Derek M. Johnson 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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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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June 10th-12th: The 17th Olympia Experimental Music Festival

Nathan Markiewicz: Curator of the Olympia Experimental Music Festival

The line up for recent Olympia Experimental Music Festivals has featured many artists from our little record label. This year is no exception. L.A. Lungs, Mangled Bohemians, Paintings For Animals, Derek M. Johnson and Marlo Eggplant all grace the stage at Northern – Olympia’s preeminent all ages venue.

We welcome this special time of year when this, one of the most comprehensive showcases from the Northwest’s experimental community, puts on a seriously huge series of experimental acts.

See Jason Baxter’s write-up in The Weekly Volcano here. Festival schedule below:

Friday June 10th:

Paintings for Animals (Olympia, WA)
Big Tom the Lithuanian (Olympia, WA)
LA Lungs (Tacoma, WA)
Marlo Eggplant (Portland, OR)
Echos of Infiniti (Olympia, WA)
Four-Dimensional Nightmare (Olympia, WA)
Eurostache (San Francisco, CA)

Saturday June 11th:

Wood Paneling (Olympia, WA)
Boyband (Portland, OR)
Violet (Olympia, WA)
Sustentacula (Portland, OR)
The Dead Air Fresheners (I-5 Corridor)
Night Jar (Olympia, WA)
Pavonine (Austin, TX)

Sunday June 12th: A/V night featuring artists who incorporate visual projections with live sound creation:

Devon Damonte (Olympia, WA)
Eric Ostrowski (Seattle, WA)
Mangled Bohemians (Portland, OR)
Forrest Friends (Seattle, WA)
Derek M. Johnson (Olympia, WA)
Cathartech (Seattle, WA)

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Derek M. Johnson Plays on Olympia Winter Nights

Last night Derek M. Johnson performed on Olympia Winter Nights. As a lot of you may know Mr. Johnson is releasing his first LP with Aphonia Recordings later this Winter. Here is the video in two parts:

Here’s more from Olympia Winter Night’s website:

Olympia Washington has a very vibrant and unique musical culture. A large part of this culture is born from the long, dark winters that all Olympians must endure, the beautiful changing of seasons and the hopeless feelings of melancholy and inspiration. This unusually creative and mysterious season provides a canvas for Olympians to create, reflect and experience a rejuvenation with the coming of spring.

Olympia Winter Nights is a live concert series created and produced by the  2010/2011 media interns of  The Evergreen State College.    This production will be aired live in High Definition video and audio from the new CCAM television studios nestled within the beautiful, wooded campus of The Evergreen State College. Olympia Winter Nights will be an intimate listening and viewing experience for those attending the in-studio performances. Additionally, the concerts will be viewable by the entire world via a live stream on the internet!

Inspiration for this concert series comes from the long running PBS broadcast “Austin City Limits”, the 1990’s MTV broadcasts of “MTV unplugged” and the recent in-studio broadcasts of KEXP radio “Live on KEXP”. The artists to perform in this concert series will be drawn largely from the rich community of local talent.  In true Evergreen State College tradition, Olympia Winter Nights will be complemented with experimental lighting techniques and infused with imaginative, real time MAX/MSP/JITTER light projections.  A truly Olympian concert experience!

Go to artist’s profile page:

derek-m-johnson-profile

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Upcoming Releases: Mangled Bohemians CD, Derek M. Johnson LP, Phantom of the Opera DVD and a New Compilation!

The first few months of 2011 are going to be exciting for experimental music! We are indoctrinating many new artists and new media into our release schedule, including our first vinyl release and our first DVD/Film release. New to the fold are Rachel Carns, known primarily as an amazing musician, pioneering the Queercore movement in the Western U.S. She is also a graphic designer extraordinaire and post modern Renaissance woman. Derek M. Johnson will also be offering his first ever full length release. Although no stranger to the Aphonia universe by virtue of being the artist most frequently appearing at Aphonia Showcases and sponsored events, Johnson here will offer a full length record for the first time. More on all of this later.

First up, as has been recently announced, is Mangled Bohemians new album At the Edge of Earth currently available for pre-order here. This new venture from James Lee of Portland is a swirling mass of psychedelia, meandering ambient soundscapes and as has been featured as of late in Mangled’s live shows, vocals from Lee.

Also on the way is a brand new series of tracks from Olympia, Washington’s Derek M. Johnson. Mr. Johnson has been cultivating a live performance consisting of hand treated slide mounted film, projected via slide projectors against a melange of acoustic solo cello, looped and destroyed tones, all emanating from Johnson’s cello and massive array of effect pedals. Though Johnson’s live show is abstract and often dark in tone, his new LP (release date forthcoming) is subtly beautiful, timeless and varied. It’s themes cover emotional extremes: beauty, anger, melancholy and rain. It should prove to be a truly exciting release as it will be the first ever vinyl release from Aphonia Recordings. There will a limited first run and we will announce a pre-order sale in the near future.

