Civic Duty Records & “Mistranslation Wave”

What is “mistranslation wave?” Civic Duty Records (the label responsible for it) describes it as “A new form of electronic music made with the right ideas but the wrong execution – misunderstanding as a genre.”

There’s a lot I do not understand about mistranslation wave. And honestly, that’s why I find it so fascinating. There’s a rabbit hole here, dug out by both the tag, and the weird history of CDR itself.

From their Bandcamp page:

“Born in 2006 Civic Duty Records has over the course of years released only a handful of EPs and a mixtape. Now in 2020 a new era dawns and the doors are wide open.

Listeners of all creeds and nationalities, lend us your ears – it’s your civic duty.”

For a 14 year old label, their output has been scant. In fact, I’ve had trouble confirming what they released prior to 2020.

Several different Civic Duty Records can be found online. Discogs gives us:

Jack, basically.

Big Cartel throws up some actual releases. But given the differing logo, and lack of current releases, I can’t confirm if this is our CDR either.

So what releases can be credited to this CDR? Well, we have two, both from this year. SIDEKICK WAVE’s “CAFé GAMING” and Fadladder’s The Joy of Salad EP.

“CAFé GAMING” throws some more confusion into the mix. Yes, it’s mistranslation wave, but it’s also “Coffee House Music”. “The sounds of games with friends and coffee or cake” (I guess you cannot have both). Coffee House Music is also “Relaxing Noise Techno Rave” which “Fills the world with uncertainty and joy”.

Are you lost? Good.

The title track of “CAFé GAMING” begins with someone asking “What’s on the menu?” three times, before settling into relatively chill retrowave. This song does carry the vibe of playing an ancient space shooter.

But as it progresses “CAFé GAMING” morphs into a fairly banging dance number. I can see this filling a floor, though that wouldn’t be amenable to coffee and cake.

The B-side to “CAFé GAMING” is “喫茶店ゲーム” [Coffee Shop Games].

It opens with the tones of a busted sound card. There’s another decent beat here though it all gets deliciously sense-screwing.

Your friends won’t be as comfy thanks to this one, despite the promise of coffee. It does ease a little around the 1.20 minute mark, and it’s certainly an interesting listen. I literally took the slowest blink of my life after listening to it though. I also shook my head like a tripping kitty.

Fadladder’s The Joy of Salad EP is not an EP. It only carries two tracks. Scratch that, it’s only one track (“Salad Shooter”), and a remix thereof.

The original carries some witch vibes. There’s a definite, rounded ambiance with some sleek house phrases. There are alarm calls that pump things up a little. Overall, it’s ground-floor, gateway noise music.

The remix of “Salad Shooter” is a digital fever dream. Those alarms are met with random break core/acid house, and even some industrial percussion.

The contrast between the two versions is a joy to behold. A discordant, unsettling joy, but still. It lives up to CDR’s promise that “The sound will not be audiophile quality.”

The Joy of Salad pushes us down yet another rabbit hole. The description tells us that:

“The Joy of Salad” recorded 2001 or 2002 in St. Louis Park, MN by the now-defunct project Fadladder. “Salad Shooter” remix was featured in Nick Kunin’s short animated film “Dimension X”

2001 or 2002. At least 4 years before CDR was supposedly formed. I’d hoped that finding Dimension X would provide more answers, but researching that was kind of trippy in of itself.

Searches for Nick Kunin first throw up a hockey player. Further along, a promising candidate comes in the form of an animator by the same name.

That he’s our man is validated by listings from Baltimore’s MicroCineFest, ION Film Festival and 2007’s Atlanta Underground Film Festival.

But I couldn’t actually find the film itself. Even when following a link to Animation World Network’s YouTube channel, which I was pointed towards by an associated site.

The wild safari that Civic Duty Records sent me on is kind of the point. There’s a lot I didn’t (and still don’t) understand. But the experience has been incredibly rewarding. I like the music they’ve put out, and I hope to hear more. And I look forward to the many more strange things riding along with it.

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