My 33 1/3 book, on Aphex Twin's Selected Ambient Works Volume II, was the 5th bestselling book in the series in 2014. It's 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.


Daily recommended free MP3s + streams

Introducing Tinycastles

Featuring Lyndsie Alguire and Thomas Boucher of Montreal

This 10-minute piece, “Vines,” which grows from a simple mix of field recordings and a madrigal-like electric guitar line to a majestic, orchestral drone, is a first taste of Tinycastles. Tinycastles, based in Montreal, is the duo of Lyndsie Alguire and Thomas Boucher. The track is an expansive sprawl. That early electric guitar has a classical flavor to it, and it is soon joined by ethereal vocals and sparkling synthesizer. It builds and builds, but only in spaciousness, never in momentum, and never in heft. The more complex it gets, the larger it gets — almost as if the duo had challenged themselves to keep its density a near constant.

For a sense of what Alguire is like solo, here’s her lovely and brief ambient piece “When the Roads Meet,” which has the heavenly feel of “Vines,” but filtered to a raspy, lo-fi effect.

Tracks originally posted on SoundCloud (“Vines,” “When the Roads Meet”). (The SoundCloud page for Tinycastles lists Thomas as Thomas Boucher, but Facebook discussions about the group list him as Thomas Swyer.)

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The Piano Among the Patch Cables

A formidable live ambient performance by Carl Mikael

This video from Carl Mikael’s Cabinet of Curiosities YouTube channel is an exemplary live ambient music performance. The 14-minute piece shows him at his piano, a modular synth to the side, and a laptop visible just beyond that. He begins at the piano, mic’d closely so the physicality of the instrument’s mechanism is almost as present as the intended notes themselves. Especially when listened to through headphones, the sound is very much caught within the piano, deep in its wooden cavern. Shortly thereafter, the external tools, that array of patched synthesizer modules and the software running on his laptop, is heard echoing, looping, and transforming the piano, gentle chords fading softly as they go. As the loops come to the fore, he then returns to the piano, adding notes, sometimes as accompaniment, sometimes as a source of subsequent looping. Rhythms, albeit gentle ones, are introduced. There’s a mechanized beat early on, and later, near the five-minute mark, he taps on the piano to get a wooden percussion sensation. Later still he knocks a glass bottle against the device. There’s an formidable mastery to Mikael’s performance, how he moves back and forth between the old and new music-making tools, as well as the makeshift ones.

It’s the latest piece I’ve added to my ongoing YouTube playlist of fine “Ambient Performances.” It was originally posted at YouTube. When I started collecting this playlist, I was looking for videos that manage to display the act of making ambient music — something that is rightly associated, in general, with studio production, but that also has a wide range of live practitioners. I’ve collected many such videos so far, and Mikael’s may be the first to show (almost) all the equipment, and the musician’s face as he makes decisions, and the musician’s hands as he makes his way back and forth from one device to another. It’s a great piece.

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(Fairly) New Scott Tuma Single

On a Dismal Niche split with Nevada Greene

There’s a new, or at least fairly new, Scott Tuma release available on Bandcamp. It’s a dual release, a split. It’s half Tuma and half Nevada Greene, both tracks coming in at over 12 minutes each. Tuma is billed solo, so presumably the instruments that appear on his characteristically musty, droning ambient country music is him alone in the studio summoning ghosts one thin, subtle, artfully frayed layer at a time. The track isn’t titled “All the Ragged Glory” for no reason.

Nevada Greene’s music is like a slightly more in-focus version of Tuma’s, as if someone turned the lights on and opened the windows, banged the rugs against the wall, and let the dust out. In Tuma’s music, the dust is the thing; in Greene’s, it’s about clarity. In both it’s about a gentility, shades of John Fahey, that gracefully navigates melodies so they sound like songs but never fully reconcile themselves with anything remotely close to an earworm. It all may bring to mind the romance of Johnny Cash, but aside from its modest scope it’s closer to the majesty of Aaron Copland. Greene is a quartet, though at times, especially a third of the way through its track here (“Earthquake Hollow”), it sounds like a full chamber ensemble, the combination of folk and quasi-classical arrangements reminiscent of the production on Billy Bragg’s 1990s Elektra Records releases.

A bit about the new-ness of this release, since much of the time I write about Bandcamp I find myself thinking about this term “discovery” that gets tossed around a lot: It was released almost two months back, on July 16. If you follow Scott Tuma on Bandcamp (at, you might not have known about this split release. I didn’t. I found out because a friend I follow bought it, and so it popped up in my Bandcamp feed page. This news vacuum is the result of how releases are selectively labeled on the service. Ragged Hollow is hosted not by Tuma’s account, or by Greene’s (, but by that of the releasing label, Dismal Niche Records (

Sometimes dual albums appear on an individual artist’s page, and sometimes, since these accounts are fairly easy to set up, a dual-artist page is created, as in the case of the recent Schaum from Masayoshi Fujiita and Jan Jelinek. Their page,, features just that album. Maybe the existence of that page will encourage them to collaborate again in the future. In the meanwhile, it’d be great if Bandcamp could coax all these flailing discographical tentacles into something that better alerts admirers of the musicians to the existence of their music. I found out about Schaum today, three days after its release, thanks to a mention on Facebook by the musician Greg Davis.

