In the month since Warp Records debuted a new Brian Eno track, a collaboration with poet Rick Holland titled “Glitch,” the song has received over 100,000 plays on Soundcloud.com. Warp has now followed that up with a second Eno-Holland collaborative track, which, like “Glitch,” is sourced from the sessions that yielded the forthcoming Drums Between the Bells, due out July 5. This second track, titled “Imagine New Times,” is very much a contrast with “Glitch”: sedate where “Glitch” was caffeinated, human (Eno reads Holland’s words) where “Glitch” was emphatically mechanical, free to download (well, for the price of your email address) where “Glitch” was streaming-only in advance of the album’s release. In addition, while “Glitch” actually appears on Drums Between the Bells, “Imagine New Times” is an outtake.
Eno’s voice comes across as self-consciously, even defiantly, aged here, slow enough for you to hear the wear on his vocal chords. That weathered sensibility finds a balance between the poem’s imagined “new times,” and the general impression of reflection, of, as the poem puts it, “paperweight lives [that] parade undesigned.” At the very end, when Eno repeats the title phrase for the umpteenth time, you can hear his voice crack. All the while a light click track emphasizes the passage of time, and attenuated bell tones gather in shifting layers.
Never delete a dead RSS feed, because you never know when the feed will suddenly show signs of life. Late last year, for example, the great if far-from-prolific netlabel called “yoyo pang” released a single song after an absence longer than a year. And then this past Friday, March 20, the Kikapu netlabel, which called it quits in early 2008 after 109 releases and almost a decade of activity, added release number 110 to its catalog. The Kikapu wesite, at kikapu.com, has long since come into the possession of a domain squatter, but a peek at the Wayback Machine at archive.org displays the final update to the page, which was simply a list of the label’s releases and a reflective quote from Walt Whitman: four lines from “Passage to India,” including the now somewhat clairvoyant “For what is the present, after all, but a growth out of the past?”
The release is Glades Fall, five tracks by Kikapu founder Brad S. Mitchell, who recorded it under the name Pocka. He reports on his own website, bradsmitchell.com, that he had entirely forgotten about it: “I discovered an entire album I recorded a couple of years ago. It was originally a demo for an overseas label, but it never came to fruition beyond this stage in the recording process.” It’s available at his soundcloud.com/pocka and at archive.org. It’s a great collection, especially the elegant backward-masking of “Patient Lines” and the hints of sublimated horn on “Brew Compound Create,” which make one wonder if the sampled material includes Miles Davis.
For future reference, this is the URL of the Kikapu feed: RSS. And here’s a brief interview I did with Mitchell back when he closed down Kikapu in 2008: “End of a Netlabel.”
The saxophonist Heddy Boubaker stopped playing the instrument last year after what he describes as health problems. “I started to think,” he writes on his website’s homepage, “about [a] new way to continue my sound explorations and expression in free improvisation.” And what he decided to do was focus on the modular synthesizer. His soundcloud.com/hbbk account has, subsequent to the shift in instrumentation, provided a steady stream of his experimentation. The burbling-brook popping of “Impro#12 2011-04-30 (From the Ghost to the Machine)” suggests a parallel to certain duck-call-like embouchure techniques in European free improvisation:
And the low rumble that runs underneath “Impro#14 2011-05-07 (Sausages for Algernon)” bring to mind some of the implementations of circular breathing:
The title of Tony Mahoney‘s recent Dusted Wax free netlabel download, the 11-track Product of a Dying Breed, is a conscious nod to the willfully backdated sound that he pursues. With the exception of a few vocal appearances on the recording, it’s purely instrumental hip-hop, and it’s made from the mix of steady beats and a minimal selection of samples that feels almost primordial in its sparseness. The aged quality is reinforced by how the tracks revel in the light sprinkling of vinyl surface noise that largely disappeared with the rise of digital production. Several pieces stand out, in particular a violin/piano/beats entry that lifts a smidgen of what appears to be Beethoven’s “Für Elise.” The reworking is titled “Broken Wingz,” and it’s to Mahoney’s credit that he manages to slowly erase the listener’s memory of the source material as his rendition proceeds — an especially tricky situation, given how deeply those notes are etched into our musical memories.
The first few times through the track, that opening static seems associated with the lifted source material, but by the fourth or fifth listen, the track has become so solidly Mahoney’s own that the static instead comes to suggest itself merely as the sound of a song about to begin after the needle has touched down.
Nick Lowe once sang, “This rut I am in, it once was a groove.” What beatmakers like Mahoney do is to try to find a new groove in that old rut. And the beauty of the retained static is they take pleasure in that very rut-ness.