artist: ALAN WATTS
album : Ara
cat no: GM 041
label : GODMODE
date : October 29, 2013
press : nbs at entergodmode dot com
cover : http://entergodmode.com/drop/AW-STAMP.SC.jpg
Fussiness Dies At The Altar of Alan Watts
a/k/a The War Against Turtlenecks
By Nick Sylvester
The turtlenecking of techno…
Why does this keep happening?
I admit the pseudo-irony of complaining that machine music sounds like machine music. But even the early stuff had a degree of randomness, hisses and flutters and slight modulations changing the steady rhythms ever so slightly. Model 500 was held together with duct tape and all the better for it, because (scientifically speaking) the pleasure is in those modulations. Our ears are physically repulsed by hearing the same exact sound over and over again. Our ears don't like fussiness. Combine that with excess theory, excess politicking, excess arrangement (the Guitar Circusing of techno, if you will), excess top-down aesthetic to the point that you have labels with interchangeable artists, rosters that sound exactly the fucking same, I dunno dudes, good fences never made good neighbors. Didn't you read that one?
Techno was its own sort of punk moment, so I hesitate to say Alan Watts are ripping it up and starting again. But they are unlike anything out there right now, from process on through. For one, they are a BAND. I like that about them. If so much dance music exists in the vacuum of an Ableton window, the Watts are meant for the stage. They don't have fussy arrangements — just some form of a song or vibe they agree on, some main figure that they attempt to get across. They insist on recording and performing live, except when they don't — as almost like an overcompensation for the lack of randomness. Other amazing things about this band: They don't use a master clock! All their machines are synched by ear, which creates these little tempo drifts and comb phases and so on. Patrick Stankard, whose dubby basslines drive many of these songs, refuses to loop his lines, and instead plays for 10 or 12 minutes straight, the bass warbling and slowly coming out of tune. It goes without saying that we recorded this music live, in two nights, straight to tape, and blew one of the eight channels in the course of the session.
"Techno industrial dub" itself is too severe a tag for the Watts — its current constituents too chinstrokey. Really the closest analogue is Throbbing Gristle or Chris & Cosey, not just for the textures and love for feedback loops, but the tunefulness. Texture is important but the Watts always make sure their tracks have a distinct hook. The butthead bassline in "Jean Michel", the explosive arpeggiator chorus of "920", the raspy powerline guitar of "Bogoditus" which might be my favorite track here — this again comes from having to play live I think. You can't just bullshit your way through a show with "sweet textures". But Watts have all these guys beat on meat. The kick is always enormous if not unruly. New sounds enter and leave the scene in big obnoxious occasionally ear piercing ways. These are thrilling performances. The dudes are not above putting on a show.
It was my pleasure to record Jeremy, Mike, and Patrick at Silent Barn this past May. We went seven channels, then six, into a Tascam 388, which you might recognize in the rolloffs as the sound of San Francisco garage rock. We finished up the mixes late in the summer and then some at Sound City in Brooklyn, and released ARA, the band's full-length debut on GODMODE, on October 29 at the GODMODE ENTERS FALL party. The record is available on run-of-100 snow-white C-40 cassette — hand-stamped, hand-dubbed, hand-numbered — at the GODMODE shop. See them live.
All songs and sounds by Krinsley/Sheffield/Stankard.
Produced by Nick Sylvester and Alan Watts
Recorded by Nick Sylvester at Silent Barn, BK, NY
Mixed by Nick Sylvester at Sound City, BK, NY
'920' and 'Harma' co-mixed by Jeremy Krinsley and Nick Sylvester.
Album Art by Jeremy Krinsley
Cassettes by Nick Sylvester and Dale Eisinger
- Alan Watts