Georgia – All Kind Music (2016)
During the summer of 2000, shortly after my twenty-second birthday, I moved to Philadelphia to begin graduate school at the University of Pennsylvania. My initial excitement was short lived. Having spent the previous four years in Chicago, immersed in one of the most remarkable music scenes I have ever encountered, everything about my new home (and program) felt provincial and behind the times. Melancholy rapidly set in.
Philly was a hard nut to crack – a small town suffering a steady brain drain to New York. At first glance, it didn’t seem like much was going on. After Chicago, it felt like a place where ambition went to die (this radically changed in the years following my departure). Anyone who lived in there during that period, will remember a wild and unkempt city – stricken with poverty and crime – but with the grime came a rare sense of possibility and freedom. It was a town of drop-outs and nonconformists, where the weeds were allowed to grow.
Bubbling below the surface of Philadelphia’s musical landscape – largely defined by nostalgia tinged Indie Pop, Hardcore and Crust Punk, and Shoegaze/ Psych outfits, was another reality – one which took advantage of the rare freedom and chaos the city enabled (and inspired) – so otherworldly and bizarre that it couldn’t have germinated in any other place. This small cluster of projects, the most notable of which (in my view) were Need New Body and Aspera Ad Astera, were so sonically bent, creatively ambitious, and willing to embrace risk, that you were forced to wonder if their sounds were a byproduct of a larger social experiment – some other mission. Their live shows (none of their albums come close) were so fucked – hellbent on charting the unknown – realms where few listeners could follow, that they were the aural equivalent of a heavy dose of hallucinogens – leaving fans in a disoriented heap.
Despite all of the ambitious wonders I had experienced in Chicago during the years prior, nothing reached the reckless abandoned – the unmediated freedom and chaos, of this small out of the way world. It planted a seed which set the bar high for future musical encounters. It’s rarely been completely fulfilled.
Around the time of my move to NY in 2002, much of the scene which had made my time in Philly bearable, was slowly breaking down. Need New Body was being absorbed into Man Man. Matt Werth from Aspera moved to NY around the same time as I did. Our paths crossed regularly through mutual friends, and it seemed like the band was not long for this world (he went on to found Rvng). As the years passed, memories of that time drifted from my thoughts. Little provoked me to return to my chaos soaked Philadelphia nights. Then a little over a month ago, chance brought me to Palto Flats‘ issue of Georgia’s All Kind Music.
Much of my listening life has been defined by following labels – they are fascinating microcosms. I believe in trusting their lead. They represent the great risk and passion of those who found them – something not to be taken lightly. Palto Flats has been on my radar since they got rolling five years ago. They gained a great deal of attention for their reissue of Mariah’s legendary Utakata No Hibi, but if you take the time to explore their catalog, you will find an imprint of stark individualism, risk, and ambition. It is defined not by a sound, but a spirit. All Kind Music is no exception.
Unlike the label that brought them to my attention, Georgia wasn’t on my radar. I entered blind on faith. After my first encounter wasn’t sure what to think. The album fucked me up, defied my expectations, tastes, and understanding. It made me feel weird and confused. I didn’t like it, and knew I loved it. It brought me to a place were music rarely does – where I long to be brought – to the disorienting unknown – where I don’t know whether it’s bad or good, only that there are things to understand which will take countless listens to unwind. Dispute the confusion, something was familiar – a sea sick rhythmic sensibility and the presence of risk. Echoes of my lost Philadelphia nights. It turned out Justin Tripp, who represents half of Georgia with Brian Close, had been a member of Aspera Ad Astera – bringing seeds planted in that time.
All Kind Music is a strange Post-Modern hybrid. It’s impossible to completely nail down. At times it might be confused with the early 80’s bedroom musings of an acid drenched teenager, at others the genius laced efforts of Don Cherry from the same period. There is the unmistakable imprint of Japanese projects like Midori Takada, Eitetsu Hayashi, and Aragon, as well as Italian efforts like Futuro Antico, forced into connection with the filtered sounds of Africa and the Middle East. Even as it draws on this broad spectrum of influence and reference, it is unmistakably hellbent on being entirely its own thing. An electronic record which refuses to electronic, a synthesizer album within which synthesizers aren’t the point, a percussion effort where rhythm is broken. It is everything which it is not, and not what it is.
Bubbling under the surface of All Kind Music is the spirit of the weeds – of freedom – the warped outcome of breaking rules and allowing for the unkempt – the virtues of controlled chaos. Its Post-Modernism draws on an acknowledgement of what few are willing to face – that we exist within a context where everything sounds like something else. It is this, with the total rejection of pastiche, that makes Georgia’s effort so remarkable. These are sounds, as much as a statement of philosophy – a kind of conceptualism and demarcation of social and cultural position – a reckoning of the dangers of our times, and a willingness to attack them on their own ground. All Kind Music is an assault on sensibility – an experimental album which rejects the sonic signifiers which have become all to familiar in experimental music – which seemingly encourages you to hate it, while forcing you to hate yourself for doing doing so. It is a record which challenges the future by aggressively digesting the past. Though made in New York, it carries with it the spirit of freedom ushered forth in another time and place that I had the fortune to know – of joys which grow beyond watchful eyes.
In the weeks I have owned All Kind Music, I have returned to it again and again. It continues to unfold, but will not bend. At once beautiful and ugly, its depths unveil new challenges, new mysteries, and the enduring sense that this music is only half the point. It’s out now. You can check it out below, and pick up directly from Palto Flats.