Sponge Bath record release

Saturday, Feb. 1, 10 p.m.  

Binky and Faster Detail tape release

Monday, Feb. 3, 9 p.m. 

Nightlight, Chapel Hill

With three outstanding new local techno releases and two shows to celebrate them, this is a big week for dance heads in the Triangle. Instead of a coincidence, this burst of activity speaks of the richness and incessant production of underground electronic music in our area.

Activ-Analog is dropping Tributary, a double LP by Sponge Bath, at Nightlight on February 1. The Charlotte-based techno label, which is celebrating its twenty-fifth anniversary, also promises an all-night dance party.  

Meanwhile, Hot Releases is launching two tapes—Binky’s self-titled debut and dancefloor veteran Faster Detail’s Boombox—at a release show on Feb. 3. The bill, a warm-up for the International Noise Conference in Miami, is rounded out by Raleigh’s Cevra and two acts from NYC. It also takes place at Nightlight, which is known for its passionate efforts to support local artists while bringing world-class acts to the area.   

Hot Releases is one of the most active agents in the local experimental music field, and it’s kicking off the year with four local releases. (In addition to Binky and Faster Detail, there will be a newly mastered edition of Secret Boyfriend’s Memory Care Unit and a tape of rhythmic, trance-inducing noise by Cevra.)

At a vertiginous speed of 200 bpm, Binky taps into the characteristic overdriven-kick sound of gabber. The tape reinterprets and enriches this classic subgenre of hardcore techno, complicating the aggression of the fast kick with noise textures and psychedelic leanings. 

The project is the collaboration of Durham’s Alene Marie, aka Liquid Asset, and Providence’s Tom Bennett, of Tinnitustimulus. The combination of their respective talents in hardware acid techno and harsh noise makes Binky a strange prodigy with a demented horror aesthetic that inspires euphoric dancing as much as unexpected chills. 

Faster Detail’s Boombox is less dark but just as frantic; Hot Releases founder Ryan Martin calls it “25 minutes of driving four-on-the-floor cyborg rave-ups.” Greensboro’s Alex Chesney puts aside his more complex electronic experiments to offer one long track of warm, ultra-fun techno. The tape is delightfully simple, energetically over-the-top, and smoothed out by an extreme commitment to lo-fi—it was recorded live, directly into a boombox. 

Since his arrival to Carrboro in 2008, Sponge Bath’s Nathan Taylor has been a constant presence in underground electronic events in the Triangle, both as a producer and as a DJ. After three LPs, Tributary is his first double-vinyl release. It contains seven tracks of hardware techno recorded over the span of three years in his home studio. 

Dedicated to the memory of Taylor’s grandfather and a tribute to the pioneers of underground dance music, Tributary is an exercise in gratitude for the people and artists that have shaped the producer, a reflection on what it means to be part of a tradition, and a successful attempt to keep it alive. Taylor says these tracks were designed to be used by DJs in a club, emphasizing the crucial role of the dance floor in the experience of techno. 

Throughout the tracks, we can hear echoes of the futuristic fantasies of Model 500, Drexciya, and other Detroit trailblazers. There are also German dub influences, and we can sense the presence of more recent U.S. producers such as Mike Parker and Bill Converse.

When asked which aspects of classic underground dance music he cares about the most, Taylor replied, “Freedom. Expression. Escape. Rebirth. Struggle. But also, honestly, fun.” This answer seems representative of the values of underground electronic music in our area.

Even if the term “underground” can be divisive or merely refer to a particular aesthetic, its application to this community is meaningful. Their consistent efforts to keep the pleasure and liberation of electronic dance music free from market cooption—making “music that exists for specific moments/spaces/places, outside of the constant onslaught of profit motive,” as Taylor says—is a true act of resistance. 

As relentless technological mediation isolates us and reduces us to consumers, we have the privilege to live in a place where unconventional producers, labels, and venues are consciously creating the conditions for electronic music to return us to our bodies and our communities.

Comment on this story at music@indyweek.com. 

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