Factory Floor On Stripping Back And Returning To The Club For Their Latest Album

This article appeared originally on THUMP UK.

When Factory Floor first came to people’s attention, with their debut single “Bipolar” in 2008, they sounded like Manchester’s industrial past being dug up and brought back to life in an East London warehouse spaceechoing clanks clung to Peter Hookesque basslines, and ghostly vocals howled at canal side moons. While their output was infinitely more interesting than the third rate Joy Division tribute acts clogging up the listing section of the NME, it struggled to escape a very distinctive and well-worn template.

Two years after those beginnings, the group reemerged with a series of songs that came on like a band determined to demolish what they’d once been. Tracks like “Lying” and “Wooden Box” sounded like the hacked up remains of Moroder-period Donna Summer being haphazardly chucked into a car compactor. 2011 saw them release the “Two Different Ways” 12″ on venerated NYC label DFA, and with that they grew into a group who confidently pinged between indie, disco, techno, industrial, acid house, and pretty much anything else that piqued their interest. This wasn’t White Lies territory any more.

A spare, sparse, and defiantly electronic album followed in 2013. While the self-titled LP saw them edging ever closer to the club, but with an eye still on the gloomier, scattier end of the gig venue spectrum, this month’s 25:25 finds them in the middle of the dancefloor with arms aloft, a stomach full of substances and a rapacious desire to absolutely pummel the PA. Weaving between stark minimal technoof the bleepy, Sweet Exorcist varietyand swinging, surging house, it’s the sound of a group happy to spend long weekends by the booth.

As part of that sonic transformation, the three-piece that once contained live drums, bass and guitar have stripped back to a purely electronic duo. Just before 25:25 dropped, we sat down with Gabe Gurnsey and Nil Colk Void to talk about their “triumph” of a new record, their relentless progression, and their complete inability to sit still.

THUMP: Factory Floor are now a two-piece. How come?
Gabe Gurnsey: Dom wasn’t able to put in the time to it really and he wanted to pursue other projects, so we just went down to a duo. We saw it as a positive move in terms of direction.

Was there a mission statement of sorts for this record? Did you specifically want to achieve something with it?
Nik Colk Void: We definitely followed instinct for it. We were playing a lot more club nights and our set was more stripped down as we moved into electronics. The focus of the record was on dancing, not soaking it in reverb or industrial noise. When we started in East London there was all this dark wave stuff going on and we thought ‘we need to duck out of this’ so we moved to North London. We’ve continuously moved away from something where we feel that the creativeness around us is crashing into this solid foundation of one genre of music. So this record was about getting to the minimalist side of things. It was a genuinely instinctive mood of the body though; the patterns and sequences were in tune with how I felt and how I moved naturally.

Have you made this record with a club audience in mind?
Gabe Gurnsey: Definitely. When you write these rhythms that are really locking in with the synth and it’s creating that movement you can kind of envisage people dancing to it. I can remember audiences we’ve had in places like the Berghain and that feeds back into the process when you’re hitting the right spot on the tracks live.

Nik, you’ve described this record as being the most “you” album you’ve made. What do you mean by that?
Nik Colk Void: Oh god, I wish I never wrote that! I think it’s because we tracked the record together up north in a space that wasn’t a studio, it was just a room but we were close to lots of equipment and making a mess and not having to put it away and just coming back to it. It was almost like coming back to a workshop every day. I’ve always been used to having loads of materials around me and just being able to manipulate and work it into something and to create something out of it. In London you’re kind of swamped by other bands and the nights you go to, and I literally hadn’t been out to a show or a club night during the process of making this record, I really isolated myself, so I felt like the only thing I could pull out of this record is what was coming from within me.

So you’ve made this very club-sounding record pretty much in the opposite environment to that. Has that been the same for you, Gabe?
Gabe Gurnsey: Well, we get to experience that environment a lot when we finish playing at festivals, seeing DJs after us, or playing before we do. So you’re sort of trapped in this world until you go and play your own show. There have always been really amazing club nights in London, especially in Corsica where it’s got that really dark, sweaty, everyone-get-lost-in-the-music feel. One thing I’ve noticed when DJs are playing out is the simpler the track the more effective it is, so I think we were content in keeping the album really basic and keeping hold of that mind set. That’s why I don’t really enjoy doing off-kilter drumbeats because I think don’t try and fix what isn’t broken. It’s a very instinctive thing the 4/4 dance rhythm, it’s there, it’s solid and it makes people dance. So working on top of that is the exciting bit because you’ve almost got a boundary to work in.

Would you still describe yourself as band?
Gabe Gurnsey: Definitely. We came from traditional instruments. I’m getting back on the drum kit soon and Nik cut her teeth on the guitar so the band might go back to that kind of more traditional set-up at some point but we’ll always retain the electronic-element. But yeah, we’re a band, and we treat our drum machines and synthesizers in the same way we treat playing live instruments, we’re always manipulating them.
Nik Colk Void: When we play live now we’re still using a certain amount of gear, it’s like we have no idea if it’s going to work sometimes and if I’m playing modular stuff, I don’t know if I’m going to blow up the speaker because of the frequencyso there’s still this shambolic element to us playing our tools live. Compared to what the set-up used to be I don’t think we’re that exciting to watch anymore, which isn’t a problem because I don’t really like being watched. We have our heads down on our electronics. We’re synced together but we’re still improvising with what we have and it could fall flat on its face and another time it could workI find that exciting. I don’t mind failing. I like the idea that it could all fall apart at any moment.

