These days, record labels seem to be popping up all over the place in the independent /underground music world, and we think that’s a good thing. Each independent music outlet that can get music to the right people without all the unnecessary industry bullshit chain of command isolationism that is perpetuated by the “record industry” the better, and Oakland’s Weird Ear Records is doing just that. Releasing top quality recordings in multiple formats to anyone who has an odd ear to the underground experimental music pulse. We sat down with Weird Ear Records dual head honcho’s Raub Roy and Dianne Lynn of oakland….
Dr.. DECAYCAST: : Hello…. I heard of this strange new record label called WEIRD EAR RECORDS Why don’t you spill the beans …. Let’s start off with Who, what, when, where…..
RAUB ROY: We started WER in 2011, after relocating from San Francisco to Oakland, Ca, and finding that the inexpensive cost of living here afforded us the opportunity to do something a little bigger than we could have managed in SF. I think the name ‘Weird Ear’ popped into my head one day and it seemed like a name one would either give a Recording label or a scroungey-but-loveable chinchilla…. Having no desire to harbour rodents, we went with putting out pieces of music that fit our aesthetic for the label.
DD : What do you all have against rodents? Why are cats so popular these days , especially in “noise”
DIANNE LYNN: We think rodents are cool too! Personally, our cats chose us and we couldn’t turn them away. In fact before the cats were around we had more rodents in the building. We don’t see much of them these days. Maybe the “noise” was too much for them?
DD: That’s cool . I happen to like rodents as well, so much so that I named my label after a popular one from the 1980s….
At what point did y’all decide to start a record label, and why? Do you think it’s important that artists start their own labels, and in the digital age what is the “point” of releasing physical objects when one can just purchase a download ?
DL : We’ll say first that if you don’t get the “point” of releasing physical objects, then we’re sorry, you just don’t get it! We love the physical package. Some of the DIY stuff will blow your mind! Not to knock a download, but some works you gotta just “have.” To another point, playing files off a computer can be annoying as hell.
The label was manifested around February 2012. We sort of went crazy setting goals for ourselves and decided to put our words in motion. I think the tipping point was when Raub came home with the name Weird Ear. Honestly, we just wanted to have a label so that we could put music that we liked into a physical format that we personally appreciated; at the time this was vinyl, but we have come to appreciate the convenience of cassettes. As far as artists starting their own labels, we say go for it. The more the merrier.
DD: That’s an interesting take! Do you think there’s a point of over saturation in the experimental music community ? Is there such thing as too many projects, too many releases , too many “side projects” ? Is there an importance to trying to define the changing trends in experimental music? Or just let it run around like a chicken with its head cut off ?
RR: Well, one trend that I think keeps over-saturation from happening is that of keeping such things limited to smaller production runs. While the audience for experimental/modern/avant-garde/out/noise/weird/gnarly music is bigger than it’s ever been, it still is a tiny splash in the pool that is the whole of recorded sound, and we believe that putting the 300 copies of “Stand Up Comedy“
Alessandro Bossetti’s “Stand Up Comedy” LP
(for example) into the right 300 peoples hands is more important than spreading it all over the place and hoping random people pick it up. The advent of streaming entire albums also backs this strategy up – we really would like people to listen and make sure it’s for them before purchasing a copy. Defining trends is a slippery slope, in part due to the relative insignificance of our scene in relation to recorded sound on a whole (again), but then there’s the the flourishing microcosm aspect that no one person could keep up with all the facets of, so the way we define those trends that we aspire to steer clear of is very subjective, though a guideline that has worked well for us is trying to find works that wouldn’t have an easy time finding a home elsewhere. We also are attempting to avoid trend within our catalog for as long as we can, which is a bit easier to quantify.
I believe that a large amount of the proliferation of side-projects/one-off projects and such that you refer to is generally relegated to the noise end of the spectrum, and as such, we probably will leave Noise to other able and willing labels.
So you wouldn’t ever define your label as sticking to any one genre, rather anything with a weird bend that catches your ears? So far y’all have a really diverse roster, showcasing vastly different aesthetic sets, everything from the proto- industrial styles of WAXY TOMB on her “infra shape” cassette to fever dream psychedelia borderline abstract pop sounds of A MAGIC WHISTLE LP that y’all recently released, yet somehow it all works, to a rather refreshing degree curation wise, care to talk about that?
