Something of a cult-like following has formed around Demdike Stare. Centering their work on the occult, the group smear the boundaries of reality through trippy dreamscape sounds, nightmarish visuals and an unhealthy fixation on the supernatural. The project – between Miles Whittaker and Sean Canty – rests upon a wealth of material, knowledge and experience that seeps openly through their back catalogue. The potent influence of Whittaker’s roots in dub, techno and jungle entwine around Canty’s shrove of the archival and the unfamiliar. Here are 5 essential tracks to get you captivated ahead of their Discovery Festival performance.
Let’s start from the beginning. Hailing from Lancaster, the pair were brought up amongst tales of murder, crime and witchcraft. The last of which made a lasting impact – Demdike was the name of one of the women in the famous Pendle witch trials. The pair named their Manchester club night (pre DDS) after the film Häxan: Witchcraft Through The Ages (it’s also the source of a lot of the following footage). “Haxan Dub” is the perfect introduction to the trippy, sub-human feel that’s characteristic of DDS.
With a brutal honesty, DDS thrust us forward into ever more sinister atmospheres. They don’t make allusions to a chilling nightmare, but plunge you straight into the depths leaving you gasping for air. Liberation Through Hearing is like a heavy current that pulls you back under with every track. Unlike some of the heavier tracks, “Matilda’s Dream” is filled with emptiness. The eeriness leaves a lasting sense of disturbance I can only begin to compare with Twin Peaks.
Demdike Stare’s live shows are often accompanied by visuals crawling with horror movie obscurities (Canty himself is a film collector). They’ve also explored the contorted visuals from artist Michael England. It’s no surprise then that the two were asked to score a soundtrack for Häxan for the BFI. Their obsession for horror can be found in the video for “Forest of Evil (Dawn)”; the low end juttering is made even more nauseating with the hallucinogenic hashing of clips, as you can witness below.
Now strip all the packaging and all your expectations away from the duo. The last two years we’ve been presented with the Test Pressing series. The splintered shards of jungle, ambient, and techno (to name a few) are still visible, but this time in a form that has shoved the duo out of any box we might have tried putting them in. “#007” is the perfect example with Patchwork building up a dance floor ready track just as effortlessly as it dismantles it.
Miles Whittaker’s solo work is also well worth its place in this list, and hugely underrated. In 2013, Faint Hearted distilled his sound away from Canty’s, and focused on a more rhythmic output. Listen to ‘Irreligious’ below for example, with its aching dynamic shifts and hypnagogic minimalism. It’s interesting to pick apart the different shades that comprise a band who have digested such a staggering body of influences in the past. For more, check out Whittaker’s other monikers, including MLZ and Suum Cuique.
Miles Whittaker and Sean Canty join forces as Demdike Stare for their first Amsterdam live a/v performance of the decade at Discovery Festival on 25 September. The event is free for Subbacultcha members.