Juan José Calarco’s Tech-Derived MP3s

Ever downloaded a hefty video to find only the audio portion functions properly? Then the frustration inherent in following the two-part recording Plano Vertical, by musician Juan José Calarco, will provoke some serious déjà vu — and some pleasure.

The major difference, of course, is that Calarco’s imposing disorientation is entirely willful on his part, whereas the former experience has to do with the niggling complexities of the technology ingrained in our daily lives.

Which is to say, perhaps both experiences aren’t so different after all. The two tracks on Plano Vertical are built from familiar sounds, including rusty gears, telescoping echo, industrial groans, auracular rings, surface noise, the vertiginous rumble of what could be an elevator shaft, the distant cacophony of what could be a plane coming in to land, the clack of equipment functioning…

In other words, Calarco has taken mechanistic noises inherent in daily life and built something sad and worn and scary and often beautiful out of them. On the two pieces, “Extension Activa” (MP3) and “Plano Vertical 2” (MP3), most of this sound is yanked from its original context, which makes the occasional water drip stand out like a photorealist painting at an abstract expressionist exhibit.

More info at the releasing netlabel (Lisbon, Portugal’s monocromatica.com/netlabel) and at Buenos Aires, Argentina-based Calarco’s myspace.com/juanjosecalarco page.

Diana Al-Hadid’s Silent Portal (NYC)

Not all sound art makes sound. Not all art about sound is sound art — a cubist take on a guitar, for example, may not quite constitute a formal comment on music. But Diana Al-Hadid‘s “Portal to a Black Hole,” a massive freestanding sculpture that stood at the Tanya Bonakdar Gallery in Manhattan until August 17, was formidable all the more for its foreboding silence.

Though called a portal, the piece more closely resembled its opposite: a gate constructed of organ pipes, massive and firm, within which were keys of some fantastic instrument, arrayed like a spiral staircase. Whether it leads up or down is up to the viewer. The structure brought to mind salt encrustations, fantasy films, barnacle accretions — all in all, a Boschian worldview. She’s pursued similar themes in pieces such as “A Measure of Ariadne’s Love” and “Spun of the Limits of My Lonely Waltz.”

The Al-Hadid was part of an exhibit titled “Agitation and Repose,” curated by Sabine Russ and Gregory Volk. I was fortunate enough to visit the week before it closed. Other works included a wall of exquisitely detailed mechanisms by Claire Watkins and a topsy-turvy architectural faux-folly by Via Lewandowsky that involved two prefab homes grafted into one and served as an antiseptic contrast to Al-Hadid’s construction.

Though her portal stood silent, silence was not the rule; sound bled in from several video pieces, including a nearby room of six screens by Roman Signer in which the central player was a toy helicopter, its whir cycling like robot bugs.

More information on the gallery at tanyabonakdargallery.com and on Diana Al-Hadid at al-hadid.wsdia.com , vcu.edu and priskajuschkafineart.com. By the way, that’s a Jon McCafferty abstract landscape painting in the background on the left of the image below; his topography-derived work finds a common ground between impressionist and technologist.

Post-Download Kracfive MP3

Long a source of often highly recommendable downloads, the kracfive.com collective/website — home to such lo-fi luminaries as Kettel, Aghost, Miragliuolo and Octopus, just to name a few — has decided to do away with its monthly free “MP3 rotor” in favor of a dedicated streaming hub at last.fm/label/kracfive. The move to streaming makes sense, especially as wifi becomes more ubiquitous — and since hosts such as last.fm and myspace.com carry the bandwidth burden and costs.

Still, the Disquiet Downstream will remain focused on legal, freely downloadable music, so sadly kracfive.com won’t be as much of a presence here as it has been in the past. To bid quasi-adieu, here’s one favorite, Colongib‘s “Flat Hombre,” which has a mournful, sub-Casio-quality melody above a scratchy, distorted shuffle (MP3). Most of the past free Kracfive downloads are archived at this single page: kracfive.com. And the label will reportedly continue to post free full downloads of a handful of tracks from each of its “physical” releases.

Savory Madlib I-Hop MP3

Esteemed and prolific hip-hop producer Madlib‘s string of releases continues with the full-length collection Beat Konducta in India, a percussion-heavy mash of Bollywood score snippets. Think of it as rap exotica. To promote the album, its label, Stones Throw, has posted for free download a piece titled “Masala” — at eight seconds over a minute, it’s one of the album’s shortest tracks, but it’s still a tasty bit of surface-noise funk, vocal samples, raspy percussion and synthy blurps (MP3).

The India record has almost three dozen of these short sound objects, and the “Masala” giveaway is especially exciting because very little i-hop, or instrumental hip-hop, is made available for free download. In the world of most electronica, music is often composed by the yard, and a free download can serve as a useful teaser; in the world of hip-hop, beats are money.

Madlib (born Otis Jackson) has set down tracks for the Alkaholiks, his own Quasimoto alias and other notables, and collaborated with his fellow retro-styled colleague, the late J Dilla. Beat Konducta in India is already available on vinyl (I picked a copy up at the Fat Beats store in Manhattan a week ago) and the CD version is due out next Tuesday, August 28. The iTunes edition is on sale at apple.com.

As an additional download, there’s iPod-ready video of what appears to be segments of Beat Konducta in India set to Bollywood scenes and some humorous mistranslations of dialog (stonesthrow.com; youtube.com). More on Madlib at stonesthrow.com/madlib and myspace.com/madlib.

Doom-core Installation MP3

Into the Pandemonium is the title of, arguably, the best album by doom metal band Celtic Frost, not just for its dour take on the Wall of Voodoo hit “Mexican Radio” but for the industrial rigor of “One in Their Pride.” That album came out 20 years ago, when heavy metal was a seeming enclave of die-hard analogists, and Celtic Frost’s venture into techno was a breath of fresh air — despite the group’s intent on cultivating an aura of fire and brimstone. The 12″ single for “I Won’t Dance!” included an extended remix of “One in Their Pride,” now available on the CD edition, that took what was most demonstrative and distinctive about the single, a delectably rudimentary drum machine beat, and extended it further.

The title to that Celtic Frost album has now been adopted by Lasse Marhaug for a six-channel installation of thoroughly appropriated metal at the Norwegian festival Hole in the Sky, which opens today and runs through Saturday. If you can’t make it to Bergen, you can download a stereo reduction of Marhaug’s work, posted as part of the podcast series of the Touch Records label (MP3). Touch sums up the sound well: “Fragments of classic moments in death/thrash/black metal music have been mangled, disfigured and reworked into a festering pulp of distortion, doom and noise.” The result is a slowly escalating drone built from all the textures that make doomy metal sound molten and morose, all those riffs freed of their momentum and expressed entirely as matters of tone.

More on the festival at holeinthesky.no, on Mashaug at lassemarhaug.no, and on the Touch label (touchmusic.org.uk) and podcast series (touchradio.org.uk).