More from Dismal Niche at

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The Two Minimalisms

As merged by Loscil

There are many minimalisms. In electronic music, two key ones are the capital-m Minimalism, a movement/school of classical music whose founders include such composers as Steve Reich, Phillip Glass, Terry Riley, and La Monte Young, and the lower-case minimalism, an approach employed by musicians like Taylor Deupree, Steve Roden, and others. The capital-m school has, over time, become a genre, and now counts folks like Max Richter in its ranks. The lower-case one is more of an aesthetic, one felt in ambient music, techno, film scores, and various other realms. There’s significant overlap between the two minimalisms, which are both marked by an attention to rudimentary elements and repetition, and Loscil, aka the Vancouver-based Scott Morgan, merges them formally on the forthcoming Monument Builders, due out in early November on the Kranky label. The title track was posted this week as an advance listen, and it’s a satisfying work in which orchestral instrumentation, notably a horn section around the three-minute mark and a choral part earlier on, emerge from an underlying glitchy drone.

Track originally posted at More from Loscil at

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Disquiet Junto Project 0245: Practical Music

Write a piece of music for getting things done, suitable for playing on repeat.


Each Thursday in the Disquiet Junto group, a new compositional challenge is set before the group’s members, who then have just over four days to upload a track in response to the assignment. Membership in the Junto is open: just join and participate. A SoundCloud account is helpful but not required. There’s no pressure to do every project. It’s weekly so that you know it’s there, every Thursday through Monday, when you have the time.

Tracks will be added to this playlist for the duration of the project:

This project was posted in the morning, California time, on Thursday, September 8, 2016, with a deadline of 11:59pm wherever you are on Monday, September 12, 2016.

These are the instructions that went out to the group’s email list (at

Disquiet Junto Project 0245: Practical Music
Write a piece of music for getting things done, suitable for playing on repeat.

Please pay particular attention to all the instructions below, in light of SoundCloud having closed down its Groups functionality.

Big picture: One thing arising from the end of the Groups functionality is a broad goal, in which an account on SoundCloud is not necessary for Disquiet Junto project participation. We’ll continue to use SoundCloud, but it isn’t required to use SoundCloud. The aspiration is for the Junto to become “platform-agnostic,” which is why using a message forum, such as, as a central place for each project may work well.

And now, on to this week’s project.

Project Steps:

Step 1: Think about routine daily activities, especially ones that perhaps you don’t do as routinely as you should — tidying up your home, cleaning out your email, doing the dishes, making a meal, cleaning up after a meal, sweeping outdoors.

Step 2: Record a simple, rhythmic piece of music that exudes tidiness and efficiency, and that is eminently playable on repeat — music to listen to while doing routine tasks.

Five More Important Steps When Your Track Is Done:

Step 1: Per the instructions below, be sure to include the project tag “disquiet0245” (no spaces) in the name of your track. If you’re posting on SoundCloud in particular, this is essential to my locating the tracks and creating a playlist of them.

Step 2: Upload your track. It is helpful but not essential that you use SoundCloud to host your track.

Step 3: This is a fairly new step, if you’ve done a Junto project previously. In the following discussion thread at post your track:

Step 4: Annotate your track with a brief explanation of your approach and process.

Step 5: Then listen to and comment on tracks uploaded by your fellow Disquiet Junto participants.

This project was posted in the morning, California time, on Thursday, September 8, 2016, with a deadline of 11:59pm wherever you are on Monday, September 12, 2016.

Length: The length is up to you. Three minutes seems like a good maximum.

Title/Tag: When posting your track, please include “disquiet0245” in the title of the track, and where applicable (on SoundCloud, for example) as a tag.

Upload: When participating in this project, post one finished track with the project tag, and be sure to include a description of your process in planning, composing, and recording it. This description is an essential element of the communicative process inherent in the Disquiet Junto. Photos, video, and lists of equipment are always appreciated.

Download: It is preferable that your track is set as downloadable, and that it allows for attributed remixing (i.e., a Creative Commons license permitting non-commercial sharing with attribution).

Linking: When posting the track online, please be sure to include this information:

More on this 245th weekly Disquiet Junto project — “Write a piece of music for getting things done, suitable for playing on repeat” — at:

More on the Disquiet Junto at:

Subscribe to project announcements here:

Project discussion takes place on

There’s also on a Junto Slack. Send your email address to for Slack inclusion.

Image associated with this project is by jurek d. and is used thanks to Flicker and a Creative Commons license:

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