There is a moment on NO/1, the solo debut album by Sofus Forsberg on the Denmark-based Jenka Music label, as fine as anything released this year. Well into track three, which is titled “Autotune Track,” a little buzz shuffles its way from background into the foreground. Up until that moment the track has consisted of squiggly noises and playful beats, very much like something Aphex Twin might put his name on. That little buzz is just static, additional texture, noise. It may raise the tension a little, but it’s not so much in tune or out of tune as it is apart from the tune, like something passing by, like a fleck of dust in the eye. As soon as your ear accepts it as such, though, that noise turns into a melody very much like the melody with which the tune opened; that strange little noise warps into a strange little riff, bringing to mind nothing so much as the magical anthropomorphizing utensils in Walt Disney animated films. NO/1 is rich with such detail. There’s the deep hum on “So Alone” that can feel like a scalp massage if you’re listening on a proper pair of headphones. There’s the bouncy stereoscopic play at the start of “Venice Beach,” in which reverberating tones bound from left ear to right in a delightful syncopation. Forsberg has produced 11 fine tracks, which share an attention to memorable moments but otherwise vary widely, from heavy percussive polyrhythm to spacious drone to quiet song. When he uses acoustic instruments, like the piano at the end of “Convertible Love” or what sounds like guitar at the start of “Det Ser Vi Pa,” the sounds are lightly treated — clipped or looped — in a way that blends them perfectly into his electro-acoustic palette. He recorded most of the music himself, but there are a few guests — there’s the occasional vocal by Henriette Sennenvaldt, who has Bjork’s majestic remoteness, and there’s the occasional saxophone part by Niels Bottcher, the rare untreated analog instrument in this sea of digital sounds, and just about the only thing to suggest the record was recorded on Earth.
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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