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

Monthly Archives: July 2009

The Rashomon of Remixing (MP3s)

There are few pleasures as richly kaleidoscopic as the Rashomon of Remixing: the online beat battle.

Two of the foremost beat fight clubs are located at cratekings.com and stonesthrow.com. In the message boards at both sites, disparate producers, most weaned on hip-hop, take a shared sample and do with it what they will.

Consider the latest from Stones Throw — the 126th beat battle hosted by that great record label. The originating cut is a mostly instrumental bit of soul, “Look What You’ve Done to Me.” And as of this evening, more than two dozen renditions have been posted, key among them an entry by Theory Hazit that takes the initial funk and cuts it up into something just broken enough to be entirely contemporary (MP3).

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Then there’s DJ Earl-e, who slows it to a spartan pulse, the guitar flashing past like a distant comet (MP3), and, just to single out one other fine entry, an edit by Density & Time, which ratchets up the guitar into something approximating hard rock, though the looped beat ensures it’s never mistakable for anything but raw hip-hop (MP3).

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View the full set of entries in chronological order at drop.io/stmbbattle126 — especially should the links above fail to function. Witness the original posts and voting at, respectively, stonesthrow.com and stonesthrow.com.

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Breathless (as in Godard) Minimal Techno MP3

The song “Seberg’s Paper” by Unyo is not the standard Hexawe release. Hexawe is the name of a netlabel, and the music released on it tends to sound like anarchic video arcades partying after closing time. “Seberg’s Paper,” in contrast, is subdued, with birdsong and, early on, gentle conversation snippets interweaved with dreamy tones and mundane field recordings (MP3). It’s also almost (just almost) more of a suite than a song, a long-form (nearly eight-minute) journey through several stages of subtle, pop-like music, the majority of it consisting of a downtempo beat, dank drops, and other minimal-techno effects.

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There’s also, as with every Hexawe release, an accompanying archive (ZIP) of the materials used to construct the song, including the original code and a baker’s dozen of samples, including those beats, hazy soundscapes, and a classic quote from Jean-Luc Godard’s Breathless.

Visit the originating netlabel at hexawe.net.

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Taylor Deupree Sound Diary MP3s

Many producers, Brian Eno among them, have spoken about how they essentially literally test-drive recordings-in-progress by putting them on cassette tape and trying them out in their car. The idea is to hear the audio not as massive, professional studio speakers will play the music, but as the sub-average listening experience would be.

That’s not quite what Taylor Deupree had in mind when he stuck the recording device out the window of his car, and played a recent work (MP3). It is, instead, a peek into Deupree’s sound-world, the latest (as of July 27) of his year-long 2009 project, One Sound Each Day (12k.com/onesoundeachday).

Other recent treats include the percussive textures of “pebbles rolling down slides made of barrels, and pebbles hitting flagpoles” (MP3), “outdoor ambience” (MP3), and — for it is a given that these recordings are not all ends unto themselves, but raw materials for Deupree’s own experimental electronic music — what he describes as “a clicking noise outside that i thought would make a nice incidental sound in a song” (MP3).

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More at 12k.com/onesoundeachday.

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Whuffie, Social Capital, Social Networks … and Music

Over at the artsjournal.com/gap of Molly Sheridan, a bunch of us are this week talking about (well, writing about) the recent book The Whuffie Factor: Using the Power of Social Networks to Build Your Business by Tara Hunt, and the book from which it draws its title and inspiration, the science fiction novel Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom by Cory Doctorow. Specifically, we’re looking at how arts organizations and individual musicians can adapt to the increasingly online world.

My first entry in the conversation (“Do or Die or Other?”) focuses on the way Doctorow and Hunt separately manage the theme of rapid technological change.

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Drones and What’s in Them (MP3s)

Listen through the noise. Listen through, as if trying to see something hinted at off in the distance, through fences and trees, past throngs of people, well after dark. There’s something out there, for certain. And there’s something in here, here being the title cut of Castor Volant (by Darcin, born Nicolas Dion), a half hour of pixel sludge — and that’s a compliment, for the effort required to make something this thick and threatening out of something so infinitesimal as digital pulses — buried within which are fragments of melody (MP3). The melody arrives as brief snippets of what sound like backward-masked riffs, tense little moments that embody hesitation. Not only are they brief and quiet, but the backward sound has this nostalgic tinge. Toward the end of the half-hour-plus “Castor Volant,” the foreground noise recedes, giving those little rifflets a few minutes for the listener to get full sense of their fragile beauty.

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The second track is tough listening for an altogether different reason. It’s titled “Bonus Piano,” that piano — really piano by association, more like little individual synthesized tones — is rarely heard for more than a handful of quick notes at a time, before deep silence intercedes. This proceeds for over 10 minutes (MP3), during which the smattering of notes takes on the feeling of some indiscernible message.

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Closing track “Bonus Process” is a slow-dawn drone, like a church organist has gone Zen, and is just digging the sine waves of a single held chord (MP3).

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Get the full set and more info at the estimable label No Type: notype.com.

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