In Pine Effect
(Astralwerks) The least renowned of the major new British electronicists makes an incredibly fun and thoughtful album, packed with humorous and organic-sounding digital gurgles. It’s so at play with rhythmic possibilities that you’ll find yourself tapping your foot on a different down beat with each successive listen.
Arvo Part (ECM) One of the most beautiful recordings yet from this Estonian classical composer. Not electronic in any sense, but very much evocative of the ethos of the ECM record label (and its founder, Manfred Eicher), which espouses space, ambience and tonal patience. Fans of Part are endlessly fascinated by his ability to sound ancient and modern simultaneously, and this album exemplifies that unique quality. The title piece is for soloists, chorus and chamber orchestra. The rest of the album is heavy on strings — there’s a piece for string orchestra, and a piece for string orchestra joined by a string quartet.
68 Million Shades …
Spring Heel Jack
(Trade 2/Island U.K.) With its occasional tropical aura and the string-laden evocations of uptown frivolity, this album begs to be dismissed as party music when in fact it is an expertly produced, highly thoughtful, jazz-informed series of tunes by one of the most respected British electronic duos.
Heat (soundtrack) Various artists
(Warner Bros.) The music for a film directed by Michael Mann (Manhunter, Thief, TV’s Miami Vice) is as carefully selected as his casts (this little production featured Robert De Niro and Al Pacino facing off in a coffee shop) and as hyper-designed as his sets (he favors the romantic neon blue of modern film noirs). The score proper is by Elliot Goldenthal (Drugstore Cowboy, Interview with the Vampire, Alien3) and the compositions and licensed tracks include ambient contributions from Kronos Quartet, Moby, Michael Brook, Brian Eno, Lisa Gerrard, Einsturzende Neubauten and others.
(Mo Wax/FFRR) The title is meant ironically, since Shadow has been producing moody instrumental music since the early ’90s, but this album brought him a newfound audience for his blunted beats, with their echoes of surveillance technology, AM radio and old-school hip-hop.
Offbeat: A Red Hot Soundtrip
(WaxTrax!/TVT, 1996) Skylab, DJ Krush, Meat Beat Manifesto and others unite for AIDS-charity collection. Focus is on remarkable team-ups: Vocalists Mark Eitzel, David Byrne and (poet) Amiri Baraka meet, respectively, My Bloody Valentine, Tomandandy and DJ Spooky. Also, jazz traditionalists Christian McBride (bass) and Joey DeFrancesco (organ) meet DJ Krazy.
Feed Me Weird Things
(Warp) The British electronicist makes his full-length debut after a period of 12″ releases. A dozen tracks of errant drum’n’bass for folks who find Aphex Twin too airy and Photek too arid.
USSR Repertoire (The Theory of Verticality)
(Ninja Tune) An album that might give trip-hop a good name, with its porous layers of noise and rhythms, its loving echoes of hip-hop and an extended play time (over two-dozen tracks in all) that invites use as mood-inducing background.
The Magnificent Void
(Hearts of Space) One of the prolific American ambient master’s most elusive recordings — still, subdued, haunting.
Source Lab 2
(Source/Gyroscope, 1996) Little is readily available stateside from the French label Source; so this compilation is a rare taste of the trip-hop descendants of composer Erik Satie and chanteur Serge Gainsbourg, most notably Dimitri From Paris and Extra Lucid.
Note: Disquiet.com was launched in the fall of 1996, but updates to the site were only indexed as of May 30, 1999; thus, some of these earlier publication dates are approximations. Prior to 1996, versions of what eventually became Disquiet.com were housed on websites at Netcom.com and, before that, Calweb.com.
Marc Weidenbaum founded the website Disquiet.com in 1996 at the intersection of sound, art, and technology, and since 2012 has moderated the Disquiet Junto, an active online community of weekly music/sonic projects. He has written for Nature, Boing Boing, The Wire, Pitchfork, and NewMusicBox, among other periodicals. He is the author of the 33 1⁄3 book on Aphex Twin’s classic album Selected Ambient Works Volume II. Read more about his sonic consultancy, teaching, sound art, and work in film, comics, and other media
• December 13, 2021: This day marks the 25th anniversary of the founding of Disquiet.com.
• December 28, 2021: This day marks the 10th anniversary of the Instagr/am/bient compilation.
• January 6, 2021: This day marks the 10th anniversary of the start of the Disquiet Junto music community.
• July 28, 2021: This day marked the 500th consecutive weekly project in the Disquiet Junto music community.
• There are entries on the Disquiet Junto in the book The Music Production Cookbook: Ready-made Recipes for the Classroom (Oxford University Press), edited by Adam Patrick Bell. Ethan Hein wrote one, and I did, too.
• A chapter on the Disquiet Junto ("The Disquiet Junto as an Online Community of Practice," by Ethan Hein) appears in the book The Oxford Handbook of Social Media and Music Learning (Oxford University Press), edited by Stephanie Horsley, Janice Waldron, and Kari Veblen. (Details at oup.com.)
• 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, was published as part of the 33 1/3 series, an imprint of Bloomsbury. It has been translated into Japanese (2019) and Spanish (2018).
Since January 2012, the Disquiet Junto has been an ongoing weekly collaborative music-making community that employs creative constraints as a springboard for creativity. Subscribe to the announcement list (each Thursday), listen to tracks by participants from around the world, read the FAQ, and join in.
• 0511 / Freeze Tag / The Assignment: Consider freezing (and thawing) as a metaphor for music production.
• 0510 / Cold Turkey / The Assignment: Record one last track with a piece of music equipment before passing it on.
• 0509 / The Long Detail / The Assignment: Create a piece of music with moments from a preexisting track.
• 0508 / Germane Shepard / The Assignment: Use the Shepard tone to create a piece of music.
• 0507 / In DD's Key of C / The Assignment: Make music with 10 acoustic instrument samples all in a shared key.
And there is a complete list of past projects, 511 consecutive weeks to date.