Monday 26 May 2014

yeongrak: can't remember

I'm always really interested to see what's occupying spaces formerly occupied by vaporwave. Solid (former-?) vaporwave label Business Casual 87 have been branching out lately into some seriously accomplished productions, and (among others) it's resulted in a gorgeous, rich EP of cloudy beats from yeongrak, ASCII GIRLS. Sealing that family connection between cloud rap and vapor, it comes a bit out of that Tri Angle sound (but isn't derivative) and yet has something of vaporwave's feeling of water condensation on the glass walls of a steamy Utopia. I like the main hook of 'can't remember' best - it somehow manages to strum a marimba AND suggest a hand swishing through a stream. But on a giant scale. 'stuff garden' is good too.

Tuesday 20 May 2014

sentinel: MELT​-​BUGATTI_

Previously just a Soundcloud account containing a few brilliant sketches and some mixes that'll give you a great guided tour of the emerging hi-tech world, sentinel's debut hybrid dropped yesterday on Bandcamp and it has me by the heart and lungs. Like an airborne nanocyte invasion. Essentially it's a compilation of those Soundcloud tracks (no longer there) but it's no less electromagnetic for that, and now they come in nutritious, terrifying FLAC. I name-checked sentinel (or SENTINL, then) in the recent System Focus on DBHB/E+E/FL/TCF/TF/YB, but really the Baltimore producer is part-way between their stuff, alien grime, Night Slugs' / Fade to Mind's machine club, Ferraro and hi-tech experimental noise too. So the soundworld isn't entirely unfamiliar, but it's still abrasively fresh, especially in this one's hands - sentinel is getting its armatures in there as well as anyone, creating something that is integrated, unpredictable, very affecting, almost incomparably future.

'MELT​-​BUGATTI_' is my favourite. Not metal vs muscle, nothing so C20th. Organic matter [user] <> non-organic matter [user] > graphene, smart surfaces, plastics, carbon fibres, breathables, exotic plant matter, gels > sudden peristalsis in the newly bleached gullet expels amniofluids > may cause initial nausea > protocols retracted and re-injected in new entrainments > human senses exhaled.

(via the amazing Hi-Hi-Whoopee)

Monday 19 May 2014

Syrrup: A1 come over

This one's a little old (August 2013), but cmon, ain't it the sweetest. I've been listening to Syrrup's R+B on the way home every day for about a week, since it seems made for those summer nights where the heat gives way to the breeze and the birds give way to the rustling leaves (save for that distant nightingale). But this Viennese producer's music is so gentle and loving it can take you home wherever you are. Lil bits of R and lil bits of B roll in and out like stars from behind the clouds, while moonlight drones softly light up the sleeping world around you. S/he also has an equally beatific cassette album out on Illuminated Paths. Yeah, come on over.

Sunday 18 May 2014


RAP/RAP/RAP is one of my most cherished finds of the past couple years. I still struggle to pinpoint exactly what it is that's so powerful about beats so deceptively crude. First time I listened, I just mistook them for those of another drum machine pretender, but slowly I found that the thick air of heaviness and dissonance (tonal, textural, cultural) they so insistently explored was their unexpected attraction. You end up imagining the sort of subjectivity these tracks embody - a person/ world/viewpoint  that is slick and hi-tech yet brainless, too cool and yet too tough. I tried writing about it in an article that looked at RAP/RAP/RAP alongside two other vaguely similar producers, a i r s p o r t s and Karmelloz, but didn't manage to diffuse his power. The Portuguese producer will provide the latest release on Lisbon's very exciting Golden Mist records, and the teasing preview is above. A chunk of house, a shade too slow, spins wide-eyed next to metal objects from another dimension, senpai voices her anxieties but hey the water's fine fiiiiiiine.

