Label: Liberation Technologies
Release Date: 17/11/2014
Where can sampling go next? From the codeine-laced beats of ‘Chopped and Screwed’ to the dizzying collages of Plunderphonics and the chin-stroking obscenities of Breakcore, it feels as though the sample has been cut up, pasted, mangled and twisted into every shape and size imaginable. Contemporary artist and musician Lars ‘TCF’ Holdhus, has been putting samples into question once again with his latest release on Liberation Technologies. His early output can be traced back to some bizarre Hip-Hop/R’n’B mash-up tracks under the hugely influential moniker ‘Craxxxmurf’ before shedding the name two years ago. This output was instrumental in pushing the sound that the likes of M.E.S.H, Lotic, Kablam and their ‘Janus’ party have since adopted, if it were possible to pinpoint exactly what that sound ‘is’, which of course it isn’t.
What is perhaps most striking about TCF’s work is that it’s unclear whether or not samples are being used at all, as each sound instead resides in the ‘uncanny valley’ between the artificial and the biological. In TCF’s world, human voices are digitized, and machines are humanized, until the music becomes a flowing pool of organic and inorganic matter, impossible to disentangle. His mixes are emotionally charged journeys through disparate music spanning decades, as if the listener were a curious music historian from the future (Holdus at one point legally changed his name to Lars ‘The Contemporary Future’ Holdus), nostalgically flicking through the pages of an encyclopaedia and pausing momentarily at irregular intervals. Just looking at TCF’s song titles too, may give you a sense of fatalism in the face of the algorithms we are left to solve. What are _these? But despite the random-like quality that TCF’s output may appear to have, it is in fact a premeditated, and meticulously arranged structure, engineered to tease out wholly new perspectives from us. We may be looking at data _about music, but equally, we may be listening to music about _data too _(see ‘1000 snares’); the music is simultaneously encoded and yet a code unto itself.
It’s quite nerve racking writing a review of TCF. Whilst I scan his Facebook page, I find to my horror that he has previously picked out and targeted reviews of his own music, explaining with precise articulation where the journalist had gone wrong in trying to understand what he is doing; a bold move that fits in beautifully with the conceptual meta-analysis that his music evokes. Where one writer said of his music that it “sit[s] on the colder side of the electronic divide”, TCF responds:
“When did code, cryptography, chopped vocals and stretch found sounds become cold? Is this a simplistic way of reading another human? What if I consider these things warm or human? The divide between cold (machinic, code etc) and warm (human, electronic analog music (I guess) feelings and emotions) is an old school (read: conservative) understanding of the current world we live in.”
I think he’s right, and what’s more, the decision to critique writing of his music that misses the mark shows a sharpened precision in the message TCF wants to deliver. Perhaps the transmission instilled in the music can never be fully deciphered, but TCF’s vision is not a spontaneous, meaningless jab at ‘weirdness’, but a carefully constructed jigsaw that we can but only gaze at.