Of the small stack of releases by Crawl Unit that have slowly accumulated on the shelf over the past decade, Everyone Gets What They Deserve in particular is worth revisiting regularly. Crawl Unit is the pseudonym of Joe Colley, a self-motivated, drone-oriented musician who resides in Northern California. Everyone Gets What They Deserve, released on C.I.P. Records in 1999, contains six recordings, totaling nearly an hour of cautiously layered industrial noise. The album reverses the common pop format, from whisper to scream, and instead descends from the sort of distant hum that might keep you up at night, to the kind of slightly overheard resonances that would make you shutter, if you were certain you’d heard them in the first place. The depth of Colley’s sound can best be communicated by what is not heard — that is, by the contrast between listening to this album on a pair of Walkman-style “ear buds,” and letting it play out loud on a proper stereo. “Holy Static,” the album’s opening track, is a thick chant, like some mechanistic Tuvan throat singer on autopilot. The closing track, “Flicker (Elapsing State of Grace),” makes “Holy Static” sound pastoral by comparison; it maps a sequence of sonic irritants, from a bug-like buzz to a threatening slab of white-noise, with a momentous silence somewhere in between; voices emerge at a remote distance, and eventually the quietness is threatened to be overrun by the motor in your CD player. On common small headphones, these tracks might merely sound thin and trebly, like a nearby river, or perhaps an emergency broadcast signal on a neighbor’s television. Heard aloud, so to speak — that is, on speakers at a comfortable room volume — the effect is bodily, three-dimensional. The debate over the proliferation of MP3 files has been hijacked by mere commercial concerns. Of far greater significance, one might argue, is the increasingly prevalence of poor sound quality, in MP3 files as in everyday headphones. At a time when sound quality is being ignored in favor of convenience, Joe Colley makes sound art that commands attention to details.
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 29, 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 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.
• 0500 / Humming to Your Selves / The Assignment: Play a tune by yourself and as if by two people whom you invent.
• 0499 / Out of the Landscape / The Assignment: Record a piece of music in which a sound emerges from a field recording.
• 0498 / Sonic Entomologist / The Assignment: Create a new hybrid insect from the sound of two different insects.
• 0497 / Benjamin's Glass / The Assignment: Pay tribute to Benjamin Franklin and his armonica
• 0496 / Isolation Room / The Assignment: Create new music around one strand of something you made in the past.
And there is a complete list of past projects, 500 consecutive weeks to date.
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