Funeral for A Friend is the 2021 EP release by Belarusian Dark Ambient and Doom Jazz project Unseeing. Funeral for A Friend is an incredibly dreary and visceral album, “[a] story to tell in the dark” as described on the album’s Bandcamp page.
Not for the squeamish, Funeral for A Friend’s opening track My Suicide is an incredibly gory audio play of final moments and self-inflicted death by knife. Accompanied by light and clean Post-Rock guitars, My Suicide is foley straight out of a horror film. The track’s minor dialogue may push My Suicide’s imagery a step too close to cheesy, but ultimately remains the visceral opener this album needs.
The band’s use of sound design is reminiscent of Krypto Grotesk’s Post Urban Exotica, exploring the man-made’s relationship to the human. A notable example is third track Death Coming, which incorporates distant sirens (an ominous warning peaking our biological nature) and hospital monitoring sounds as transitioning fills in the track.
Enacting a Post-Rock approach to Doom Jazz’s solemn sound, Unseeing substitutes Doom Jazz’s more sleazy qualities for pure romantic-nihilism. The jazz aesthetics integral to Doom Jazz are subdued. Lightly brushed drums and MIDI ‘standup’ bass are only a light skeletal structure which Unseeing builds off of with lush synth strings and Post-Rock guitar tones. It’s a sonic distinction from the Doom Jazz milieu which sets the band apart and allows Unseeing to achieve their compositions’ greatest potential on the album.
For fans of: Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Mount Kilimanjaro Darkjazz Ensemble, Nortt
Hailing from Ohio, Millicent Waffle’s Nokturnus: Excession is an exhaustive drag through an unfulfilled concept.
Excession, the second installment in the Nokturnus trilogy, is described by the artists as “[exploring] the eclectic and often nightmarish life of the peasants who walked among the mice as giants” and as an album “loosely based off of the Bubonic Plague (14th century AD).”
Over 7 tracks, the album meanders and meanders on and on. Tracks feel jammed and sporadic, yet lack any virtuosity which may otherwise convince an audience to carry on listening. As far as defending Nokturnus: Excession as an exploration of a conceptual mode involving atmosphere and aesthetics, many artists such as András Cséfalvay and Cal Folger Day have left stronger impressions in under two minutes.
Pushing thirty minutes into the album, track Black Iris features the only particularly distinct moment on the entire album, a Carl Wheezer impression, which itself becomes unfunny after about 50 seconds. To defend the album as an act of absurdist comedy on the other hand also falls short of justification. It’s an act that’s been done many times before and many times better. It’s here I’d like to enter the I Heart Noise compilation Gone In 60 Seconds into evidence, which features Down I Go’s tracks King Herod The Great and Pterodactyl.
What’s a shame is that there are moments of artistic intrigue, an under utilized potential or degree of craft which doesn’t show on Nokturnus: Excession’s first 35 minutes but appears later. Tracks such as Garden and Stone Brilliance both feature cinematic piano works which apply some level of gravitas to Millicent Waffle’s chosen subject matter.
Nokturnus: Excession shows the artistic immaturity of musicians who mistake prolific run times as equatable to notable art. What ever they go on to do as a band or as individual artists, I hope they crush any prior standards they may have had for themselves and achieve a monumental work deserving of Nokturnus: Excession’s 59 minute 43 second runtime.
The long-lost genre of tropical ersatz haunts on in the reverberations of the past. Exotica’s problematic past, a colonialist fantasy involving ‘savages’ and drenched in Orientalism, have permanently marred it. But while Exotica and its racist overtones have long given way to (what I would like to think of as) societal progress, the Hollywood-esque cinema of the mind echoes on in both eerie and campy appeal.
Post-Exotica is this very aesthetic reverberation intertwined with contemporary societal attitudes, recording techniques, and accessibility afforded to us by the internet. Post-Exotica, as an aesthetic mode within music, lacks any unifying subculture or definitive sonic palette.
