Basilisk’s Essential Selections: Introduction

This post introduces my Essential Selections project, a sprawling series of lists of music I enthusiastically recommend, or at least find interesting and noteworthy. The scope of the project is quite broad: it spans the entire history of underground electronic music from the late 1980s to present and includes any sort of music I might play under the name Basilisk, namely psytrance, techno, progressive house, IDM, downtempo, and an eclectic assortment of adjacent styles. This project is not intended to be authoritative nor definitive; I’ve put a lot of work into making and maintaining these lists, but they are merely a reflection of my personal taste in music, and music taste is highly subjective. Expect my selections and rankings to change over time as I discover new music and reconsider existing choices.

From Earth Orbit: Introduction

Welcome to From Earth Orbit, a newly launched blog organized around my activities in the electronic music scene. My intention is to pick up where I left off with my old blog, Ektoplazm, which evolved into a music distribution portal and record label group in 2008. Prior to that I had been sharing my mixes, local Toronto-area event listings, record reviews, intriguing quotations, and opinion pieces about various aspects of the music industry. After Ektoplazm became more known for distributing original music I began to obscure most of the more personal content on the site, and eventually removed almost all of it. I kept several of my DJ mixes online but even those began to feel somewhat out of place amongst all the Creative Commons-licensed music. In the mid-2010s I started using services like Mixcloud to host my mixes, declining to promote my work as Basilisk on my own homepage, with only a few exceptions for projects directly related to Ektoplazm’s new direction. I also gave up on blogging about electronic music culture apart from the odd post on Facebook, but I’d rather not exclusively rely on corporate-controlled social media to express myself. Evidently I needed another outlet for my work in electronic music culture—which is precisely what this blog is intended to be.

You Have to Be Futuristic

People are unconscious and you have to use your art as a shock machine to wake them up. Some people are too far gone. They’ll just keep asking, ‘Is it real? Is it real?’ That’s dwanky. That’s a word we have in South Africa, ‘dwanky’. It’s like lame. ‘Is it real?’ Dwanky. You have to be futuristic and carry on. You gotta be a good guide to help people get away from dull experience.

Ninja, Die Antwoord’s Totally Insane Words of Wisdom, 2012

S2 Translation: An Early Work of Protein Music

One of my hobbies is musical archaeology: sifting through the archives in search of obscure, overlooked tracks from a bygone era. This virtual crate digging occasionally turns up intriguing results, including one recent find by The Shamen, a popular late 1980s/early 1990s electronica act unjustly known for some rather cheesy hit songs. Unbeknownst to me, they burst their own hype bubble at some point and started pursuing more serious musical explorations, most of which seem to have been completely overlooked and disregarded (as their fans were expecting more radio-friendly garbage and almost everyone else had already written them off).

Everything on This Planet

Everything on this planet has something to do with music. Music functions in the realm of sculptured air. Polluted as our atmosphere might be, air is the thing that makes music work. Since all other things that occur in the sound domain are transmitted to the ear through that swirling mass, depending on how wide you want to make your definition, you could perceive quite a bit of human experience in terms of music.

Frank Zappa, Oui, 1979

The Making of Ektoplazm’s Greatest Trips

I prepared this post to provide some insight into the making of Ektoplazm’s Greatest Trips, a “best of” compilation highlighting some of the finest music I’ve had the pleasure of distributing via Ektoplazm, the free music portal I launched in the mid-2000s. The site grew from humble beginnings to become a major focal point for psychedelic trance culture and netlabel lovers online, with more than 50 million tracks served to music fans all over the world as of 2013. (Not familiar with the background story? Check out the beginner’s guide to Ektoplazm.)

A Consensual Hallucination

Cyberspace. A consensual hallucination experienced daily by billions of legitimate operators, in every nation, by children being taught mathematical concepts. A graphic representation of data abstracted from the banks of every computer in the human system. Unthinkable complexity. Lines of light ranged in the nonspace of the mind, clusters and constellations of data. Like city lights, receding…

William Gibson, Neuromancer, 1982

The Beginner’s Guide to Ektoplazm

This post exists to introduce outsiders to Ektoplazm, the free music portal I founded back in 2006. Over the years it grew to be the world’s #1 source of free and legal psytrance, techno, and downtempo music, a niche market in which I inadvertently became tremendously influential. I will begin with a brief explanation of what psytrance is, outline the history of Ektoplazm and my involvement in the scene, and explore the question of why labels and artists choose to give their music away for free. If you’re reading this in the present day, I should note that this really only covers the history of the project from 2006 until 2012.

Your Thoughts Construct Patterns

Your thoughts construct patterns like scaffolding in your mind. You are really etching chemical patterns. In most cases, people get stuck in those patterns, just like grooves in a record, and they never get out of them. If you want to live your life in a creative way, as an artist, you have to not look back too much. You have to be willing to take whatever you’ve done and whoever you were and throw them away.

What are we, anyway? Most of what we think we are is just a collection of likes and dislikes, habits, patterns. At the core of what we are is our values, and what decisions and actions we make reflect those values. As you are growing and changing, the more the outside world tries to reinforce an image of you that it thinks you are, the harder it is to continue to be an artist, which is why a lot of times, artists have to go, ‘Bye. I have to go. I’m going crazy and I’m getting out of here.’ And they go and hibernate somewhere. Maybe later they re-emerge a little differently.

Steve Jobs, Playboy Interview, 1985