RR: we hope to avoid trend and purity in our releases not only on a world scale, but within the confines of our releases as well. So, for example, in the larger scene, modular synth stuff was nominally bigger last year than years previous, so, even if we really like a buddy’s Buchla Synthi album, it would need to be queered by some other element to feel like it fit in the catalog. On the level of our releases, I’d like to try to keep from trend there too, excepting the trend of having releases that wouldn’t appeal to purists of any particular genre – so like, Glochids “Originals” album is largely field recorded, but he is in these field recorded passages playing objects/instruments, so it’s field recordings, but impure, or queered, if you will… what was I getting at? Oh, right, so, now that there’s been an album of field recordings, I probably won’t do another one too closely related to field recordings for a while, until a good number of other styles of experimental/modern music have been touched on, see?
DD: Tell me about the future vision for weird ear , upcoming releases / tours / WTF stuff ? Blow our mind
Ok so we have a couple upcoming releases that should be out before summers end; WER-006 is Angela Sawyer, of Preggy peggy and the Lazy babymakers, duck that!, and exhusema.. The album was commissioned in 2011, and she’s been working away at it for us since then, but she also runs Weirdo Records in Boston and has little free time, so it’s taken a while, but the results are completely worth it – sweet and sour songs sqeakily sung with a wealth of oddvant-garde instrumentation and arrangements, the songs themselves being largely covers from her huge collection and other local bostonians… I believe that there are a good few samples in there also gathered from her stacks, which begs the question of why more record store owners don’t make sample based musics, since they’re diggin in the dustevery day already!
We also are quite pleased to be presenting a split between, Trumpet Trumpet Synthesizer and Horaflora (thats me). TTS is a duo (Brad Henkel and Weston Minissali) on amplified trumpet and Synth/vocoder playing some really out tones in a sexy as fuck way, which i’m told is fairly uncommon in experimental music! My side is loosely based on Mauricio Kagel’s Acoustica, or maybe just indebted to it, but will mark the end of my work with acoustic phenomenon for the foreseeable future, and I felt the connection should be credited later than never, so there’s that!
Beyond specific releases, all our future cassettes will be in handcrafted cardstock jackets rather than plastic cases, as we were impressed with Geweih Ritual Documents Envo-Box: http://www.gritual.com/Info-About
As they point out, the plastic cassette case isn’t intrinsically related to the album, and once cracked, is quickly rendered useless garbage, basically analogous to the plastic bag an LP may come in, nice to keep your jacket clean, but all too replaceable, adding to the plastic problem we would ideally like to avoid being a part of.
Thanks for asking all those questions! See ya soon!
Raub and Dianne,
Weird Ear Records
Oakland’s Styrofoam Sanchez has just announced a month long North American Tour from August 15th – Sept 14th. Styrofoam Sanchez is a post -industrial performance art unit based in Oakland, CA spawned from the trash island in the pacific gyre. Rouge spliced human DNA with proto trash receptacles spawn a dystopian landscape dark sonic and visual mayhem. Here’s an excerpt from the unit’s first official full length release, titled “Empire Underwater, featuring a 12” LP, DVD, and book to boot, released on Ratskin Records August 15, 2014, Sanchez reaches past the normal “band” format often having as many as ten or more participants, and has pending proposals to for site specific installations/performances at the plastic island and Pleneau Bay, Antarctica. Don’t miss this act coming through your town, cruising with limited but effective audio and visual documents for interested parties and allies. Your skull will be in a museum.
“STYROFOAM SANCHEZ is a post industrial sound and sculptural installation personifying the trash island in the pacific gyre. Spawning from a hybrid of human DNA and trash, Sanchez is a dystopian amalgamated magnification of failed civilizations, spliced rogue technologies gone awry spawning dark pulses of technological neurosis and inner psychosis . When fish put fin to sand then you’ll understand, fish can carry guns. Styrofoam Sanchez represents the last molecule before total conversion of humans into futuristic trash receptacles. Human, your skull will be in a museum. The post apocolyptic outfit presents a high intensity, often interactive onslaught of sonic and visual mayhem, utilizing rogue-manufactured styrofoam instruments , voice, synthesizers, custom microphones, as well as live projections and customized light sources “
STYROFOAM SANCHEZ “Empire Underwater Tour” 2014
August 15-21 w/ support from GREG GORLEN (Sf)
August 15 | LCM – Oakland
August 17 | SLC @ Area 51
August 18 | DENVER @ Rhinoceropolis
August 19 | LINCOLN @ Bourbon Theater
August 20 | KANSAS CITY, MO
August 21 | CHICAGO
August 22 | MSF5 – @ The Farm WELDON TOWNSHIP, MI
