Edward Quist (born Edward Paul Quist in Brooklyn, December 9, 1976) is an American director, screenwriter, producer, composer, multidiscipline artist who also works under the name Embryoroom. Themes emerging from Quist’s work include electronic and biomorphic imagery, experimental narrative, the unorthodox use of motion graphics and visuals.
Handing over the mic to artists/musicians who break down their new albums track by track/share the thought process behind the creation. Today we’ll hear from Embryooroom (aka Edward Paul Quist) as well as a number of remixers that worked on “American Cannibalism”, his latest album.
More TBTs in our archives.
The majority of the tracks that comprise American Cannibalism were recorded during the lockdown at home in 2020. Access to the embryoroom studio was cut off in early March for several months. The scheduled album for 2020, “Revelation”, was postponed with the chaos around the globe. As soon as the decision was made to delay Revelation, I began to record new material that was planned for the studio in 2021. I watched on CNN as fires literally burned outside the door to the studio at Union Square in New York City. Very quickly, the recordings took the form and title of American Cannibalism, a large scale project that evolved into many parts, with films, remixes and collaborations, inspired partly by history being made, and a very uncertain future.
The setting for most of the album, and its counterpart film, is in an undetermined time where a prison train travels the Q line to the site of the former amusement park at Coney Island. It has been converted into a concentration camp after an invasion of North America. The mode of incarceration is direct psychological manipulation by the warders of Coney Island. For them it is still a sort of twisted amusement center.
The stinger at the very start is a call to attention at the camp. The day has begun and any number of processes will unfold. The percussion is a slinking poly march.
The idea of Coney as a camp, and the perversion of amusements into something sinister, has been in my mind for many years. I have early memories of being at Coney Island when it was quite an unsafe place. It wasn’t that many steps from being seemingly apocalyptic to a child in the late 70’s and early 80s.
The title is a slight alteration of a famous movie title from the end of the 70’s. The idea that a holocaust could happen again is probably the primary drive for the recording. Overall, the influx of more dance music influences have replaced the previous albums’ harshness. This was, I think, the impact of being locked out of the studio for months and recording largely at home. This track is part one of a suite that will be scattered from the album across other media.
This is an anthem of sorts. It was intended as the opening track of Revelation. It is maybe about the sacrifice of something sacred. It could be children, or animal life, or perhaps the Earth. One of the camp’s deities, used to spiritually control prisoners, is Moloch. It appears as a holographic apperition, the notion being that life is the fuel for the machine. Inside the machine is a phantom, a great lie to keep the wheels turning and the oven’s fire stoked.
This is a track originally intended for Revelation, in a much more stipped down form. Set at a once abandoned motel by the sea, it goes back to a childhood memory of Coney Island. Mermaid Avenue had a clinic. It was a scary place. I was taken there for the treatment of warts on my hands. The music, I think, feels like a Depeche Mode track. I find motels to be objectionable. The one way mirror phobia.
I like the remix of this one very much.
The title is taken from Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer”. I really love that song. I simply inverted the quality of a happy title. The Plague Dancers in the film are drones that field medics use to repair, or in most cases, euthanize their comrades in the war zone. The track is quite simple, and is told from the point of view of the drone’s A.I.. I think the remix really outdoes my version. I’m happy about that.
Tribalistic, and a very embryoroom track. It would probably be a good live track whenever that might happe again. The film counterpart is point of view, encountering a moving botanical menagerie. There’s something waiting at its core. There is something waiting at the center of this recording and its metallic pacing back and forth.
The title is from the Book of Revelation, concerning the great dragon. We all have a great dragon lurking inside. I think this is the most straightforward composition on the album. It’s uplifting for me. It makes me think of the Black Lives protests, and the casting of the dragon into the pit. I think the remix is really quite something.
Slightly autobiographical. This track has several iterations. It was based on memories of music I was listening to when I was very young and working on an AIDS television show, “In a New Light”, in 1994. It was at a point in time when a diagnosis could be a death sentence. During isolation I remembered those days. There was an album by the Pet Shop Boys, “Very”, which I think captured that time working on the show, and its producer Joseph F. Lovett, a revolutionary for change in informing the world about the fledgling AIDS terror from the early 80s. The track is a kind of twisted Pet Shop Boys. They are still an absolutely excellent modern day concept. AZT turned out to be a very dark track that could have been much shinier, but it wanted to stay dark. There’s a relentlessness to it. This is dedicated to Joe Lovett, who’s still going strong, and his iconoclast friend Larry Kramer, who died in 2020.
