If you’re my age (knocking on 40’s door) and have followed local music, then there’s a better than zero chance the Tales from the Edge compilations series released by now-defunct, once-pioneering radio station 94.5 The Edge were seminal for you. The discs of sonic gold encased in hard plastic reliquaries were formative for me – a young, poor would-be hipster yearning to feel superior to my fellow teenaged derelicts. Of course, now anyone can and does release compilations. (Be sure to pick up your copy of Fort Worth Weekly’s Frequenices, Vol. 8!) But the bands that made the Edge’s cut always seemed special to me.
One of my favorite Tales from the Edge discoveries was Channel 69, an electronic quartet that came of age at a time when synth-pop and house music were crossing over into the mainstream. I once caught the band at the long-closed Engine Room, a South Side club that would occasionally eschew its own punk rock/hard rock ethos for groovier tuneage.
Christian Mauch, one quarter of Channel 69, doesn’t remember the gig in Fort Worth. But that was a long time and many bands ago. Now he’s entirely focused on sustaining his longtime passion project, electro-rockers The Spiral Sound, whose music he describes as “ambient plastic sex rock.”
Mauch, along with drummer Paul Goetz and bassist/keyboardist Patrick Higgins got together around 2002. The trio released an album and an EP under the name Black Lights, and they were in the middle of recording a third as The Spiral Sound when Higgins’ daughter was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. She was 4 years old. Higgins (also a Weekly contributor) left the band to deal with that, and Goetz eventually moved to Austin.
For most musicians, that would have spelled the end of things. But Mauch promised Higgins that he’d finish the album – a task made impossible after the engineer who recorded the project split to New York, taking with him all of the files of the band’s third record.
Mauch had to start over, by himself, and recording everything on his iPhone. He wasn’t exactly able to recreate the whole album, but at least he kept the sound alive, he said.
“Instead of doing the whole record, I’ve been cherry-picking some of the songs,” said the Weatherford resident. “There are some pieces of samples that are in some of the [new] songs, but I’ve essentially started from scratch.”
In 2014, Mauch released Voight Kampff under the name Spiral Sound, though it was essentially a solo album. He chose to keep the name, he said, because he thought there might be a few people who would remember them.
“It’s basically the same thing we were doing,” he said. “It’s the same sound.”
Mauch hasn’t stopped writing and recording, he said. He just hasn’t (and won’t) released everything he’s produced. The band’s sonics are informed by electronic music, but angular guitars and effects-laden riffage are the driving force. The songs are danceable but dark and intelligent – like if Radiohead and Tricky collaborated – with odd tunings, thick slabs of reverb and delay, and polyrhythmic electro beats.
“I have that electronic background, so I always try to incorporate that danceable feel,” he said. “I always worry that people were going to perceive it as electronic music. I don’t want it to sound that way, but I do want that element there.”
Mauch (read: The Spiral Sound) is on the verge of releasing a new album, Lowded, in the next few months. He’s created a YouTube channel and hopes to play live again someday.
“I would love to get back out there,” he said. “But I don’t want to do it by myself. I just haven’t had luck finding anyone interested in the music.
“Honestly,” he continued, “I didn’t know anyone even cared about the music.”