From Leonard Bernstein to GangStarr’s DJ Premiere, New York musicians have struggled to translate the sounds of their beloved metropolis into song. Christopher Janney has reversed that formula with his public sound installation, currently on display at the NR subway platform at 34th Street in Manhattan. Titled Reach — New York, Janney’s work consists of a series of photo-electric cells which trigger a variety of sound cycles — raising pitches, bursts of digital bird song, touches of marimba and flute. The cells are situated a foot or so above average height, so you have to raise a hand or umbrella to set off the tones. Also, trains entering the station at 34th Street trigger a cell of their own. Ever the techie, Janney has a web site you can check out if you aren’t due for a trip to New York soon, or if you prefer cabs: janney.com.
Originally published in epulse 2.28, dated August 27, 1996
Despite an initial splash with Brian Eno’s Neroli album, Gyroscope Records, a spin-off — excuse the pun — of Caroline Records and Distribution, hasn’t quite pulled the ambient weight of Astralwerks, its Caroline sibling and home to Chemical Brothers and Photek. Gyroscope began as an American version of the British label All Saints, home to Roger Eno, Kate St. John, Bill Nelson and Laraaji, who also record together as the extraordinarily bland Channel Light Vessel. Collaboration has proven to be a theme in the Gyroscope catalog, from two promising but utterly unmemorable pairings (Andy Partridge and Harold Budd; Jah Wobble and Brian Eno); to its release in the U.S. of No Protection, Mad Professor’s critically lauded dub remix of Massive Attack’s ‘Protection’ album; to its distribution of the Sky label. Sky is home to the work of Dieter Moebius, Hans-Joachim Roedelius, Kondrad Plank and Brian Eno, whose variety of teamings in the ’70s and early ’80s (the best-known being Cluster, consisting of Moebius and Roedelius) made them something akin to the Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young of electronic music. Gyroscope has now licensed another label, called Source, from France. The compilation Source Lab 2, released last month, collects a dozen examples of French bass-and-drums studio experimentalism. The stuff kicks. Highlights include contributions by Bang Bang (slo-mo eclecticism, from ethno dub to jazz horns), Zend Avesta (rasty jungle) and Dimitri From Paris (downbeat urban atmospheres). The exceptional quality throughout lends further credence to the suggestion that Satie is the true father of ambient-techno music.
Originally published on August 2, 1996, in epulse issue 2.26