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This week on The Upstate Soundscape the two heads of Rochester label //cae-sur-a//–Cory E. Card and Jen Marquart–will be in studio to play some tunes from their label’s catalog, including some unreleased stuff that you won’t hear anywhere else.
As a label, //cae-sur-a// has played an important role in the development of The Upstate Soundscape radio show, not only by supplying it with killer sounds, but also by expanding the show’s focus (and then audience) beyond the city of Buffalo.
It all started way back in November of 2010 when our little radio show (then going by simply The Soundscape) had only been on the air (on a different signal, mind you) for a little over a month. While the show has been dedicated to experimental music and sound since the beginning, the regional focus of the show didn’t start to come into being until a brand new label from Rochester emailed me about some underground cassettes they were releasing.
That label was //cae-sur-a //.
It was after hearing how great those three original tapes were (which included personal favorite Tone Arm by Buffalo’s Steve Bazckowski) did the idea to make The Soundscape an experimental radio show for the Upstate region really come into being. After finding //cae-sur-a//, I began poking around to see what other labels might be working in the region….little did I know how much I was about to stumble on to.
So it’ll be with great pleasure to welcome Jen and Cory to the studio this Wednesday night to talk about their label, which has grown up alongside The Upstate Soundscape, a radio show that they’ve had an indirect hand in building.
For now, check out this interview with Cory and Jen below, and also check out the mix Cory made for us that was posted yesterday.
What is the story behind //cae-sur-a//? How and when did it get started? What was the motivation behind the label’s creation?
Cory and Jen: We began //cae-sur-a// mid-2010, over a conversation we were having about the idea and desire to run a label, mainly to promote the work of friends and artists that we admire.
Tell us about the //cae-sur-a// team and whoever else is involved with running the label.
Cory and Jen: //cae-sur-a// is a two person (Jen Marquart and Cory E. Card) operation with occasional contributions from friends. Holger Adam from Phantom Limbo and Test Card has written copy for us and Mike Tarantelli is working on some artwork for an upcoming release.
Are there any labels out there that you patterned //cae-sur-a// after or strove to emulate? What labels, past or present, do you admire?
Cory and Jen: We really admire labels that work to establish their own personal aesthetic, maintaining a commitment to putting out great music with attention to both auditory and visual details. Some of these are also close friends whom we have looked to for advice as well as inspiration: Dais Records, Period.Tapes, Robert & Leopold, Tape Drift, Carbon Records, Brave Mysteries, SicSic Tapes. –
What’s your take on the current state of experimental music in general? Is this a good or bad time to be an experimental artist/fan?
Jen: I really don’t think about it much. What is meant by “experimental music” has become so vague. On the positive side of the spectrum this means that the genre is continuously morphing and changing, but it also means that “experimental music” also falls prey to taste-makers and the “anything goes” attitude of its not so experimental counterparts. Is it ever a bad time to be a fan of anything? It’s definitely easier to be a fan of experimental music these days, which is always a plus.
Cory: The one thing that I think is all at once interesting, exciting and at times detrimental to the whole genre is the ratio of participants to audience (you will even see evidence of this in some of our own answers above and below). In many cases and situations they are one in the same. On the positive front, the dialogue that evolves can become quite complex, but it can also quickly devolve into an insular perspective, leading to potential stagnation and exclusivity.
Any releases you’ve heard from 2012 yet that stand out to you?
Cory: Tuurd – I Wish My Wife Was This Dirty (Carbon Records ,CR198). I am also am highly anticipating the new Rain Drinkers LP on Brave Mysteries.
Jen: It’s a bit early in the year for me to commit to such a question… Definitely the Tuurd-I Wish My Wife Was This Dirty LP. I’m looking forward to what else this year has to offer.
Tell us about some of cae-sur-a current and upcoming releases.
Cory and Jen: This year we are picking up the pace even more, we have a ton of great releases planned including our first two vinyl releases, the first of which will be Velvet Elvis’ debut full length, which should be out around April or May, the second is by the German trio Autistic Argonauts, which will see a release in late Autumn/Early Winter.
Last month we released our second Velvet Elvis tape No Rules in the Wasteland and our first split between Giant Claw and The Cats’ Orchestra. These two are highly contrasting in approach, Velvet Elvis being a straight up stoner/doom rock band while the split contains two forward thinking electronic meditations.
Up next we have tapes by psych/folk duo April in the Orange, drone/folk trio Riasni Drova Consort, the minimal electronics of Lefterna as well as some amazing tapes by our good friends Rambutan and Fossils From the Sun, BLACK CHALK, Fear Konstructor and a whole lot more. You can check our forthcoming page on our website.
