“Cold, Desolate, Neglected” : An Interview With Vi Res’ Michael Figucio

Australian-based musician and composer Michael Figucio works under the name Vi Res(short for Video Resolution.) Vi Res’ world is a mixture of cold synths, robotic rhythms, and slow-churning ambient soundscapes that feel like the score to some early 80s sci fi flick. There seems to be equal amounts of dread and tempered beauty with albums like Lost Score, Static Interference, Silent Collective, and his newest albums Cold Century and Vi Res. In a relatively short period of time Figucio has released a prolific amount of music. Since 2015 he’s released 6 full-lengths, as well as singles and at least one EP. Each release seems to build from the previous, giving his work a real arc. One of his most recent releases , Cold Century, is a future classic in the heavy synth genre.

I got the opportunity to ask Michael Figucio a few questions about Vi Res, the music-making process, and his influences. He was kind enough to answer those questions.


J. Hubner: So where did you grow up?

Michael Figucio: In two places. In Sydney until the age of thirteen then my family moved to Gosford on the NSW central Coast which is around 70 kilometres north of Sydney.

J. Hubner: What sort of kid were you? Outside playing sports and getting into trouble, or were you inside reading books and comics and creating worlds with your imagination to play in?

Michael Figucio: I was mainly inside listening to music, playing with toys, watching movies, playing an Atari 2600, although was and still am quite bad at playing video games. My character always dies before I learn to use the controls. I don’t even try to play video games anymore.

J. Hubner: When did music become important in your life?

Michael Figucio: For as long as I can remember I have always been fascinated by music. The ages of two to three years old (possibly even earlier) is how far back my memory extends to. I remember dancing to records as a toddler. I remember destroying the first copy of Mickey Mouse Disco that my father had bought for me, by manually trying to play the record by hand with a car charging adapter. I was obsessed with the record player and records and used to watch them spin around on the platter. If we had splatter and coloured vinyl editions back then it might have been quite a psychedelic experience at that age, but it just was anyway. It seemed like there was music everywhere at the time and that the world was a magical place for enjoying entertainment. I had family members that played on local and international chart topping records, they were magical and the magic of music radiated from every direction. Music was important to me back then and it still is somewhat important to me now.

J. Hubner: Can you remember the first album to truly make an impact on you? What was it about that album that affected you so much?

Michael Figucio: Although there are albums that hallmark the journey to this discovery, the first record that spoke to my mind was ‘Red Sails In The Sunset’ by Midnight Oil. This was the first time that I ever took notice of lyrics, instrumentation and production. I learned that music is a story and an important form of communication and a source of information. I received the album as a christmas present after experiencing Midnight Oil live when they performed on an island that I was living on in Sydney Harbour. The cover art is an photograph of Sydney Harbour which had been turned into a post-apocalyptic image of Sydney-where my house was located. So that made me look deeply into the record and its lyrics.

The lyrics contained relevance to an underlying,sinister history of Australia that was in stark contrast to the image of Australia in a time when the country was inflating its own ego along the way to the bicentenary in 1988. It was a gross time. Everything was like “G’day mate! I’m a proud Aussie” and it was getting very nauseating. The public was just so pumped up about living in Australia, by the media,and it was just all frigging kangaroos and Vegemite and crap beer. RSITS raised the flag on some of the issues that weren’t being taught at school or represented in the media (still aren’t). The band did not start or stop with that record and they didn’t just make records about issues , they were seriously actively involved and made significant efforts leading to saving some of Tasmanian forestry etc. And just before the bicentenary they were a huge help in exposing the poor conditions of Aboriginal communities. There is no way that a record like those  would get released by Sony records today. Some records were quite deep back then, particularly the ones that had social relevance. Nowadays we have the internet and social media that more directly deals with our social and political awareness (for better or worse). Now I suppose that records can relax and be hedonistic. Fun is important.

And musically it was the most mind expanding sonic experience to date for me. It had incredible guitar work that wasn’t like metal or Hendrix etc It had studio experimentation, there was an instrumental that represents the story and a hit single that intelligently told us all that we were all actively voting the country down the toilet while it raucously, artfully and skilfully rocked on… It has vocals, guitars, basses, drums of all kinds, synths, effects, tape manipulation etc There is a lot going on in it. It was recorded at Sony headquarters in Tokyo and apparently it was an uphill battle with the business suits of Sony. There would be long meetings and threats of torn up contracts over things such as recording the drums in the toilet. Apparently that wasn’t how you were supposed to make a record in the worlds utmost state of the art studios. It is the most interesting sounding work from that studio and the most disappointing record for the bands members.