Records of the ‘post-exotic’ can range from exploring the sociopolitical to the existential, the atavistic to the alchemical, or simply act as a pining for ye olden days of ‘classy’ Hi-Fi bachelor pad music.
Without further hesitation, let’s explore these selected offerings from a genre even Bandcamp has yet to recognize. This is Resident Sound’s Guide to Post-Exotica…
Early Rumblings: JG Thirlwell, Steroid Maximus, and the post-Post-Punk of The 1990s
Around the mid-1990s, revived interest in Lounge, Surf, and Exotica music were in full swing. But it wasn’t all CD reissues and copies of the Swingers soundtrack. Artists like Southern Culture on The Skids and (dare I say…) Richard Cheese were creating new work upon recently old genres. So it’s not surprising we can look back to the 1990s as some of the earliest examples of Exotica music re-envisioned. And while retro acts made Exotica’s contemporary scene, no one else embodied the ‘re-envisioning’ aspect of Post-Exotica music better than JG Thirlwell.
You may not know him by name, but there’s a good chance you’ve heard his music. He’s the composer for famed adult animated shows Venture Bros and Archer (since Season 5), has worked with Marc Almond, Lydia Lunch, Nurse With Wound, Zola Jesus and more, and has released nearly a dozen full length studio albums under his most infamous project: Foetus.
That in mind, it’s not too surprising that his name (or one of dozens of pseudonyms) would show up on a list like this.
By the end of the 80s and into the early 90s, the more ‘artistically-inclined’ members of the Punk and Post-Punk movements were looking to expand past their genre’s established sonic templates. It’s around this time we see the formation of Virginia’s experimental Hardcore outfit Men’s Recovery Project, Germany’s Doom Jazz godfathers Bohren & der Club of Gore, and JG Thirlwell’s expansion into more cinematic, Big Band and Exotica influenced compositions with his project Steroid Maximus.
“…by 1990 I felt that I needed to shift gears and do something that was a little more challenging to me and that’s how I started Steroid Maximus, to create instrumental music that was cinematic and all the sources hadn’t been in my music before. … Since then, I explored doing large scale groups like an 18-piece version of Steroid Maximus which I’ve done in Europe and New York.”
The first Steroid Maximus album ¡Quilombo! was released in 1991 and breaks all conventions. There is no pastiche, only impressions of a former sonic era. The easiest way to describe ¡Quilombo! is to make comparisons to the varied works of Jerry Van Rooyen, Raymond Scott, and Robert Drasnin, though no singular example is particularly accurate. Often lauded for his more violent overtones, Thirlwell achieves work of a greater depth, utilizing the many exotic shades of darkness often overlooked for pure black.
It’s a record that needs to be heard to understand the distance a Post-Exotica record can go. So before you go, I recommend spending a little time ¡Quilombo!
Kava Kon – Virgin Lava (2016)
At times coming across more pastiche than ‘Post’, Kava Kon’s 2016 EP release Virgin Lava is a dark and divine dive into the sonic palette of Exotica music. Not letting 50+ years of audio engineering developments go to waste, Kava Kon have brought the sultry sounds of Exotica into the days of DAW.
When asked about overlooked elements in an interview for Gravedigger’s Local 16, Kava Kon’s Nels Truesdell said:
“A lot of the percussion done on the albums Departure Exotica and Tiki for the Atomic Age was beatboxing. For example 90% of all güiro sounds were done by my mouth. Then we processed it using EQs and compressors on the recordings to give them a more realistic tone. There are so many more examples of unconventional recording techniques used on our albums.”
Featuring two remixes of Doom Jazz icons The Kilimanjaro Darkjazz Ensemble, Virgin Lava touches on the parallels of hyper-aestheticized niche genres, namely that of Post-Exotica and Doom Jazz.
Similarities include an exemplification of Hollywood cinematic themes, ‘extreme’ music genre traits (such as doom metal or noise) crossed with mid-century adult music genres, and nostalgia for periods outside of living memory. But while retro is inherently regressive, both Post-Exotica and Doom Jazz carry with them innovation, distinct sonic palettes, stylistic variants, and great potential.
