If you follow, or are simply intrigued by, sound art, then one date is well worth pencilling into your calendar: September 22 is the fourth annual Sound Walk in Long Beach, California. And if you make sound art, there’s a second, more pressing date to note: July 1 is the deadline for entry proposals. The Sound Walk is an installation-oriented affair, during which speakers are attached to walls, hung as art, hidden in shrubbery and otherwise worked into the Long Beach landscape; it’s a day in which landscape becomes soundscape, as the more inventive contributors try to transform available, quotidian noise into art. Past participants, many of whose work has been featured in the Disquiet Downstream, include John Kannenberg, Steve Roden, Sumako and the ensemble that organizes the event, FLOOD.
Audio and documentary photos from all three previous years are available for download at soundwalk.org. Highlights from the 2006 Sound Walk include Kabir Carter‘s “Shared Frequencies” (MP3), in which broadcast signals appear to be mixed in real time; Philip Curtis‘ “Tracking Feldman 2” (MP3), with its mysteriously churning overlays of bustle and tone; and Philip Stearns‘ “Burlap,” a sequence of varying, high-pitched buzzes (MP3). As with much installation art, the sound alone doesn’t quite do the original presentation justice. For example, the posted photo of an upturned, oversized horn in no way explains the dramatically ticking audio, “Time Out” (MP3), attributed to last year’s effort by Eric Strauss. You sorta had to be there, which is all the more reason to head to Long Beach come September.
The term dubstep may just be a new branding experiment for illbient, but one of the genre’s most proficient enactors, Kode 9, lagging from a recent flight, shed some light on its dark contours when he spoke at length as part of the Red Bull Music Academy late last year. Kode described the music as a sideways outgrowth of the more reggae side of UK garage, which is to say music of choppy velocity that makes room for some dubby swing. The discussion is sadly lacking in many musical examples, but it’s rich with details, such as how much it costs to cut your own dubplate, who Kode’s working with, the pleasures in dispensing with 4/4 beats, and which British record stores are central to the scene. The file’s available as an M4A, which is, essentially, an MP3 with images embedded.
Machines may not yet have gained sentience, but in Paul Feyertag‘s work they certainly achieve an insectoid fervor. The opening track on Suburban Decollage, “Contrary Motion,” suggests a nightmarish scenario of constant death in the classic arcade game Centipede, whose familiar 8-bit synthetic tones were as chunky and mechanoid as the avatars to whose battles they lent a soundtrack (MP3). The later “Ostinato” has a thick overlay of burbling noise, but just below is a quickly shifting hive of activity (MP3). Of the four tracks on Suburban Decollage, the real keeper is “Drone/Musing,” which in headphones can come across as a tinny prickle of static, but which when played on proper speakers evidences Feyertag’s attention to minute details; shards of harsh noise spring from the bristling quietude (MP3), even if no further insect metaphors apply. The album is the latest free download from the Luvsound netlabel (luvsound.org).
The event xxxxx23 held at Limehouse Town Hall, London, on March 23, 2006, brought together various speakers on esoteric subjects broadly associated with “the rich consequences of expanded software.” Among them was Swedish sound artist Leif Elggren, who opened his 20-minute performance with a simple but strange pronouncement: “This basic sound material was recorded in my biological mother’s uterus,” he says, “with my not yet developed teeth used as a fundamental and simple recording device a few days before my birth. This sound material was kept recorded and hidden until recently inside one of my wisdom teeth, but has now been brought to daylight and exposure. Digitally mastered, reproduced and sent out into the room which we all mutually share and which we usually call reality, the world, sent out with the main purpose to change that room.” He then pursued a voluminous approach to noise that matched the rhetorical structure of his statement, opening with a the sonic equivalent of a simple declaration that accrues noise, or wilful confusion, as it proceeds. A recording of the track was recently included in the Touch record label’s occasional podcast series (MP3, RSS). It’s also available as an OGG file, along with all of the evening’s other presentations, at 1010.co.uk.
You’ll come for the brittle beats, but you’ll stay for the supple curves. That’s Colongib and Octopus Inc‘s “Remix of Freeform Audio Tourism” in a nutshell. The track, the latest free monthly entry from the kracfive.com collective, starts with a crack of fire that could, alternately, be a radio signal coming into focus (MP3). What follows includes wood percussion, taut guitar strings plucked like bicycle spokes, and all manner of ticking, beating, thrumming goodness. But after a few listens, what becomes apparent is that for all the percussive elements, what distinguishes the track is its good old fashioned groove. There’s a pause and release at work that is downright addictive, and occasional rubbery sonic touches that bring the low-key funk to the foreground.