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

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Disquiet: 15, 10 & 5 Years Ago This Week (2014.07)

My first Diego Bernal, Max Neuhaus RIP, #NP

This would be roughly the week of February 10 through February 16.

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5 Years Ago (2009): I feel like I’ve been listening to Diego Bernal’s tremendous atmospheric old-school hip-hop instrumentals for much longer than five years, and perhaps I have, but according to my searches, I first wrote about them five years ago this week; these days Bernal, who is a Texas-based civil rights attorney, is on the San Antonio city council, representing his district. He has less room in his life for music-making these days, but he collaborated this past September with Ernest Gonzales (aka Mexicans with Guns) on the album Atonement. … Also in the Downstream this week: raw materials from Peter Gabriel’s “Games without Frontiers”, great Red Bull Music Academy interviews (Wolfgang Voigt; Mario Caldato, Jr.), some Floridian field recordings from Michael Raphael. … I went back to the New Langton Arts exhibit I mentioned last week about graphically notated scores. … I quoted from Max Neuhaus’s obituary by Bruce Weber from the New York Times (he passed away five years ago on February 9):

The sound creates a space for itself with definite boundaries. You can only hear it within a few feet. But the main audible effect is not so much hearing it as hearing what it does to everything around it. It kind of slices up the sounds of that fountain splashing over there, for instance.

That’s Neuhaus pictured above at his Times Square sound installation. … And I noted an appearance by Otomo Yoshihide at an event in New York.

10 Years Ago (2004): I wrote at some length about the year’s Activating the Medium festival in San Francisco. … Downstream entries included a four-minute stretch of French desloation by Planetaldol, a video for Warp artist Req, video by Keith Fullerton Whitman, more video from Whitman, and an interview with Scanner.

15 Years Ago (1999): I wrote about the “NP” (“now playing”) bit people were adding to their email signatures. I mis-identified it as an emoticon, but heck it was 1999.

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Past Week at Twitter.com/Disquiet

  • Today's Aphex Twin SAW2 track has a beat made from a vocal—this on an album often described as beatless + vocal free: http://t.co/68YCLqYgCB ->
  • Duet for rain drops and distant siren. ->
  • rainy day -> Augustus Pablo ->
  • RT @touchmusic: Android version of Touch app now available here – http://t.co/JSH4ZNePsc ->
  • 5 days, 5 tracks to go in Aphex Twin SAW2 countdown. Today, the Fourth World rhythmic aura of "Grass": http://t.co/78QEseDbae ->
  • still raining -> Augustus Pablo -> Dub Narcotic Sound System ->
  • Man, it's been 5 years since this incredible graphic-notation score exhibit at New Langton in San Francisco: http://t.co/jVvOLy248Y ->
  • It's fun looking back 5/10/15 years each week. Love this quote from Greg Egan's Schild's Ladder: http://t.co/25uQ3VYJDI ->
  • I'd pretty much go back to Japan for any reason, but this exhibit looks especially interesting: http://t.co/Rjx0zt8bUv ->
  • Read more »
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Aphex Twin @ 33 1/3 (5/5): Aphex Twin Before + After SAW2 (2/2)

The fifth and final of five posts for the 33 1/3 website

The publisher of my Aphex Twin book, 33 1/3, an imprint of Bloomsbury, invited me to write blog posts this week to note the book’s official publication on Thursday, February 13, which is to say yesterday. The fifth and final of these five posts is up today: “Video Vault Part II: Aphex Twin Before + After SAW2.”

This is the opening of the piece, about half the post’s total length:

Richard D. James has more pseudonyms than Jason Bourne and Fernando Pessoa combined. So, it isn’t quite right to say he didn’t release anything after Selected Ambient Works Volume II for a full year. Quite the contrary, there was a steady flow of material, much from the close-proximate moniker AFX. However, the next official Aphex Twin album came almost exactly a year later: an EP of remixes of a track titled “Ventolin.”