In addition, is an ensemble piece for the 1925 silent film The Phantom of the Opera. Back in December of 2008 Aphonia Recordings hosted a showcase featuring the ensemble (Rachel Carns, Heather Hall, Daniel Buscher and Derek M. Johnson) at the Gallery 1412 collective in Seattle, Washington’s Central District. The resulting recording and performance was so remarkable that we soon decided to create a DVD release of this live performance. The release has been somewhat delayed but we are now set to release it in the next couple of months. The packaging will include cover and insert designs from Rachel Carns and will be hand assembled by the crack Aphonia Releases & Promotions Lab Team. You can listen to our original podcast previewing the show here – it features portions of the debut performance at the Olympia Film Festival.

Original Show Poster designed by Rachel Carns

And last but not least we will be releasing a sampler compilation that will feature new/unsigned aritsts as well as Aphonia stalwarts Paintings For Animals, KRGA, Desolation Wilderness, Darwinsbitch and much, much more! In fact, it will be so crazy good that you will probably want to buy one for your mom as well.

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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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Derek M. Johnson & Andrew Senna to Embark on Western US Tour

Famed cellist Derek M. Johnson (Olympia, Wash.) and Aphonia Recordings co-founder Andrew Senna (Seattle, Wash.) are to begin touring the western United States this February. These two longtime friends and musical companions begin their tour in San Francisco on February 19th. You can check their Myspace pages out for full tour listings to see if they will be in a town near you:

Derek’s Myspace

Andrew’s Myspace

These guys will be serving up both melodic and droning noise for your aural appetite. Derek employs hand treated slides projected on an enormous screen to augment the expansive sounds he derives from his carbon fiber cello.

Andrew on the other hand will be colliding field recordings, analog synth warbles and spacious rolling electrified folk songs out towards the mountains.

This is the first tour both have them set out on, so go out and support them, buy their CDs and enjoy what will most likely be a provocative and nutritious musical buffet.

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Travis Johns, Derek M. Johnson & New Red Sun (Aphonia Recordings

It has been an interesting year and as we look towards cooler days and longer nights I would like to direct you to enjoy some aural treats at the next Aphonia Recordings Showcase on November 6th. We are on home turf again at Gallery 1412 in Seattle’s central district. For more info on Gallery 1412 click here.

This time around we have some old friends as well as visiting new friends. Most of you will recognize experimental cellist Derek M. Johnson, an Aphonia stalwart, having played at more of our showcases than nearly any other of our artists. Mr. Johnson wears many hats, so were never quite sure what he’ll be up to. Whether it is his abstract slides electric cello accompaniment, or all acoustic pure improv, Johnson never disappoints. Also, audio manipulator-artist-extraordinaire Pearson Wallace-Hoyt and eclectic violinist Jackie An – both veteran performers to our showcases are reincarnated in the newly formed New Red Sun:

Seattle-based drone group New Red Sun weave delicate melodies into densely shifting tapestries, from violin, guitar, field recordings and feedback. Drawing on a diverse palette, NRS includes elements of folks, drone, metal & noise. NRS has been fortunate to share the stage with artist like Barn Owl, Bill Horist, Novemthree, Elm, honey.moon.tree, Dr. Jones, Thunder Grey Pilgrim, Vivimancer, Higuma, Violet, Groves, I Died, Hobby Knife, Shurpa, Tempered Steel, Cult of Zir, Sleeping with the Earth, Prion, Dementia & Split Horizon. NRS self-released their debut EP “Riding the Slow Wave of Death” in October ’09 in support of their fall West Coast tour and are currently working with Albuquerque’s Feather Spines label on a more extended follow-up.

More about Travis Johns:

Travis Johns is a composer and sound artist from San Francisco, Ca. Using a combination of processed field recordings, sine wave oscillators and analog electronics, he attempts to weave textural gestures, thoughts and experiences into a singular mass of infinite sonic possibilities. Most recently, his work has concerned itself primarily with two notions – namely that of the desolation and excess of human industry, as well as the mysteries and intrigue of the subconscious mind, often sounding something like the distant swarming of well oiled mechanical bees woven with fissures of dark tones and noise rips.

Come out and support these artists at Gallery 1412 in the CD on Friday November 6th. The doors will open at 8PM.

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Ben L. Robertson : Farewell Seattle show (August 14th)

Note: Photo has nothing to do with performance.

Hello Everyone,

With great anticipation & some sadness, I would like to invite each of you
to my last performance at Gallery 1412 prior to my upcoming relocation to Spokane, WA. As many of you already know, I was recently accepted into Eastern Washington University’s Masters in Music Composition program & was, subsequently, chosen for a Graduate Assistantship within the Department. Needless to say, I am VERY excited.

