Researching machine ecstasy: The Industrial Psalms

The Industrial Psalms are a series of short, intense techno mixes by Ursula Frequency which evoke individual aspects of machine spirituality. The religious setting for the psalms is the Machine Cathedral, a vast place described as “the house of all machines – It contains every machine there is, and every machine there ever was”. Ursula Frequency is an inhabitant of this temple, channelling the sounds, noise, and rhythms she experiences into the mixes that appear on her website. I imagine Ursula kneeling in the middle of a vast hall of deafening machinery, her hands covering her eyes, devoted and completely surrendered to what she would describe as a “pure stream of the machine consciousness”.

All of the first four psalms adopt an uncompromising “4/4 techno manner”, drawing on music from the likes of Casual Violence, Makaton, Regis, Kuniaki Takenaga and Peter Van Hoesen – Artists with a knack for creating evocative and dynamic techno. The idea with the psalms is to “mix like with like”, to collate tracks with the same feel and intensity and unleash them in a single hit. The “4/4 techno manner”, when deployed in this way, is no longer a form of propulsion but acts as a trap instead: “Synths and samplers beam into the imagination, illuminating the walls of the mind, while a drum machine loops time around the listener, sustaining the visions forever”. The intention is to move away from the old idea of the DJ “taking the listener on a journey” and to insist that the listener just stands still and looks around instead, experiencing in depth the situation that the music lands them in. A single, still image is presented and explored in detail, instead of the whole film playing.

My favourite of the first four psalms is number three, Misery, because it’s the most cathartic and the most vivid. It’s a horrible disruption of mood that drowns the listener with unhappiness, but it’s also an honest and unflinching portrait of despair. The fourth psalm, Sin, is another favourite – In the vocabulary of the psalms the acid sound represents lust and sin, but also pleasure. Further psalms concerning fear, salvation, and bitterness are in the pipeline.

Obviously these psalms owe a huge debt to Birmingham techno producers such as Surgeon and Regis, and the Birmingham techno club House of God. The intense techno evocations of Casual Violence and Makaton have played a huge part too. It’s also well worth checking out some of the mixes that the group “Dead Baby In A Plastic Bag” have created – “an unhealthy mixture of Industrial Breaks, Power Electronics and Rhythmic Noise Techno” with clear, expressionist intentions.

Link: Ursula Frequency – Industrial Psalms 1-4

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