Problems Archive


Premier of Aphonia Recordings Voice/Strings Ensemble: Fri, May 1st @ Gallery 1412

Hello Everyone!
I am super pleased to announce that I will be premiering a brand new piece (Thamnophis sirtals: 2.25 Incantations & Spectral Taxonomy) at the upcoming Aphonia Recordings showcase on Friday, May 1st. Thamnophis sirtalis.

It is a taxonomically-themed, microtonal composition written for a voice & strings ensemble consisting of a number of active NW performers & Aphonia artists (ie. Amy Denio, Derek M. Johnson, Emily Pothast, members of Problems, Mood Organ, Midday Veil, etc..) I’m pretty excited to get all of these folks under one roof & feel extremely honored to have them performing my piece.

be there or be square-rooted!
-Ben Robertson (Aphonia Recordings Co-Founder)
Friday, May 1st @ Gallery 1412
1412 18th ave – Seattle
8:00 PM sharp!
Thamnophis sirtalis: 2.25 Incantations & Spectral Taxonomy for voices, electric bass guitar, cello, amplified viola, & amplified violin

Composed & Produced by:
Ben L. Robertson Aphonia Recordings co-founder, The Precambrian

Performed by:<
Emily Pothast (Mezzo-Soprano; Midday Veil)
Amy Denio (Alto; The Tiptons, Kultur Shock, etc..)
Jackie Ahn (Violin)
Ian Ackerman (Violin; Problems, Romanteek, The Strangers)
Gabriel Will (Viola; Problems)
Derek M. Johnson (Cello, Bloodclot, The Dead Air Fresheners, etc..)
Timm Mason (Fretless Bass; Mood Organ, Midday Veil, Eldridge Gravy, etc.)

Traditionally, biological disciplines, such as Taxonomy, & the arts have been viewed as, more-or-less, distinct from one another. Intersections between these two seemingly disparate practices are often more figurative than structural. Perhaps the clinically macabre imagery particularly associated with taxonomy, complete with shelves full of dead plants & animals preserved in bottles of formaldehyde, has done little to marry biological sciences to the expressive arts. However, the parallels in methodology that unite these two disciplines offer great potential.

By definition, a taxonomist gathers empirical observations regarding the physiology & behavior of organisms (both living and deceased) to craft an explicit vernacular that definitively describes his or her biological subjects. Through a similar methodology, the spectral composer may gather relevant acoustic data, classify this data in the form of a literal or symbolic language, & establish a protocol of musical conditions that reflect the nature of data collected. Within the piece, this process entails the development of a proprietary vocabulary, or spectral taxonomy, to describe & classify the individual harmonic phenomenon and spectral behaviors exhibited in the context of Frequency Modulation (FM) synthesis. The resultant spectral taxonomy is the maturation of a system of microtonal tuning & counterpoint that effectively exploits the unique timbres produced by specific FM algorithms.

Phonetically, the piece adopts the aesthetic of an Audubon field guide, as each vocalist recites a series of incantations documenting the Latin names of various North American subspecies of the ubiquitous Common Garter Snake, Thamnophis sirtalis.


Podcast #18 – Amy Denio and Aphonia Supergroup

Just a short three weeks ago Amy Denio released her first digital only release on Aphonia Recordings. The release entitled, sub-Rosa, is a soundtrack for a multimedia and dance piece of the same name. Directed by Cheronne Wong at produced at the Langston Hughes Performing Arts Center exactly one year ago today, September 18th, 2008. This podcast gives an overview of sub-Rosa’s inspiration and we hope you will listen in for a track from sub-Rosa.

This is also kind of a double header as the second part of this podcast is the recording of our Aphonia Recordings Supergroup. For the Olympia Experimental Music Festival benefit show in June we assembled an all star cast of recording artists from the label including, Derek M. Johnson, The Precambrian, Ph0n0n, KRGA and Gabe Will of Problems. We hope you enjoy.