That’s interesting to hear that instruments are coming back, I always thought you were stripping them away bit by bit?
Gabe Gurnsey: I think less is more, definitely, in a club environment. It’s not been a conscious thing so much, but I don’t think we like staying still on just one instrument, we like switching around as it progresses the band. A lot of bands get very comfortable and satisfied just playing their one instrument and they don’t push it any further. I think we’re excited by the unknown in a lot of ways. Even though we’ve written and recorded this record in a certain way, we don’t let it stop there, if we bring back this record with a full live drum kit then it’s going to morph into something else so that will then be the beginning of a new writing process. It’s just an exciting way to write music.

Can you tell us about the process and set-up you had in the studio making the album and how the relationship between you works?
Nik Colk Void: When we recorded we had a big PA, so the sound was like it’d be in a club, and we were able to shout at one another across the table, like “bring the high-hat in,” or something. It created a kind of dialogue you only get when you’re really comfortable with each other.
Gabe Gurnsey: There was a lot of spontaneity involved. New equipment was delivered in the morning and we’d be writing tracks with it later on. We were shaping those sounds into a live PA rather than a pair of studio monitors on a quiet level. It felt like you were going out to a club in a way but having to do a bit of work at the same time.
Nik Colk Void: That set-up and volume captures the changes. There aren’t many changes in Factory Floor’s music but when there is a change it’s quite an important thing. It’s quite a hard thing for us to do because I hate changes and Gabe loves changes. So the fact we have a difference of opinion on those things kind of works outwe rely on both going against each other and being in sync with each other.
Gabe Gurnsey: We have got a trust. We have a trust in what we were putting out there and we also have a relationship where we can say to one another “that’s shit” or “that’s good.” We’re not worried about saying that to one another and I think that’s important in a band. So there is a lot of trust there but just wait until I start doing the Ibiza classics, Nik…

Is that Factory Floor in an essence, change and no-change pushing against one another to find a middle ground?
Nik Colk Void: Yeah. He likes drops, Gabe likes the cheese and I like the sophisticated stuff.
Gabe Gurnsey: It is true though. I think that’s why it works, that’s what Factory Floor is, it’s in the middle of those two things in a way.

Dylan is on Twitter.

Sober Ravers Talk Clean Partying And Making Interpersonal Connections At Shambhala 2016

Photo courtesy of Daily VICE

This article originally appeared on THUMP Canada.

With harm reduction at North American summer music festivals being a constant hot topic, British Columbia’s long-running Shambhala has been at the forefront of safety, providing pill testing and sanctuary care for those who choose to indulge. They also offer a substance-free zone called Camp Clean Beats, where those people looking to experience the three-day event without alcohol or drugs can do so in a nonjudgemental space, with optional recovery-based meetings.

Last week we ran a photo essay featuring some of this year’s campers, accompanied by a brief interview with co-founder and coordinator Mandy Lawson, discussing the program’s beginnings and her own personal experiences with drugs.

We also sent filmmaker Daniel J. Pierce for Daily VICE, who recently stopped by the office to talk about his interactions with attendees, who spoke to him about battling addiction, self-discovery, and the deeper connections formed in sober environments.

Watch the video below.

The Ketamine Musical Was Like Cirque Du Soleil On Drugs

All photos by Kat Mareck/House of Yes

Ketamine: The Musical was a three-night (August 17-19) extravaganza dedicated to the most popular horse tranquilizer of all time. Hosted at Brooklyn nightclub House of Yes, the sold-out play was directed by the venue’s co-founder, Anya Sapozhnikova, with a cast of dancers, singers, acrobats, and actors from the club’s staff, and musical direction by local artists David Kiss and Sir Nathan. On its Facebook event page, the play describes itself as “an immersive, participatory, psychoactive and dissociative spectacle.” After experiencing it firsthand, I k-hole-heartedly agree. Ketamine: The Musical might not be a theatrical masterpiece, but it is quite likely the most fun (and self-aware) musical about drugs ever made.

Sapozhnikova told Brooklyn Paper that the play sprung from a joke she heard someone crack at Mysteryland where they remarked, “What is this? Ketamine, the musical?” She decided to do exactly that, and the idea proved to be a hitall four shows quickly sold out within days of the musical’s announcement, although the club told THUMP that another run of dates is planned for later in the year. When I found out I’d be attending on opening night, August 17, it felt like I was getting a dose of good karma after experiencing continual loss in the Hamilton lottery. However, my experience with ketamine is limitedI’m not a DJ, don’t live in a barn, and after a friend once tried to suck on my big toe while deep in a k-hole, I’ve never been too keen on the popular anesthetic ever since. Thus, I brought my cousin along for the ride, and convinced her to experience the musical in another dimensionby doing bumps during the show.

Let me give you some background information on my cousin. We’ll call her Rita to preserve her anonymity. Rita lived in the South for many years, grew up going to church every Sunday, and travels to Tanzania and Zimbabwe to do charity work. She’s against killing insects, wants to change the world for the better, and will apologize simply for breathing. Even though she’s more Mother Teresa than Lindsay Lohan, I’ve helped nurture the reckless side that lies beneath her good-girl facadeshe’s like Oprah but with a pierced nipple. At first, when I asked Rita if she was going to do ketamine at the show, she spluttered and said no. “Rita,” I said sternly, “Remember that time you snorted and licked cocaine off of a stranger’s penis in New Orleans?” That shut her up quickly, and she soon changed her mind. Her experience with ketamine had barely sniffed the surface, and she wanted to give it a go.

