After a seven-year hiatus, Anaphylaxis released our latest album, Shell Beach, in April of 2015. Coffman wrote a piece earlier this year detailing his time working as Anaphylaxis in advance of the album's release. On August 3, we released a free album-length collection of Shell Beach remixes by artists including Cinchel, Travelogue, Vapor Lanes, Via Vegrandis, and others—as well as releasing the available stems from all the album tracks for other artists to use for remixes (or their own work).
What follows are five-ish albums from both members of Anaphylaxis that have informed our work in the project—and on our latest album, Shell Beach, in particular.
1a. Einstürzende Neubauten, Strategies Against Architecture II (Mute, 1991)
1b. My Bloody Valentine, Loveless (Creation, 1991)
I was a pop radio kid. I grew up constantly listening to oldies and Top 40 in the '80s, when I wasn't scanning shortwave for mysterious transmissions. By 1992, I was starting to listen to a lot of metal, but that summer I had a formative experience away from home during which some new friends introduced me to both of these bands and albums, and that set me off on spirals down the industrial and shoegaze rabbit holes. Neubauten created ominous drones and atmosphere with objects that weren't instruments, as well as actual songs—including a cover of Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood's "Sand" that has haunted me ever since. This was the first inkling I had that music could be literally anything, and vice versa, and that it could be possible for me to create something musical. My Bloody Valentine just sounded like nothing I had ever heard before: monstrous squalls of noise washing over ethereal vocals that inspired countless hours of headphone meditation, picking apart the sounds and trying to figure out how such a thing could be. I wanted to make something this beautiful, and I wanted to hear anything even remotely like this in hopes of finding out how to make that happen.
2. Joy Electric, Melody (Tooth & Nail, 1994)
A couple of years later, I was still listening to a lot of metal, but I was also scouring print magazines and small press zines looking for weirdo industrial and shoegaze bands. A few summers in high school I went with a group of friends to the Cornerstone festival, a huge Christian music festival that ran from the early-1980s until finally calling it quits just a few years ago. In the '80s and '90s, "Christian rock" was a completely separate thing from the music industry at large. Tiny independent labels like Blonde Vinyl were putting out albums by bands that were a world away from the typical CCM (Contemporary Christian Music) that people associated with "Christian music." One of my favorites was Dance House Children, a group that hearkened back to my favorite pop music from the '80s like Pet Shop Boys and Erasure, but with a charming D.I.Y. aesthetic. Cornerstone 1994 was the first and only time I got to see Dance House Children perform, as their mastermind, Ronnie Martin, was moving on to a new project called Joy Electric. Joy Electric's debut album, Melody, was a huge departure from Dance House Children in its comparatively slick presentation (thanks to Tooth & Nail Records, at the time pioneering a more professional image for marginalized "Christian rock" bands) and its stripped down approach. Martin used analog synthesizers in fascinating ways, creating a soundscape not entirely removed from what My Bloody Valentine was doing with guitars: covering beautifully written songs with intricate patterns of sound. It inspired me to revisit the pop music of my childhood and to embrace Top 40 radio again, which I had mostly abandoned in my musical pursuits.
3. Lovesliescrushing, Xuvetyn (Projekt, 1996)
By 1996, I had managed to track down and listen to just about all the shoegaze bands I could possibly find living in rural Indiana, before the internet was available everywhere. I went to college and got internet access, and suddenly I was able to find like-minded fans and discover even more bands I had never heard of before. One of my favorite early internet experiences was requesting a sampler CD (Beneath the Icy Floe, V. 3) and catalog from Projekt Records and having it sent to my dorm in a tiny town at the very southern edge of Indiana. I liked what I heard, but when Lovesliescrushing's "Babysbreath" came on my mind was blown. I immediately ordered their first two albums, Bloweyelashwish (1992) and Xuvetyn (1996). Both albums were great, but Scott Cortez (the guitarist behind the project, and home-taping genius) had taken the "beautiful noise" aesthetic of My Bloody Valentine to its logical conclusion with Xuvetyn. Here were waves of those incredible sounds, more than even Flying Saucer Attack, almost completely divorced from song structure. I listened to Xuvetyn obsessively. Once, when the album reached the end, a small particle of dust caused the final track of the CD to skip and replay the final 10 seconds or so over and over again, a happy accident that I listened to for hours, wishing this was the way the album was actually meant to end. Or, more correctly, how the album was meant to never end, gorgeously spinning on for eternity. I make no apologies for the fact that ultimately this is one of the albums that I have always tried to mimic with Anaphylaxis, and I never feel like I've gotten anywhere close to its perfection.
