The Anti- label has posted another track from Daniel Lanois’ forthcoming Goodbye to Language album. It’s even more tripwire and slipstream than the previously shared “Heavy Sun.” The new piece, “Deconstruction,” is even more likely to turn on a moment’s notice, and to shift subtly from one transient listening zone to the next. It plays almost like a trailer of the album, composed as it is of myriad small segments, muffled blasts of warped pedal steel, gaseous cloud effects in full force. It features Rocco DeLuca on guitar, though his performance, like Lanois’, is so deeply consumed by processing that the presence of the instrument is artfully muddied, to the extreme. The album will be released on September 9.
There’s also a video that, like the music, emphasizes atmosphere. It’s packed with images of Lanois at work, but they’re all through fish-eye lenses, or are filmed close up, or appear in quick, fractured moments:
“Stray Sods,” as heard here, is a rough take of a piece for cello and electronics by Amanda Feery, the Dublin-based composer. The first thing you hear in the piece isn’t the cello, at least not in recognizable form, but a pulsing, filmic, beading field of percussion. The effect of these tiny percussive tones is caught somewhere between a tossed snow globe and the sound design of a particularly heightened moment in a contemporary thriller. A cello enters that zone and saws long, held notes. It fills the space between the many pointillist dots. At first the cello is halting, cautious, and then it gains melodic complexity. This isn’t a whisper-to-a-scream composition, however. Pauses come at appropriate increments, and the percussion fades back and forth between modes in a manner that suggests time shifts and tectonic adjustments. There have been times when I’ve let the nearly seven minutes of “Stray Sods” play on repeat for hours, and I recommend doing so.
The track “FMMMOPm” by sunhil runs for under two minutes. The transformation processes within it unfold in a manner that works well on repeat. The piece brings to mind aspects of the recent Autechre album, elseq — there’s a short riff that replays itself over and over, each turn tweaked this way and that by various effects, and the shifting of effects doesn’t directly parallel the ebb and flow of the loop.
The emphasis is on a rich, compact squelch, and on a distortion field that never fully encompasses the source material. Interference and static, sonic moirés and signal chiaroscuro are all in effect at various moments, but under the full, strong control of sunhil (aka Jeffrey Paul Shell of Salt Lake City, Utah). The piece flirts with entropy but never succumbs completely.
Presumably this short Instagram video, captioned “Saturday FM” on instagram.com and at his Twitter account, is from the sessions that yielded this track:
The video shows the screen of a Teenage Engineering OP-1, whose FM synthesis is half of the toolset in the brief liner note accompanying the track:”FM operations between OP-1 and Monomachine. OP-1 FM synth being sequenced and processed by Monomachine, accompanied by a pair of MM’s FM-PAR machines.”
Like his earlier reworking of Tony Robbins self-help tapes, Amulets’ New World Translation repurposes a piece of spoken word audio on cassette and transforms it into something that fits into the contemporary world of experimental cassette music — not just music released on cassette, but music in which the cassette is the instrument.
This recording is a 10-second tone set on loop, playing (per his youtube.com video) on a four-track recorder. The loop is a snatch of symphonic white noise, an orchestral drone, like a string section in a deep cistern holding a note until, collectively, they mark the loop’s repeat with a momentary swell.
When Brian Eno wrote that “repetition is a form of change,” part of what he was getting at is how the ear hears new things when subjected to the same sound over and over. In the hands of Amulets’, that change is more practical, but no less evocative. As he write in a note accompanying the video: “the endless tape loop flutters, fluctuates, and slowly degrades over time.”
Video originally posted at Amulets’ youtube.com channel. It’s available for purchase as physical cassette and download at amulets.bandcamp.com. The flipside of each cassette is the unmolested original audio from a series of Jehovah’s Witness Bible tapes. The length of the A-side depends on the length of the individual tape, ranging from 30 to 45 minutes. More from Amulets at amuletsmusic.com. Amulets is Randall Taylor of Austin, Texas.
This is a live set by Dakitanmonkey, aka Tintao, on three machines from the same manufacturer, Elektron. What starts as a sweeping array of low-level textures slowly gains rhythmic activity. (It’s the latest piece I’ve added to my ongoing YouTube playlist of fine “Ambient Performances.”) A place-marker ping is joined by a cycle of sharp static that comes and goes — and, as the half point nears, a steady, downtempo beat kicks in. That beat is enshrouded enough in the thick ambient tones to be perceived as an underlying current rather than a backbeat. Its role is more about taking the pulse of the drone than it is about emphasizing a strict tempo.
Dakitanmonkey describes what he’s up with his three tools (from left to right the Analog Four, the Octatrack, and the Monomachine) to in a brief accompanying note: “Ambient track with deep strings and basses from the Monomachine. Analog four produce only the piano, and the reverb effects for the MnM. Octatrack acts as a mixer, and radical sound change on fader.”
• October 13, 2016: This day marks the start of the 250th weekly Disquiet Junto project.
• November 16, 2016: I'll be sharing the mic at Adobe Books in San Francisco with my fellow 33 1/3 author Evie Nagy for an evening hosted, from 7pm to 10pm, by Marc Kate (facebook.com).
• December 1, 2016: A likely speaking engagement. Details to come.
• December 13, 2016: This day marks the 20th anniversary of Disquiet.com.
• January 5, 2017: This day marks the 5th anniversary of the Disquiet Junto.
• 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: disquiet.com/junto.
• 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.