Footpaths “Old Timer (Lost & Reclaimed)”

This upcoming (08/24/18) cassette/digital release by Monticulo Creadores is collection of Jon Rosenthal’s (Footpaths) recordings made about 10 years ago and recently unearthed. As he describes it, he was inspired by musician Fennesz and the process of learning to record with a pinhole microphone. The result is a hazy, cloudy, dreamlike journey with looping and delayed guitars, soft vocalizations, and a wonderful soundbed of subtle “wooshing” noise that gives the collection an ethereal quality. There are 22 tracks total and they flow seamlessly with a relaxed rhythm and just enough tension and psychedelic undertones. In my imagination, this is the soundtrack to Jim Jarmusch’s postmodern-western Dead Man (1995) instead of Neil Young’s guitar musings. An ideal release to get lost in. Excellent!

Dante Augustus Scarlatti “Dimensional Synthesis”

DAS is a multi-talented artist and head honcho of uber-label Auris Apothecary. His latest release “Dimensional Synthesis” is a Tangerine Dream-esque foray into synthesizer bliss. While past works tend to be more aggressive, such as the punk/grindcore on “Ameritheism” or HNW of “Worship at the Throne of the Oscillator,” this four track cassette/digital platter showcases an aptitude for deep melodic tones and stunning ambience. This is a hypnotic and extremely rewarding listen on headphones; by the time I reached the third track “Dimension 902” I completely forgot where I was and what I was doing (not just because I’m old). The music develops at a leisurely pace but is never boring and exhibits a “floating” quality that is rare. I’m beyond impressed here, with “Dimensional Synthesis” DAS has made the perfect synth album.

Inam Records 156

Ryan Huber “Comoros”

Thirteen tracks of dark techno and ambient dronescapes. Released as a cdr in a glossy wallet (100 copies) and digital download.

Meet Your Doomsayer of Despair, Darkness, and Distortion

An interview with RKF of Korperschwache

 

The first time I heard Korperschwache I was immediately overwhelmed with a sense of wonder and dread. Impenetrable walls of guitar distortion with industrial percussion and pained howls envelope you until you finally befriend the beast. While I had the honor of releasing a few of these missives on Inam Records (Brotherhood of the Bowl, Eight Velvet Paintings for Helen Keller, split with Sujo); Korperschwache has released a plethora of damage inducing music on vaunted labels, notably Crucial Blast. Each one is a journey to the dark side of the soul and well worth the anguish. RKF is a prolific writer as well as musician and the One True Dead Angel website was an invaluable source for outsider musicians. I wanted to know more about these endeavors and RKF was nice enough to answer a few questions.

 

1. When did you first start playing music? What were your musical influences?

I started playing guitar around the time I started college in 1983, influenced by bands like Judas Priest, AC/DC, Blondie, and the Cars, but didn’t start playing it seriously until much later. After college, I discovered that a) I cannot play guitar properly while drunk, and b) I was a natural talent at drinking, not so much guitar playing. I just made ugly noises with a damaged distortion pedal and played (badly) the main riff from Celtic Frost’s “Jewel Throne” over and over until the neighbors threatened me. At the time I had no idea that other people were making the same kind of sounds or that there was any kind of audience for it, so I just screwed around and eventually abandoned the guitar for a long time.

When I quit drinking in 1992, I needed something to do with my hands and that turned out to be fiddling with the guitar. In 1994, around the time I discovered noise, I rented a Tascam 4-track and made a number of (truly horrible) recordings, thinking maybe I wanted to play in a band, and that I could do it by myself if I had to. Then I formed Autodidact and Korperschwache in 1995, one to make spaced-out, minimalist music, and the other to make junk noise in the vein of Merzbow / Aube / Skullflower / etc. Eventually there was enough overlap between the two bands that it seemed pointless to have them both, so I shut down the other one to concentrate on Korperschwache.

{instrument of terror}

2. What was your first release as a musician? What are your current thoughts on it?

The first thing I ever had released was “Bring Me the Head of the Sno-Cone Girl,” under the name Chinawhite, for a 1994 Spilling Audio cassette compilation called REPERCUSSION. It was put out by Spilling Audio, a cassette label run by guitarist Eric Hausmann that put out an avalanche of avant-garde and otherwise weird music of the 90s underground. Hausmann’s label, and others like it that I came in contact with while running THE ONE TRUE DEAD ANGEL, made me aware of cassette culture for the first time. As for my thoughts on it now, I’m still amused at how primitive my initial contribution sounds. But you have to start somewhere.