25 years later I had the opportunity to attend a songwriting workshop MO songwriter and drummer, Rob Hirst. In those few hours I learnt what no other music training has ever taught me and it was simple. I started composing not long after that and started the Vi Res project.

J. Hubner: When did you first start playing music? What was the first instrument you learned to play?

Vi Res: I learned my first chords on guitar at age twelve then I started taking guitar lessons a year later.

J. Hubner: Before you began recording as Vi Res, what other bands did you play in? 

Michael Figucio: A number of insignificant, musical abominations. I hated playing in bands and avoided doing so for most of the time. The music was always terrible so I never stuck around for too long and eventually,I just resorted to only playing shows if they paid well. Australia’s taste in music is abysmal and I don’t partake in it anymore. I spent nearly twenty five years working in live production and had to hold onto my stomach the entire time.

There was only ever one musically satisfying and rewarding experience that I had playing in a band. That time is when I played drums for Ernest Baidoo (aka Afro Moses) who was a Ghanaian pop star who moved to Australia. He rather forcefully fixed my drumming and helped steer my mind away from relying on western music theory. I learned that technical music can be simple. The music was African Highlife and it was fast, funky and had a lot of changes.  I wasn’t ready for it either and found the African approach abrupt but then I started to improve and now I actually prefer to make music that way.

 

J. Hubner: When did your interest in electronic music and synthesizers begin? 

Michael Figucio: Through the films of the 70’s and 80’s. Also from sharing a room with my big brother Daniel who was into tech and collected CD’s. He would regularly play Vangelis, Jean Michel Jarre, Mike Oldfield and all of this stuff that no-one was listening to. Those records made a huge impact on me even though I didn’t revisit them until around ten years ago,I never forgot them. In the late 90’s there was Radiohead, Doves, Portishead et al that were using electronica in an appealing way to me. After that I would notice electronic music incorporated into other styles of records. I would listen to those parts of the records and ignore the rest.

J. Hubner: Let’s talk Vi Res. When did you first start making music under the name Vi Res? What was the concept behind the project? 

Michael Figucio: I did try to play in a band in 2014 that I didn’t mind the music of. we had one rehearsal which was excellent but it fell over after that. I had finished up in a job that was taking my time away and wanted to spend time making music. A friend had given me a licence for Logic 9 so I started to record with that. I noticed that it had a drum machine so I started to program drums for my demos. I didn’t have a bass guitar but noticed that Logic had synths so I started to play bass lines. Then i just put the guitar down and made The First People.

J. Hubner: Do you have a collection of hardware you like to use?

Michael Figucio: I have been learning about synthesisers whilst using them. I have bought and sold a few synths but software sounds good so I just use that. I don’t play live shows so I don’t need to sync multiple synths together. I don’t use sequencers so my music isn’t quantised which suits me- means that I can play around with timing which has a massive effect on how my music sounds. There is a lot of behind the beat or ‘lateness’ if you will in my weird little pieces of music.

J. Hubner: ‘Vi Res’. Is that short for video resolution?

Michael Figucio: Yeah it is Video Resolution. I was considering ‘Virus” as a name as in computer virus but when I was patching my Blu Ray player into the television, video resolution appeared on the screen so that sealed it.

J. Hubner:  With the Vi Res releases there’s a heavy horror/sci fi soundtrack vibe. How influential are horror/science fiction films to your work? Who are some cinematic influences on Vi Res’ sound/style?

Michael Figucio: It’s actually unintentional to a degree. Using synthesisers automatically makes it sound that way. To be honest, I’m just trying to make a piece of music with an all synth production. The end result is that it sounds cinematic. I don’t mean to be…(drum roll)…Carpenteresque. I love Carpenter’s films and music but there has only ever been one time that I have thought of him when producing and all that I did was put an 808 cowbell on quavers.

Seriously, I am just desperately trying to get any finished result that I possibly can. I’m not trying to be 80’s. Apart from the films, I hated the 80’s. I do listen to a fair amount of film score records, so from there must be influence.

J. Hubner: Can you tell me a little about one of your most recent releases ‘Cold Century’? How did the writing process come about? Is there a concept behind the record? 

