New Disquietude podcast episode: music by Lesley Flanigan, Dave Seidel, KMRU, Celia Hollander, and John Hooper; interview with Flanigan; commentary; short essay on reading waveforms. • F.A.Q.Key Tags: #saw2for33third, #field-recording, #classical, #juntoElsewhere: Twitter, SoundCloud, Instagram

Listening to art. Playing with audio. Sounding out technology. Composing in code. Rewinding the soundscape.

Monthly Archives: June 2010

Past Week at

  • Few sounds combine the promise of comfort and the threat of bodily harm like that of a fast-moving ceiling fan in a small bedroom. #
  • RIP, the Kinks' Pete Quaife (b. 1943) — no surprise the band's bassist was its peacemaker: #
  • Trying to reconcile my deep affection for San Francisco's fog horns with the not unrelated phenomenon of multi-hour flight delays. #
  • So, @ascap attacks @creativecommons in fundraising letter. It's like attacking the Quakers. Good discussion going at #
  • iTunes challenges Microsoft's cumbersome bloatware: Hour into iOS 4 upgrade, 8gig Touch (gen 2) is 1/40th of way along status bar #cancel #
  • On a good day, using @rjdj in the city can feel like being in an extended sequence from Michael Winterbottom's film Code 46. #
  • Thank you, iTunes, for needlessly reorganizing all my iPod Touch apps into alphabetical order when upgrading yesterday evening. #
  • The new @hootsuite (a Twitter-management tool) web interface is great: better use of screen-space plus theming. #
  • Travel rule: don't install new software on laptop the night before a trip. #
  • The album Les Chinoiseries by Onra makes the perfect background music to recent novel For the Win by @doctorow #
  • Emerging from many continuous hours in the King Tubby & Co. channel at @grooveshark #
  • That MC Escher time of the year in San Francisco, when the color of the daytime sky matches that of the street. #
  • Drunk old man on the bus making much noise about preponderance of cellphones, in so many words. I think Roddy Piper played him in the movie. #
  • Wandered outta Matmos/So Percussion show on early side, fascinated as always so many people pay for opportunity to talk through a concert. #
  • The voiceover following today's noon test alarm in San Francisco sounded particularly placid, and thus all the more Orwellian. #
  • While using @rjdj on iPod Touch on bus, didn't realize that some of the audio doubling was a child repeating the automated announcements. #
  • City living means that a slight alteration in the sound of your neighbor's shower suggests that a new nozzle has been purchased. #
  • Tonight: Matmos & So Percussion @rickshawstopsf — very much looking forward to this. #
  • Disappointed iOS4 won't hook gen2 iPod Touch with Bluetooth keyboard. No luck on my G1 either. I could do equivalent 10 years ago on Palm. #
  • RIP, founder Kim Flint, aka @kimatorium — via @zoecello & @kingnever #
  • Dryer full, or assault-by-helicopter? #
  • Today I'll listen to albums I permanently borrowed from my dad when I left for college, notably Ornette Coleman's Body Meta. #mydadsmusic #
  • RT @mmaddencomics: RT @ubuweb: Cardew's score for 'Treatise' (1963-67): <- could have been in Abstract #Comics anthology #
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“Phat Minimalistic” Hip-Hop Instrumental (MP3)

More great super old-school instrumental hip-hop from the netlabel — or as the liner notes to the set in question, the 85 Decibel Monks EP Reel to Real, call it: “phat minimalistic.” These are straightforward, layered tracks of beats, effects, and samples, none of them any more dense than the average classic Run-DMC single, but each with its own spin. Take, for example, the distant horn bits that slowly echo and accrue on “Digging for Rocks” (MP3), one of the album’s finest tracks. That horn appears well into the song, following an elephantine beat that emphasizes its own swollen cadence, and some turntablist maneuvers that slowly veer into something resembling nascent techno. At first the horn is little more than a filigree, a tidy little sample that appears on schedule. But in time it becomes more prominent in the mix, the sample increasing in volume and length, summoning up the presence of a proper jazz solo, but doing so using the techniques and self-imposed constraints of hip-hop — which is to say, employing pre-recorded material in a manner that is nonetheless vibrant and suggests compositional development.

[audio:|titles=”Digging for Rocks”|artists=85 Decibel Monks]

Get the full set at

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Touch-ing Lough Neagh (MP3)

Perhaps it’s a conscious effort in distributing music via social networks and alternate channels, but the pattern of late for the Touch Music podcast has involved the descriptive text (along with the podcast itself) appearing in its RSS feed well in advance of the material popping up on its website. This time around, the material also surfaced on Twitter, at, with no sign at, at least not yet.

