Being The Machine : DECAYCAST Interviews Derek Rush (Chthonic Streams, Compactor)

Being The Machine : DECAYCAST Interviews Derek Rush (Chthonic Streams, Compactor)

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Compactor live at Knockdown Center, NYC during the No Workers Paradise release show. Photo by Kim Wirt.

Derek Rush is a man of many hats in the contemporary noise/industrial scene; like many artists these days, Rush has taken a ground-up, DIY ethos to his various musical projects, his imprint Chthonic Streams, his DJ sets, as well as mixing, mastering, and designing artwork for his releases. Many times, when artists spread themselves this razor-thin, for a myriad of creative, philosophical, and logistical reasons, aspects of the work suffer, or appear rushed, but not in the case of Derek Rush. His commitment to the preservation and documentation of the New York City and North American noise and industrial scene is impressive to say the least. Make sure to keep up with his various projects here and here.

Hello Derek and welcome to Decaycast. Can you talk a little bit about your current creative projects and what you’re up to these days both with your label, Chthonic Streams and related projects?

My main current project is as SysAdmin for Compactor. This means I’m overseeing the production of recorded Documents, and I handle tech, setup and breakdown of Live Shifts. Compactor is a machine, or series of machines, operated by a uniformed person called The Worker. The idea is that this is an anonymous figure who could be anyone, they represent everyone who works for a living. The project is a series of ongoing statements about work and its place in society, the dehumanization of people, the focus, fetishization, and trust in technology, the push-pull of how it can be pretty cool but also pretty destructive. In May 2018 Oppressive Resistance Recordings released the full-length CD “Technology Worship.”

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Chthonic Streams started as an outlet to release my own work when other labels are unavailable, as well as distribute the work of others I’m even tangentially involved with. Recently I’ve been expanding it to put out short-run releases of artists I like. I usually collaborate on some aspect, at least the design, sometimes a bit of mastering or even mixing, it varies. The latest release as we’re talking now is a tape by Endless Chasm, a dark ambient/experimental artist from Kansas. I also try to combine the release with a show I present under the Chthonic Streams banner with a variety of complementary artists.

As for other related projects happening now, I’ve been contributing to Theologian, which is the project of Lee Bartow. I recently sent him some melodic/harmonic elements which were turned into a track on the cassette “Reconcile,” and we have been sending files back and forth for the next major album, “Contrapasso.”

How did the collaboration with Theologian come about? How do you (if at all) separate the sounds you use for Compactor vs. the sounds you use for Theologian or other collaborations, and also how important is collaboration to you on general?
Theologian is Lee Bartow, but sometimes he likes to collaborate with others. We’ve known each other from a distance for years, but connected more in 2010 when I asked him to remix a song from my band Dream Into Dust. In return, he asked me to contribute to a project called Love Is Nothing, and then he sent me material which I added to along with others that became the Theologian EP “Some Things Have To Be Endured”. I mixed the “Forced Utopia” album last year, and I’ve been editing/producing material for the forthcoming album “Contrapasso.” The “Reconcile” album came about because of the Darkness Descends industrial festival in Cleveland put on by Stephen Petrus of Murderous Vision. Lee asked Stephen, Andy (The Vomit Arsonist) and myself to send material that he would turn into an album (mixed by Mike McClatchey of Lament Cityscape), and the four of us played in Theologian for the fest.

The mindset, sound, and material for Compactor is very different from other projects or collaborations. Compactor sonically is all about different textures of primarily atonal sounds. The material I sent in for “Reconcile” was very melodic and droning and in a specific key. In general when working on Theologian, I know what that sound is and where Lee is coming from, and I’m just trying to do something that goes along with that but adds a dimension he doesn’t usually do when working on his own, things like trying to add a different structure or little synth melodies and string parts.

I think in any collaboration, it’s important to find out what the other person wants and needs, which may not be the same thing. I’m mostly just trying to help their project be the best it can be to my ears. But in the end, they give the final seal of approval and may even change things I’ve done initially. I find that totally democratic collaboration often doesn’t work. Someone has to be in charge of a project and someone else in more of a supportive role.