Several times titles on American Cannibalism recall the works of William S. Burroughs. I can’t think of another artist that raked up the underbelly of America more influentially on subculture. The track builds continually to a ghostly ambient wail and a baseline that could be Kraftwerk’s. I know that Burroughs disliked rock music. That makes a lot of sense, given when he was born and upbringing. I think so-called electronic experimental sounds are
more suited soundtrack for his fiction. Listen to Burroughs reading Naked Lunch and that is all you really need as an audio adaptation of his texts. Still, this controversial man motivates artists long after passing from the scene. The Flesh, Full of Black Sand produced a perfectly minimalist interpretation.
Directly inspired by the accounts from relatives in China during the early stages of the Pandemic’s outbreak, watching media reports from state controlled TV in China. The track has a driving beat moving forward, perhaps set at a club, and then suddenly it changes, and as life has surely changed, it becomes more perilous. Paul Kendall’s tremendous lap steel guitar punctuates the twists. Paul is one of the artists over the years that has continually appeared in the credits of hugely successful and influential records as an engineer and producer. He’s had an impact on many over the decades. He is also a visual artist that easily adapts his sonic ideas, and beyond, on paper graphically, or in video. These inform one another in his process. I think our other versions of this track will materialize eventually.
As the opening of the second part of the record, it made sense to follow up with the effect of the previous track. The idea of breathing has always been an issue for me. I’m asthmatic. The loss of life in New York was enormous, and these life support machines became, ultimately, a double edged sword. I have used breathing fairly extensively in recordings and films. It seemed the right thing to do here. This is a pandemic track, yet here are elements that were recorded some twenty five years before.
This is an audio invasion. It could reference drone warfare, or something even worse. The invisible impacting life, signals in the air, nanobots, or a virus metaphorically marching across the face of the Earth. It’s sci-fi moving from the predictive to reality. The rhythm is rapid at first, and then shifts suddenly to this sinister anthem and stomper. It’s probably going to be our future.
If you know Brooklyn and the trains, Brighton Beach, aka Little Odessa, precedes Coney Island. It is the penultimate stop on the line. This track is about exiting the train, and descending to the shops and bars beneath the elevated train platform. There are Russian night clubs, pool rooms and an arcade. This is something that might be out of the early 80s. A mix of “the Warriors”, and James Gray’s “Little Odessa.” There is probably a lot more than video games being played at the arcade. It’s a good appetizer for the main course.
We arrive at the former amusement center. This is the main atmospheric theme for the concentration camp. It’s part of the suite of Holocaust Now. The remix by Double Slit is an excellent expansion of the underlying intensity of the music. There’s not much more to unfold here.
This slightly distorted pulse beat is very simple and addictive. Like the things that might drive a plague, behaviors that won’t adjust for the times, and ideas that will not bend before they break. Doctor Plague always wins in this scenario. I quite like Franz Rosati’s reworking and visualization of the track. This is a dance number.
Intended for the Revelation album, and originally titled “Frogs”, the first half is a type of lounge music. What would play at the camp officer’s cantina. The second half could be a twisted flamenco techo. There is something in it that gets a hold on you.
Part of the suite, it’s atmospherically very much of 2020. A sonic conveyor-belt to a rather bad outcome or maybe not just yet. It has a large musical break and features extensive FM synthesis. This track is really an unfolding of a larger idea. I considered this as a single.
It has an incessant sound that stammers with a menacing wheeze. It could be breaths, a cackle, or a sneeze. The title is taken from a photo print I produced in 2016 of the Donald also called “The Sneeze”.
The sinuous track. It could be a sequel to some of the ideas put forth sonically in The Black Vertebrate from a few years before. A shorter mix ended up the first element released for the project. The video has a creature that moves in constant change. The title again once again harkens back to Burroughs. The Centipede is more of an ocular invasion here. I think Article Collection’s remix actually successfully synthesized audible centipede crawls. The track could have gone on and on, and this was difficult to end. It’s the core of the second part of the album. You could say its influence travels throughout the second LP.
As some might guess, the title is a play on the title of the legendary Kraftwerk track “It’s More Fun to Compute”, which was a play on a popular pinball game in the 70s. As in the Kraftwerk counterpart, the track is a reprise of Moloch. This started in 2018 as a tribute to Kraftwerk, and in 2020 became a requiem for Florian Schneider, who died rather suddenly during the lockdown. I had the chance to encounter Florian in Düsseldorf many years ago and he did not disappoint. He was a hilarious person off stage. So the music reprise is very funky, and even has wind instruments, which is how Florian started. His death is a tremendous loss, but his music is everyone’s gain. Chandra Shukla aka Xambuca’s remix is one of my favorites. I think his mix is darker, and goes to the idea of sacrifice, that is to say, human sacrifice. I wish I had more time to work on this. I might revisit it in another form.
