Audio Archive

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Ben Luca Robertson, co-founder of Aphonia Recs with New Ensemble Release

Natricinae is the first official release by Aphonia Recordings co-founder, Ben Luca Robertson’s microtonal chamber group, Dancing for the Flesh. The group is composed of a revolving lineup of musicians & multi-disciplinary collaborators. The roster for this recording features vocalist & multi-instrumentalist, Amy Denio, Emily Pothast (voice) & Timm Mason (aka Mood Organ; bass) of Midday Veil, Riding the Slow Wave of Death’s Jackie An (violin), Ian Ackerman (violin) & Gabriel Will (viola) of Problems, Emma Mortensen (violin), Derek M. Johnson (cello), & Nathan Westlund (cello), as well as Ben Luca Robertson performing on an array of homemade instruments, electronics, & interactive software; which he designed and built for these pieces.

A collection of three chamber-drone pieces (recorded over the last five years), Natricinae merges the composer’s interest in spectral music, ‘just’ tuning systems, & autonomous processes with distinctly biological themes, such as taxonomy & regional herpetofauna (A glance through an Auduban field guide sheds immediate light to the track titles: Thamnophis sirtalis, elegans, & natricinae). As is the case in much of his work, Robertson addresses these subjects by supplanting narrative structure with an emphasis on the physicality of sound, the use of extended durations, & musical structures that occupy the cusp between algorithm and improvisation.

Perhaps just short of channeling the cantankerous specter of Harry Partch – all be it, by way of transducer & algorithm – Robertson’s obsession with charting the upper reaches of the harmonic series necessitates the creation of new instruments and approaches to performance. Consequently, instruments constructed from re-purposed aluminum channeling (i.e. The Alumi-tone), steel strings & rods, electromagnets, digital projections, and resonant spaces make their way on to this recording.

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Russian Invasion! Garage Rockers SONIC DEATH Land in US

SONIC DEATH - GOTHIC SESSION

Nikita Krikunov & Arsenij Morozov on the cover of GOTHIC SESSION

Formerly Padla Bear Outfit, this St. Petersburg, Russia based duo is composed of Arsenij Morozov and Nikita Krikunov. They now call themselves SONIC DEATH. They have carved a distinct garage-y, moody niche out of a retro 60s psychedelic pastiche. I am not even sure what I just wrote. In any event, in rare form, these gentlemen found Aphonia Recordings and sent in a demo. We get quite a few demos and certainly we try to give some attention to ones that catch our ears. Luckily for me, I still do have my ear holes open. Listen below!

Morozov describes the process of recording “GOTHIC SESSION” thus:

After a little break we started work on a new session. Seven fresh songs were recorded on a Tascam cassette Portastudio, sitting in the already known bathroom. At this time we used a clean slightly reverbed guitar sound, the drum section was shaded with maracas. The sound is soft, psychedelic vibrating, like The Cannanes meet Vivian Girls on The Seeds cover party. The lyrics are all about dark love emotions and solitude. All of this has been called GOTHIC SESSION. The first track with the western spirit and refrain “I take off all of me/ You will not get pleasure” is entitled ‘Pleasure’ and is like a roll call with Stones ‘Satisfaction’. The second called ‘Now(Son Of A Bitch)’ and has at the end the converted quotation from Misfits “I am goddamn son of a bitch/ you better think about it baby”. Third song named ‘Marzipan’, and has a sample from an amateur slap porn video, whose plot is about pining for the attention from a girlfriend. The fourth acoustic-postpunk song ‘Streets’ laments the loneliness in the city. Fifth ‘To Me’ is classic garage-y amateur guitar rock. The sixth track ‘Huuuh-uuh-uuuh’ is an acoustic ballad for two voices. The last one ‘Floor’ is a confluence of The Jesus and the Mary Chain with Buddy Holly and back again. On the cover, we photographed against a background of the crucifix as Bible sellers in East European chic.
Dat shit cray!