Arriving at House of Yes fifteen minutes early before the 8PM start time, Rita and I stopped at the bar in the lobby for a drink. Neither of us had been to this venue, so we took in our surroundings. House of Yes is beautifully decorated, with walls covered in hand-painted murals and artfully-arranged gemstones. A smell of patchouli and alcohol lingered heavily in the air. A table in the corner had finely-chopped lines of chocolate that you could snort for free. “Sooooooo Brooklyn,” Rita exclaimed. We noticed people filing into the theater to be seated, so we grabbed our drinks and joined the eager herd.

As we sat down in the back of the room, we took in the creative decor around us, including an empty, vintage-looking bathtub on our right, white swinging hoops high above us, and colorful drapery that hung from the stage to the ceilings. A simmering house track by Danish producer Kenneth Bager (thank you, Shazam) played on a loop as people settled in. A sign saying “The Musical” against a background of white powder was projected on red curtains. As the lights dimmed, the audience cheered, and Rita furtively leaned forward in her chair to do her first bump of the night.

The spotlight shined on a lady in a tutu standing on top of a bar to our right while a massive bag of white powder hurled towards her from the opposite side of the room. One could only dream, I muttered to myself. The lady in a tutu ripped the giant bag open with a knife, letting the powder fly everywhere and onto people’s heads. Next, dancers in all-white costumes plucked a tall, skinny man with long blond hair from the audience, blowing powder up his nose and pulling him on stage. It turned out that we were about to follow his journey on ketaminefrom the time of ingestion all the way until he’s nodding out in his bathtub with no recollection of how he got there.

I turned to Rita and she was locked in a trance; her eyes transfixed on the lights and music as beautiful, strong acrobats hung from the drapery and swings like Peruvian spider monkeys, using each others’ bodies for strength. Out came a white, bookish, curly-haired guy who started rapping about the harrowing process of sending emails while stuck in a k-hole, sort of like the raver version of Weird Al Yankovic.

Performers in cotton candy-colored costumes started creepily dancing to a supernatural edit of “Pop Goes the Weasel.” It felt like my childhood nightmares coming to life in an oddly satiating way. Throughout this mayhem, the blond main character stood at the corner of the stage, frequently sticking his hand into a Ziploc bag to insinuate he was ingesting drugs via his mouth and nostrils. Then, the curtains closed for an intermission as a male voice explained over the speakers, “you’ve reached your first k-hole of the night. Feel free to stand up, if you can.”

People retreated to the bar for more cocktails. Meanwhile, a raffle was held for two people to enjoy the remainder of the show from the aforementioned bathtub, which was now filled with bubbles and water. A woman and her boyfriend won, so they excitedly stripped down to their birthday suits, got into the tub, and were greeted with fresh glasses of bubbly.

A few minutes later, the lights faded, drawing our attention back to the stage. Two people dressed as life-sized tongues began caressing each other to the sounds of hypnotic tribal rhythms. The tongues quickly became overtly sexual in nature, mimicking sexual poses and licking each other all over to the delight of the cheering crowd. Rita started maniacally laughing at this erotic performance art. “I’m a little horny now,” she jokingly whispered in my ear.

After the tongues stepped offstage, the man whose eyes we’re experiencing the trip in came back with another man, both of them holding a colossal box of Special K cereal and a gallon of milka reference that flew over a few heads at first. The men awkwardly sat and ate the cereal in a scene that stretched a bit too long, before the protagonist poured out a line of white powder and snorted it, only to be shooed off stage to the sound of a beating heart. The sound of thumping shook the room, quickly shifting the vibe from comedic to eerie.

The curly-haired rapper then took a seat in a couch to deliver a quick lesson on ketamine, explaining its chemical effects on the brain and how difficult it is to have sex while in a k-hole. Later, in one of the best-received scenes in the play, the same actor explored the more philosophical, psychedelic aspects of ketamine. “Anybody ever hear of YOLO?” he shouted into his microphone, explaining that it means You Only Live Once. Then, he theorized that none of us really knows what happens after death; unable to rule out reincarnation, the safest bet is that we all live at least once: “YOLALO.” In unison, we chanted, “YOLALO!”

The play took a darker turn when the main character entered a living room that was rapidly closing in on him. The light fixtures, the couches, the painting hanging over himeverything started spinning around in circles. The perils of ketamine were being showcased, including suffocation, claustrophobia, and anxiety. The change in energy was palpablewe went from laughing to tense in the matter of seconds.

This anxious moment was followed by our second and final intermission of the night. Rita was stone cold sober now. “Was your ketamine bad? Did you not do enough of it?” I asked. Rita said doing any more k would be “unholy,” so she decided against it. I think she just didn’t want to spiral out in the middle of a musical surrounded by strangers. Meanwhile, the couple in the bathtub got out, dried themselves off, and returned back to their seats to a round of applause.

As we reached the final act, the curtains pulled apart and revealed two extraordinary women hanging from a flying trapeze. Without missing a beat, their bodies flowed with each other in ways only explainable through telepathic communication. Under her breath, Rita mustered up an “I could do that.” I’m here to tell you that she can’t.

