Trace Amount

Trace Amount isn’t a phrase you really want to hear dropped into casual conversation too much as in “your bowl of Lucky Charms contains a trace amount of cadmium and other toxic heavy metals” or “that hot dog you’re currently enjoying is just under the federally mandated limit for trace amounts of rat feces” with the implication being that even a trace amount of a poisonous substance can f*ck you up that is if it doesn’t kill you outright. 

The same goes for trace amounts of highly contagious social and/or biological viral agents, which under the right/wrong conditions (as recently verified) have the potential to spread unchecked and infect an entire body or body politic, especially when catalyzed by systemic corruption-exploitation-injustice-inequality and with the worst-case-scenario result being pervasive societal rot or even potential eventual societal breakdown.

So ok that’s all just some of my idle musings there (!) but musings that apply to the music at hand. Brandon Gallagher’s industrial music project Trace Amount takes the double-speak of “trace amounts” being unheeded until it’s too late to heart. Following up on his debut 2019 EP Fake Figures in the Sacred Scriptures with a second EP Endless Render a couple months ago, Gallagher describes the latter project as being “about all of the uncertainties and varying levels of anxiety that were felt during the times of quarantine, the feelings about the recent upsurge in police brutality and political injustice, and first hand encounters of other people’s ignorance regarding basic human rights in general.” 

So yeah that pretty much covers it. The track “Pop Up Morgues” is a good example of how hardcore/industrial music is well suited to confront these ugly truths given that the genre already has the necessary musical vocabulary in place for portraying and possibly purging extreme ugliness--in kick ass form of course otherwise why would we listen--ideally proving true that great lyric that John Lydon (who was once not embarrassing) introduced in PiL’s “Rise” years ago namely that “anger is an energy” and an energy desperately in need today if we’re gonna even hope to survive.

But that’s a ridiculous amount of pressure to put on any artist which is probably why the most unrelenting and bleak music so often comes with a Black Mirror-esque messed-up humor flipside and Trace Amount is no exception. Laughing at all this crazy shit can be a first step in realizing and exposing its absurdity. Along those lines Gallagher also happens to be a visual artist and video artist in addition to a musician and he brings out this side in his collaboration with BTKGOD where they imagine the end of the world through a classic throwback War of the Worlds alien invasion type scenario while bringing more of a synthwave vibe to the mix.

And speaking of collaborations I’d be remiss not to mention Trace Amount’s latest project which is a full and fully re-imagined remix of his first EP by Blake Harrison from East Coast grindcore legends Pig Destroyer retitled Under the Skin in its new form. And sorry but I regret to inform you that listening to the remixed EP will not conjure up Scarlett Johansson in alien form ready to f*uck you and submerge you in oily viscous goo for a future snack. But it does include a remix of the track “Scarlett Johansson” which maybe counts for something to all you craven monsters.

And finally moving in the other direction you should know that Trace Amount/Brandon Gallagher is one half of the two-piece hardcore/grindcore/sludgecore/mathcore band Coarse whose latest EP features the song “The People of the State of New York vs. Coarse” inspired by the bandmates being arrested by the NYPD in late 2018 for putting up promotional wheat paste posters around lower Manhattan and was also inspired by the Cure’s epically bleak, seminally goth LP Pornography (1982) which finally leads us to Trace Amount’s pretty awesome cover of a pretty awesome Cure track off that very same album as seen above. (Jason Lee)


Cleared "Breathing Ring"

Cleared, the duo of Steven Hess and Michael Vallera, recently released a single called "Breathing Ring" via the London label Touch.

This is the first new music from the experimental electronic music producers since the release of 2020 full-length album, The Key.


Black Marble: "All I Want For Christmas Is You"

We all know that Mariah Carey is a lovely and talented woman but let’s face it if you hear her singing “All I Want For Christmas Is You” just one more time you may end up bashing in the head of the nearest reindeer with an oversized candy cane and no one wants that for Christmas. So, in the interest of concerned reindeer everywhere, we suggest that you scratch that XXXmas lust song itch with a new cover version of “All I Want” by Black Marble instead. 

Replacing Mariah Carey’s whistle tone and Tony Mattola in a Santa suit with Casiotones, Korgs and a synthetic cowbell and sleigh bells disco groove--and a music video homage to Paul Simon's "You Can Call Me Al"--is a stroke of genius and feels about right for Christmas: The 2020 Edition and plus it’s a perfect coda to Black Marble’s covers EP from earlier this year entitled I Must Be Living Twice (which is well worth checking out on it’s own merits--surely the first covers album ever to features songs by both Wire and Robert Palmer). 