Iosu Vakerizzo – Forbidden Island (2020)
Iosu Vakerizzo’s Forbidden Island is an excellent work of would-be film score. Hearkening back to pop Exotica’s ornamental novelty, Forbidden Island‘s use of sampling creates sonic depictions of a sea-side land while the album’s minimalist instrumentation creates eerie impressions of an outside world.
The site HipWax described the pop Exotica of the 1950s as “[filling] a niche curiously left open by Afro-Cuban, Hawaiian, and other related music. It is the mood music of place, but no place familiar. …One conjures a torrential rain in the tropics, a jungle safari, or the desert at night. And that is precisely the stuff of exotica: an odd combination of the soothing and stimulating, like nature itself.”
The Post-Exotica work of Iosu Vakerizzo delivers both the stimulating and soothing effect given to us by 1950s Exotica, while building off of its predecessor with the possibilities afforded by Dark Ambient music.
Resident Sound’s first view into the world of Post-Exotica was a review of Iosu Vakerizzo’s previous album The Temple. If you like Forbidden Island, we highly recommend checking out his other work here.
Strange Cousin – Knifes And Smothers (2021)
Released in February of 2021 by American music artist Strange Cousin, the single Knifes And Smothers and its b-side track Houdini Whodon’t’he are a dual approach to Post-Exotica’s sonic possibilities. The titular Knifes And Smothers is a melancholic Dark Ambient work consisting of reversed piano chords and news coverage of an unsolved 1997 homicide. Countering Knifes And Smothers is b-side track Houdini Whodon’t’he, a pummeling cinematic horror show of double kick triplets and wailing horn sections. Real ‘run through the jungle’ energy, an unsettling churning sensation.
German Army – Animals Remember Human (2020)
Animals Remember Human is one of five releases in the year 2020 by the hyper-prolific project Germany Army. GeAr, as they’re sometimes known, is the musique concrete project of Peter Kris and collaborator Norm Heston.
Inspired by the works of Paulo Freire and Sydney Possuelo, the Post-Exotica work of GeAr confronts the colonialist lens of 1950s pop Exotica which we are well familiar with.
When asked about the name German Army in an interview with Stereo Embers Magazine, Peter Kris said:
“I figured it was perfect because one can’t help but notice that at the time there seemed to be a rise in intolerance across the globe. I thought it would be a good name to take and use to actually document language and cultural extinction. Further, I wanted to critique all nationalism and focus on the actions of U.S. imperialism. You could just not bother to pay attention to the name or the message, but if you do, it is very clearly one of anti-imperialism, pro-ecology and for the cultural preservation of those disappeared or who presently have a vanishing language, culture, flora and fauna.”
If Post-Exotica were ever to develop into a fully fledged school of work, we ought to expect the hauntological humanitarian attitudes set forth by German Army to become prototypical.
Chick Vekters – Silicon Island (2021)
Perhaps now the go-to medium of escapist fantasy, video games allow us to fully immerse ourselves in a foreign world. What’s more exotic than that?
Using the retro video game aesthetic genre of Chiptune, Chick Vekters’s 2021 release Silicon Island is rightfully self-described as “an eclectic cocktail of aural adventures!” Heavily rooted in the Chiptune’s 8-bit sound, Silicon Island still delivers the escapist fantasy of island adventure, albeit just a wee bit pixelated.
With songs like Bionic Garden, Neon Forest, and Cathode Ray Reef, Silicon Island plays to the spirit of 1950s pop Exotica, while moving past Exotica’s colonialist past.
A E S T H E T I C S: Post-Exotica, Vaporwave and Aesthetic Niches
‘Post-Exotica’ is a term that has made brief appearances in the Vaporwave world over the past decade, but is Vaporwave the missing link to the development of Post-Exotica?