Ironically, this is the most electronic sounding track. As the title implies, I believe we might be moving into a biocractic phase of governance, either by design, or need. It’s clear that some of our bodies will make the leap to merge with data and artificial forms. There’s tremendous possibility and danger in this. In the context of the album, it’s a laboratory track, white coat mad scientists, and a creation emergent. A new type of Cannibal soldier. There are horn sounds which indicate a character in the Ravaged film and future album coming into being. The horns appear in other places on American Cannibalism, and will be back again.
This could be a digital version of an old Sun Records recording. Ideally this version of the track has vocals a la Johnny Cash. It is an epilogue, and says that the train is still rolling down and making stops, taking bodies to and from the camp. Maybe someone will escape and come back, and wipe that camp off the face of the earth, and restore Coney Island to a place of innocence. This is a track inspired by Brooklyn, and there are more rails to ride.
The Remixes and a collaboration comment with Paul Kendall (Wuhan)
With Remixes by
My lo-fi embryroroom: Exterminator (Pigs Can Hang Remix) was assembled using treated and looped excerpts from Ed’s great track, combined with shards of pulverized field recordings that I captured during the anti-cop uprisings in Flatbush, Brooklyn earlier this year. The sounds of hovering copcopters and random gunshots and tear gas canisters being fired into the heaving and seething throng of us on Church Street, frames the Exterminator elements, and ultimately blackens them.
Tried in the Azt remix to retain the harsh tension of the original mix. Used for this search were some of the original tracks that, when muted, were generated against points, and exacerbated this effect with gates and compressors. Later, a pulse-sequenced analog synthesizer was added to this digital rhythm. Finished the process by adding a field recording from a high mountain factory.
It was a really easy choice to accept the offer to remix ‘Ghost of a Chance’. I really enjoy the embryoroom works, and I thought it would be nice to have a dark, droning piece under the industrial thumping of the original track. I really enjoyed working on this remix, and I hope I did the track justice.
April 2019. Summoned up my DAT archive, and an unreleased project, “Rough Parts from ‘Hump’”. Dated ‘92, it alludes, and is an homage to, the Sound Designer method of playlist, the ability to infinitely repeat sections of an audio file in any order. Digital editing thus afforded instant repetition and synchronous shifting over time, in short, quasi Steve Reich pastiche. Each of Hump’s composition’s title largely reflected its singular source so ‘Bass’ was generated from one or two bass sounds.
Subjected to a series of primitive digital manipulations, repetition, reverse, time stretching and pitch transformation, a full album was completed. 27 years later, excerpts were sent over to Ed Quist to incorporate, or ignore. One aspect wormed into Wuhan, a singular line insinuated through Ed’s composition. A pleasure to contribute to a major work.
On this remix, I used a vocoder voice that represents a certain post, or trans-human, protagonist/character called “iBot“, which also occasionally appears in other Schneider TM songs over the past 20 years. It is supposed to be a combination of human and technology that has a slight retro-futuristic vibe of the “old future“, and struggles, but tries to deal with, what the future actually turns out to be. In this remix, it walks along a traffic jam, which implies that it’s not trapped inside a car that stands still. It walks and moves constantly forward through the smell of gasoline, and will certainly reach its destination. In that way, and compared to the traffic, it is rather futuristic.
Musically, I processed Ed’s original tracks in ways that create the feeling and bouncing funkiness of “walking”, and added a drum machine, and heavily filtered fuzz guitar.
– D. Dresselhaus (12/2020)
Dr Plague, Franz Rosati:
The main element that caught my attention is this endless rhythm, with this subtle accumulation process that runs
like a river beneath the percussion. It’s like a collective ritual about to go wrong. I decided to do a negative version of this track, transforming the percussive part in dilated pulses and exposing the textural part from the original track to create an uncertain sense between calm and desolation.
I wanted to take this track in a paranoid, psychedelic direction, sort of a micro approach to the original’s macro view. A wound-up, zoomed-in version that emphasized and punctuated the eeriness, while maintaining its inescapable, persistent quality.
Tiny Plague Dancer, Bob Data:
I was exhausted by the daily grey, and an overload of physical work, when the option to remix an embryoroom track reached me. It eased and delighted me in the darker months of the year. Where to start, or what to catch for a breakup of the original, is always the hardest part. I began a straightforward thing and it did not let me go. There is nothing better when the fun and drive comes in…and it did. My old companion Korg 770 joined the game, together with the MS404. About other ingredients I will not speak, as I would feel too much undressed. The “Tiny Plague Dancer” got a Bob Data suit, almost transparent, with a little glitter dust.
My Black Centipede remix gallops at a mid-paced tempo, emitting electrical arcs and fiberoptic artifacts in its path. I dissected embryoroom’s original stems and sampled, cut, and iteratively resampled his combination, piecing together an emergent aberration of a hardcore anthem.
