Field recordist Mike Hallenbeck knows that the sounds documented by phonographers — by those who tape and collect the noises of the natural and the built worlds — are both unique and interchangeable. He knows that a car horn in one country is just that country’s version of what is heard, however slightly differently, in numerous, in countless, other countries. And he also knows that despite that interchangeability, in fact because of it, each car horn is all the more special. As he jokes in the liner notes to his recent album, Just Before Diwali – Field Recordings from North India, “The art of field recording needs another recording of trucks in the street like I need a hole in my head, but I found this particular sonic situation valuable.”
This situation in question is the Karol Baugh district of Delhi, and the recording was made on a trip during which Hallenbeck taped the dozen tracks that comprise Just Before Diwali, which was captured all around North India. The traffic that resounds here (MP3) is just as rambunctious as one might imagine — a mix of rough bells, heavy tires, mumbling motors, and barking exhaust systems. And to the ears of someone who has never been to India, its most distinguishing factor is the melody (really less the melody than the key) hinted at in the intonations of bleeping horns.
Perhaps the term “mixtape” hasn’t fully outlived its suffix. There’s been a small flurry of cassette-only releases in recent months, what with the Odd Nosdam split tape on Sanity Muffin (which makes its home page on myspace — at myspace.com/sanitymuffin — another technology prematurely reported dead), and the launch of the cassette-only label Tapeworm, with initial release by Philip Jeck, Stephen O’Malley, and Simon Fisher Turner, among others (tapeworm.org.uk).
And then there is the tape-ography — that is, the typography in tape form — of Ankara, Turkey-based artist Ersinhan Ersin. It’s an inspiring collection that makes the most of the fragile mechanisms at the core of tapes, the stark differences between the hard plastic gears and the slender ribbons:
listened to my 18-month-old daughter hone her pitch and tempo to sing along perfectly with a bleating car alarm. Childhood in the city…!
There’s scientific evidence that some birds follow highways, the way they once followed waterways (cell.com). So, it’s no surprise in a world increasingly permeated by electronic sound, that baby’s first word might, in fact, be “Beep.”
You’d never know the source material of “Tanger at Night” is “resampled klezmer,” as the song’s composer, NQ, describes it. Unless, of course, you peer deep into the track’s dark, horror-cue intensity and recall that klezmer is the party music of a historically displaced people.
NQ is Cologne-based Nils Quak, whose “Tanger” is the latest “Single of the Week” over at luvsound.org/singles (MP3). The song opens with eerily shimmering chimes, pulsing like lights reflected on rough water, and slowly raises and lowers its intensity for upwards of four minutes, before fading out into an extended windswept denouement of chance noises.
[audio:http://ia301509.us.archive.org/3/items/luvs017/tanger_at_night.mp3|titles=”Tanger at Night”|artists=Nils Quak]
Writes Quak of the piece’s construction:
“It’s a two bar klezmer loop i found on a flexi disc. I made a couple of versions of it and automated their levels with a lorenz attractor driven lfo. the outcoming piece was played back into my appartment and recorded with a cheap iphone recording software over and over again, drowning the entire piece in ambient noise, room resonances and the noise and errors of shitty software converters and microphones.”
• October 13, 2016: This day marks the start of the 250th weekly Disquiet Junto project.
• November 16, 2016: I'll be sharing the mic at Adobe Books in San Francisco with my fellow 33 1/3 author Evie Nagy for an evening hosted, from 7pm to 10pm, by Marc Kate (facebook.com).
• December 1, 2016: A likely speaking engagement. Details to come.
• December 13, 2016: This day marks the 20th anniversary of Disquiet.com.
• January 5, 2017: This day marks the 5th anniversary of the Disquiet Junto.
• Ongoing: The Disquiet Junto series of weekly communal music projects explore constraints as a springboard for creativity and productivity. There is a new project each Thursday afternoon (California time), and it is due the following Monday at 11:59pm: disquiet.com/junto.
• My book on Aphex Twin's landmark 1994 album, Selected Ambient Works Vol. II, published as part of the 33 1/3 series, an imprint of Bloomsbury, is now in its second printing. It can be purchased at amazon.com, among other places.