Since 2008 independent Atlanta-based record label Geographic North has been releasing a steady catalog of what I believe to be the music of the future. It's all shoegaze, dream pop, synth, kraut, soundscape, art punk, musique concrete, dance, drone, minimalist, and various other forms that combine analog with electronic. Geographic North’s bands include a Sunny Day in Glasgow, Soft Circle, Belong, and Landing, and while it might be difficult to assign a common tonal label to the artists, each brings something strong and rare, and were hand-picked with the eye of an aural fetishist.
The amount of care and thought involved in each release is staggering, but I guess you have to go the extra mile when you’re still selling music as limited edition vinyl and cassettes in 2014. Serial subscriptions are available for the completionist in need of a regular fix, and for the cheapskates Geographic North streams all of their releases for free online.
As someone who has trouble finding new music that doesn’t make me want to burn my stereo, I have been consistently impressed by the level of quality in this label’s releases. Each album is not only pleasing, but provoking, fully realized, honed to shine. I’ve yet to hear a thing they’ve put out that didn’t give me feels in one way or another.
I should also mention that label founders Farbod Kokabi and Farzad Moghaddam make up one half of perhaps my favorite Atlanta act, Lyonnais. Their sound is by turns a cross of Joy Division, Spacemen 3, Boredoms, Can, Beak>, and several others I can’t quite place.
Below I’ve taken a brief look at some of Geographic North’s most recent releases, each available for free streaming on their website, and many available for purchase as an IRL physical object.
Hiro Kone is the recording moniker of NYC-based artist and musician Nicky Mao, formerly of Effi Briest and Up Died Sound. The opening track, “Jungle,” initially sounds like a domed swimming pool being lifted off the ground by a helicopter piloted by robots, a feeling that passes away seamlessly into the second track, “Ferry Home,” a spare but dark landscape navigated by melodies animated somewhere between a computer having a childhood and the soundtrack to Fire Walk with Me. The arrangement of the album is fantastic, relying on ambient experience and texture as much as the rigor of its components. There is an odd sense of propulsion and immersion at the same time, as if the further you allow your brain to settle back into the mutation, the further forward you are thrown. This could be the music to the greatest quest video game ever coded, one day when Xbox learns to alter a player’s senses.
I can’t sleep to music because I require monotonic feedback, but Auburn Lull, a five-piece from Lansing, Michigan, creates sound that makes sleep seem like somewhere real. Minimalist in arrangement, and wide open in breadth of reach, Hiber works like Music For Airports or certain tracks by Eluvium, in that I can put this tape on and feel like I am not doing what I am doing, that time does not exist. Fans of Brian Eno’s sound constructions and people who want music that can change the entire demeanor of a room will be well served by this album. It is of that rare breed of album able to actually improve a listener’s environment, and what more could be asked of music than that.
Two Lines Thick
I’ve never understood dance music, mainly because most dance music sounds like it is designed to drive your car over a cliff to, or to have unnecessary surgery to. Thankfully, the way in which James Conduit’s music relates to the gyrational genres is more like Dance Music For People Who Don’t Want To Dance. Conduit builds spare but driving frames of sound out of synth and percussion, using the space of repetition to allow a feeling of improvisation and dysfunction to the flow. Previously related to School of Seven Bells and Bear in Heaven, Conduit uses the beat as an apparatus to invoke the listener through field after field of complimentary rhythms and melodic accents, resulting in a great soundtrack to laying on the floor and letting your mind go completely blank.
Overnight Motorcyle Music
2012’s Spooky Action At a Distance by Lotus Plaza, the offshoot outlet of Deerhunter guitarist Lockett Pundt, was one of those records that after the first listen felt almost too familiar to be real, like I’d been listening to it for most of my life. Mirage pop might be a word to call it, a holographic Pavement. Overnight Motorcyle Music only bears the more ghostlike edge of that connotation: the first of the two tracks, “Indian Paintbrush,” is a 14-minute composition consisting entirely of effects-laden guitar, where guitar is used as a piano, as a pulse, and a stairwell. There is no beat but the spiraling melody somehow continues to open up, like what my brain feels like when watching Last Year At Marienbad or something. I like music that feels like a tunnel that had been hidden in other music, like a layer I couldn’t hear before, at last revealed.
If machines have emotions—and I believe they DO—Tinniens might be the best elucidation of how it feels for a computer to age. Formed by two members of the indie dream pop band Landing, Dub Guns finds their talents deconstructed and reordered, stacking layers of percussive loops and ambient droning with lilting melody, occasional lyric fragments, and fuzzed-out leads. The result is something like what I imagine pop music will sound like after everyone is dead and the radios can play whatever they want to make themselves happy while the wind rolls the dirt across the empty ground and the sun burns and language is a relic. For once, a composition that came from shoegaze that doesn’t sound like the dumb younger brother of Slowdive who only ever listened to bands trying to copy Slowdive. Shoutout Tarkovsky pop.
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