Hylidae's digital noise was born on a rural farm in northeast Missouri | St. Louis Public Radio

Hylidae's digital noise was born on a rural farm in northeast Missouri

Oct 23, 2015

Almost exactly two years ago Jon Burkhart left a commune in northeast Missouri that he called home and moved back home to St. Louis. He brought with him a host of analog electronic musical equipment, a computer, and a new musical persona, Hylidae. The project was born in contrast to the rural lifestyle the musician had just ended.

“It was kind of like my retreat from communal life to be making solo electronic music,” Burkhart said.

St. Louis-born Burkhart will release his first album titled intransitive this Saturday at Foam, a café and bar on Cherokee Street. The album will be released on cassette and digital platforms in congruence with the city’s rising trend in tape releases. The music fluctuates between ambient uplifting soundscapes and dance tracks with slightly industrial drum beats and warped vocals. Although the music’s tone differs from its gestational environment, there’s a strong adherence to a self-sufficient mentality characteristic of intentional communities. The music is written, produced, and recorded directly to Burkhart’s computer.

Burkhart lived at Sandhill Farm, one of Missouri’s oldest modern intentional communities before returning to the city. There, he began tinkering with synthesizers, sequencers, and digital music. For Burkhart the music balances between the personal and the hedonistic. Some tracks are intended to create a feeling of resolution in the wake of an ending relationship, others are meant to get people dancing.   

The tracks are often dense and feature layers of instrumentation.

“I want it to be this full orchestra of one instrument,” Burkhart said of one song.

When Burkhart arrived in St. Louis he fell into an experimental electronic music scene featuring artists like Black James, Ragliani, Larva, Wax Fruit, and 18andcounting. Musically, Burkhart found a community but re-entering urban living took some time.

“That was an adjustment, to renting, having to go places for socialization, all of that was a bit of a culture shock,” he said of the period.

Musicians in Burkhart’s community follow different approaches to music-making. Some manipulate old technologies like cassettes, others use guitar loops or are influenced by note-bending rock groups like Sonic Youth. Some create digital pastiche from sound samples, others are heavily influenced by hip-hop. Their influences range from dance music to harsh noise. According to Burkhart, these musicians are united by a willingness to push for new sounds. Similarly, these musicians' live shows vary from meditative observational performances to dance parties. 

Despite the experimental edge, Burhart said his Hylidae project has one point.

“To create fun music,” he said. “Basically, I’m trying to make music that’s fun, that’s danceable, that people can lose themselves to, ideally.”

Burkhart’s Hylidae record release party begins at 9:00 Saturday night at Foam on Cherokee Street. 

“Cityscape” is produced by Mary EdwardsAlex Heuer, and Kelly Moffitt. The show is sponsored in part by the Missouri Arts Council, the Regional Arts Commission, and the Arts and Education Council of Greater St. Louis.