Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Lost Clusters

I've been an admirer of Akin Fernandez's Irdial Discs since 1995, when I took a chance on their compilation album There Are Too Many Fools Following Too Many Rules. A track on a New Electronica compilation - A.M.D. by Clip Talk - had caught my ear shortly before and, with its dissection of the bridge between melody and noise had, quite frankly, blown my frail young mind.

Loving parts of Too Many Fools, I then bought the Mario Paint EP, recorded entirely in the SNES program of that name, and found music that tallied with the experiments I'd made using the simple software (Music Maker) that had come bundled with my parent's Atari 1040 family pack. A music where composition and texture held more significance than style. This burgeoning revelation would lead to a continuing love of single-instrument composition, and a still unfulfilled desire to own a harpsichord. My copy of Mario Paint came with a black and white Irdial catalogue inside. The titles and art inside this magical pamphlet filled my mind with curiosity and wonder.. I was particularly keen to hear Ms. Mimi Majick's Lost Clusters in D Drive. Just the title held such fascinating promise!

Later, living in London, I'd find their records in second hand shops, often radically reduced in price due to the fact that the label's house sleeve was intentionally printed to look worn and damaged. These sometimes felt more like avant-garde art objects than records. Which is not to overlook the sheer aesthetic beauty of some of the music itself..

I made a cup of tea, put on Anthony Manning's Islets in Pink Polyprophlene, and fell instantly in love. And his Chromium Nebulae album would quickly become my go-to record in those lazy moments in life where time seems to briefly stop, those odd hours lost somewhere in between the accepted ones, at least until you open the curtains.

Neuropolitique and Thee J. Johanz made my head feel funny. The definition/grain of the music itself was, like Akin's label artwork, fundamentally lysergic. It tasted funny, and I wondered why no-one had fed me it before. Ray Tracing (another pseudonym of Akin), on the other hand, made me want to jump around the room with a big grin on my face - King of the Bleeps!

Fast forward to the internet age (a bit late coming for me), and I found much of the label's catalogue available for free online.. leading me to some of my favourite finds - including Mimi Majick's incredible, timeless EP, and many of Akin's earlier works, as Aqua Regia and Beautyon. Fernandez must be one of the single most under-rated producers of the tail-end of the 20th century.

More recently, I've revisited Neuropolitique's album, and downloading his Irdial back catalogue, found many absolute gems. The depth of their catalogue is incredible.

Globally, they are probably best known for The Conet Project - a collection of recordings of so-called Numbers Stations. In a reflection of the label's thoughtful and provocative approach to copyright law, the label took these anonymously broadcast, presumably government-level transmissions and exploited the secrecy of their authors by releasing them on a compilation album.
To nicely complete the situationist prank/lesson in copyright law, Fernandez subsequently sued the band Wilco for using parts of this album without Irdial's permission.

Another choice piece of wax I plucked to safety from the racks of the Music & Video exchange was the excellent Monster Music mini-album. Monster Music was a series of pirate radio broadcasts made by Irdial in the early 90's, a series of ten, with each intended to be curated by a different artist. For a long time, these recordings represented a large gap for me, when looking down the Irdial catalogue list. They do all exist, however, on MP3 at least, and, at the time I wrote this, back in November 2010, the first few were easily findable online via a blog (in fact inspiring this piece).

They've since been taken down. But, according to the Irdial site, "all ten shows are floating around on Gnutella, OpenNap, Morpheus and the other free music sharing services". Not sure if those services even exist still, but if you can find them, they're well worth a listen. What I've heard is all essential stuff, with the Perfect Game Music Fan episode providing the perfect interim soundtrack for the Blue Moon Festival (a night of music made with the Sound Club tracker) I hosted last year.

Check out the Irdial musical philosophy, and then take a jump into a bottomless political wormcan here!

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