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.

tag: recommended stream

Canada’s Finest Electronics

Daniel Lanois teams up with Venetian Snares

When Daniel Lanois released Goodbye to Language last year, he brought background to foreground. He made a full-length album flush with the gentle, rootsy, sing-song ambience that had informed decades of high-profile production work he’d done for the likes of Bob Dylan and U2, among others, and in turn connected that work back to his early ambient recordings with Brian Eno, notably Ambient 4: On Land and Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks.

Goodbye to Language was easily one of the finest electronic albums of 2016, and also of Lanois’ extensive career. The mix of guitar, pedal steel, and various electronic processing techniques yielded a classic ambient record, which is to say one that is just as beautiful played loud as it is at low, wallpaper-music levels.

The resulting question was, what comes next? Because what comes next will further define what Goodbye to Language was all about. On the one hand, the album can be read as a standalone recording, like Lou Reed’s Hudson River Wind Meditations or Aphex Twin’s Selected Ambient Works, records that (to varying degrees) bear little resemblance to the majority of the artists’ broader catalog of work. On the other, it could be considered a formal statement of where Lanois is headed.

The videos that surfaced with Goodbye to Language put Lanois front and center in a way that he’s not always presented himself. He’s often been more comfortable as an éminence grise, the figure behind the curtain, or when on stage quite close to the curtain. Take for example Black Dub, the band he put together with Daryl Johnson on bass, Trixie Whitley on vocals, and Brian Blade on drums. Anyone unfamiliar with Lanois wouldn’t necessarily get his centrality to the band’s existence while watching them play; in the video for the band’s “Nomad,” the camera spends considerable time on Blade’s drumming during Lanois’ understated guitar solo. Which isn’t to say he hasn’t had his share of singer-songwriter outings over the years. However, what makes Goodbye to Language so powerful is how he puts himself out there without saying a word. There’s no lead-singer swagger, no folk-circuit storytelling. There’s simply gorgeous sound.

Over the past few weeks, it’s become clear that Lanois has no plans to leave that gorgeous sound behind. Three weeks ago he posted a pair of live videos of alternate versions of two tracks off Goodbye to Language, intimate fish-eye “basement mix” takes recorded in his Toronto studio. They’re the first two tracks off the album, “Low Sudden” and “Time On,” so perhaps he’s going to revisit the full set. Better yet, today he posted “Night,” a murky live performance video of him in collaboration with a fellow plugged-in Canadian, the electronica figure Venetian Snares (aka Aaron Funk), an old-school drum’n’bass character with an extensive discography of albums, EPs, and remixes. The video begins with nearly three minutes of Lanois piping his guitar into looping, glistening fragments. And then the beat arrives.

The video provides premonitions as Funk’s role, as he begins fiddling with his battery of synth equipment. He appears with a mid-tempo barrage of rhythmic exertion. On the one hand it’s everything Lanois’ music isn’t; on the other, Funk’s focus on beat for beat’s sake closely parallels Lanois’ own attention to tone. They are both polar opposites and consummate peers. Funk’s beats proceed to fill Lanois’ space, and to frame it, at time dropping out to lend focus to the guitarist’s presence. Here’s to hoping there are more such collaborations to come. If Lanois is sticking to Canadians, I’ll put my vote in for Loscil, Kid Koala, and Sarah Davachi. (According to the Venetian Snares account on Twitter, this is an outtake from an album they’re making together.)

“Night” video originally posted on Daniel Lanois’ YouTube channel. Be sure to check out the channel of the label Anti-, which released Goodbye to Language, for additional Lanois material. Thanks to Steve Ashby for having brought this to my attention. It was filmed by Sébastien Leblant.

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Disquiet Junto Project 0270: Just Duet

Record the second half of a duet live.

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’s deadline is 11:59pm wherever you are on Monday, March 6, 2017. This project was posted in the afternoon, California time, on Thursday, March 2, 2017.

