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Listening to art.
Playing with audio.
Sounding out technology.
Composing in code.

Monthly Archives: March 2002

Recommended Sonic Diptych

Cue up Brian Eno‘s ambient Thursday Afternoon (EG), 60 minutes of blissful wash, and lay over it the off-kilter, astringent beats of DJ Krush‘s Kakusei (Red Ant).

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MP3s of Jazzy Breakbeats

Billy Martin is the drummer from the rambunctious jazz trio Medeski Martin & Wood. Martin produced a breakbeat album of tasty grooves and then supplied the vinyl to various DJs, who worked the themes into sets with live musicians last July in New York. Bountiful live MP3 files from the sessions are available, free, from Martin’s Amulet Records website, filed under Turntable Sessions. One set by DJ Scotty Hard (with, among others, Cyro Baptista on percussion). One set by DJ Olive (with Ikue Mori and Martin’s bandmates Chris Wood and John Medeski). One set by DJ Logic (with, among others, among others, multi-instrumentalist Marty Ehrlich).

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CD by Ambient Great-Godfather

By no means an “electronic” composer, Erik Satie (1866-1925) remains essential listening in this area, owing to his clairvoyant modernity, which often emphasized a philosophical repose, and his musical writings, which championed the value of background music. Pianist France Clidat‘s three-CD Complete Piano Works (Astoria) has little aside from its comprehensiveness to recommend it, but that’s enough. The minimal liner notes are sentimental and fluffy and individual CDs peculiarly opt to combine many of Satie’s multi-piece works, notably the three-part “Gymnopedies,” into a single track. Of particular interest to electronic-minded listeners are his “Descriptions automatiques,” which deserve consideration as a predecessor of the remix. Per Satie biographer James Harding: the piece opens “with ‘Sur un vaisseau’ which, in its stylized representation of a ship pitching and tossing, adopts an ‘automatic’ rhythm. … Against this rocking of the boat a popular refrain cuts in, ‘Maman les p’tits bateaux … ont-ils des jambes?’ which he would have remembered from his seaside childhood.” Just to get this straight: a sample of a pre-existing song is set over a mechanical rhythm. Voila, the remix.

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Alt-Country Gets Wired

Wilco‘s recent Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (Nonesuch) deserves electronic-minded listeners for its unique application of studio effects to alt.country, which is generally the domain of the self-consciously technophobic. Notably, the album was mixed by Jim O’Rourke. The drums on the album’s opening track, “I Am Trying to Break Your Heart,” are played in imitation of the sort of tape loops that the Beatles used to experiment with, but Yankee Hotel‘s more far-flung sonics bring back fond memories of far more renegade realms of popular music, including John Fahey’s tape-loop requiems and Robert Wyatt’s rural art rock.

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DJ Classic Gets Re-released

The record label Journeys by DJ will soon be rereleasing 70 Minutes of Madness, an inestimably manic album by Coldcut, the DJ duo who run the Ninja Tune record label. 70 Minutes manages to combine such disparate elements as spoken-word guerilla Jello Biafra, minimalist composer Harold Budd and drum’n’bass pioneer Photek along with a host of dance music, including such Coldcut labelmates as DJ Food and Funki Porcini. The album lists 35 individual source elements (Air Liquide, Mantronix, Gescom, Masters at Work), and rarely is one heard at a single time.

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