Feature: Control Valve

Founded and operated by Roger H. Smith, the musician behind the prolific Chefkirk project, Control Valve was active for a little over a decade from its inception in 2009, closing just when netlabels are becoming increasingly ubiquitous. Distributed in individual lossy downloads a la fals.ch, the many releases in the label’s impressive catalog span the gamut of DIY experimental music in the 2010s, and now they’re all archived and available for name-your-price download on Bandcamp (there’s also a lot of great stuff on archive.org as well). Here are my personal highlights.

Pregnant Spore – Garden Performance (2012)

Though it’s undoubtedly a drop in the ocean of Angel Marcloid’s staggering discography, Garden Performance is hardly a throwaway release. It’s a colorful mass of volatile noise tinkering, bursting at the seams with boisterous glitch storms and mangled preset patches. I use the word “tinker” because manual exploration feels like the sole structural element here, like Marcloid is simply experimenting with a new tabletop setup and just happened to get some pretty spectacular results, but at the same time much of the music feels so much larger and more elaborate than that. Great stuff.

AODL – Bed Store Morality (2013)

As many of you have probably already heard, avant-garde music legend Peter Rehberg died today, and I’ve been honoring his immense impact on the global scene by revisiting some favorites. I don’t know much about AODL, or the artist’s primary Eucci project, but the dense digital chaos of Bed Store Morality is very much in the spirit of Rehberg’s gleeful electronic maximalism; in recalling an R/S gig at Cafe OTO in 2012, Mark Harwood writes, “An insanely ecstatic Risset effect laden monster which propelled itself around the room, shocking the ears of all. It was described in an online review as ‘a horrible, twisted mesh, like barbed wire being fed into your ears under high pressure.’ Pete got so excited at one point he jumped up on his chair with one fist pummeling the air.” May he rest well, and may his influence forever flourish.

_whALe_ pLAtE_ – Image Is Everything (2009)

Image Is Everything may consist solely of sonified raw image data, but no matter how much actual artistic involvement there was in producing this material, it was certainly selected carefully, because there isn’t a single dull moment across all three tracks. It might just be the fact that I’m a total sucker for the most caustic noise possible, and a lot of this release fits that bill; at times it’s more like a massive drill is burrowing into your head than music, but hey, if you’re reading this that’s probably an enticing pitch.

Marlo Eggplant – Crisis as Opportunity (2012)

The continent-hopping Marlo Eggplant is a name that’s unfamiliar to many, but extremely familiar to few. She’s established herself as a leading figure in the international scene, always reinventing her processes and performances to keep things interesting over the years. Crisis as Opportunity is a release that simultaneously feels primitive and complex; much of its duration is filled with brutish lo-fi noise and other, more musical bits and bobs, but—unsurprisingly—still present is Eggplant’s deceptive complexity, lurking at the edges of a structural sound collage as piecemeal and purposeful as the cover art.

Slime Street – Bloody Haze (2013)

Finding much information at all about Slime Street is next to impossible, but this forgotten outsider noise masterpiece speaks for itself. Haphazardly sculpted from screaming circuit bends, innocuous field recordings, humming faulty connections, and more scraps of sonic junk, the four pieces that comprise Bloody Haze are rough-edged and raucous, and even strangely rapturous in their unhinged abrasion. The brutal “Stalking Scum” is like a gruesome defilement of a pristine pile of recently discarded home appliance innards, mercilessly pushing the boundaries of tolerability—just how I like it.

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