And if that’s not enough, and why should it be, you can also find “All I Want” on the hour-long Synthmas: A Holiday Special featuring performances from the likes of The Space Lady, Neon Indian, Mac DeMarco, Dam-Funk, Drugdealer and more, so many many more. Hosted by Maraschino and Jimmy Whispers--truly this generation’s Donnie & Marie Osmond--with an assist by a sardonic, chain-smoking magical talking Christmas tree, no one has seen holiday-themed musical numbers like these since Bea Arthur serenaded a giant extraterrestrial rat in the Star Wars Holiday Special and that’s been over 40 years ago. And yes, I mean that as a compliment so check it out or else you may find some coal in your fishnet stockings. And while you're at it click those links and spread some holiday cheer to Save Our Stages and the Alexandria House. (Jason Lee)


2020 Year In Review: Acetone 4


No, this isn’t the headline from a recent Weekly World News cover story but instead a legit National Geographic headline posted online two days ago. The mysterious radio signal in question was detected by an organization called Breakthrough Listen, a project with $100 million in funding that’s taken on the task of monitoring over a million stars for radio or laser transmissions. The signal appears to originate from Proxima Centauri which is the star nearest to our very own sun and that happens to have two planets in its own orbit, one of which, known as Planet B, resembles Earth with its rocky surfaces, temperate environment, and extensive network of Wawa franchises (ok, I made that last part up). This transmission has been labelled BLC-1.

The band: Acetone 4. The band’s music: A bit mysterious, more than a bit mesmeric. The band’s identity: Even more mysterious. The music of Acetone 4 sounds like it’s been beamed to this planet from across the universe, and it’s my working hypothesis that this is in fact precisely the case. In other words, BLC-1 equals Acetone 4. A transmission from the satellite heart. A sad, sexy satellite heart. Acetone 4 have released two songs thus far alongside a couple photos posted on Instagram and Bandcamp: one ghostly, blown-out Polaroid of the band in humanoid form (see above) and one other spectral image. And that’s it. Otherwise there’s no names attached and no other information or explanation of any kind provided. So yes, this is obviously the work of extraterrestrials attempting to utilize our primitive social media to reach out to the cosmos. 

The first song to be shot out into the ether by Acetone 4 is called “Linden Hill.” This is a name of the neighborhood in Queens where the Proxima Centaurians clearly plan to set up their first base of operation. The track opens with the sound of an interstellar beacon sending out a scratchy, repeated distress signal. A few seconds later they wisely add a guitar melody to help keep the humans’ attention and next there’s some droney, pulsating synth and a thumping beat accompanied by a female voice simulator unit that appears to be singing in English, but the words are mostly indecipherable. All the while you can hear the Proxima Centaurians in the background working on emergency spacecraft repairs with little bleeps and bloops echoing into the vastness of space. This transmission was received on 17 August of this year and its proceeds benefit the Sex Workers Outreach Program of Brooklyn in solidarity with misunderstood and demonized "Others" across all dimensions.

The second and most recent transmission was received on 5 September 2020. The Proxima Centaurians are clearly beginning to get a better grasp of our modes of communication and psychological points of entry. The track "PSR" (mysterious acronyms!) kicks in straight away with a slinky beat that’s likely to prick up the ears of most homo sapiens and to lead many of them to look up some Internet porn. Then there's some garbled alien communication not unlike the sounds of truckers on their CB radios to our human ears. Enter the female voice simulator unit again saying something along the lines of “Trying to pull together / reflect in a dream” followed by “call / response / no answer” which aptly summarizes our collective failure to establish contact. From here the voice unit repeats a sort of stressed-out mantra declaring “insomnia / no dreams” and it’s obvious the Proxima Centaurians are getting to better understand this planet and our current precarious situation. Whether this will all result in them wanting to help us out, or to get the hell out of Dodge, remains to be seen.


Here’s hoping that Acetone 4 reestablishes contact in 2021. It may be our only hope. (Jason Lee)


Octonomy livestreams from Elsewhere 12.11.20

Octonomy is a Brooklyn-based sound artist whose work ranges from ambient-floating-in-the-clouds reveries (4•3•3•6) to glitchy-grimy-down-in-the-dirt noise sculptures (0) to vocal-based work combining ambient/noise elements with what I’m calling “interdimensional electropop” (Warhorse). It’s a heady mix that’ll get under your skin so head on over to the Elsewhere rooftop tonight via Twitch (note: the physical space is closed to the public for the winter) and get your mind and body right through the strange magic of electronically-generated sound waves and real-time virtual broadcasting. 

For a sneak preview you can check out the Octonomy live set below filmed in the halcyon days of the Summer of Covid. This performance was part of DJ Vox Sinistra’s weekly Strict Tempo series--likewise streaming on Twitch and still going strong--a showcase that originated at Seattle’s Mercury@Machinewerks late last year but which now features a cavalcade of DJs and live acts transmitting from locales across the globe every Thursday night starting at 7PST/10EST. Since the plague hit it’s been this writer’s weekly goto fix for electro-punk, coldwave/darkwave/minimal wave, cybergoth, acid and industrial, dark techno, synth pop and synthwave, EBM, and "all things cold, dark and wave-y" with due attention given to cool visuals and S&M-derived fashions.

In the meantime look out for new music coming soon from Octonomy on Faktor Records. And also on the Elsewhere bill you'll get some bonus Khadija with proceeds going to the important work of the National Bail Out collective--a “Black-led and Black-centered collective” working to “end systems of pretrial detention and ultimately mass incarceration.”
(Jason Lee) (photo credit: Chthonic Streams)