What exactly is folk music today? With the inauguration of their new sublabel, the beloved Gotham tastemakers RVNG make a strong case that electronic music can now be appreciated as a kind of folk culture—machines allow anyone to make it, and in the digital era, anyone to distribute it as well. FRKWYS is intended as an homage to Folkways, that landmark label begun in the '40s and now owned by the Smithsonian.
Each FRKWYS release is set to explore a different microcosm of electronic music by pairing new blood up with old hands. The today/yesterday mashup feel is extended to the packaging as well, which combines high-end touches with retro-archival graphics. If you like you can also sign-up for the FRKWYS mail subscription service. Taken as a whole you might call this old-fashionedness a kind of backlash against disembodied, instant-gratification digital mp3 culture, but let's face it, using the term "backlash" only helps to understand something in a negative light, and in this case would obscure the enthusiasm and care that's clearly gone into fashioning the label's identity.
When it comes to this initial release (inexplicably cataloged at #2), however, don't let the inviting, high-brow packaging fool you, as the sonic contents are three slabs of uncompromising gristle and throb that marry Excepter's trademark gritty noise work-outs to lockstep industrial grind provided by three grand masters of the field, Jack Dangers of Meat Beat Manifesto, Chris & Cosey, and JG Thirlwell. The results are exciting, inventive and timely—arguably evidence of what can make New York music great when its proprietors are willing to sacrifice expectation for innovation.
Jack Dangers turns "Kill People" into a tense and gritty trip-hop workout complete with bricklayer backbeat and dubby soundscapes. Chris & Cosey turn in the most accessible mix here, heightening the gangsta edge of "Shots Ring" with a rugged, uptempo low-end. While there's a lot of sinister shadowplay on display here that one would associate with industrial music in general, it's clear that Excepter takes a perhaps more light-hearted approach to their craft than their more dour forbearers—see the video for "Shots Ring," for example, where video artist Petra Cortright's bedroom psychedelia imbues the hardnosed grit with a buoyant sense of fun. JG Thirlwell closes with a grand flourish, remixing "Stretch" into a riot of garbage-can clatter and machine stomp that sounds like a robot navy on shore leave. It might give your average Guthrie fan a heart attack to think of this as folk music, but considering more than half the world's population lives in urban areas full of traffic, factories and other abrasive sound sources, maybe it's not such a strange thought.
Buy Excepter - FRKWYS Vol. 2 at
Tracklist: Excepter - FRKWYS Vol. 2 A Shots Ring (Carter Tutti remix)
B Stretch (JG Thirlwell remix)
Digital Kill People (Jack Dangers MBM Mix)
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