Gridlock (1993 - 2005)
: Mike Wells, Mike Cadoo
I first happened upon this band in 1999, while doing a stint at KVRX
, UT Austin
's student radio
station, full of hippies
and other assorted popularity contest rejects - and above all, full of free, unusual music. I had my eyes opened to world music, electronic music, and a good deal of jazz and blues. This background is required to understand that even though my music sapience and awareness was expanding at a phenomenal pace, Gridlock still blew me away. The only other awakenings like that have occurred upon first finding Mogwai
and dj Cheb i Sabah
- that's not to say the music is similar, but the utilisation and composition of sounds and techniques formerly taken for granted in such a new way is quite eye- (and ear-) opening.
: assorted sources claim gridlock will be pleasing to fans of Haujobb
or Skinny Puppy
. I disagree (can't listen to either of them without cringing eventually - I keep finding pounding beats driving the music, which are completely absent in Gridlock), but there it is.
Utilizing drawn out synthetic sounds in the backdrop, assorted machinery
noises and especially '80s arcade
noises, Gridlock's Mike Wells
and Mike Cadoo
of San Francisco
make genre defiance
look easy. Elements of industrial
are all present, but none dominates, although buildups through slow and sweeping sounds often do crash into resolutions of harsh noise
. Slow melodies, fast and rapidly changing beats dominate.
Founded in 1994 in San Francisco, the project was started by Mike Wells
in an attempt to create a "dark, emotional sound". Mike Cadoo
joined in '95, and after creating the "Sickness" and "Frozen" demos they signed with Pendragon Records
Pendragon was able to release Gridlock's first two albums, but then went the way of many a indie label and folded. Following a fire at their San Francisco studio, Mike & Mike moved to Oakland and returned onto the scene with a deal with the Unit label, which released their Trace album as well as sponsoring the Mikes' independent efforts, O2
Although the bulk of Gridlock's released work stems from albums created by both members, they each have side-projects and remixes aplenty. Mike Cadoo has created dryft and released two albums, Cell
and mytotyc exyt
, the latter of which I have (still looking for the first). Mike Wells created O2 - no info on this one yet, as I've only recently obtained it and am busily transcribing the LPs onto CD format. Yep, these guys have quite a few releases which are on LP
has now been archived fully at http://www.5-25.com
. It contains the archived forum, discography and a Gridlock retrospective.
Mike Wells, is a Mastering Engineer at 5-25.com, providing mastering, restoration, and other music services.
Apparently, since November 2000, Mike Cadoo has been the sole proprietor/operator of N5MD
label (http://www.n5md.com/), specializing in finding and publishing artists of the "more emotional type of electronic music", primarily on the MiniDisc
format. Mr. Cadoo is a bit of a minidisc fanatic, and thinks that it is quite well suited to these types of sounds...
Gridlock has officially dissolved in March of 2005. Mike Wells has written up a full Gridlock retrospective at this address (http://www.5-25.com/gridlock/retro.html) which makes for some interesting reading. The Mikes are still pursuing their own visions of the music they enjoy playing and making - just separately.
Discography - Albums
I will keep these simple because writing about music is like dancing about architecture
; I've also forsworn music reviewing after working at AudioGalaxy
for a while.
tHe sYntheTic FoRm
This was actually the second Gridlock CD I've acquired, and found it to be far more structured (read: simple) than expected. Actual beats and melodies are far more easily discerned, and the industrial
noise forms the background percussion. There is also a strong focus on the sinister, whispery
vocals. These alternate with slow, pulsing, atmospheric
tracks that wouldn't seem out of place in the movie Alien
(only the first one) or the game System Shock II
- for those unfamiliar
with those, there is an aura of suspense, rising, nightmarish dread interrupted by brief bouts of violent resolution. That's this album in a nutshell.
2. Halo (Rebirth)
6. Pulvis Et Umbra Sumus
12. Ich Dien
14. Only Living Witness
15. Thin White Line
17. Burn (Mantra)
18. Frantic (Stark-Raving Mad)
Isn't it interesting how so often the CD we hear first we hold to be the vision the artist had for all of their work?
I still hold that this is gridlock's best work. Here, the odd, frequently changing beats, electronic video game pulses and eruptions of whispered/sung vocals are supported by a backdrop of sweeping (think of a sine wave
with an extremely long period), nearly Vangelis
-like synths which carry the melody in an unobtrusive way; silences are used as a hammer. You feel
the structure of the music more than hear it.
