Disco Nihilist, Disco Nihilist

[Love What You Feel]


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Dance music has always had a DIY spirit that puts punk to shame. Not in a band? Just put on some records. Can’t play an instrument? Buy a sequencer. Can’t get signed? Start your own label. It is this mindset that brings us Disco Nihilist’s first release, in both literal and aesthetic terms. Label Love What You Feel is masterminded by Thomas Cox — proprietor of infinitestatemachine and frequent LWE commenter — who discovered the Austin, Texas producer’s work through Myspace. The process of putting out the record (no surprise, it’s vinyl only) has even been documented in a series of posts on ISM. The label seems to be aptly titled; this is not the work of professionals or insiders, but of dedicated fans.

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It is not only the release of the record that bears the traces of that bricolage approach characteristic of early dance music. The press release proudly proclaims that Disco Nihilist not only produces his tracks on analog sequencers, he records them to cassette tape. It sounds like it. No movie-soundtrack pads here, no swooshing breakdowns, no Pro-Tooled diva vocals. If this record is out of touch with the present, it’s because it reclaims the music of the past’s insistence on sounding like the future. While overproduced dance music makes use of technology in a manner reminiscent of Transformers 2, Disco Nihilist’s work is more like Shane Carruth’s 2004 masterpiece Primer: low budget, low profile, and highly awesome.

These four untitled tracks are clearly made by someone who loves house music, has studied it closely, and has trimmed it down to essentials. Snare rolls and kick flutters on “A1” weave through insistent chords and a funky 303, with deep, meditative results; “B2” makes a similar formula dark and aggressive. “A2” is a sparse workout for blips and beeps, while the dubby, spaced-out “B1” milks an 808 cowbell for all it’s worth. Which is a hell of a lot, in case you were wondering. This record is an auspicious debut for both artist and label — hopefully the future brings not just more from them, but more like them as well.

kuri  on July 23, 2009 at 3:17 PM

Woah, Pipecock gets his own tag for this review!

No, audio? C’mon Tom, surely you could offer up a low bitrate version for the masses to get a taste of this most awesome release?

littlewhiteearbuds  on July 23, 2009 at 3:27 PM

Refresh your page, Kuri. We had a broken URL which has since been fixed.

ballyhoo  on July 23, 2009 at 5:29 PM

“Dance music has always had a DIY spirit that puts punk to shame.”
Please explain. As it stands, this sentence simply boggles the mind. moreover, what’s with the arbitrary distinction between dance music and punk in the first place?

“Not in a band? Just put on some records.”
you can make punk music by yourself; you don’t need a band.

“Can’t play an instrument? Buy a sequencer.”
you don’t need to know how to “play” an instrument to make punk. that’s the whole point.

“Can’t get signed? Start your own label.”
because people who made punk didn’t self-release vinyl, cassettes, CDRs, zines…

the desperate bicycles’ idea behind DIY was “it was easy, it was cheap – go and do it.” in 2009, putting out your tracks as digital releases is just as DIY in the original sense as a vinyl enthusiast putting out a guy’s exclusively-analogue music exclusively on vinyl, if not more so. As they say, the medium is the tedium.

I don’t think anyone is questioning pipecock’s passion for music, and he should be congratulated for starting his own label. But your insinuation that his model, which is largely informed by a certain aesthetic, is more valid an approach to DIY than say Irdial’s, is reductive and partisan.

Shuja Haider  on July 23, 2009 at 8:38 PM

ballyhoo, i appreciate your taking the review seriously enough to criticize it. however, you have clearly fallen on a priori conclusions, making your call for an explanation seem rather disingenuous. your own elaboration, as a result, becomes more antagonistic than substantive.

punk in both its london and new york (and west coast and dc, etc) incarnations comprises a different movement (or set of movements) from house, techno, electro, or their descendants, in spite of some degree of mutual appreciation and influence. your baffling complaint that i would make a distinction between culturally (not to mention geographically) different scenes smacks of sophistry. further, “you don’t need to know how to ‘play’ an instrument to make punk” is one of the most boring rock critic platitudes. punk usually displays rather traditional musical trappings of pop and rock, requiring its practitioners to own an instrument and know how to play chords, nearly always while in a band. for me, that’s not a contradiction; in fact it’s why i love punk.

