I didn’t realize I wanted to restart the Freak Scene column until almost a year ago, when I was in Austin, Texas doing a feature on a bunch of close-knit bands, many of which lived in one house next to a city park that had a half pipe in it. The bands ranged from humid heartbreakers (Pure X), to towering synth experimentalists (SURVIVE) to ominous, slow-rolling heaviness (Troller). What was most exciting, though, was how they were all relentless experimentalists—doing gorgeous, heavy pieces of music and committing them to limited-run cassettes, releasing colored vinyl…there was just an intense love of making things and getting them out there, even if only a few people actually got copies. As I was packing to leave, I was handed a case full of tapes from just about every artist I’d interviewed. Most of the stuff skewed rough and ambient—guitars and synths are teased out slowly and with patience, but there’s a crude aspect that makes everything feel so homemade, as if the entire scene obsessed over Aphex Twin’s Selected Ambient Works, and then put their own ragged spin on it. Holodeck Records, a new imprint is now offering plenty of these releases for sale. All of it is worth buying. On each of these cassettes there’s a sense of prolonged decay—a worn, glittering but simultaneously dirty quality that feels reflective of Austin’s environment, but also of these artists’ scrappy love for experimenting with sounds and wide-ranging influences to create new sonic worlds. What I’m getting at here is that much of this music could easily go under the radar. It’s not especially accessible or easy to get a hold of if you don’t know where to look, but it’s also important and challenging and worth paying attention to.
Buy Holodeck’s releases here, read a brief Q+A with the founder of Holodeck below, and check out some samples, tour dates, and other records on the following page.
Can you tell me a little bit about why you started Holodeck?
The label is a vehicle for the large volume of material that our greater collective of musicians (mostly out of Austin) produce. We think there’s a lot of release-worthy recordings being made right now and felt the need to create a legitimate outlet for them. Holodeck is how we spread our music.
Would you say there’s a unifying aesthetic to the material you’ve released?
There’s not necessarily a unifying aesthetic, at least not a conscious one. Currently, we have a lot of synthesizer and ambient material, but we’re not tied to it as a motif whatsoever. We release what we’re interested in, and/or producing at the moment; similarly, our aesthetic will continually grow and change.
How does the more ambient material fit into the world of ambient music as a whole? Are artists like Thousand Foot Whale Claw or Smokey Emery coming from a love of more “traditional” ambient like Music for Airports or from somewhere else?
This first batch of releases is definitely intended for the patient listener (which is one aspect gleaned from the classics, for sure), but these records weren’t made with specific genre goals in mind. None of the bands, so far, have any intention of being known strictly as ambient projects. Every release does and will have elements outside of traditional ambient music…we’re loose. Smokey Emery and TFWC definitely vie for a more visceral and demanding listening than what one would expect from a typical “ambient” release, or any of that genre’s formative albums, per se.
What is it about the cassette format that appeals to you?
Cassettes are simply the easiest and cheapest way to release a record that’s legit. We want to give folks something physical, something tangible, in the age of mp3s and streams. We put a lot of thought in to the whole experience—acknowledging the graphics and the music as intertwined—and letting that show through the packaging and imprinting as well as the music. All of us at Holodeck have a deep-seated love for tapes that goes back to our musical roots. Cassettes have been, and always will be, a part of underground and DIY music culture. The cassette format is close to the heart, same goes for vinyl (which we’ll have soon, too).