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Monthly Archives: February 2010

Cello-tronic Pop MP3

The electronically enhanced, endlessly looping cello of Ted Laderas, aka Ooray, makes regular appearances as part of the Disquiet Downstream series of recommended MP3s. His latest, “Marzo,” makes a somewhat surprising but nonetheless welcome departure from his by now formalized approach to thick, reverb-drenched walls of cello-derived sound, which often come to take the appearance of massive, improvised clouds of music.

“Marzo,” by contrast, feels fully composed, in part because the layering of cello never gets to that point where you can’t see the trees, only the forest, and also because it introduces a steady rhythm, which Laderas says he got by “beating the strings with the wood part of the bow.”

Original track at soundcloud.com/ooray. More on Ooray/Laderas at 15people.net, from which the above photo is borrowed.

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Infinite (Bass) Strings MP3

Website URLs are not unlike vanity license plates. You can tell a lot from how an individual chooses to label him- or herself. URLs do no have the attendant cheese factor of personalized license plates, because there are no non-vanity URLs; there is no “F38BC” nor “43HLJ2” of URLs. In the world of music, even those who park their recordings are communal hubs like bandcamp.com and soundcloud.com, those inheritors of MySpace’s music-sharing momentum, have to assign their account a name, whether it be their own, or an adopted one.

Jacob Newman makes his modest home on the web at capturedspace.org, and the phrase is an apt one for his sounds. As previously heard here last year in a collection of works based on the Buddha Machine (disquiet.com), the straightforwardly titled Buddha Machine, Newman has a penchant for meditative sounds that are magnificently still and contemplative. His No Midpoint to Infinity, which was released last November, doesn’t veer from that course. And as with Buddha Machine, Midpoint‘s conceptual core is a procedural one; it takes a single sound generator as its source, in this case a Fender Precision bass.

Though it’s exceedingly brief, the album’s open track (“Elusive,” MP3), at under a minute, may be its strongest moment — in retrospect, with knowledge of the bass, you can hear in it string-like features, such as plucking and slow strumming, but it’s more than anything a glorious shot of ambience, given depth with an echoing effect that suggests an impossibly large, and impossibly quiet, orchestra.

[audio:http://www.archive.org/download/earman104/01-Elusive.mp3|titles=”Elusive”|artists=Jacob Newman]

Full album at archive.org, where it is housed, and at the releasing netlabel, earthmantra.com.

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Dreamtime Vocal Play (MP3s)

Derrick Hart may have titled his recent five-song EP Fall Asleep to This, but it starts with a short, sharp, seriously pulse-quickening bang. The album opens with an abrasive bit of noise-making (“When Someone Loves You No More,” MP3). At a total of 23 seconds, it’s harsh and loud and startling enough to get your heart beating, and it sets up the rest of the record to provide the solace inherent in the title. Considering what follows, that bracing salvo is more ear- and palette-cleanser than anything else. It comes to a boil quickly, running hard and metallic like blood in a cyborg’s ears — as such, it’s reminiscent of Lou Reed’s classic Metal Machine Music, a hard-Zen approach to ferocity that at once suggests active violence and something frozen still.

And then a bell rings. And we’ve started anew. The remainder of the album’s four tracks are really what Hart’s up to. That opening bit wakes you up, so he can settle you back down. That bell is the start of “Emporia,” which employs a small amount of feedback amid layers of vocals, twisted like a modern take on an old Beatles ploy, in which syllables are tweaked just beyond the possibility of comprehension. The difference here is, the actual vocal is never heard, just the ghost sound of vowels turned this way and that, like a half-remembered song (MP3).

[audio:http://www.archive.org/download/rb078/01-when_someone_loves_you_no_more.mp3|titles=”When Someone Loves You No More”|artists=Derrick Hart] [audio:http://www.archive.org/download/rb078/02-emporia.mp3|titles=”Emporia”|artists=Derrick Hart]

“Colors That Surround You” confirms the somewhat retro mode with a keyboard that’s reminiscent of a Rhodes piano, though it’s filtered through just enough glitchy effects to keep it modern (MP3). “Kontakt” again uses as its main sonic material small pieces of warped vocals, but they’re slightly less mellifluous, and more block-like, than in “Emporia”; the seams between these snippets provide a kind of quietly chaotic rhythm (MP3).

[audio:http://www.archive.org/download/rb078/03-colors_that_surround_you.mp3|titles=”Colors That Surround You”|artists=Derrick Hart] [audio:http://www.archive.org/download/rb078/04-kontakt.mp3|titles=”Kontakt”|artists=Derrick Hart]

And for an album this compositionally circumspect and self-knowledgeable, it’s no surprise that the closing track would provide a coda. That track is “Wilderness of the City,” in which a slow industrial rhythm, less a beat than a groove of contorted metal, brings to mind the opening noise-making of “When Someone Loves You No More.” And perhaps to make a point about the relative properties of discomfort, far more unsettling is the way a cello slips out of tune, and the way a guitar scrapes like a butcher sharpening his tools, and the way those little vocal snippets continue, claustrophobically, to fail to get out much more than a breath (MP3).

[audio:http://www.archive.org/download/rb078/05-wilderness_of_the_city.mp3|titles=”Wilderness of the City”|artists=Derrick Hart]

In the end, the album’s title may be less a recommendation than a challenge.

Full release at the netlabel restingbell.net. More on Hart, who’s based in Washington, Illinois, at myspace.com/derrickhartmusic.

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Images of the Week: Through an Electron Microsope, Soundly

Images by Chris Supranowitz of an LP groove (top) and the surface of a CD (bottom), as seen through an electron microsope:

If nothing else, a sure reminder of the various physical realities and resulting metaphors that distinguish the two media: vertical versus horizontal, linear versus random, analog versus digital, gritty versus clinical.

Original post at synthgear.com, found via noiseforairports.com and aaronmeyers.tumblr.com.

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Quote of the Week: Let Us Now Praise Famous Sounds

Quote of the week isn’t from this week. It’s about 60 years old, and it popped up recently on the blog of sound artist Steve Roden:

Outside, from near, there is a sound. It happens every night, and it is most sorrowful. It is the voice of a blond, fat, and craven rooster, a creature half-frightened of his own wives; and in this poor voice of his, lugubrious, almost surreptitious, he is making a statement he so mis-believes that it is rather a question that expects no answer save the utter scorn and denial of silence; and it gets none: but serves only to remind one of the noises of the night, which perhaps have not at any time ceased.

The phrase is by James Agee, from his 1941 collaboration with photographer Walker Evans, Let Us Now Praise Famous Men. Roden’s mention is at inbetweennoise.blogspot.com. Original citation at books.google.com.

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