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Monthly Archives: July 2005

System-Hum MP3s

Musician Jose Maria Rodrigo pilots his drone-based electronic music onto your headphones like someone bringing a massive starship in slow and steady. “Industria Proxima,” off his July 10 Montgo netlabel release, Por Debajo de las Cosas Ordinarias, opens with an underlying murmur, the sound of a sizable object some distance away. While it blossoms, a distant rumble gaining proximity, the foreground comes alive with small activities, little curlicues of electronic chores, sounding like routine protocol checks monitored by semi-sentient, whimsically efficient autobots. The result is the sound design for a quotidian Pixar short about life on a space station. The album opens with “Presencia Humana,” all garbled communication amid more of that starship systems hum. All of the tracks provide the ambience of deep industrial activity. Or, as Rodrigo told Montogo: “In my work as sound technician I have often been paying my total mental-sensorial attention to landscapes or sound objects that a priori seemed empty or insignificant and discovering in them a rare beauty.” The sole exception to Por Debajo‘s extreme remoteness is the electric piano that appears, briefly, on “Presencia Superior”; jarring amid the otherwise mechanistic terrain, it’s like some memory shard of past human interaction. More info at montgorecords.com.

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Extended Larkian MP3

One is tempted to call Larkian‘s “Droxma1″ a drone, but it’s so much more than that, more specific, more earthly, more tangible. There’s too much detail in “Droxma1″ to relegate it to mere, to even superior, drone-ness. It begins in these shifting waves of tone, with particulate percussion flitting in and out. Drone purists might consider the noises to be flies in the ointment, but in this case the extra material makes the whole thing all the more interesting, more eventful, more palatable. At nearly half an hour, “Droxma1″ begins in one place (this nascent realm of sounds competing, lazily, for prominence) and drives eventually to elsewhere, to a peak of rollicking maximalism, like a Glenn Branca symphony, like one of Michael Gordon’s post-rock chamber works, like the famous “tuning up” moment in the Beatles’ “A Day in the Life,” but distended, like some tumultuous communal experience replayed on the evening newscast in slow motion. “Droxma1″ is the third and most recent release from the adozen.org netlabel. It’s available in two file sizes: 256 kbps (MP3) and 128 kbps (MP3). In general, the latter should be sufficient for casual listening, but this piece deserves the density of the higher bit rate.

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Percussive Minimal Techno MP3

Detroit-based musician Ryan Crosson‘s The Plane Ride EP, on the Archipel netlabel, opens with its strongest material: “Bow String,” six and a half minutes of cross-step minimal techno built almost entirely from percussive elements, just a scattering of ping pong balls, heart monitors, thumbed drums and more. The remainder of the set is more standard. “RyePickle and Cheese” may up the ante in terms of how antic it gets, but it’s also a bit too eager to please. Ditto “Blue to Green,” which eventually adopts what amounts to a riff, and spoils the sedate background it had built up to that point, and the title cut, which, albeit bubbly, follows a familiar template. “Bow String” (MP3) is the keeper. Dated July 18, the EP is Archipel’s eighth and most recent release thus far. Check it out at archipel.cc.

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Leo Ornstein Interview MP3s

Sometime yesterday, the counter in the Other Minds catalog at the Internet Archive, aka archive.org, clicked up one notch, to 206 from 205. Yet, due to the phased processes of database tools, especially those employed by a system as massive as that of the Internet Archive, no new free download was immediately evident; the top of the stack still showed an entry from the recent Other Minds festival, held in San Francisco back in March of this year. By noon today, though, the latest files finally made themselves apparent: two hour-length radio segments of an interview with composer Leo Ornstein, held to celebrate his 100th birthday, back in 1992. Ornstein phoned in from Wisconsin, while his interviewer, Charles Amirkhanian, talked about his music with Ornstein’s son, Severo, played segments of Ornstein’s compositions and, late in the profile, discussed Ornstein’s significance and accomplishments with Nicholas Slonimsky. Though the composer’s association with electronic and ambient music is secondary at best, as an early proponent of Debussy, Ravel and Schoenberg, he is worth listening to for his first-hand account and reflections, especially when he discusses his approximation of the sound of an airplane in his “Suicide in an Airplane,” composed in 1913 (he aspired to represent the “realism of the mechanism”) and his “Hebraic Fantasy,” which was composed for Albert Einstein. This link should lead to the Ornstein entry, and this link should lead to the FTP repository of the interview recordings (in various formats). Otherwise, just head to the Archive’s home page, archive.org, and search for “ornstein” and “1992,” the year the program was first broadcast. Ornstein passed away a decade later, in 2002.

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Swamp Musk MP3

The beautiful thing about artificially produced harmonies, like the picturesque swamp musk of David Last‘s three-minute “Landscape” (MP3), is the indefinite division between a singular complex sound and a set of individual sounds. The piece plays out like a Southern Gothic organ solo, slow as molasses, and about as thick, too. It comes and goes at its own pace, but it isn’t clear what is a matter of carefully placed simultaneous notes, and what is an accident of overtones; what is a matter of matched sonic elements, and what is a trace or refraction of the main sound source. The shape of the harmony, at times wide, at others relatively compact, always fairly dense, moves like a blob across the Platonic staves of the mind’s sheet music. “Landscape” should be heard alongside last week’s “Ghost of the Gulag (Reprise)” by Raz Mesinai (entry), because both are quasi-classical forays by young musicians more closely associated with the Third World studio machinations of dub. On Last’s website, davidlast.net, “Landscape” is described as “Mellow Orchestral Sculpty Beatless,” which just about sums it up. A side note explains “This is an unreleased track that will be part of a sooper-mellow type of release later this year.” Here’s looking forward to it.

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