Michael Figucio: I wanted to revive Vi Res this year so…Cold Century just came about from me entertaining thought about the 80’s revival. The concept is: In the Twenty First Century. Humankind has grown to be so frustrated by the lack of analogue sound and the disappearance of feel good films, that they have invented time machines to go back to the 1980’s and party like it’s 1999 and pretend that its fatal yet fixable future doesn’t exist. Leaving 2018 cold, desolate and neglected.

The title came first. I wanted the music to be just short of a complete mess. I wanted to get a vintage sound. I wanted first takes in any condition. Mistakes had to stay in and they have. The tracks on Cold Century are the demo versions that I decided should be the final versions. It sounded the way that I wanted it to so I used the demos.

J. Hubner: How does your songwriting process work? What do you start out with generally; a chord progression, melody, or a narrative you want to write around?

Michael Figucio: Usually starts with the main melody line then I constantly struggle to find other sections to fit it.

J. Hubner: Besides Vi Res, you also started Disco Cinematic(home of the first SNDTRK compilation.) What was the idea behind Disco Cinematic?

Michael Figucio: Disco Cinematic was the working title for The First People so I used that. DCR is not a label it’s a production. People think that it’s a label but it isn’t. I published Bryce Miller’s Operator on cassette because I liked it.

The real idea was to just publish my own projects and people want things to be on a label. It hasn’t really made any difference so I don’t really bother with it anymore. This is all just a hobby at the end of the day.

J. Hubner: Can we talk a little about the SNDTRK compilation. How did the idea come about to get these artists together? 

Michael Figucio: I just wanted to do my bit to look after the genre that I thought that Vi Res existed in. I just wanted to bring people together.

J. Hubner: I’d heard there was a second SNDTRK compilation happening. What’s going on with that?

Michael Figucio: I have handed the recorded to another label to take care of so I’m not entirely sure what will happen. I may be mastering it but it’s too early to say. It’s a communal project and it is someone else’s turn to produce it. I’ve had my turn.

J. Hubner: You’ve had a very productive 2018 so far. What’s in store for the rest of 2018? Any more releases lined up for Vi Res?

Michael Figucio: I hope to make another full length or two. If I can raise the money to buy the synth that I’m looking at then I can take the current Vi Res sound further. I’d like to find more people that might enjoy this music. I think that it could service more people, it’s just matter of finding them.

I’m also collecting pocket synthesisers so there could be a project that develops from that.


Check out all things Vi Res at the Bandcamp page and dig into some seriously heady vibes. And also check out all the releases over at Disco Cinematic. Lots of stuff to get lost in over there, too.

Graham Reznick : Robophasia

The music of Graham Reznick is hard to pin down. As you listen to his electro-funk grooves you feel as if you’re hearing something strangely familiar one second, then the next it’s as if you’re getting transmissions from some alternate universe where 1980s electro pop is being translated by artificial intelligence. Reznick isn’t settling for some sort of retro trip. He seems to be digging deep into his own 80s musical childhood trauma and searching for sounds and feels that scored a neon youth where the lights flickered and waned more than they were brightly lit.

Mourning in America.

Graham Reznick released his excellent debut Glass Angles with Death Waltz Originals earlier this year. That album, a sort of “through the looking glass” noir-ish musical tale of nighttime Los Angeles was a brooding, psychedelic electronic record filled with kaleidoscopic soundscapes that were like musical Rorschach paintings. The more you listened to the songs the stranger and darker they seemed, morphing into some other state of mind. At the time of its release there were rumors that Reznick had yet another album ready to go, but this time with Burning Witches Records. Graham had a track on the BWR Record Store Day compilation called “Faking Point” which echoed the sonic delights found on Glass Angles, but there was something darker and more synthetic about it.

Well we’re nearly to July and Reznick and Burning Witches are making good on those album promises. Robophasia shows another side to Reznick’s musical proclivities. This album seems simpler at first, yet with each listen it gets more complicated and dense. Reznick’s engineering and mixing prowess come into full effect here, giving the ears and brains a workout of sorts. It’s alien and intoxicating in the best way possible.