8) Is there a past release that you feel deserves a second look?
Cory and Jen: Thats a hard one… as I really love everything we have put out. If I had to pick one to gain more attention than it has I would say the Novoe Tsarstvo release that we did back in September.
Any advice for aspiring label owners?
Cory: Have patience, only release stuff you can really stand behind, and budget appropriately
Jen: I don’t think Cory emphasized patience enough! patience// patience// patience, plus realistic goals and devotion.
Any Upstate artists/labels you are really into at the moment? Any one we should look out for?
Cory and Jen: As far as labels go, the ones run by friends we have known and worked with for many years: House of Alchemy, Tape Drift, and Carbon Records are always doing great things, that respect and excitement turns into the musicians as well: Tuurd, Rambutan, Fossils from the Sun, Burnt Hills, Century Plants, April in the Orange, Velvet Elvis, Jungle Heart, Pengo, Blood and Bone Orchestra, Licker, Foot and Mouth Disease, Harold Biffen, Andy Gilmore R(ockin) Scott Oliver and our friend Jarek Miller who plays drums with our band Stone Baby sometimes.
What’s the experimental scene like in Rochester? Where would you tell somebody to go if they came to Rochester wanting to see experimental music?
Cory and Jen: Rochester has a long history within the experimental music world, extended back, to our knowledge, to the beginning of Joe Tunis’s Carbon Records in the 90’s, but most likely way before so there are some heavy hitters such as Pengo (who have been in existence for a long time), Coffee and many of the other bands mentioned above (for a more complete history talking to Joe Tunis, John Schoen, Nuuj or Jason Finkbeiner would be of the essence).
The scene really revolves around a certain level of interconnectivity and crossover; I believe Joe Tunis alone has some 14 projects active and inactive. As for venues since the A|V Space closed there has not really been anything stable. Occasionally Rochester Contemporary Art Center will put something on, and there are also sporadic shows at the Bug Jar, as well as house shows that pop up here and there. To come and see something you would probably have to know the participants or someone who knows them to be able to fully experience it.
How does somebody get a hold of //cae-sur-a//’s stuff?
Cory and Jen: The ideal place is our website. We sell on Discogs under CommonError. Carbon Records and Flipped Out Records run by Jackson Wingate carry all our releases and both have some of our out-of-print titles, such as Steve Baczkowski’s Tone Arm and Pine Smoke Lodge’s Season Above Lakes. I cannot recommend either of them enough for quality distribution and as stand up individuals.
We also have some releases distributed through Eclipse Records, Tomentosa, 905 Tapes and DNT Records.
If you are in Rochester and into grabbing stuff at a store, all current //cae-sur-a// titles are available at Needledrop Records.
As a cassette-only label, what’s your take on the re-emergence of the cassette as a legit medium to release music on?
Cory: I have a deep running attachment to cassettes; I think I got my first tape when I was 5 (Springsteen’s Born in the USA, still have it), made mix tapes constantly throughout my teens and into my 20’s, my Master of Fine Arts thesis was all about their physicality, so all in all I can say I am excited about cassettes in general. Though they may not have the best sound, they have a durability and physicality that is lacking in other mediums, plus they are relatively cheap to produce.
Jen: My Sony Walkman was my best friend growing up. I could fill an entire bag with cassette tapes to get through family vacations or uncomfortable wedding receptions/ graduations/ retirement parties etc. There is a definite nostalgia: shoving paper wads in a Tiffany tape (unwanted birthday present) so i could record songs off the radio and having just enough money for cassingles. Most of our generation has some similar connection with the medium. Does that legitimize tapes? Not a clue.
Tune in Wednesday night at 10pm to 91.3 FM WBNY to hear Jen and Cory live on The Upstate Soundscape. Stream at WBNY.org.
Here is Foxy Digitalis podcast created by Eric Hardiman, mastermind behind Rambutan, the Tape Drift label out of Albany, and a host of other Upstate goodness. See tracklist below along with download link.
