Specimen

Specimen cover art

I was invited by Floppy Kick to curate a music release representing experimental musicians of the Cleveland, Ohio area.  Floppy Kick is a record label from Hungary. They specialize in releasing music on floppy diskette.

Cleveland is well regarded for many interesting things, including it’s experimental music scene.  Many of performers on Specimen had a known quality to them. I found the opportunity to be exactly that. An opportunity. The floppy diskette format is a lo-fidelity kind of format. It has limitations. Considerable limitations when you look at today’s technology. That created a challenge and I love challenges. Many of the performers participated in the concert series that Mike Textbeak and I created.  And from that group I proceed to invite others into the mix.

I created the cover. At one point I wanted to be a scientist. While I do citizen science activities, my life didn’t go down the path of being a scientist.  The idea of taking a specimen of the Cleveland music experimentalists was furthered by the idea that the sound was reduced to 8 bit on a floppy diskette.  I made that the theme of the art and furthered the image by combining iPod commercials with the enthusiasm that my scientist friend, Carolyn Marks, has for both music and science – and the cover was born.

I also contributed a track under Lure of the Unknown. The longest natural time of the release.

Review by Kai Nobukoi (who performs as Toxic Chicken and Covolux)

Specimen is a colorful compilation packed with experimental music made by artists coming from the Cleveland, Ohio Area. These tracks are compiled with obvious care and attention by Joeseph Simon, who also created the stunning artwork and a interesting read with the provided liner notes. It is pretty clear that ‘Specimen’ is the result of passion, dedication and love for the scene. A great guide / time recording of the Cleveland, Ohio experimental scene and also just a great source of quality alternative music packed in sick looking artwork to make your friends green of jealousy.
For the people that needs more information before getting one of these must have limited collectors items in their collection, you can read along to find out the extreme content of what you will find on this must have floppy sized compilation.
WitchBeam starts ‘Specimen’ off with a science fictional sounding piece of audio. I feel like being suddenly on board of a Stanley Kubrick inspired space ship with only the lonely board computer as companionship. The electronic friend  seems to ring it’s internal alarms that might indicate that some kind of space catastrophe might happen pretty soon. Even though this feeling might be stressful in a real life situation, this track is on the contrary exciting in a pleasant way. It’s like the moment in a movie theatre that you grab the hand of your date next to you while throwing popcorn in your mouth with the other. It’s the excitement that you can feel in your body, but now it is just a movie or in this case ‘a track’ hyping you up in the good way. A good start for a compilation!
Jason Rodiquez is the next sound artist that throws in a exciting track that kept me hooked on my seat with my ears glued to the speakers. Without knowing to much of the intention of this track, I felt that it was a perfect match in theme with the previous heard work. It starts like a personal and upfront encounter of slush and than opens up like a miniature chapter in a different science fiction story. Strange acoustics flourish in an avant garde petiteness that could mean anything to anyone with an imaginative mind. For some reason I had a scenario in my head of being trapped in the inside mechanics of a machine that seemed to function as a miniature bar with illegal activities. The future thought space police arrives at the potential crime scene with a sirens and not much later the space pigs pull the plug out of the electricity leaving us in a dark place. The camera zooms out and it gets clear that the ‘machine’ was actually a gigantic vacuum cleaner.. Anyway, that was the visual show that this track became inside my head, but feel free to make your own while you listen to this crucial part of this massive floppy compilation!
I am sure everyone that has the attention span to read further, is curious what will happen next. Well the next best thing is a track supplied by m9. It is called ‘neocrest’ which is title wise a bit like  the name of a character coming out of one of the Matrix movies. Just focus on the words on the screen and step through it to hear and meet the audio of ‘neocrest’ in person. Neocrest is surrounding its listeners with a certain mystery that makes me think of experiencing a slightly feverish dream scene in the mind of Gary Numan. A scene where Gary watches his own synthesizer being played by an invisible force (m9), bringing a horror-ish doomed mood with a crystal clear sound shining through the lowbit dataloss noises. The result is a moment of dark toned industrial noise ambient with an old school feel that not only Gary Numan would appreciate, but probably all of the individuals that are lucky enough to get this exclusive track played deep within their own ears.
An artist called ‘Darin Sullivan’ brings a very nice track to the collection that as long as it takes; is out there to put our troubles in a freezer while we (without any bad vibes on the mind..) chill out in a warm bubble bath of lobit sound. It’s the essential element of warmth of data compression that makes this track like a safe house where we all can chill out in our pajamas and flip flops. There is no pressure here, only A fine point of pure to the point relaxation.
After reaching such a point of inner calmness it is good to know that HolyKindOf carefully handles our now resting ears with soft care and smooth ambient delight. Instead of using a stripped down track where the lowbit rate rules like an emperor; this music maker actually goes for a soft melancholic melodic atmosphere. It sounds so nice and warm that it would be a perfect moment to sip some wine and stoke up the fire place just to personally celebrate this part of this tremendous collection of music all perfectly placed together on a singular floppy diskette. Chapeau and cheers to the good life!