Podcast #18 – Amy Denio and Aphonia Supergroup


Shows: September 2008

Sept 05 – 8:00P myrmyr @ San Francisco Electronic Music (San Francisco, Ca)

Sept 05 – 8:00P Problems, Amy Denio, nucular aminals @ Aphonia Rec. 9 (Gallery 1412) (Seattle, Wa)

Sept 05 – 8:00P Desolation Wilderness @ the treehouse (Arcata, Ca)

Sept 06 – 7:30P Amy Denio (w/ yellow hat band) @ Burien Lantern Fest (Burien, Wa)

Sept 06 – 8:00P Desolation Wilderness @ Rererato (Portland, Or)

Sept 06 – 8:00P Agnes Szelag @ Project Artaud Theater (San francisco, Ca)

Sept 06 – 8:00P Nucular Aminals @ The Red House (Olympia, Wa)

Sept 07- 8:00P Daedelum @ The Empyrean (Spokane, Wa)

Sept 07 – 8:00P Desolation Wilderness @ Matt’s house (Olympia, Wa)

Sept 11 – 8:00P Paintings for Animals, VxPxC, Warm Climates, Wind Swept Planes @ Galley 1412 (Seattle, Wa)

Sept 13 – 8:00P Nucular Aminals @ SCRAP Benefit (Portland, Or)

Sept 19 – 7:00P Derek M. Johnson & mangled bohemians @ Rererato (Portland, Or)

Sept 21 – 8:00P Amy Denio @ El Corazon (Seattle, Wa)

Sept 26-28 – 8:00P Derek M. Johnson @ Midnight Sun (3 day festival) (Olympia, Wa)


Come celebrate Amy Denio’s debut release on Aphonia Recordings this Friday!!!!!

Amy Denio: Subrosa release show/party (w/ Nucular Aminals + Problems)@ Gallery 1412

Amy Denio – subrosa: AR017
amy denio - subrosa

click here to preview tracks / purchase this release



Shows: August 2008

Aug 01 – 8:00P Aphonia Recordings series 8 @ Gallery 1412 (Seattle, Wa)

Aug 05 – 8:00P Desolation Wilderness @ the Phoenix House (Olympia, Wa)

Aug 08 – 8:00P Bob Marsh Ensemble @ Gallery 1412 (Seattle, Wa)

Aug 15 – 8:00P Cabinet of Natural Curiosities, The Precambrian @ Gallery 1412 (Seattle, Wa)

Aug 15 – 9:00P Derek M. Johnson, Problems, Wummin @ Le Voyeur (Olympia, Wa)

Aug 21 – 7:00P Desolation Wilderness w/ Stag Hare @ Phoenix House (Olympia, Wa)

Aug 22 – 8:00P Desolation Wilderness @ Carousel Festival! (Seattle, Wa)

Aug 23 – 1:00P LA Lungs @ Carousel fest! (Seattle, Wa)

Aug 23 – 8:00P LA Lungs, Dead Air Fresheners, Eet @ Proper Eats (Portland, Or)

Aug 23 – 8:00P Desolation Wilderness + Problems @ Artistery (Portland, Or)

Aug 24 – 8:00P Desolation Wilderness @ Shady Pines (Eugene, Or)

Aug 25 – 8:00P Desolation Wilderness @ Luna’s Cafe (Sacramento, Ca)

Aug 26 – 7:00P Desolation Wilderness @ Udai (Reno, Nv)

Aug 27 – 8:00P Desolation Wilderness @ Upstairs Gallery (Placerville, Ca)

Aug 28 – 8:00P Desolation Wilderness @ Kittenboat Warehouse (Oakland, Ca)

Aug 29 – 8:00P Desolation Wilderness @ Mama Buzz Cafe (Oakland, Ca)

Aug 30 – 8:00P Desolation Wilderness @ Pehrspace (Los Angeles, Ca)

Aug 31 – 8:00P Desolation Wilderness @ The Smell (Los Angeles, Ca)


Podcast for the Seattle Occultural Music Festival

Listen in as we cover several artists about to perform for the 2008 Seattle Occultural Music Festival. Included in this podcast are Problems (not performing at SOMF but members of Problems are), Agnes Szelag, Paintings for Animals, KRGA and Ben L. Robertson. Listen in to tracks never heard before or previously unreleased and newly released!
Podcast for the Seattle Occultural Music Festival


Aphonia Recordings Monthly Series Pt. 5

Aphonia Recordings Monthly Series #5:
Friday, May 2nd
Gallery 1412
1412 18th ave – Seattle


-Ben L. Robertson + Gabe Will

KRGA is the project of Seattle area musician Kristian Garrard. Drawing upon a background in software synthesis, jazz drumming, voice, and guitar, Kristian aims to combine the sounds of any and all instruments around into thick, swarming clouds of tones using home-made software. Despite KRGA’s capacity for aural density, the vast majority of his pieces are performed using only one or two instruments as source material. KRGA has recently released two recordings (“Magic Wand & “June”) on Aphonia Recordings.