You may be asking yourself, “What will become of Aphonia Recordings?” Fear not. Andrew will continue to maintain label operations & booking in the ..Seattle.. area, while I open the “Eastern Washington Branch” of Aphonia Recordings & continue to host shows in Spokane. Rest assured, we can all look forward to more releases & performances now from both sides of the mountains!

The Friday’s (August 14th) showcase will feature a number of unfamiliar takes on performance strategy & new interactivity. For example, cellist & master slide-projectionist, Derek M. Johnson will be performing an all acoustic set on a foreign instrument. If we’re really lucky, he might even coax out a Styx cover or two!

Likewise, Aphonia Recordings’ better-half, Andrew Senna is planning to perform
a rare solo set of original songs & noise textures that stradle the precious line between cathartic folk hymns & narrative sound-design. Finally, I will be performing a duet with violinist, Jackie An (New Red Sun, Whiskey Romance). This indeterminate piece is modeled upon an algorithm that extracts pitch data from two performers (Jackie & myself) & generates, by means of a logical system of microtonal counterpoint, new audio content in a manner akin to the improvisations a third, phantom performer.

With all of this mind, please stop by Gallery 1412 this Friday at 8:00pm (sharp) to hear/see all of this new work. Since this performance will be my going-away party of sorts, there might even be cake (????)

hope to see you there!!!!!
-Ben

FRIDAY, AUGUST 14th @ GALLERY 1412
Aphonia Recordings : 09 – viii / Going-Away Party
1412 18th Ave – Seattle, WA
8:00 pm

Andrew Senna
Derek M. Johnson
Ben L. Robertson w/ Jackie An

www.aphoniarecordings.com

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APHONIA FEST 2009 – JUNE 4, 5, 6 (( THURS // FRI // SAT ))

flyer_aphoniafest09_smallest

Hello Everyone,

I wanted to let you know about a festival that we (Aphonia Recordings) will be hosting during the first week of June. As a celebration of 2+ years in business, we have organized this three day festival featuring friends & artists across the region & the country. In classic Aphonia-fashion, the festival will showcase a synthesis of Electroacoustic, Microtonal, Performance Art, Avant-Pop, & New music. As always, we hope to see you there….

-Ben Robertson

DESOLATION WILDERNESS
Desolation Wilderness is a West Coast band. They left the parking lots and the malls, the high schools and the valleys, and found their home at the summer night overlook. Taking the sounds of the cities below & amplifying them into a pitched resonance, they write slow burners & warped guitar/synthesizer/vibraphone ballads influenced by drone music, the photorealistic art of Robert Bechtle, & musique concrete (with pulse included). Desolation Wilderness has released music with a variety of labels, including Aphonia Recordings (In Love With Anything 2007). They hit the studio again & recorded New Universe for release on K Records in August 2009. Itching to leave the studio again, Desolation Wilderness will be touring extensively in support of New Universe.

BILL HORIST
(b. 1971, Washington DC , US )
Since arriving in Seattle in the mid-nineties, Bill has established himself as a highly regarded performer, composer and improviser. He has appeared on over 50 releases and has performed hundreds of concert around the world. In addition to his solo endeavors and work with bands Master Musicians of Bukkake, the Paul Rucker Ensemble and Ghidra to name a few, he has collaborated with a wide range of artists including John Zorn, Secret Chiefs 3, Ruins, Bill Frisell, KK Null, Vidushi Sumitra Guha, Kinski, & Aiko Shimada among many others. In practice, Bill’s prepared-guitar tactics will stun.

MOOD ORGAN:
Mood Organ is the solo project of Seattle-based musician Timm Mason. Timm is best known as the bass player for diverse acts including funk juggernaut Eldridge Gravy & the Court Supreme, psych-rock supergroup Midday Veil, and instrumental hip-hop cover band Hamburger Pimp. Mood Organ is a platform for exploring different modes of listening and intersections between musical (& non-musical) genres. Each Mood Organ performance is unique; recent performances have included a solo performance on electric bass, a duet between saxophone and amplified objects, and a solo composition for harmonium and prepared piano. Work is nearly complete on the first full-length album “Visiting a Burning Museum “. Also in progress is a series of solo performances inspired by the classical elements and their associated platonic solids. For the Thursday show, Mood Organ will be presenting Quietus 3. Quietus is an improvised drone ensemble with fluid membership. I’m nailing down the complete lineup but it will at least include Skip Milford (electric fiddle), Emily Pothast (vox), David Golightly (analog synth), and myself on bass.

GABRIEL WILL + IAN ACKERMAN
Gabriel Tuzzolino Will and Ian Thomas Ackerman are two members of a loose collective of musicians also including Warren Lee and Danny Sasaki. They are bent on exploring the outer limits of tonality as it exists within nature eschewing the harmonic imprecision of equal temperament. Harsh dissonances are revealed as delicate sonorities by the temporal stretch of the music.