Out of nowhere, a woman dressed as a fairy appeared behind us, startling the entire back row. She began navigating her way through the chairs and blowing white powder out from her hand. Women holding keys quickly surrounded us as the main character looked around, confused. His acting and mannerisms accurately portrayed the ugly stares and delayed movement of people I’ve seen on ketamine before. Meanwhile, a naked woman sitting on a podium with her legs spread open started cackling as streams of glitter tumbled out of her vagina, insinuating that coins were cascading from it. (I’m still confused by the meaning behind this.)

The woman disappeared behind a drape, and the intro to Gesaffelstein’s “Control Movement” started to play, paired with flickering strobe lights. Performers entered the stage in all-black attire, bumping into each other and appearing directionless. A projection behind them said “After after after hours,” signaling to the crowd that this scene was happening at 3 PM in the midst of a bender. The actors formed a line, the Gesaffelstein song cut out, and Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” took over. The ketamine zombies broke out into the infamous dance routine to the audience’s delight as fiery sparklers exploded around them.

Finally, things turned even more macabre. The main character gets sprayed in black paint by the ketamine zombies, and enters the bathtub at the end of his tripliterally stewing in his gook and unwanted thoughts. A woman sitting above the tub starts playing a Tibetan singing bowl while singing operaticallyher voice is beautiful but hinted at the uneasiness we were all feeling.

In the last scene, performers gathered on stage as water fell from above, drenching them and sprinkling into the audience. The cast was drenched and basking in the joy of their first show going as perfectly as planned. Everyone in the audience stood up and started to dance as they thanked us for coming, offering hugs and spraying us with more water. Despite the dark, anxious mood of the last few scenes, the play ended on an affirmative note.

Prior to seeing Ketamine: The Musical, I thought it would be a serious, moralistic affair about the dangers of an increasingly popular drug in the rave scene. Instead, the play pleasantly surprised me in its ability to poke fun at the absurdity of the ketamine experienceand the various effects it has on the people who indulgein a way that feels entertaining and truthful, rather than condescending. Even though we were literally watching a play about ketamine, it was evident that many hours of hard work went into bringing this endeavor to fruition, and the palpable camaraderie of the cast and crew spilled into the audience, making the whole experience feel like a family affair. It’s safe to say the powdered ceiling has been shattered.

Follow Austin Gebbia on Twitter

German Police Allegedly Confuse Viagra For Ecstasy In Traffic Stop

This article originally appeared on THUMP Germany.

A routine traffic stop usually follows the same pattern. It starts with a request for your license and registration, then, maybe, an ill-fated question: “have you been drinking?” This could be followed by anything (or everything) from a breathalyzer test to a full-blown search of your vehicle and personif they have probable cause.

But sometimes normal procedures break down, as a recent strange court case in the German city of Freiburg demonstrates. According to court documents, a German man was pulled over for a run-of-the-mill traffic stop in September of 2015, during which police found .4 grams of hashish on his person and an unspecified half of a purple pill in his pants pocket. Immediately, the officers assumed they had discovered ecstasy. The accused driver, however, claimed that the pill was actually just 100mgs of a generic form of Viagra.

The officers reportedly broke protocol when they failed to test the unknown pillstandard procedure when finding unknown substancesand the man was later ordered to take a neurological evaluation in order to gain further information about his relationship with psychoactive drugs. The man apparently refused the test and had his license suspended as a result.

The story gets better: at the time of the trial in July, the pill was nowhere to be found, and still hadn’t been tested to determine its contents. Curiously, the pill had had been destroyed at some point during the lead up to the trial. A police officer testified that his work experience meant he had a practiced eye at classifying pills on sightnevermind that he’d also testify that he’d never seen a generic Viagra pill in person and that both Viagra pills and ecstasy can come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and doses. After the impending legal saga, the courts eventually ruled to reinstate the man’s drivers license. In their official report, they doubted that there had ever been any ecstasy in the pill and that the seized amount of hash wasn’t enough to force him to undergo a medical examination.

Now after all is said and done, only one question remains: what the hell was in that half a pill?

Someone Gave A TED Talk About The Science Behind Dubstep

Back in February, the TED organization partnered with Oxford University to present a program of talks centered around theme “find X.” They left the prompt pretty open-ended, which was probably a pretty good idea, because it gave composer and music educator James Humberstone the creative freedom to do a twenty-minute presentation on a pressing topic: “The Science of Dubstep.”

He begins by saying that humans are drawn to patterns in their experience of the world, noting in particular our affinity for complex patterns of sound. From there he explains how barely-perceptible combinations of harmonic overtones affect the timbre of individual sounds, illustrating that what we think of as a single note is in fact made up of a whole range of sonic frequencies. It’s our knowledge of tones’ component parts that lets us play with them as a compositional device, which is the exact kind of thing we’re hearing in the wobbling filter of a dubstep bassline. The demonstration wouldn’t be complete, of course, unless he made a track onstage in collaboration with screaming members of the audience, and that’s exactly what he does.

All in all, it’s a pretty informative introduction to the study of sound perception, also making the valuable point that music education has to remain a central part of school curriculums for children. On that subject, Humberstone has released a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) via the University of Sydney called “The Place of Music in 21st Century Education.”

Follow Alexander on Twitter.