Seems like the sounds of Compactor and your collaborative projects come from very different places, intention-wise. Oftentimes in experimental music artists can take an “anything goes” approach, but that might end up not working for every situation, or even many situations. Do you think noise and experimental music, more than other genres, emphasize collaboration, or on the contrary does it discourage collaboration and focus on promoting the individual. Is removing yourself from the identity of Compactor a conceptual move or does it occur for different reasons? 
I think noise music by its nature might not discourage collaboration, but it’s kind of unnecessary and sometimes a bad idea. With many types of noise, the more distortion and frequencies that are happening, the harder it is to fit in other sounds. It needs to have people even more attuned to each other than in conventional music, to know what and when to play or not play. Otherwise it can just become total white noise, filling up every space. There’s a place for that, obviously HN and HNW, but even one person can generate that on their own. So collaboration usually seems to come more out of a need for cameraderie and community. I think there’s a lot of loners, myself included, for whom noise has somehow had the opposite effect of connecting with others on the same wavelength. So it’s not like a rock band where you’re a guitarist who needs a bassist and drummer. You can do it all yourself, but you want your buddies with you, especially if they by themselves create something you respect.

Compactor being the machine, operated by the faceless figure of The Worker, is something that naturally came about from the early titles and imagery. It basically wrote its own backstory. Once that was in place, other details just obviously follow. The Worker’s story is a conglomeration of what goes on in this country and other parts of the world. The greed and inhumanity of corporations, the constantly working, often exhausted working class and shrinking middle class. It’s more important, and more interesting, to refer to these things than just say, wow work sucked today, I’m going to write a song about that. Because it’s not about me, it’s about everyone. And it’s sadly a pretty common feeling.

Can you talk a little bit more of the aesthetics of “The Worker” or “Compactor” from the mask/outfit to the unified aesthetics in the artworks well as music videos?

The predominantly black, white, and grey color schemes are just naturally bleak, and also give things a vintage or archival quality. A lot of the look of things is intentionally old, outdated, and ragged looking. For all the advancements in technology, there’s still a lot of old stuff being used by businesses that aren’t upgrading in order to save money. The Worker is kind of a personification of that, wearing a gas mask from 30 years ago, always the same worn-out shirt and work boots, and a generic cap, sometimes additional tools that are old, dirty, rusted or cheap-looking. It seems like a lot of companies are providing the bare minimum, or even leaving it up to employees to take care of their own uniforms or supplies.

Most of the videos in the past were outsourced to F Squared Media, who do some amazing work. Something to note is that there are never any people in them, in order to increase feelings of dehumanization and isolation.

Speaking of unified aesthetics, let’s talk about your imprint, Chthonic Streams. Most of your releases are rather involved with artist editions and elaborate packaging, including a boxset housed in a tool box?!? Is this true, care to elaborate?!

I’ve only started doing more elaborate packaging in the past few years, but have always strived to make sure there is really something to hold in your hands and look at. Also, it has to make sense and have a purpose. Although I appreciate albums that come with buttons and stickers, that’s not my thing. So I come up with images, words, and objects that bring the meaning of the music into the physical world.

The boxset you’re talking about is “No Workers Paradise”, which is 8 x 60-minute tapes, each one from a different noise artist. Compactor, Gnawed, Redrot, The Vomit Arsonist, Filth, Blsphm, Existence In Decline, and Work/Death each recorded a full album’s worth of material, so the total time is 8 hours, the standard American work day (although many people work longer than that). It also includes a 7″x10″ 12-page booklet with images, credits, and an essay I wrote about the prevalent relationship of people to work these days. Putting it in a tool box just made the most sense to me, as though someone woNWPboxuld carry it to work with them and listen to it all day. Though this was my concept I have to give serious props and thanks to all the artists, who did some of their best work.

What is the most difficult part of running your own imprint and also what is the most rewarding? Also please discuss any upcoming releases you have for both the label, and Compactor.

