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Monthly Archives: April 2007

Procedural MP3s

Bruno Ribeiro creates short, narrative-like tracks from found sounds, B-movie atmospheres and vaguely mechanistic rhythms. The four songs that comprise his Edit, Transform, Renew, Create album on the MiMi netlabel (clubotaku.org/mimi) include shimmering noise set against glistening shards (“Na Passagem Das Horas,” MP3) and what seem like broadcast snippets forged into something sinister (“The Post-Orgasmic Sleep or the Dream of the Magenta and Blue Organic World,” MP3). The album’s title lays bare Ribeiro’s technique: taking existing sound and reworking it until something new is exposed, and that somehow the exposing suggests a story.

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Live Buddha MP3

The Buddha Machine has taken on a life of its own. It was created as a portable sound-art automaton, but far more music has resulted from the battery-operated Buddha than was anticipated by its creators, the duo FM3 (Christiaan Virant and Zhang Jian). The pocket-size device, which retails for around 25 dollars, contains a chip with nine short sonic loops. Those loops gain a certain lo-fi grit thanks to cheap plastic and a rudimentary, cyclopean speaker. Like the potato chip commercial used to say, one isn’t enough; there’s something about the machine that makes people want to buy two or more and play them simultaneously, enjoying the out-of-phase quality of the same loop playing on different Buddhas or pitting contrasting loops against each other. I was at the store Turntable Lab on Fairfax Avenue in Los Angeles yesterday, and the guy behind the counter told me people purchase as many as 10 Buddha Machines at a time.

Merely daisy-chaining the devices hasn’t been satisfactory for everyone. Last year at least two full-length albums of proper studio remixes paid tribute to the plastic Buddha, the compilation Jukebox Buddha (Staubgold) with tracks by, among others, Adrian Sherwood, Blixa Bargeld and Robert Henke (better known by the moniker Monolake), as well as Henke’s own Layering Buddha (icm). He’s followed that up with a lengthy free download at his website, monolake.de. (That link goes to the page where the MP3 file is currently located, not to the file itself. The MP3 is the latest in Henke/Monolake’s monthly free downloads.) The set was recorded live on January 31 of this year in Berlin as part of Club Transmediale festival. Where his Layering Buddha album was a series of investigations that riffed on the inherent qualities of the various Buddha loops, this live performance, clocking in at an hour and a quarter, brings in a wider array of more complicated, often abrasive textures.

Writes Henke of the set, “The material for this performance is derived from material I created for the Layering Buddha album. During the performance the audience is placed in between a ring of six speakers with the performer sitting in between them in the center. The layers of sound were dynamically distributed in space, providing an experience of being really placed in between the sonic cloud where the acoustic result depends on the position of the listener. The recording is only a poor protocol of something much bigger. However, it sounds surprisingly cool and this is why I decided to make it public. The track is more a documentation and a teaser for the real thing; the live performance. The recording has some clippings and other technical flaws but I like it anyway.”

In the end, Henke suggests listening to his Buddha recording as one might to the Buddha Machine itself: “If you have two or more computers running in the same room try playing back the track on all of them, starting them at different times.”

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True Open-Source MP3s

We discover music that’s new to us in various ways: a snippet heard in a movie, a fragment caught mid-broadcast on radio, an entry in a random podcast and, certainly the most dependable system, tracking down original work attributed to someone with a small supporting credit on an album one already admires. Well, here’s a new route entirely: if you have a favorite piece of shareware, check out the website of the software’s programmer.

Aaron “Jomdom” Ransley wrote a popular plugin for Firefox, the web browser, that allows one to use another piece of web-based software, YubNub. None of that matters in this context, except that a routine scan of Ransley’s site reveals an entry that begins “Yeah, believe it or not, I also make music!” (jomdom.net). He does indeed, and it’s music with an ear for detail that may correspond with the skills required by his day job. Listen to the range of individual sonic layers that make up the pointillist opening of “Rastafarian Hackysacks” (MP3) or how the piano-like lead on “Creative Bandwidth” (MP3) is echoed and reflected in subtle ways. Those are just two of the recommended tracks currently available.

Comfortable in the open source world of shareware, Ransley/Jomdom has released his work through the Creative Commons’ Attribution-NonCommercial 2.5 license. “Feel free to do what you will within the restrictions of that license,” he writes, “and please give proper credit if any works are used in remixes, performances, or public broadcasts. Also, while it’s not required, I’d love to hear from you if you decide to use my works.”

All of which has left me wondering what music composed by YubNub’s own programmer (Jon Aquino) and by the programmers behind my other favorite freeware and shareware (NoteTab, FileZilla, SlickRun, AVG, QReader, Fring, Handy Safe, etc.) might sound like.

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Filmic Herbert MP3

Score is a new album collecting background music by someone who has recently been pursuing a spot in the foreground. It’s a retrospective compilation by Herbert (born Matthew Herbert and aka Doctor Rockit) of pieces he’s written over the years for film, cues of churning, introspective textures by someone whose modus operandi of late has been decidedly extroverted: using his Plat du Jour album as a bully pulpit against consumerism, moonlighting from electronica to front a big band on Goodbye Swingtime. The music on Score includes segments originally composed for the films Vida y Color, Le Defi and The Intended, among others. One complete track is available for free download at herbert-score.com (you have to provide an email address to gain access, but otherwise it’s free). The piece, a clackety bit of addictively jittery digital momentum, was composed for a short titled Nicotine. One small point of confusion: the info page at herbert-score.com says the album contains 17 tracks, but the track listing contains only 16 and the version currently for sale at emusic.com has only 14.

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Shoegazer Techno MP3s

Dublin-based act Decal has posted a small heap of unreleased material at his website, decal-artifacts.com, much in the vein of just slightly tweaked techno, like the drolly titled “Formula for Change” (MP3), which maintains its 4/4 metrics while cycling through all mannger of moody dance floor modes. The keeper is “Dropping Quays” (MP3), which slaps a literally offbeat bit of rhythm into the mix, grounding an otherwise familiar pulse by making it more complex than it needs to be. And better yet is a recently uploaded eight-track EP titled Little Sketches, all shoegazery and lush, one of ’em featuring a proper vocal by Martin Kelly of the Ruby Tailights. It’s collected as a compressed file (ZIP). (Thanks to Shawn at xtrasauce.com for the tip.)

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  • 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

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