Online translation tools can only help so much: the phrase “Psalmus Dieursae” may bear the semblance of language, but it doesn’t “mean” anything in particular.
Break the syllables apart in Google Translate, and you’ll end up with an equation that just barely checks out: “Psalmus die ursae” in Latin = “song day bears”. It’s a pretty unintelligible cluster of nouns, but not so abstract that it doesn’t start to form some nebulous cloud of meaning on the page. You can’t help but imagine quarter notes floating in the screen’s white space and dancing bear cubs setting up camp beneath a url sky. These words flirt with definition, but retreat frustratingly into their obscurity.
+(ᵔᴥᵔ) (•̀o•́)ง ʕ•ᴥ•ʔ+
It’s the perfect name, then, for Perry Trollope’s esoteric netlabel. Psalmus Dieursae’s homepage consists of little more than text, linking to .mp3 files of each of the releases that currently reside in its ever-changing catalog. A line of keyboard-bashed letters hugs the top of the site. Just looking at the page sparks the imagination. What awaits the off-white backdrop? Is plant spiral bio bombing something I should be concerned about? Is it safe to drop my email in the white box at the bottom? In an internet landscape cluttered with advertising, silvery color schemes and interactivity, psalm.us is refreshingly spare — stripped of unnecessary signifiers.
What lies behind these links is just as indefinable as the index that houses them. The Psalmus catalog is a grab bag of sound collages, free jazz ventures, and even a surreal work of ASMR-themed performance art. These releases are churned out quickly and quietly, documenting the intensely personal (and often amateur) output of their online community. Somewhere in this map of notebook scribbles, IDM bleep-bloops and HTML logorrhea, there’s a wealth of shared human experience: the path, however, might wind deep into your subconscious.
I talked with Trollope (aka /f) over the phone about the real-world context that informs Psalmus’ digital world. Stints in San Francisco, the UK, and his current home country (Vietnam) have informed an artistic output that spans aesthetics and mediums: alongside Psalmus’ international cast of creatives, he’s managed to post a prolific body of painting, music and film while keeping his persona shrouded in obscurity. Though it can be difficult to parse out, there is indeed a real person behind the digital madness — read the abridged transcript of our chat below.
+(ᵔᴥᵔ) (•̀o•́)ง ʕ•ᴥ•ʔ+
(conducted 1.2.19 via whatsapp)
HALF-GIFTS: I’ve really been interested in Psalmus for the past year. I love the website design, especially. I think that’s what drew me in initially.
/f: Interesting that you say that. Interesting…
HALF-GIFTS: I think in a way, it’s the background color that’s inspiring.
/f: *Laughs* I like that color!
HALF-GIFTS: The artwork sits on top of it well.
/f: That was a lucky choice, honestly. I picked it at random.
HALF-GIFTS: I feel like there are a lot of things on the site that are random or seem to have been randomly generated.
/f: There’s no algorithms! I’m not a robot...I’m a human.
HALF-GIFTS: The catalog lists items as being 2.1, 2.2, etc. What does version 2 signify?
/f: So, version 2 is the website with the yellow background. That’s the second version of Psalmus, whereas the first Psalmus page was a Bandcamp. That’s now our archive. A lot of people had the password for it, and it was pretty psycho. People were changing shit every day, and it would get pretty hectic. I was going in there and trolling people. That was version one, I guess. So this is 2. I just wanted to call it that because it’s the second thing to use the name. But they’re not the same. They’re different things entirely, in terms of the mission and idea.
HALF-GIFTS: I noticed with the first version, a lot of people who were writing about Psalmus were confused about why everything was changing or what the changes actually meant.
/f: A lot of those were unintentional, but some of them...I’m not gonna say who, but someone in there was intentionally changing albums that certain labels were posting about, intentionally rendering the article useless. Making them inconsistent with what was being written about. That was intentional in some cases. *Laughs* I’ll be honest.
HALF-GIFTS: That adds to the mystique though! You never know what things are going to be, or may have been in the past.
/f: Yeah, that is an idea. Now, there’s no open source on the website. Nobody’s editing it but me. I’m the dictator now.
