What a beautiful thing, to hear a sample in its original state, to discover a source in its initial context. The subject of a recent Disquiet Downstream entry, Souns’ “Senseless in Space” (here), noted the inclusion of sound elements credited to one Anomalous Disturbances, which turns out to be the pseudonym of a Vancouver, BC-based ambient guitarist named Terry O’Brien. O’Brien has a handful of MP3 files up on his website, including the church-like “Sombunall,” off his HovR CD, and the purposefully more formless “The Spirit Molecule,” off his album of that name. O’Brien builds his richly atmospheric tracks from heavily (very heavily — there are none of the vestiges of familiar six-string sounds you might recognize in the work of, say, Keith Fullerton Whitman or Fennesz) processed guitar, a live-looping format he links back to Terry Riley, Robert Fripp and others. He also annotates his releases with detailed technological information, so if you want to know what bank of hardware helped produce the downright dreamy pulses of “Spirit Molecule,” with its slurry bits of vibrancy, you can easily ascertain that this involved “the Line6 DL4 looping delay stompbox, an E-Bow and various efx processors” and a long list of other equipment. The open book that is his studio is a gracious, if geeky, act, especially in this age of proprietary softsynth algorithms and pricey plug-ins, but it’s O’Brien, not his home studio, who deserves the credit for the murky depths of his work. Of particular note is his apparent penchant for recording straight to tape and then lightly performing some minor post-production edits, which lends his work its liveliness. O’Brien’s music, at least as represented by these two MP3s, benefits from his patience and his emphasis on slow-burn improvisation. More info, including the MP3s (under the Music tab), at anomalousdisturbances.com.
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
• 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.
• 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.)
• 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.
• 0507 / In DD’s Key of C / The Assignment: Make music with 10 acoustic instrument samples all in a shared key.
• 0506 / Wipe Out / The Assignment: Take something whole and erase half of it.
• 0505 / Line Out / The Assignment: Share a track, get feedback, and give feedback.
• 0504 / Transform Formula / The Assignment: Take a sound, change it, and contrast that with the original.
• 0503 / Sing Song / The Assignment: Record a song using only your voice transformed beyond recognition.
And there is a complete list of past projects, 507 consecutive weeks to date.
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