The first thing that makes itself known on this record is rhythm. Even with Angles, Graham Reznick showed a tendency to create these heady rhythmic, groove-inflected tracks. Robotic beats that sound as if they’re being transmitted from 1983. At first listen you may not hear it, but there’s a precision in those beats. There’s a purpose with every snare hit and bass kick. Take opening track “Robophasia”, it sounds as if Harold Faltmeyer had his way with a Rockwell track. Wonky synths sound as if they’re humming the melody as robotic voices belch and groan along. It’s alien, but intoxicating. “Unsoled” is an electric piano-driven track. It almost has a pop feel to it; very much on the cusp of opening credit scene material here. Reznick knows how to create mood and he does that to great effect here. It’s no surprise sound design is Reznick’s day job. “Atomatics” is where we step into some other dimension. Full-on A.I. electro freakout. Do yourself a favor and listen to this with headphones on. You will feel like you’re tripping, no psychedelics needed.

I can remember staying up late at night when I was a little kid and watching MTV in the summer. Late at night was when you’d see the good stuff, and that’s when I first saw Herbie Hancock’s “Rock It” video. That song and video kind of freaked me out, but in a good way. I don’t know whether Reznick was affected by that record as well(consciously or subconsciously), but I get that Future Shock vibe with this album. Odd electronic records that towed the line between arty, experimental, and pop like Future Shock, Tom Tom Club, Somebody’s Watching Me and even early hip hop all permeate this album. Wonky beats and vocodered, robotic vocals give this album a feeling of some strange cyberpunk tale put to music.

“The Score” echoes darker electro funk, while “Quotient” moves along with a heavy groove and is reminiscent of some of those Tandy Deskmate experiments on Ben Zimmerman’s The Baltika Years.  “YKWYA” is lighter fare, almost coming off as breezy in comparison to what came before it. I can imagine some dark and glowing arcade perched in the middle of a mall as I hear this song. “Rope” is groovy and mysterious, while “Mysterious Fire” is a delicacy of precise sonics and sound construction. “Mr. Sidewalk” closes Robophasia with a bit of that neon noir vibe we heard from Reznick earlier this year, but with a touch of robotic vocalizing for good measure.

Robophasia feels like the stranger, smarter brother to Glass Angles. It sounds deceptively simple on first listen, but each time you hit play on it there’s something new revealed. Something just around the corner you weren’t expecting but are delighted to see. Graham Reznick is proving to be one of the musical highlights of 2018. He showed his talent for constructing intricately-woven music with Glass Angles, and weaving them together for an exhilarating musical narrative. Robophasia continues that trend, even moving to another level.

8.6 out of 10

 

Vi Res : Vi Res

It seems as if Michael Figucio is on a roll. His musical project known as Vi Res released the excellent Cold Century onto the world less than a month ago, and now he’s dropped yet another full-length LP. After the darkly lit Century(with moments of light throughout), the self-titled Vi Res takes a turn into deep space. It’s yet another impressive release from the prolific Figucio and Vi Res.

As the album cover would imply, it seems there’s a battle raging somewhere at the end of the galaxy, with explosions and glowing horizons. If this was a long lost Hollywood production, Vi Res would be the perfect score for that film. Hard-driving synths, electronic rhythms, and just the right amount of 80s optimism(especially in “Fallout”) to push you to root for the underdog. It feels like a score for the ultimate dystopian tale, like if Year Zero had been heavily influenced by 80s Tangerine Dream.

Besides “Fallout”, the tracks are titled as numbers, each one a door into some undisclosed mysterious musical realm. “One” pulsates like Zombi and Froese’s Le Parc. It definitely feels like a proper entry point into the world of Vi Res. “Two” continues that late 70s/early 80s sci fi vibe, with a little more emphasis on dread. A hard-driving rhythm steps in to move the track along nicely. The aforementioned “Fallout” rings with an 80s hopeful optimism. Those familiar with Le Matos’ Chronicles of the Wasteland will find much to love here.

It’s not all 80s-inspired synth. “Three” has an almost industrial lean to it, with early NIN echoing throughout, while “Seven” steps in with an electro/disco beat. “Ten” starts out as pure pop and turns into an almost laser gun drone that dissipates into the ether. “Four” is the epic piece here. At over 14 minutes it’s a slow drip of crackling synth and anticipation that feels like a menacing walk into some great unknown. A theme for desolation.

Vi Res is yet another stellar release from Michael Figucio. He captures moods and vibes with precision. Where Cold Century lived within a cold, dark musical space, Vi Res sounds like a score to some long lost Carpenter-inspired post-apocalyptic film. Escape From New York, but on some forgotten planet. Desolation and exploration blend well here to give us a real sci fi musical journey.