Vaporwave itself is a genre heavily invested in aesthetic offshoots. From iconic aesthetic-concept albums such as Frasierwave, to the more or less visual genre Simpsonswave. While built across the internet as opposed to regionally, Vaporwave, unlike Post-Exotica has managed to establish a shared set of artifacts, sonic and aesthetic identifiers, and language norms (albeit meme oriented) associated with subcultures.
Both the ability to retrofetishize and simultaneously criticize glory days of existing power structures are traits of both genres, but as a dual mode only particularly integral to Vaporwave.
Vaporwave has shown us that both the micro-genre and aesthetic genre is a place of sonic exploration, even if just as a brief layover on an artist’s greater developmental journey. Will Post-Exotica ever bridge this gap and become a fully fledged subculture and genre? Only time will tell.
Krypto Grotesk is the industrial dub project of duo Konrad Agnas (“drums and transients”) and Anton Sundell (“processing and sounds”). Based in Stockholm, Sweden, Krypto Grotesk’s 2019 release Post Urban Exotica is a refreshing and attention grabbing entry in the all too similar world of electroacoustic instrumental Hip-Hop.
Anton Sundell’s massaging of Konrad Agnas’s organic instrumentation with ‘solid’ or ‘found’ audio creates textural impressions of a cold, urban environment. The clangs and clutters of city life are there reverberating throughout its landscape, while a garbology of European cultural aesthetics haunts on in the form of piano, LP manipulation, and samples of ‘laconic messages’ (anti-smoking meditation tapes).
Unlike the pop-exoticism of the 1950s, Krypto Grotesk’s Post Urban Exotica doesn’t so much employ musical impressions of any perceived place as it does apply an all too likely, weird and eerie dystopian lens upon a shared sense of westernized urbanism.
A great album for fans of the video game Paratopic.
Mirrors is a 2007 EP release by Polish electronic artist and Recognition Records label founder Jacek Sienkiewics. Working as a suite of mood pieces most cohesive on the record’s B-side, Mirrors is repetitive nearly to the point of being hypnotic- enjoyable, though not particularly engaging.
A-side and titular track Mirrors is a quickly revolving showcase of small motifs which sit atop the track’s underlying soft arpeggiated synth-lines, aggressively cut into with glitchy kicks and abrasive synth pads. All of this comes across a bit busy, with no one motif ever quite growing to a greater power within the song. It’s a track that could have ultimately done a little more with a little less.
Mirrors‘s B-side, on the other hand, consists of tracks Drunken Master and 350. The former is a delightfully wonky work of arcade-esque foot thumping and hatcheting hi-hats which carry the punch reminiscent of early 8-bit video games. Continuing this drive albeit with a much more smooth sound is closing track 350. Previous arpeggiated blips now seemingly float away to the sonic periphery in a wash of darkening reverb. The sleek and cool 350, along with the rest of Mirrors, continues to work best as backing mood piece to a would-be video game rather than dance floor worship piece.
Ultimately, Mirrors‘s disinterest in engaging the active listener keeps the album from being a particularly worthwhile listen, but finds strong footing in repetitive and passive listening environments. I recommend giving it a spin the next time you decide to bust out a bullet-hell side-scroller.
Stealthy office park chic for your listening pleasure.
Machines In Care is the 2019 release by the enigmatic Ouxh. Released on Melbourne based LKR Records, Ouxh delivers 3 finely crafted Electro dance tracks over a 17 minute run time.
Titular track Machines In Care sidesteps Electronic music’s fantasy of the singularity for the tranquil co-habitation of our shared world with the man-made, that is to say, printers and the machines used to create the music on this record.
Middle track Birdman opens with the reverberating echo of a dull alarm until kicks and snare get the rhythm flowing like the first lurches of traffic on a cold city morning. Electronic chirps begin to punctuate the track’s cold atmosphere as Birdman’s sweet sunrise melody works its way into focus. Textural warmth of crackles and pops blanket the track as small melodic motifs gradually reveal themselves. It’s sonically serene yet supplies dance floor rhythm worth getting up for.
