Fashion tricks and politics

Information overload is a double-edge sword. No matter how much you try and get into something, there is always more and more of it pleasantly distracting, patiently lurking from the shadows. Which brings out the inevitable question – can anyone ever absorb as much during a lifetime? Of course not, but that shouldn’t stop you from trying. Curiosity kills the cat and the cat still has nine lives. Two amazing formations were approached to contribute with some of their gorgeous music – Soft Riot and No˝i Kabát. Somehow quite close-related in their collaboration (remixes and studio interplay) – both agreed, which makes Small Doses proud beyond words to present some of their mutual and exclusive, intertwined sessions – No˝i Kabát’s own, reconstruction of their ace track “Seeds Of Time” plus Soft Riot’s own re-vision of “Cinema Eyes” plus, once again, a radical  blast of
No˝i Kabát’s “Seeds Of Time”.

I am going to use Andrew Darlington’s definition of the two (in reference to his excellent in-depth article “Jazz Drugs, Jazz Violence”, about Clock DVA and Vice-Versa, back in the year 1980):

Soft Riot has two legs. It’s definitely a manifesto – say, a one-man guerilla operation behind the synth lot. I can clearly hear the act of subversive beauty in practically each one of Soft Riot’s pieces (at the time of writing, I am still impatiently waiting for my copy of freshly announced vinyl record via Other Voices label). This is a dancefloor soundscape – the bea(s)t that melts the hips and lures to its magic circle of pure neo-psychedelic frenzy. Cabaret Voltaire coined the phrase “Conform to deform” – in No˝i Kabát and Soft Riot’s case, it is more like “Devastate to liberate”.

Whispering vocals and dreamy soundscapes that slide over a thin line between soothing dreamlike state and the nightmarish world (of tomorrow). I prefer listening to this kind of music when moving fast. Turns regular leisure walk into serious action run – against the environment, drowned in its own static. The idea of movement suggests the fast-forward button pressing on the cassette player. Yes, it’s the joy of speed suggested from within the stripped down beat and melody that hypnotises and paralyses. Yes, it’s the musical equivalent of many impressive strobe light flashes.

Among Soft Riot’s jewels, lies one particularly shiny diamond that is “Cinema Eyes”. Just about to be fresh from release on the (forthcoming) album “Fiction Prediction”, “Cinema Eyes” is a multitude of – according to title – cinematic snippets, that immediately take over once the opening cut-up melody starts. Random bits tamed into a merciless electronic pop cocktail from within a dream (within a dream). Soft Riot’s Jack Duckworth explains: There are two songs from Fiction Prediction that were the hardest to write, and one of those was “Cinema Eyes”. I guess “hardest” is a bad term, more so that the writing went through many phases as the earlier ideas didn’t really work for me. If it didn’t sit well I’d often leave it to rest for a while and come back to it a later date, sometimes many months later. The earliest phrase written was the arpeggiating synth in verses. It is in D Minor and originally the music underneath it was in A Minor and D Minor in the verses. The chorus was established early as well although the sound design changed somewhat as it got to the final version. For whatever reason the verses didn’t gel for me so that track went to sleep for a bit.

When I came back to it I had an epiphany to use a chord progression from another demo (and another band actually!) in the verses, which was in B Minor and C# Minor. I loved how these chords clashed with the arpeggio, still sitting constantly in D Minor. I’m all for controlled discord and whatnot so I kept it. For the other synths I was really into creating these distant-sounding shots or blasts, sort of like the sounds I would hear in the mountains from boats and horns when I was growing up in coastal British Columbia, Canada. I think it gives what is a synth-pop track a more “electro-acoustic” sound with more depth. I’ve been a long time big fan of classic Kranky Records stuff like Labradford and Stars of the Lid and the textural ambient sound their style is based on. Even late 90s Plastikman is great for those sorts of sounds as well. Anyway, with the music coming together and listening to it late at night I had this concept of contrasting the grace and melancholy from the Golden Age of Film against this idea of Marshall MacLuhan slanted view of the power of suggestion and control through film and television, so the lyrics sort of come from that. I find this especially relevant when we have more grassroots sources to our news and what happened in historical events and how film and television – and now the internet – can be cut or written to present a certain bias of a certain slant to present a take on an event that in many cases doesn’t not cover the whole story.