August 23 | MSF5 -@ The Farm WELDON TOWNSHIP, MI
August 24 | DETROIT
August 25 | CLEVELAND
August 26 | BUFFALO, NY
August 27 | ROCHESTER (help)
August 28 | EASTHAMPTON, MA @ The Flywheel
August 29 | LOWELL, MA @ Uncharted Gallery
August 30 | PROVIDENCE
August 31 | CT
September 1 | CT
September 2 | NYC
September 3 | PHILADELPHIA
September 4 | BALTIMORE
September 5 | ASHEVILLE , NC
September 6 | CARRBORO, NC
September 7 | NASHVILLE
September 8 | day off
September 9 | NOLA
September 10 | HOUSTON
September 11 | AUSTIN 9/11 Noisefest @ Club 1808 -
September 12 | PHOENIX
September 13 | LA
September 14 | LA @ (the) Handbag Factory
DJ EMBRYONIC PETIT SAC featuring DURTY DAWG Ef / JOSHUA LOVEJOY split cassette (sweatband records, 2011)
The A SIDE of this is Petit Sac Featuring DURTY Dawg Ef , what or whoever that is we will not know, but Petit Sac crafts super minimal south mouth sample loops, a lot of grunting, squeezing, gascious, robotic sounding loops repeat and repeat. Compared to his live performances, this is really stripped down vocal/ mouth sound recordings. Playful, annoying, and possessed infant/ animal sounds all are given equal weight in the composition to present a truly weird collage of voice and mouth sounds, which for the most part are all unprocessed aside from the occasional reverb, delay, or stutter effect. The end of the side builds up with two or three layers of stuttering voice Bloated and pitched at different intervals offering some “musical” resemblance but for the most part the mix is comprised of static stuttering vocal workouts. Not nearly as dense as other Petit Sac stuff I’ve heard but this is from 2011.
On the split side, Joshua Lovejoy opens up with a quiet ticking, ambient low fidelity tone wash. As the track breathes the ticking seems to vary in speed in an organic way but always creating a tension between the other quiet sounds in the background. I keep glancing at my tape deck to make sure the tape is playing at normal speed, and to my surprise, it is. There is a nice tension created between the quiet, rumbling drone and the ticking. Eventually after about five minutes the water clock sound scrunches and screeches to a hault and then flips on it’s head in reverse . The static rumbling in the background stays pretty much unchanging throughout the entire track and eventually the ping ceases and the listener is left to contemplate their existence through this barely audible fuzz as it fades out to silence. Very minimal tape overall with Petit Sac side holding a little stronger interest and variation wise.
JOSHUA LOVEJOY & DJ EMBRYONIC PETIT SAC @ Foxy Digitalis
DECAYCAST REVIEWS : Phemale “City Silk” LP (Redscroll Records , 2013 )
From the moment I first glanced / heard about / had suspicion of this record, I was intrigued by mystery.
PHEMALE is a unique and elusive project, remaining relatively obscure and under the radar in the east coast experimental music scene , all the while slowly building up a dense meticulously crafted archive of recordings. From browsing the archives or WFMU , Phemale flexes from more traditional drone/ noise to what could be nearly considered fucked up “pop ballads”. Phemale crafts delicate collages that morph into full on structured haunting compositions. Delicate, eerie synthesizers, present but non dominating beats, soft vocals, and samples/ field recordings all mingle to create a hauntingly beautiful mix of dark ambient experimental “pop” songs. Some tracks are more collaged / sample based it appears as they take the listener on a subtle, yet articulate journey through space, time, and emotion. These are cold songs , but never wholly alienating the listener, yet keeping them in a delicate sonic balance of yearning for more information all while embracing the mystery of intention.
Just when things start to get really busy, there’s a calm in the storm and were right back in the artists headspace, for better or for worse. Loss, uncertainty, and identity politics all seem to play a role in the mood and concept of this record with really interesting and unique results. This record is all over the place, in the best possible way, taking outward journeys both with it’s structure and intent, yet always resolving to a plane of solid ground where the listener can regain their bearings and then venturing back out into uncertain terrain, all the better. A loop, inside ones brain , tucked away behind the mask of self progress. From finely tuned minimal sound collage to lushly dark but warm pop slings . “City Silk” DEFINATLEY references early 80s industrial synth pop , but in a highly refreshing and unique way, which soars above and beyond many others dabbling in those genres these days. Phemales sounds are as dark, elusive and under the radar as he is. So don’t sleep on this , or it might just vanish . A beautiful layout and the record comes with a cutout mask! Can’t beat it .
This three-inch CD comes with a small bag of powder. Is it gun powder? Am I supposed to eat it? Sniff it? Upon closer inspection it is a bag of sand. And being dedicated to a day at the beach I can hear the ocean screaming. I’m glad I didn’t sniff it, because it turns out it feels like I’m wearing a jet pack when I press play anyway.