The show of compressed sound continuous when the Cellophane Orchestra comes along and delivers an intriguing soundtrack that kept my mind puzzled in what it was that sang through the soft pastry of lobit noise. Was if flutes, recorders or perhaps the sound of honking steam trains filling up the track with a harmonic procession? In either way without knowing the secret ingredients that the Cellophane Orchestra used to create this track; it certainly kept the flow of interesting music going into the right direction..
A direction that direct us in the zone occupied by the experimental sounds by an artist called ‘Whorlweaver’. It’s up to now probably the weirdest audio recording to encounter on this floppy, which is certainly exciting news for lovers of the bizarre and the strange. I am sure the recording is a recording of a session that should be an amazing sight in seeing it performed in real life, but audio wise it tickles my personal imagination enough to cough up some visual views of what could have been happening over here. In my head I imagine the artist playing some kind of theremin made out of television radiation, that also infects the artist brain while playing it. Words of art flow out of a mouth while the sound experiment does its thing for the greater good. I feel like recommending to wear a hazard protection suit while listening to this work, just in case the toxicology used will also reach the brain of the listeners, infecting it without their knowledge or consent. but instead of recommending a hazard Suit I would rather recommend to just listen to this track and get radiated in the name of experimental art and music.
Going deeper into the compilation means we have to come across the sound of the one and only Fascist Insect. It’s a noisy excerpt from a track called ‘Logic Damage’. for some strange reason the vocals deep within this work exports my ears to a realm where a certain Marilyn Monroe sings ‘diamonds are a girls best friend’. This track has the similar charm of an classic, hard to define, raw like a diamond but listens away like liquid gold.
Next up is Rot Ton Bone’s keys to Merkavah. Do not think that this track contains the sound of a pair or ordinary keys hitting each-other as this work instantly drops us all in the middle of the wild life, the place where Rot Ton Bone keeps its animals and insects, large, small, wild and tamed for audio magic. The soundscape seems like a personal safari through this adventurous (but equally dangerous) sounding place. we might end up as food for the hyena’s, Mosquitos, alligators or the hungry lions. We from ‘yeah I know it sucks’ can’t guarantee your personal safety while listening to this track, but if you end up as animal food somewhere along the way; let it be a easing fact that at least you passed away through the teeth of awesomeness.
Planet On The Prowl takes us into a hypnotic state by feeding the listeners a slow rhythmic loop with a sound that makes me think of the grinding gigantic stones in a mill. I wouldn’t be surprised if the artist had used its inventive creativity to construct a special machine to create this soothing loop, and recorded the outcome with an external microphone exclusive for the ‘Specimen’ collection.
What happens next is a captivating track by Lure Of The Unknown. It’s coming across as if the artist recorded a choir of exciting cannibals that sing in their own way a song to celebrate the prospect of eating a freshly captured lost tourist. It is jolly good fun to hear and perhaps even perfectly suitable to scream along with. As long as you are not the one taking a bath in their large cooking pot, you will have plenty if time to enjoy this moment the lighthearted way.
To really feel certain that there is nothing to be worried about, the compiler carefully selected ‘glacial23’ to bring a pretty form of electronic entertainment that feels as a happy and bright fantasy moment. It makes me think of a pot of gold found underneath the end of the rainbow, but than actually just the bewildering soundtrack for when you find such a thing.
You might not find gold under the rainbow and it’s quite possible that this release is actually more rare and precious than that gold in a dwarf protected pot.. But whatever it is, the next following tune is something that sounds like it is out there to celebrate with all of us. A moment of happiness to move our feet and arms for some techno dance moves.
The artist ‘Narrowdeep’ certainly knows how to infiltrate a beat in to the microscopic lobit environment and creates an instant source for a final celebration.
Violent Apparatus provides a feverish slide of experimental ambient that shoots us up in to the sky, tumbles our worlds upside down, goes for a small looping before swallowing the sound up like the closure of a black hole. A fun ride that ends this excellent compilation with class and dignity.
This compilation contains enough specimens to keep all who encounter it occupied with interesting sounds, styles and all round food for the imaginative mind.
But just to give this compilation another star on the recommendation list: there is bloody more!
This massive compilation squeezed on a floppy diskette still manages to safe space for a very fun form of bonus material! This consists of 29 Micro Fractures provided by experimental sound artist Jeremy Bible. The gap-less endless shuffle mode will for sure keep your ears busy for hours, weeks, months and years!
Believe me or not but ‘Specimen’ is an amazing experience that is not only nice to look at from the outside, but is definitely equally as awesome on the inside. Completely filled with music by a great convincing lineup of experimental artists that the Cleveland, Ohio area is rich off.
This extremely limited quality compilation is worth to spend your penny’s on!