This music is decidedly lo-fi. That’s OK. I don’t really see that as being all that important in terms of the songs. The songwriting is incredible. Even though it is grimy, gritty, loud and rambunctious, the songwriting doesn’t suffer. In fact, the whole record has a posture of being relaxed and effortless, which I find particularly charming. Folks, this is garage-psyche at its best. It embodies everything you want it to be. If they weren’t singing in Russian I would think they were from late 1960s Los Angeles. Seriously, it is that level of fidelity to the roots of that scene that these two obviously take very (un)seriously. As their Bandcamp page states: “We are two horrible motherfuckers with problems.”

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Introducing DIVORCE PARTY!

We are extremely proud to introduce and announce our latest addition to the Aphonia Recordings family: Divorce Party! Their sound has been described as spasm-like, or careening from Melt Banana-esque contortions to summoning Jesus Lizard-esque riffage.

Divorce Party are David Slaga of the unrelenting drums, Ryan St. Claire’s guitar strains, Joe Biggerstaff raising the dead with his bass and Miguel Baptista Benedict supplying what I can only describe as the amplified vocal death knell of music itself. These souls wreak havoc in their short debut EP entitled “Astrocengertion Oporium.” Available in three formats, LP, CD and download (a first for Aphonia Recs). Described as “more spasm than song” Divorce Party indeed delight with a quick lightning bolt of an EP.

We hope you enjoy!

Divorce Party - Astrocongertion Oporium

Buy Now! $2 Download $5 CD and a 12 inch on it's way.


Divorce Party: Astrocongertion Oporium EP

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At Last! Derek M. Johnson’s Debut Solo Release!

Derek M. Johnson - self-titled

Our first vinyl only (download too, naturally) release is a full length, 4 track explosion of sound. Anyone who has seen Mr. Johnson’s recent performances knows that his elaborately constructed mounted slide animations are indeed like little explosions… at least when they are contained within their tiny 35 mm mounts. When projected though, they become galaxies, bleached (literally) impressionistic fields and hills, the beheaded forks of flames and larger than life globules. This release is, in it’s sonic signature, the same. No one is more happy (and relieved) than Derek M. Johnson for this release. It has been a project spanning nearly 2 years of continuous effort on his part and as he pointed out late in the mixing process, “I don’t even know if it is good or not.”

The first track “FKXMS,” is a negative homage to the cultural train wreck that most of us weather called “holiday season.” The track embodies (or perhaps disembodies) the latent disgust that most of us feel during the “most wonderful time of the year.” By “feel” it, I am suggesting that we somehow know how crass our culture has become but shrug it off as a function of living in the land of plenty. “FKXMS” is a not-so-abstractly expressionistic feat of shear violence. The assault, at times, seems to be directed solely at the instrument itself – the cello. The bow squeals and thrums across strings that pronounce the likelihood of their immanent death.

“Be” is something different altogether. It is simmering, slightly sad, slightly creepy and nearly meditative. Developing slowly over a thickening bed of subtle loops, “Be” realizes itself in stages and seems to be somewhat like a soundtrack set to deep sea phosphorescent life forms evolving before your eyes. It echoes and ebbs underneath mournful legato swells. This track is befitting Mr. Johnson’s most recent slide show animations, though feels succinctly composed and intentional.

Side B brings us two very different pieces from the first side. “Fete de la Patience” is a Scott Stobbe piece performed here with great clarity. Its direct quality is in disarming contrast from the first two tracks. “You’re Welcome to Play” divides and conquers the entire record, bringing a quiet, solitary cello plucking figure to a lush and full crescendo (and multitracked cello thickness) that gives the record a denouement fitting for such a diverse set of pieces.

We couldn’t more excited to offer our first LP vinyl release by our great musician and friend, Derek M. Johnson. He has performed at more of our showcases and supported our artists for years by recording cello tracks, promoting their shows, etc. Mr. Johnson’s dedication to music has culminated in this record. It is just the beginning, however. Expect much more from DMJ in the coming months!

