My 33 1/3 book, on Aphex Twin's Selected Ambient Works Volume II, was the 5th bestselling book in the series in 2014. It's available at Amazon (including Kindle) and via your local bookstore. • F.A.Q.Key Tags: #saw2for33third, #sound-art, #classical, #juntoElsewhere: Twitter, SoundCloud, Instagram

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

Different Kinda Vocal Album

Though the vast majority of electronic music is instrumental (that is, vocal-less), some of the best compositions take as their base a snippet of something spoken — be it the loops of Steve Reich’s “It’s Gonna Rain,” the hobo’s hymn in Gavin Bryars’ “Jesus’s Blood Never Failed Me Yet,” the “overheard” dialog of Scanner (ripped from the airwaves), the cut-up speech of Scott Johnson (John Somebody, Patty Hearst) or even the random, canned hip-hop shout-out from the Chemical Brothers. Rapoon is the pseudonym behind which Robin Storey works his studio magic. On I Am a Foreigner (Soleilmoon), various squelched voices, rarely more than a moan, surface amid a variety of textures. On “Via,” the title word is taken, reportedly, from a “Teach Yourself Italian” tape, and what we get is a heavenly choir of disembodied voices above the scratching of a locked-groove vinyl album. On “Horizons Endless,” what seems to be a muted choir, as if heard through a thick church wall, reveals itself to be but a few seconds of sampled vocal sound. As the sample loops, its edge, the point at which the splice is evident, takes on a rhythmic purpose, as if like one of Michael Jackson’s hiccups. And then, bizarrely, the sound is overlaid with what seems to be a Jew’s harp, all bouncy fun, albeit minor-key. Inevitably the voices fade back in, just in time for the whole piece to fade out. Many of the pieces on I Am a Foreigner make similarly peculiar transitions; “Dusk Moon” starts out with reverberating piano, only to be transformed into a Tangerine Dream-style staccato movement. Even on repeated listenings, I Am a Foreigner challenges you to find your place in its mass of found voices and sounds. A background sample from one track becomes the core material of another; tracks change mood at midway points. The result is disorienting, but no one promised it would be easy. If only a “Teach Yourself Rapoon” companion volume were available.

By Marc Weidenbaum

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