February 13, 2014, is the official release date for my 33 1/3 book on Aphex Twin's 1994 album Selected Ambient Works Volume II, available at Amazon (including Kindle) and via your local bookstore. • F.A.Q.Key Tags: #saw2for33third, #sound-art, #classical, #juntoElsewhere: Twitter, SoundCloud, Instagram

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

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Alternating Foreground and Background

A live performance by Italian musician Nicola Fornasari (aka Xu)

Attenuated strings, a low level static that resembles vinyl or cassette surface noise, extended near silences — the tension in the track “Droplets” off the Xu album Circular Buffer is between foreground and background. When the strings cut in, the minor distractions of that noisy substrate become almost inaudible, yet when the strings are on hold, or even quiet down a tad, that same near-silent texture comes fully into the fore. Xu is the Italian musician Nicola Fornasari.

Track originally posted for free download at soundcloud.com/nicola-fornasari. The full album is available for free (name your price, that is) at Fornasari’s bandcamp.com account. More from Fornasari at substance.it. (Found via a repost from soundcloud.com/roamin).

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Cliff Martinez’s Music for The Knick

Electronics connect past to present

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As @compactrobot put it succinctly on Twitter, what works especially well for Cliff Martinez’s score to The Knick is that it’s a “nice choice to go with electronics for a period drama.” In many ways, the use of Martinez’s pulsing, blippy sounds to accompany a story about the dawn of modern surgery, set in New York City in the year 1900, connects the innovations to the past to the data-driven efficiencies of the present. In a way, it’s the reverse of Sherlock, in which the emphasis on string instruments in the score connect the contemporary Holmes story to the original character. Milan Records, which is releasing the score to the first season, has posted three tracks. They’re more in the Tangerine Dreamy style of Martinez’s work on Contagion and Drive than the in the ambient mode of his sex, lies, and videotape and Solaris. Steven Soderbergh, who directed all those films with the exception of Drive, is the creative force behind The Knick.

In an interview with Adam Bryant at tvguide.com, Martinez explains how a particular aspect of his style made its way into this period piece:

“The most important thing that Steven usually does that outlines the approach is that he sends me a rough cut of the picture. The big curveball in The Knick was that temporary music [he used] as he was editing — he was using my music from Drive and Contagion and Spring Breakers, which was a surprise because it didn’t acknowledge the period whatsoever. In fact, it kind of went in the opposite direction,” Martinez tells TVGuide.com. “At first it seemed like a risk because the whole idea of the show was to try to put the viewer in 1900 in New York and everything was pulling in that direction except for the music. I had a phone call with Steven and then I just said, ‘Are you sure you want to do this?’ He said, ‘Yeah. It’s going to be all electronic. It’s going to be modern. That’s intentional.’ And after a few weeks, it had become the sound of the show.”

Tracks originally posted at soundcloud.com/milanrecords.

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Backward Masking the Back Catalog

A reverse homage by Blevin Blectum

If “Entrenched Walking” by Blevin Blectum seems like it could be an old Michael Jackson song — or something else of his era — played in reverse, the impression has some founding beyond the track’s sonics, beyond the mid-tempo gait that has the slipstream and blunted affect of audio that has been backward-masked, beyond the transitions between chorus and verse that are more sudden than the norm, beyond the funhouse-mirror of pop that the overall track suggests. While Blectum on SoundCloud simply annotated the piece as “from the ash heap of moderately ancient history,” an old Facebook post of hers fills in some blanks. The track was intended as part of something titled Silk Ears from Sows’ Purses, which as the name suggests was about turning something into something else, perhaps by way of improvement:

“these are things I made for friends out of their most / least favorite bad music ;)

“not sure where these will go / are going either. obviously, some copyright issues here…”

When the magazine The Wire included the track as part of a setlist back in June 2008, the audio was listed as “not yet released.” Blectum posted this to SoundCloud about six months ago.

Track originally posted to soundcloud.com/blevinblectum. Her home page is at blevinblectum.com.

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The Aphex Blimp Heard Round the World

And slowing a Drukqs track to 33 1/3 from 45

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Yesterday word spread of an Aphex Twin blimp floating over London, following up a report on the We Are the Music Makers message board back in June that Richard D. James had said “New shit is imminent.” It was WAtMM that had Kickstarter’d that Joyrex (re)release earlier this year, and the blimp serves to support the “imminent” assertion. People celebrated in various ways, and Twitter was alive with commentary, among it this X-Files meme-ified version of the blimp, courtesy of Audio Damage’s Chris Randall, shown up top. I had some fun, too, joking “First ever hot air balloon inflated with a Ventolin inhaler,” among other things.

And over on SoundCloud, Vapor Lanes uploaded something that had been a favorite tweak of his for years: slowing down “Vordhosbn” off the Drukqs album from 45 rpm to 33 1/3. The track retains its flexible percussive action, but slowed down it’s more readily relaxed into by the listener:

Track originally posted at soundcloud.com/vaporlanes. Found thanks to a soundcloud.com/leberger repost.

And, yes, speaking of “33 1/3,” I wrote the 33 1/3 book on Aphex Twin’s Selected Ambient Works Volume II, released earlier this year to mark the album’s 20th anniversary.

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Alt-worldly Liturgical Music

From Tim Rowe (InnerVox) of London

InnerVox is Tim Rowe of London, and “End of the Day” is a brief bit of his alt-worldly liturgical music. Not “other worldly,” which would suggest celestial in origin and exotic in its differences from our own, but alt-worldly: just different enough to suggest a realm in close near parallel proximity to ours, but one where even if the laws of physics are the same, culture and technology have proceeded slightly askew. The breathy chords of “End of the Day” have the texture of a pipe organ, but the rough timbral presence goes far beyond that of standard instrumentation. Slightly off-kilter, near-miss phrasings bring to mind the disorienting, around-the-beat essence of carillon bells.

Track originally posted at soundcloud.com/innervox. More from Rowe at twitter.com/timgrowe and innervox.bandcamp.com.

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