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tag: i-hop

It’s Unfortunate Bandcamp Lacks Playlist Functionality

It'd be nice to whittle Nature Program's excellent Dual Concetric to its ambient core

Update (April 4, 2016): My playmoss.com account was upgraded, so I was able to make the playlist discussed below embeddable:

The original post appears below.

This is the wonderfully textured yet ethereal track “Supine Anchor” off the album Dual Concentric by Brooklyn-based Nature Program. Nature Program appears to be the recording moniker of the individual who made the HC-TT, a device I wrote about yesterday. The HC-TT allows a musician to manipulate a standard tape cassette in real time, to edge the music forward and backward thanks to a large circular knob.

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The website for the HC-TT, hc-tt.com, on its Letters page includes a link to the Bandcamp page of Nature Program, where there is currently one album: Dual Concentric. Elsewhere on the HC-TT site there’s a “Why” page — the sort of thing more makers might consider. (That is, if the why isn’t justifiable, maybe there’s a better problem out there for you to solve.) The Why for the HC-TT is compelling, even if you haven’t heard the super cool sound samples associated with it. The site makes a clear case for the cassette’s unique sonic properties and the HC-TT’s potential as part of an electronic musician’s kit. Also, it’s written from the perspective of a curious, exploratory musician:

This device was made for a fairly selfish reason: For years, I’ve wanted to have a compact, organized device that mirrors the compact, organized cassette medium. It’s an obsessive-compulsive dream to create your own library of tape loops which stay safely packaged and organized inside individual cassettes.

“Supine Anchor” is among the most relaxed of the tracks on Dual Concentric. It is a sequence of layered loops whose texture and warped quality suggest they originated on physical tape, perhaps even involved the HC-TT in their production. There’s a lush voice, a falsetto, that brings to mind Brian Eno’s, and it appears about midway through the piece, after the initial bout of fractured minimalist abstract beatcraft melts into something ever more echoing and lush. There’s a lot more to the record than “Supine Anchor” might suggest: techno, light gamecore, electro, instrumental proto-hip-hop. But within that expansive coverage, 20 tracks in all, are about a half dozen or so with a more ambient quality to them.

It’s unfortunate that Bandcamp doesn’t have a playlist function. Unlike services from Spotify to SoundCloud, Bandcamp lacks the ability for listeners to serve as collators. You can learn a lot from following and looking into the acquisitions of fellow Bandcamp users, but you can’t do much more than that. You speak through your wallet (and your wishlist) on Bandcamp. If you buy something, it’s associated with your account (mine is at bandcamp.com/disquiet), but you can’t, for example, create an ersatz hits collection for an artist with multiple albums, or, as I was drawn to do with Dual Concentric, whittle 20 tracks down to their background-music essentials.

Fortunately there are other services, such as playmoss.com, which do allow for collecting material found elsewhere on the web. I can’t embed it (note: my account was upgraded, so I now can embed playlists — see the top of this post), but I’ve made a playlist at playmoss.com that collects seven key tracks off of Dual Concentric, the ones that largely do away with rhythm in favor of something more murky and enticing. The tracks are, in order of appearance, “Sources Say,” “Nature Program – Breathers,” “Supine Anchor,” “Flourishings,” “Inclement,” “Fulfillment Center” and “Understand.”

The full album is available at tonewheel.bandcamp.com. More on the HC-TT at hc-tt.com.

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Arckatron Breaks a Beat

A sample of the newly released Subtle Busyness

The full release of Subtle Busyness by Arckatron is now out, a cassette and download on the Twin Springs Tapes label. It’s streaming as well, over at twinspringstapes.bandcamp.com. Arcka, aka Shawn Kelly, formerly of Philadelphia and recently relocated to Los Angeles, traffics in abstract instrumental hip-hop. He’s long been a proponent of utilizing under-appreciated snippets of familiar music, often R&B, and on Subtle Busyness he’s expanded into off-kilter rhythmic excursions. The album was featured here twice in advance of its release, back in January when it was announced and in mid-February when additional tracks were uploaded for promotional purposes. On the occasion of its full arrival, all 21 tracks, do check out the glorious broken beat that is “Naverparse”:

More from Arcka at arckatron.us. More from the Twin Springs label at twinspringstapes.bandcamp.com and facebook.com/twinspringstapes. And here’s an interview I did with Arcka/Kelly back in 2009: “Young Communicator.”

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Abstract Beats from a Master

Fives more tastes of Arckatron's forthcoming Subtle Busyness

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The fine, Los Angeles–based abstract beatmaker (until very recently of Philadelphia) Arckatron (aka Shawn Kelly) uploaded two tracks from his forthcoming, 21-song album, Subtle Busyness, at the start of the year: the blissfully steady-going “Lunar” and the wonderfully meter-defying “Aerofloat,” which warped this way and that as its rhythm ebbed and flowed. Those first popped up on the SoundCloud account of the label releasing Subtle Busyness, Twin Springs Tapes. (I wrote about them at the time.)

Now four more tracks, along with “Lunar” again, have been uploaded to the Twin Springs Bandcamp page: the surreal opening cut (“Cosmicrust”), a piano-against-percussion piece titled “Power (Handz Up…),” a funky video-game gambit titled “Toow,” and a track titled “VariaTRON” that plays pinball in your head with intense stereoscopic, microscopic beats.

And there’s a lovely video for “Lunar,” sort of an animated lava lamp with a subtle hint at Arckatron’s logo, on YouTube:

The album is up for pre-order for a mere $6, including the cassette (and including shipping in the U.S.) at twinspringstapes.bandcamp.com. The official release date is February 23. The cassette edition is limited to 100.

