As a teenager I read about the enigmatic case of Étienne Bottineau, an 18th-century French engineer who could purportedly discern the approach of ships days days away from shore by virtue of the effect their presence exerted on the atmosphere. He termed his technique “nauscopy,” and while he managed to impress the governor of Mauritius, he failed to find favor with the Marine Minister back in Paris and died a pauper in India. This story fascinated me at the time, but I forgot about it until recently when I endeavored to research it further on the internet. A Google search revealed plenty about the science (art? hoax?) of nauscopy, but the first result it brought up was actually the Wikipedia article for a record label called Nauscopy. This entry sounds as though it was written by an intoxicated friend of the label’s founders, and blatantly fails to achieve the tone befitting of an encyclopedia required by Wikipedia’s style guidelines. Still, Nauscopy as described sounds so remarkable that I felt compelled to preserve Wikipedia’s treatment of it here in case some zealous editor stumbles across it and deletes it:
“Nauscopy is an independent record label based in New Hampshire which was begun as a cassette label called Burping Turds Musick in California in 1991, no doubt taking cues from other cassette culture people of the time such as GWOP, Wheelchair Full of Old Men, Eerie Materials, and others. . . .
“The prevailing objective of the label seems to be to defy or ignore all criteria that people generally adhere to when it comes to considering audio; this attitude has been taken to notable extremes. They seem to pride themselves on having no regard for any audience, to say nothing of musical genres. Despite an almost total lack of advertising, they kept at it for sixteen years (until April 2007), releasing things with a vision intense enough so that some use ‘nauscopy’ as an adjective to describe the output. As of May 30, 2009, the label is again operational.
“Examples of this attitude are: releasing home recordings found at yard sales; compiling vinyl LP’s where each participant must submit literally anything that isn’t music; deliberately lowering recording quality to make fun of the desire for pristine quality on compact discs (in 1996); contrastingly juxtaposing dozens of different musical styles on the same release to the point of solemn absurdity; releasing a clear LP with no label, packaged in a clear sleeve with only a small sticker on each side to denote the artists; releasing an LP of which no two of the hand-decorated covers were remotely alike (even the names of the acts often changed – same record); creating only five (?) copies of a record in a certain color and not bothering to tell anyone; parodying Anal Cunt; utilizing biological secrets in producing a release that some people say they can actually smell when it is played; releasing obscure Asian music from 78 rpm records (inspired in part by Sublime Frequencies); taking circuit bending too far (?); attempting to get consent from Muammar al-Gaddafi to do a spoken word album; or just having an absolute disregard for the listener entirely.
“Some may say that such an approach borders on the routines of helpless mental illness. Others may say that it borders on the mystical and is more or less in tune with the Taoist principle of ‘becoming like an infant’ or embracing uselessness (as taught by Chuang Tzu).”
While this article asserts that the label is operational again, I have found no corroborating confirmation of this assertion. You can read the Wikipedia article yourself here. You can read an in-depth treatment of Étienne Bottineau’s nauscopy here. There’s not much to see, but you can check out the Last.fm page for Nauscopy Records here.