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Monthly Archives: February 2004

Vacuum-Derived MP3s

Among the musical highlights of 2003 were the whimsical title characters of Triplets of Belleville, the animated French film. Midway through the movie, the three women, along with a guest, performed a piece of ersatz musique-concrete, the instrumentation of which consisted of a bicycle wheel, crumpled newspaper, a refrigerator grill and, most remarkably, a vacuum cleaner (the film’s score is by Benoit Charest). Now a new trio of acts (Aunderwex, Dk9 and Olga & Fritz) has produced a set of vacuum-derived music, collected as the Mio Star Compact 3000 Electronic EP, the Mio Star being a Swiss make of cleaner. The EP is available for free download from the 20kbps netlabel.

Aunderwex’s “Attack of the Mio Stars” has the industrious pep of Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times, all pneumatic pump and grind. Conversely, the initial impression made by Dk9’s “I Love Miostar” is of the ocean: the track starts with an echoed whir that’s all ear-to-the-seashell; shortly thereafter, though, nature gives way to the mechanized pleasures of syncopation and chug.

Finally, Olga & Fritz’s “Track 1” is the most difficult to characterize, even though it is the only one of the three to use an untreated, unambiguously recognizable vacuum-cleaner sample; it feels less like pop music and more like the sound track of a voiceless scene from a film. In combination with Charest’s Belleville score, the Mio Star EP furthers the notion that electronica adores a vacuum cleaner. (The 20kbps netlabel’s website is at 20kbps.sofapause.ch; a zip file containing all three tracks in MP3 format is here.)

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Quote of the Week: Techno-Ethics

From a review of three books on bio-ethics in the March 2004 issue of Harper’s.

Before we can fashion our technological devices, we must alienate ourselves from the world around us and see it as something standing by for our use.

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Swedish Techno MP3 EP

Given that it’s Mardi Gras today, one might be on the lookout for a whistle-capped street anthem. One could do worse than Håkan Lidbo‘s “Ultrachrome,” even though it’s more Berlin Love Parade than New Orleans Krewe spectacle. “Ultrachrome” is the title track of a five-song EP from the textone.org netlabel, and it’s a solid piece of minimal techno, more Plastikman than Monolake, its minimalism played out more in terms of rhythm than atmosphere; the cut’s hook is a ragged little whistle that toots every other measure.

As for the rest of the set, “Hypocrites” mixes in the bleeps of cute computer yapping, “Mass Reduced” goes deep into horror-soundtrack territory, “Froken Ur” skips the odd beat to disorienting effect, and “Ektoplasma” brings it home with a casual swing and hovering sound effects that linger like obedient robots. Ultrachrome is textone’s 12th release; it’s available for free download here. Lidbo is a prolific Stockholm, Sweden-based musician whose work has been included in the Clicks & Cuts series by the Force Inc. label.

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Spare MP3 Album

Raemus‘s superb Nine Days is that many tracks of deceptively simple music, raw percussive-oriented songs that leave plenty of room for the mind to wander about in. The individual instrumentals are, for the most part, as spare as minimal techno, but without the resounding dub that lends that genre its loungey depth and allure. Instead, Raemus settles, with a few exceptions, for the brittle. Most of the tracks follow the pattern of the lead entry, “Saturday Night,” which is built from little more than a handful of acoustic knocks and pings, with the occasional gong-like reverberation — like a DJ doing his best to entertain a crowd during a blackout. Each entry adds something to the equation. The closing of “Friday Morning” pounds back and forth and into the distance while squeaky metallic sounds crowd the foreground. “Thursday Afternoon” adds a bass line and distant soundwash (perhaps a nod to the Brian Eno album of that name), but keeps to the reticent mode. “Monday Morning” drops in snippets of treated spoken words. “Tuesday Afternoon” stands out, trading percussion for minimalist organ sounds, the fugue riffs reminiscent of Philip Glass’s early-career loft jams. And “Thursday Morning” applies those organ sounds to a thick consortium of drones. The Nine Days album is the most recent full-length release from the 2063music.de netlabel. (Go directly to the album here. Raemus’ web presence is here.)

By the way, tomorrow, February 24, is “Grey Tuesday,” so named for the web-organized protest against Capitol Records’ shortsighted, heavy-handed legal assault on Danger Mouse, whose now infamous Grey Album mixes together the Beatles’ The Beatles (aka the White Album) and Jay-Z’s Black Album. Disquiet.com doesn’t have the resources to join the protest fully (that is, to mirror the files from Danger Mouse’s album-length mashup), but suffice to say that this site’s Downstream department exists to shed light on practical uses of the web to distribute experimental music for free to a growing audience that recognizes that current copyright laws are woefully outdated. More info on the protest at greytuesday.org.

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One More Ninja Videostream

When the batch of seven free Ninja Tune offerings went up on the Disquiet Downstream yesterday (four MP3s, three videos — see here), an eighth wasn’t functioning. Fortunately it is now, because it’s the best of the batch, a quarter-hour “video remix” of various Ninja releases, courtesy of the ever-ingenius Hexstatic. (More musical fun and games at hexstatic.tv.)

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