Blistering churning Noise. After 8 minutes of pummeling, a higher solid tone emerges and for 20 seconds I feel like I am hearing a war chant echo off the rim of the ricochet of static that was the Big Bang. Noise wall warbles into a barely discernible modulation repetition , like an oscillator finding its phrase and spiking out in a tearing flower beds of nails. This is brain erasure. I drift to thinking of my head submerged behind my now passed uncles motorboat as it rages into the waves multiple inner tubes en tow. By the end of the track it feels like the sand is in my shoes.
MEDVED “Archives 2″ Cassette (PREVED TAPES , 2012)
MEDVED is Paul Haney (Rust Worship/ Obsolete Units head honcho) and Ceci Moss ( Boxlienter / YBCA etc ) and this tape is just as weird and fucked up as this project is live, as I’ve been lucky to catch them live, and even book them on a few occasions since their relocation to Oakland from NYC. MEDVED crafts sharp, manipulated loops from what I can guess are synths, voice, maybe even some strings ? And tape manipulation. MEDVED belches out well crafted minimal industrial loops, with whirling perfectly placed synth rhythms over the top of subtle yet intentional percussive rhythms. “Archives 2″ is like EARLY SPK , slowed down, chopped , and re assembled for the contemporary listener, but then goes so far and wide beyond that.
Just when you are falling into the pulse of the rhythm, everything changes and you’re propelled into a totally different riff / headspace / sonic landscape. Mangled, distorted, guitar? And drums or drum machine pulse forward a militant yet textured rhythm which puts everything else in its place and marches forward. Industrial dance loops for the damaged brain that can’t process contemporary pop rhythms- a MIND BEND. Sometimes sounding more minimal industrial and other times like a drum machine at 300 BPM about to explode, with all of it’s failing circuits amplified , MEDVED never dwells on any one rhythm / approach for too long, things are always changing for the better. Vocals play a small role, but occasionally distant, delayed, decayed howlings creep into the mix and are then slowly swallowed up by well crafted , heavy , distorted loops that are the backbone of MEDVED on this release.
MEDVED is just as weird, damaged, and awesome recorded as they are live so don’t sleep on this tape, or maybe you already did and it’s gone. I got my copy tucked away for safe keeping for ripping on a damaged , toxic rain soaked day.
Decaycast REVIEWS : GNAWED “Terminal Epoch” CD (Phage Tapes , 2013)
WOW. Just wow. From the second I pushed play on this bad boy it’s dark, spatially aware, and gripping. Terminal Epoch starts out with a slow crawling drone with subtle percussive elements and voice transmissions birthed in the background. Slowly churning, mixing and making its way toward you. The second track hits and begins oozing distorted and ancient vocals atop a reverb slam which sounds like the door of mordar being slammed with the power of one million knights. A delicate balance between total chaos and control is layed forth upon minimal attacks of a death slam, mangled electronics and strangulated howls of pain. The tension and disdain on this album grows and bleeds blood of sonic darkness with every track. As the album moves forward , so does the descent into a deep dark personal place, this doesn’t FEEL like a band, but it sounds like one. GNAWED is the sound of being alone, as a producer of oxygen, all that’s left is your body and your fluids. Tension between the different elements of synths/oscillators , voice and percussive / rhythmic elements is balanced with seasoned compositional and mixing choices. Gnawed understand restraint, and the impact and intensity that such restraint can evoke.
This album is the continuation of the moment right before you plunge off the cliff, amplified and reverberated one thousand times over. Some tracks like “Retribution” take a slower dronier approach to the compositions while others like the second track, “Taken As Scourn” take a more rhythm forward old school industrial approach. This possesses the intensity of power electronics done right, but without the monotonous feedback and excess of vocals. The recording quality is also of a particularly high caliber. Everything in the mix is audible with respect to itself, but it all gels together to create a swell mix of a dark industrial foiree into an interpersonal hell hole, with no escape. Each voice is treated with its own layer of effects but retains an overall clarity and precision which states this is NOT improvised but highly composed and thought out, a rarity these days. Synths are a steady driving force which produce the backbone of the sonic landscape, but voice and percussive elements play an equally important and dark role in the overall material of “Terminal Epoch”
TERMINAL EPOCH is a stunning effort in new American dark industrial / drone / heavy intense music ! This album surprised me around every turn and it was always a pleasant surprise , TOP NOTCH EFFORT!!! For fans of BLOODYMINDED, Tribes of Neurot, etc …