This live performance is something of a complement to a live video I posted last week. Both are ambient works that employ pedals to eke atmospheres from electric guitars. In the previous video, a cover of the Boards of Canada miniature “Over the Horizon Radar,” all you see is the guitar. In this one, almost all you see is the pedals. The guitar edges in from the bottom of the screen, but it’s seen from the guitarist’s perspective, so you view little more than the depth of its wooden body and fretboard, with occasional glimpses of the strings. You’re not here to just to watch the hands. You’re here to watch the feet as well, which do double duty on the various pedals. It’s a live improvisation that employs multiple filters and delays, and a single looper, to create layers of tones with just a hint of melodic momentum. Brief sequences of notes draw the listener in, but the piece is far more a triumph of texture than of song form — and that’s very much to its credit.
It’s not common to post the same audio here twice, but I’m making an exception for the half-hour concert by Kelli Cain and Brian Crabtree, developers of the Monome grid music interface. Back in March I linked to the SoundCloud file of the live performance (“What the Creators of the Monome Sound Like as Live Performers”), and updated that page in April when a higher grade recording went up. But now there’s full, affectionately edited video of the set. It’s at vimeo.com. I attended the concert, which was held at a small shop, Better, out on Balboa Street in San Francisco’s Richmond District, and in the review I mention in particular this social component of Crabtree’s employment of handheld shakers: “He’d shake one for awhile, and then pass it to someone in the audience to continue the pattern. Each person became an extension of what Crabtree had started, but then altered it a little, whether through the conscious decision to contribute a musical idea, or simply because their sense of rhythm differed from his.” That occurs about two minutes into this footage.
Claire Guerin of Cork, Ireland, participated in an eight-hour sound performance called Feedback Loops last month. She’s posted a short (five-minute) snapshot of the proceedings. It’s a brooding, percussion-and-drone segment that is, toward the close, intruded upon by dastardly vocalizing, the dark foreboding utterances of a demonic presence. The event took place on April 17 at the Cork Community Print Shop. There’s additional video and documentation at the event’s Facebook page.
Dave Stafford’s video “Formation of the Universe” is a solid introduction to an amorphous, fluid music application. The application is Borderlands Granular. It allows the user (né musician) to locate tiny segments of pre-existing music and build from them glistening, refracting cues that cycle in a random, often curiously delightful state. Stafford mixes vocal samples with less identifiable source material. In addition to posting the video, he wrote a lengthy appraisal of the app, which is one of his favorites. Stafford goes into detail on how it functions. The music makes good background listening as you read up on how it was recorded.
While he skips the backward-masky quality of the original, SineRider’s electric-guitar cover of the Boards of Canada miniature “Over the Horizon Radar,” not even a minute and a half in length, is true to the source material’s pacing and mood. The video was recorded live, and the gap between what is seen and what is heard is worth reflecting on. The notes are plucked, but the sound really owes its quality to the (unspecified) guitar pedals that are, like the musician’s head, offscreen. A given pluck happens noticeable split seconds — we need another term for “split seconds,” as it suggests speed when what is in fact meant is a discernible gap — before the full impact of the playing is felt.
• November 9, 2015: A short essay I wrote ("Bassel K") will appear in the book The Cost of Freedom, dedicated to Bassel Khartabil, who's been detained in Syria since March 15, 2012. Details at costoffreedom.cc.
• November 21, 2015: Start of semi-annual social-media absentia (through January 4, 2016).
• Early December 2015: Jeff Kolar's album Doorbells will be released by the label Panospria. I wrote the liner notes. In the meanwhile you can listen to his previous album, Smoke Detector.
• December 13, 2015: The 19th anniversary of Disquiet.com.
• January 4, 2016: End of semi-annual social-media absentia (started November 21, 2015).
• February 3, 2016: First class session of the 15-week course I teach at the San Francisco Academy of Art on the role of sound in the media landscape.
• May 18, 2016: Final class session of the 15-week course I teach at the San Francisco Academy of Art on the role of sound in the media landscape.
• Ongoing: The Disquiet Junto series of weekly communal music projects explore constraints as a springboard for creativity and productivity. There is a new project each Thursday afternoon (California time), and it is due the following Monday at 11:59pm: soundcloud.com.
• My book on Aphex Twin's landmark 1994 album, Selected Ambient Works Vol. II, published as part of the 33 1/3 series, an imprint of Bloomsbury, is now in its second printing. It can be purchased at amazon.com, among other places.