These are the instructions that went out to the group’s email list (at tinyletter.com/disquiet-junto):

Disquiet Junto Project 0270: Just Duet
Record the second half of a duet.

Step 1: This week’s project builds on last week’s. Last week 40 musicians each recorded one half of a duet live. This week you will record (again, live) the other half of the duet for one of those pre-existing tracks. It’s preferable that you come upon the selection by random. You can generate a random number any way you choose, from 1 to 40. This link will give you a random integer within that range:

https://goo.gl/U9DxJx

Step 2: Locate the track assigned you as follows. Numbers 1 to 39 are in this playlist. If you click through to the SoundCloud playlist you’ll see numbers next to each track:

If you get number 40, then this video is the subject of your attention:

Step 3: The plan is for you to record a short and original piece of music that complements the assigned track from Step 2, on any instrumentation of your choice, live, with no post-production edits or overdubbing. You can do as many takes as you’d like, but the final recording should be a document of a wholly live performance.

Step 4: Record a short piece of music as described in Step 3. If possible, it would be great if you could make a video of your live performance as well. The length of your piece is determined by the length of the piece you are assigned. The finished audio should combine the original track and yours together.

Step 5: Also be sure, when complete, to make the track downloadable, because it will be used by someone else in a future Junto project.

Five More Important Steps When Your Track Is Done:

Step 1: If you hosting platform allows for tags, be sure to include the project tag “disquiet0270″ (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: In the following discussion thread at llllllll.co please consider posting your track:

http://llllllll.co/t/completed-a-duet-disquiet-junto-project-0270/6765

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.

Deadline: This project’s deadline is 11:59pm wherever you are on Monday, March 6, 2017. This project was posted in the afternoon, California time, on Thursday, March 2, 2017.

Length: The length is determined by the track assigned to you.

Title/Tag: When posting your track, please include “disquiet0270″ 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: Please set your track for download and with a license that allows for attributed reworking (i.e., a Creative Commons license permitting non-commercial sharing with attribution). That’s in accordance with the “share alike” aspect of the first stage of this project.

Linking: When posting the track online, please be sure to include this information, as well as the identity of the source track that yours accompanies:

More on this 270th weekly Disquiet Junto project, “Just Duet: Record the second half of a duet live” at:

http://disquiet.com/0270/

More on the Disquiet Junto at:

http://disquiet.com/junto/

Subscribe to project announcements here:

http://tinyletter.com/disquiet-junto/

Project discussion takes place on llllllll.co:

llllllll.co/t/completed-a-duet-disquiet-junto-project-0270/6765

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

Image associated with this project is by Jimmy Baikovicius. It’s used thanks to a Creative Commons license:

flic.kr/p/o2369V

creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

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Cinchel Plays His Audience

A live ambient participatory performance

When the musician who goes by Cinchel steps away from his instruments three minutes into this live video of a recent Chicago concert, it isn’t much of a surprise. Electronic instruments often perform, in essence, by themselves. Often they are more nudged that played. They are tools set in motion, coaxed and cajoled rather than strummed or plucked or bowed. But when Cinchel makes his move elsewhere in the room, it isn’t simply because his equipment can manage without him. It’s because there are more instruments to be attended to. Already a rich tonal drone has filled the room, and now he’s using a mallet to eke out notes on what might very well be a child’s metal xylophone. Soon after he’s elsewhere in the space, ringing a bell. Each time he returns to the central equipment, adjusting the encompassing ringing sound that is the main component of the piece. Then he’s back off, with a spring instrument, more bells, and that xylophone again. And, naturally, the audience eventually joins in, taking the cue that these various tools can be employed by others when Cinchel is too busy. In just 15 minutes, he goes from playing to the audience to playing with the audience. By the time they join in, they’re under his spell. They have been, themselves, coaxed and cajoled.

