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Driphouse is a dizzying cumulus cloud of leapfrogging electronic squelch courtesy of Daren Ho, formerly of Iowa City psych-noise institution Raccoo-oo-oon. Ho made the trip to Brooklyn in 2008, and since then his sparkling, crystalline synth tones (released on tastemaking cassette labels like NNA and Gel) have established him as a cuddlier, kraut-kissed younger brother to local sound artists like Black Dice, Burning Star Core and Growing. His indispensable new tape, Root 91, appears on Root Strata in an edition of 100, swaddled in an absolutely gorgeous negative-space-on-white letterpressed J-card. For Root 91, Ho gently taps on pianos and harpsichords while quirky synths bubble about in brittle ecstasy. Check out “Chompers World,” which basically sounds like Erik Satie adrift in Morton Subotnick’s gurgling galaxies. And don’t miss him in Mandelbrot & Skyy, his heavy-komische duo with Rene Hell, during New York’s inaugural Neon Marshmallow festival next month.
What does “Chompers World” mean?
“Chompers World” was sort of a play on a song by Omar S. I’ll let you figure out which song.
What inspired this song musically?
I had found a book about Erik Satie a few months before I had wrote this and was thoroughly enjoying the variety of concepts he put into practice with some of his pieces, and was evening learning some of them I had found online through public domain sources. So really this is a bit of a tribute to Erik Satie.
What do you remember about the session for this song in particular?
I recorded this at my parents’ home in the southside of Sacramento, California. My grandmother was walking in circles with one of those walkers with the tennis balls on the end through the whole house and into the bedroom I was staying in when I was recording. In some way this could also be a tribute to my grandmother’s dementia, music for walking in circles over and over and over. She did this every day when I was staying there last winter without skipping a beat. She’s probably doing so as I speak!
The letterpress art to the tape is amazing…
The artwork was created by me, on a computer, then on paper and pencil, then back on computer. The printing process was expertly letterpressed by my friend Jonas Asher. It was a difficult task as there were a lot of technical issues with the intricacies of the artwork that did not completely agree with the letterpress method.
Why did you move to Brooklyn from Iowa City?
I moved to Brooklyn in December 2008. The Midwest seems to have exhausted its ability to offer me new experiences, but the west coast seemed too easy of an option, since most of my family lives there now. I ended up choosing New York because it seemed like the ultimate fantasy of living in an unknown territory with an incomprehensible amount of variety and culture. Although I grew up in a place with a lot of greenery and space, I’m more attracted to the urban landscape. Life here is as incredibly beautiful as it is terrifyingly ugly.
What do you miss the most about Iowa City?
I miss the university’s resources and the general ease of everyone there. I can just stroll through the college without being bothered for ID or signing and all that bureaucratic matter. I also miss the weekly auctions in President Herbert Hoover’s hometown, where I would pick through assorted possessions or just end up buying a huge lot of some usually deceased person’s lifetime of personal items. I ended up selling some individual goods back to other buyers and breaking even with what I wanted. Then I sold a lot of things online, which helped fund my way to NYC.
What do you miss the least?
What I do not enjoy is the amount of monoculture, which I didn’t quite fully realize until I moved to NYC. I also do not enjoy the football culture that was centered around the university. There’s also an excessive amount of bars, which lead to a lot of student alcoholics. There was a well-published incident that happened while I was living there of a man that passed out in the alley while trying to urinate on one of the coldest days of winter. He ended up having his manhood taken away from him.
What’s the most memorable show you’ve played in New York?
This is a tough one. The last show that was extremely gratifying was at Tandem in June with another project I have going with my friend Jeff Witscher called Mandelbrot & Skyy. Avi from Silk Flowers debuted his new project, Volunteers Park, and Civilian Device and Five Mask were also on the bill. It was one of those shows where everyone was mutually feeling really ecstatic at the end of the show, which doesn’t seem to happen in this town too often.
What’s your favorite place to eat in Brooklyn?
This is a really difficult question since I thoroughly enjoy pretty much everything the city has to offer, from fine dining to bottom-of-the-barrel-one-dollar-whatever-on-a-styrofoam. For the lowest common denominator, I’d go for this dumpling place on Allen Street across the road from Congee Village that my friend Marcia turned me on to. It’s not stiflingly packed like Vanessa’s Dumplings or Prosperity Dumplings, both which are around the corner. I end up getting some wonton soup to grease myself up good before going over the Williamsburg Bridge by bicycle. I also like shopping for groceries at Patel Brothers in Jackson Heights. They have $1 microwavable vegetarian curries, which are pretty spicy and look nothing like what is pictured on the box. I’ve lived on those for months at a time. Just don’t buy their “Chinese Stir Fry” packet, it tastes like it doesn’t make sense.