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Experimental Electronic: Featureless Ghost

Goth-dance figureheads give Atlanta's indie scene a jolt of electricity



Much has changed since the goth-tinged synth-pop duo of Elise Tippins and Matt Weiner, aka Featureless Ghost, relocated its brand of retro-futuristic dance music from New York to Atlanta in May of 2010. The pair's three fruitful years spent releasing new music, touring, and curating events and parties helped unite a disparate scene of synth-obsessed artists. Together with DKA, a collaborative promoter-cum-record label syndicate involving Chris Daresta (Anticipation) and James Andrew (Tifaret), Featureless Ghost holds shows in smoky East Atlanta bars, unfinished Westside art spaces, and cramped living rooms with musicians and audience members hungry for thoughtful tones and a beat. Although the band recently and quietly entered into an indefinite hiatus to explore independent solo projects, it has no interest in allowing what it's created to fizzle out.

Weiner and Tippins' shared dedication to making a fertile environment for electronic dance, pop, and synth wave put into motion a self-sustaining scene. The community provided a network of support and excitement that helped Featureless Ghost refine its sound.

"I tried not to be too focused on synth music proper, but to blend the worlds that I liked, bringing dance music and synth music into one room. ... When it worked, it felt great," Tippins says.

Sonically, Featureless Ghost's classic goth/industrial, new wave, and Detroit house hybrids are nightmarishly hypnotic sounds filled out by lush textures, vintage drum effects, and alluring vocals. Seminal goth and post-punk acts such as Depeche Mode, Joy Division, and Cabaret Voltaire serve as touchstones for the group's aesthetic, intersecting cold mechanical sounds with warm human sentiments, throbbing bass, and primitive grooves.

Featureless Ghost has also cultivated an image of technological anxiety by blurring the lines between novelty and genuine affinity. Lyrics about cyborgs and CPUs materialize as individual lyrics or as entire album concepts, such as 2011's Biologically-Sound Cyber-Bodies cassette. Tippins produces videos and projections for live performances along with DKA's semi-regular Goth Danse Parties under the name Fantastic Lands. She creates a hazy world of distorted VHS found footage that's riddled with static. Weiner's and Tippins' disembodied voices are obscured by color fade and decades of tape decay.

Someone had to take this music out of the home studios and back to the foggy dance floors for which it was designed. So Featureless Ghost launched Hunger, a recurring series showcasing touring and local electronic experimentalists with a penchant for dark and rhythmic avant-garde pop. Hunger has become a hub for Atlanta's producers of bizarre bedroom electronic music, with a built-in audience for new sounds from like-minded locals acts such as Anticipation, Cc, No Eyes, Divine Interface, Tifaret, and Fit of Body.

"Our biggest wish is that the amount of sharing and social interaction that happens on the Internet will translate into more people in Atlanta sharing the music they're making in their bedrooms in a live, real-world setting," Weiner says.

Over the coming year, Weiner and Tippins will maintain Featureless Ghost's legacy and continue Hunger along with DKA's Goth Danse Parties as a sister series. In the meantime, a 12-inch remix of Featureless Ghost's 2012 LP Personality Matrix is in the works, along with a follow-up LP slated for 2014.

Tippins plans to release a full album via her cold wave/minimalist disco alter ego Claire, as well as a collaborative follow-up to the recently released split with Denmark's Stefan Blomeier. Weiner will continue working with his post-punk synth project TWINS while launching CGI, a boutique record label focused on putting out white label split 12-inches of more unconventional house, techno, and electro producers.

What replenishes Featureless Ghost's creative spirit is the city's eagerness to support the music scene that the group helped define. "When we first moved here, I was impressed with the amount of people who were interested in synth music, and quickly bonded with those people and we started throwing shows," Tippins says.

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