The worlds of hip-hop and ambient overlap more often than they collide, which is why Subtle is so welcome. An instrumental quintet plus vocalist, Subtle might find its albums and singles filed under trip-hop, or downtempo, or illbient for that matter, as two free MP3s on the website of its label, Lex, display. “Eneby Kurs,” off the forthcoming A New White, features a distracted keyboard flutter, a rich bridge of nonsense syllables and layered effects, and a bass line so sleepy it seems like at any moment it may nod off entirely (warning: by the end the cut has built to a noisy wall of sound, though the whole thing is so utterly unassuming you’ll wonder when, exactly, someone raised the volume). And “F.K.O.,” a recent single reminiscent of De La Soul, is a feat of pop minimalism just glistening beneath rapper Doseone’s nasal, artfully muffled wordstream. If you dig the song, pick up the release for the extra tracks: an instrumental edit, plus remixes by B. Fleischmann and Console. Both cuts represent a kind of “third way” for hip-hop, neither the fiscally obsessed narcissism of what rules the pop charts with commanding if high-priced beats, nor the often all too earnest enlightenment of so-called “conscious” (as in “socially conscious”) rap, which generally downplays the music in favor of the lyrics. Download Subtle’s “Eneby Kurs” here and “F.K.O.” here, and visit lexrecords.com for more info (among the assorted tidbits, Subtle was tapped to remix a track from the forthcoming Beck album). Oh, one more warning: the tracks are free, yeah, but they’re compressed at the substandard rate of 56 kbps.
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.
• 0456 / Line Up / The Assignment: Interpret a painting by Agnes Martin as if it were a graphic score.
• 0455 / Inner Invertebrate / The Assignment: What does a moment (or a day) in the life of a jellyfish sound like to a jellyfish?
• 0454 / Lsoo Vneg / The Assignment: Encode the name of someone you love into a piece of music.
• 0453 / Dial Up / The Assignment: Imagine the technologically mediated First Contact through sound.
• 0452 / Let's Scream / The Assignment: Get cathartic. Be resilient. Turn your scream into music.
And there is a complete list of past projects, 456 consecutive weeks to date.
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