Lock in with Vi Res.

7.7 out of 10

Oneohtrix Point Never : Age Of

Daniel Lopatin’s musical worlds are labyrinthine to say the least. A Oneohtrix Point Never record is like some vast, crystalline museum where you bask in the beauty of art, ancient objects, and philosophies that you don’t quite understand but they entrance you nonetheless. Lopatin curates walks through his psyche with each successive record; each one becomes clearer yet harder to define.

On 2015s Garden Of Delete, Lopatin took OPN into its most accessible direction yet, attempting an alien melding of both metal and pop music. Of course, coming from Daniel Lopatin accessible is a relative term. There was also a teenage alien blogger name Ezra. No matter how upfront and accessible Daniel Lopatin wants to take his music, there’s always going to be an element of the bizarre or ethereal.

I thank him for that.

After last year’s excellent Good Time S/T, along with Lopatin’s recent MYRIAD multimedia show in Brooklyn, I was pleasantly surprised to hear a couple months ago that OPN had a new record coming out. That record, Age Of, is here and it’s yet another confounding and brilliant album. It is OPNs most accessible and alien work yet.

“Age Of” opens the album with harpsichord. A baroque, melancholy instrument, it actually feels right at home on an OPN album. You get the feeling of being trapped in a bubble, floating in space as time melts in front of you like a Dali painting. Soon enough the melody pitch shifts and sways as if its being pulled apart at the seams. It’s exquisite, gorgeous, and mildly frightening all at once. “Babylon” has Lopatin’s autotuned vocals singing with an almost country sway. This is probably the most pop-centric Oneohtrix has ever sounded. Of course, the song ends abruptly as if the alien overlords pulled the plug.

Regardless of how accessible Lopatin wants to take OPNs sound, he will always carry with him the early sounds of Oneohtrix. Those ambient landscapes of Betrayed In The Octagon, Drawn and Quartered, and Returnal, and thank Christ for that. As much as I love seeing artists I admire progress and evolve, I don’t want the weirdest of them to stop being weird. I live for moments like “Manifold”, “Warning”, and the ghostly “We’ll Take It”. These spots where Lopatin reveals the darkest and most honest recesses of his musical world. And really, there isn’t a more perfect OPN song title than “Last Known Image of a Song”, is there? I can almost see a tattered Polaroid lying on a console in some space station. Nothing showing but light with shards of darkness poking thru. It’s an obliquely exquisite track to end this odyssey. It’s a mix of Eric Dolphy, David Cronenberg, and Philip Glass.

Elsewhere, “Toys 2” is a “proof of concept” for Lopatin’s agent showing how he would score a Pixar film, using this as an imagined score for a sequel to the Robin Williams’ movie Toys. “Black Snow” was the lead single, another pop-leaning track with Lopatin singing, along with backing vocals by Anohni. It’s bizarre video set the stage for what we had in store with Age Of.

This is the most collaborative OPN album to date, with guest musicians like the aforementioned Anohni, along with James Blake helping out on production and mixing. There is a bit more of a sheen here. It’s less busy than previous albums, which gives the songs room to breathe a bit. I think with Daniel Lopatin producing and writing on various projects it gave him a view of what collaboration can be. The results here are telling.

Age Of sees Oneohtrix Point Never ever evolving, but not losing those eccentric qualities and vast musical soundscapes that separated Daniel Lopatin from the rest of the electronic music world. This is a sparse and tight record that encapsulates all the greatness of OPN, while continuing the forward motion Daniel Lopatin began with 2010s Returnal. Age Of is an exquisite oddity that shines bizarre and beautiful.

8.4 out of 10

Conjuring Evil : Harglow Talk Horror Scores, Burning Witches, and Blood On The Walls

Photos by Chad Whittle

When I think of Oklahoma I think of rodeos, fracking, Oklahoma! ranchers, and the Flaming Lips. Yes my view of Oklahoma is limited by ignorance, but after hearing The Soft Bulletin there wasn’t much else I needed to know. I was good. But then I hear this song called “Candle Wax” on Burning Witches Records’ Communion compilation for this year’s Record Store Day and my eschewed view of Oklahoma has changed slightly. “Candle Wax” was the work of a band called Harglow, which started as a duo from OKC but is now half in OKC and half in Austin, TX.

