Extended Murk-tronic MP3

Like a lot of abstract, ambient-leaning electronic music, Maikko‘s new release on the netlabel Statisfield, titled Kneedeep, defies the ear’s sense of scale. It could be a close-up audio recording of bionic buglife, or the seeping hum of some giant, slow-moving machine. Either way, though, it’s rich in detail — perhaps the microscopic workings of something smaller than your earlobe, or maybe the semi-organic sinew of something significantly larger than your apartment building. Confusingly, Kneedeep consists of a single track with a split title, “Wasteland / Flowers on Their Graves,” but at almost 20 minutes in length, it also has enough distinct stages, or movements, to deserve at least twice as many names. Note that all three given titles suggest organic murk. It’s a through-composed journey the length of a sitcom, minus the commercials. There are moments of what sound like heavily vocoded speech, computer babble filtered through layers of feedback and transformative algorithms. What suggests spoken words is, specifically, how arrhythmic yet fluid that material is, like it has its own internal, if amelodic, logic; listen around the five-minute mark, and above the pulsing wave there’s a fuzz box that sounds like a Cylon Raider on a bender. By the 15-minute mark, the piece has an understated groove; it’s amazing how the odd offbeat can make the most mechanical of sounds seem to swing. Check the album out here, the MP3 file here. Maikko is a cofounder of the Italian collective Otolab (more info at otolab.net, and check out the Otolab music archive here). More on Stasisfield at stasisfield.com.

Penultimate Musork MP3

In a post titled “The End Is Near,” Kit Clayton and Sue Costabile, founders of the Musork record label, announced on its website that they’ll be closing the organization down in early 2005. Since 2000, the duo’s label has released fine original recordings and remixes by the likes of Blectum from Blechdom, Stephan Mathieu, Ekkehard Ehlers, Kid606 and many others. Musork’s 18th and most recent set, Westernization Completed by AGF, earned an Award of Distinction this year, along with Janek Schaefer’s Skate, in Ars Electronica’s Digital Music category (Thomas K?ner, of minimal-techno greats Porter Ricks, took the top prize, the Golden Nicas). Today’s Downstream entry is a track from that award-winning AGF album, “Private Birds” (album page here, MP3 here), which features the voice of Antye Greie (aka AGF) intoning fragments of poetry, the fragments gaining an almost funky quality the way they’re interspersed with, and joined by — and set up against — snippets of delicate electronica, and how her words are sometimes tweaked and echoed with light digital processing. More on Greie/AGF at poemproducer.com. More on Musork at musork.com. (Clayton and Costabile mention on the Musork site that there will be one more release, due out in spring 2005: “something new made out of things old … mostly out of past Musork releases.”)

Guitronic Trio MP3

Still more guitronica this week, broad and fairly meaningless as the term may be. The trio named Mire is an improvising group with atmospheric intent, based in the San Francisco Bay area. Its members, Elise Baldwin, William Fowler Collins and Joel Pickard, have between them background in such varied realms as academic composition, sound design, field recording, commercial work-for-hire, classical guitar and theater, and all three are graduates of or students at the music program at Mills College in Oakland, whose current faculty includes such luminaries as Chris Brown, Alvin Curran, Fred Frith and Pauline Oliveros. Given Frith’s prominence as a bleeding-edge guitarist, it’s probably too easy to infer his influence on Mire, especially since two thirds of the group doubles on guitar (Collins on electric, Pickard on pedal steel — all three are credited with electronics and/or laptop), but the association certainly wouldn’t set unfair expectations on the listener’s part. Collins has posted on his website, wfowlercollins.ath.cx, a nearly 12-minute-long piece from a Mire performance recorded back in early August at the Black Box Theatre in Oakland. And the guitar is the core of the work, even if its ranges widely, from rural finger picking with the feel of the Boxhead Ensemble or Bill Frisell at his most blissfully absentminded, to industrial noise amid the squeal of machinery, to the sort of untraditionally plucked (or, perhaps, bowed) segments that bring to mind prepared piano as well as, of course, Frith’s own six-string experiments in that area. This live track, highly recommended, is less a song than it is an excursion across territories. True to the group’s name, Mire has little interest in getting anywhere in particular; the threesome is happily caught up in the view. (Pickard, by the way, composed the catchy genre snippets that accompany advertisements for the Showtime TV series Dead Like Me and those clips, along with a batch audiostreams, are on his site, hatfarm.com.)

PS: Update: Only Pickard is playing guitar on that Mire recording. Collins is manipulating some of his own recordings on his laptop, using SuperCollider2. And the link to Collins’ site was broken, but now it works.

Ambient Haze MP3s

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.

Free Amon Tobin MP3

Free online downloads from major labels and long-running independent labels have decreased in regularity as pay-per-song services have gone mainstream, notably with Apple’s iTunes Music Store. Was a time, you could regularly surf through the sites of maverick electronic labels like Ninja Tune and Warp and find full-length songs, for free, as promotional items. Warp launched its own download service earlier this year, Bleep.com, and since then a number of labels have signed on to use Bleep as the main commercial conduit for their MP3s, including not only Ninja Tune but One Little Indian, Schematic, Mego, Def Jux and others. And while many of these labels still offer the occasional free downloads as well, the site of Ninja Tune, for one example, rarely if ever these days posts MP3s on its Downloads page, and when it does, they hang around for a long time. Right now, the Ninja Downloads page has tons of wallpapers and screensavers, and just one little MP3, but it’s a good one: the first track (“Intro”) off Amon Tobin‘s first full-length release as a DJ: Solid Steel Presents Amon Tobin: Recorded Live, which came out this past July. It’s one of a handful of tracks he composed for the compilation, a set from an Australian gig that also includes material by AFX, Dizzee Rascal and the Velvet Underground (“Venus in Furs,” in case you’re wondering). Tobin’s track is a hard, dense chunk of techno, less rhythmically resplendent than his best work, but still worthwhile for in its sheer thoroughness. Check out the Ninja Tune Downloads page at ninjatune.net/downloads, and download the Tobin track directly here.