The story goes as follows. Amon Tobin wanted to release a document of his tour for the Foley Room album, his 2007 full-length collection of dark music built from sound effects and other audio detritus he’d recorded in various studios. Negotiations about the nature of the live-concert release broke down, and in lieu of a commercial recording, he made the whole set available to fans as a gratis download. As he puts it in the announcement at amontobin.com, “That’s right, we could have sold you half of it, but instead we are giving you all of it, for free!”
The performance, nearly an hour and a half long, mixes in Foley Room tracks with everything from glitch-abstraction heroes Autechre to r&b radio fave Kelis (she of the fetching “Milkshake”). Also prominent are recordings credited to Two Fingers, Tobin’s new production duo, which teams him with Joe “Doubleclick” Chapman.
This is no mere dance mix, or greatest-hits DJ performance — it’s an audio journey that took an apparently grateful audience from hard beats to rich tumult to stereoscopic percussion, and beyond. True to Tobin’s stated desire to give his listeners the best possible experience, the MP3 is encoded at a generous 320kbps. It comes in a Zip archive, along with cover art and an informative PDF, listing all 31 songs used in Tobin’s set. Get the full release at amontobin.com.
A handcrafted instrument by Mike Ford:
More on Ford at mikefordsculptures.com (via makezine.com).
The first two paragraphs of “The War on Telephone Poles,” an essay by Eula Biss, as printed in the February 2009 issue of the magazine Harper’s:
“Of what use is such an invention?”the New York World asked in 1876 after Alexander Graham Bell first demonstrated his telephone. The nation was not waiting for the telephone. Bell’s financial backers asked him not to work on his invention because it seemed too dubious an investment. The idea on which the telephone depended—that every home in the country could be connected with a vast network of wires suspend ed from poles set an average of one hundred feet apart—seemed far less likely than the idea that the human voice could be transmitted through a wire.
For a short time, the telephone was little more than a novelty. For ten cents you could see it demonstrated by Bell himself, in a church, along with singing and recitations by local talent. From some distance away, Bell would receive a call from “the invisible Tom Watson.”Then the telephone became a plaything of the rich. A Boston banker paid for a private line between his office and his house so that he could let his family know exactly when he would be home for dinner. Mark Twain was among the first Americans to own a telephone, but he wasn’t completely taken with the device. “The human voice carries entirely too far as it is,”he remarked.
Biss is currently an artist-in-residence at Northwestern University. The full essay is available online only to subscribers (harpers.org), but the issue is still on newsstands. “The War on Telephone Poles” is due out this month in Biss’s book Notes from No Man’s Land (Graywolf Press, graywolfpress.org). More on Biss at eulabiss.net.
The latest release from Odd Nosdam, T.I.M.E. Soundtrack, is just that, the score to a film, the skateboard documentary This Is My Element, and it’s firmly in the “Beautiful Losers” school of blunted, casual, fritzy background instrumental pop as typified by Daedelus, Tommy Guerrero, and Kid Koala. The releasing label, Anticon, has popped up a track as a free sample, “Fly Mode” (MP3), which plods delightfully, at a pace that will get you nowhere fast, replete with washboard percussion, a whistling lead line, and a halo of sympathetic strings. The piece was produced by Nosdam and Jel. Each track on the record is associated with one of the skaters featured in the film. For “Fly Mode” it’s Brent Atchley (of Portland, Oregon).
Speaking of Nosdam and Jel, the former recently posted for free download (myspace.com, sendspace.com) two tracks of the duo performing live in December 2008 at the third annual Anticon anniversary show at the Knitting Factory in Manhattan. Each of the songs stands on a different corner at that tantalizingly abstract intersection where ambient electronic music and instrumental hip-hop meet. This photo from the concert (courtesy of Odd’s MySpace page) shows Jel, left, and Odd, right:
More on Nosdam (aka Berkeley, California-based David P. Madson, of cLOUDDEAD) at myspace.com/nosdam and Jel (aka Oakland, California-based James Logan, of Subtle and 13+God) at myspace.com/jelanticon. T.I.M.E. Soundtrack is due out on February 17.
The latest release from the adozen netlabel is a death-ambient grab bag. Titled Synken Outtakes and credited to longtime outward-electronic figure O.S.T. (aka Chris Douglas), it collects two dozen relatively brief tracks — they top out at just over five minutes, with over half under two minutes. Each and every entry could serve as a pace-setting cue in an urban thriller, all rattling, jangling, echoing nuance, like the bug-like white noise of “Frosis,” the rock-guitar effluvia of “Miv Rone,” and the hypnotic cymbals of “Digisn” (MP3).
In fact, the audio segments are just a dip into a deeper pool, some 600 of which were composed by Douglas as part of a project that paired him with the visual-production crew Transforma (Baris Hasselbach, Luke Bennett and Simon Krahl). The Synken website, synken.com, includes three additional soundtrack excerpts, a sunken treasure titled “Porg” (MP3), a dank, threatening bit of minimal techno titled “Lides” (MP3), and a glisteningly glitchy affair titled “PKV Anal” (MP3). Douglas has explained his production techniques by stating that “most of the tracks here are played on instruments (piano, organ, melodian, melodica, harmonica, vibraphone, guitars, zitars) then processed with either analog or digital effects.”
Get the full Synken Outtakes release at adozen.org. More on O.S.T. at amhain.net and myspace.com/rougishscald. Various stills here: