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Monthly Archives: April 2008

Abstract Japanese Turntablism MP3

A fifth anniversary entry from the Turntable Radio podcast features Japanese figures DJ Baku, Exsample (Ken-One, Naoki and Shige) and Miyajima. Like the best abstract turntablism, the work captured during a Shibuya-district session emphasizes texture as much as it does beat-matching, with cut-up vocal samples, droney underlying melodic patterns, and dynanic counterpoint (MP3). The Turntable Radio host gives some details on the session:

The session also coincided with the release of Baku’s second album, Dharma Dance … and so Baku, who was using Serato and a Pioneer 909 mixer, primarily used sounds he had made and produced for his album, including drums, guitar melodies and synth lines. For the majority of the tracks you’ll hear in the podcast, Baku provided the backbone for the track with the Exsample guys adding on top, with melodies and vocal cuts. On a couple of tracks the roles were reserved with Naoki and Ken-One taking the lead on drums, and everyone else filling in. So for those who haven’t yet heard the album, this session should give you a pretty good idea of some of the tracks’ moods and influences.

More info at turntableradio.com, including photos from the session. More on Ken-One at myspace.com/djken1 and DJ Baku at myspace.com/djbakujapan.

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MP3s of Inventive Beats from Anton Holota

Thanks to the sort of dark, nearly sub-aural thuds that make speaker cabinets rumble with pulmonary might, the dozen tracks on Products of Passed Days by .at/on (born Anton Holota) contribute to a realignment of the category “headphone listening.” Holota’s emphasis on subtle aural effects, such as the highlights on “Roadside Picnic” that resemble flickering fluorescent bulbs (MP3), not to mention the church-organ-like wavering that opens “Sad to Leave” (MP3), entices the listener’s ears deep into the mix. But the presence of heavy bass patterns — less beats than structural undulations — reminds you that a true musical experience is often a full-body affair, as likely to resonate in the chest cavity as in the noggin.

The contrast between Holota’s delicate sounds and his deeper ones isn’t likely to cause anyone any ear damage; there’s no bait and switch at work, no come-hither quietude followed by a brass-knuckle roar. The kitchen-sink field recordings that are laced through “Western City (Remote View)” don’t suddenly give way to broken-dish cacophony, just to a slowly reverberating drone that is more complex, more organic, than an initial listen might suggest (MP3).

The pace of Products of Passed Days is sedentary, a far cry from the ebullient rhythms of hip-hop. But there is some suggestion of hip-hop’s influence, especially in how percussion is employed. As with many of the best beats emanating from rap-friendly car stereos, the ones heard here are difficult to reconcile with foot-tapping. They are placed far apart and they intrude at odd, often counterintuitive intervals. They’re too insistent to serve as decoration, yet too disperse to ever be considered a proper downbeat. For succinct examples of how Holota plays with percussion, listen to the tripled pattern that runs through “How to Turn Urban Noise into Music (Part 2)” (MP3), to the dappled pads that surface in “Morning from Childhood” (MP3), and to the extended shudders that ripple continuously in “Undreamedof” (MP3).

Get the full set, including front and back cover images, at the releasing netlabel, Complementary Distribution (bitlabrecords.com/cod). More info on .at/on at myspace.com/antonholota.

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Processed Gamelan MP3s from Stasisfield’s Gregory Taylor

The two tracks that comprise Gregory Taylor‘s Two Maps of Danaraja, on the Stasisfield netlabel, are studies in contrast. The prominent features of “Seismic Profile” (MP3) are long drones while “Orbital Photo” (MP3) arrives as a series of small tones that resemble rung bells. The former takes geographic infrastructure as its title and metaphor, while the latter’s point of view is way up in space.

Both proceed at a glacial stride, but even then there are striking differences. In “Seismic” the passing of time is marked by the occasional rise in stature of one held tone, just as the previously dominant tone slowly disappears below the audible horizon. For “Orbital” the sharp bells play like a clunky lullabye, just slow enough for the listener to lose track of the melody, such as it is — imagine Harry Partch’s instruments applied to an Erik Satie composition.

In his liner note to the recording, Taylor explains how the works were accomplished. He processed recordings of gamelan, the Balinese instrument that has served as an inspiration to many contemporary composers. The processing is heavy, heavy enough that no remnant of the original is recognizable; such slate-cleaning change is part of Taylor’s attraction to the system: “the idea of spectral averaging as a way of modifying and smearing audio material in ways that emphasized their continuity and removed them frotheir normal timescales.”

Get both tracks along with cover art and the liner notes at stasisfield.com.

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Quote of the Week: Record Store Day

The following statement is attributed to Ben Watt of Everything but the Girl, in support of Record Store Day, Saturday, April 19, 2008:

it is hard to underestimate the role of independent retail in the music industry. as the world continues to try and cram every purchase they make onto their computer, turning music into binary digits and artwork into pixelated packshots, we can only sit and wait for them to wake up from their dream and realize that ultimately human interaction in shops, with informed good people, handling cherishable artefacts is good for the soul. in the meantime we need to support the people who keep this world alive for the moment we all realize we need it again.
More details at recordstoreday.com.

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Urban Drone MP3 by Totstellen

The drone in the background of a sample excerpt from Totstellen‘s recent Tunnel Brücke CDR has a sonar quality and the sublimated buzz of distant industrial activity (MP3). In fact it’s an augmented field recording, taped in a tunnel below traffic. The tunnel reverberations reveal a sound many times removed from its source — first by distance, then concrete and other construction materials, then recording equipment and its attendant compression algorithms, then whatever processing Totstellen chose to employ (including the addition of one quiet phrase in German — which for someone, like me, who only speaks English, supplies yet another sense of remoteness), then further compression to the MP3 format. Each step away from the source serves as a kind of cultural, procedural sediment: a thicker, deeper tunnel from which the sounds struggle to emerge. The album is a co-release by the labels Reduktive Musiken (reduktivemusiken.de) and Totes Format.

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