Additionally, this series will debut a collaboration between Aphonia Recordings co-founder Ben L. Robertson (‘The Precambrian’) & violist Gabe Will of Olympia-based microtonal drone-band ‘Problems’. United by a mutual fascination with just intonation & chance operations, each collaborator finds his niche within a single, software-based performance environment. Through a battery of microtonal pitch recognition algorithms & probability-based functions developed in Max/MSP, discreet notes & found sounds alike are distilled into a single resonant mass.



Problems LIVE at the Gallery 1412

Time to catch the Problems set at Gallery 1412 on Feb 1st, 2008. You can download this show via the iTunes Music Store. Just type “aphonia” into the search field and you will be able to “rock the party.”

Problems, Paintings for Animals and the Precambrian will have new releases available for sale on the Aphonia Recordings online store.

In other news, an official Aphonia Recordings compilation CD will be released at the next Aphonia Recordings showcase taking place on March 7th, 2008 at Gallery 1412. We hope to see you there!

Problems LIVE at the Gallery 1412


Myello & Problems Commissioned for Upcoming Installation Series

OKOK Gallery Presents:
Environmental Aesthetics

Installation and site-specific sound compositions
from the 2007 Satsop Residency

Receptions to be held at the OKOK Gallery (5107 Ballard Ave. NW seattle, wa) Jan. 9th, 7pm – 9pm and Jan. 12th, 7-9pm

Seattle, WA” OKOK Gallery proudly welcomes arts collective Environmental Aesthetics as it presents three site-specific sound compositions from its inaugural Satsop Residency Program.

In 2006 Environmental Aesthetics founders Gabe Bacon and Paul Schrag were granted access to Satsop Development Park, which operates on the site of a would-be nuclear power facility in Elma, Wa. In the late 1970s, Satsop was a component of the largest nuclear power plant construction project in U.S. history. The project comprised plans for five nuclear power reactors to be built in Hanford, and Elma WA, located 25 miles west of the state capitol. The project was cancelled after the budget swelled into the billions and nuclear energy fell out of favor with the general public. At the time of the cancellation, construction of the Satsop site was near completion.

Today, massive remnants of the project remain, including Cooling Tower No. 5, which was selected as the site of the Environmental Aesthetics residency program. The concrete tower rests beside the Chehalis River, rising nearly 500 feet in the air, its 15-foot-thick concrete wall encircling four acres of grass covered soil. To date, the structure has remained gated and largely unused. The Satsop Residency aims to reinterpret this epic monument as a sublime environment with the potential to function as an all encompassing artistic medium, emphasizing the interplay between site-specific sonic art, seemingly obsolete industrial architecture and the natural environment.

The three artists awarded the first annual Satsop Residency include: Seattle artist Yann Novak, Olympia artist Myello, and Olympia quartet Problems. In September 2007, the artists were invited interpret the tower sonically. The artists used on-site recordings to produce sound compositions representative of their individual responses to the tower’s form and acoustic qualities. These compositions and an accompanying sculptural installation will be presented at Ballard’s OKOK Gallery.

About Environmental Aesthetics:

Environmental Aesthetics was established in 2005 by Gabriel Bacon and Paul Schrag. The organization aims to foster the reinterpretation and re-contextualization of particular human and natural environments by initiating shifts in accepted historical and conventional classifications.

About The Artists:

Yann Novak is a Seattle based sound artist and founder of Dragon’s Eye Recordings. Novak uses field recordings and digital manipulation to produce compositions. These works offer Novak’s interpretation of the emotional effect of specific physical environments and emphasize the expressive nature of time and place.

Problems is an Olympia based group composed of Ian Ackerman, Joe Kuta, Warren Lee and Gabe Will. Through sound, the group actively collaborates and engages with the specific interiors in which their compositions take form. Focusing on sustained tones and the phantom melodies that arise within them, they expose microstructures and rich polyforms found within sustained pitch.

Myello is Olympia based composer Daniel Farrell. Farrell identifies his works as non-narrative associative sound poems, which are strongly informed by Surrealist philosophies and compositional strategies. Using significant and familiar sounds, and digital manipulation, Farrell’s compositions aspire to invoke the ecstatic nature of the human spirit against the backdrop of what he describes as the technological totality.

click here to preview tracks from and/or purchase Myello’s latest Aphonia Recordings release, ‘Composites & Variations On Forms’.

Also, stay tuned for an upcoming collaboration by Gabe Will (problems) & Aphonia Recordings co-founder/microtonalist, Ben L. Robertson.