 

{the early years}

 3. Tell me about the name “Korperschwache”. How did that come to you?

It’s a term mentioned in the Primo Levy book IF THIS BE A MAN, about his experiences as a Jewish man imprisoned at Auschwitz, the most notorious of the German death camps under Hitler’s command of Germany in the 1940s. He said in the book that this was the word camp doctors used to record deaths at Auschwitz. I forget its true definition, but it suggested they all died of natural causes when they were actually overworked, gassed, cremated, or shot. I saw the word as as a metaphor for a monstrous lie. It seemed sinister and obscure enough for the occasion. It didn’t dawn on me until later how much difficulty people might have with properly spelling or pronouncing it.

 

4. Have the themes of your music changed a lot since you started? I personally hate writing lyrics and making up song titles; do you like it?

I think the way the music is made has changed significantly, especially since the sound is more about volume and dissonance now. Originally it was basically loud, violent noises made with recordings, samples, objects, guitar, vocals, and anything else available. Now it’s made mainly with loud guitars with efx pedals and additional white noise from one particular pedal. The thematic elements — violence, black humor, atrocities, horrifying sounds — are generally governed by what kind of mood I’m in while the songs are being recorded. The exception is the kind of album I call a “psychodrama,” a concept album illustrated by sound design, where my personality is less important to the tracks than the ability to shape sounds to match the mood of chapters within the entire story. The Ouroboros series, a trilogy released by a Crucial Blast imprint in 2005, is an excellent example.

 

5. Tell me about the “One True Dead Angel” website. Are you still writing much? Any advice for someone new to doing a website?

I started publishing the ezine DEAD ANGEL (later THE ONE TRUE DEAD ANGEL) in 1994 and stopped at the beginning of 2013. During those nineteen years, I interviewed many people, did over 3,000 reviews, and discovered the existence of an entire music underground filled with a diverse range of excellent and deeply obscure bands. The archives can be found at THE ONE TRUE DEAD ANGEL : GOING STRAIGHT TO HELL SINCE JUNE, 1994 and the reviews from after TOTDA moved to the blog format can be found at the one true dead angel .
My advice about running a website boils down to being prepared for how much time and effort it takes to do properly and how much of your free time will be eaten up by that effort. I’m not sure the ezine or blog format is even relevant today — everything is happening on social media now, which changes the rules, many of them ones I’m too old to know about, ha!

 

6. What are your current musical projects and future releases?
 
I  am currently getting Korperschwache back up to speed after being sidelined and distracted by a number of health issues. Now I’m finally working on albums again, although at a slower pace. The last real album I did was GOD THINS THE HERD back in 2015, which is still waiting for its release. The most recently finished album, EROGUROUNANSENSU, was released at the end of 2017 on Korperschwache’s Bandcamp site. I’m currently halfway through recording FAMOUSLY DISTANT, and working on more. I stopped playing live in November of 2016 due to ongoing issues with osteoarthritis and neuropathy, and while I’m officially off the stage, I still think about playing live again. So we’ll see what happens.


 
7. As a prolific artist, how do you view your body of work? What are some of the favorite releases that you’ve done?

I see them in distinct periods. The first five or six albums were just varying degrees of ugly noises. My favorites from this era include A FISTFUL OF NIHILISM and FANGS OF AN ANGRY GOD. Then guitars entered the mix, which greatly altered things and eventually pushed the noisemakers out of the picture (mostly). Korperschwache put out a whole string of albums on Crucial Blast from 2003 – 2011. My favorites from that run are still the Ouroboros trilogy (RITUAL OF THE OUROBOROS, VOICE OF…, and SACRIFICE OF….) and THE DEVIL SPEAKS THROUGH MY GUITAR. I really enjoyed my association with Crucial Blast during those years and I’d be happy to work with them again. After EVIL WALKS came out on Crucial Blast in 2011, most of my releases have been on small bedroom labels. A few recently recorded ones have appeared on the band’s Bandcamp site. Favorites from more recent years include THE HEALING POWER OF PARANOIA, EIGHT VELVET PAINTINGS FOR HELEN KELLER, and BLACK DUST. I’m also fond of THE UNPUBLISHED NOTEBOOKS OF ERICH ZANN, an experimental album of mostly dissonant black metal electronics.

 

8. What has your experience been like playing live? What aspect of the creative process do you enjoy most?

Korperschwache played no shows at all for about the first ten years of its existence. That was followed by a decade of playing solo sets intermittently around the Austin area from around 2005 – 2016. I enjoyed playing immensely, especially since it left me free to turn the amp up as loud as possible. For me, it’s not happening if the room isn’t shaking. I did have to tame the sound a bit at house shows, but even then a lot of those were super-loud. I also liked being able to hang out with like-minded people, especially at house shows. Those were always my favorite. I did get fond of Beerland in a hurry — that’s my favorite live venue in town.