The most difficult part is dealing with money. While I can save money doing pretty much everything myself, as soon as you start adding in the kind of crazy ideas I have, the cost goes right back up again. Not to mention the time and labor. I’m cheating myself in some ways, but I guess I’d rather do that than cheat an artist. Then again, probably a lot of labels at this level operate this way, which is sad. We’ve become so used to busting our asses incredibly hard just to get anything done and not lose our shirts.

On the positive side, it’s so rewarding to hear from other artists that they’re happy with how a release came out. These are people whose work I respect a lot, and we are friends and peers, so that’s the most important thing. Though we’re also happy to sell out of things too!

Just released is a compilation called Prematurely Purgatoried, which is a benefit for fellow musician Casey Grabowski (Nearest, Obligate Surrogate, Secret Societies) who has cancer. In the works is a release from Seattle-based artist Morher, who was until recently known as OKA Amnesia. I’ve booked her a number of times, and she recorded several long pieces live to multitrack at my studio, with plans to do more and make it a full-length, which I’ll be mixing, as I did with STCLVR’s Predator. She’s also a visual artist and we hope to collaborate using her work to come up with some kind of special edition that suits her and this material, which is incredibly open and visceral. It’s gorgeous sung and spoken word live and looped vocals, with ethereal backing based on field recordings bleeding into harsh noise.

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By winter there will also be a special edition cassette by Mortuary Womb, a duo project between myself and the late John Binder of Exhuma and Arkanau. It’s full-on death industrial in the vein of early Cold Meat Industry and Slaughter Productions, recorded in Winter 2014. The limited edition will include a second cassette with the final recordings John did before he left us.

Compactor will have split releases with Vitriol Gauge and Ruiner. coming in Fall and Winter, respectively. There will also be tracks on compilations from Black Ring Rituals (for Fargo Noise Fest) and Spiricom Tapes, as well as a remix on the deluxe reissue of the Theologian/Lament Cityscape album. Beyond that, work has begun on a gabber album for Sonic Terror Recordings.

Chthonic Streams: www.chthonicstreams.com
Compactor: www.wastemgt.info

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DECAYCAST Reviews: AMANDA R HOWLAND “Spider, Milk, Batshit, Silence” (No Rent, 2018)

DECAYCAST Reviews: AMANDA R HOWLAND “Spider, Milk, Batshit, Silence” (No Rent, 2018)

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Cleveland, OH recording artist Amanda R.  Howland comes with refreshing array of sonic possibilities and strategies with, “Spider, Milk, Batshit, Silence” her first tape for the NO RENT imprint, with two sides of mixed-bag, dense, electronics spanning from harsh noise, to musique concrete,  to sections accentuating voice, to more abstracted rhythm sections which blend in and out of a gentle, yet very present, bowed, hum.  Static, voice, melody, clattering broken rhythms, radio chatter of  ancient transmissions and a harsh sense of absence are all present in this short but important release.  Tension is another constant theme to the ear as  one section may contain a harsh, alienating scraping; a  sound nasty pissed and angrily broken, inching across the floor toward its prey as the  amplitude and aggression increase and climax into an alarm style buzzing; alerting the listener that, yes, now is your time. Another sound, if even for a moment, m0014255476_10ay offer a brief, ambient respite to the harsh reality that has encapsulated us all, “Spider, Milk, Batshit, Silence” is, indeed the sound of that. A chaotic, dangerous and aurally thick and swift climax appears and then vanishes leaving only a distant hum of  abstracted silence, a slow, subtle, thumping as if the decaying heart has pushed red for its final beat.  The silence at the end of side one almost doesn’t seem real as the listener is left with wanting more of this uncertain future the ears and brain have yet to test, yet to experience.  If any sonic territories are left unexplored under the “experimental”  or “out-sound” tags on side one, we soon learn they will be shredded and eviscerated on side two with as much skill, tension, and carefully articulated abstraction as they were on side one.