Gear Up For The Playa With Lee Burridge And Lost Desert's Mystical Anthem, "Lingala"

Lee Burridge’s productions and DJ sets often feel like open-ended equationsslowly unfolding symphonies that go everywhere and nowhere at the same time. That spirit of atmospheric experimentation has also seeped its way into the UK-artist’s lengthy DJ sets, helping fuel his popularity on Burning Man’s desert landscape, where his sunrise sets at camps like Robot Heart have become a widely celebrated affair. You can also of course take in his sound at clubs and festivals worldwide, as well as at his his globe-trotting All Day I Dream parties that take place everywhere from Moscow to San Francisco. Ahead of his yearly pilgrimage to the Burn this week, Burridge is dropping a new EP on his ADID label, entitled Lingalaand it’s classically Burridge.

From “Shirt Cocking” to “Playa Diddy,” House Legend Lee Burridge on All Things Burning Man

Produced in collaboration with Lost Desertan artist Burridge reportedly came across while trekking through the Democratic Republic of the Congothe song features the vocals of Junior, who sings in the actual Lingala dialect spoken in the country. Clocking in at around ten minutes, the lengthy and sprawling original shines with some succulent strings and spiraling synths that cozy up to Junior’s anthemic singing, resulting in a powerful track that should surely get some play on the playa next week. The release comes with a remix from Gorje Hewek and Izhevski, and will be followed by Lost Desert’s US debut at the All Day I Dream summer closing party in NYC on September 18. Check it out below.

The Best Things We Saw On The Dance Music Internet Last Week

Photo by Cait Oppermann.

1. Techno and togetherness

Couples, friends, and families explain how the power and beauty of techno brought them together.

2. An alternative Stranger Things soundtrack

Still can’t get enough of Stranger Things and its gorgeous, eerie soundtrack? We crafted an alternative soundtrack full of synths, proggy elements, and downtempo melodies.

3. The art of remixing

Remixing is more than just a feature on the dancefloor. It has slowly become an important art form in and of itself.

4. The power of field recordings

This Resident Advisor feature looks at the ways in which field recordings have the ability to “shape the world around us.”

5. Usain Bolt, DJ

When he’s not breaking records and winning consecutive gold medals at the Olympics, Usain Bolt is also working as an up-and-coming DJ. This retrospective looks at his curious forays into the DJ world.

6. The new rise of New Age

FACT looks at the history of New Age music and how a new generation of artists continue to push its sonic elements into the spotlight.

7. The Ballroom subculture

This long, loving, and in-depth feature looks deeper into the genre of ballroom and focuses on MikeQ who aims to bring it further into the spotlight.

8. Andy Blake for The Pool

This mix of progressive house from the London DJ is the perfect starter for the workweek.

9. Olympic ravers

The Olympics may be over, but that doesn’t mean our fascination with athletes is over. What do some athletes do in their off time? Attend raves just like any other young person.

10. Honey Dijon, on the record

How Canadian Vinyl Pressing Plants Made A Comeback

This article originally appeared on THUMP Canada.

Bottlenecked production. Delayed deliveries. Worn-out machinery with impossible-to-replace parts and a dearth of qualified workers to maintain them. Lost revenues. Rising prices. Empty store racks and frustrated consumers. For the music industry in 2016, this is what counts as a success story.

As revenue from music sales has plummeted over the past 15 years, vinyl has come to represent the industry’s Jon Snowthe tenacious little bugger that just won’t die, and has actually emerged from the digital age bloodbath with renewed vigor. Last year, vinyl sales reached their highest level since the late-80s as the format continues to be re-embraced as a tangible retort to the clouding of our collections. While still comprising a sliver of the overall music industry pie, the sector has experienced steady growth since 2007, and increasingly, is one of the few figures on a record company balance sheet that isn’t itemized in parentheses.

Read More on THUMP: Seven Things We Learned from Discogs’ State of Record Sales Report

However, while the natural response to surging demand is to boost production, with vinyl that’s nigh impossible. Few pressing plants survived the industry’s shift to CD manufacturing in the mid-80s, and the dozen or so that did are mostly reliant on aged, combustible machinery running at capacity. What’s more, vinyl’s growing popularityand the lucrative national holidays it’s spawnedhas lured the major labels back into waxworks, emboldened by the realization they can get people to buy Dark Side of the Moon yet again. This has effectively crowded out the small independent labels who were responsible for keeping the medium alive during the CD era, and for whom vinyl comprises a far greater proportion of revenue.

At this point, we haven’t just reached peak vinyl; we’ve reached peak articles about peak vinyl. But the pressing-plant bottlenecks aren’t just an annoying inconvenience. Here in Canada, they’re actually killing labels, not to mention the overburdened, understaffed pressing plants themselves.

Because there are now releases that typically wouldn’t have been pressed to vinyl a few years back, labels like ourswho do a good amount of business in vinylare feeling it. – Cameron Reed, Arts & Crafts

Taylor Smith, label manager at Montreal art-pop imprint Arbutus Records, outlines the new norm. “When I started at Arbutus in 2012, the turnaround time for vinyl orders was a month,” he says. “Now, some manufacturers are at a 22 to 26-week turn times. And the consistency is all over the map. You’ve got manufacturers who tell you they can do it in eight weeks and turns out to be 14. That’s when it gets really frustrating.”

For a small label like Arbutus, the effects can be crippling. Not only do the delays often necessitate pushing back release dates, they also prevent timely restocking of in-demand titles. And often, that demand has dissipated by the time those records finally make it back onto record store shelves.

