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Kim Cascone (1955 - )

Related: sound - music criticism

Forming US ambient label Silent in 1986, Cascone is perhaps best known as David Lynch's Assistant Music Editor, producing and co-ordinating the sound on both 'Twin Peaks' and 'Wild at Heart'.


Born in Albion, Michigan 1955, Kim Cascone studied at the Berklee College of Music in the early 1970's, continuing his electronics studies in 1976 with Dana McCurdy at the New York City's New School.

In 1980 he moved to San Francisco where he worked with film director David Lynch as Assistant Music Editor on both Twin Peaks and Wild at Heart shows. In 1986 Cascone founded Silent Records, where he released some of his personal projects including Heavenly Music Corporation, PGR, Thessalonians, and Spiced Barons.

Cascone sold the company 10 years later to start a career as a sound designer, working for Thomas Dolby's company Headspace as a sound designer and composer. He later began working for Staccato Systems as the Director of Content where he worked in the design of new sounds for games using algorithmic synthesis.

Cascone is one of the main representative digital artists of the Glitch aesthetic and the use of software like Max/MSP. --http://www.intuitivemusic.com/tguidekimcascone.html [Apr 2005]


Forming US Ambient label Silent in 1986, Cascone is perhaps best known as David Lynch's Assistant Music Editor, producing and co-ordinating the sound on both 'Twin Peaks' and 'Wild at Heart'.

His recent blueCube () trilogy draws together three releases on Raster Music and Mille Plateaux sub-label Ritornell. Described as 'computer generated music grainwave synthesis' it convolves the ever-malleable output of the cSound programming language to create a sprawling series of miniature studies which Cascone re-combines in an ever-evolving series of potentially infinite complexity.

Cascone describes the latest evolution in his music: "I never liked performing due to having to haul gear around, so I'm building - to quote Robert Fripp - a 'small, mobile, intelligent unit for performing live. This makes performing much easier and, more importantly, more fun."

Fällt designers Fehler are currently working with Cascone on 'Dust Theories' an ongoing audio/visual work to complement an audio installation/collaboration entitled 'Residualism'. Releases by Kim Cascone include:

Review of Generation Ecstacy

Reviewed by Kim Cascone (Pacifica, California, USA)

This is the age of the engineer-poet, the imagineer. (Simon Reynolds, "Overrated of 1997," http://members.aol.com/blissout/over97.htm)

Those interested in furthering their knowledge of the genre known as "Techno" would do well to read Simon Reynolds's latest book about the rave phenomenon, Generation Ecstasy. Over the past decade, Mr. Reynolds has written some of the most thought-provoking commentary on contemporary popular music. In his first book, Blissed Out: the Raptures of Rock (London: Serpents Tail, 1990) the author explores the concept of "bliss" in pop music while describing its origins, social context, and aesthetic content. Throughout his career, Mr. Reynolds has written dozens of insightful articles for publications such as The Village Voice, Melody Maker, Spin, The Wire, and Rolling Stone. He is one of a few music journalists (Greil Marcus, Kodwo Eschun, and David Toop are others) who comfortably draw from critical sources as diverse as Gilles Deleuze & Félix Guattari, Roland Barthes, and Johnny Rotten.

In his latest book, Generation Ecstasy, Mr. Reynolds takes on the Herculean task of chronicling the techno/rave movement, which mutates and spins out new tendril-like sub-genres on a weekly basis. It's no easy feat keeping on top of all the music coming out at any given moment; reviewing its brief yet furious history is equally as daunting. Viewing the various scenes in Europe and the US from a sociological perspective, he often frames his first-hand research in a pharmacological context, one of the petri dishes for this new, synthetic-sounding dance music.

The author sketches in the main timeline of electronic dance music from its inception in Detroit and Chicago in the early 1980s through the fractalized (factionalized) mutations that have spawned in the UK, Germany, the Netherlands, and the USA. Mr. Reynolds covers the early roots of the American movement by tracing the careers of the techno triumvirate: Derrick May, Juan Atkins, and Kevin Saunderson. Their attraction to the cold mechanical beats of Kraftwerk launched the "Detroit sound" that quickly spread to the UK, was misinterpreted, and mutated into "Acid House." He then leads us chapter by chapter through the underbelly of the subcultures: the rave movment in the UK and the USA, the Manchester scene (also known as "rave 'n roll"), the crusty movement (techno hippies), the Detroit scene in the early 1990s, Jungle, Hardcore, Trip Hop, Drum 'n Bass, Techstep, Ambient, and the post-techno experimental movements emanating from Berlin, Cologne, and Finland.