HALF-GIFTS: You’ve uploaded a ton of material over the past few weeks. Is there a reason it’s been super active recently? Or did things happen to materialize?
/f: That’s hard to answer. I shut the site down at some point over the past year because of personal reasons. I moved out to Vietnam a month ago or so, and I became nostalgic for the site. Some people wrote me, like, “what the hell, where is it?” I felt guilty, so I opened it again. I asked all these people on the internet to do something, and the moment they sent me something I’d post it right away. I didn’t want to hesitate. The point is just to share things. Get it out. For me, at least. Everyone’s been making small things and they have so much art and shit laying around that it’s not hard to throw it together.
HALF-GIFTS: What makes it interesting is that you can’t really stream any of it. You have to download the music. Listening to it as an mp3 as opposed to streaming changes the experience. You have to be more intentional about it.
/f: I didn’t think about that until recently. [Frequent Psalmus collaborator] Scotch BX used the word commitment. That a .zip drive is a commitment. But, I just don’t really see how that is. I spent too much time on blogspots downloading rips... I don’t use Spotify. I don’t use any streaming services except YouTube, I guess. Do you have Spotify?
HALF-GIFTS: I listen to things on Apple Music, but I’ve used Home Sharing a little bit more recently. When you’re connected to wi-fi it lets you listen to your home music catalog. I’ve been using that as a way of getting off of the streaming grid.
/f: Why do you wanna get off the streaming grid?
HALF-GIFTS: Because even though streaming services like Netflix and Spotify have a lot of different kinds of music, movies, whatever, when you rely on services like that, you neglect things that might not be on there. You remove yourself from the parts of the internet that aren’t mainstreamed, or, uhhh, totally public. That’s one of the reasons I’m trying to explore file-sharing a little more. I think that the younger people get, downloadable .mp3 files become more of a foreign concept.
HALF-GIFTS: Something I’ve been really excited about on your site have been the two Hari Han releases. They’re super minimal and ambient. Relaxing stuff. There’s something deeper and more spiritual to it though.
/f: I’m really glad to hear that. Yeah, this artist, I met them last year in New York very briefly. They’ve never shared their music before. They’re still quite new to it. They make music on laptop speakers, which I think is really rad. I really respect that. Yeah, I was really excited about it too! But yeah, she draws the clowns and does the music. It’s all her.
HALF-GIFTS: I feel like there are a lot of albums on the label that have that “laptop speaker” sound. Some things that have ASMR sound quality. And then there’s the ASMR SISTERS release that you just put out.
/f: Yeah, that’s really something.
HALF-GIFTS: How did that come to be? It’s a full ASMR video, but it sounds like music if you listen to the whole thing.
/f: Oh my god, did you listen to the whole thing? Dude, I commend you. That’s hardcore.
HALF-GIFTS: A good portion of it. The deeper I got into it, there were rhythms forming.
/f: In the past, I used to only ask artists I thought were making really good stuff to do releases. When I started Psalmus again, I decided not only to focus on certain people but to ask anyone who has been in my life in a personal way. I also wanted to get more feminine energy on Psalmus. The girl on the right is one of my closest friends. We went to painting school in England together. We’re doing very different things. She’s in a pop group called Dream Wife. The circle of friends we’re both a part of doesn’t know anything about the Psalmus world that I kind of live in. I asked them to put something on the site, and they were like, okay why not. Next thing you know, they sent me that out of nowhere. I had no idea what was coming. I was laughing my ass off all night watching it. It’s crazy.
HALF-GIFTS: I’m impressed with how ridiculous it is, but also how, uh, quality the ASMR sounds are.
/f: To be honest, I hate ASMR videos. The only way I’m able to like stuff for this is because it’s so wacky. It’s the most psychotic ASMR video I’ve seen in my life. The times I have tried to listen to ASMR videos it makes my hair poke up and my spine curl. I get really stressed out. I can’t handle it. Something about the loud microphone.
HALF-GIFTS: They’ve never done much for me. But it’s interesting that there’s a variety of sensations people feel across the board.
/f: fffffffsssssss…. pshhhhht…..Vibrationssssssss…..
HALF-GIFTS: How long have you been painting seriously?
