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

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

tag: saw2for33third

The Year of Aphex Twin

And the (temporary?) end of a SoundCloud account

My book on the 1994 Aphex Twin album Selected Ambient Works Volume II is now, I have learned, in its second printing (Amazon, Powell’s), which is pretty great. The book was published back in February as part of the 33 1/3 series, and I had a blast doing readings at City Lights in San Francisco and Powell’s in Portland, and giving talks and presentations (in person and via Skype) at various institutions, including SETI. As it turns out, that February publication was in advance of what has turned out to be, quite unexpectedly, the Year of Aphex Twin, starting with the logo-festooned blimp over London that coincided with his birthday, continuing to a full-length album on the Warp label (Syro), and moving on to a deep dive into his archives thanks to tracks posted on his SoundCloud account. For the moment, that SoundCloud account appears to have been wiped clean, sadly, but I’m hopeful it’s a temporary thing, because the reversed version of “Avril 14th” was quite lovely.

This post first appeared in the Disquiet email newsletter: tinyletter.com/disquiet.

Tag: / Leave a comment ]

Aphex Twin Reverses Himself

"Avril 14th," there and back again

Aphex Twin, aka Richard D. James, continues his return to semi-public existence as a musician by posting to his under-appreciated SoundCloud account, soundcloud.com/richarddjames, which as of this writing has just 7,089 subscribers. The account got some coverage this past week when he posted recordings attributed to his young son. He also revisited some of his own more youthful music, specifically “Avril 14th.” Originally appearing on the 2001 album Drukqs, “Avril 14th” is one of Aphex Twin’s most licensed tracks, having, among other things, appeared in a Sofia Coppola movie and been sampled as part of a Kanye West track (“Blame Game,” off My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy). The newly posted “Avril 14th Reversed Music Not Audio” is exactly that, not the song played backwards by reversing the recording, but the song played backwards a note at a time. The echo in the room is strong and seems to share a certain resonance with “Aisatsana,” the final track off Aphex Twin’s Syro, the recent album that marked his return to active pop-culture duty. It says something about the structural simplicity of the original “Avril 14th” song that the melody reversed sounds no less composed, no less thoughtful, no less lovely.

Of course, an Aphex Twin release is, as always, as much the beginning of a process as it is the end, which is to say post-release treatments have followed, such as the inevitable and welcome “what happens when you reverse the reversed” version. Hearing the melody unfold as a series of reversed notes is like listening to a funhouse mirror made of cellophane. It’s an instant-classic example of making the familiar exotic, and brings to mind the machinations that Hans Zimmer employed with the Inception score by interpolating Édith Piaf’s “Non, je ne regrette rien.” Here is the reversed reversal of “Avril 14th” by a Eugene, Oregon–based musician who goes by the name Granola:

And here, related to that room-resonance comment up top, is “Aisatsana,” off Syro:

Also tagged / / Leave a comment ]

The Aphex Blimp Heard Round the World

And slowing a Drukqs track to 33 1/3 from 45

20140816-iwanttobelieve

Yesterday word spread of an Aphex Twin blimp floating over London, following up a report on the We Are the Music Makers message board back in June that Richard D. James had said “New shit is imminent.” It was WAtMM that had Kickstarter’d that Joyrex (re)release earlier this year, and the blimp serves to support the “imminent” assertion. People celebrated in various ways, and Twitter was alive with commentary, among it this X-Files meme-ified version of the blimp, courtesy of Audio Damage’s Chris Randall, shown up top. I had some fun, too, joking “First ever hot air balloon inflated with a Ventolin inhaler,” among other things.

And over on SoundCloud, Vapor Lanes uploaded something that had been a favorite tweak of his for years: slowing down “Vordhosbn” off the Drukqs album from 45 rpm to 33 1/3. The track retains its flexible percussive action, but slowed down it’s more readily relaxed into by the listener:

Track originally posted at soundcloud.com/vaporlanes. Found thanks to a soundcloud.com/leberger repost.

