Back this past summer, in early August, the One netlabel posted an 11-track set by its founder, Aaron McCammon, who records under the name Plosive. The record, titled Neutral, didn’t make the best initial impression, built, as it is, from much material that could easily be seen as part of the ongoing resurgence of the sounds of 1980s new-wave pop music (a keyboard-driven genre, by the way, whose impact on electronic music can be all too easily overstated — for example, the Cure, as writer-musician Joe Gore has pointed out, was at times no less a guitar band than the Allman Brothers). Just listen to the bass line toward the start of McCammon’s “Pavlovian Fear” and the touchtone groove of his “Dirty Button” and you’ll risk unwelcome flashbacks. But something about this set kept it on back-burner, mid-list rotation for months. Perhaps it was just wishful thinking at first, as McCammon’s Casio-driven APM was a Disquiet Downstream favorite back in April (check it out here). As it turns out, several of Neutral‘s tracks don’t just grow on you, they grow as they proceed. That same “Pavlovian Fear” appears to get thicker and darker as time passes. Likewise “Loomer,” which opens with dismissible synth tones; by the time it reaches its peak, each element (the slurry background, the whipped around and flappy rhythm) has developed its own quirky complexities. The same can’t be said for the whole album. “New Kitten” is an easy romantic melody, and “The Night Supervisor” sounds like a music-school homework assignment to write an Aphex Twin track (though in that respect it’s no slouch, and deserves at least a B+). Yet just as those tracks begin to lower expectations, “Acorn” shows up, with a lovely, understated melody and a truly catchy beat, the whole thing tweaked with bits of rave-like squeaks, which grow ever so slightly in purpose as the song’s nearly four minutes come to a close. From little things, big things grow. Check Plosive’s Neutral out at the One label (site here, album page here). More on Plosive at plosive.net.
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
• July 28, 2021: This day marks the start of the 500th consecutive weekly project in the Disquiet Junto music community.
• December 13, 2021: This day marks the 25th anniversary of the founding of Disquiet.com.
• January 6, 2021: This day marks the 10th 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.
• 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.)
• 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.
• 0484 / A Movable Heart / The Assignment: Transplant the sounds of Chris Kallmyer's wind chimes to a new location.
• 0483 / Type Set / The Assignment: Use a recording of yourself typing something as the underlying rhythmic track for a piece of music.
• 0482 / Exactly That Gap / The Assignment: Make a musical haiku following instructions from Marcus Fischer.
• 0481 / Capsule Time / The Assignment: Record a time capsule for yourself in the future.
• 0480 / Ongsay Aftcray / The Assignment: Record a piece of music by employing Pig Latin as a technique.
And there is a complete list of past projects, 484 consecutive weeks to date.
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