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A Little Imaginary Proto-Techno

Tribal music before and after technology, from Certain Creatures

The recent Certain Creatures album takes its title, as did its predecessor, from a mystical term with Sanskrit origins. Back in 2015, it was Vipassana (on the Styles Upon Styles label). This time around it’s Nasadiya Sukta (Mysteries of the Deep), or the Hymn of Creation. Like a lot of origin myths, the new album, released the first week of January 2018, is at its most mysterious, at its most amorphous, at its most singular, when it first begins — before reality emerges, before reality sets in.

The opening track on Nasadiya Sukta, “Cross Star Woman,” starts with thuddy gongs that usher in a dark, wet sonic space, deep with echoes that, as the track proceeds, push at distant, unseen contours. A chanting vocal, a muffled bit of finger percussion, and slow, syncopated beats slowly consume that gong. A door opens and closes and opens again. Perhaps it’s one door, perhaps several down a long corridor. Maybe it’s a trick of mirrors, and it’s the same door over and over. (There’s also a plinky IDM nod to Selected Ambient Works-era Aphex twin as the track comes to a close.)

Only in retrospect, over the course of the full album, does the techno-primitivism of that first track become evident. In subsequent pieces, the analog sounds of doors, percussion, and voice give way to more industrialized alternatives. “Nyau Dust” has a similar ghostly-noise backdrop to “Cross Star Woman,” but introduce far more synthesized effects, all throbby synths and digital snares. “Golden Circle” layers in a modulating keyboard part and the carefully plotted drama-via-layers of club music. All the subsequent tracks, from the thriller-cinema pacing of “We Live Inside a Dream” to the squelchy dub of “Tachyon,” trace a not dissimilar pattern to “Cross Star Woman” but do so with a more evidently synthesized vocabulary, often as much techno, at times with synth-pop flavoring. To go back and listen to “Cross Star Woman” after taking in the album in full is to hear that opening track as a kind of pre-historical techno, an imagined tribal ceremony before the fall.

Certain Creatures is Brooklyn-based musician Oliver Chapoy, formerly of Warm Ghost and Saxon Shore. He’s also played with the metal band Shai Hulud. Album available at certaincreatures.bandcamp.com. More at certaincreatures.com and mysteriesofthedeep.mx.

By Marc Weidenbaum

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  • Marc Weidenbaum founded the website Disquiet.com in 1996 at the intersection of sound, art, and technology, and since 2012 has moderated the Disquiet Junto, an active online community of weekly music/sonic projects. He has written for Nature, Boing Boing, The Wire, Pitchfork, and NewMusicBox, among other periodicals. He is the author of the 33 1⁄3 book on Aphex Twin’s classic album Selected Ambient Works Volume II. Read more about his sonic consultancy, teaching, sound art, and work in film, comics, and other media

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