Some will have you believe the 12” Nebula Sphynx/ Parascopic Rope is a debut from a recently unearthed outfit Secret Circuit. They’ll be wrong. It might be only the second cutting from NYC tastemaker and radio presenter Tim Sweeney’s label, Beats in Space, but it’s one in a long list of digital and cassette releases from the tech-spiritual side project of musician and visual artist Eddie Ruscha. Not to be confused with his famous Pop artist father Edward Ruscha IV, Ed the Fifth has been distinguishing himself from his dad since the 80s by making the wise decision of finding an alternative creative channel in music. His brand of new-psych experimentation is part of a distinctly Californian New Weird Americanism, resulting in Ruscha’s unique take on spaced-out house, with a dash of Eastern exoticism.
Secret Circuit most notably appeared in a series of rhyming cassette titles –Cosmic Vapors, ‘Capers and ‘Papers –on LA artist Cali DeWitt and his artist/musician wife Jenna (of The Strange Boys, Crazy Band, Mika Miko)’s label Teenage Teardrops. However, Ruscha’s hitherto more notable output has been with New York warehouse party organiser and disco icon Thomas Bullock in Laughing Light of Plenty and obscur-ish subcultural supergroup Food of the Gods, along with Bullock and DJ Harvey.
As yet another example of the ripe transmedia art scene that is Los Angeles, and thereabouts, A-side track Nebula Sphynx features the crisp effects of special guest Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti member Cole MGN, while –in a surprise gesture by Ruscha –cover art duties are delegated to Powr Mastrs comic book artist CF (aka Christoper Forgues). Consequently, that first track moves a little bit right from the esoteric centre that the artist is known for, before B-side Parascopic Rope takes it right back. Ruscha himself says that his visual aesthetic still very much influences his music and you can hear it in what can only be described as a wonderful effort at simulated synaesthesia. You can see and hear it in the gaudy colour and no-brow appreciation of his visuals, alongside the kitsch sonic incisions and jittery vintage drum machine beats of his music.
(his last year’s digital release “Mystic Sensibilities Of Future Persons”)
Edward Snr is famous for sifting through the forgotten terrain and found objects of the American desert in search of a sense of place and ultimately meaning. Ed Junior shares a similarly exploratory penchant, except that he’s looking for something far less tangible –spiritual, even. Strangely, while having some distinctly ephemeral preoccupations, Nebula Sphynx will only be available digitally on February 21, two weeks since its original vinyl release. Then again vinyl, unlike an mp3 file, is not forever.
Thus exposing the paradox of a style that, although grounded in synthesized sounds and analogue imitation, simplifies music to such a level that it deduces sound and rhythm to its primitive core. At the same time fetishising and glorifying the artifact (vinyl, cassettes etc.) that will ultimately degrade and disappear. With Ruscha’s work specifically, earlier cassette releases featured hyperreal scenes, painstakingly put together through physical collage, while the Nebula Sphynx cover features CF’s hand drawn illustration. Musically too, Ruscha uses old equipment and retrograde sample sounds in compositions that travel a cosmos of virtual atmospherics. Sonic voyaging, reflected in a dazzling visual aesthetic, exposes the pre-occupation of the post-digital era and its own attempt to transcend itself. The eternal struggle between the desire to rise beyond physical limitations, only to realise you’re stuck exactly where you are.
(just sort of you know this Friday is the release party @ NY’s Santos Party House (basement))