Derek M. Johnson
Derek M. Johnson

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Kristian Garrard: From Electroacoustic to Acoustic

Luke Bergman and Kristian Garrard at Aphonia Recs Showcase April 2008

Kristian Garrard (KRGA) & Luke Bergman are Thousands.

In the past 4 and a half years our label has gone through many changes and growth spurts. Our artists are no exception. I have seen many of them play their first shows, go on tour, later to dissolve, reform and reinvent themselves. Kristian Garrard is one such individual.

I recall meeting him very early on in the Aphonia Recordings journey. Ben had met another Max/MSP composer and was extremely eager to have Kristian release something under his moniker KRGA. Later we would tap Kristian to play many of our showcases. Ben and Kristian even hosted a Max/MSP workshop at Gallery 1412, detailing the cryptic under the radar manipulations that many disavow as mere knob twiddling and laptop music. Yes, Kristian performed with a laptop but the results were simultaneously engaging, sedative, dynamic and, at times, frightening. Some of the best performances I witnessed during our run of showcases were shows in which KRGA was the headlining act.

By the summer of 2009 it was clear Kristian was onto other material. By this time he had released his first EP Magic Wand [AR014] and the full length June [AR016CD]. Both were mere snapshots of a larger musical genius at work. I had known that Kristian had been a drummer in the band Joules and that he was a blossoming master of electroacoustic improvisation. It was with his formation of Lonesome Shack and Thousands that is became clear that there was little Mr. Garrard could not do.

A few months back I passed by Kristian on Ravenna Boulevard where we both live – we are neighbors as well. I had no idea that this casual passing was on the brink of Thousands getting signed to UK imprint Bella Union. Yes, the very same Bella Union that signed Seattle’s Fleet Foxes in addition to Andrew Bird, Wavves and Midlake. Very good company, indeed. Hearing the news that they had been signed took me back to a show that Kristian and Luke had played at one of Kristian’s last appearances at our showcases.

Fully expecting to hear KRGA’s signature hum and layered developing/enveloping textures, I asked what he and Luke were doing there with a guitar and an upright bass. “Are you gonna hook that up to your (Max/MSP) patch?” I joked. Kristian something like, “Oh we are just going to play acoustic… no mics.” I knew some direction had changed for Kristian and while I knew him to be a consummate performer, he and Luke’s short set that night headlined a night of ambiant and noise music like no other. The strains of Kristian’s particular weaving chords, half resolutions and sustains and Luke’s persistent and hardy upright bass backbone ended the evening with a tribute, a lullaby that later would morph into Thousands.

Recently they have been playing sold out shows, completed a successful tour of Europe and were rightfully praised in Seattle’s alt-weekly The Stranger. Mr. Reighley describes their sound: “Like a shadow that cannot be divided from the entity that casts it.” Well said, and best of luck to our pals, Luke Bergman and Kristian Garrard.

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Introducing Tetsuya Hori: Berlin-based Composer, Object-player and Pianist

Click Image to Listen

“My pieces do not have a concept. That is the concept. The concept develops in the head of the listener. I compose not only for instruments, but for things. Each piece is different. Every time. I want to show the listener nonsense. Interesting nonsense.”

So says evocative and perplexing Berlin-based composer and pianist Tetsuya Hori. By arranging a confounding series of musical events, the listener is left with the freedom to interpret. At times sedative, creepily silent or jarring and brutal, Hori paints landscapes and often allows enough breathing room in his pieces for processing.

Any discernible pattern on “Dried Fish Is Just Good As Bait” is confounded by its sheer scope. Developments in his compositions take time to foment. The three long tracks that “Bait” consist of take time to get through and often, if any logic is implied, it is over stretches of minutes rather than seconds. The pieces beg multiple listens, the beauty of which is that upon repeat listens, details recede and new ones form. “Intermezzo” recalls hints of Debussy, “Kappa” listens like a book of nonsense poems supported by the sleeping of a mythical mechanical beast, “Dried Fish Is Just Good As Bait” is at once meditative, frightening and sculpted. From guttural wails to introspective chordal interludes, this is a vast project of a record and we hope you like it. His debut release comes in a limited edition special 15 inch square poster which you can pre-order as of April 14th, 2011. We are very excited to release this record and hope you check it out!