The second side, “Batshit, Silence” picks up  right where the  A side dropped us off, with a high-pitched, distorted and warped melody.  Intense shrieks, angry swells, and ancient hymns of bouncing, pulsing sine-wave frequencies gel together like a microbiological  fungus slowly transforming into something much greater and dangerous, the thick scraping, shooting radio0 transmissions into the brain grow together, seamlessly providing a ridged and ugly backbone for abstracted  layers of thunderous pounding, the a tonal scraping of a ferociously thick winds ripping across the gruesome and confusing scene, pulling tiny, flesh-ridden shards of the listeners inner ear with it,  to cascade upon, as Howlands’ dark, grinning, noisy, churning  machine glides through the wires and slowly leaks out of the pores offering a new dark reality, endlessly searching for a cave to whip around in, an enormous sound. This scene is eventually evacuated to barren, alien radio transmissions have crept their way in and angst-like shake and sputter long lost messages over the dense, thick walls of  bleeding electronics, this like life eventually fades away and we are  left with an alienating, deafening silence.  Highly dynamic and enjoyable tape for a wide variety of experimental delvers. Pick u the digital HERE and the cassette HERE

DECAYCAST Track Reviews: Forests 森林 “Disarray” from ‘Idol Collapse’ LP (Left Hand Path, 2018)

DECAYCAST Track Reviews: Forests 森林 “Disarray” from ‘Idol Collapse’ LP (Left Hand Path, 2018)

Forests 森林 crafts dark, heavy, funky, and  occasionally sludgy, a-tonal industrial music for generations spanning many wars and technological shifts, collapses included.  On the track “Disarray” of their new 12” LP “Idol Collapse” on the rapidly accelerating  San Francisco Left Hand Path imprint,  Forests 森林 begin with an ancient howling metal percussion style clamoring as a distressed alarm-style sine wave bleeds your ears into a dark, thudding, hammering bass  riff.  “Disarray”  angrily and violently pounds forward  with thudding, unsettling cavernous percussion. An angular,  fuzzed out, monotone bass eventually gives breath to distantly haunted chanting/moaning style vocals. Words, and these worlds are unintelligible to my damaged, ramsacked, and now funky bassed-out,  puss-filled ears, but the tone of the story tells of an old, abandoned structure who’s walls are being slowly expanded upon by the  cavernous reverb,  pulsing bass tracks and churning hum of far away synthesizers and mutilated electronics,  Forests 森林  will lock you in a room and expand upon its  structure through sound, until you lie motionless on the  floor of  a place that once  contained  the form, now you have nothing but an old mangled, half  erased Front242 tape playing at a  third of the speed with  twice the  intensity and four times the  dynamics, whoops that’s actually the Forests 森林 tape i just dubbed as  I was  laying  there gasping for my last breath, i reach for the record  to button to  replicate these hellish,  booming sounds just one more time as my  turntable wont fit in this tightly bound coffin. Order the record HERE

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– Maniere Zappone

DECAYCAST MIXES : Farm To Tape : Episode 5

DECAYCAST MIXES : Farm To Tape : Episode 5

Next mix from the Farm To Tape series combining experimental, jazz, metal, noise, avant garde, neo-soul, hip hop and other interpretations  of experimental sonic musings.

 

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1. John Coltrane – Untitled Original 11383
2. Wizard Apprentice – I Am Invisible
3. The Fathers – B1 (Sound Advice)
4. Willie Dunn – Son of the Sun
5. Jess Sa Bi & Peter One – Apartheid
6. Sinkane – U’Huh
7. Maya Songbird – Merry Me
8. Signor Benedick the Moor – Belladonna
9. Spellling – Place Without a Form
10. Gnawed – In Ill Wake
11. Developer – Live @ Smiles for Miles in Dayton, OH 7/25/13
12. Beauty School – A1 (Crust Immersed)
13. Okkyung Lee – Hollow Water
14. Ilsa – Nasty, Brutish
15. Thou – The Changeling Prince
16. Drakkar – Crazy Loving You
17. Gita Pon Yeik – Ah Chit Yae
18. Zoe Keating – Hello Night

 

mixed by: Diego Aguilar-Canabal

DECAYCAST Reviews – Witches Of Malibu – “The Grand Crucifier” (Dead Media Recordings, 2018)

