foam" is a true 50/50 collaboration, as there seems to be a high-level fusion jam going on there somewhere, but it's chopped and refracted into a cut-up nightmare scramble that could be classified as musique concrete, or noise, or #psychojazz. Or maybe, Nate Young is like a double drummer, programming his own beats that double Shettler's, which makes them like the dystopian techno Allman Brothers Band. Clearly, I have no idea, which is a good thing. Anyway, a lot to dig into here, on both sides... get started by watching the video for the killer/ominous title track, with rough-and-ready visuals by Alivia Zivich which effectively illustrate what Wayne State University professor Jerry Herron says of Detroit in the essential HighTechSoul documentary: "We've got space, and it's not just space that's empty, it's space that's full of the artifacts of American industrial culture. It's a place like no other. It provides food for people's imaginations in a way that no other site does..."


All that and I'm still not keeping up with Midwich; New Victorian by VIKI VIKTORIA was just released, which I'm personally excited for, as I've been a Viki fan since 2002, and it comes highly recommended by certain Midwich insiders... and, two more records are coming very soon: a solo release by Good Willsmith member MUKQS, along with a new 12" EP by MAGAS that will be available on his upcoming tour opening for Joan of Arc. (Click here for dates.)


Lots of interesting stuff in this Humanizer press interview with Moon Pool & Dead Band, like Shettler's use of "Simakian" as an adjective, and that, back in 2011, he'd released a more traditional club tune called "Hot Burrito," about which he says: "When it dropped, I would get texts in the wee hours: 'Kenny [Dixon Jr., AKA Moodymann] is playing 'Hot Burrito' in Chicago right now' or 'Marcellus [Pitmann] is playing 'Hot Burrito' in a warehouse right now.' I felt like I'd made a real record. I guess it was a hot track in Berlin that year." Hey, here's that heat now, right here on blessed Bandcamp:


Magas said...

Thanks, Larry!

Larry said...

Whoah, a comment on my blog! Feels like I just got a message by carrier pigeon. I'll send one back: you're welcome, and thank you for the music.

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