T.A.G.C - Digitaria [Side Effects, 1987]

On a stormy day in 1987, in Dallas, Texas, I took refuge from a thunderstorm in the eclectic but short-lived Seldom Seen Records. SSR was part of a weird music Renaissance in Big D that encompassed DIY nightclubs in the Deep Ellum area and cultural watering holes like the Record Gallery.

"What's the darkest, scariest, strangest album in this store?" I asked the clerk. Without hesitating, he began to romance Digitaria by T.A.G.C. (the Anti-Group). It was, he told me, ambisonically recorded with a soundfield microphone to simulate a 360 degree soundscape. As ambisonic pioneer Richard Elen recounted in 1991,"The Ambisonic technology is the culmination of over two decades of systematic research into how directional distortion can be reduced as much as possible using any given number of audio channels and loudspeakers." In those pre-home-theater days, music-geeks achieved surround-sound the Brian Eno way, by wiring a third speaker to the positive terminals of the auxiliary connection on their amps. I was already intrigued.

"Here. I'll spin it." Swampy sounds, frogs singing, electronic washes and faintly percussive bells filled the store. The sound swelled like some theme-park riverboat ride modeled on Heart of Darkness, tempo quickening. Then I heard feverish chanting of the names of gods and goddesses, Osiris prominent among them. As the music reached a crescendo, there was a deafening burst of thunder that left us abruptly in the dark.

"I'll take it."

The balance of the album did not disappoint. Samples of Patrick Magee as the Marquis de Sade from the film-version of Marat/Sade, screams, a recitation of Coleridge's opium-inspired Khubla Khan and plenty of dark, layered and sometimes sexy mayhem followed. Cryptic liner notes told me that Digitaria is Sirius B, the small dark star that the Dogon Tribe of Mali in West Africa knew of before astronomers found it. "According to Dogon legend the "Nommo" (Amphibian extraterrestial beings) descended to the Earth to implant knowledge to Gogo (the Fox), Ogo also means impure and is symbolized by mankind," T.A.G.C. wrote.

For two decades, Digitaria has been my favorite album and remains a high-water mark for experimental and psychoacoustic music. I broke this disc out in countless dens of iniquity over the years. "Listen to this…" It's a record that impacts people strongly, terrifying some, exciting others and putting a fair number of listeners into a trance. There are two versions, one on the Sweatbox label and one on Side Effects, the former being superior while the latter was most recently reprinted (1998). While this mysterious gem is out-of-print, used copies aren't hard to find. Absolutely essential.

Steve Aydt

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T.A.G.C. - Digitaria