The EP announced itself immediately as being as intentionally far from Selected Ambient Works Volume II as one might get. The opening whine of the first track is an intense, painful, irritating sound — deliciously irritating — and it doesn’t let up for the length of the song, or for the length of the release, which is a series of reworkings of the same material. Alongside that whine is a powerful rhythmic crunch.

In the video, the machine whine is initiated by the simple push of a button, an elevator button. It’s pushed by a businesswoman. Her plight — she’s stuck in the elevator for the length of the video — initially alternates with shots of the asthma inhaler from which the track takes its name. It is seen emerging from a box, the steady ascent reminiscent of space-rocket launches, a correlation strengthened by the slow-motion docking of the inhaler and mouthpiece later in the video.

Read the full piece, and see the associated video, at 333sound.com.

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Aphex Twin @ 33 1/3 (4/5): Aphex Twin Before + After SAW2 (1/2)

The fourth of five posts for the 33 1/3 website

The publisher of my Aphex Twin book, 33 1/3, an imprint of Bloomsbury, has invited me to write blog posts this week to note the book’s official publication on Thursday, February 13. The fourth of these five posts is up today: “Video Vault Part I: Aphex Twin Before + After SAW2.”

This is the opening of the piece, a little less than half post’s total length:

Selected Ambient Works Volume II‘s release on the label Warp in 1994 was framed by the pair of singles that directly preceded and succeeded it, both of which were EPs that had accompanying videos. The two EPs are intense in their own ways, and work to further emphasize the unusually vaporous qualities of the album.

Just before the record came “On,” a frenetic track whose surreal video — stop motion by the sea shore — was directed by Jarvis Cocker, best known as a member of the band Pulp. A native of Sheffield, England, like the founders of Warp, Cocker had, along with his directing partner Martin Wallace, previously made videos for such Warp-label roster members as Nightmares on Wax and Sweet Exorcist.

Read the piece in full, and see the corresponding video, at 333sound.com.

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Aphex Twin SAW2 Countdown: Track 1 (“Cliffs”)

A track per day up through the February 13 release of my 33 1/3 book

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cover-from-Bloomsbury-siteAnd this marks the final entry in the track-by-track reverse countdown to the release, on February 13, 2014, the day prior to Valentine’s Day, of my book in the estimable 33 1/3 series. It is a love letter to Aphex Twin’s album Selected Ambient Works Volume II, which will mark its 20th anniversary this year, less than a month after my book’s publication. More on my Aphex Twin book at amazon.com and Bloomsbury.com. The plan is to do this countdown in the reverse order, from last track to first. For reference, an early draft of the introduction is online, as is the book’s seven-chapter table of contents. The book’s publisher posted an interview with me when I was midway through the writing process.

There is some irony to doing this countdown since the book is already shipping to folks who pre-ordered it via an online retailer such as Amazon, but the official date stands, and that’s the target — the end date — of this countdown, February 13. And for what it’s worth, while the physical copies are mailing now from retailers, the Kindle version won’t turn on until February 13. Still, the digital version costs less.

As I’ve noted on Twitter, this track-a-day approach is exactly the opposite of the book’s approach, which is a collection of interrelated, reporting-based essays.

I am enjoying seeing the book pop up in people’s Twitter and Instagram feeds:

Second only to perhaps “Blue Calx,” which is the album’s centerpiece and the closest thing it has to a single, the opening track is the most familiar, if only because as it comes first, its start, if not its finish, is clearly discernible. The rest of the album can become a constant, singular whole except to particularly attentive listeners. It has been widely adopted, and used in film (in the book I speak with two directors who used it in their work, Lucy Walker and Jordan Melamed). It’s a sinuous piece, with a hint of a vocal, perhaps a female, whose wavering is a human approximation of the waveforms that constitute much of the record album.

Here it is in a performance by Alarm Will Sound. I spoke with the composer who transcribed the work and with the ensemble’s music director for the book:

Here is a remix by Wisp, more about whom in the book:

More on my Aphex Twin Selected Ambient Works Volume II book at amazon.com and Bloomsbury.com.

Thanks to boondesign.com for the sequential grid treatment of the album cover.

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