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Saturday, May 02, 2009

ERIKOISODANCE 11: OMNI GIDEON

Kid Shirt lifers may recall that, altho I generally affect a certain vague distain for a broad raft of comtempo Techno, I am particularly keen on the music released by the Helsinki-based electronics label Erikoisdance. Every few months Tom sends me his most recent releases and they're almost always pretty damn good.

Erikoisdance 10 and 11 landed in my mail-box many moons ago. I've been amiss in not mentioning them, but other stuff always seems to get in the way - and increasingly so, these days, or so it seems...but the imminent arrival of Erikoisdance 12 has finally prompted a tardy response from yrs truly...

This time I'm gonna focus in on Erikoisdance 11 - "Sähkölasku" by Omni Gideon. (Tho I may retro-review the previous volume at some point, if time allows) Each Erikoisdance release is usually based around a 'theme' and this one is no different, it being an attempt at allowing assorted electronic-kit to auto-'compose' its own take on Machine-Funk.



I particularly like the fact that the tracks are 'titleless', each being designated the same short continuous line in place of a name. Kinda reminds me of Warholian asterisk'd film-titles, but this seems to designate a generic null or an unknown of some sort. Let yr imagination fill in the blanks.

So here's some vague, impressionistic thoughts on the tracks translated from my *ahem* 'notes'.



1. Syncopated cee-threepio Robo-Funk n Drumulator'd R2-D2 comms-squawk that sounds like it fell off the back of the Clear Records roster circa 1994 and lived wild in the woods for a few years, subsiding on tungsten nuts and bolt-berries. Now it's hopping off towards The Big City like an excitable electronic squirrel, but there's something oddly strident, almost purposeful about its flightpath - it hops from foot to foot as if it's standing on hot coals, but there's also a sense that it has some ultimate destination in mind.

2. I like how 'dark' this feels. It's murky, dim n distant - a reverb-smudged darkling that creeps its way across a black marshmallow landscape. The reverb after-image look/sounds like wire-wool - a cloud of data covered in minscule prickles. Nano-velcro.

(A micro-narrative is forming in my head, but...): I'm imagining muzzy-sounding, self-regulating machines - the postmodernist info-sifting equivalent of nodding-donkeys - they're pumping at the data-soil, raising clouds of machine-code pollen. Hexadecimal spores that never quite seem to germinate.

Are the machines mining for something? Someone - a small kartoon bot; a Liquorice Allsorts Man - makes his way back to his lonely little home. He sounds weary, wistful. What awaits him there?

This is a snapshot of a small life being lead in the shadow of Technology. A blurry, smeary, vague little life whose details seem superficially unimportant, who are dwarfed by some vague, almost irrelevent form of industry. I feel sad for this little fella. I wanna tell him it's gonna be alright, that he does matter. We all matter.

3. I'll tell you what I'm hearing here: a frantic single-note cow-bell samba. It reminds me of the breathless commuter-surge rhythms that underpin the very first Yello album - tho it sounds nothing like that, of course! This is tinnier, thinner, brittle-sounding, skeletal...rather than that boisterous, crowd-sourced Brownian Motion cum urban hustle-bustle that "Solid Pleasure" invokes. (tube-train doors open and shut on fast-forward CCTV, disgorging robotic office-workers; but this is bleached out, low-rez YouTube footage and, like some burnt-out PKD protagonist, we fail to recognise ourselves on the screen) This is a stressed-out crowd-of-one; less-than-one, even...a remainder; a reminder...we are less than zero; we are alone in a crowd; we are alone in our heads. We. Are. The. Robots.

Later, a skinny Bernie Worrell soundalike performs an endless synthphunk solo.

The solo leaves a dark froth in its wake.

4. Mock proclamations from King Kurluu Kuurth of Flat Earth F.

5. A(nother) lonely machine restlessly prowls the Outburbs of (K-1)th Street, his metal feeler-pole tap-tapping on the slidewalk. He is followed by a Quu-- [Static Intero-Interrupt]

This track is as stunningly beautiful as it is simplistic.

