I’ve been back in the States for a little over a month now, which was a bit scary at first because I had all kinds of crazy ideas in my head due to the government shutdown at the time. Thankfully that was resolved a few days later, but also, a few days later, an aggressive gauntlet of gigs, show productions and other projects began. In this volume, I mean to show off some of the fruits of this labor. I also want to share a release that I not only anticipated greatly and enjoyed upon listening, but that I also think is incredibly important to be aware of given the artist in question.
Patrick Cowley – School Daze [Dark Entries / Honey Soundsystem] October 19, 2013
Patrick Cowley is one of those names that more people should know but don’t, given his invaluable role in the development of electronic dance music. With its surge in popularity in the U.S. over the past couple of years, I expect this pioneering American producer to see a correlating surge in recognition as well. I will try to do my part at least. The labels Dark Entries and Honey Soundsystem released a collection of earlier works by Patrick Cowley in the form of this compilation, School Daze. It was released on October 19th, which would have been Mr. Cowley’s 63rd birthday and features songs from tapes unearthed in the garage of Fox Studio, a vintage gay porn company. The material was recorded between 1973 – 1981 and showcases the earliest days of electronic music production by an artist who had access to the most state of the art gear at the time. While Cowley tends to be known more for his Hi-NRG dance tunes typically with tempos of upwards of 126 BPM, this release shows more experimental works that are not quite the dance benchmarks we would expect. Rather, we hear slower tempos and more abstract rhythmic structures. While some of the material demonstrates the funky grooves of the 70’s, a lot of it foreshadows experimental electronic styles to come, namely Industrial and trance.
Patrick Cowley was a multi-instrumentalist musician, producer, and DJ in the 70′s and 80′s and was a staple of San Francisco’s colorful gay party scene. His work took an electronic approach to the already well-established disco dance music of the era and very early on, helped innovate techniques and patterns that are still present in electronic dance music today. Armed with early analog synths like the Sequential Circuits Prophet, the Sequential Circuits Pro-One, the Arp Odyssey, and more, he produced for legendary singers like Donna Summer, Sylvester, and Paul Parker and released his own music, scoring hits with titles like “Menergy” and “Megatron Man”. Unfortunately his career was cut short as he became an early victim of the AIDS epidemic that devastated the gay community in the 80′s. He passed away in November of 1982, but not before completing one last release, Mind Warp, much of which was produced as he suffered from the disease.
As a strong devotee of electronic music, this release excited me because of the opportunity to hear a different side of an artist whose legacy spawned a whole generation of party-minded producers. Online biographies typically mention 80′s heavyweights like New Order and Pet Shop Boys as artists who have cited Cowley as an influence, and this fact is quickly established upon listening to any of his commercial releases. As such, School Daze really shows how well he had grasped the electronic method of musicianship well before the average person ever heard the word ‘synthesizer’. All proceeds from “School Daze” will be donated to Project Open Hand and the AIDS Housing Alliance.
Check out the video for the song “Mockingbird Dream” from this compilation.
La Minikt Del Miedo – Yo Soy La Muerte (Reversiones Malignas) [Maligna] October 31, 2013
The Mexico City based label Maligna released this single EP by La Minitk Del Miedo from Bogota, Colombia. Described as Tropical Goth, La Minikt Del Miedo have released a string of tracks over the past year. “Yo Soy La Muerte”, the song after which the EP is named, recalls dark ballads from the 80′s with the kind of reverberating hollowness that exudes melancholia. This is definitely one to drape in black and sway slowly under dark lights to. The remixes, including ones by Ritualz and Bruxa among others, offer varying electronic interpretations of the songs making for some very unique sounds. Yo Soy La Muerte was released on cassette and a full album is on the way.
Things have been quite busy over at Psy.Fi, with three releases since mid-October. Along with this, we have been producing events at a venue called Underground Arts, a fairly new location in Philadelphia. We’ve been dreaming up and executing brand new projects to expand on the movement we’ve created with our art-forward events over the last three years. Here are our latest releases.
Agent Zero – Sound Sorcery Vol. 1 [Psy.Fi] November 23, 2013
This past Saturday saw the release of Agent Zero’s Sound Sorcery Vol. 1, his third release with Psy.Fi. Using primarily Ableton with the help of a few instrumentalists, Agent Zero produces psychedelic dance music. This is not to be confused with styles like Goa or Psy-Trance as those genres tend to have minimalist beat structures. Here, we have a range of tempos, rhythms, and tones that can be heard in any genre. With high quality production value, Sound is Sorcery Vol. 1 offers the kind of technical, dance floor conscious tunes that can liven a party as well as appeal to more sophisticated musical sensibilities. Philly-based producer Jack Deezl (who works with Glitch Squad and Actual Records contributed a remix to this release as well. To celebrate this new release, we held the Luminated Masquerade Ball, as conceptualized by Agent Zero himself. His father displayed his incredible digital art as did our friend and street artist Harlequinade Art, who also did the artwork for the EP.
CounterVulture – Dream Eater [Psy.Fi] November 19, 2013
One of the missions of Psy.Fi is to release as much experimental music as we do more accessible sounds and one shining example of that is the new EP release from CounterVulture, one of the founding members of the Psy.Fi collective. Having relocated to Santa Cruz from Philly just over a year ago, this is his first release with Psy.Fi (he released a split with IDM producer Hakuin on 18+ Recordings some months ago). CounterVulture also engineers fx pedals and is developing other sound effects equipment alongside his music creation. He composes with hardware, using Korg Electribes and he recently purchased a Roland Juno-106. The Roland Juno-106 is a classic polyphonic synthesizer with some of the best resonance I’ve ever heard on a filter, and boy does it shine on this release right from the first track. Dream Eater consists of mostly noisy ambient production with a strong inclusion of IDM and Glitch elements and minor ventures into breakcore. While most of the songs are uniquely beat driven, the focus here is on experimental sound design that takes listeners to another dimension of time and space.
goldenSpiral feat. Hungry Ghosts – Moon Bounce [Psy.Fi] October 19, 2013
Finally, goldenSpiral, another one of our Ableton producers is in the process of completing his upcoming LP to be called Waveformation. In anticipation of this, he released a single and music video called ‘Moon Bounce’ featuring the eclectic Philly-based rap collective Hungry Ghosts aka Ghost Ghang. goldenSpiral creates a unique blend of hip-hop by incorporating the sounds of different styles of electronic music. As trippy as the beat itself are the hyper-intellectual lyrics delivered dynamically by Visitor10, O.H.M., and Mad Matt Swayzie, who speak of tetrahydrocannabinol induced journeys through the cosmos with knowledge of quantum physics, metaphysics, and pataphysics. The single contains the instrumental, remixes by Psy.Fi producers Agent Zero and redHat, and a remix from Philadelphia electronic musician Saelios. goldenSpiral organized an event with support from Psy.Fi to celebrate the release of the single where he premiered the video for the first time. He also commissioned a diverse line up of painters to draw their own vision of the album artwork at the event, yielding some very cool results! The video was done by Mangig Productions.
- Mr Manic