Friday 16 May 2014

Subaeris: POOLSIDE 女の子

Ohh, I really love White Colours. Consistently interesting and well-crafted releases. Very online-savvy. Great name. Brilliant visual design. The French label is run by Too Much Too Young (né Frédéric) and Rainbows (né Clément), who just find artists they like over the Internet and invite them to release EPs or singles with fantastic covers (here's an interview they did). They've barely had a dud in over two years of under-recognised activity. Even when their tracks take on traditional genres, there's something in the production, or the way it's put together that pulls me in. I could live in a White Colours world.

I particularly liked this recent EP of theirs, Existence by Subaeris. Subaeris turns out to be a really good post-vaporwave beatmaker, strobing those NEW CORPORATE AGE CLOUDS with cybermotor perc and bars of blue ice. Difficult to pick a favourite cos the release remains at a high level and has a nice stylistic coherence, but I'm into the low staccato tones of 'POOLSIDE 女の子.' I think the best coldness manages to find that sonic contrast between the continuous gaseous drones and the sudden, sometimes violent hits of hi-tech. If you like it too, Subaeris has a decent album out on Dream Catalogue and more great stuff on her/his own Bandcamp page so have a look.

Wednesday 14 May 2014

pepsi7up: BITTERMAN

The perfect track to kick off an mp3 blog dedicated to online weirdness. The music of pepsi7up is mysterious, superlatively bizarre and full of baffling but undeniable love and beauty. I wrote about him a while back. Checking in on the Soundcloud account recently I noticed a few new tracks had gone up, the first in about a year. Some of them get into the most out-there experimentalism, but 'BITTERMAN' (I can't even begin to think why that name) is easily one of the most charmingly infectious tracks to have gone up since the two versions of 'Over the Rainbow' (now removed, but which I uploaded to YouTube). Like those tracks, 'BITTERMAN' uses a software orchestra and garbled vocaloids - advanced tech - but this time the style is dream indyrock from the late 80s / 90s in a twitching polygon body. As before, it brings you right into a future utopia that's just that much more detailed, more persuasive, more poignant, more otherworldly and more heavenly than anyone else's. The distinction distances and isolates him from so many listeners, but in my book, even with so little material, pepsi7up is the very height of the new online weird.

mp3 blog!

 Mp3 blog Altered Zones, 2010-2011.
A ladder for lesser-known artists, it's arguably the
reason today's underground looks the way it looks.

I'm turning Rouge's Foam into a (part-time, intermittent) mp3 blog! Remember them?!

Over the past few years, my music-writing has kind of shifted from essays (mostly on my blog) that went into quite a lot of depth on famous artists to essays that bring together a number of less well-known artists who are doing new things away from well-known labels. I trace this shift back to the moment I realised that there was an enormous, almost entirely non-reported underground sitting online full of music that was not just fresh-sounding but often really good too. I haven't lost interest in writing on bigger names, but I ended up filling a niche covering emerging music as a columnist because I began to see the urgency in reporting those lesser known artists, and few other writers were doing so too.

The features I write on these schools of new artists go some way to bringing this new online underground some wider attention. But there are also plenty of artists and tracks that don't make it into these features, either because they stand a bit apart or because I already covered the artist or their style before. So in order to keep sharing the good stuff, I thought I'd start presenting tracks on Rouge's Foam in the typical mp3 blog style - embedded track and a little write-up for context (I won't actually be offering mp3 downloads myself, but the format remains). I'll still post links to the articles I've written, and write the occasional blogthing.

This might seem a little retro in a time ruled by sharing on Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr, which have eroded the mp3 blog as a source for sharing new music. Mp3 blogs are a bit 2006. But what I like about them is that they're separate from social media in general and can be browsed as such. I don't have anything against social media per se, but whether it's other people's accounts or my own, interesting new tracks just come bundled with everything else - pictures, complaints, Buzzfeed etc. The share button world is also low on context - the few sentences written to accompany a track on an mp3 blog is hardly Journalism, but it does provide some valuable context: how the track works in relation to releases, geography, events, backgrounds etc. Well, they're not unlike the news pieces you see on larger music websites. But on Rouge's Foam, these tracks will not typically be the tracks these sites are posting (often after receiving press releases). They'll be weird unknown nuggets from the new online underground.

