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Gladstone Deluxe - Spherical Intelligence
Electro-Acoustic Beat Science on DATA DISK's Debut
Capricious is a good word to describe my music consumption. My current obsession is what could be described as (capital ‘d’) Dub (lower case ‘p’) progressive – the early to mid-90’s bastard sound of UK producers raised on Jamaican soundsystem culture taking a crack at House and Rave. Moody Boys (s/o Tony Thorpe each and every) are the most high-profile of the lot (check Product of My Environment) but Tanty Records and Universal Egg 12”s have been stellar deep-cut finds. Before this it was Bleep, before Bleep it was Industrial dance like Cabaret Voltaire / Chris & Cosey and the regression spirals from there. This all sounds very retro-fetishistic (guilty), but I’ve also come to the pseudo-profound realization that the continuance of underground dance music requires a commitment to the future – sonically, generationally, ideologically. We cannot perpetually loop through the trends and sounds of 1985-2005 and expect to have a self-renewing, sustainable underground ecosystem. New technologies, new aesthetics and a new generation of dancers, producers and DJs must be given the opportunity to keep the culture fresh and prevent it from dissolving into old-head retro rot.
Ironically, this realization came last summer while deeply ensconced in the music of a cadre of oft-mentioned, perennial fav 90’s producers like RAC, Phoenecia / Soul Oddity, Andy Lagowski, Klettermax, Pink Elln, Alex Cortex, Germ and the many aliases of Dave Campbell. Listening to something like Soul Oddity’s ‘Welcome Back to Earth’ or Klettermax’s ‘Spaceville’, I couldn’t help but feel that Futurism in Techno had peaked somewhere around 1996. And isn’t the whole idea of Techno that it’s the music of the future? Excuse the Fisher-ism, but what does it mean for the present moment when the future happened 25 years ago? Spoiler: nothing good.
I think many would say the Cutting Edge is alive and well in UK Bass-rooted Techno. Respect to those that butter their bread in that world, but the vast majority of the sound isn’t for me. I did Dubstep in 2008 and I know a little about Jungle and DnB. The wubs and rhythmic complexities may sound like the year 2500 but they aren’t anything new. I’d also venture to say the sound is on the verge of monoculture hegemony in a large section of the underground (just check your mix feed). But that’s a take I’ll leave in abbreviated form.
So, yeah… Putting the ‘tech’ back in Techno is something I’m quite concerned with in the age of dime-a-dozen retro emulating 12”s. Inspired by the cutting edge sounds of futures past, I’ve started a label to continue in that forward-facing tradition. DATA DISK will be my platform for music whose press releases will include words like ‘intelligent’, ‘megamind’, ‘dumb’, ‘incredibly dumb’, ‘dadaist’, ‘geometric’, ‘mutated’, ‘cyber’-something, etc.
DISK ONE is from Gladstone Deluxe, an artist (in the truest sense) of such varied skill and accomplishment that I feel truly humbled working with him on this project. Stone’s a percussionist and multi-instrumental composer who just snatched an MFA in Sound Art from Columbia and is headed off to Princeton to pursue a PhD in Music Composition. He’s performed as a soloist at the Kennedy Center, worked as a technical audio engineer, a software engineer and installation artist addressing concepts of rhythm, geometry, the black body and technology. Megamind indeed.
Spherical Intelligence is Stone’s first appearance on vinyl. The idea for the record came after watching three live performances recorded at his studio in West Harlem (check the YT vids here - highly rec’d!). These sprawling improvisations wove acoustic and electronic percussion, ambience and melody into forms that span the chasm from soundscape to advanced and intelligent club music. I sensed in each recording a club smash waiting to be unearthed. Thankfully, Stone had the stems from each session. Stone and I worked out floor-friendly arrangements that resulted in ‘Structure B’, ‘Incident / Congruency’ and ‘Pillars’. After much hemming and hawing on my end about obscure and OCD concepts like ‘coherency’, ‘flow’ and ‘DJ friendliness’ Stone shut me up and put the EP to bed with a fresh production, ‘Errant Core’. The result is an EP of cerebral, percussion-intensive music for the mind and body that, according to Stone, ‘reclaims and re-envisions the term “Intelligent Dance Music” from the Afrofuturist’s perspective’.
Besides working with fresh producers like Stone, DATA DISK presents me with the long-awaited opportunity to join forces with cyberspace homie, Rey Colino of Kalahari Oyster Cult and One Eye Witness fame. I’ve looked up to Colin as one of the exceedingly rare individuals who’ve managed to carve out a living in the always-risky field of pressing and selling records. ‘Nuff respect to this self-made impresario. One Eye Witness will be handling worldwide distribution for DATA DISK.
Spherical Intelligence is out now worldwide. Cop from your local shop, go-to online spot or support the label direct via the is / was Bandcamp, the exclusive home of DATA DISK digis.
PS. I’ve just submitted DISK TWO for release this fall. Teakup, a familiar name from the is / was universe, is back on the buttons. Expect a plate of freewheeling genre collisions whose moodboard includes Spiral Tribe, a single beaver-tail dreadlock, Titonton Duvanté, Archetype and Pad Thai.
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