Sunday, January 13, 2008

Balling Out Of Control In The Deep

Zephyr Nova - We Are The Crab People
Beak - Sea Pen Meets Angler Fish

More music today to file under ‘wouldn’t exist without the internet’, as something that started out as an impenetrable in-joke between the members of a forum affiliated to a content-free Aphex Twin fan site resulted in an album of stunning electronic music.

The forum in question is part of the We Are The Music Makers website or WATMM, which started life as the only working facet of what is supposed to be a huge Aphex Twin resource, the only problem being there is, as yet, no content. Bizarrely, the forums have thrived, and even evolved, to now contain specialist artist forums covering Aphex, alongside his contemporaries, including Autechre and Boards of Canada. There are also sub-forums under the EKT (Electronic Knob Twiddlers) header, where members post their latest musical oeuvres, and face the ridicule or praise of the razor-witted and notoriously difficult to please fraternity. Basically, it’s your one stop shop for hot gossip, pointless speculation and extreme fanboy rumour mongering about your favourite electronic composers, tips for forthcoming releases and artists to watch out for, and latterly, incredible music from the forum members.

The ‘Deep Sea Creatures’ compilation that this post is about, was born when a forum member set up a bracketology contest to try and discover what the forum members deemed to be the most ‘IDM’ thing. In other words, what thing, aside from the music itself, best represented the electronic music known in the States as IDM (Intelligent Dance Music), or electronica to those residing on the opposite side of the Atlantic Ocean. 32 things, including eventual winner beards, hot favourite cats, and others including space stations, lego, aliens, maths, were paired off and pitted against each other in head-to-head vote offs, with the winners going through to the next round. You can find the full results of the contest here, if you’re still with me. It was just a silly bit of fun to wile away 3 seconds on a Thursday morning, but somehow, the success of deep sea creatures, who triumphed over cats in the semi-finals before narrowly losing to beards in the final, captured the imagination of forum member Fred McGriff, who also started the contest. Fred stated his intentions in a separate thread: “I'm going to put out a full length limited deep sea creatures themed release, because deep sea creatures balled out of control in the "what is the most IDM thing" tournament. They may have lost to beards, but they won me over.”

And true to his word, he did. Initially, all forum members were invited to submit songs, which were to be judged on their relevance to deep sea creatures, quality and overall cohesiveness with other songs to make an album. I don’t know if you’ve ever Google searched ‘deep sea creatures’ or watched the fantastic ‘Blue Planet’ or the Discovery Channel lately, but there’s some crazy shit going on down there, and the music needed to be representative of this weird and wonderful world. I was lucky enough to be one of the judges on the project, so got to hear all the submissions and the quality was, in parts, unbelievable. People took it extremely seriously, as for many, it would be the first time their music would feature on a hard copy release. After much deliberation, 13 awesome tracks were selected, and finally sequenced into an album, which became the first release on the new Futonic imprint.

The resulting ‘Deep Sea Creatures’ compilation is a triumph, and one of the best collections of electronic music I have heard in a long time. It’s the ultimate concept album, and one that fully evokes the subject matter it is conceptualising. This album should be sent to the BBC and Discovery for use on any forthcoming programmes featuring journeys to the dark depths of our oceans. Opening with Zephyr Nova’s brilliantly inventive, ‘We Are The Crab People’, which conjures images of hoards of weird beasties roaming the ocean floor in search of rotting flesh, and is more than worthy of a place alongside the work of established composers already mentioned in this piece, the compilation takes in old school Aphexisms (the tuneful ‘Alvin Submersible’ by Newmans), thoughtfully twinkling and softly strummed post rock (Adjective’s ‘Don Walsh & Jacques Piccard’), early Autechre-style mental rhythmic fuckery (‘Balling Somewhat In Control’ by Braintree), lushly mellow, nostalgic BoC melodies (‘Benthophelagic Waltz’ by Lol Alzado), pulsing, minimal techno a la Two Lone Swordsmen (Transient’s ‘Fear of the Dark Depths), brooding dark ambience (Agent Nerve’s ‘Anchor In The Dark’) and even what sounds like the soundtrack to an undersea soft porn movie (Beneboi’s sultry, jazzy ‘Hagfish’). Some of the songs defy categorisation – Lucid Rhythms’ ‘Aquazone’ is a sprawling psychedelic masterpiece, and Beak’s ‘Sea Pen Meets Angler Fish’ combines a melody straight from a 1970s children’s TV show, with clanking percussion and a sweetly plucked acoustic guitar. None of the featured artists are well known, with the exception of one or two who have released music on net labels in the past, but on the strength of this release, there are some who deserve wider recognition than a CD limited to only 100 copies will grant them.

Bonus! Exclusive video (new edit) for Lucid Rhythms’ ‘Aquazone 5’ by Lol Alzado -

If you would like to get your hands on a copy of the ‘Deep Sea Creatures’ compilation, you can either buy one from the Futonic Records website, but get your skates on as there’s only a handful left. Or, for those of you who have read or simply scrolled this far down, I’m giving away a copy of the CD to the first person who sends me an email with the answer to this simple question - complete the title of the Wes Anderson film - The Life Aquatic With ???? Remember to include your name and full postal address. Email COMPETITION CLOSED_WINNER: OWEN DAVIES/LICHFIELD/UK.

Visit the We Are The Music Makers forums
Deep Sea Creatures at MySpace - listen to the genius that is 'Deep Sea Cowbell' which inexplicably missed the final cut...
More Zephyr Nova music at MySpace
More Beak music at MySpace