Maybe it's just me, but I've noticed a drop-off in the number of mp3 blogs I can rely on, or in their quality or regularity. In particular, I miss Altered Zones, which caught the wave of hypnagogic pop and broke the news of so many of the artists that are now huge in today's underground scene. With institutions like Altered Zones gone or drying up, a gap between new music and its wider success has emerged: it's no longer clear how young&weird artists get from Soundcloud, Bandcamp or debut cassette beginnings to touring whole continents (...unless they're rubber-stamped by the limited, more conservative capacities of older, richer, more established labels and websites). Since I'm now finding new music by the bucketload straight at the source - SC, BC, Mediafire - I realised I can help plug that gap once filled by mp3 blogs... with an mp3 blog.

I can't promise the flow of new tracks will be constant, regular, dense or everlasting (and the tracks might be a few months old), but I hope you like some of em!

Thursday 8 May 2014

System Focus: The Divine Surrealism of Epic Collage

 'False God Fallen God False God Fallen God. Even Though I'm a False God I'm Still a God' - Diamond Black Hearted Boy
... and we're back. With a new monthly column for The FADER concerning emerging directions in underground music, going by the handsome title SYSTEM FOCUS. And this SYSTEM's first FOCUS is a network of artists I've been finding remarkable and profound for nearly two years of watching them carve runes into SoundCloud: Diamond Black Hearted Boy, E+E, Felix Lee, Total Freedom, TCF, Why Be and more. Click here to read 'The Divine Surrealism of Epic Collage.'

Cover of the Blasting Voice compilation
Grand piano keys creep out of an abyssal mist that curls from the open mouths of ghosts. A brand-new car gives chase across the dirt plain, a foreboding echoed in an Olympian crackle through a sky heavy with clouds. Towers of Babel glint sinister on the horizon, dark mills whipping up this slow storm. Then, a voice of immaculate R&B: I know you’ve been hurt by someone else. She reverberates at the edge of infinity, lifting the piano up into a mile-long shaft of light. Cause if you let me, here’s what I’ll do. I’ll take care of you...

Elijah Paul Crampton (E+E)
The album on which it appears, December’s THE LIGHT THAT YOU GAVE ME TO SEE YOU is full of visions in which R&B romance becomes epic spiritual epiphany, and where Judgement Day pandemonium becomes the trials of personal love and innermost courage... E+E is at the center of a remarkable network of underground musicians—also including Total Freedom, Diamond Black Hearted Boy, TCF and several other artists—who have been combining fragments of pop with epic textures and violent sound effects. The framework is avant-garde sample collage, but their work tells stories about 21st-century experience that emanate surreally from cinematic sound-palettes, transcendental theology and stark, pure emotion. It lives on an unexpected spectrum between avant-queer club and that hi-tech no-space in which radio idents and the logos of games consoles and film companies appear as gigantic monuments, incandescent with divine light...

Felix Lee (lexxi_)
At first, much of this music might simply sound like a gratuitous hodgepodge of extreme sounds with little logic to connect them. But slowly, each juxtaposition of sound-objects becomes a surrealist image framed by its own curious insistence, and each sample becomes an element in a dreamlike cipher. In the same way that 16th century Dutch artists Bosch and Brueghel‘s paintings combined everyday life with esoteric religious imagery, and in the same way that the twentieth-century surrealists parodied bourgeois culture and plumbed newfangled psychiatric theories, the epic collagists reflect contemporary life, but in ways that don’t yet seem fully comprehensible... Their tracks seem to echo the intense experiences and high stimulation of our technologically mediated environment, and the panic attacks and bottomless terror that follows overstimulation. But they also gaze into the ornate decoration in our God-like multimedia lives, revealing its bliss and mystery. They’re science fiction, too, showing the organic sliced and spliced into the machine, voicing itself somewhere between Utopia and Dystopia. And they emphasize the religious ritual and spiritual intensity in such modern youth commonplaces as playing a first-person shooter or listening to pop with a heart unclouded by indie-boy cynicism...

