(2010 Jun 8) True Genius Requires Insanity publishes 'Tales From the Darkside Vol.11: Why is DC Afraid of the Dark?'

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(2010 Jun 8) True Genius Requires Insanity publishes 'Tales From the Darkside Vol.11: Why is DC Afraid of the Dark?'

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Tales From the Darkside Vol.11: Why is DC Afraid of the Dark?
Tuesday, June 8, 2010

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This past week I was invited to come up to NYC by the band Blessure Grave to see them perform with a host of other dark-minded bands at an event being co-hosted by Chronic Youth, and Mishka, celebrating the release of a book on Feral House. I was more than happy to take the trek, but arriving in this event proved to be a culture shock that felt more like coming home.

Now I may not, thankfully, be the world’s clubbiest kid, but one would be a fool to suggest that I do not have my finger on the pulse of DC’s party scene. It is a town boasting a handful of professionally talented DJ’s of the highest caliber, a crushing monolith of DJ’s that run the spectrum of near that rank to all the way down into the basement of the opposite end, a small yet familially energetic party scene huddling together for security, and an epidemic, on a European black plague scale, of terrifying warriors who may or may not believe they are listening to an ipod in the club. While on the one hand, the clutching family is happy to have the U Street Music Hall, which has been invaluable to adding validation and mobility to the scene in DC, on the other hand, to necessitate their survival, many DJ’s in DC do a lot of pandering, and try to keep things within the ambiguous brackets of, “acceptable.”

Trends spill out in all directions, constantly shifting their shapes and colors. But there is a particular line of trends that have taken off in other major cities in America, NYC in particular. To sum it up in an overly simplified way, in explaining their showcase at SXSW this year, Chronic Youth said simply:

“Fuck your fun. We embrace the darkness.”

Dark music and culture have been sweeping their black waves through every nook and cranny of New York as of late. Where did it start? I could not say, but let’s begin here with cold and minimal wave. I can’t speak for everyone, obviously, but I’m willing to bet the, “So Young But So Cold,” collection opened a lot of eyes in this direction. Named after a Kas Product song, this album showcases a cross section of French electro/minimal/cold/etc wave from the seventies through the eighties. Many of the tracks included here have slowly infiltrated a myriad of other compilations, dance nights, and the influence of newer groups.

The event mentioned above, (beyond being hosted by the ever amazing Genesis P-Orridge), showcased one such group, Passions. Harkening back to this wave of music, and a whole host of other influences, Passions play danceable, yet misanthropic minimal electro. The group has already become a powerhouse in their city, and have quickly shot their influence out across the rest of the country. They are tight, catchy, and energetic. Passions has everything a band desires, but from a very specific perspective.

To be fair the juggernaut that hurled much of this dark minimal music back into existence is surely NYC’s Weird. Starting out as a DJ night in 2003, Wierd formed a record label in 2006, and has become massively influential in shaping the nightlife scene in NY and beyond. The brainchild of Wierd is none other than Crash Worship, and Bloodyminded’s own Pieter Schoolwerth. The label and night have helped launch the popularity of amazing dark synth groups such as Xeno and Oaklander, and Led Er Est, and also released their invaluable Wierd compilations, showcasing this new talent on an international scale.

One of the other groups at the Mishka event, who caught me totally off guard, was White Ring. Coming out of the darkness dressed in black, swirls of fog, and the blue of a strobe light, the duo mounted a small set up of electronic equipment and launched into a set of ambient gothic-esque sounds. But the difference that struck me like a bolt of lightening was the moment that the system spit up from this downtrodden haze, a backing track of crunk beats. Suddenly two world came crashing gloriously together as depressive minimal electro grafted itself to dirty south sounds. I believe my mind was permanently fused the instant the samples of guns being cocked and fired came into play.

The deep and odd fusion found in groups like White Ring can be traced to the lumping of such groups into the up and coming drag/witch house scene. The terms come from the like-minded Salem who dub it “drag” to describe the molasses-like flow and composition of the tracks. Hazy, layered aesthetics, altered vocals, and pounding beats tend to be the common theme is this basement family of groups such as Salem, White Ring, oOoOO, Balam Acab, and Mater Suspiria Vision. If we were charting the evolution of these trends, this would likely be the next step.

Blessure Grave, themselves, while nowhere near witch house, are firmly rooted in this space where no wave began to lay the foundation for the original goth scene. The group has recently seen a steep rise in popularity, being flown out to NY from San Diego to play one show. In fact, Mishka has just announced their release of a Blessure Grave 7” that they are supporting with remixes by heavy hitters such as Baryshnikov and Deathface.

DJ’s themselves have had a huge influence on the growth and dissemination of this culture. NYC’s own kings of the scene, Trouble and Bass have been masters of the black propaganda machine for quite sometime now. Rounding out the Blessure Grave show was none other than Star Eyes, who played a set that included artists such as Adult. and Gary Numan. From the imagery to the sounds to an entire EP dedicated to remix’s of Drop The Lime’s, “Devil’s Eyes,” the influence is everywhere.

……Except DC. Washington DC clearly has a fear of the dark. The Finger could be placed on its adherence to the mainstream, its structural lack of creativity, or its gentrifying out any culture it may have had left. Whatever the case, consider this a gauntlet thrown, or a poorly crafted manifesto. In fact, consider this what you will, but at least consider turning out the lights, and letting a grim smile slip across your face.

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