6. Huh?? A 'House' Mix of an earlier track by ODJ Harri from Sähkö Records...?

Ha! So linearity is restored, after a fashion, but it's a lop-sided one at that, or at least it is at the beginning. But that spongey little tick-drum does little to erase the music's subtle poignancy.



I asked about the philosophy/concept that underpinned the Omni Gideon: project-product-object.

"Omni Gideon is done by me too. Or more accurately by a bunch of machines and me. I don't think of myself as really being responsible for the finest moments on that record.

"Here's the story:

"The main idea behind the project was to really let the gear "do the thinking" and just control the machinery enough to ensure that the outcome of the sessions would be possible to categorize as music. And yeah, of course the material sounds quite musical, even melodic at times - obviously because the machines in question are designed for making just that: music.

"So the thought/philosophy is of making the work of the designers and engineers who designed and built the machines audible, by trying to really dig out something that sounds like nothing else than just the machine in question is present here too. Just as it was in the stuff I did for the earlier "Non-baryonic Form" release. But the approach was much more purist on this one.

"It was all done with a very limited setup (well, most of my stuff is actually). Using just one synthesizer keeps the sound spectrum naturally in control, so there's a better chance of the outcome not being just total chaos when you work like this.

"But, you know, saying "just one instrument" is totally misleading when you're talking about polyphonic, multitimbral synthesisers. It's not like I was limited to using just a guitar or bongo drum or something. People have done whole careers with much less equipment!

"Every track was done as one single stereo-recording, with no overdubs or other stages in the process that would allow too much logical problem-solving or "corrections" to be made. The logic of the compositions is fuzzy machine logic.

"So that's mostly just my ESQ-1 you hear on the record, getting funky almost completely by itself!

"The house edit is quite great too don't you think? ODJ Harri - Helsinki House-DJ since Day 1 - did that one for me. He's one of the guys behind Sähkö Records and their sub-label Keys of Life (and has been running other very interesting labels too, over the years). I'm lucky to know him from work from some years back. So that made it possible to order the remix from someone inside the club scene (although I operate 100% outside of that myself), which in turn made it possible for something as weird to happen as Jori Hulkkonen playing Erikoisdance in his DJ sets!"

What does "Sähkölasku" translate to...? I know Sähkö means "electric" - it's one of the few Finnish words I know. (Something I hope to remedy at some point!)

"The name of the record: in English, it means "Electric Bill". No connection to the mentioned label tho, other than Harri doing the remix."

"Electric Bill" LOL.

I really like the fact that the tracks on the Omni Gideon MySpace are different to the CD; it implies that there's a near infinite sequence of self-composed machine-built cuts n we're only hearing one incarnation of them. I like the apparent arbitrariness of track endings or the sudden, unexpected appearance of certain sounds...

Next up is Erikoisdance 12:

"The 12th Erikoisdance CDr offers a long EP length of old material by the labels in-house Outsider Dance super group Die Todesmaschine. Here the notoriously unproductive duo display their trademark style of homegrown synth tracks in 4 examples, along with some versions and remix material — epic Vangelis-on-a-budget strings, off-center basslines obscured by metallic flange, faux 70’s Glam Rock drum patterns and a healthy dose of crunchy tape delay feedback.

"The release includes pretty much everything they have recorded during the last 6 or so years (except for the one track released under the alias Detox, on the now sadly defunkt Kommando 6 label back in 2004). A remix by Vince Koreman (of Ra-X and Virgin Fang fame), exclusively commissioned for this release, is also included."

"This new one is a collection of tracks I've done together with long-time band and electronics mate Torsten Colerus. The oldest ones are from the beginning of the 00's, the most recent ones recorded in 2007. So I guess you could call it a retrospective."

And after E12?

"Coming up next is a dub-inspired thing - very heavy, deep stuff with demagnetized mono reel-to-reel sounding production. After that a little collection of recordings by semi-obscure Helsinki band Mallisto, whose music would be easiest described as "Ambient Synth Folk" or something. I wasn't involved in the band, but did a remix for this CD-r.

"Some of the tracks on that one will be from 15 years back. Looks like I'll have to really be carefull not to veer off into doing only dusty old archival releases! The Erikoisdance Museum of CDr-ology..."

Erikoisodance releases are available direct thru their MySpace or from Clone Records.