This is the latest video I’ve added to my YouTube playlist of recommended live performances of ambient music. Video originally posted at youtube.com. The video is a section of a longer performance titled “Walking into an Unfamiliar Place You Already Know.” More from Cinchel at twitter.com/cinchel and cinchel.com.

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Disquiet Junto Project 0269: Duet Portion

Record half of a live duet.

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:

This project’s deadline is 11:59pm wherever you are on Monday, February 27, 2017. This project was posted in the late morning, California time, on Thursday, February 23, 2017.

These are the instructions that went out to the group’s email list (at tinyletter.com/disquiet-junto):

Disquiet Junto Project 0269: Duet Portion
Record half of a live duet.

Step 1: This week’s Junto will be the first in an occasional series allowing for asynchronous collaboration. You will be recording something with the understanding that it will be unfinished.

Step 2: The plan is for you to record a short and original piece of music, on any instrumentation of your choice, live, with no post-production edits or overdubbing. You can do as many takes as you’d like, but the final recording should be a document of a wholly live performance. Conceive it as something that leaves room for something else — another instrument, performed by another person — to join in.

Step 3: Record a short piece of music, roughly two to three minutes in length, as described in Step 2. If possible, it would be great if you could make a video of your live performance as well.

Step 4: Also be sure, when complete, to make the track downloadable, because it will be used by someone else in a future Junto project.

Five More Important Steps When Your Track Is Done:

Step 1: If you hosting platform allows for tags, be sure to include the project tag “disquiet0269″ (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: In the following discussion thread at llllllll.co please consider posting your track:

http://llllllll.co/t/record-half-a-duet-disquiet-junto-project-0269/6652

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.

Deadline: This project’s deadline is 11:59pm wherever you are on Monday, February 27, 2017. This project was posted in the late morning, California time, on Thursday, February 23, 2017.

Length: The length is up to you, though about two to three minutes feel about right.

Title/Tag: When posting your track, please include “disquiet0269″ 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: Please set your track for download and with a license that allows for attributed reworking (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 269th weekly Disquiet Junto project, “Duet Portion: Record half of a live duet” at:

http://disquiet.com/0269/

More on the Disquiet Junto at:

http://disquiet.com/junto/

Subscribe to project announcements here:

http://tinyletter.com/disquiet-junto/

Project discussion takes place on llllllll.co:

llllllll.co/t/record-half-a-duet-disquiet-junto-project-0269/6652

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

Image associated with this project is by Tony Tsang. It’s used thanks to a Creative Commons license:

flic.kr/p/6565DF

creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/

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No Insects Were Harmed

In the recording of Clara Iannotta's "Dead Wasps in the Jam-Jar (ii)"

Clara Iannotta’s “Dead Wasps in the Jam-Jar (ii)” (2016) intrigues with its title’s promise of quotidian decay and, perhaps, with a bit of telegraphed moralizing about the price paid for sweetness. The suspense builds even before you hit play, thanks to its list of components: “for string orchestra, objects, and sine waves.” Now technically, virtually all music contains sine waves, since those are a major component of sound, but clearly the sine waves heard here are of the electronically generated variety. As for the objects, the brush held by the composer in the accompanying photo provides a hint at the untraditional instruments. What unfolds as “Dead Wasps in the Jam-Jar (ii)” proceeds is a study in controlled energies. In programmatic terms, the wasps seem to meet their fate as the four-minute mark arrives, a sharp swirling hitting hard, and more loudly than anything that proceeded it. Then warping torques and sudden jitters evidence struggle before the piece settles into an extended if anxious stillness. That final period, from about six minutes until the end, at eleven and a half minutes, is where concentrated listening is especially rewarded, thanks to Iannotta’s expert mix of textures, of held strings and fluttering percussion.

Track originally posted at soundcloud.com/claraiannotta. More from Iannotta, who is from Italy and is based in both Berlin, Germany, and Boston, Massachussetts, at claraiannotta.com. She is currently working on compositions for Duo 2KW and Arditti Quartet, among other ensembles.

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