/f: It’s always been seriously fun.
HALF-GIFTS: Do you notice any unifying traits that span the Psalmus catalog?
/f: Across the catalog there might not be a unifying idea. But I like to think there has to be an idea behind everything. If there is an idea, any idea at all, this could be a unifying trait. I think the idea is more important than the medium. It’s a phenomenon what the brain does when it’s confronted with random information. Or information that seems random. Or any information! A splatter of paint on the wall. Random notes. The brain can perceive a thing from it — a pattern. A shape. A face. I find that that phenomena can occur with sound. Cawa spoke to me a lot about “the idea”.
HALF-GIFTS: And, on social media I kind of see you doing that with words and letters.
/f: I’m just drawing with my finger on the keypad. You can kind of drag your finger across the keyboard. It just assumes what word you’re gonna write. I just make circles and draw shapes. The only way I could interpret meaning is my phone assumes certain words I might use…
HALF-GIFTS: Speaking of social media — how did you come into contact with emamouse? She seems to have a decently high profile on Twitter and I love her music.
/f: When I met emamouse...I..man...it was a long time ago. Cawa and I were particularly obsessed with this music genre called Denpa in Japan, and Cawa found her in the Bandcamp search tags for it. She was tagging her music as Denpa and when I first saw it I couldn’t handle it. It was too much for me. It was so...raw or something? So potent I didn’t know what to think. But then, later, I went back to her and I sent her a drawing on Twitter or something and then an explosion happened. A communication explosion. At the time, she didn’t have a lot of followers. Not nearly as much as she does now. When you said high profile, I think it’s funny because I’d never thought of that way. She’s just emamouse to me. A real close friend. A #1 person. I guess when I think high profile I’m thinking Green Day.
HALF-GIFTS: High profile relative to whatever scene has enveloped around abstract electronic music online.
/f: Yeah, she should be high profile though! I really wish she had millions of followers! She’s a miracle to me. We’ve never met though! That’s on my to-do list.
HALF-GIFTS: It does seem like you have traveled a lot in the past.
/f: Yeah, sure, I’ve been around.
HALF-GIFTS: How did you end up in Vietnam?
/f: EhhHHhhHhh, it just kind of happened. It’s cheap out here. Pineapple smoothies out here are 8 cents. I get em all the time.
HALF-GIFTS: What do you find inspiring there?
/f: There’s trash everywhere. A variety of colorful, tasteful, unintentional trash. Plush toys on the street. I don’t think locals see [the trash] that way. It’s very chaotic here. So much shit everywhere, and it’s all so compressed. There’s a huge fortress that got knocked down in Hong Kong called Kowloon and it’s like that here: everything’s squished. It’s unfathomable how much is going on around you at all times. All the lives and objects and things. A lot of copyright infringement. So much bootleg stuff.
HALF-GIFTS: What are you working on there?
/f: Before you called, I had just been talking with Newell. I was just editing a video of him in a short test scene. We’ve been talking off and on about shooting a movie. A very low-budget movie. We’re makin’ a movie! Just wanna be famous...
HALF-GIFTS: What kind of movie?
/f: I’ve been watching stop-motion animations. Alice (1988) by Jan Švankmajer. In our movie, we want to have elements of claymation. Transitions from one world to another with small claymation moments that look crappy and stupid. That might have to be our replacement for CGI.
HALF-GIFTS: About your solo music as /f — how are the sounds produced? What’s the electro-acoustic balance?
/f: Recently I’ve been addicted to SuperCollider’s pattern library. I have a folder of sounds that I update every month or so. It’s called “banks”.. Because I still think about the 404... I try to keep it only microphone recordings or previous improvisations but recently I added some corny drum hits. I try to release improvisations as unedited as possible. If I have to edit a lot, I feel that is a sign that I need to develop the system more in order to give myself the expression I want in real time.
HALF-GIFTS: That’s really interesting, because it seems like it’d be a lot more complicated than that. There are a lot of textures and sensations. Any sounds you’re drawn to?
/f: I’m drawn to sexy, meaty, viperous, silly, cordial, sad, unhappy, dry lalkewp poop gugu... Man eats a bush...