The file in question, the 53rd in the podcast series, is the work of Dr. Tom Lawrence, who documented sounds at Lough Neagh, which is described as “the largest water-mass in the British Isles” (MP3). Lawrence uses hydrophones and contact microphones, along with other equipment, to capture the audio around, above, and deep within the lough.

[audio:|titles=”Lough Neagh”|artists=Tom Lawrence]

The descriptive text runs as follows:

During 2008/9 while working as a sound recordist for BBC Radio 4 Natural History Unit, sound recordist and composer Dr. Tom Lawrence spent six months recording and documenting the sounds above and below the waves of Lough Neagh, the largest water-mass in the British Isles. This programme is a compelling audio-log of those recordings, featuring breath-taking underwater sounds of beetles, frogs, eels, fish and other life. The programme also presents sounds above the water including migratory birds, industry and evocative soundscapes of forestry and the elements. Recorded and produced by Tom Lawrence Equipment: SQN Mixer, DPA Hydrophone, DPA omni-directional mics, SD702 recorder, Sennheiser M-S rig, Neuman 82, contact mics (piezos).

You’d never know from the audio that Lawrence recorded that the area is, as he puts it, “incredibly industrial.” Alternating with the audio itself, he describes the effort required to gain “a few hours every week” when the mechanical presence was subdued enough for him to capture the non-man-made environment. Neither his description of the environs nor of his effort itself are evident in the pristine wonder of what he has recorded — all bird calls and the quiet motion of water, a postcard augmented by his equally placid narrative. It all just goes to show that audio recording is no more or less real, or true, or free of bias or of authorial intent than are photographic images — Lawrence excels at what he does because he managed to record what he sought out to record, to select and to frame.

More on Lough Neagh at, from which the above map is borrowed.

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Souns MP3, Circa 2004

“Morning Island” is the title of one of two 2004 tracks by Souns recently “unearthed” and posted as part of the Panospria netlabel’s ever-expanding catalog of freely downloadable music. The track (MP3) was taped live during a performance at the Shambhala Music Festival in Nelson, British Columbia. Souns lists the equipment used as “DJ mixer, 2 CDJ-1000s with pre-prepared CDs, a Line-6 loop pedal, DD66 delay, and a microphone.” The track takes raw field recordings (surf, bird calls, small rough noises) and gossamer synthesis into a gentle blend. The real-world noise serves as a sort of backdrop to the generated sounds, though sometimes foreground and background are reversed. The bird calls stand in textural contrast to the slow undulations and ring tones, yet at the same time, their looping (whether by nature, or software) finds a common ground with the man-made elements heard here — a certain dependability, a certain rote-ness, a certain comfortable lassitude.

[audio:|titles=”Morning Island”|artists=Souns]

Get the full release at

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Lo-Fi Spanish Summer Days MP3

What a difference five years make. Back in 2005, Spanish musician Mikel Martínez released Spring Is Coming Soon, under the name Aitänna77. The album was a delirious little seasonal daydream — at the time I noted its unique intersection: “all the elegance of classic minimalism and all the presence of an early-1970s singer-songwriter album.” Come 2010, there’s a new Aitänna77 EP, titled The Last Summer Days, and the songwriter in Martínez has largely trumped the minimalist. Three of the EP’s four songs are just that: proper, if willfully inexpertly performed, songs, dense with folk-rock haze and sung in a voice with quavering hesitance. The title track (MP3) has a vocal, but it’s sparse and buried — the extent to which it is echoed could easily be described as wild, but in fact it’s mellow to the core, just one more element in the rapturous production miasma. From the opening bristle, a children’s toy by all appearance, “The Last Summer Days” is an ecstatic exercise in lushness for lushness’s sake — a lushness that prevails because of, not in spite of, its lo-fi-ness.

[audio:|titles=”The Last Summer Days”|artists=Aitänna77]

Get the full release at Related: the review of Spring Is Coming Soon (, and news of a sound-art project in which I employed Aitänna77’s music (

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  • about

  • Marc Weidenbaum founded the website in 1996 at the intersection of sound, art, and technology, and since 2012 has moderated the Disquiet Junto, an active online community of weekly music/sonic projects. He has written for Nature, Boing Boing, The Wire, Pitchfork, and NewMusicBox, among other periodicals. He is the author of the 33 1⁄3 book on Aphex Twin’s classic album Selected Ambient Works Volume II. Read more about his sonic consultancy, teaching, sound art, and work in film, comics, and other media

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  • My book on Aphex Twin's landmark 1994 album, Selected Ambient Works Vol. II, was published as part of the 33 1/3 series, an imprint of Bloomsbury. It has been translated into Japanese (2019) and Spanish (2018).

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