New Disquietude podcast episode: music by Lesley Flanigan, Dave Seidel, KMRU, Celia Hollander, and John Hooper; interview with Flanigan; commentary; short essay on reading waveforms. • Disquiet.com F.A.Q.Key Tags: #saw2for33third, #field-recording, #classical, #juntoElsewhere: Twitter, SoundCloud, Instagram

Listening to art. Playing with audio. Sounding out technology. Composing in code. Rewinding the soundscape.

Silicom Chips

By Marc Weidenbaum

Many observers of electronic music have come to categorize their albums by record company, but the small Progressive Form label doesn’t lend itself to categorization. The company, based in Tokyo, Japan, has overtly artful and hyper-attentive sound constructions to its credit, as well as stylish urban nightlife soundtracks with steady tempos and commercial potential, and it has produced a growing collection of DVDs that de-emphasize narrative in favor of exploring the intersection of sight and sound.

Like some stark, minimalist play on a Pink Floyd alarm clock, Yoshihiro Hanno’s 9 Modules opens with a wake-up call, the sort of stuck ring that cancels out even the most blissful dreams. The highly recommended album’s ten tracks are indeed modular, each one implementing minor adjustments on a singular sound. On “[s.e.q.]” it’s a glitchy beat loop that is augmented as the track’s six minutes unfold — a snippet repeated here, a tone added momentarily there. “[6]” applies a similar technique to a long tone, which is stretched to varying lengths, sometimes truncated, and repeatedly inflicted with segments of jerky percussion. Beyond the beauty of the album’s scratchy rhythmic textures and its more rounded tonal elements is how the bare pieces achieve a song-like structure. The mind hears “verse chorus verse,” even if the ear hears static and hum.

Aoki Takamasa’s Silicom was the first full-length album from Tokyo’s Progressive Form label: 11 tracks of beeps stumbling their way home after a long night of … well, whatever it is that beeps do after hours. The next day’s headaches are already evident in hushed background noise and, on the album’s first track (“std”), a chugging groove. Takamasa here sounds like Oval (whose work he has remixed) being performed on more populist instrumentation. The tell-tale glitch elements are evident — the bifurcated percussion, the schismatic melodic tangents, the bristling energy — but they’re heard as if played by hand, rather than the result of computer algorithms. The bass on “jung 25” has the plodding bulge of a Hollywood score’s attempt at ersatz instrumental pop music, and the soft opening chords of “nuron” and “exp. 2” have the lilt of actual keyboards hit by actual fingers. One track, “ham,” recorded with Terazono Kohei, surprises with an unaffected minimal-house beat.

When a computer voice attributed to the Earth speaks at the start of the second track on Takamasa’s Silicom 2, the listener’s expectations could not be more greatly lowered. The subsequent song’s fuzz and muted melody illustrate the voice’s dire message — that the planet is dying — but it’s a funeral one would not be criticized for bypassing. More moody and cinematic than Takamasa’s first Silicom set, this album should be credited for seeking a more individual voice, one somewhat less concerned with glitch’s manner of structuring sound, but the result is a peculiar hodge-podge: on “mry,” a squelching array of fractured snips atop some rote minimalism; on “pimo,” tentative note sequences against a grating industrial drone. There’s much to recommend individual elements of Silicom 2, but it’s unfortunate that Takamasa here didn’t have some of his labelmate Yoshihiro Hanno’s interest in exploring one thing in depth before moving on to, or layering, the next. (The Progressive Form label’s first two DVD releases were collaborations, under the name Silicom, between Takamasa and video artist Masakazu Takagi.)

Voices and other real-world sounds haunt Takamasa’s Indigo Rose, a rangy collection of static-laced hazes and futzed-with beats that shows much improvement since his Silicom 2. Skirting the avant-garde with its pop sensibility, the album manages to keep the pop world at arm’s length with its serrated sonics and arrhythmic tendencies. Human words, spoken and sung, rise occasionally, though they don’t always offer comfort from the digital proceedings. On “Dear People,” English is computerized into something baritone and emotionally neutral (think Laurie Anderson as a telemarketer). The track “Hope” is a masterful attempt at phonography; it’s bell tones initially complement a field recording of footsteps, which become a steady, mechanized beat, and as the piece comes into focus, children’s voices echo like those of ghosts. On “Pipe Tale – Indigo Rose,” Noriko Tujiko (on lone from the Mego label) arrives, a nasal angel in the ether.

The label’s sole various-artists compilation, Forma 1.02, released in August 2002, is due for a follow-up, one that represents some of its more recent signees, such as Nao Tokui and Ryoichi Kurokawa. [Note: Since this label profile was written, Progressive Form has released Form 2.03, whose ten tracks include work by Katsutoshi Yoshihara, Serguei Iwanikov and others.] However, the 1.02 set still has much to offer, both as an introduction to the Progressive Form roster, and to new acts yet to be heard widely. Label regulars present on the collection include Yoshihiro Hanno (“[s.e.q.]” from 9 Modules) and Aoki Takamasa (“Dear People” from Indigo Rose). Some of the songs are more club-friendly than adventurous, though 30506’s “VVV” strikes an interesting balance: it moves from an extended trance-like opening to lounge dance music, but as the piece comes to a close it disintegrates audibly in a manner that complements Hanno’s experimentation.

Progressive Form’s third and most recent DVD release is Ryoichi Kurokawa’s Copynature, which complements his CD release of that name. The visuals are expert displays of digital editing: cobblestone streets are riddled with earthquake-like fissures, abstract geometric shapes morph as if through some incredibly hi-resolution visualization plug-in. The label’s dozen-plus (as of this writing) 12″s are mostly drawn from its full-length CDs.

This article appeared, in slightly different form, in the autumn 2003 issue of e|i magazine.

/ Leave a comment ]

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

*
*

Subscribe without commenting

  • about

  • 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

  • Field Notes

    News, essays, surveillance

  • Interviews

    Conversations with musicians/artists/coders

  • Studio Journal

    Video, audio, patch notes

  • Projects

    Select collaborations and commissions

  • Subscribe



  • Current Activities

  • Upcoming
    December 13, 2021: This day marks the 25th anniversary of the founding of Disquiet.com.
    December 28, 2021: This day marks the 10th anniversary of the Instagr/am/bient compilation.
    January 6, 2021: This day marks the 10th anniversary of the start of the Disquiet Junto music community.

  • Recent
    July 28, 2021: This day marked the 500th consecutive weekly project in 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.)

  • Ongoing
    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).

  • disquiet junto

  • Background
    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.

    Recent Projects

  • 0511 / Freeze Tag / The Assignment: Consider freezing (and thawing) as a metaphor for music production.
    0510 / Cold Turkey / The Assignment: Record one last track with a piece of music equipment before passing it on.
    0509 / The Long Detail / The Assignment: Create a piece of music with moments from a preexisting track.
    0508 / Germane Shepard / The Assignment: Use the Shepard tone to create a piece of music.
    0507 / In DD's Key of C / The Assignment: Make music with 10 acoustic instrument samples all in a shared key.

    Full Index
    And there is a complete list of past projects, 511 consecutive weeks to date.

  • Archives

    By month and by topic

  • [email protected]

    [email protected]

  • Downstream

    Recommended listening each weekday

  • Recent Posts