Lars Holdus (TCF)
It’s the birdsong added to “Smile” that suggests the Garden of Eden, or, at least, a spring morning. But there are religious overtones throughout Crampton’s work... He describes his process as the assemblage of trash, corpses, and shit (one of his most common sound-tags is a toilet flushing) into a new beast, an analogue for the creation of humans by the Lord, and thus hopefully something that can live transcendent and ever closer to God. For this, Crampton seems to have developed his own symbolic system, reminiscent of expressionist and neo-expressionist artists like James Ensor or Philip Guston respectively, that represents the holy struggles of biblical scenes and those who seek to emulate and draw inspiration from them. As well as pop and contemporary classical musics, the elements of this system include Latin-American dance styles and radio idents, vehicle engines, twinkling bell-tones and violent sounds like weapons being swung.
Ashland Mines (Total Freedom)
Yet although Total Freedom has a slightly more dance-ready sound, his aesthetic has lots in common with the other collagists, and his sonic tag is a blood-curdling scream. Much of his original material comes from an intense noise background, yet his remixes of Nguzunguzu (on their Timesup EP) and Dat Oven’s “Icy Lake” (on the recent Fade to Mind / Night Slugs reissue) derive a minimalist perfection from bare sequences of sound effects. Mines’s Soundcloud is full of strong Frankenstein creations, typically combining pop vocals with minimal, intense, or just plain weird backing. His recent combination of Ciara and Vissacoor (the joint project of L-Vis 1990 and Massacooramaan) goes particularly hard.
Olin Caprison (Palmtrees Caprisun (VIOLENCE))
With a name that sounds like that of a magical anime hero, Diamond Black Hearted Boy’s voice and presence are much more evident in his work than in that of the others, where he presents himself in the persona of a ‘fallen god,’ and a ‘fake boy.’ As such, he comes across as a sort of Lucifer—the tape opens with a text on the inter-relationship of humans, God’s grace, sinners and the law—but also a prophet or, in that Renaissance garb on the tape’s cover below, a kind of allegorical morality figure guiding us through the dark, disorienting, and sometimes heavenly places in which he lurks. Yet on a simpler level, DBHB’s is a voice on the outer reaches of hip hop culture and its means of self-expression. If Kanye is a ‘God,’ DBHB is a fallen god languishing in some weird purgatory, and his collected work is a Yeezus for even greater degrees of alienation...

His economically titled album e, from August 2011, is more ruthlessly cybernetic, like a stressful trek through a sci-fi-action shooter. zᵉʳº, on the other hand, is one of the most punishingly cold and minimal releases you’ll come across, a meditation on almost total nothingness with a sound palette that could’ve come from a Hollywood space blockbuster. DBHB’s latest release How The West Was Won, Wanted: Dead or Alive flicks through the wreckage of the twentieth-century Americana like it was TV channels on a concave wood-paneled screen, jerry-building a mock-epic (anti-)hero’s tale along the way...

Norwegian producer Lars Holdus, known as TCF, has been exploring epic soundscapes of a more abstract electronic nature in Oslo and Berlin. Like a painting by French artist Yves Tanguy, the assemblage of TCF’s music and its space are surreal, but the objects are not as often recognizable like they are with the other collagists. Nevertheless, on his tape for Berlin cassette label YYAA and upcoming EP for Mute offshoot Liberation Technologies, TCF creates a similar thrill of hurtling through sublime hi-tech holiness almost free of rhythm, with great chunks of machine flying past. His music’s sense of a technological territory is enhanced by the names of his tracks: large strings of numbers and letters, as if each recording was churned out by a computer capable of producing trillions more, and allotted a code whose meaning only its systems can grasp.

 SENTINL’s avatar
For me, these collagists represent one of the earliest and most imaginative subsections of the recent turn to hi-tech sounds that has cut across underground music lately. With the spread of this aesthetic, maybe more listeners can pick up their unique material, find a way into it, and expand their following beyond the cult. Either way, it’ll remain some of the most mystifying and moving work in the field...