LA LUNGS
L.A. Lungs was formed in the summer on 2005 in a Tacoma studio apartment by Afterthought Lung (nee Nathan Markiewicz) and Leeward Lung (nee Lori Peterson). What began as a “studio” project became a “functioning” live act by the summer of 2006, with L.A. Lungs making their live debut at the, now defunct, No Tomorrow concert series in Seattle . L.A. Lungs continue to perform around the Pacific Northwest and have been fortunate enough to share bills with artists such as Acre , Wesley Borden, Cabinet of Natural Curiosities, Crank Sturgeon, The Dead Air Fresheners, Steve Fisk, Forest Friends, Gowns, Bill Horist, Derek Johnson, Mattress, Myrmyr, POWRFL POWER, Shearing Pinx, Talbot Tagora, Your Drugs My Money, and many others. In their loose arrangements L.A. Lungs use variances in phrasing, the inconsistencies of live electronic sound manipulation, and acoustic/amplification variables to create semi-improvised compositions that can vary drastically in tone, rhythm, and emotive qualities from one performance to the next. Visitors to the Aphonia Fest can look forward to the possibility of hearing work from LA Lungs recent Aphonia Recordings release, Most of the Time We Do Not Realize We are Shedding Our Skins 2008, as well as newer material.

KRGA
Kristian Garrard’s project, KRGA, aims to combine the sounds of any and all instruments around into thick, swarming clouds of tones using self-built sampling software. He uses emphasis on drones and moving textures to create warm and dense atmospheres. Most pieces are created using only one or two instruments as source material to be processed & resampled in the software environment, Max/MSP. Past works have used utilized the ubiquitous 60 hz ground-hum, a “personal massager”, as well as more traditional instrumentation. In performance, deconstructed sounds swirl around the room, as patiently created beds of tones build into a complex organic storm.

UNICORNS IN THE SNOW
Unicorns in the Snow is the one-woman project of Kansas City-based composer, performance artist, & social worker, Julia Vering. The project’s roots are grounded in earlier attempts to explore empathy in a visual context. Her most recent work, “The Aviator”, is a miniature opera inspired by the narrative of an aging, anti-social pilot, obsessed by the inimitable power of flying planes. In the final act, recorded the day after the aviator’s death, reveals the primal collaboration of the artist and her elderly muse, commencing in a primal scream accompanied by violent arthritic movements of the performers’ neck and hands.

MANGLED BOHEMIANS
Mangled Bohemians (PDX) are an intensely atmospheric two-piece band featuring massively effected guitar and electronics. Mining heavily from the post-punk tradition of the likes of Glenn Branca, Savage Republic , Heathen Earth era Throbbing Gristle, and Sonic Youth’s SYR releases, Mangled Bohemians create long spacey drones that melt into beautiful washes & pseudo-melodies.

PAINTINGS FOR ANIMALS
Heavy drones, overtone melodies & the sound of the land – Paintings for Animals is the vocal electro-acoustic music of Pearson Wallace-Hoyt. The sound possesses an archaic resonance connecting the human voice with an Earthen narrative of the landscape, flora, fauna & human ritual of both pre & post-history. Started in 2001 & transformed for live presentation in 2007, performances have taken place at art, dance & music galleries, warehouses, bars, cafés, DIY venues & live radio. Paintings music has been used in film, for video, installation & with dance.

DEREK M. JOHNSON
Derek is an Olympia native and can’t seem to ever get away. He frequently performs solo acoustic/electric cello throughout the Northwest with an ever changing, direct animation slide show. He’s been a member of Bloodclot, Dead Air Fresheners, Le Ton Mite, Frequency dB, and the unfortunately named Superfly 2000. Collaborations include: Unwound, Thollem McDonnas, Jeremy Jay, Ben L Robertson, Arrington de Dionyso, Bob Marsh, among others.

DAEDELUM
The magnetic vortex that is eastern Washington is perhaps best reflected by the banshee like howls and tortured vocal treatments that hover over the fractured rhythms and found-sounds of Ryan Leeds’ project, Daedelum. Leeds is interested in exploring the boundaries of traditional instrumentation & dissecting, reassembling, & colliding the parts with electronic gestures and commentaries. The music is aurally diverse and intentionally oblique. The compositions are informed as much by Leeds ‘ upbringing and education as by his various employment stints, including work as a recording engineer for a books-on-tape factory, a camera operator for a local news affiliate, a graphic designer, and currently as a CAD technician.

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 & traditional Arabic Maqams. Additionally, Senna (armed with a handful of piezoelectric transducers, microphones, field recordings) executes a series of absurd narratives & synthetic onomatopoeia, indicative of both his sound design work for film & theater.

www.aphoniarecordings.com