1- Conrad Schnitzler – 12 Stucke Aus Dem Jehr 1974 part 2 (“Gelb”, Edition Block)
2- Sonny Sharrock – Black Woman (“Black Woman”, Four Men with Beards reissue)
3- nuno canavarro – Alsee (“Plux Quba”, Moikai)
4- Supreme Dicks – Synaesthesia (“The Emotional Plague”, Homestead)
5- Bunalim – Basik Saclim (“Bunalim”, Shadoks)
6- nuno canavarro – untitled track 4 (“Plux Quba”, Moikai)
7- Souled American – Before Tonight (“Notes Campfire”, Catamount)
8- Idea Fire Company – Heroes of the Last Barricade (“The Island of Taste”, Swill Radio)
9- Bill Nace – Can You Give me an E (for Jack) (“Honest Strings, a Tribute to Jack Rose”, Three Lobed)
10- Fossils From the Sun – Happy (“From Another Sun”, Tape Drift)
11- Uday Bhawalkar – Puriya (“4000 Years of Indian Music”)
12- Andreas Brandal – Swarm (“Insects”, Twilight Luggage)
13- Dog Lady – b1 (“In the Commonwealth of Outermost Bodies”, self-released cassette)
14- Ascension – a (“two titles” 7″, Shock)
15- Dadamah – Replicant Emotions (“This is Not a Dream”, Kranky)
16- cruudeuces – highlight iii (“Strange Magic”, Kimberly Dawn)
17- Supreme Dicks – CuChulain (Blackbirds Loom) (“The Emotional Plague”, Homestead)
1) Parashi vs. Fossils from the Sun, “Dark Matter” Parashi vs. Fossils from the Sun/Xanthocephalus Split (Skell)
2) Nonhorse R&D, “10-Inch Eye,” Rebuild the Silent Barn
3) Rambutan, “Meridian Hill”
4) Continents, “Nothing Under Sand,” Continents (Lo-Fi Kabuki)
5) Century Plants, “Regaining Consciousness”
6) Ay Fast, “Floor Guide,” Crimson Knight EP (Schematic)
7) Com Truise, “Slow Peels,” Cyanide Sisters EP (Ghostly International)
8) Jerk, “Noon,” Death Testament (Factotum Tapes)
9) Crispin Helion Glover, “Selected Readings from Oak Mot Part 3,” THe Big Problem?The Solution. The Solution=Let It Be
10) Performance of John Zorn’s Cobra at Brown University November 20, 2010
11) Leather Tongue, “Season of the Nerves”
12) Chris Borkowski, “Prussian Blue,” Out of Nowhere: Electro-Acoustic Music from the Upstate Fringe
13) Scott Valkwitch, “Echo I (Bell Ambiance)”
14) Jacob Gotlib, “Year Without Summer (Daumenkino)”
Tonight on the Upstate Soundscape we’re gonna stick with the experimental DJ thread since the previous two posts on Steve Baczkowski and Paul Haney aka Rust Worship proved to be so popular.
We’ll hear tracks from both those guys, plus other experimental disk jockeys like DJ Sniff, DJ Spooky, and the godfather of experimental turntablism, Christian Marclay.
Got some other good stuff including an exclusive live recording from the Location Ensemble’s recent performance in Saratoga.
And if we got time, we’ll preview a cool-sounding show going down this Saturday at Spotty Dog and Ale Books in Hudson, NY. Slated to perform are Matt Weston, Fossils from the Sun, Parashi, Savoir Self, and Xanthocephalus.
Show starts at 10pm on 91.3 FM WBNY. Stream @ WBNY.org.
Description from Vimeo:
Highlights of performances by Xanthocephalus, Parashi, Fossils from the Sun and Cruudeuces at Noise Night, Upstate Artists Guild, Albany, NY on January 14, 2011.
Tonight on the Upstate Soundscape, Adam Richards, head of Buffalo-based label House of Alchemy, will be in studio playing songs from the HOA catalog, including some upcoming releases.
While lofi noise freaks and regular listeners of the Upstate Soundscape are already familiar with HOA, the label itself exists in a strange netherworld that is no doubt foreign to most people.
This is the world of obscure underground labels that traffic limited edition cassettes and CD-Rs each packaged with personally crafted artwork as astounding as the sounds contained within.
These releases are often by semi-anonymous artist who sometimes sound like mad sound scientists rather than musicians. In fact, its not a stretch to say that the House of Alchemy sound — if it can even be said there is in fact a particular sound associated with the label — has gleefully abandoned any traditional conceptions of what ‘music’ is supposed to be in order to achieve revelations through sound exploration.
As a preview for tonight’s show we got an interview with Richards about House of Alchemy below, along with a song from an upcoming HOA release by Grasshopper called “I Sang a Sad Song Today.”
Show starts at 10pm on 91.3 FM WBNY. Don’t miss it. Its gonna get weird.
Upstate Soundscape:What is the story behind House of Alchemy? How and when did it get started? What was the motivation behind the label’s creation?
Adam Richards: I started the label with my wife Katheryn five years ago. The idea of somehow releasing music had been in my mind in various forms for years. I knew a number of people creating great art and music and I wanted to be involved with getting that out there. My very good friend Grant Capes moved out to LA a few years before this and he was in the band VxPxC who were getting a lot of their music out on small labels and they were also self-releasing material. I was very interested in and influenced by how they were doing things. And through buying tons of music from various labels and distro’s I got to talk with all kinds of people actually putting stuff out.