Mr. Reynolds also touches on the subject of DJ culture and how it fueled the musical deconstruction known as the "remix"—this is of particular importance for anyone wanting to know more about the cultural impact of interpreting or mutating works in order to add new dimensions to them. Of economic interest is how the "use-value" of a remix is (re)projected out into the marketplace, often extending the popularity (read: sales) of a music track. Out of this process and with the availability of cheap audio gear, DJs are able to blur the line between composer and arranger by taking their craft off the dance floor and into their home studios. The tool of choice is the sampler, and by using the technique of sampling, the DJ has the ability to layer other samples taken from different sources (or eras) with the original recording to form a bricolage of cultural references. Precedents had been set by the Surrealists, Dadaists, the "cut-up" work of William Burroughs and Brion Gysin, and Dub Reggae artists King Tubby and Errol Thompson. Postmodernism had gained a foothold in modern culture where the artist is transformed from being a creator to being a curator. Mr. Reynolds offers some of the most interesting insights on this cultural phenomenon, and his book should be mandatory reading for anyone confused by what the term "remix" means and how it was created. Remixers such as Alex Patterson (The Orb), Richard D. James (Aphex Twin) and DJ Goldie now command top dollar to weave mutated strains of samples through new structures that chaff and rub against the original source, the new mix finally achieving an energy of its own.

Thinking that the music alone is the only thing that controls your perception of it is pretty naïve. (posting on the Intelligent Dance Music listserv).

In an article from the April 1999 issue of The Wire, Mr. Reynolds has this to say about the pharmacological context of one of the many subgenres of techno known as "Garage":

Sonically, Garage seems to fit cocaine like a glove: the patina of deluxe sound, the fidgety, febrile beats that feel itchy with desire. The 'cocaine ear' favours bright toppy sounds—hence Garage's glossy glare of crisp hi-hats, shrill brass, glistening synths and trebly vocals.

The title Generation Ecstasy affirms that rave music is inseparable from the widespread usage of MDMA (commonly known as "e" or "ecstasy") and that much of the music generated from that subculture heavily indexes the drug experience in song titles or samples used. Ecstasy acts as an empathogen that induces a feeling of "collective intimacy" in the user and has helped to create the retro-hippie idealist atmosphere rampant throughout the rave community. What isn't touched upon too heavily in the book is the fact that this isn't the first time in history such a phenomenon of "music aesthetically warped by drug culture" (S. Reynolds, "Overrated of 1998," http://members.aol.com/blissout/faves98.htm) has occurred. In the same essay from which that quote is taken, Mr. Reynolds states:

But there are other 1960s—the mainstream Sixties of psychedelia, the drug-technology interface, the studio-as-instrument, the underground Sixties of electric jazz, minimalism, and musique concrète. It's this continuum—beginning in the 1960s and carrying on through the Seventies in all sorts of unlikely places: dub reggae, Krautrock, the lysergic underground disco culture of New York, Kraftwerk and Moroder, Parliament-Funkadelic—that is the ancestral mulch for all that's exciting today. Not "roots" so much as routes—take-off points and springboards into the future, rather than windows on a sepia-tinted, daguerrotype past.


Are drugs the root of all techno?

As new techno genres mutate, cross-breed, and spawn new tendrils they acquire more than just interesting names (drum 'n bass, drill 'n bass, tech step, digital hardcore, dark step, heroin house, etc.). They also breed localized communities whose tribal-like parties involve the use of certain recreational drugs in order to rewire their synapses. Mr. Reynolds delves deep into the lifestyles of these techno tribes but spends too much time on the pharmacological aspects, which unfortunately confuses the focus of the book and distracts from what he does best, which is providing insightful reportage from the edges of cultural phenomena. Much still needs to be written about the sonic language of techno showing why certain types of sounds keep surfacing in electronic music and where they come from (e.g., filter sweeps, sample and hold effects, arppegiators, etc.). With the rabid collecting of old 12-inch vinyl records by DJs , much musical history is being mined but little of it is really understood. History has been distilled through media filters producing layers of mediated cultural references.

In the final paragraph of Generation Ecstasy, the author points out that there is an inverse relationship between a musical genre’s longevity and the amount of books written about it. Further, he claims that, given this relationship, his book might be a nail in the coffin of the movement. I think that nothing could be further from the truth; Mr. Reynolds has written a fascinating anthropological study of the cultural phenomenon called techno. --http://mitpress2.mit.edu/e-journals/Computer-Music-Journal/Documents/reviews/24-4/p-cascone.html


  1. Simon Reynolds - Generaton Ecstacy (1998) [Amazon US]
    According to Spin editor Simon Reynold's well-researched book about the global dance-music scene, "Generation Ecstasy," a Euro fascination swept through Detroit in the '80s, elevating continental acts such as Front 242, Depeche Mode, and Meat Beat Manifesto as well as new-wave American groups such as Devo, the B-52's and Talking Heads to star status. The Euro attitude can best be summed up in the title of a recent song by Underground Resistance: "Afrogermanic."

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