As for the creative process, I think recording is still my favorite part, although all the parts have gotten more difficult to execute over the years. There are never enough hours in the day to rehearse, practice, and record as much you would like, and band things often end up a distant second to family outings, dates, and other real-life events. When you get an unexpected block of time to pursue your particular version of creativity, make it count.

{where the (black) magic happens}

9. What are your 5 favorite albums?

Eek! Out the thousands I’ve heard in 53 years? Here’s five that could be tops on any given day:
Bob Dylan — HIGHWAY 61 REVISTIED
Cyndi Lauper — SHE’S SO UNUSUAL
Angel’in Heavy Syrup — I
Nine Inch Nails — THE DOWNWARD SPIRAL
Lydia Lunch — 13.13

 

10. Closing thoughts?

Korperschwache has been largely inactive the past couple of years due to medical issues and other distractions, but I am starting to bring the band forward again. Various bits and pieces are being turned into actual songs and projects, and I’m halfway through recording the next official album, FAMOUSLY DISTANT, which will be available from the Bandcamp site later in the year.

There’s plenty to investigate at the Bandcamp location: Korperschwache
Thanks for the time and interest.

— RKF

“The angels all have guns. The angels aren’t anyone you’d want to pray to.”
[Nicole Blackman]

Container “LP”

Container is back with what I believe is the fourth “LP”.  Nine tracks and 32 minutes of techno made by a dying robot. Rhythms skitter along and sequences line up off-kilter; giving these songs an incredible tension. There is ever present distortion, overdrive, and compression that keep all the kicks, snares, bleeps and blops focused and on point. There is an efficiency at work here that makes sometimes unpleasant sounds an easy listen and guaranteed dopamine rush. The album crescendos with the build up and release of “Chunked” which is a perfect ending to the sweaty endeavor. The video below is the best live version of Container I’ve heard. This “LP” has got to be the best recorded one.

Inam Records 097

PS Stamps Back & Olekranon “s/t”

2011 collaboration with drone/electronic minimalist master Iason (PS Stamps Back / https://tiltrecordings.org) and Olekranon. 75 cdr’s made with hand stamped white Arigato Pak covers; available as a digital download.

Jon Hopkins “Singularity”

I really dug “Immunity” so I was looking forward to this new release by Jon Hopkins. It took a few weeks for me to really sit down and listen to it fully and without distraction. There’s such an attention to detail with this style of electronic music that it really demands that kind of listening. The beats and melodies are fun on their own; but I really enjoy the slow EQ changes, panning, and modulation of these tracks. It starts off with a minute long drone that goes into overdrive and morphs into a great techno beat on the title track. The first four tracks drive the pace with unassailable percussion and washes of overdrive. Then, on track #5 “Feel First Life” the album switches to more contemplative territory with soft ambience and piano that brings Eno to mind. The second half of the release explores this territory. I was a bit surprised but wholly pleased that it went in this direction. These second half pieces are really striking and well done. There’s still a smattering of rhythm but feels like you were in the middle of doing something fun then caught by surprise and awed by a beautiful sunset (rise?). What an amazing release!

Inam Records 06

Vopat “Sometimes It Will”

Released in 2006, this limited cdr/digital download is the second Vopat full length. Post rock, drone, and noise coalesce into a dreamscape punctuated by occasional distorted attacks.

Meet Your 3.8mm Aural Alchemist

An Interview With Howard Stelzer

I became familiar with Howard’s work a few years ago through the Anti-Gravity Bunny website (I believe) and have been a fan ever since. Releases such as “Brayton Point”, “Narrow Escape”, and “The Case Against” really solidify Howard as one of the best modern composers around (IMO). I was pretty blown away to learn that he accomplishes these recordings through use of cassettes and effects. Howard was nice enough to answer a few random questions I had floating around in my head!

1. When did you first get involved in making music/sound? What were your influences?

I started when I was a kid in high school, just messing around with tapes and scrap metal. Dumb teenage stuff, y’know… banging on shopping carts and oil drums, that sort of thing. I played in a band when I was 16/17 years old with a guitarist and another guy who banged on metal with me. Eventually, I started making tape collages that I’d play out of boom boxes while the three of us did our dumb banging-on-oil-drums-and-car-parts thing. After high school, the other two guys (quite sensibly) lost interest. I had another band when I was in college, essentially doing the same thing but with the other guys playing synths instead of metal. I was still trying to make a go with cassette tapes. That group was a trio or quartet, depending on who showed up to a practice or a gig. Once that ended, it was down to just me. I moved up to Massachusetts after college in 1998, and started playing solo concerts, and I’m still here today. 