I basically got it going to put out a VxPxC album and it just went from there. We started out with that and the first Antique Brothers record and it’s been rolling ever since. And to have VxPxC and Antique Brothers give me albums to put out with no real idea if I even would be able to make anything happen was huge.
Is there anyone else involved in running the label, or is this essentially a ‘solo project’?
I run the label with my wife Katheryn. She was the one who made me get off my ass and actually get the thing going. I had talked about it for awhile. She does a lot of the cover art, and she’s designed or strategized a lot of the more non-traditional, handmade, packaging we have done. She tolerates me destroying the house for weeks before a release comes out and a few weeks after. And she’s the half the manual labor (or more when the project needs a precision touch). Whether it’s sewing hundreds of burlap pouches, grinding hundreds of crayons to melt, hot gluing felt CD pouches to a hundred blocks of plywood, folding and stuffing covers, or any other crazy thing we come up with, she’s right there in the thick of it. She’s the main inspiration.
Are there any labels out there that you patterned House of Alchemy after or strove to emulate? What labels, past or present, do you admire?
I was really inspired by Jeweled Antler, Foxglove, Music Your Mind Will Love You, Last Visible Dog, Time Lag, Siltbreeze, Eclipse Records, American Tapes, Manhand, Ecstatic Yod and many others. We were really inspired by the labels and releases that had handmade packages, ones that you could tell had some real feeling and effort put into the production. It doesn’t make bad music good by any means, but it adds something else to the already amazing music. So, I guess there wasn’t anyone we strove to emulate directly but, there are lots of great labels that inspired us.
Who are some artists that you would like to work with that you haven’t?
Yeah, there’ll always be people I hope to work with. I’ve gotten to the point where I just ask. Half the time you don’t get any response, but the ones you do hear back from end up being great. We’ve got so many great things lined up, I’m really happy with where we are. And I really like the idea of doing multiple releases with artists. I’ll put out stuff by these guys as long as they keep giving me stuff.
Who are some of your favorite artists that you have worked with?
I have been honored and happy to work with all the amazing artists we have put out over the last five years. It’s all been good. So much amazing music.
It’s been really great to be able to work with people who I have been friends with for a long time, way before the label. People I used to sit around and talk records with way back when. Grant Capes, who I’ve known for a real long time and worked with on many different projects including our own recording project, has been a huge inspiration and pleasure to work with since day one. Ryan Martin, Cory Card, Jen Marquart, people I’ve known for a long time. It’s great that we are now doing a lot of the things we used to bullshit about over beers.
And then there’s someone like Eric Hardimann who we’ve done a bunch of stuff with, Century Plants, Burnt Hills, Rambutan, whom I became friends with through the label. I consider him very inspirational and supportive on many levels. And my good friend Darryl Norsen, who is an amazing visual artist. He’s done a lot of art and layout for us and he’s been helping us out since the very beginning. And Brad Rose from Digitalis, who was a huge help from the beginning.
Really, it’s been Katheryn and I, but with a huge network of supporters and insanely creative friends. So many more people than I can possibly list here.
If somebody likes the HOA label, what other labels out there would you recommend to check out?
Tape Drift, Stunned (RIP), 905 Tapes, Peasant Magik, Robert & Leopold, Imminent Frequencies, caesura, Deep Tapes, Tranquility Tapes, Anathema Sound, No Kings, Desire Path, Root Strata, Obsolete Units, Dais, Type, Digitalis, Kye…..there are so many exciting labels out there and I think it’s really a great time to be a music fan and to be a musician. Sometimes it feels like there is a flood of stuff, it all comes and goes so fast and I oftentimes have no idea what the hell is going on. And there’s really no way (at least for me) to keep up with and hear every single thing. I try my best and I’m sure I miss stuff. But damn, even though I feel like a lot of stuff has passed by my periphery, the stuff I am hearing is really astounding and inspiring.
What’s your take on the re-birth of the cassette market?
It’s a funny thing. . . I think it’s great. We put out our first cassette three years ago and have gradually been doing more. We’ve done a dozen so far, and a large chunk of our upcoming releases are set for cassette. I think for some people it’s a nostalgia trip. But I think a bunch of people legitimately enjoy it and see it is a solid medium, not just some shitty gimmick or fad. For me, I never stopped using cassettes. I haven’t been without a cassette deck and a boombox since I was a kid. My car still has a tape deck and I’ll be sad when I buy a car that doesn’t have one. I have hundreds and hundreds of tapes. Mixtapes, bootlegs, mainstream releases, microlabel stuff, all of it. We’ll continue to put out tapes, CD’s, vinyl, all of it.