4a. C.C.C.C., Love & Noise (Endorphine Factory, 1996)
4b. Merzbow, Space Metalizer (Alien8, 1997)
I first stumbled upon Merzbow roughly the same way I first discovered Lovesliescrushing, by requesting a sampler CD and catalog from Relapse Records. There was a ton of stuff in that old print catalog that sounded intriguing, but none more than C.C.C.C.'s Love & Noise (1996). I ordered it along with Merzbow's Pulse Demon (1996, which was similarly revelatory for me), and when they arrived I had virtually no frame of reference for them. The only Japanese music anywhere remotely near this that I was familiar with at the time was Boredoms, and that did nothing to prepare me for this. Mayuko Hino's theremin put that instrument in a completely new context than any I had previously imagined, and I realized while digging up information on the band that they were using equipment not much different from the stuff that Joy Electric was using to a totally different end in pop music. Love & Noise is heavy on atmospherics and tinged with psychedelia, but it's also made from recognizable component parts. And while Pulse Demon was my first exposure to that level of extreme noise—and therefore made a huge impression on me—my favorite Merzbow album from that time was Space Metalizer (1997). Whereas Pulse Demon is a full-on assault of speaker-shredding, propulsive noise, Space Metalizer takes the same basic approach but tempers it with a somewhat more musical (and, like Love & Noise, psychedelic) bent. It was still a huge, imposing wall of noise, but the more subtle and varied sounds made it a lot more conducive to listening to while writing and exploring other creative pursuits. I modeled my earliest Anaphylaxis performances on the approaches of these albums, building simple pitch and optical theremins and working outward from there with primitive "synthesizers," samplers, and other oddball equipment like signal generators and noisemaking toys.
5a. Brighter Death Now, Obsessis (Cold Meat Industry, 2000)
5b. Vox Barbara, (De)Constructed Ghosts (Little Man, 2000)
Brighter Death Now was another Relapse Records catalog discovery, and I listened to their '90s albums whenever I felt like being absolutely terrified. More than any other musician or band on the planet, I found Brighter Death Now to be in a class of its own as far as being genuinely scary. There were no other artists or bands that made me feel as deeply, almost physically unsettled. I love Brighter Death Now for basically the same reasons I love Andrzej Żuławski's film Possession: both make me feel on edge in a way that almost no other art can. And like that film, there were occasional hints that Roger Karmanik had a perverse sense of humor, although virtually none of that made its way overtly onto his albums until Obsessis (2000). Obsessis is undeniably Brighter Death Now, but it's also something much different from the Great Death trilogy or Necrose Evangelicum, those towering monuments to horror and misery. It's still pretty creepy, but it's blackly comic, with titles like "Exercise (Now is the Time for Intercourse)" and "You Got Sperm on Your Jacket (I Know 'Cause it's Mine)." The year after Obsessis was released, an artist named Frank Smith released an album titled (De)Constructed Ghosts under the name Vox Barbara. The album was purportedly created using an illicitly obtained copy of an "acoustic warfare" software project called Ligea. Ligea supposedly revealed "historical energy artefacts" when given any properly formatted sound—temporal echoes "of the past(s) of the objects producing the sound." Smith claimed that the tracks on the album are "the auras, if you will, of these sources, rendered by Ligea. Portions were selected from the raw Ligea material for looping, layering and stereo separation. No other processing has taken place." The results are utterly fascinating and frequently haunting, taking the forms of everything from repetitive noise loops to rumbling drones, enhanced greatly by the story of the album's creation. Fortunately, while the beautiful limited edition physical CD is long out of print, the album is available for download.
1. The Human League, Reproduction (Virgin, 1979)
Just the idea that you could make music out of nothing—just synthesizers and tape. When we started Shell Beach, I had a barebones modular synthesizer that was so minimal that pitches even had to be dialed in by hand. The idea that this was all it took—and then hitting tape for more texture—was revolutionary for me.
2a. Excepter, Throne (Excepter/Load, 2005)
2b. Excepter, Ka (Excepter/Fusetron, 2003)
In the late-'90s, while making really normal dance music, I'd get into these deep bedroom jams with a sampler and pedals and a drum machine that felt like Sonic Youth, but done on inappropriate equipment. When I encountered Excepter, I found a kinship with someone who had taken this idea to its logical and most fruitful conclusion—using not just synthesizers and drum machines, but specifically iconic dance music machines for chaotic, gnarly purposes. Much of Shell Beach was similarly made with classic Chicago house music tools and techniques, but deployed toward utterly alien results.
3. Popol Vuh, In den Gärten Pharaos (Pilz, 1971)
Jean Cocteau modular Moog fantasias with hypnotic hand drumming. When I joined Anaphylaxis, I wanted to help take things not just toward Tangerine Dream "soundscapes," but to the Popol Vuh level of full-on Herzog scores.
4. The Skaters, Dark Rye Bread (Nature Tape Limb, 2005)
My friend Matt spontaneously lived on my couch for a month and brought along Skaters tapes and much more. Modern tape music, liberated from academia and gooed into life through the fuzz and buzz of a karaoke machine and microcassette noise. Pure texture as music, not even sound, but texture. I always worked so hard for recording quality, but Anaphylaxis was about also using cassettes, MiniDisc, the line-in on an obsolete plastic MacBook, cheap pedals... anything.
5. Mount Eerie, Singers (P.W. Elverum & Sun, Ltd., 2005)
The influence of all of Phil Elverum's music cannot be overstated, from back then until present day. Singers, in particular—just the voices combining in the air instead of electrically—was an enormous drive to achieve a more choral wall of processed voices: an attempt to reach that same feeling.