Friday, June 1, 2012

Skincage - Axon (bandcamp)

Jon Ray has described his music as Dark Ambient, but this is not some Brian Wilson acolyte falling asleep on the bass register of his synthesizer. Instead, this is the kind of Dark Ambient that makes you think of Hellraiser, that makes you think of Space Madness, things vast and unknown to mankind. Skincage's music will make you confront yr shadows, it will chain you to a rock and feed you to the hydra. You shall sprout wings and you shall also plummet from spiral heights. You will question, but it will be worth it.

Jon Ray was way ahead of his time, and has never gotten his just desserts. In 2000, when Axon was released, the only attention paid to the likes of Coil, Autechre, Throbbing Gristle, or Nurse With Wound was by reformed goth kitties living in their mother's basements. Reformed Skinny Puppy admirer's that broke up sounds on cheap software, before there was widespread analysis of the works of Pierre Umiliani or Delia Derbyshire and the Radiophonic Workshop. Now, there are whole philsophical chapters that are cited the late 70s mutant militant Industrial Current as inspiration (several different reviews of the most recent Shackleton release, Music for the Quiet Hour/The Drawbar Organ EPs, have mentioned Coil as a reference point) or the horrorshow decadence of Demdike Stare's late-night mind movies, the time is right for people to hear Jonathan Ray's Skincage music for real.

One of the things i am constantly asking myself is what music should i talk about, spread around, here at J's Heaven? Obviously, its whatever i'm into at the moment, but i hear so much bloody music that its hard to even know WHAT i AM into, these days. So, one distinction are actual artifacts, things that are handmade and are able to stand out in yr muscle memory. Something to hold on to. Another thing is the past, before the world flooded with every sound imaginable. I have found that often whatever artist or album introduces you to a new genre, or a new way of thinking, is the one that will come to represent all the subsequent discoveries. The opener of the ways.

The third signifier that helps music to stand out is if i actually KNOW the person responsible. It adds whole galaxies of depth and meaning to their art, and it is thrilling to finally acknowledge (now that i'm not totally choking on jealousy) that i have known some fucking talented individuals in my lifetime. It has been constantly motivating to exchange words and ideas with fellow fanatics and zealots over the years, and they believed in me, even when i did not in fact believe in myself. Jon was probably more influential than just about any other human in my growing obsession with sound and sound manipulation. He would patiently answer my e mails regarding free software, what the hell MIDI was, what kind of synth i needed to sound like Sleazy and the crew, what effects were and how to use them. He was the first circuit-bender i knew; (after Axon he would get heavily into hacked hardware and toys, and began to focus more on live performances. That same period found him moving from his native North Carolina to Tucson, Az. and it has been fascinating to watch him come into his own as a legit sound artist, to get married, to find a satisfying way of life). This is music made by one of my FRIENDS, and it is considered antithetical to talk about yr friend's music, and i find that the stupidest thing ever. Axon is a stand-up release, wrestling with the leaden influences of the electronic geniuses of the past, of whom it seemed we could never escape or surpass, and moving into a future of precision, refinement, self-discovery. I would be a quite different person than the man i am today, without the existence of this record.

Since the days of beginning under Jon's tutelage, i've listened to tens of thousands of noise, drone, and ambient releases (both dark and light), and sitting here at my table in Portland, this music sounds fresher than when i first heard it, and i have the ears to comprehend, and appreciate, what my friend was doing 12 years ago. Danceable beats and moments of unexpected beauty give way to disorienting dream logic: snippets of conversation and bass drones. His music reminds me of watching a firework display underwater, or watching something ENORMOUS walking around a barren landscape. Skincage's music is the kind of music i hope to spread around, via J's Heaven, in that it makes the world a more magickal and surreal place. It is visionary, and emotional at the same time. His records have scored some of the most magickally potent moments of my life. It seems to open up a portal, there seems to be a real CURRENT flowing through the aether on this one. Psychic transmission? Choatic servitor? You be the judge.

My only regret is that in the recent Bandcamp re-issue, that Jon still has not restored Ichor, which the label talked him out of including, because it "interrupted the mellow flow of the record"! Can you imagine? With track names like Parasight and The Bruised Mandala, you might suspect that this is not merely music to soothe and seduce. This is music to open you up like a puzzle box, pry open yr third eye, and introduce you to the nether quadrants.

Jon says that if he could sell ten copies of the bandcamp record, he would buy a piano and produce a record of the results, so i'm counting on all of you for that piano record. Find him and like him on FB, lets show some love to this under-heard master of autumnal rumble.

1 comment:

  1. This is terribly kind of you, and I thank you for this heartfelt review. In fact, sir, anyone who downloads "Axon" will receive "Ichor" automatically as a hidden track. However, given the outcry from you and others who've been there from the beginning, I will make it plainly available.