By the time punk reared its double-horned head in mid-'70s New York, rock 'n' roll had already been around for quite a while. Drawing on garage rock, R&B, and classic bubblegum pop, the Ramones, Patti Smith, and Blondie showed up, and before long the ragtag groups had started a movement that would revolutionize the rock 'n' roll they held so dear. Screaming, mawing, rolling around in glass, donning minimalist fashionwear and angular shades, at times spouting cerebral poetry and nodding to the work of brainy German composers, the New York punks trashed the stale musical crumbs that made popular '70s AM "rock."
These days, as hair-shaking rock scene-sters lament the loss of musical invention, and hip bands strive desperately to ape the once pioneering underground work of the New York Dolls and the Heartbreakers (read: the Strokes), it seems that the truly earth-shattering is gone, leaving a handful of touring revival bands and reissues to sustain lovers of real revolutionary and deviant music. If we put our ears to the ground, however, we can hear a new train rumbling -- one engineered by a group of Bay Area techno labels and producers including Orthlorng Musork, Dial Records, and Oakland's own Incomplet label. Using quirky electronic beats instead of screaming electric guitars, Incomplet reflects the same unconventional spirit that fueled the modern noise of bands like Pere Ubu and the Contortions. The music is varied, topsy-turvy, and, like the seminal punk that bloomed thirty years ago, incredibly weird. Incomplet co-owner/DJ/producer Actual Jackshun describes Incomplet's small but heady catalogue as "maybe a little too weird for a lot of people."
DJ Televazquez and Actual Jackshun are the twin engines behind the label. Freshly shaven, clothing-coordinated, and impeccably mannered, the two don't seem so weird; they politely offer water, beer, and a comfortable seat before settling down for an interview in Jackshun's tidy home studio. The room is filled with scads of assorted vintage synthesizers, quirky mixers, and ready computer screens. With these devices and those used by Televazquez in his home studio, the coproducers are creating a truly progressive -- and "weird"-- kind of music, one characterized by broken, synthesized half-melodies layered over baroque, tweaked electro/techno beats. On one cut, synthesized oboe meanders through Jackshun's rusty junkyard of free-jazz rhythm, while Televazquez cerebrally sends his listener from head trip to booty shake and back.
Incomplet was born in '97 when Televazquez was working on a master's degree in electronic music at Mills, where Jackshun's girlfriend attended school. "We were both into weird techno and bleak analog synthesizers," says Jackshun. "Our taste in techno is so crazy-specific that when you find somebody who shares it on that kind of level, you sort of grab on." From there, the pair began their partnership, listening to each other's work and encouraging each other to push the envelope.
Eventually, the two decided that their idiosyncratic techno needed an outlet, so they started Incomplet as a vehicle for their most bizarre work. In '99, they released a small number of CDs, including some work of Blechtum from Blechdom, who went on to release albums on Incomplet's cousin labels Orthlorng Musork and Dial Records. Televazquez and Jackshun have also each released a 12" on Incomplet (Jackshun's Basement Displacement and Televazquez's Almex), and are putting the final touches on a forthcoming split 12".
"It's the warped stuff that we wanna put out," says Televazquez. "That's the defining trait of Incomplet." But the two are careful not to pigeonhole the Incomplet sound. "It could be bluegrass-polka techno or sockhop techno," jokes Televazquez.
What they can say with some assurance, however, is that other labels probably won't be interested in releasing the same kind of stuff. "They want slicker production or dance-oriented club tracks," says Televazquez.
"Yeah," says Jackshun "We make music that carries across some unease and a little bit of tension between soul and machine."
In keeping with the DIY aesthetic that helped punk rock retain its charge over the years, Incomplet's founders spent a month last summer driving cross-country to disperse the eccentric records from the trunk of their car. "It was good in terms of exposure," says Televazquez, who went from city to city distributing their records. According to Jackshun, the amount of sweat the pair puts into releasing and distributing Incomplet's catalogue is an integral part of the musical message. "We feel an obligation to the music," he says. "We're so turned on to techno and electronic music, we just feel the need to do it. We won't necessarily turn big numbers, but we'll be able to have a big output of quality stuff and get it to the people."
With a growing amount of press focused on the Bay Area experi-electro-tech scene and its burgeoning underground popularity, it's possible that the work of Actual Jackshun and Televazquez, along with that of their local, genre-bending peers, could one day fuel a new musical movement. Until then, Incomplet continues to rumble along, throwing off the modern noise it seems to carry in infinite supply.
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