Primitive Sci-Fi

The first thing you noticed were the words “Chicago” and “Detroit” becoming adjectives rather than nouns. A Chicago Sound, A Detroit Sound – you can find a hundred tracks released each day described as such.

Then came the death of the regional sound – even saying the words “West Coast sound” today is mildly embarrassing. Maybe it always was, but for the purposes of communication, it did the job: you said “West Coast” and someone envisioned breaks, funky basslines and heavily sampled vocals.

And now we’re in the final phase, where there are no more nouns. Just adjectives. If there’s any “sound” today, it’s the clean, flawless tone of Ableton – the creepy musical equivalent of the Uncanny Valley.

But the comfortingly anarchic approach to making music isn’t dead yet. It’s increasingly being made by a small niche of “gear dudes” and shared on vinyl.

So we come to “Primitive Sci-Fi”, a project of Oliver Dodd and Alex J Michalski. All four tracks were written, performed and recorded live in a single day (December 9, 2012). It’s important to note, even more than differences in distribution or a vinyl vs. digital argument that nobody is keen on having anymore – it’s important to note that once a lot of records were made like this. In Chicago (the noun), you’re talking about a group of guys that were teenagers in the ’80s and thus just on the outer edge of the Warehouse generation but who fully staffed the second wave. This was the group centered around Armando Gallop, Terry Hunter, Mike Dunn, Paul Johnson, Gershon Jackson, Robert Armani and it was especially the last that I think left behind a blueprint. “Circus Bells” (probably my favorite track of all time) was recorded live, nearly all of that stuff was, because of the shared equipment they all used and the lack of experience in (and money to easily afford) a studio.

All four tracks here are called “Untitled” and all of them feature an array of dazzling 707s, 303s and other machines. A1 has almost a terraced effect – one line after another, sometimes intersecting, sometimes superseding. A2 is that kind of track in which acid takes the spotlight, hard lines from the 303 pressed into the drum patterns like a key into clay. Oliver and Alex make these machines sing, sometimes in tune, sometimes not, but with the same gorgeous effect either way.