One particular day at the tail end of July, I’d received a private message from none other than Edward Quist. He’d been putting together American Cannibalism at the time, tracks and remixes alike. I immediately agreed to join the project upon being asked for a contribution in the form of a remix, as I had been a fan of embryoroom‘s dystopian universe in the first place. Edward gave me ‘Key & Chain’ post our exchange online. The piece itself is embryoroom classic in my humble opinion. Signature pulsing beat with only slight variation in texture, hypnotic, dragging you deeper into the abyss of the before mentioned dystopian world. With it, a pairing of haunting atmospheric recordings, giving depth, a three-dimensional feel to the music.
I decided I would highlight those in my rework immediately, inducing a rabbit-hole chain reaction over what Edward described as a perfect reminder of his nights spent clubbing at Tunnel, or Limelight. Squat in the middle of a despair-filled America, ravaged by the pandemic, Key & Chain had highlighted the tone of the world as it was, a grimly colored reality. My interpretation had aimed at momentary escapism; I’ve introduced my own drum section, structuring it to accentuate the tension created by Edwards atmospheric stems, then using delay techniques to create a release element, and drive the piece to its conclusion.
MMS Biocracy Remix, Matthew Minot-Scheuermann:
When asked by embryoroom if I would be interested in remixing the song Biocracy, I was honored and ecstatic. Ravaged by the Sun <American Cannibalism> was one of my favorite albums of the year and a perfect artistic companion to our continuing societal and political decline. Biocracy seemed to me to be beautifully impenetrable, cascading dystopian rhythms overlapping and condensing into a vision of undulating terror. In remixing Biocracy, my hope (aside from doing the song justice) was to get to the heart of the matter, to wallow in the frost at the bottom of the grave. My aim was to inject space into the song, but also to separate out the musical atoms and to reconfigure them into a soft mosaic like the way icy breath is suspended in the light of a streetlamp on a cold winter night. I wanted it to be chilling, to be mystical, and to highlight the essential qualities so readily apparent in embryoroom’s work: humanity, hope, and horror.
As a big fan of dub techno, I was aiming to create a more spacey and deep atmosphere. Immersive and evolving as Arcade Little Odessa is, with string ensemble-like drones to pulsating melodies, I had all the pieces of collage available. Fast paced rhythm takes you on a joyride.
American Cannibalism is the perfect reflection of the political/economic/social situation that we are living in today, a corrupted society that eats everyone who’s not wearing armor, everyone who’s not on a defensive stance. Skeletal Lines is the perfect soundtrack for this situation, after the “human all-you-can-eat”. Just skeletons remain and condors steal the remaining flesh from the broken bones.
Tiny Plague Dancer, Seah:
For this remix, I was thinking about the experience of time during COVID-19. It is somewhat erratic – at least for me. At times, it feels like droning on and on in isolation. Other intervals, I’ve been lucky to have a lot of creative projects, and way more time to work on them. There’s a certain level of uncertainty in the world. I think maybe especially for those of us in the live performance art community. So I chose to highlight a part of the track that on the original seems more like an undertone, bringing it to the surface. Other beats I lowered the pitch to drag the beat out and give it this feeling of segments of time kinda enfolding upon each other, rather than the clean beat of the original. The video is done with a live mirrored feed and a MAX patch I made specifically for the track. I wanted to have an abstracted human body (my own) that kinda morphs in and out of more grotesque forms. We are the plague, essentially.
Moloch is the biblical name of a Canaanite god associated with child sacrifice through fire, or war. Rabbinical tradition depicted Moloch as a bronze statue heated with fire into which the victims, usually children, were thrown. This has been associated with reports by Greco-Roman authors on the child sacrifices in Carthage to Baal Hammon. Moloch, and It’s More Fun to Moloch, were the two tracks remixed from embryoroom’s Ravaged By The Sun <American Cannibalism>, released online on Halloween 2020. The remixes kept the dark and conspiratorial deity in mind while remixing Moloch, and the lighter It’s More Fun To Moloch, extracting the archetype of Moloch incarnate. The Malkam Sacrifice Throat Cut Mix is especially interesting, and the result is a post-industrial soundtrack to the overall fall of Western civilization, and now the world for that matter, in all its pandemic scurry and frenzy.
- Upcoming Music Releases – Cabaret Voltaire – Johnny Yesno Redux (Mute)
- Upcoming Music Releases – Health – Disco2
- Upcoming Music Releases – Killing Joke – Absolute Dissent (Universal / Spinefarm)
- Track-by-Track: Sound Effects of Death and Horror – The Rose and the Cross
- Video Premiere: William Carlos Whitten – Poor Thing