Tell us about some of HOA’s upcoming releases.
We’ve got so many amazing things in the pipe. We have two really confounding releases from the Kommisar Hjuler und Frau camp in Germany.
One is a solo release of insane vocals and sound cut-ups from Mama Baer. And the other is a trio release with Mundkranch. Both releases defy description.
We have a cassette from Calgary’s Bent Spoon Duo who are an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink improv duo. Real out-there stuff.
We have a split from Rambutan and Fossils From the Sun, solo projects of the two who make up Century Plants and also play in Burnt Hills. Gonna be huge.
We have a split cassette with one side a trio of Butcher/Khoury/Bryerton and the duo of Baczkowski /Sack.
Obscurer is a trio featuring Grant Capes and two theremin players, The Faraday Trippers. Really dreamy, long form magic.
DeTrop is a trio featuring Ryan Martin who also plays in York Factory Complaint. Fuzzy modular electronics for faded industrial wreckage.
And Pearson Wallace-Hoyt contacted me out of the blue last year. I wasn’t aware of his work before and he laid a monster release of ritual drone magik on me. It shimmers and shutters. I’m very excited about all the things on the horizon.
Tell us about some past HOA releases that you think deserve some special attention.
Well, I’d say that if there is any band we have put out that you haven’t heard of, check them out. By which I mean we have been really lucky to work with a lot of freakishly talented artists and I truly feel that everything we have put out deserves attention. Is that a cop out?
How has starting your own label, and dealing with the business side of music, influenced your work as an artist?
While it hasn’t necessarily influenced the art directly, it has certainly influenced how I interact with labels when trying to get some of my own work released. And it has made me patient because I know how much goes into putting a release out and how easy it is to get off track with life getting in the way of the label from time to time.
I guess as an inverse, my experience trying to get my own work out has influenced how I try and run the label. I try and respond to all artist solicitations in a timely manner whether we can work with them or not. I’ve had some amazing experiences working with labels that have put out my work. I try and learn from those experiences. We’ve been so happy with the artists we’ve worked with on House of Alchemy and I’ve been very lucky with the labels that have put my stuff out. There are really some great people running great labels out there.
Any advice for aspiring label owners?
Enjoy it. Don’t expect to make much or any money. It can be done but it’s likely that you’ll dump money into it and hope to break even. Be willing to give a lot time to it. It’s not worth half-assing. But it has been wholly satisfying for me and I’m really proud that we have put out so much amazing music in the last 5 years. I’d love to be able to do it full time but I’m happy doing it nights and weekends. Staying up late, drinking wine and folding CD or cassette covers or stuffing orders is a good time in my book.
What’s your take on the Buffalo and surrounding upstate experimental scene?
I think it’s great. I don’t get out to shows nearly as much as I used to but it seems like there is a semi-regular stream of really interesting music happening in Buffalo and Rochester. There are some really cool venues like The Vault and Sugar City that put on tons of great shows. I hope more like them pop up. And Hallwalls is a goddamned treasure.
There’s always room for more though and I get excited every time a new venue, band, or promoter pops up. I wish it happened more! The more the merrier.
Any local/regional artists/labels you are really into at the moment? Any local/regional artists/lables we should look out for?
In Buffalo there are great labels like Desire Path, Bad Drone Media and Human Beard. There are certainly more but I’ve been really digging what they have been up to. In Rochester there is caesura which is run by friends of mine, Cory and Jen. They’ve been putting out a steady stream of major stuff. And of course Carbon Records in Rochester. Joe Tunis has put out so many amazing releases over the last decade.
As far as musicians, I miss way more shows than I see but there is a lot of good local action here. Obviously, Steve Baczkowski. Always a visceral, balls-to-the-wall performance. Jim Abramson, Tristan Trump, Bobby Griffiths, Jax Deluca, Matt Goodrich, Scott Valkwitch, All Them Witches… There are a lot of opportunities here in Buffalo to go out and see some really interesting music. Again, I’m leaving out so much. In Rochester there is Stone Baby, one of the first bands we’ve worked with, we have actually done three releases with them. All killer. If you have the chance to see them, do it. And of course, anything with Joe Tunis, and Pengo.
How does somebody get a hold of HOA’s stuff?
Our website www.thehouseofalchemy.com and we work with a number of distro’s across the country and abroad. Even if we are out of something, be sure to check the distro’s. You never know what might be floating around. There’s a list of the ones we work with on the site.