“Last year, we put out a record by Braids, Deep in the Iris,” says Smith, who also plays bass in the band. “It sold very well off the bat, exceeding our expectations. We ran out of copies about six months ago, and the repress just finished last week. That’s a solid chunk of possible sales thrown out the window right there.”

Photo courtesy of Record Store Day

Even larger labels are feeling the squeeze. Over at Toronto-based Arts & Crafts, label manager Cameron Reed has seen turnaround times jump from seven weeks in 2013 to 12-plus weeks today. “Whether Justin Bieber is deserving of having a full run of vinyl, that’s not for me to decide,” Reed says with a laugh. “But because there are now releases that typically wouldn’t have been pressed to vinyl a few years back, labels like ourswho do a good amount of business in vinylare feeling it.”

Increasingly, labels have been forced to take matters into their own hands, with boutique operations like Fat Possum in Mississippi and Third Man Records in Nashville launching their own in-house pressing plants. And last fall, Epitaph Records general manager Dave Hansen and Secretly Canadian co-founder Darius Van Arman opened Independent Record Pressing, a facility in New Jersey that acquired Quebec plant RIP-V’s old presses to service independent labels who’ve been usurped at other facilities by major-label product.

Read More on THUMP: Brazil Will Soon Open the Largest Vinyl Plant in All of South America

But for Canadian independent labels, press availability is just one factor affecting the process of bringing vinyl to market. For the likes of Arbutus and Arts & Crafts, sourcing manufacturers involves a complex weighing of variables. Ordering vinyl from plants in the US or Europe means taking a hit on the exchange rate, due to a weak Canadian dollar. At the same time, these labels do the bulk of their business outside of the country, so shipping costs are a crucial consideration too. (Some domestic imprints, like Montreal’s Turbo Recordings, do all their manufacturing in Europe for this very reason.)

“That’s something that people rarely discuss,” says Reed. “You’re shipping a very awkward, very heavy product when you’re working in mass numbers. All of a sudden, when we’re talking about a manufacturing cost of $5-$6 per LP, you could be working with $1.50 to $2 per unit in shipping just it to get it back to the label, before you’re shipping it out again to the consumer.”

That would explain why your basic, single-LP new release can sell for upwards of $30 in your local record store. And as unit costs rise, stores become extra-selective about how much stock they order, since standard industry practice dictates that they can’t return unsold vinyl to distributors. This all has the effect of depressing label bottom lines further.

Reed’s experiences at Arts & Crafts help explain why he’s been so reluctant to issue vinyl on his own electronic-focussed imprint Slow Release. To date, the label has released music by his own Babe Rainbow project, Toronto avant-R&B enigma LA timpa, and Calgary chamber-pop maestro Aleem Khan, but the upcoming 12-inch from L.A. synth-pop experimentalist dd elle will be his first foray into vinyl. And that conservative approach has as much to with musical aesthetics as market forces.

Read More on THUMP: A Canadian Company Has Developed a Revolutionary New Way to Press Vinyl

“From my perspective, bankrolling it out of my own pocket, there are some releases that are really great, but I don’t necessarily think they’re the kind of album that someone would want to purchase on vinyl,” Reed says. “I do believe there are formats that are particular to a sound and style. And you have to draw that line in the sand and say: ‘You know what, I don’t think you’re ready for a release that is going to cost $5,000 to manufacture.’ Or, ‘I don’t think that this music is super-conducive to a “listen to it for 20 minutes, get up, flip it over” experience.’ And I think that’s a decision that managers, artists, and label people have to make on a case-by-case basis.”

However, given the sustained growth in the vinyl sector, and the undying perceived prestige of the format, it’s unlikely pressing plant pressures will be alleviated by that sort of common sense logic. For many up-and-coming acts, holding your first album on vinyl instills the idea that you’re a proper band now, even if it results in thousands of dollars in credit card debt and boxes of unsold records doubling as furniture in your apartment. But some major new developments in the vinyl industry carry the promise that, some day, this whole conversation could be moot. What’s more, these potential solutions won’t require Canadian labels to constantly bust out their currency conversion calculators and shipping rate charts.

Photo courtesy of Canada Boy Vinyl

At this time last year, Canada didn’t have a single active vinyl pressing plant. With its aging machines unable to keep up with surging demand, Montreal’s reliable RIP-V went RIP in late 2014, hitting the proverbial red button on the country’s last remaining operational presses.

Last September, Calgary’s Canada Boy Vinyl facility opened for business with three aged manual presses procured from a mothballed UK plant. And this fall, their operation will be bolstered by three new automated machines designed by Toronto firm Viryl Technologies. According to Canada Boy founder and commanding officer Dean Reid, his plant can pump out “3,000 records a day , that that should get us back in the six to eight week turnaround zone.”

If you think of the current vinyl shortage as sort of like the musical equivalent of a degenerative bone disease, then the company’s figured it required some hospital-honed expertise. Headed by the former owner of Vaughan, Ontario’s defunct Acme vinyl pressing plantwhich shuttered in 2008 before it could capitalize on the crazeViryl’s team of engineers previously worked in the medical equipment industry. The company has produced a fully automated vinyl press that can be yours for the price of a tiny studio condo in Toronto$245,000 Canadian or roughly $190,000 US. (The price tag includes a one-year warranty on parts and servicing, but no parking spot or swimming pool.)

