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Tenori-On MP3 Album by Norman Fairbanks

With its pulsating beats and wispy bits of melodic phrasing, the eight tracks on the free album 7 Days Microsleep, available at the website of musician Norman Fairbanks, normanfairbanks.com, are the sort of pulse-settling, introspective music that could give existentialism a placid name. Though the steady electronica sounds like the sort that attends artful drive-by montages of suburban malaise in films like Risky Business, American Beauty and Bodies, Rest & Motion, just to name a few, the concept behind the album is more procedural/structural than sociological/philosophical.

The stricture that binds all the work on 7 Days Microsleep is that it was all composed on a single instrument, the hand-held device called the Tenori-On, designed by Toshio Iwai, the same inventor who created the audio-game Electroplankton for the Nintendo DS. The Tenori-On is a battery-operated grid of pulsing lights that makes music-making all the more achievable for “non-musicians.” Fairbanks pushes it much further than do some of Casio-preset-style jams that appear on youtube.com. Everything on 7 Days is recommended, especially “The Freedom Loop,” whose shuddering backing rhythms and occasional pauses lend it particular depth (MP3). (Thanks to Brian Biggs, of mrbiggs.com, for the tip.)

Just to reinforce the idea that not everything performed on the Tenori-On necessarily sounds the same, do check out the freely downloadable pieces by Jim O’Rourke, Atom Heart and Robert Lippock that were the Disquiet Downstream entry back in September (disquiet.com).

By Marc Weidenbaum

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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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