Valcrond Video :: Stepping into the vortex with Luke Wyatt

The biases and preconceptions of 4/4 beats and a groove are melted and mutated with ambient, field recording and even indie in oblong moulds of house and techno. One thing is for sure, Valcrond Vide is doing something that few others are attempting and once it arrives on your platters, as it has on mine, it’ll remain a sure fire fixture.

We all have blind spots. My driving is testament to that. Electronic music, by its very nature, beings on a distinct type of visual impairment. For one, it can be excruciatingly difficult to find artists and labels. Some prefer to lurk in the shadows and avoid the radar. This leads to other issues. Those who seek the limelight bask in adoration all the longer, the darkness of the wings being the preferred home for some. Then you get into the issues of distribution, imports, pressing numbers and on and on. However, on this occasion, the blame could arguably be shared.

On visiting the label’s minimalist website it proudly states that it is “not a record label.” Obviously, this isn’t the main reason Valcrond Video, founded by Luke Wyatt aka Torn Hawk, eluded my ears; but I hadn’t come across it in local record stores either. Finally, after stumbling across Helmer’s Roccale 12” last year the goal was set, find out more about this American label, its artists and its outlook. No better way than to speak to the man himself, Luke Wyatt.

The founder has been active in music for a number of years, founding Valcrond Video in 2011, and has little interest in talking about himself.
“There is dumb/not so dumb, and possibly interesting junk about me all over the internet if somebody wants to Google it. I am not really trying to put myself at the center of what this label is becoming, so I don’t really have anything to add to what’s already out there.”

He becomes more verbose when the focus shifts to the imprint.“The first release was my Sad Stonewash DVD, which was a long interactive video piece I made. I just went for something that sounded like some lousy production house from back in the day. Valcrond Video sounded suitably vague and sinister, and the VV worked as I was younger and still a sucker for alliteration.”

The label is something I’m just letting happen as a series of spurts, tantrums, without any real controlled arc. On a simple level it is a nice place for me to indulge more nasty techno/noise/sorta-house (“dance music”) than the kind of thing I usually pursue with my own work.”

Wyatt says little about the process of finding artists and music but the output speaks for itself. “I kind of pay attention to who is out there and harass people I think make good shit. But a lot of people were just good friends already, so I didn’t have to look far.”

Such friendships can lead to striking roster additions, such as Jason Letkiewicz aka Steve Summers. After a flurry of releases between 2009 and 2013 it appeared that Letkiewicz’s dusty house nom de had been sidelined, but appearances can be deceptive. Always marks the return after a three year hiatus. A return, ye, but not to house. Instead, this three tracker explores a world of tortured industrial tones and blackened bars. The title piece burns with a smoldering intensity, a psychological assault of missing melodies and empty echo. “Resist” is even fiercer than its predecessor. Machine gears grunt, choking down gurgling notes and smothered samples. The “Tornhawked” version of “Always” allows some rays of light to penetrate the ashen skies of the original, piano keys piercing a fog of distortion and static.

Wyatt jokes when I try to pin him down on the sound being explored. “The sound of money, bags of precious metal clanking and chiming in big velvet sacks.” Although there is not set style being pursued there are common themes. The groan of the machine is one element that permeates a number of releases. The label’s latest, Delivery’s Technology Transplant, ventures into the colder, harsher side with the mechanical gurgles of “Brain Drained.” While Helmer pursued a similarly metallic line on his Roccale EP, Delivery breaks away on the B-Side through the whimsical ambience of the title piece and the hodgepodge floor mangle of “Four Two Nine.”

“The sound of money, bags of precious metal clanking and chiming in big velvet sacks.” (Luke Wyatt)

Wyatt has little interest in pigeonholing styles. “I think chopping music up into genres is usually a bad idea, but I am not unique in feeling that way.” Perhaps this is why it’s so difficult to pin the imprint down. The founder has always followed his own unique sound under monikers like Infiniti and Torn Hawk. He has also worked with a number of artists to explore a wider range of sounds, from the audio experiments Body Tools to the reimagined house of Burns & Hawk, to ensure limits aren’t adhered to. This rule of thumb, or lack of one, is plain to hear on the latest collaboration with Florian Kupfer. Hungry for Candy is like walking into a nightmarish sweetshop. A kaleidoscope of colored chords bulge and swirl, menacing notes rising and falling as beats hop and hide in the thick overgrowth of delay and distortion. Nothing is solid in this unsettling EP.

There are respites amongst this challenging catalogue, calm retreats. Daze, perhaps best known for his full bodied beats and curbside kicks on the likes Lobster Thermin, delivered the slow and sonorous Slums of Grand Central in 2016 alongside a cracking remix by from the unknown Décor. Grey People, aka Alex Michalski, arrived on Valcrond in early 2017 with a 12” that clearly illustrates why he is one of the most exciting techno producers. Notes are tapered in the moody melodies of “Coma Tunnel”, a track around which a thick fog hangs. That mist lifts with the hardy rhythms of “Cryogenically Frozen.” A hail of claps splinter against strings, a steady pulsing key menacing the entire outing.

Wyatt is candid when I ask him about the U.S. “If you are referring to the political situation in the US—things are messed up everywhere in the world, have been messed up here forever. The Trump thing is just bringing stuff to the surface like a pimple. It was always there. And anyway, I ignore most things—keeping up with current events should not be mistaken for engagement. And I don’t have time to be truly engaged.” He is just as candid when I ask about electronics in the U.S., saying it’s about talent and sound and nothing to do with location.

The label’s latest pair just to hit the shelves show the net being cast ever wider with Europe being the fecund soil. Fallbeil are a Hamburg duo with a penchant for pain, punishing percussion further soured by masochism and outright meanness. Rolling Dutch maintains a similarly draconian line, two tracks of piercing snares, acid barbs and strangled throats. Italy’s G-23, of Art-Aud fame, has just been drafted. Four tracks make up ARS Trip with two remixes being offered. Décor delivers the first, a caustic machination of “Access Code,” before Mr Husks serves soaring strings on a jagged bed of scrap metal. G-23’s own works, “Bleep Shot” and “ARS Trip,” float between rag-tag marginal techno and reduced doom static.

It’s near impossible to nail down what Valcrond Video is, to pin it down as a label. In one part it’s an imprint that feels like it was born out of an art project, as if an audio collage experiment grew legs and a mixed set of ideas. Another side to it is a platform that toys with the perceptions of dance music. The biases and preconceptions of 4/4 beats and a groove are melted and mutated with ambient, field recording and even indie in oblong moulds of house and techno. One thing is for sure, Valcrond Video is doing something that few others are attempting and once it arrives on your platters, as it has on mine, it’ll remain a sure fire fixture.

valcrondvideo.com | Bandcamp | Soundcloud

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