This fascination with “Cinema Eyes” led to a proposal that Soft Riot re-construct the track for Small Doses’ 5th issue. Jack continues: It’s not a drastically different version but there are a lot of noticeably differences. I’ve done three versions of this track so far including this one. Each mix is based on different ideas I had come up with during the original songwriting process but may not have used. As we all know that when writing a song many different things are tried out and a lot of ideas get dropped in favour of the final result. I guess this new version is a possible way how the track could have come out had I taken it in a slightly different direction.

No˝i Kabát has six legs. And a great sense of humour. In vocalist Dee Rüsche’s own words, the name is not to be taken that seriously – “before you laugh, we have reasons”, he said. “I would find fun in all the English bands in the scene who have a ‘German sounding’ name, to be a bit mysterious. It’s been going for a long time. So I was looking for a Hungarian word as a parody of these. It’s almost like Depeche Mode. Meaning “Fast Fashion”. Ours means “Women’s Coat”. However I do also like the androgeny that this brings once people find what it means. It’s almost a glam name. Part parody, part dead serious.” For a year now, Just like Soft Riot, No˝i Kabát have a special place in my consciousness – a band I was first introduced to when staying at Mike’s place in Vienna. Cannot tell why, but from what Mike played me, the sounds immediately stuck in my head and caused an unknown sensation – it wasn’t love at first listen but became an obsession with every next one. “I’m telling you, this is the next band that’s going to make it big”, Mike said.

From all the documented live snippets throughout the Internet society, I am sure No˝i Kabát are getting there deservedly. Energetic stuff, synths but with organic sound attached to it – especially evident in the effective drumming. Speaking of releases, it’s still a proper album wait – apart from a few recordings made audible via the group’s Soundcloud stream (some of which were also released on a cassette), so far the group delivered a respectful (and recently sold out) 7” single “Make Room! Make Room!/Industry”, on the amazing, obscure German label Aufnahme + Wiedergabe. For Small Doses, they chose to re-brush one of their earlier jewels, called “Seeds Of Time”. As mentioned earlier here, the song appears in both, No˝i Kabát and Soft Riot’s exclusive re-interpretations; No˝i Kabát’s version suits the disc’s opening track purpose perfectly, slowly building itself from within a drone-like sound forming a massive, menacing mixture along with discreet kick drum and the song’s trademark, chant-like vocal performance.

Soft Riot version is another stunning example of how a song can be split into fractions, a million splinters that burst right through the air. Dee explains the idea behind the song – The title “Seeds Of Time” comes from a book of short stories by John Wyndham, one of my favourite science fiction writers. The chorus lyrics are saying how you can sow all these little seeds throughout your life and how some of them come back to haunt you by ‘blowing in your eye’. It’s cyclical, like life, so when I say ‘eye’ it goes back to start of the chorus ‘I’. The Verse lyrics are the story of a seduction and one night love affair in which the protoganist suceeds but later regrets using the seduced so cheaply. One of my favourite lines early on is ‘A roll on the lino is a needle in the hay’. A twist on a roll in the hay (euphemism for sex) in which a roll on the linoleum (cheap kitchen flooring) is brought to a very suburban level. This action being ‘a needle in the hay’ or essentially one of many. I enjoy the slight play on words and changing of common phrases. Playing games with the listener. Verse two shows the disdain for the victim and in ‘on you will shatter a glass or two of wine’ we see the plying with alcohol to shatter or tire the person into submission. And of course the quietly spoken ‘shout wildly in the air’. A vocal oxymoron? The final verse breathes the lines ‘And I will break your heart and forget your name’, ‘but all lovers leave scars and blackened words to shame’. These and the final ‘savage me with silence in the future without you’ belay the aggresors regret in the situation. Another notch in the bedpost but perhaps the bedstead is starting to show it’s cracks.

Enjoy this tiny exclusive oddity of a conceptual split single release by two extraordinary defenders of electronic pop earth.

Further information:

softriot.com
noikabat.com

Soft Riot’s “Cinema Eyes” original version appears on the forthcoming album “Fiction Prediction”
(Other Voices, 2013, VOX16LP);

No˝i Kabát’s “Seeds Of Time” originally released on a self-released cassette (2012, 001)

Soft Riot photographed by Del Jae
No˝i Kabát photographed by Jack

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