Check out a more extensive interview with Tetsuya Hori by Tobias Fischer at Tokafi.com a unique German music website.

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Derek M. Johnson’s Piece of the Week #5 “We can See Through Time”

Longtime showcase contributor and Aphonia cohort, Derek M. Johnson braves the recent “snowpocalypse” near his home in Olympia, Washington for this, one of his regular installments of: “Piece of the Week.”  This one is from November 21st, 2010.

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Daniel Johnston Fans Take Note

Nucular Aminals are old friends and on their current self titled release have covered “Walking the Cow.” It is a Daniel Johnston song with no shortage of artists having recorded it. I think it is one of the most faithful to the song’s spirit. Not all artists who pay tribute to an oft revered and eccentric musical talent hit a nerve the way the original performer could. Indeed, not even the songs themselves can remain intact while in transit to other musical interpretations, though Mr. Johnston and Nucular Aminals clearly do it quite well.

Listen to “Walking the Cow” covered by Nucular Aminals available now all over the world.

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Podcast Holiday Special – Phantom of the Opera

Podcast – Phantom of the Opera Special!

Click Play button to listen to this special event – excerpts which were recorded at the 25th Annual Olympia Film Festival by Rachel Carns, Daniel Buscher, Derek M. Johnson and Heather Hall. This coming Friday at the Gallery 1412 in Seattle, WA at 8PM, this crack ensemble of improvisers will take on, for the last time, the live score to this 1929 silent film classic.

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Podcast #19 – What Does It Mean to be a Mood Organ

Podcast #19 – What Does It Mean to be a Mood Organ

Aphonia Recordings: series #10
Friday, Oct 3rd @ Gallery 1412
(1412 18th Ave – Seattle, WA)
8:00 PM

-Matt Shoemaker
-Mood Organ (collaboration w/ Zack Shaw)
-The Precambrian

MATT SHOEMAKER

Sourced from both natural and electronic means, Matt Shoemaker manipulates sound so as to convey compositions that uniquely imagine a space encrypted to the point of vanishing definition. Shoemaker is a self-taught artist, employing microphones, digital & analog recorders, computers, acoustic instruments, & assorted signal processors. His work has been published in countries as diverse as Portugal, Germany, England, USA & Malaysia. Matt has also received commissions for radio works across the globe and presented his work at various universities, dance halls, rock clubs, & art galleries.

MOOD ORGAN

Mood Organ is Timm Mason. Mood organ is a construct which seeks to continually reform itself with each subsequent release and live appearance. A Mood Organ piece may utilize evolving drones, phase patterns, treated field recordings, chords constructed from feedback, sounds amplified through solid materials, metal percussion, muffled voices, vintage rhythm boxes, & shortwave radio. In the past, Timm has worked with composers & musicians, including Eldridge Gravy & The Court Supreme, Simon Henneman, Zack Shaw & Ethan Cudaback (as Kuru Cult), Matt Shoemaker, Skip Milford & Chris Pollina (as Quietus), Ed Petry, Bill Horist, Dave Abramson, Gregg Keplinger, & Glenn Branca.

THE PRECAMBRIAN

Aphonia Recordings founders, Ben L. Robertson & Andrew Senna team-up as The Precambrian. In concept, The Precambrian is a constantly evolving interactive synthesis environment/instrument, engineered by Robertson using the graphical programming language, Max/MSP. In its current incarnation, The Precambrian utilizes a “slide zither” & various pitch recognition algorithms to coax out microtonal intervals derived from a graphical system of 11-limit, just intonation matrices. Additionally, Senna (armed with a handful of piezoelectric transducers, microphones, field recordings & synths) executes a series of absurd narratives & synthetic onomatopoeia, indicative of both his sound design work for film & theater.

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