Tangents (steam, cassettes, Eno)

Quick Links: (1) Charles Babbage would be proud. Check out the video documentation of a symphonic performance in Brighton, U.K., last month that involved a 16-ton steam engine and several laptop computers (link). The composer, Stuart Smith, shares details in this post. (Via createdigitalmusic.com.) … (2) Via the Music Thing blog (link), DJ Aptem (or DJ Artyom, via boingboing.net) is a Russian gearhead who built his own cassette-based DJ system. The sound of the variable-speed tape (“curvature,” as Artyom puts it) is a pleasing corollary to the skipping CD and scratched LP. There’s a 12-track mix on his site (link). … (3) Ironically, Aptem/Artyom’s lo-tech achievement circulated widely the same week that the BBC reported (link) on the diminishing sales of cassette tapes. (Via engadget.com, which mentions that U.K. cassette sales have dropped to 900 thousand, from 83 million in 1989, but neglects to note that the same BBC article says that combined sales in Turkey and India equal almost 170 million.) … (4) Check out the wooden porch swing that doubles as a xylophone, at musicalfurnishings.com (via i4u.com). … (5) Now, that’s slow. We’re 1/200th of the way through Jem Finer‘s 1,000-year-long music project, Longplayer (via Andrew Jaffe‘s Leaves on the Line blog). If you’re near London Bridge, you can participate in a related “slow walk” this coming Tuesday, June 31 (slowwalk.org). And, yes, that’s the same Jem Finer who used to be in the Pogues; heck, wasn’t Norman “Fatboy Slim” Cook in the Housemartins before he went big beat? … (6) Soundtrack.net interviews video-game composer Jesper Kyd (who wrote the in-game portions of Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory that Amon Tobin didn’t write) on the transition to working in film and television. … (7) Thanks to makezine.com, learn to record the sighs (and more) emitted by your Tamagotchi. … (8) And if you’re in Long Beach, Calif., on June 25 or 26, there’s an innovative SoundWalk event being held there. More info at soundwalk.org (no relation to slowwalk.org, presumably). … New Releases: New releases this week include (1) Nice Nice‘s EP Yesss!, which features remixes by dj/Rupture, Caural and Stars as Eyes (Audraglint), and (2) the DVD of The Jacket, with a score by Brian Eno. … More new-release info at brainwashed.com/releases and videoeta.com. … Disquiet Heavy Rotation: (1) A new 12″ off the State of the Arts (Decon) album from rapper Afu-ra (not to be confused with Japanese human-beatboxer Afra) includes two instrumentals: the excellent, DJ Premier-produced “Sucka Free,” which lays a Hitchcockian bug buzz under a thick lope of electric bass, and little sirens that suggest early Public Enemy and a goof on techno, plus the PF Cuttin-produced “Poisonous Taoist,” which is a bit of lightly reworked afrobeat. Info at afu-ra.com. … (2) Prefuse 73‘s Surrounded by Silence (Warp), released a few months ago, was uneven, its various vocalists (Aesop Rock, Ghostface, Kazu) not necessarily complementing each other. There are great tracks on it, in particular the loungey gadgetry of “Pastel Assassins,” the chaotic pieces recorded with Tyondai Braxton (“TV Versus Detchibe,” “Mantra”) and by far the album’s standout: the mashed up hillbilly funk of “Pagina Dos,” featuring the Books. Speaking of which, “Pagina Dos” and seven other tracks make up the superb new Prefuse 73 Reads the Books release (also on Warp), which is packed with his digital futzing with the group’s folksy raw goods. … (3) The trio of recent William Basinksi reissues (all unnecessarily barren in their packaging) are alike only in that their fluid ambience, like still waters, disguises its density and energy with grace. There are sample audiostreams at aquariusrecords.org: two from Melancholia (one, two), on which string instruments echo the work of Gavin Bryars, and one each from Water Music I and Water Music II. … Good Reads: (1) Composer and critic Kyle Gann reviews a CD on his PostClassic blog (link), which wouldn’t be news, except that the CD is his own, Long Night (Cold Blue), which he says borrows from Morton Feldman, Harold Budd, Terry Riley and Brian Eno (“this too is another Eno-esque touch: the isolated melodic figure as self-evident sonic icon, which Gann attempts to integrate into a structure more ambitious than Eno’s ambient vignettes”). … (2) From telegraph.co.uk, an overview of sound art (June 15). … Quote(s) of the Week: A new Brian Eno album (Another Day on Earth, out last week) means new Brian Eno interviews, conversation being one of his many art forms: (1) “lyrics are the only thing to do with music that haven’t been made easier technically” (telegraph.co.uk, June 16); (2) “I started to notice that you could buy keyboards of such complexity that you basically press one note on them and you’ve got a career as an ambient artist. I thought, there doesn’t seem much challenge in that any longer” (guardian.co.uk, June 7); (3) “I’ve spent a long time doing instrumental music but as the technology has got more advanced, it has become less and less interesting to me” (news.scotsman.com, June 5). Perhaps he should hang out with that cassette-tape DJ, Aptem/Artyom, next time he’s in Russia.

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