San Diego doesn't seem like a hotspot for electronic music. Maybe because the weather is just too damn nice. The idea of someone composing symphonies of blips and beeps on a laptop in their bedroom while they could be getting drunk on the beach sounds crazy. So it's not surprising to see an electronica scene that too often consists mostly of house music's Boom-thump Boom-thump Boom-thump drone throbbing from a Gaslamp club on a Saturday night.
That's where imputor? and its slew of technological misfits come in. They are filling the void in the local scene with electronic music that stimulates the mind and on occasion, shakes the booty.
The music, which has been coined IDM (Intelligent Dance Music), is pushing the boundaries of electronic music. But don't call imputor? a purveyor of IDM. Jordan Snodgrass, co-founder and co-owner of the imputor? record label might take offense.
"First of all, it's pretty damn pretentious to label oneself as "intelligent,'" he says. "Second, the majority of "IDM" is hardly danceable, in the traditional sense of the word. You can have Merzbow doing his completely chaotic noise experiments being called IDM on one hand, and Boards of Canada's downtempo hip-hop flavor being called IDM on the other."
Jordan started the imputor? label four years ago with friend Darrin Wiener. What began as a joke label that two college buddies used to "put out stupid music" has turned into a bi-city label with over seven artists and national distribution. Jordan runs the southern portion of imputor? in San Diego and Darrin the northern counterpart in Seattle. Jordan doesn't feel the distance is an impedence.
"The internet makes us feel as though we're in the same city anyway, so it's almost a non-factor," he says. "In fact, it's probably even better that way, because Darrin is working his magic in Seattle while I work mine in San Diego. It's almost like we both are building two independent scenes, yet they're unified. I can go up to Seattle to an imputor? show and it will be packed, and I'm amazed, and the same goes for when he comes down here."
In the past year, imputor? has seen a rapid increase in growth, landing national distribution through Nail /Allegro. Currently, they are working on international distribution. Acquiring distribution was probably one of the hardest parts for imputor? according to Jordan, although now you can find imputor? releases in places like Sam Goody and the Virgin Megastore. imputor? artist Diagram of Suburban Chaos got a high profile review by Spin magazine.
"Things are going well and moving very fast ... maybe too fast," Jordan says. "Sometimes it's hard to keep up."
Recently, imputor? put on a show with Rephlex Records, which is owned by electronic music guru Aphex Twin, aka Richard D. James. Jordan, who cites Aphex Twin as one of the main reasons for sparking his interest in electronic music, was thrilled. But, he says, the turnout was "disappointing," a symptom of San Diego's still fledgling electronic scene.
"It's just a bummer that people don't know what they're missing," he says. "San Diego's just full of apathy. I definitely feel it changing for the better, though."
Artists on imputor? other than Diagram of Suburban Chaos, who Jordan describes as "the emo of electronic music," include Halicon, Pleaseeasaur (known to wear a polar bear costume on stage), and Johnny Kawasaki. imputor? also serves as an outlet for Jordan and Darrin's own musical projects. Snodgrass, a solo Jordan project, reveals his self portrait as a "disgruntled ex-indie rocker waging war on the hipsters." Wiener's project is the classically influenced Plastiq Phantom. The two collaborate over the internet in a project called Calculator Man and Hangar. Jordan admits he has numerous names.
"I don't have a DJ name or anything, though I've come to be known as "DJ Cardboard Box," he says. "My DJ name can change from night to night, minute to minute, record to record. I'm so IDM that I need multiple aliases."
Local band Aspects of Physics are also on the imputor? label. Comprised of Jason Soares and Jeff 'robot' Coads, AOP embrace a multimedia approach to creating music and art, exemplifying what imputor? is all about.
Formed in early 2000, AOP originated from the now defunct Physics, a band with a seven-year existence. Jason Soares, guitarist, keyboardist and computer manipulator for AOP, has been playing music for years, having played in bands such as Thingy and the cult hardcore-punk band Rice. AOP is somewhat of a departure, or rather a progression for Soares.
"One of the main reasons that I had to stop playing music in "bands" is because I have a real bad back. I can't tour and be standing up and playing guitar and moving equipment all the time," he says. "I get more and more control of how I want things to turn out. It just seems like a natural progression where it's like "well, I can do this at home in my room and then take it outside." But you lose a lot that way. That's the balance part."
AOP plays instrumental music that utilizes guitar and synthesizers accompanied by electronically based beats, which can be heard on their upcoming album on imputor? "Systems of Social Recalibration." Jason cites 20th century minimalist composers like Phillip Glass and Steve Reich as being a big influence and is pleased with how the album turned out.
"I'm really happy with it," he says. "We got most of all the songs done last year and I spent about four months on the artwork. It's a twelve page booklet with a whole bunch of diagrams."
AOP will be doing a west coast tour in August in support of the new album, which is due out July 2nd. Live shows are a big component to AOP and are enhanced with visual displays created by friends Matt Lorenz and Michael Kaufmann. On stage, Soares and Coads use a wide range of technological gizmos including laptop computers, MIDI controllers and even a modified "Speak & Spell." Jason admits they try to keep their live shows interesting.
"It's kind of a bummer when people are just up there hitting play on their laptop and they're just boring up there," he says. "There's a certain amount of the stuff that you can't control and it just is playing but then you have to try to find a balance where you are interacting with it and trying to make it exciting. I play guitar so hopefully that's more exciting than most electronic things."
AOP run a webpage at theexperiment.org. As a free politically charged news service, with links to the AOP homepage and energylanguage.org, the project's goal is to construct a new spoken language based on energy. In addition, AOP has played a series of live web performances, hosted by William Duckworth, a professor at Bucknell University (check out aspectsofphysics.com for info on upcoming web performances).
So what does Jason think of using the IDM nomenclature to describe Aspects of Physics?
"Well it's not dance-y. I guess it could have the "I" and the "M," but the "D" would be crossed out. "Intelligent Music."