And, yes, speaking of “33 1/3,” I wrote the 33 1/3 book on Aphex Twin’s Selected Ambient Works Volume II, released earlier this year to mark the album’s 20th anniversary.

Also tagged / / Leave a comment ]

My Aphex Twin Talk at CCRMA/Stanford

Full video from February 19, 2014 — plus techno.stanford.edu

The first talk I gave on my book Selected Ambient Works Volume II, in the 33 1/3 series, on the Aphex Twin album of that name was back on February 19 of this year, a few days after the book’s official release date. This is full video of that talk. It took place at Stanford University’s CCRMA, the Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics:

One cool thing that came out of the event was the reviving of a URL that played an indirect but influential role in the history of the album. My book is as much about the cultural afterlife of Selected Ambient Works Volume II as it is about the album itself. Part of that afterlife took place online, with particular vitality on email discussion groups. The ones housed at Hyperreal.org were frequented by Greg Eden, whom I interviewed in the book, and who is the individual bearing primary responsibility for the words associated as track titles for the album (on which with one exception, the tracks are officially untitled). As background for the book, I interviewed Hyperreal.org founder Brian Behlendorf, who among other things explained to me that before Hyperreal got that name, it was running on “a dedicated box at the Medical Information Systems Group.” The URL for the boards was techno.stanford.edu. This was on a Sun Sparcstation 1+. The Hyperreal lists IDM@ and Ambient@ started on techno.stanford.edu in early 1993.

Speaking to the hometown crowd, I mentioned the techno.stanford.edu URL in my talk. Shortly after the event, Carr Wilkerson at CCRMA managed to get the URL — which had long since gone 404-error dormant — to redirect to the CCRMA home page.

Oh, and two facts to correct:

1: Toward the beginning I mention Jonathan Lethem’s entry in the 33 1/3 series, about the Talking Heads album Fear of Music. It is #86, not #89, in the series.

2: And very close to the end, in response to a question from the audience, I can’t recall the name of a sculptor whom John Cage compares his compositions to in his book Silence. The sculptor of wire works is Richard Lippold.

The video is housed at youtube.com. Original event listing at ccrma.stanford.edu.

Also tagged / / Leave a comment ]

Two Disquiet Nights in Portland: May 7 + 8

Wednesday Disquiet Junto show + Thursday Aphex Twin reading/concert

mm-social-marc-weidenbaum-2014

I’m excited to travel to one of my favorite cities later this week. I get in on May 7, Wednesday, in time for a Disquiet Junto concert we’re having at Townshend’s Tea (2223 NE Alberta St), and then on Thursday I’ll be reading from my recent 33 1/3 book on Aphex Twin’s album Selected Ambient Works Volume II at Powell’s on Hawthorne (3723 SE Hawthorne Blvd). As at the City Lights reading I did back on March 20, local musicians will be joining me at Powell’s on Hawthorne for the Aphex Twin reading.

Here’s the lineup for the Townshend’s Tea concert of Disquiet Junto participants. They will play pieces inspired by past Junto projects, and talk about their compositional and performance process. The event will begin at 8pm on May 7. There’s a Facebook event page for the Junto show. Carlson, I should note, is the developer of the iOS app Borderlands, one of the most popular apps among Disquiet Junto members.

  • Chris Carlson
  • Ted Laderas – the OO-Ray
  • Bob Phillips – Rawore
  • Keith Spears

And here’s the lineup of musicians assisting me at my Aphex Twin reading. The event will begin at 7:30pm on May 8. There’s a Facebook event page for the Aphex Twin 33 1/3 date.

  • Brumes
  • Ted Laderas – the OO-Ray
  • Marcus Fischer

And I’ll be in town until late in the day on Friday, so if anything interesting is going on, please let me know.

Also tagged / / Leave a comment ]