The mysterious duo known as Harglow is Colin Nance and Eric Gorman. While the music is blood-drenced and brooding, these guys are actually affable dudes that love to geek out about horror films(yeah, just like me.) I was able to throw a few questions at these two and they were more than happy to throw a few responses back.


J. Hubner: Tell me about Harglow. Where are you guys from? How did the band get together?

Colin: We met on OccultSingles.com. You know, the leading Black Magick dating site in the world!

Eric: I hit Colin over the head with a pipe. When he woke up, I said, “Stay.” He did.

Colin: Seriously though, we both grew up in the Oklahoma City metro area. We conceived the project about 3 years ago and then I relocated to Austin about a year later. That began a satellite type of musical relationship. Sending files back and forth. Slowly but surely building our sound, conjuring evil and eventually a record.

J. Hubner: For the uninitiated, how you describe Harglow’s sound? What sort of sounds did you two bond over that helped mold Harglow’s vibe? 

Colin: I like to describe it as the soundtrack to some esoteric vhs, in black and white, that you find in an abandoned basement. On that tape is a collage of occult rituals, sacrifices, and other questionable/dark imagery. The music at times felt like it was being summoned as we recorded it. It’s at times very visceral and hard hitting. Then it can be very quiet and bring whole other level of unsettling feelings. It’s very dynamic.

Eric: With Harglow, I think we really bonded over movie scores, usually horror movie scores. From there, Colin turned me on to a lot of artists like Umberto, Carpenter Brut, and Haxan Cloak, etc. Artists that were making this darker music that shared that same kind of spooky esthetic. It opened the flood gates for me.  Now, were always kind of on the lookout for new stuff to show each other.

J. Hubner: There is definitely a horror/Gothic vibe to your sound. You mentioned horror scores as something you two bonded over. So horror cinema obviously plays into the whole vibe of your work. Who are some inspirations in horror cinema?

Colin: We are quite huge fans of cinema and I say films play a huge role in our sound. Especially the genres mentioned. Horror was a huge bonding medium for us. It really is our happy place. I personally am a huge fan of directors like Dario Argento, Panos Cosmatos, David Cronenberg, Joe Dante, Alex Garland, John Carpenter, David Fincher, Ridley Scott, Terrence Malick, Danny Boyle and Wes Craven. As far as films that inspire me musically, I always find that I lean towards more metaphysical/visual styles. I love and am inspired by movies like SuspiriaBeyond the Black Rainbow, Halloween and Halloween III, BegottenIt Follows, Sunshine, The Witch, and most recently Annihilation.

Eric: Yep to all of what he just said. We are both unbelievably large horror nerds.  Personally, I also think we pull a lot of inspiration from stuff like the score for the Texas Chain Saw Massacre by Wayne Bell and Tobe Hooper or The VVitch by Mark Korven.  These scores that really cross the lines between score and sound design, and make you feel incredibly uncomfortable. I wanted to try and make something that filled me with the same type of dread.

J. Hubner: Harglow was featured on Burning Witches Records’ RSD release ‘Communion’. How did you guys get hooked up with Gary and Darren? You were among some pretty great company. 

Colin: We sure were among great company. It was quite an honor to be included alongside some of our biggest inspirations. We were huge fans of the label from its conception. All Them Witches’ first record The Coven was what initially got my attention and pinged my radar as far as becoming aware of the label. Every record after that was an instant attraction. We just reached out to them and sent some tracks their way to see if they liked what we were doing. To our surprise they did and everything fell into place from there.

Eric: True true.

J. Hubner: I loved your track “Candle Wax”. It’s definitely more in line with harder industrial stuff from the 80s, as opposed to the synth-heavy soundtrack stuff. How do you approach songwriting within Harglow? Maybe walk me through the process of putting “Candle Wax” together.

Eric: Thank you!

Colin: We tend to either start our writing/recording process rhythmically or by building a sonic palette of ambience/field recordings and going from there. I feel like a lot of focus goes into the textures and sound design before setting sights on melody. With Candle Wax, that song started with the drums and the bass synth. We knew we wanted that particular track to be quite violent, gritty, and rhythm oriented. When the BWR gents approached us about contributing to the project, I believe their words were “We want blood on the walls!” So that was the tone and foundation we were after.

