It’s pretty difficult to bottle together Human Conduct Records as a uniform whole. Portions of their output could pass as material from your average Joe’s favorite freak folk label, whereas the opposite is true for their less accessible releases. An understandable slight of ambivalence may sour your first impression of HCR–and that’s certainly not abnormal in this case. Uncertainty to the nature of the noise going through your headphones can, after all, be a bit daunting. The fact is: that’s precisely the sort of thing you have to expect when you’re talking about a group of people who aren’t afraid to embrace the atonal and arrhythmic in pursuit of artistic expression. I mean, they do call some music “abrasive” for a reason.
Human Conduct was founded in Baltimore during the late 90s by Ari (Ari and the Shanks) & Abe Schenck along with Rick Weaver (The New Flesh), who appears on a number of their releases. Since then, HCR has garnered quite the reputation in many anti-traditionalist circles. Coming straight out of their website, they apparently specialize in “lo-fi, hi-fi, and mid-brow” jams, mostly local but not always. That being said, I now welcome you to the world of Human Conduct Records. I’ll be going through their most recent releases by the way of our own Zack Turowski, sans alcohol. I hope to present a meaty survey of Human Conduct’s most current catalog–whilst attempting to circumvent my beloved rants about the theory (or potential lack thereof) behind experimental music. Later segments will be focused on individual artists.
The Human Conduct - Detox Program
The following is an inventory of the contents found in a Dogipot plastic bag (one of those bags made for ‘cleaning up’ after your pet) labeled “The Human Conduct Detox Program:”
- A four-page packet. The title page is basically a vague introduction that never exactly explains why you’re “detoxing” in the first place. The second page is filled to the brim with what looks like Times New Roman at 4pt. I didn’t bother to read it, and my eyes thanked me. The third page (the “Table of Contents”) is a concise tracklist, and the fourth page details the credits for each track.
- A show flyer with a lovely little note on the back, wishing me well.
- A CDR with the word DETOX sprawled on the front (in all caps).
And with that, I knew I was in for a treat. I’m not sure if the audio is meant to be listened to in the context of an album or as a collection, but the artistry appears to be less fluid than one could expect from a straight-play record–so we’ll assume that the Human Conduct Detox Program is a bona-fide compilation. The tracklisting mostly concentrates on HCR’s free noise department; and to spare you what easily could turn out to be an endless dissertation on the relative quality (and faults thereof) regarding each artist, I’ll just run through the highlights.
Put in bold terms, White Suns kicked the most ass per-capita with “Summer Tape Mix.” It’s so good that even conceptualizing this sort of sound seems like a gifted act, much less laying it down to disc. And that’s all I’m going to say about that. Elsewhere, (D)(B)(H) worked in a few exceptional contributions; “A Rotten Gestating Sea” is already-atypical free-jazz sent through a lo-fi filter, and the remarkably affecting “Egg Bag” sounds like it might actually just be someone stomping around in shredded glass for sixty-three seconds–which does not, in fact, imply that the track lacks any amount of ingenuity.
However, the same cannot be said for many of the tracks. Along with the slightest bit of less-inspired sound (namely Byron House’s “Nighthawks,” and both “Stage Magic” and “Hands Tied” by Gang Wizard), the entire disc loses momentum–and the listener suffers a correspondingly large drop in motivation. Harsh vibrations just get a bit draining when there’s no life in them. When you get down to it, Detox would do far better to exclude the more sterile tracks–even if the comprehensiveness of the collection is at stake. Then again, there’s no stopping the noise while it’s good, and on this comp it usually is.
Occasional Detroit / Gay Bomb – Collaborative 7”
I love it when an avant-garde piece retains some semblance of selfhood throughout its whole. What’s great is that every wave on Occasional Detroit & Gay Bomb’s Collaborative 7” realizes its place in the cut immediately. Although the product can’t rightly be called smooth-surfaced–I wouldn’t go as far as to say it’s a bumpy ride either. It has a distinct way of acting jerky and frictionless simultaneously. The end result is a pristine collection of electronic samples, popping like a Saturday Morning cartoon.
Likewise, there’s still more to love: Occasional Detriot & Gay Bomb’s outrageously ardent excursion into sample-bred grandeur lacks any real, practical inhibition. Their particular aesthetic seems to be one that fears nothing but momentary contact with stern minimalism. In that way, the material becomes uniquely endearing–a 7″ that hasn’t reflected on whether or not its individuality might work against the aims of its experimentalist method–and I’d say the minds behind the sound are all better off that way.
I don’t know what the fuck to make of Logged and Loaded. There are varying points on Form A Log’s cassette where you’ll find their silly-yet-artistic experimentation play out at its most robust–yet other sections will quickly decline such an inviting aesthetic in favor of overdone future-space atmospherics. It’s a lot of hit and miss.
To be fair, every sample considered is interesting in its own right–it’s just the fluctuation that’s the trouble here. And you know what? None of that would cause much of a stumble if they’d only included a tracklist in the citrus-orange case. Something to denote parts from a whole would undoubtedly help this listener, if only to add a visual representation of the ground covered. I’d definitely listen in if I were you, but be warned: Logged and Loaded runs deeper than even the thickest of HCR’s experimental noise.
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