Much like Ambient music, Machines In Care rewards both active and passive listening by striking a balance of active drive and hypnotic slow growth across much of the album. Throughout, Ouxh utilizes what stereophonic technology has to offer, pushing the bilateral dynamics of each track without waning to cheap psychedelic auditory tricks.
Closing track Coma Void does exactly this with a chopped and processed vocal loop and a delightfully dizzying Kraftwerk-esque staccato melody which swirls around its captive audience. Having traded in winter mornings for a more hyped-up driving force, Coma Void may not necessarily keep the cool tranquility of former tracks, but remains harmonious in Machines In Care’s city-sonic palette and dance floor operations.
Fast, lush, and flushed with attitude abuse. If there was a plug-in and play certified sound for today’s wave of Goth fan music, it would be all over this record.
Originally released on February 7th, 2012, From Now On is a let down. After having become acquainted with and enjoying the algorithm’s favorite track The Porter, From Now On’s opening half is a banal cosplay of Joy Division featuring Cold Wave drum machines and greater layering.
The Porter itself isn’t anything particularly new either, but that’s alright. The Porter shines through with cold, brooding Synth Pop vigor. This new found display of vitality may peak here, but is carried through till the end of the album 2 songs later. Closing track Jasper is a lush instrumental effort reminiscent of The Cure’s earliest work. Even then, Dream Affair never do seem to find anything of themselves on this album.
For fans of: Lust For Youth, Parade Ground, Joy Division
Meth Math’s Perreando Y Llorando single is the spiritual successor to the Space Age Pop exoticism of the late 1950s. Layers of extraterrestrial vocals and soft blips of synthesizers twist and pull apart with great elasticity, grounded by the track’s sensuous pounding mechanical rhythms. Meth Math demands the forfeiture of oneself to the music, creating a truly cerebral detachment from our humanity worn earth.
Is this America’s answer to the UK’s notorious Grime school? If so, I’m along for the ride.
Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em is weird, truly. Ghösh brings the “Rap Rock and the Jungle” in a sort of inverse Pop Will Eat Itself fashion. Sonic aesthetics that seem strange and out of place at first meld together better and better with each listen.
The single’s samples blur your surroundings as they spin by. Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em is an Atlantic hurricane of grime and grit, ecstaticized by its EDM elements and delivering Rock and Industrial aggression. You can feel the electricity in the air.
B-side Beelzebub is perhaps the most American song I’ve ever heard (in a good way). It may be difficult to see anything that’s not more overtly political (such as leading track Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em) as encapsulating the current American cultural milieu, but someone may need to show their grandkids this song in about 50 years and lay it out for them. Right now, it’s the Nu School’s world, and we’re just living in it.
For fans of: Machine Girl, M-Beat, The Crystal Method
The Joyride EP is a 2013 release by Munich based duo Rhode & Brown. Released on the prolific Toy Tonics label out of Berlin, it seems as if Joyride may rely more on its geographic association than sonic connection.
Under Your Spell is a cool and controlled 5 minute bop of near-sterile Deep House. It’s repetitive as one would expect and acts as a decent warm up to what could be a tight electric joint. But Under Your Spell’s following Kyodai Remix is noisier, clunkier. It’s a nice textural change, but does little in engaging the listener in the song’s chord progression. The choice to switch to a heavy-handed piano sound brings more attention to its repetitive nature, and contributes to a more disjointed element across the album.
Titular track Joyride starts off with a chopped and wailing vocal hook and massive kicks. It’s not bad, but this new found energy comes across a bit awkward after the Under Your Spell set.
Closing track Floating Figures shows the album’s return to its initial Deep House sterility: emotionally repressed, cool and collected.
The album itself is a half-mellow excursion into noncommittal electronic music. Joyride EP is Greatly lacking in Electronic’s rhythmic power over the body, a demand for the music to take control, an unconscious connection to groove.
For fans of: St. Germain, DJ Boring, Ross From Friends