For almost two decades, Detroit Underground (DU) have been rewiring the circuitry of electronic music. A true multidisciplinary project, graphic design and electronic hardware are at the heart of the DU enterprise. Look, for example, at their interactive website, or their circuit-bending modular synth units. There’s a sense in which defining DU as but a record label would be a mischaracterisation. It’s a broader project, tying together disparate elements of art and technology.
I first became aware of DU with the release of Drudged Torn Routine, a record of staggering complexity from Stray Landings affiliate, Yaporigami. Any further investigation through the DU back-catalogue reveals a daunting monolith of painstakingly curated music. One common thread that seems to run through DU is that it brings artists away from their comfort zone and into new experimental territory. You can find Kyle Hall doing glitch or a concept album from Oscar Mullero. This is the nether-zone that DU creates — pulling artists into deeper water to bring out their most exciting work.
The latest DU release comes from Chris Randall, head of Positron Records and plug-in programmers, Audio Damage. Randall himself is something of a musical tourist, fronting Chicago Industrial Rock outfit Sister Machine Gun. But under his birth name, Randall has also explored blues and traditional American music. In a recent blog post, he even explained that he had been toying with the idea of using the mapped brain of a nematode worm as a musical instrument. Yet his compelling work stems from his secret love of modular synthesis.
This new release, Oscillator Breach, stands in stark contrast with Randall’s history in rock music. Rather, it sits more comfortably within the the roster of IDM resurgence. Rich textures pop in and out of the mix, shot through with surgical precision and scrupulous detail. The press release for Oscillator Breach is no less cryptic than the music itself. There is no description of the sounds, nor of the history of the record. Instead, we are presented with a stream of consciousness text that could read like a narration from Twin Peak’s Laura Palmer:
“…They shared the smoke, passing it from one mouth to the next. Flicked the bloodstained filter into damp grass and pulled away. Headlights shimmering through fog, grinding gravel, the whirring end of a cassette tape, whispering woods. There is nothing safer than a coat of pine…”