Photo courtesy of Viryl Technologies

“From extrusion, all the way to trimming and stacking, the whole process is automated,” says Viryl’s Alex DesRoches of the machines, which are designed to run 24/7. Using 140-gram vinyl, they can produce 180 records per hour, or over 1.5 million per year. “One operator can comfortably man four machines at one timethat person is pretty much just responsible for loading materials and taking the vinyl off of the machines as it produces it runs,” he continues. “We’ve implemented a platform called Adapt, which monitors all the points of the press and collects data from the system. So the pressing plant can have full control over the nozzle pressure, how many records they’re making per minute, how a certain PVC blend is reacting to the extruder… and you have full control through your PC and smartphone.”

While that’s great news for plant managers playing Candy Crush in the loo realizing they need to fire off another 500 copies of that Blood Orange record, DesRoches also sees Viryl as a boon to labels who want to take control of their means of production. In addition to Canada Boy, Viryl has recently sold presses to Dallas-based indie Hand Drawn Records, who are launching their own manufacturing facility this fall.

A half hour west of the company’s Toronto headquarters, another upstart operation is hoping to make a major dent in the industry’s order backlog. While the sprawling suburb of Burlington, Ontario is nobody’s idea of a musical hotbed, it will soon be home to the second largest vinyl-pressing plant in all of North America. And it, too, will be running brand new, automated machineshowever, it had to look east of the city to find them. Way east.

Acquiring vinyl presses in the 2010s involves a globe-trotting Raiders of the Last Ark-style quest guided by opportune, word-of-mouth tips and fuelled by fierce competition.

Gerry McGhee’s career in the music industry dates back to the era when people actually bought vinyl LPs and listened to them, instead of just hanging them on their wall in Urban Outfitters frames. He was the frontman for Brighton Rock, one of those slick, big-haired, post-Jovi rock bands that MuchMusic stopped playing once grunge blew up. But after he quit making records, he found even greater success wholesaling themIsotope Music, the company he launched in 1996, touts itself as Canada’s largest music distributor, with an inventory of over 60,000 titles.

Around four years ago, McGhee started to notice a sustained uptick in the amount of vinyl orders he was receivingand nowhere near enough stock from his label clients to fulfill them. “When all the Led Zeppelin reissues came out, Canada got zero vinyl,” McGhee recounts. The labels came to me and said, ‘If you put a plant together, we will support you, because we’re not getting enough product.'”

Read More on THUMP: Why the So-Called “Vinyl Boom” May Be Bad For Electronic Music

However, as he quickly learned, acquiring vinyl presses in the 2010s involves a globe-trotting Raiders of the Lost Ark-style quest guided by opportune, word-of-mouth tips and fueled by fierce competition. “I’ve been to plants in Canada, the UK, and Japan, trying to find machines, thinking I found machines, losing machines… One guy would call and say, ‘Okay, I’ve got a machine for you for $53,000.’ ‘Alright, I’ll take it!’ ‘Sorry, too lateit’s gone now.’ I was at a conference once in Portugal and met with a guy from Cargo Records and I said, “‘I heard you have a plantdo you know where I can get machines?’ And his response was: ‘If I did, I wouldn’t tell you.'”

McGhee’s scavenger hunt eventually led him to the Czech Republic, home of GZthe unlikely epicenter of the modern vinyl boom. The company is a multi-faceted manufacturing facility that cranks out everything from CDs to packaging materials for the likes of IKEA. And since opening in 1951, it’s also pressed vinyland never stopped, even at the height of the CD’s dominance. As a result, GZ was in an advantageous position to capitalize on the current vogue for vinyl and, today, the company is the top producer of platters in the world. (Arbutus’ Smith says their product is “the best quality we’ve had.”)

GZ also has the deep resources to invest in the prohibitively expensive process of building new vinyl presses. McGhee initially approached the company to see if he could buy some from them; the company declined. Instead, they’ve decided to partner up.

Photo courtesy of Viryl Technologies

When it launches this fall, the Precision Vinyl Press in Burlington will be operating ten new automated presses with a collective capacity to produce four million records per year off the bat,and a phase two goal of 11 million records annually. McGhee has already brought long-time Isotope partners Universal Music Canada and Sony Music Canada on board, but he insists his plant is there to service boutique labels as well. “The great thing about these machines is they can handle the big runs, but they’re also great for doing little 200-unit runs. After test pressings are complete, we’re hoping to offer a six-week delivery.”

And to ensure a locked-in roster of indie labels right out of the gate, Precision has teamed up with the popular, Toronto-based vinyl-broker service SAMO, whose clients include Arbutus and Arts & Crafts. Previously, labels would consult the company to source the most cost- and time-effective pressing options available internationally on a release-by-release basis. And to expedite the turnaround process, a label like Arts & Crafts might have their album packaging printed at one facility, ship it to SAMO, who then combine it with the vinyl they’ve concurrently sourced from another plant, and send the final product directly to distributors.

Photo courtesy of Viryl Technologies

Under the new partnership, they will essentially function as Precision’s frontline sales office, forgoing their traditional broker service to serve as the liaison between the labels and the new plant. They’re also now offering on-site printing and packaging, effectively making Precision a one-stop shop. McGhee was hoping the plant’s test runs would be underway by now, but delays in securing city permits and evaluating different contractor bids have pushed back their opening from September to October. For Arbutus’ Smith, that moment can’t come soon enough.

