“Bliss Within Agony” was the fourth release on ARC, coming out in July 2001. The title refers to the concept of deriving pleasure from pain. I should point out that I have an extremely low tolerance of physical pain, so this isn’t about being bound and whipped for fun. It’s more to do with the idea that the music was meant to stimulate sensations, thoughts and feelings in a dark, loud environment that weren’t necessarily “nice” but were nevertheless enjoyable.
The release starts with “Sticky Fingers”. A very basic track recorded in October 2000, it remains one of my favourites. It leads in with a kick drum that’s quite heavily limited on the attack so it has a nice sustain. The vocal sample that filters and echoes once per bar caused some issues in the cutting room, I seem to remember, and on some decks can cause the needle to jump if not weighted correctly. All that really happens in this track is an off kilter synth line fades up and gradually gets more aggressive. It feels like it’s constantly getting higher and higher but I’m sure that’s an illusion, as the range on the EMU Audity synth probably wasn’t great enough for me to be able to keep increasing the cut-off frequency for four minutes. The synth was sequenced using the Latronic Notron, hence the odd pattern, and an LFO causes the pitch to waver up and down giving that seasick feeling that I tried to create with many of my tracks. I love this one. It has a relentless, single-minded vibe.
Next up is “Eastern Rumble”. Some might recognise that this track contains elements of the remix I did for Takaaki Itoh. The rumble referred to is a sample taken from his track “Step To Makin'”. I recorded this track in September 2000, immediately after finishing the remix that made it onto the Electracom 12″, while the sample was still loaded in the Roland S-760.
This track has a disorientating, chaotic feeling, created in part by the pitch LFO I constantly used on the Audity and also the pitch shift sequence used for the cowbell sound on the Boss DR-660 drum machine. Also, it fades in rather than starting from a set point. I can’t remember exactly why I did it that way. It’s not the “DJ friendly” method of starting a track, but perhaps it sounded rubbish starting any other way. After the event, I liked the idea that – although an audience on a dancefloor would probably never be aware of it – the fade in signified that the track was coming “from” somewhere; that it didn’t start at a specific moment, and when it fades out at the end it went back to where it came from. Or perhaps the listener did, after a brief glimpse into the maelstrom; a place / feeling / memory of something… heavy. OK, that’s all a bit mystical, but a lot of what I was always trying to do with music was to induce in others feelings that I had personally experienced at one stage or another, often while listening and/or dancing to techno. As the record title suggests, these were not always “happy” or “nice” feelings, but intense, powerful feelings that afterwards one understands as valuable, even if one is doubtful as to whether a repeat experience is desirable.
First track on side-B was “Backlash Boy”, recorded way back in December 1997. The title is an adaptation of the name of the band from which the main sample was taken. I’ll leave you to work that one out…shouldn’t be too hard. I would sometimes stick the input lead of the sampler into the output of a radio and just sample whatever was coming out at the time, and this was one of those occasions. I’m not fond of this track. To me, it feels like a track that was made on a day when things weren’t really working, but I felt like I should push myself to record something anyway. Similarly, I suspect I included it on this release because it seemed like there was something about it I didn’t understand, but that perhaps others may appreciate. And maybe they did…perhaps it’s your favourite of the bunch. I don’t want to spoil a track that others may like with my negativity about it, but I can’t recall ever wanting to play this after it was pressed, and I don’t think I would play it now either.
The last track on the release is “Home Is Where The Hate Is”. This was made in March 1998. Like the noise track on “Walking Wounded”, I made this track some years before I really understood that there was a lot of dark, nightmarish music which already existed and formed part of a long tradition of alternative music making. Much of the electronic music I was familiar with at the time which was not aimed at the dancefloor (I consider this track just right for the dancefloor, depending on the circumstances!) fell under the “ambient” banner. It was more of the “nice” variety, and this track is definitely more inclined towards the “nasty”. It grinds, whines and wheezes its way over six nauseating minutes. Great fun.
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3 replies on “Bliss Within Agony”
thanks for this! one of my favorite releases, still listen to the vinyl every so often.
Home is where the hate is, is fantastic!
My favourite here, thanks for the share.
Max,not only have you made my day for making this available as flac, but I’m doubly chuffed that you consider Sticky Fingers one of your best because that’s always been my opinion too. It’s the incessant and illusory/wonky qualities that have always made it a firm favourite for me and it has that great quality of not sounding like anything else that you play before or after it, unless it’s another of your productions -stand out indeed.
So yeh, thanks again for making it available and the rest of your fine body of work too.
All the best,
PS) Not sure if you remember but I used to go under the name Ash on the Overload/Little Detroit forums and I saw you about quite a bit in the early part of the last decade – Autechre ATP being a memorably hazy one for me).