Orbital‘s The Middle of Nowhere (London/ffrr) opens like nothing other than some forgotten, early-’80s Philip Glass opera: a mid-tempo orchestral panorama of controlled bombast below a soaring synthesizer accent. A full minute passes before a functional drum beat arrives, signaling that the rave circus has, indeed, come to town. What follows is such an idiosyncratic mix of sounds (a caged diva, swaths of exotica, a multitude of what can only be described as sci-fi effects) that the listener will have difficulty keeping track without a checklist. The hour-long, eight-track record continues in that fashion. Orbital’s Paul Hartnolls has commented on the barrage, saying, “It’d be bloody difficult to play at a cocktail party.” Best to just settle back and observe the passing throng, or join in. This is techno at its most flamboyant and worldly. Even private moments, like the delicate fissures of static that comprise the prelude to “Know Where to Run,” eventually transform into party anthems. Only a standard issue vocal track, “Nothing Left Part 2,” truly disappoints.
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
• July 28, 2021: This day marks the start of the 500th consecutive weekly project in the Disquiet Junto music community.
• December 13, 2021: This day marks the 25th anniversary of the founding of Disquiet.com.
• January 6, 2021: This day marks the 10th anniversary of the start of the Disquiet Junto music community.
• There are entries on the Disquiet Junto in the forthcoming 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).
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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.
• 0489 / The Prestige / The Assignment: Apply some magic to ABA form.
• 0488 / Reverse Delay / The Assignment: Do something you've been putting off.
• 0487 / Carillon Quotidian / The Assignment: Turn a recurring sound from your life into music.
• 0486 / Earths Days / The Assignment: Celebrate Earth Day on or for another planet.
• 0485 / Strange Weather / The Assignment: Remix the pure sounds of Chris Kallmyer's traveling wind chimes to your own musical purposes.
And there is a complete list of past projects, 489 consecutive weeks to date.
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