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Five Live MP3s

San Francisco-based musician Christopher Willits made a September 2003 tour that took him two four East Coast venues, one each in Baltimore, Boston, Brooklyn and Manhattan. He has posted on his website (christopherwillits.com) brief clips from each of the concerts, ranging in length from between a minute and a half to just under a minute (two clips from Baltimore, one each from the other dates). Despite their relative brevity, the individual tracks made for fine listening, in part simply because Willits has a talent for low-key lush that immediately insinuates the audience in a hushed zone, in part because each track has a singular sound, and in part because the five complement each other well enough to make for a nearly six-minute playlist, especially if your MP3 player has a handy feature to allow the clips to overlap slightly.

The tracks include two bits of lightly churning, pointillist finger picking that falls somewhere between Robert Fripp’s intricate, technologically enhanced fretwork and John Fahey’s bare bones proto-Americana. The Baltimore application of this technique is slightly less rich than the Brooklyn one, which has a more evident layering of additional tonal sounds. Two other of the tracks are more abstract, both built from pulsing segments of either guitar (the second Baltimore entry) or voice (the Manhattan one).

The Boston piece is the least discernable of the batch, perhaps inspired by the impressive list of folks with whom he shared the bill: Sunburned Hand of a Man, Jackie-O Motherfucker, Hrvatski and Due Process. It consists of a minute straight of background sound, like the evening chirping of insects, leavened with occasional swells of guitar.

All five of these live clips are available for free download from Willits’ “audio” page (here), along with material from his two 12K Records releases (the 2003 various artists compilation E?A?D?G?B?E, and his 2002 solo full length, Folding, and the Tea) and from his 2001 Fallt Records release, Pollen.

By Marc Weidenbaum

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  • 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

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