CGI Records gets into the groove

Featureless Ghost founder launches 12-inch series

Matt Weiner wants to give the past another go at the future. Burnt out on skip-button interactions with onscreen playlists, the local musician and DJ is going on record to endorse Southeastern dance music and audio anachronisms through CGI Records, a limited-run 12-inch singles label. “I still use digital technology outside of music, but vinyl forces you to be more directly engaged with what you’re listening to,” Weiner says.

As a member of Featureless Ghost who’s currently performing under the name TWINS, and a promoter of the on-hiatus HUNGER monthly parties, Weiner is a progenitor of dark, raw, and driving electronic compositions for the dance floor. He launched CGI to release the types of functional club tracks and headier expressions that enriched HUNGER, a percolating scene of DJs and live acts coalesced around mutant bass, industrial funk, and outsider electronic stimulus.

Releasing a 12-inch single, especially of dance music outside of select pop-leaning EDM and dubstep is hardly a break-even endeavor despite ‘vinyl is making a comeback’ trend pieces. Still, in a growing market of exclusive downloads for laptop/iPad DJs, CGI shuns digital distribution for tactile grooves. Drawing a line in the sand trumps boosting the bottom line.

“CGI does have a familiar connotation in regards to technology and exploiting electronic tools/textures; however, for me it’s not used as an acronym for ‘computer-generated imagery,’” Weiner says, re-contextualizing the letters through a proactively contrarian campaign. “I miss when film studios actually spent money on special effects teams instead of teams of programmers, so my medium of choice actually requires an industry of physical production. It’s a way of reclaiming what’s been lost in the sea of endless technological possibilities and re-imposing some healthy limitations to the art form.”

Weiner is joined in the labor of love by Chris Powers, a childhood friend, HUNGER co-host and producer under the name Cc. The two grew up in the North Springs–Dunwoody area, split off to attend colleges, ended up in New York and London, respectively, and reconnected in Atlanta in 2010. Weiner brought back a taste for the DIY noise scene and avant-garde contemporary composition, while Powers transitioned an early love of junglist production and turntablism into an appetite for UK funky and Chicago acid influences. Not hearing the house variations they craved, they nurtured deep tech-house, footwork and electro, alongside other mechanized forms.

The coalition of bangin’ and braindance aesthetics can be heard on CGI001, featuring two tracks by Cc and two by Madison, Wisconsin’s Golden Donna. Working within the format’s conventions, there are two four-to-six-minute tracks per side: a mix of jackin’, dance floor-oriented percussion and subtler, melodic excursions. An ongoing goal is to introduce gritty, ringing, body-lashing catalysts for directly experiencing pressed rhythms, not press-hyped styles. “As long as people are dancing rather than stroking their chins, it’s something we’d want at our shows or to put out,” Powers says, speaking from Savannah, where he’s exploring organic BPMs to bring back to the hub.

Curating an underground-sounds archive in Atlanta isn’t unprecedented, which Weiner and Powers quickly acknowledge. Weiner has been featured previously on a compilation by Ryan Parks (who produces as Fit of Body). Both Weiner and Powers also cite, among others, Distal, Karl Injex, Ramon Rawsoul, and Kai Alcé and his NDATL label as ongoing inspiration to approach music from an honest place and use vinyl to invest in untapped talent. The respect among those backing community over pure economy is mutual.

“Like selling drugs, I just gave ‘em some pointers on how and who to sell to; all the rest is on them,” Alcé says. “But they got some great ideas and I’m glad that I was able to connect with the new — there has definitely been some great energy and encouragement going both ways.”

CGI releases add a regional component to the national conversation on electronic scenes. Upcoming tracks from locals including Broodlings and REKchampa, as well as other cities’ torchbearers, such as Knoxville’s Will Azada (Proper Trax records), will sit on shelves alongside similar word-of-mouth built imprints like Brooklyn-based L.I.E.S., fostering American noise and resonant connections.

“If CGI were to do anything, I would hope it would encourage others to get up and do their own thing,” Powers says. “It all stems from that angle we started HUNGER with: Opening the booth and encouraging people to come in!”