“When you’re manufacturing through Canadian companies, your expenses are in Canadian dollars. But most of your revenues ends up in American dollars, so the profit margins expand as a result. And it means I can drive seven hours to see our pressing plant. I’m pretty psyched!”

Reed, however, is taking a more cautiously optimistic outlook.

“You hear about new plants popping up saying they’ll have a five to seven week turnaround. But I’ll be interested to see if that lastsbecause if you’re advertising that, and everyone rushes to you, that advantage is gone almost immediately!”

Stuart Berman is on Twitter.

Nerftoss' New Video Finds An Eerie Stillness In Digital Garbage

John Jones is probably best known to the world at large as one-fourth the Baltimore based noise wrecking crew Dope Body, but he’s also spent the last couple of years indulging more experimental fascinations. Since 2014, he’s used the moniker Nerftoss for a string of asymmetrical and overwhelming electronic releases that feel lovingly cobbled together from digital detritus. Crushed, released in May on NNA Tapes, largely continues in that vein, piecing together noisy electronics and stuttering synths, with fluttering percussions ripped from the history of house music. It’s a loving tribute to weird and unwieldy beauty when you’re willing to dumpster dive, so to speak.

The video for “Some Kind of Way” only underscores this fascination with the tech that gets left behind, featuring an old camcorder, a busted up laptop, and a polo shirt emblazoned with the logo of the now-shuttered electronics superstore Circuit City in the opening moments. There’s not much plot action from there just a guy bleaching his hair and scootering around abandoned landscapes with CD-rs trailing behind him, but taken as an abstract whole, the clip is kind of funny and kind of lonelyas good a parallel as any for the unique collage of mixed emotions that Jones is able to convey in his work.

Watch the clip here, and check out Crushed below, which is out now on NNA Tapes.

Watch Wolfgang Tillmans' Enchantingly Dark Video For SALEM's Remix Of His New Single

At the beginning of August, it was announced that pioneering witch house group SALEM would return with their first new material in over five years. Curiously, the person to relay this information was lauded photographer and recent Frank Ocean collaborator Wolfgang Tillmans, of all people. He said that the band has a new album forthcoming, and that they had also done a remix of one of his original productions, “Make It Up As You Go Along,” describing it as “super dense, highly abstracted from the original, an irresistible magic and pull.”

Now that foretold remix has a music video, directed and filmed by Tillmans himself on location in Fire Island, New York. It consists entirely of footage of surf on the beach edited in a morose yet enchanting color palate, which pairs well with the song’s gothically misanthropic drama. Speaking to The FADER about the video, he explained, “The movement of the ocean is so totally beyond our control. It is forever larger than us. It cannot really be grasped, and can be perceived as scary or comforting. By slowing the film down the seawater gets the illusion of different viscosity, more like oil.”

In the interview, he also gave some explanation for why it’s been so long since we’ve heard from SALEM, and hinted at what their new album might sound like. “They had gone through some problems in the last few years and didn’t find it easy to continue after the wave of excitement they initially created,” he said. “They are finally confident to keep the best of their original sound and reconnect with where we are now.”

The remix is off Tillmans’ recently released Device Control EP.

Frank Ocean recently confirmed that Tillmans took him to Berghain, which eventually led to one of the photographer’s tracks ending up on Endless.

Follow Alexander on Twitter.

Jamie Xx And Floating Points' NTS Mix Is As Groovily Eclectic As You Might Expect

Photo courtesy of NTS Radio

A pair of England’s most beloved producers and selectors, Jamie xx and Floating Points, stopped by London’s NTS Radio last Thursday August 18, and as of this weekend you can hear an archived recording of their session. Considering who’s behind the controls, the resulting two-hour mix is about as eclectic as you’d expect, ranging all the way from Freddie Hubbard’s jazz funk to late 90s Armand Van Helden and Studio One affiliate Hortense Ellis, all sewn together into an effortlessly seamless narrative.

NTS celebrates its five year anniversary this year, and THUMP took the occasion to find out how the golden age of internet radio was born in a shack in East London.

Someone recently compiled every sample on Jamie xx’s debut LP In Colour in one video, while Sam Shepherd brought the entire eleven-piece Floating Points band to record a 50-minute performance for THUMP sessions late in 2015.

Follow Alexander on Twitter.

Someone Gave A TED Talk About The Science Behind Dubstep

Back in February, the TED organization partnered with Oxford University to present a program of talks centered around theme “find X.” They left the prompt pretty open-ended, which was probably a pretty good idea, because it gave composer and music educator James Humberstone the creative freedom to do a twenty-minute presentation on a pressing topic: “The Science of Dubstep.”

He begins by saying that humans are drawn to patterns in their experience of the world, noting in particular our affinity for complex patterns of sound. From there he explains how barely-perceptible combinations of harmonic overtones affect the timbre of individual sounds, illustrating that what we think of as a single note is in fact made up of a whole range of sonic frequencies. It’s our knowledge of tones’ component parts that lets us play with them as a compositional device, which is the exact kind of thing we’re hearing in the wobbling filter of a dubstep bassline. The demonstration wouldn’t be complete, of course, unless he made a track onstage in collaboration with screaming members of the audience, and that’s exactly what he does.

All in all, it’s a pretty informative introduction to the study of sound perception, also making the valuable point that music education has to remain a central part of school curriculums for children. On that subject, Humberstone has released a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) via the University of Sydney called “The Place of Music in 21st Century Education.”

Follow Alexander on Twitter.