Igor Listens to Gatekeeper’s Giza

Oxygene in Flatland

Igor sez: “Listen to anything on Waxtrax! instead.”

The other day I sat down before my computer, excited to write about the new Gatekeeper EP, Giza, released this past December 13 on UK’s Merok Records.  What happened instead was that I spent the next few days reveling in Front 242’s back catalog.  How could a thing like that happen?

Well, it’s because Gatekeeper is doing a lite take of an amalgam of artists that includes Front 242, Coil, and My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult.  The difference is that with those other bands you could believe the artists had sacrificed something- or just gladly irreversibly given something- for the realization of an idea.  To wit, at about 07:15 in this interview on Red Bull Music Academy, one of the members of Front 242 rebukes the interviewer’s insinuation that the band was in a privileged position to be making the music they were making with the equipment they were using in the early ’80s by saying, with not a little bit of apparent irritation, “An Emulator is about the price of a car and I decided not to have a car but have a machine.  There are a lot of people who have cars here and would probably be able to buy an Emulator in the same sense.”

Like other musicians in their genre at the time, the expression of their art required something from them above and beyond the time put in.  This was part of the fact that they pushed their art over boundaries, making it both artificially and intrinsically anathema to the mainstream.  Wearing safely established symbolism doesn’t accomplish this same goal.

In the same few minutes of the RBMA interview mentioned above, he goes on to talk about the sense of freedom and opportunity they felt at that time as they were confronted with new synthesizer technology. (This exchange is featured in the first segment of the interview highlights video embedded below)

“…You have a new machine, a new concept, you can start from scratch. This is an opportunity for us. We felt maybe here we have a machine that is going to be able to express something of our culture because this machine is as naked as our musical culture… And so you think, ‘Here I have a chance to create a new aesthetic, to create new concepts, a new vision of music’.”

So, let’s look at Giza.  The opening sound on the Giza EP is a sample of a motorcycle being started.  Does the image of the burly dude on a hog still hold such strange and terrible Hunter S. currency that it’s going to send kids running from the dance floor to Mom’s skirts?  Actually, that’s just what I’m getting at.  On Giza you have several such samples vaguely evocative of “scariness” rooted somewhere in the familiar.  However, without lyrics, an idea, a reason, a drive, a shaking fist or a primal investment on the part of the artists, this isn’t “Do you Fear for Your Child,” this is Adventures in Babysitting.  There is nothing here to push the music on Giza out of the realm of the fear-ish, out of the category of the sinister-y.  This is all just camp once the excitement of being reminded that you really want to listen to Front 242 wears off.   There’s nothing electrically boundary-transgressing enough here to give you the surprising smack of satisfaction you’re looking for when, after your sojourn into the back-catalogs of the dread of the technological police society that Industrial music was a manifestation of, you remember to revisit Gatekeeper.

I like the stuff they seem to be into, but unless they push it their music, rehashed Twitch-era Ministry orchestra hits, Art of Noise et al-type vocal samples, and Front 242 background chanting/crowd noise and all, is just more Burning Man/Vegas revue weekend vacation dance music for deluded, self-assured careerists to use drugs to without making any significant changes in their lives.  At least Enigma was doing this sort of thing at the tail end of when this music was actually being made.

Motorcycles!  Brrrrrmm!!  Hell and stuff!

Texture, prolonged tension, vocal samples, lyrics, message, and still unlike anything I’ve heard before or since.

Summer Living/Summer Listening

I’ve been marinating in my own musky grown-up smells with the ample help of 90 degree 100% humidity weather all summer as I work on reacquiring my foreign language skills.  My bar slouch is turning into a desk slouch.

That’s where I’ve been.

I have managed to listen to just a very few things since I’ve been out here, but they have been very, very good things, and they’ve mitigated the occasional (and trivial) stresses brought on by the very good problem I have had of having to study a lot this summer.

Wild Nothing – Gemini

The strong wash of good feelings and reverb on this record makes me happy to be alone when I am alone.
Wild Nothing – Gemini

LCD Soundsystem: This is Happening

This record about getting older, disillusionment, and knowing what you want warms my fuckin’ heart.  It’s just as though Brian Eno traveled through time from the ’70s to release a dance album about how much I personally came to loathe New York and the culture you get sucked into while you’re in it.

Kurt Vile

I only recently discovered Kurt Vile for myself thanks to a comrade at whatwearelisteningto and was lucky enough that Philadelphia’s constant hitmaker passed through Bloomington this summer.  His music has the looping atmospherics of a Deerhunter or Crooked Fingers and the wry personal lyrical touch of a Paul Westerberg wrapped up in a psychedelic sandwich.

One of the lucky strokes of coming late to the party a musician like this is throwing is that he has an extensive back catalog to comb through and get familiar with, which I have been doing at my leisure.  He is also in Philly’s The War On Drugs, but his solo material with the Violators is far, far superior.  Here’s his record Childish Prodigy for the streaming.

Matthew Dear: Black City

Matthew Dear has a vocal fetish.  Where James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem applied himself to perfecting Brian Eno’s weird choruses, Dear has taken the idea of layered vocals with weird chords outside the bounds of simple harmony, and he’s put deep effects on all his vox.  Voila.  Signature sound.  This is a very visual record whose sounds almost come across as monochromatic, all bright whites and shadowy blacks with the occasional wash of orange.  Am I even making any sense?  Have a listen and let me know.  Dear’s music has departed from its now barely recognizable minimal house roots, focusing more on strange atmospheres and laborious exploitation of tone, reverb, and the stereo field.