It seems like fate that Milo Cordell has mixed the latest installment of !K7’s Tapes series. The Big Pink production mastermind has been making compilations ever since he was a kid. "Doing this mix was a complete pleasure because I grew up recording mixes for myself and friends," says Cordell. And, in some ways, not much has changed. Then, as now, the idea was to conjure up a mood. "My goal has always been the same," he explains. "To make something that transports you somewhere completely different."
Cordell’s Tapes set certainly does that. The Big Pink are known for strident electro rock that sits alongside bands such as Klaxons and Crystal Castles. Their 2009 debut album, A Brief History Of Love, sold 50,000 copies in the UK (and 100,000 worldwide). It featured Dominos, an anthemic fusion of widescreen guitar riffs and electronic atmospheres. It was one of the defining songs of last year.
However, Cordell explores completely different territory here. The dominant theme is the new generation of American musicians making spooked, spectral electronica that has been variously named ‚’drag music’, ‚’witch house’ or ‚’haunted house’. It’s night-time music, heavy with soporific sonics and dream-like ambience. Opening track Slowdancing by GR†LLGR†LL is an eerie wash of disembodied, digitised vocals and dark synth chords, while Dirt by Salem, drag music’s defining act, takes a hip hop beat and smears guitar fuzz and sinister sounds effects over the top. It’s like being trapped between sleep and waking, a hypnagogic state. "Yeah, there’s definitely that dreamy quality, like 4AD dream pop," says Cordell. "I guess because it’s made in people’s bedrooms, maybe people’s computers are acting as some kind of dream catcher." A nightmare perhaps. "Someone asked me to describe what Salem sounded like and I said, Its the sound of america slowly dying," continues Cordell. "I think that goes for most of the drag sound. You can hear old rusty Model T Fords, The Depression, the eradication of the Red Indian, Columbine, teen suicide, Supersize Me, oil spills and date rape all rolled into one sound."
There are other flavours, too. Snake Eater by UK dubstep producer Joker pitches chopped up female vocal samples against some creeping bass. Then there’s Fantasy by The xx, a pulse of bass and ringing guitars that sounds like it was recorded in a huge underground cave. And last but not least, The Big Pink’s own Velvet, remixed by Gang Gang Dance into a stripped down bittersweet mood piece.
Cordell’s favourite track is Mumbai by oOoOo. "I think it sums up the whole mix really well. It’s beautifully eerie. It’s that thing where music takes you somewhere else. This track does that instantly. Straight away you’re in another world. I make music myself and I just love the way these bedroom producers have come up with these sounds. He really has created his own sound and vibe."
There’s a DIY aspect to most of the 16 tracks. Many are nothing more complicated than a person tinkering on a laptop. That’s important to Cordell. "In the ‚’70s, punk had a DIY ethos, but you still had to have a band, you had to go to rehearsal rooms and practice. Now people are making music six feet from their beds. That’s going to have a certain honesty. It’s almost easier than DIY. I imagine 90% of music on the compilation was made in someone’s bedroom. That’s always appealed to me and my label, Merok. We’ve always championed this generation of musicians that make music in their bedrooms. It’s where people feel most at home."
It follows that the majority of his Tapes mix doesn’t exist in a physical format anywhere else. " That’s right," he says. "A lot of has never been released on a CD, it’s just out there on the internet. Most of it is self-released, people make it then put it up on the internet. Most if it I heard for the first time on Myspace." He goes off on a tangent, "It’s like graffiti. The general public see graffiti as vandalism, but people do it for other people that do graffiti. It’s not for 99.9% of people, it’s for other people that see the magic. I think a lot of this stuff is put on the internet with a similar kind of mindset. "
More than anything, Cordell wants to spread the word about new music he loves. "I think the songs are as good as anything out there. There are pop music melodies within that minimal production. And the best pop music for me has always been the stuff that artist does on their own terms. Everything on the mix sounds like that. I think these guys are doing it for themselves and if people discover it then great."
There’s no arguing with that.