DECAYCAST Reviews – Witches Of Malibu – “The Grand Crucifier” (Dead Media Recordings, 2018)

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Witches of Malibu is the project of underground  industrial / harsh noise / psychedelic master Skott Rusch also of Hunting Lodge fame.  For this  release Skott’s playing under the WOM moniker and this one is released by  Dead Media Recordings, out of Ontario, CA. “The Grand  Crucifier” opens up  with a distant noisy, slow,  industrial rhythmic thudding which slowly grows with frequency, intensity and  terror.  A violent, shuddering call and response pacing develops between cold, clanging metal blasts of  metal and high pitched, unrelentingly harsh, static-filled, spikes of noise and chaos, however it never morphs into anything that could be construed as carelessly random. One thing that sticks out of these tracks is the the  tension, intention, and focus remain focused on their own bleak starkness which only serves to make the sounds that much darker and menacing. These cuts are super intentioned, and never fade into the realm often visited in harsh noise of unconnected,  random and selfish sounds, each  section possesses its own structure and harsh intentionality,  and with each sonic shriek, stab, or inverted  explosion comes a heightened peak of anxiety and uneasiness,  again and again until that is the listener is meant with deafening silence upon the tracks completion. Not to fear though, as dark soup will be served at the table all night, and the bleak, misty, cavernous  alienating sounds of WOM aren’t going anywhere, at least for the duration of this cassette.

The second track, Strike Strikes (04:11) is perhaps the  album’s most static offering in terms of movement, but  still provides a grating, hellish, scraping soundtrack to the days  activities of  gently knifing out your eyeballs and rolling them down the hill as they collect dirt and eradicate the last bits of light folded into your brain. The track builds with volume, form and intensity and by the end, a dark psychedelic confusion sets in and you can neither see nor hear nor feel where you have ended up, the pulsing has eclipsed all of your senses and the deafening shrieking has taken over. 

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The third and probably strongest and most dynamic track, “The Shine Cannon-Hectic Parasite”  starts with an almost inaudible hum for a  few seconds and then quickly turns into a buzz saw like cacophony of synth engine  destruction, slowly shifting and pulsing to bleed out the last bit of orientation one may have had at this point in the listening experience. The buzzing  goes from a constant square like jagged, aggressive, but relatively static,  sound to  morphed , twisted, swirling  sphere of sonic memory failure, blending into the next wave of  aural destruction. The cassette closes out with a slightly more minimalist, barren, percussion  forward track with some  subtly shifting whirling string like synths which sound more like a bowed saw than  synthesizer, blending perfectly with the choppy, blown out, mangled and twisted percussion. Rhythms pound and shake and eventually fade  away. The cochlear is now a dark, barren hole into the center of nothingness, and the  white noise blasts, high shrieking oscillators and garbled transmission ensure you won’t be making it back up the hill- you are forever  trapped in the  bottom of this pit and the sound  of  scraping, clawing, clamoring blasts of  sonic slag is the last sound that will  ever  pressurize your  ear  drum. Good bye. The end. Buy this TAPE HERE  or pretty much anything by this project.

 

– Michael Daddona

 

DECAYCAST Reviews: Reverent – “Live Exorcism 2017” (American Damage, 2017)

DECAYCAST Reviews: Reverent – “Live Exorcism 2017” (American Damage, 2017)

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Reverent is the  Chicago based project of  Jordan Reyes and, for the  duration at  least of this release,  focuses on strictly voice- based industrial / loop based  rhythmic works.  The sound of Reverent oscillates between traditional primitively rhythmic based  industrial, drone, and ritual music / chanting and experimental noise. This specific release is titled “Live Exorcism 2017”, and functions both sonically and conceptually very much in that realm. In one section the listener is being led on a more pronounced almost spoken word / beat section of the performance and then things begin to shift to a slower, more abstracted version of a similar piece. Reverent never stays in one lane too often throughout the piece, always  keeping the  dynamics and composition shifting in an interesting and unique way. Technically speaking, a rather full vocal range gives the artist the ability to construct full sounding works from just the voice, I’ve heard other vocal based acts which can come off as gimmicky or contrived in a way but Reverent is absolutely not that at all. Every bar, ever loop, every breath seems intentional and  carefully places, there’s never really a slip  up, we as the listener are presented with a polished, dense, articulate set of vocal explorations, which are no short of  songs unto themselves, but also they exist a much more; an exorcism, a nervous, manic cleansing of the performer.