1. From Zero
14. Ash - (KSP remix)
15. Enzyme - (Dryft remix)
(end of 1999)
Label: Pendragon / Metropolis
5.25 was a limited volume album, recently re-released in another limited volume release - you could also send an email to gridlock and most likely Mike or Mike will be able to hook you up - that's how I got mine! It is a collection of live performances and remixes, with a handful of new titles tossed in. The black CD comes in a 5.25 floppy
case, itself packaged in a non-resealable anti-static bag
. As a collection, it's a fairly eclectic one, from the dancy
Halo and II, to the personable and seemingly more emphatic
than the originals live performances. The Aghast View remix turns Burn into a completely rhythm-driven danceable
track, which tends to stand out on the CD just a bit. Finally, the new material placed at the end of the album tends towards the same structure of slow melodies and fast beats, but the instrumentation used is more echo- and reverb
-laden, and more constant in type (less arcadey noises, more in the way of clicks and thumps) on 5.25, more sweeping
(much like further
) on Edit364, and ambient
on Program41 - a very soft and completely unexpected ending.
3. Metro (cover)
4. Burn (live)
5. Retina (live)
7. Burn (Aghast View remix)
8. Scrape (live)
9. Sever (live)
While the slow melodies hiding behind fast, broken up beats are still here, the beats are generated by actual percussion
a lot more (as opposed to clicks and thuds and other industrial noises), the mellow
sections are overall stronger than in the previous album, and the sinister and whispery male vocals are nearly gone (show up briefly in one track). In tracks 6 and 7, a brief passage of faint female vox
appears, adding a soft allure
to an already mellow piece. Track 10 fades to nearly complete ambient
, sans beat. A fairly radical
departure, signifying Gridlock can adapt and evolve.
12. Voiceless (Vcam Rmx)
(2002, following 2001 Trace tour)
This is a live performance done to promote the Trace album, and it also has a few older pieces on it, enhancing the exposition of the transition from the more harsh sounds into the mellower mood of Trace. As such, it is a superb way to get a feel for all of Gridlock's works up to Trace, and is quite a mindtrip. I'll put in () which album the track was originally on; if none, it's an original. If there is an album I would recommend buying first, this would be it.
1. UH4.17 (Trace)
2. further (further)
3. burn (the synthetic form)
4. estrella (Trace)
5. .0002 (an O2 track)
6. caloc (a Dryft track)
7. ich dien (the synthetic form)
8. voiceless (Trace)
If Trace began the evolution of Gridlock's sound, then Formless definitely continues it. This one's moved completely away from industrial influences and relies more so on IDM. The loops are still smooth and underlying sinously, but they are interrupted with bursts of focused speed and aggression - now without harshness.
9. the 8th winter
12. done processing
Discography - Singles
gridlock / O2 split
gridlock / steel split
Format: 3" CD EP
Dryft (Mike Cadoo's side project)
the mytotyc exyt
Label: Component Records (www.componentrecords.com)
While there are still slow backdrop synths and faster beats upfront, the beats are now mostly created through actual percussion, although the click and glitch is still present. The tracks are also consistently *gasp* rhythmic, although explosions of randomness spice up the package. This makes for pure, light IDM goodness in which it is hard to discern that this is indeed one half of the creative duo that made Gridlock possible. The relatively unchanging structure of the pieces and underlying steady beats make it as different as can be - yet the sounds and synths are faintly recognizable. If anything, I'd compare it to Cerebral
's more mellow work.
1. 39theives (sic)
3. caloc (version)
5. mytotyc exyt
6. slalum (eclipsect remix)
7. 39theives (codec remix)
8. mytotyc exyt (O2 remix)
From the O2 site: The O2 project was started as an outlet for minimal electronic music that Mike (Wells) didn't feel fit into the Gridlock sonic landscape.
Currently there are only 2 published tracks, ".0001" which appears on the Gridlock/O2 7" (I have this
) available on <unit>
records, and ".0002" on the n5MD compilation (sold out, but in theory there's nothing preventing N5MD from making more?
) - also on the live.traces CD, still available.
I will be adding the trace 12", Steel/Gridlock, Under 3", Engram and Cell listings and blurbs as I obtain them. Excessive thanks go to Mike Cadoo for tracking me down and filling in the gaps in my Compleat
Official Site: http://www.creative.net/~gridlock/