My influences are many. Mostly, I’m influenced by my own broken brain, which had real trouble sitting still when I was a kid. When I was in high school, I didn’t have the patience to learn an instrument, so I made noise instead. Instant gratification! My brain is less broken today than it used to be, but it still sputters and hiccups every now and then. I think, though, that you’re asking about the music that drove me to do whatever it is I do, and sure there was mind-blowing moments when I encountered certain records. Maybe the same records that other people encountered at around the same time. But I was also influenced by many friends and collaborators over the years: certainly Giuseppe Ielasi, Frans de Waard, Brendan Murray, Ralf Wehowsky & P16.D4, and so on. I suppose I was a sponge for new sounds for awhile. Nowadays, though, I’m more influenced by my friends and by trying to understand my own thinking than by listening to other people’s records. I still enjoy listening to music, but those experiences aren’t what drive the music I make today. 

2. Can you describe your process of using cassettes? What are your deepest, darkest recording secrets?

There are no secrets here. Nothing deep or dark. What I do is entirely very low-tech and obvious manipulation of cassette tapes and players. Honestly, though, I’m not very interested in process. For me, it’s more interesting to talk about what the music is than about how it’s made.  

3. You used to run Intransitive Recordings; why did you start/stop doing it?

I started Intransitive in 1997 and ran it for 15 years. That’s enough time, don’t you think? I was never very good at running a label, but it was fun for awhile until it just became more expensive and stressful than it was worth. 

4. What part of the creative process do you enjoy most? How do you prepare for live performances? 

I enjoy every part of the creative process. For me, making music is play. 

These days, I prepare for live performances by composing a complete piece of music, then separating the bits of the piece out onto 20 or 30 (or more!) cassette tapes. I’ve got a score, or something like it, that I use when I perform. Ideally, I show up at a venue very early, pace back and forth like a fool, plug in my tape decks, panic when one or two of them produce a 60 cycle hum, panic again when I forget how to make my mixing board work, test out my tapes through the PA for awhile, make sure everything sounds okay in the room, pace back and forth for another hour or so until people arrive, then I play my set and have a great time. Afterwards, I sleep very well. 

5. You are also a teacher, right? What’s that like?

I love being a teacher! I love it every minute of every day. Wouldn’t want to do anything else. Teaching 6th grade math in an urban public school brings me joy.  

6. What is your favorite part of living in Massachusetts?

My favorite part of living in Massachusetts is not living in Florida. Also, fried clams in the summertime. 

7. How have your musical tastes changed over the years, if at all?

My musical tastes have always been the best. That has not changed. 

8. What kind of equipment do you use for field recording?

I don’t do any field recording. That’s not what my work is about. I dislike fields. I prefer my couch, where there’s air conditioning and no mosquitos. 

9. Do you see yourself recording and performing the rest of your life? Have you ever taken a long break from it? How do I do that?

Making music and teaching math is what I do. They’re both inextricably tied to my identity, how I understand my place in the world, how I think about pretty much everything. It’s probably impossible for me to not do either one. 

As for a break from music… well, I work at a pace that’s comfortable for me. I might not specifically work with my tapes for a few months, but I’m always composing in my head. The tapes and players live in a big suitcase underneath my desk. The desk drawers are filled with more cassette tapes. When the time is right, I’ll sit down and bang a few things together. I’ll chisel more sound out of the raw material. I’ll take some source tapes and a couple of Walkmans out with me when I walk my dog, and work with them as we stroll through the city… I’ll play a tape out of one walkman and record it onto the other, getting the industrial ambience of Lowell’s old mill buildings and canals along the way. Then maybe I’ll put the tapes away for a bit and keep thinking about how the parts might fit together. As long as I have ideas for music, I’ll keep making the stuff. 

Performing, though, is a different story. I tend to perform only a couple of times a year, and am happy with that. When I was younger, back in the late 90’s and 00’s, I’d play any gig that was offered to me, and I didn’t care whether I played once a week for several months on end. Those were formative days, certainly, but it’s just not what I do anymore. It takes me a month or two to get ready for a performance, and I need a specific environment in order for it to work: the right PA system with enough power and clarity, the right sort of venue, a comfortable situation where I can relax and do it right. Otherwise, it isn’t worth my time and I prefer to stay at home with my wife and dog, sitting in my favorite chair with a book or writing math lessons. Or taking a nap. Naps are something new for me… I never used to nap, but I’ve started giving them a try and think I may continue. The thing about taking up napping as a new hobby is: they aren’t stressful.

Please check out Mr. Stelzer’s work at: https://howardstelzer.bandcamp.com

Inam Records 119

Olekranon “Salus”

Recorded in 2013 using a Kaossilator Dynamic Phrase Synthesizer and variety of effects; this Olekranon release combines drone and noise with minimal techno beats and a touch of shoegaze. Very limited (15) cdr release with oversized vellum cover in a plastic sleeve.