J. Hubner: Had you guys released any music prior to “Candle Wax” and the ‘Communion’ compilation? Or was this the band’s debut?

Colin: This is our debut. The madness has begun.

J. Hubner: You guys have a record coming out with Burning Witches. Can you tell me a little about it? Is it in the vein of “Candle Wax”? Did you guys self-produce it? Do you record at a home studio? What can we expect from this record?

Colin: We do. It was self-produced, recorded, and mixed by us in my home studio. It was mastered by BurningTapes. Also, the artwork is going to be quite immaculate. We tapped the very talented Ben Turner and he knocked it out of the park. The sound is definitely in the vein of Candle Wax, but it does get a bit atmospheric/soundtrack-like at points as well. Like I said, we focused on it being very dynamic. It knocks out your teeth. It bubbles and pulses. It wraps around you like fog in the night. It’s a journey through the darkest reaches. Those that make it through to the other side are then the initiated.

J. Hubner: I know this is a bit off subject, but what was the last great book you read?

Colin: I just got done reading Stephen King’s IT and Erik Larson’s The Devil and the White City. Both were quite incredible in their own way. One was fictional horror and the other was real horror. I recommend both if you’re into true crime/history and horror/fantasy.

Eric: I started reading Stephen King when I was really young. Probably too young. I read IT for the first time the summer when I was nine years old. I think his books are a huge reason I have a proclivity for the darker side of things.  The last really good book I read was NOS4A2 by Joe Hill. I really enjoyed the way that story unfolded! Dr. Sleep by Stephen King also really resonated with me and gave me the creeps. It made me look at vacationers in RVs in a whole new light. I think that’s the best thing about his work. It captures the horror under the surface. Like a blood splatter on a white picket fence.

J. Hubner: What are your hopes for Harglow? Would you ever consider film scores, or do you want to just keep developing the sound you’ve started and continue making original music?

Colin: At this point we are just going with the flow. One step at a time. Going to release this first record and go from there. We would absolutely LOVE to get into the world of film scores if the right opportunity presents itself. That would be a dream come true. Having BWR release our first record is another dream come true.

Eric: I couldn’t agree more. I feel a bit like Jonathan Harker in a stage coach barreling down the Carpathian mountains. It’s been a crazy ride so far, and I’m excited for whatever comes next.


You’ll want to keep up with Harglow. How? Well you can follow them on Facebook right here, and you can keep up with all their bloodlettings and occult activities on Instagram as well. And if you haven’t already, you should definitely download that Communion compilation. What the hell have you been waiting on?

 

 

Let’s Go To The Black Hole Party

When you hear the name Thousand Foot Whale Claw, what comes to mind? Maybe some historical anthropological find? A lost Troma release from the late 80s? Maybe some mythical deep sea creature with razored digits to grab its prey? Well you’d be wrong on all accounts, but I’d give you an ‘A’ for effort.

Actually, Thousand Foot Whale Claw is an electronic/heavy synth band out of Austin, TX(of course it’s Austin.) Within that musical world TFWC is a supergroup of sorts, with members of S U R V I V E, Troller, Future Museums, Single Lash, and Ugly Kid Joe making up the band(you got me, there is nobody from Ugly Kid Joe in this band.) They release music via the excellent Holodeck Records and what these guys do is heady, deep space electronic jams. Imagine S U R V I V E and Future Museums completely freaking out on peyote inside the Adler Planetarium just off of Lake Michigan in Chicago with the ceiling screen in full end of the world display, as heavy doses of Zeit and Cluster & Eno are running thru a stack of PA speakers.

The results of that is what comes to mind when listening to Thousand Foot Whale Claw.

So the music might be a little more coherent than peyote-induced flashbacks, but TFWC do go for intellectual vibes with a healthy dose of zone out drones. The exciting news is that they have a new album coming out next month called Black Hole Party, and from the title track/lead single I’d say we’re in for a treat.

It’s not often you can recommend a video, as videos these days just don’t have the same quality as they used to. Not enough thought goes into the process. So it makes me very happy to say that the video for “Black Hole Party” is pretty damn cool. Bonus points for the fact that the song is amazing. It sits more into a groove than a drone. This is the kind of song that will get the heavily-bearded dude wearing Buddy Holly glasses, their dad’s flannel shirt, and $250 lumberjack boots to set their plastic cup of warm PBR on the table and maybe get up for an attempt at dancing. Or at least cajoling with his date on a dance floor of some making.

