Glitch is the word, have you heard? The term “glitch” is shorthand for the use, by electronic musicians, of bits of sonic material that mimic the sounds associated with everyday technology that has ceased functioning effortlessly. The most common example of glitch in pop music is what sounds like the repetitive skipping of scratched CDs. This tenacious electronica technique — found in music by Oval, Autechre, Matmos and many others — is less a genre than it is a flavor. And in the hands of Tim Hecker, glitch is more than just an Information Age trope — it’s got move, it’s got meaning. Hecker can turn what sounds like a broken record into a background groove, and he can make those repetitions sound less like echoes and more like premonitions — less like a reflexive mechanical effect and more like a compositional salvo. On the opening track of Presents Radio Amor (Mille Plateaux, 2003), “Song of the Highwire Shrimper,” the glitchy repetition comes in the form of single notes that ping slowly in a kind of decay, or quite suddenly as if something has short-circuited and a switch is being flicked on and off with great anxiety. Hecker has managed to find in this repetition a common ground with solo piano music — not only the minimalism of Philip Glass and Michael Nyman, but the romantic etudes of a century or two earlier. His repetitions almost always have an arc, and when that arc is slow it has the elegance of a rolling object coming gently to rest. In terms of sheer hyperactivity, the album’s eighth track, “The Stair Compass,” is its most glitch-intensive — with all that quiet buzzing, it could easily accompany a documentary about termite infestation. Hecker’s trick is that his sounds, for all their furious friction, meld into something as soft as wool. The track that follows, “Azure Azure,” has the same sort of textural, almost visceral, richness, but it achieves this with a more monotonic haze.
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5 Most Recent Posts
• October 13, 2016: This day marks the start of the 250th weekly Disquiet Junto project.
• November 16, 2016: I'll be sharing the mic at Adobe Books in San Francisco with my fellow 33 1/3 author Evie Nagy for an evening hosted, from 7pm to 10pm, by Marc Kate (facebook.com).
• December 1, 2016: A likely speaking engagement. Details to come.
• December 13, 2016: This day marks the 20th anniversary of Disquiet.com.
• January 5, 2017: This day marks the 5th anniversary of the Disquiet Junto.
• Ongoing: The Disquiet Junto series of weekly communal music projects explore constraints as a springboard for creativity and productivity. There is a new project each Thursday afternoon (California time), and it is due the following Monday at 11:59pm: disquiet.com/junto.
• My book on Aphex Twin's landmark 1994 album, Selected Ambient Works Vol. II, published as part of the 33 1/3 series, an imprint of Bloomsbury, is now in its second printing. It can be purchased at amazon.com, among other places.
disquiet juntoThe Disquiet Junto is an ongoing weekly collaborative music-making space in which restraints are used as a springboard for creativity. Subscribe to the announcement list at tinyletter.com/disquiet-junto. There is an FAQ. ... These are the 5 most recent weekly projects: • 0253 / Doorbell Rehab / Record some welcome music. • 0252 / Sonic Palindrome / Make music that sounds the same backwards and forwards. • 0251 / Soothing Sounds for Parents / Remix some music for infants with parents in mind. • 0250 / Soothing Sounds for Junto / Make some peaceful music for an infant child. • 0249 / 80 Phases / Wish the minimalist composer Steve Reich a happy birthday.
... And there is a complete list of projects at disquiet.com/junto.
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