More from Arcka at arckatron.us. More from the Twin Springs label at twinspringstapes.bandcamp.com and facebook.com/twinspringstapes. And here’s an interview I did with Arcka/Kelly back in 2009: “Young Communicator.”

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Feeling the Hand on the Pad in Instrumental Hip-hop

Two tracks from the forthcoming album Subtle Busyness from Philadelphia-based Arcka

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Arcka, aka Shawn Kelly, the artist also known as Arkatron, and formerly as Y?Arcka, has a release, Subtle Busyness, due out shortly on the Twin Springs Tapes label. Two tracks have been posted to the label’s SoundCloud account in advance. Both are instrumental hip-hop, which is where Arcka lives, but they go in distinctly different directions.

“Lunar” is a blissfully steady two-minute beat with dreamy undertones. Nudges in the bass and swirly synthesized, zithery accents entertain psychedelic associations. Put it on repeat.

“Aerofloat” is more characteristic of Arcka, which is to say it’s more difficult to pigeonhole and a rewarding listen for that very reason. Early on the beat slows to a syrupy pause, like a hip-hop train losing steam as it comes into the station, and for an extended period you listen inside the audio, to warped elements and a richly irregular rhythm. Of course, then it nearly flies out of control — though not fully, because Arcka is at the wheel.

Hip-hop production has a reputation for being studio music, and that’s certainly the case with Arcka, who does much of his work on an MPC, the classic rap-music workhorse. However, it’s useful to remember what a tactile machine the MPC is, how beloved its pads are to producers. In “Aerofloat” there are, throughout, these pixie-stick triggers that are just enough off the beat that you can sense the hand of producer. The music of Arcka may be recorded and constructed, cut-up and arranged, but the life blood is self-evident throughout.

Here’s a shot from a few years ago of Arcka cleaning the insides of his well-used MPC:

A photo posted by ARCKATRON (@arckatron) on

The two-track set was first posted at soundcloud.com/twin-springs-tapes. More from Arcka at arckatron.us. More from the Twin Springs label at twinspringstapes.bandcamp.com and facebook.com/twinspringstapes. The album is due out, in a limited edition of 100 tapes, shortly. And here’s an interview I did with Arcka/Kelly, who is based in Philadelhia, back in 2009: “Young Communicator.”

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Police-Siren Violins, White-Noise Beats, Static-Laden Dub

Raz Mesinai is Ghost Producer

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Raz Mesinai has been busily filling out his ghostproducer.bandcamp.com account. On the 11th of the month he posted Freakatone Beats Vol. 1, a collection of broken white noise disguised as funk, 15 tracks that come with their own unique “parameters,” a mix of practical and theoretical constraints. This is Freakatone‘s “Nervous System”:

And these are the freakatone parameters — a beatcraft Oulipo, a downtempo Dogme 95, a drone Fluxus:

  1. The rhythm’s tempo is irrelevant, and can change without warning.

  2. The rhythm is constructed by a simple pattern, chosen for its importance in urban music for centuries, in festivals, ceremonies.

  3. There is no “drop”, however alluding to one is fine.

  4. No overdubs are allowed when producing Freakatone as the key to its power is spontaneity, improvisation and mastering the sound system as an instrument.

  5. Freakatone is often Produced with noise and dissonance in mind. Dissonance is important, and frequencies used are primarily rejected from Main Stream Sound Systems, such as streaming.

  6. Freakatone cannot be performed without a dancing audience.

  7. Noise must be generated within the very sound system used to produce Freakatone, either by feeding back into itself, adding other effect processors to the output of said instrument. Once the noise is revealed, the Producer must not end, but continue on and freak the tone.

The day prior to Freakatone Beats Vol. 1 came Sweet Dreams, Soundboy, a beatless collection of 16 industrial-ambient swaths, some harrowing, others lilting, all serrated. Here is the fourth in the otherwise title-less sequence, one of the set’s relatively lighter pieces, which to say the fear is at the far end of the dark corridor, rather than right in your face:

Especially welcome is the four-part String Quartet for Four Turntables, a Lincoln Center Festival commission in which the “quartet” was in fact four separate parts (two violins, one viola, one cello — the classic quartet format) recorded to vinyl and manipulated by two DJs. Here is part two — check it out around 5:50 when the scraping violin is made to imitate a passing police siren. The collection was posted on October 16:

A brief liner note explains the turntable audio’s provenance:

It was first performed by Dj Olive and Dj Toshio Kajiwara at the Lincoln Center Festival in New York City in 2000 but was never recorded or released until now. Mesinai insisted on letting the vinyl sit, uncovered, for 15 years, so that the crackles and pops would be more present.

It dates from 2000, when it was performed alongside work by the X-Ecutioners, as well as a quartet consisting of DJ A. Vee, DJ Frankie, Kuttin’ Kandi, and Christian Marclay playing versions of John Cage’s “Imaginary Landscape No. 5.” I mentioned it here back in 2009. And I interviewed Mesinai back in 2006.

And then there’s the far more expansive and varied Time Is Just an Update, also from October 11, 13 tracks that include attenuated drones, hauntingly sublimated orchestrations, and extremely slow chamber music. This is a track, “Tag Hash,” seemingly made almost entirely from vinyl crackles, repeated and echoed into a dubby matrix:

The music is streaming for free, and available for purchase: $9.99 for Sweet Dreams, SoundBoy (there’s also a $35 “endless cassette” version), $4 for the String Quartet (there’s also a limited-edition $200 vinyl edition), $7 for Time Is Just an Update, and $5 for Freaktone.

Mesinai, a prolific experimental turntablist based in New York City, is at ghostproducer.bandcamp.com and twitter.com/razmesinai.

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