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
• February 5, 2020: The first session of the 15-week course I teach at the Academy of Art about the role of sound in the media landscape.
• April 15, 2020: A chapter on the Disquiet Junto ("The Disquiet Junto as an Online Community of Practice," by Ethan Hein) appears in the forthcoming 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.)
• December 13, 2020: This day marks the 24th anniversary of Disquiet.com.
• January 7, 2021: This day marks the 9th 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.
• At least two live group concerts by Disquiet Junto members in the San Francisco Bay Area are in the works for 2020.
• I have liner notes for a musician's solo album and an essay in a book about an art event due out. I'll announce as the release dates come into focus.
• 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.
• 0465 / You Thank / The Assignment: Make a piece of music for someone or something for which you feel thankful.
• 0464 / Blanket Song / The Assignment: Play over a song, and then remove the original.
• 0463 / Making the Gradient / The Assignment: Make a piece of music inspired by the concept of a gradient.
• 0462 / Vade in Pace / The Assignment: Write a short piece of music that gets slower and slower as it proceeds.
• 0461 / Goldilocks Zone / The Assignment: Navigate a sonic space between the hospitable and the inhospitable.
And there is a complete list of past projects, 465 consecutive weeks to date.
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