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Reverent is truly a unique project, sound and concept wise, as I cannot really compare it to anything else. Stylistically, it could exist in similar realms of drone / percussion pioneer Z’EV, NURSE  WITH WOUND, COIL, but could also operate in a  more contemporary  undiscovered space/zone as well,  blending dense layers of  vocal processing to an almost fever-dream style of symphonic production. The sound of Reverent is nervous, trance-like and for  lack of a better tern, darkly triumphant. Reyes really does craft all of the parts of a traditional “song” with just the human voice, bass lines, poly-rhyhms, leads, and more  traditional vocal layers; an entire band is born from the esophagus;  come alive. Even if you are dead,  you will be reanimated by the  ritualistic chanting drones and  oscillations of Reverent.

 

Reverent is about to  embark on a short  tour and here is the information below. Make sure to catch one of these live rituals if possible; if so much  can be gained from just a live mic  recording of these works, imagine what they must present like in the flesh and in the ear; NOT TO BE MISSED.

 

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DECAYCAST Reviews: ZSA ZSA GABOR “Left Skull Bank” Cassette (Stay Strange, 2017)

DECAYCAST Reviews: ZSA ZSA GABOR “Left Skull Bank” Cassette (Stay Strange, 2017)

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“ZSA ZSA GABOR is dead” but the  sounds, voice, and pulses in a ritual are anything and everything but that. ZSA ZSA GABOR is one of the artists and founders of the Stay Strange SD Crew who boast a new label imprint, show collective and all creative force led by San Diego stalwart Sam Lopez aided in sound and  words from Ariel Irbe, Esteban Flores and Micheal Zimmerman, allwith their  own projects to boot under the  collective umbrella. Irbe performs and records  under the  S O L V  moniker, while Flores work as  Monochromacy represents  powerful, thick, radicalized  guitar  forward drone/noise works.  

“Left Skull Bank I” opens up the cassette after a brief intro with a dark, smudged, thick drone which slowly encapsulates the listener and then drops them in a voice cell of terror, confusion, disorientation, The time to talk isn’t now or maybe again for an hour  or even a year. Seal your lips shut for it’s  time for the  hymn of ZSA ZSA GABOR. This release is relentlessly and refreshingly diverse in its sonic character and nuance of sound and style; oscillation between spoken texts , drone, ambient, field recordings, distant screams that  ring like a hammer  smashing an ancient bell,  and  string based  swells ZZG has something for everyone , but at the sane time NOTHING FOR YOU. They owe you nothing and owe  everything to the void. Full tilt  sonic mayhem engulfs your  last thought and hope as your skull is  cast aside like an extra, misshaped, unneeded brick into the  ever-growing pile of death.

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“Left Skull Bank 2” picks up close to  where part 1 left off, with a thick, buzzing,  shaking vibrato of  stringed chaos while a monotone, anxious, realistic voice reads and  breathes upon every swelling  stringed drone of death, and after a “brief  demonic interlude” the listener is  cast once again into the  chaotic experiments of death with Part three, twisting and  tangling the  false hope that we once had  with harsh stabs, angry, dissonant, atonal swells through a purgatory nobody wants to  even pass by for a minute. This  cassette runs the  full scope of experimental sounds but in a a unique and refreshing way, no rehashing, no redux, this is simply top notch experimental music,  get about it, be about it. .ZSA ZSA  GABOR  is a thick, swollen, controlled  anger, which is more or less the  sound of  a  decaying  future; you’re dead long after you  found out when you’re  going  to die, and if you’re worthy this  might make an appearance at the funeral to help shovel your lifeless  corpse to  rest eternally and be consumed by the  wormed earth. Follow  ZSA ZSA GABOR HERE and HERE.