the conclusion you came to yourself–that i’m insinuating love what you feel and disco nihilist’s approach is more valid than one which uses digital means of production and distribution–is absolutely not a position i hold. perhaps i disagree with tom and mike about this. that’s fine. regardless, i found this release a compelling aesthetic exercise that made a statement about particular aspects of dance music and its history (like primer does about sci-fi, also using outdated, bare-bones techniques to come up with something brilliantly contemporary). equally importantly, i think it’s great dance music. i will be playing this record in my own sets.

i concede that “putting punk to shame” was an overstatement, but it was meant to be. it’s a partly performative position, almost a thought experiment, one worth conducting in light of both the stink of capital that has plagued certain kinds of dance music since the nineties (progressive house, anyone?) and the common prejudice that rock, especially punk, is inherently rebellious critique while dance is mindless hedonism. my mistake framing my argument in terms of difference rather than congruity. i don’t, however, think that merited your dismissive tone and ad hominem accusation of “partisanship.”

Q  on July 24, 2009 at 8:59 PM

That tape hiss is so authentic! Way to keep it real youngblood!

Chris Burkhalter  on July 25, 2009 at 3:56 AM

I don’t think I know anyone who finds it “easier” to program 25-year-old drum machines than a computer software package. I don’t see that debates of DIY or not-DIY go very far with regard to this record. Making a raw, old-skool sounding record in 2009 (be it punk, techno, noise, or house) is usually more an aesthetic decision than one of means or work ethic. Yes, Q, sometimes this boils down to little more than affecting a style but, I hope, it’s more often a case of artists building on the sounds that they love most. And that’s what I get from the Disco Nihilist record…

bob  on July 25, 2009 at 4:35 PM

I have heard that Disco Nihilist used to be homeless and the music sounds bad because all his cassettes got melty in the the Texas heat.

ballyhoo  on July 26, 2009 at 1:35 PM

mea culpa regarding the partisanship accusation, shuja. i guess your polemic seemed to have ruffled my feathers a bit, so my comment came off as a bit peeved.

to work through your logic further:

“punk in both its london and new york (and west coast and dc, etc) incarnations comprises a different movement (or set of movements) from house, techno, electro, or their descendants, in spite of some degree of mutual appreciation and influence. your baffling complaint that i would make a distinction between culturally (not to mention geographically) different scenes smacks of sophistry.”
even at the level of a highly-localized, (supposedly) boundary-oriented image of cultural form, such as a specific city’s punk scene, the relationship between punk and and dance music goes beyond mutual appreciation and influence. cabaret voltaire, their involvement with the sheffield punk scene, and collaboration with marshall jefferson on groovy, laidback and nasty is probably one of the better known examples in defense of my “sophistry” that punk and dance music cannot be distinguished from each other so simply.

“further, “you don’t need to know how to ‘play’ an instrument to make punk” is one of the most boring rock critic platitudes.”
regardless of how often critics spirit this in defense of rock, thereby devaluing it somewhat as cliche, to dismiss the sentiment outright as platitude comes off as a tad arrogant. seefeel had a who-gives-a-fuck, punk ethos about their guitar playing, recontextualized it within ambient techno, and came up with the non-boring quique.

“punk usually displays rather traditional musical trappings of pop and rock, requiring its practitioners to own an instrument and know how to play chords, nearly always while in a band. for me, that’s not a contradiction; in fact it’s why i love punk.”
i could say dance music usually displays rather traditional music trappings of a 4/4 beat, requiring its practitioners to own drums/a drum machine and know how to sequence a kit of sounds, nearly always in a studio, but both you and i know that’s hardly the point.

Rodger Roundchuck  on July 26, 2009 at 1:54 PM

I think this is the most profound underground house 12″ of the year. I like to sit naked in a dark room eating smoked salmon while this is playing. The A2 makes me think about the sustainability of our economic model and the existential crisis we are facing in the western world. Sometimes I find myself choking back tears when I am alone in elevators…

gmos  on July 29, 2009 at 6:07 AM

shut up and dance you muthas! :)

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