August Traeger’s Bicephalic Records Label Keeps the Gloom Coming
Like a lot of experimental electronic producers,
August Traeger’s interest in the genre stems in part from his hereditary nature.
When he was young he’d played in a few metal bands, but eventually, he says, “I
just got sick of dealing with bands and all the band dynamics.” He turned his
attention to recording on his own, which suited him anyway.
“I got a four track and drum machine and started making a lot more music at home,” he says. “At some point I realized I was more into the effects pedals and guitar talk boxes and the sounds they made than I was in actually playing guitar. I remember I’d look at these pedals in magazines or online and wondering, ‘What could this possibly sound like?’ I was much more interested in the sonic possibilities than I was in actual musicianship.”
Anybody who enjoys his music is in luck, because there’s a lot of it. Over the last decade, Traeger has released dozens of projects under a variety of names, including Somnaphon, many of which are catalogued on his Bandcamp page. Most are, in a word, difficult—a hodgepodge of manipulated sounds and noise collages probably only of interest to listeners already into that scene. His latest, though, might be of interest to outsiders as well.
Set for a Feb. 5 release under his own name, Dead Wisconsin introduces a glitchier,
electro-acoustic sound and some relatively pop-based song structures. It’s not
easy listening, per se—its opening title track sounds like a love song written
by a robot with a dying battery—but it’s catchy in its own bleak way, and
highly recommended for fans of similarly creepy-crawly Midwestern electronic
releases by acts like Lorn and adoptahighway.
“The title track is very much a pop song, which is something I never do normally, but I wrote it and recorded it and thought, ‘Alright, I should really try to see what I can do with this,’” Traeger says. “It’s a twisted, weird pop song, but it’s still a pop song, my own kind of spin on singer/songwriter stuff, I guess—which is weird, because that’s a genre I despise. I really hate singer/songwriter music.”
Like most of Traeger’s recent projects, the album will be available on cassette through his own label Bicephalic Records. (His Bandcamp page colorfully plays off the music’s glum mindset when describing the physical release: “Miserable grey cardstock artwork accompanies a mocking blue shell cassette with a dreary, doom-laden hand-painted label.”)
Traeger started the label in 2011, as a way to release music from similar artists he enjoyed. “I needed to fill the void during the downtime when I didn’t have music of my own to work on, or if I didn’t feel particularly inspired at a time,” he says. “It provided me a creative outlet to work with art and new artists. It’s been nice to meet new artists and come into contact with artists I wouldn’t have met otherwise.”
Cassettes are pretty much the medium of choice for this kind of music these days. “It’s a lot of fun to trade tapes with other people,” he says. “You can do that with other formats, of course, but there’s a big community of tape traders online. It may be just a trend of whatever, and I’m sure it will fade away, but there are some very hardcore dedicated tape lovers out there. A lot of it is that it’s a reaction against the proliferation of digital media and the disposable nature of online music. Plus people really like art objects, something physical they can hold and look at. It’s sentimental. It’s a small piece of the artist, something you can’t get digitally.”
Portions of Dead Wisconsin are streaming on Bicephalic Records’ Bandcamp page ahead of its Feb. 5 release.