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Monthly Archives: January 2008

Quote of the Week: Public Player

The photo below shows a piece from the new exhibit of Ward Schumaker‘s mixed-media paintings at the Meridian Gallery in San Francisco.

The exhibit is titled Books and Drawings and runs from January 24 through March 1, 2008. The photo captures all but the very edge of the work, which is titled “Small Record Player.” I dropped by this past Thursday for the opening reception. More on the gallery exhibit at meridiangallery.org. More on Schumaker at his website, warddraw.com.

The Meridian often hosts concerts, some of which have been mentioned in the Disquiet Downstream (disquiet.com). On April 9, Zachary James Watkins will perform electro-acoustic works with “realtime animation” by Joe Gray. And on May 14, Thea Farhadian is scheduled to perform electronic music. The concert series is curated by Tom Bickley.

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Guitronic MP3s from Jari Pitkänen

On his recent three-track EP, Lumien, Jari Pitkänen places simple guitar lines amid lush fields of dark atmospherics. The combination works, and not only because that moaning background sound can be heard as a kind of extended feedback from the guitar itself. It also helps that the guitar playing is slow, with a melodic component nuanced enough to  not strike the ear like a pop song might.

The title track sets the tone with a single-note lead and reflective setting that sounds like Daniel Lanois producing a John Fahey record (MP3). “Muistot” adds a light choral element (MP3) and “Nousevat” some pinging highlights (MP3). The collection was released for free download on January 21. More details at the netlabel, enoughrecords.scene.org, and at Pitkänen’s myspace.com/jaripitkanen page.

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Atmospheric Pop MP3s (and Poppy Atmospherics) from Ludo Maas

Netlabels in general tend to release electronic music. The netlabel named Test Tube releases its share of electronica for free download, but it also ventures into pop and various experimental realms more often than do many of its online peers. Still, the label’s roots are in atmospheric electronic music, and those roots often make themselves shown, even where they’re not expected. Take the recent instrumental-pop set The Door by Multi-Panel (aka Dutch musician Ludo Maas). While most of the songs are nostalgic, lilting melodic lines above gentle percussion, the title track is a beatific, clouds-opening expanse of glimmer; the closest thing in it to a percussion element is a set of chatty little vocal samples that cycle through, all chopped and blended (MP3). It’s delightful. More info at monocromatica.com/netlabel.

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Kikapu Netlabel Closes with Mikronesia MP3 Album

The latest Kikapu netlabel release, Mikronesia‘s vxvii, is one of its best ever — nine tracks of Satie-esque electronica. The Mikronesia set is also Kikapu’s last. Kikapu was founded in 2001 by Brad Mitchell, who records as Pocka. In the intervening years, the label has released, for free download, over 100 singles, EPs, and albums. The Mikronesia set is the label’s 109th.

While Kikapu wasn’t the first (Thinner and Monotonik, just to name two, opened for business in the late 1990s), it has been a steady and substantial presence on the netlabel scene. Mitchell has much to be proud of, and a search for “kikapu” on this site will bring up several recommended recordings, as well as a Mitchell interview from 2004 (“Shawnee for Laptop”). Since its recent closing, the kikapu.com website has been elegantly reduced to a single page, linking from a list of the releases to the individual pages at the Internet Archive (aka archive.org) where the music is stored.

The Mikronesia collection serves as a fitting endpoint for the label, which has long emphasized gentle atmospherics, field recordings, and light glitch. (Kikapu also hosted its share of melodic, beat-driven electronica, which is virtually absent on this album.) The comparison to Satie is particularly strong in the watery piano on the opening piece, “She Brings” (MP3), but it’s reinforced throughout due to an approach by which every track, no matter how loudly it is played, seeps into the background. Haunting voices are filtered through bells and reverb on “Hibersea” (MP3), and other high points include the textural white noise of “Moke Cene” (MP3) and the insectoid field recordings worked into “Part” (MP3). Get the full set at archive.org. More on Mikronesia, aka Michael McDermott, at mikronesia.com.

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Stellar 7-Track Instrumental Hip-Hop EP

The seven-song EP Senses Overloaded, from the instrumental hip-hop DJ team of Lamont and 2tall, opens with the exotic: a slinky track that uses as its base a romantic bit of koto, the string instrument of Asian antiquity. The cut is titled “Perpetual Patterns” (MP3) and it’s one of the few here to include a vocal. Still, that vocal is cut and sliced and folded back upon itself thanks to edits that bring to mind a Houston-style screwed & chopped remix — that is, one in which the syllables, while remaining recognizable, come to be more about sound than meaning.

Other highlights include “First Inspiration” (MP3), which opens like mid-period Beastie Boys, all whistle samples and low-slung organ riffs, and the title track (MP3), which extends the downtempo mode even further, with strings, some taut drum loops, and deep acoustic bass lines.

An included remix of the title track (MP3) doesn’t so much break the original’s beats as it shoots them through with elegant fissures; the remix emphasizes the quieter elements and adds some spectral turntablism. Get the whole set for free at sensesoverloaded.com (warning: the site loads slowly). More info at the duo’s myspace.com/sensesoverloaded page.

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