The song brings to mind Cliff Martinez’ incidental work on the Drive S/T at times, before it breaks into a more driving beat. It’s like OMD scored a Michael Mann flick with directions to occasionally sound like Cluster imitating Depeche Mode.

Or something like that.

Either way, watch the video below and preorder the record here. It’s available June 29, 2018 via Holodeck Records.

Communion by Various Artists

Compilation albums are a lot like a mixtape. The best ones are built of different artists and vibes, but when set together in one singular time frame form a truly inspiring listening experience. Compilation albums can be as intimate and involved as that homemade mixtape you made back in high school for a friend. You want that friend to keep listening to that mixtape, but you also want to expose them to an artist or two they may not have ever heard before. You want to be their guide into a new musical landscape. The best compilations work that way. They invite you into a world you may not be familiar with, but once you’ve finished that first spin you’re ready to spin it again.

Burning Witches Records have put together one of the coolest mixtapes you’ll hear all year. Communion is their late night, homemade music collection that they’re handing to us in the hallway between classes. It’s a collection of some of the most exciting artists working in the electronic/heavy synth scene now. It works both as some lost soundtrack and as this sampler platter of the best and brightest blowing minds with synthesizers.

If you celebrated Record Store Day in the UK, you may have had a chance to snag Communion. And if you did you are one lucky guy or gal. If you didn’t, don’t spend your rent money for a copy on Ebay. Burning Witches will be selling some copies on their website at some point, so just sit tight and keep up with those guys on Facebook and at their website.

Now, about the music.

The roster on Communion is filled from start to finish with incredible talent. I mean, when you open an album with Deadly Avenger you know things are getting real. The steely and hard-driving “Nightcrawler” works perfectly as the opening salvo to what turns out to be an epic set of tunes. Damon Baxter never disappoints, and on this track he shows why Deadly Avenger is such a sought after musical project. Alone In The Woods’ “I Never Came Up For Air” works on both an eerie vibe and a very dance-y 80s tilt that sounds like both early Depeche Mode and soundtrack work. I’ve been pretty obsessed with Graham Reznick’s Glass Angles album recently, so seeing that he was on this set I was pretty excited. “Faking Point” takes the late night vibe of that album and gives it a more sinister groove. His mastery of sound design comes into play here as you feel all the blips and beeps are swirling around your head in a hallucinatory haze. Another Burning Witches alumni is Isvisible Isinvisible. His debut cassette release earlier this spring was a bubbling cauldron of pure analog bliss and on “The Level Crossing” he continues that vibe to stunning effect. You can practically see blinking lights, wires crossing, and a circuital world forming right before your eyes as the song plays on. Espectrostatic’s “The Locust Accord” is all sinister dark grooves with an almost NIN vibe. Imagine “The Perfect Drug” slowed down to a shadowy crawl with an almost Brothers Grimm twisted fairy tale feel.

Elsewhere, Cory Kilduff’s “LV426” emotes with an almost melancholy feel. It’s lifted from his excellent re-scoring of Ridley Scott’s Alien and it works perfectly as a Goth reinterpretation to Jerry Goldsmith’s more sparse, cold score. Timothy Fife’s “Erotic Rites” is inspired by old school Giallo of the sultry  variety and it works incredibly well. Fife can go from moody swirls of Berlin School to Mario Bava-inspired melodrama at the drop of a hat. Here he takes the moody Giallo path to wonderful effect.

New to me, Ian Alex Mac’s “Winona ’88” amps up the hard-driving sound of 80s-inspired film music. He melds perfectly both 80s synth pop radio sounds and the work of Tangerine Dream into a perfect mix of mood and feel. Harglow’s “Candle Wax” crank up the industrial drive, putting me more in mind of early work by Skinny Puppy or Nine Inch Nails than anything on a John Hughes film. Closing out the set is worriedaboutsatan’s “Figures, Data”. These two guys are the kings of subtlety, building an almost ambient world through careful sound design and a slow burn dedication to creating mood. It’s a stunning finish to an overall exhilarating musical journey.

Communion is a stunning music trip. It is both an impressive display of the talent Burning Witches Records has brought together under one roof, as well as masterfully-curated compilation that could be the lost soundtrack to that movie you never knew you wanted to see.

It’ll be the coolest mixtape in your collection, too.