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Monthly Archives: July 2008

Fisk Industries Remix MP3s

A Highpoint Lowlife EP released earlier this year collected three mixes by two artists of work by Fisk Industries. The one by Brassica (“Blood,” MP3) is thuddy and tautly wired, though the chirping electronics and undanceable dance beats sound at time a bit too much like Warp records of days gone by. Worth focusing on are the pair by Yard, two versions of Fisk’s “Crowley.” A dub version (MP3) achieves exactly that, stretching the original as if atop a frame drum and letting it reverberate for close to eight minutes; it’s a delectably sedate affair. The other Yard edit (MP3) starts off even more quietly, just whisps of rarified noise — so much so that when the club beats do kick in, close to two minutes into the mix, it’s almost a disappointment, the sort of generic rhythms heard emanating from bars in any mid-size city on a Friday night; but listen closely — there’s more at work here than just weekend background music. Yard threads ghostly shadows through the mix, in a manner that undercuts the chunka-chunka vibe and, in effect, brings into the foreground the sort of slight sounds with which the cut opens. More info at highpointlowlife.com.

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Four Drone MP3s from Primes

Murky drones are the thing on the Primes EP Psychwolf, a four-track set of meandering ventures into the woolly sonic hinterlands. Three of the tracks clock in at under four minutes, while the closing piece, from which the album takes its title, plays for almost 20 minutes. Length aside, though, all are sewn from the same raw material: slow pulses that have a see-saw ease, glistening trebly figments that provide a glimpse of hope amid the sorrow, and moany intrusions that linger like a bad memory. The tracks aren’t organic enough to be pure drones, or melodic enough to be even vaguely pop; they’re something else entirely, something with narrative intent. Especially recommended are “Healer” (MP3), which has the blood-in-ear whir of a close encounter, and “114 Percent” (MP3), which emanates the municipal dread of an industrial soundscape. More info on the release at notype.com and archive.org. More on Primes at primes-music.com.

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Retro-Futurist MP3s from Sonje de Gamma and Oldman

There’s much to distinguish Daidala by Sonje de Gamma and Oldman, but in the interest of time, check out the 10-track album’s final three tracks first. “Only This” (MP3), with which the album closes, is a Satie-esque memento, bearing all the heartbreaking beauty of a funeral dirge played on a child’s toy piano. “Steam” (MP3) runs a funky, retro-futurist groove over a pneumatic beat. And, the true keeper of the album, “Elsea Lands” (MP3) is like some lost illbient classic, mixing glitchy willful errors, dubby echoes and dank rhythms. The remainder of the collection has much to recommend it, notably the deep bass resonance of the John Fahey-esque “Tea for One,” with which the album opens, a couple of Serge Gainsborg-style spoken-word pieces. Get the full set at dog-eared-records.com.

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Images of the Week: iPhone Beatmaker

Screenshots from the new music-making program, Beatmaker, designed for use on the iPhone. From top to bottom: (1) pads to “trigger and manipulate” samples, (2) a sequencer with a timeline interface, (3) live performance functionality, (4) set start and end points for samples, (5) edit “velocity and groove of each track on each pattern”:

More info at intua.net.

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Quote of the Week: Audience Gap

Over at her artsjournal.com/gap blog, “Mind the Gap,” which has the excellent subheading “No Genre Is the New Genre,” Molly Sheridan asks in a post that takes its title — “I Am (Not Alone) Sitting in a Concert Hall” — from an Alvin Lucier composition:

Are concert hall audiences too repressed to riot any more?
The entry is, in part, a response to “Admit It, You’re as Bored as I Am,” an essay by Joe Queenan published in the London Guardian back on July 9 (music.guardian.co.uk). The Queenan piece lazily slaps contemporary music for being difficult to listen to, and for not eliciting much enthusiasm from today’s classical concert-goers.

I couldn’t help but add a comment to Sheridan’s post:

To give that Joe Queenan piece on contemporary classical music the time of day is to give it more time than Queenan appears to have given the subject thought. It certainly isn’t a fist fight if the initial punch is phoned in.

Queenan apparently doesn’t recognize, given all his talk about atonality and the negative visceral response to aggressive sound, that today’s contemporary composition often focuses not on noise but on silence.

He also doesn’t recognize that many of today’s “warhorses” were fought over or dismissed when they first emerged, just as new work today is by definition in the process of being tested and prodded, pondered and weighed, by audiences.

I feel confident that in 50 years we’ll still be listening to Steve Reich’s phase and percussion pieces, to Scott Johnson’s settings for spoken word, to Pauline Oliveros’ deep-listening ventures, to Philip Glass’ solo piano work, and to Gavin Bryars’ chamber music, especially his electronically mediated work like Jesus’ Blood and Sinking of the Titanic. They will all survive Queenan’s dismissal.

And that’s just to name a small handful of composers — there are many more where they came from — who should have little difficulty charming the tuxedos off the season-subscription set.

Or so I’d hope. Subsumed in Queenan’s piece is a well-observed critique of classical audiences. While Queenan’s attack on new (i.e., current) music is almost willfully uninformed, his depiction of the contemporary audience for classical music’s comfort with received repertoire is all too true.

After posting that comment on Sheridan’s blog, I realized I had ended up commenting on Queenan rather than on what she herself had written. That sums up Queenan’s strength: he knows how to get a response out of people. Perhaps that’s why his most personal critique of new music is the concept of bordeom, the idea that the music doesn’t elicit a response.

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