The latest piece I’ve added to my ongoing YouTube playlist of fine “Ambient Performances” is a six-minute video of ambient music on an instrument not largely associated with ambient music: the Korg Electribe EMX1. The EMX1’s combination of drum machine, sequencer, and synthesizer has made it a dance-music favorite. Midera, instead, does away with beats and processes the EMX1’s tones and textures significantly with another instrument, the Eventide Space, a reverb effects unit. In the video, it’s the EMX1 being handled by Midera throughout, though the Eventide, offscreen, is arguably doing much of the heavy lifting — or, in this aesthetic realm, the light lifting. “It’s all in the Eventide Space,” Midera tells one commenter on YouTube, but clarifies in response to another: “The Space is doing a lot of the work, but the simplicity of the EMX makes it fun to write tracks like this.” It’s a flowing performance, threadbare wave forms ebbing from one to another, Midera occasionally adding a bit of drama with some modulation here or a touch of glitchy flare there, all of which has rightly earned the track several comparisons to Vangelis’ Blade Runner score.
The track’s title mixes a cold date stamp with an ambiguous sentiment, and in turn “160515T01 the saddest morning glory” summons up a series of overlapping textural source segments. These include plucked string instruments and pulsing drones and some deeply echoing woodwind and sequences of held notes, among other aural delicacies. Those held notes, like the overall piece, travel at too slow a rate to be considered collectively as a melody, as of a piece. They’re parts, not wholes. The whole here is more experiential than developmental, less a matter of something that changes as it goes and more a matter of some things that illuminate each other through proximity. A seemingly rote drone gains rhythm when contrasted with an even more placid tonal companion; a semi-prominent rhythmic element recedes when faced with a more capacious contrast. Recorded by Leonardo Rosado, “160515T01 the saddest morning glory” is slow and subtle, evenly paced and emotionally remote, and utterly beautiful.
The chapel bell at Fort Ross, founded by Russians in 1812 safely between Mexican and British outposts on the coast of California north of Bodega Bay. It has a sweet tone, and you can almost see the thick, slow-moving waveforms as it fades to silence over time. But be on your guard while taking photographs, as some pre-adolescent may lean in and ring it like it’s an Olympic event just when your eardrum is most susceptible to intense pain.
Earlier this month I put together an hour-long set for the excellent Resonance arts broadcast network (aka resonancefm.com). That set has now been archived at
mixcloud.com by Fari Bradley, the Resonance presenter who invited me to do it. There are thorough details on what plays in the set in the initial post here. The music is, in order of appearance, by Vladimir Conch, Cullen Miller, Erika Nesse, Julsy, Marcus Fischer, Stabilo (Speaker Gain Teardrop), North Americans, Yasuo Akai, nystada, Bassling, William Boldenreck, Scanner Darkly, Toàn, and R Beny.
• October 13, 2016: This day marks the start of the 250th weekly Disquiet Junto project.
• November 16, 2016: I'll be sharing the mic at Adobe Books in San Francisco with my fellow 33 1/3 author Evie Nagy for an evening hosted, from 7pm to 10pm, by Marc Kate (facebook.com).
• December 1, 2016: A likely speaking engagement. Details to come.
• December 13, 2016: This day marks the 20th anniversary of Disquiet.com.
• January 5, 2017: This day marks the 5th anniversary of the Disquiet Junto.
• Ongoing: The Disquiet Junto series of weekly communal music projects explore constraints as a springboard for creativity and productivity. There is a new project each Thursday afternoon (California time), and it is due the following Monday at 11:59pm: disquiet.com/junto.
• My book on Aphex Twin's landmark 1994 album, Selected Ambient Works Vol. II, published as part of the 33 1/3 series, an imprint of Bloomsbury, is now in its second printing. It can be purchased at amazon.com, among other places.