(Photo by Anne Morgenstern)
For this Under the Influence piece we caught up with Swiss sound artist / musician Simon Grab. On November 8th he released an album titled Posthuman Species on the Swiss label -OUS (NHK yx Koyxen, Senking et al). The album bends synapses and is great experienced through headphones.
“Recorded on a no-input-mixing setup consisting of low frequency oscillators, filters, analogue effects and a mixer patched with itself, the album sneaks up on dub and leftfield electronica from the side. Over time, the self-oscillating setup falls in and out of tune with itself, emphasising its transient nature. The album is a work of science fiction, telling the story of a time when «The New Kind» shapes its own wonderland.”
Read about Simon’s three most influential albums below and check out his album here: https://simongrab.bandcamp.com/album/posthuman-species
Kortatu – Kortatu 1985
Being socialised in a rather punk and hardcore environment around the end of the 80s, I got engaged in political movements, supporting anarchist structures and direct action, standing up for an anti-fascist and anti-capitalist society. Despite all the BS going on, I still had a positive attitude. Ska music was key to that, firstly influenced by The Specials with their inspiring anti-racist presence and their clear positioning against the National Front. Kortatu was the punk equivalent with even more radical engagement, not only in their consequent support of the local independency movement of Euskadi, but also with an internationalist awareness. Having had a ska punk band myself, I was especially impressed by their nicely rolling bass lines and their in-your-face simplicity. I admired their open mind when evolving into Negu Gorriak, experimenting with drum machines, Rap and Dub. Until today I’m always curious when vocalist Fermin Muguruza presents a new project, staying true to resistance and experiments.
Shy FX – Just an Example 1995
Before the 90s I didn’t have that much contact to or insights into black soundsystem culture, somehow missing the right niches back then. There were some reggae systems around, which I did enjoy, but a lot of them were attracting the hippie style weed smoking community romanticizing old revolutionary idols, always believing in the inherent good in people (I’ve gone through the hippie thing as a teen, I’m being self-ironic here, and fortunately I later found punk for myself). Anyhow, concerning electronic sounds Zurich was more known for minimal techno, but the rave scene has always been internationally well connected, so there was more and more music coming over from London.
And then: booooom, there was jungle appearing. I was literally blown away by the dub bass over the broken double speed drums, reduced to the max, with fragments of radical Jamaican ragga vocals. You could dance freely to the stuttering chaos, the pitch downs, the gunshot sounds and the dub sirens, before settling back into the huge bass and moving to the dub underneath it all.
And it was a huge relief because, besides being a DIY culture squatting strange places, rave politics has always had this hedonistic, introspective side. Drop out of society for the weekend, go to dreamland with your local community and don’t give a fuck about daily business and politics. But be back at work on Monday. Or Tuesday. Jungle had more to offer, was explicitly politicized. Unfortunately, it did not last that long and Jungle soon turned into Drum’n’Bass, mostly straightening out the edges, soothing the political messages, commercialising it to suit a wider audience. For me Shy FX’s Just An Example has since been THE example of that era. Interestingly my kids love to dance to this album since they were five. They go completely wild, dancing in their own ways, jumping around with the volume turned up to eleven.
Pain Killer – Guts of a Virgin 1991
I saw John Zorn at some free jazz festival, must have been with Fred Frith, but can’t remember if it was already the Naked City project. For me, Zorn stood out as somebody who had a special urgency in his way of expression, with an extra portion of musical madness. Later by chance I stumbled upon the Pain Killer album in the famous RecRec store in Zurich where it was on sale (and I have to admit I was going to buy it for the cover even before reading who it was and even before listening). I was then not only surprised finding Bill Laswell on bass, who I would later follow for a long time on his journey into dub, but there was also Mick Harris from Napalm Death on drums, who I still admire for his electronic projects like Scorn and Fret. Through John Zorn I discovered the New York noise rock scene around the Knitting Factory (with a live album by No Safety being on repeat for quite a while), opening my perspectives further to the pioneers of experimental music.