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

tag: i-hop

Vinyl Context and Purloined Notes

The classical remixes of Bstep

Classical Rmxs is as it sounds. The new Bstep collection, two dozen tracks total, is a beat-heavy selection of snippets of various classical-music pieces set to downtempo, hip-hop-informed metrics. Bstep is Ben Stepner, who previously took a favorite by proto-minimalist composer Morton Feldman, “Triadic Memories,” and rendered it into something loungey and soulful, and just a little bit funky. Often on Classical Rmxs, as in “Black Dragon,” the music’s vinyl context is as much a part of the end composition as is the music itself — the sway of the surface noise is on repeat, right along with the handful of purloined notes that serve as its core. “Strange Days” pulls from a full orchestra, a pixel bit of static serving as a percussive grace note. Not all the source audio is instrumental. On “Qigong” it appears to be choral sample, rendered spectral in its misty repetition. Nor are all the additions simply beats. On “Qigong” there’s a sudden, occasional, truly funky emphasis in the form of an r&b grunt. It’s quite a pleasure to get lost in the small segments that Stepner focuses on, tiny moments from long-form works turned, themselves, into voluminous chasms where beat machines run free.

Album, all 24 tracks, originally posted at bstep.bandcamp.com. More from Stepner, who is based in Newton Centre, Massachusetts, at benstepner.com, soundcloud.com/benstepner, and twitter.com/bstepbeatz.

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Nostalgic Beats in Old Kyoto

Ally Mobbs live on a bridge

The video’s reveal comes 33 seconds in. Up until that point the camera has been slowly gazing around traditional Kyoto, Japan: the vaulted roofs, the red gateways, the concrete structures, the sculptured foliage, the constructed waterways. The wide-angle, perfect geometry of the shots, and the slow motion in which they appear, at first have the feel of a video-game cutscene, but for all the perfection, this is real. This is Kyoto, in all its preserved beauty. The stroll is accompanied by a beat, the heady semi-swagger of solid instrumental hip-hop, the way instrumental hip-hop can be tinged with nostalgia. The nostalgia of instrumental hip-hop may often be for the very early 1990s, and the nostalgia of Kyoto may be for several centuries earlier, but they pair well. Hip-hop and Japan have a longstanding relationship, a sense of mutual regard, so the matchup makes sense. And then at 33 seconds, into view comes British producer Ally Mobbs, propped up on the edge of low wall, pounding gently if insistently on an MPC 500, the portable beat machine, his head bobbing. He’s as lost in the music as we are. The difference is, he’s making the music. We get barely five seconds before he disappears from view, the camera wandering back on its own way. At 51 seconds he appears again, and remains in view, until the very end (the video is 1:34 long, but the music is over at about 1:28). There is no sound besides the music, no footsteps or birds. The headspace of the music is the headspace of Mobbs himself, who’s performing the track — recording the track — live while the camera is filming.

The video was posted two days ago on the YouTube channel of Nedavine (nedavine.bandcamp.com, nedavine.com). More from Ally Mobbs, who lives in Kyoto, at allymobbs.com, allymobbs.bandcamp.com, and twitter.com/allymobbs. Track found via a post Mobbs made on the llllllll.co discussion boards.

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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

20160213-arcka

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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