Yeongrak: Mouth Scraper Cassette

- As someone who -sometimes- takes being a homebody to pathalogical lengths, Yeongrak is an artist that I find it a bit too easy to relate to. He eschews the club and the live scene, spending all his time glued to his computer. He hoovers up the aural detritus of the internet and relentlessly collages it into his own sonic crapscapes, then spews it back at whoever will listen. It’s the extreme of what a bedroom producer can be.

When you spend nearly all your time cooped up in a tiny, dark space it can be fairly difficult to get your music out there. Not so for Yeongrak: people come looking for him. Like The Wire did last year, detailing his shadowy practices in a feature article. Apparently it all began in 2011 when that earthquake hit Yeongrak’s hometown of Christchurch. With all of his usual hangouts turned into rubble he retreated to his bedroom, taking advantage of New Zealand’s super-fast internet and doing all his socialising and, well, everything else, online.

Another thing the producer and I have in common is an appreciation of extreme, electronic sounds. In particular he references Digital Hardcore, a longstanding German label and, basically, a genre unto itself. The home of the likes of Alec EmpireAtari Teenage RiotBomb 20 and Hanin Elias it brought together the savagery of industrial metal and the speeding insanity of breakcore (and many other extremities besides) and gave even the most uncompromising beatheads something that might stop them in their tracks. Digital Hardcore Recordings hasn’t been active in a decade, however, and its influence on Yeongrak is only tangential, although the way he discovered it does key into exactly how the producer works. He incessantly cruises the internet, trawling for inspiration. Apparently one of his favourite hangouts is venerable file-sharing service Soulseek, where he nerds through mounds of music from all eras.  

It’s easy to hear how that bowerbird approach would be folded into his work. Yeongrak throws together fragments and chunks, samples and loops, as lofi as you like, before he turns his sequencer on frape. Originally working in sounds akin to footwork and juke house, those styles  feature exactly that kind of anarchic use of repeated samples, shoved mercilessly at the listener. Contemporarily Yeongrak is often much more freeform than that. His most recent work, including the new collection for Melbourne label Vacant Valley which we’re reviewing here, often sounds like it was achieved by turning on a number of different sound sources in a room and recording the result live, on an ol’ cassette player. Oh and one of those sources would have to be a vintage punch-’em-up video game, with those eight-bit biff-bam-pow samples emerging as one of the most recognisable sounds in the sonic mush.

If all of that sounds a bit too much (or a bit too mush?), well, sure. Fortunately Yeongrak actually knows how to stitch together a decent dance banger. Like Frankenstein’s Monster, our mad scientist puts all the grizzly components together and -zap!- beats are pounding away as though it’s alive. Something for everyone then? Maybe?

It’s quite strange to watch Yeongrak mesh with the music world. The industry extends its feelers: there are collaborations, articles and offers to release his music all over the shop. Then I go and look at his own bandcamp site where the flow of releases could be described as...compulsive? It’s as though we've all stumbled on a bizarre, infinite, musical continuum. Weird it is and I don’t know how long it can hold the interest of any kind of wider community, but I love listening to this stuff -in my bedroom, natch- it’s kind of wonderful and I’m very happy I’ve stumbled on it too.  

- Chris Cobcroft.

Album Details

Album Title: Mouth Scraper Cassette
Artist: Yeongrak
Record Label: (Vacant Valley)