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.
Marc Weidenbaum founded the website Disquiet.com 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
• I pondered the word "orchestral" in my liner notes for the excellent new album Uprooted from Rotterdam-based Michel Banabila, released April 9, 2019.
• I had the great pleasure of being interviewed by Darwin Grosse for his excellent, longrunning podcast, Art + Music + Technology, and the episode went live on April 7, 2019: artmusictech.libsyn.com.
• I gave the opening talk on March 22, 2019, at the inaugural Algorithmic Art Assembly in San Francisco. I'll post a summary here soon, but for the time being, there's a great overview of the event at the website of cycling74.com, written by Tom Hall.
• I was on Vivian Host's Peak Time show (on Red Bull Radio) on March 11 to extol the timeless virtues of Aphex Twin's Selected Ambient Works Volume II, and related works. You can listen to a recording here: redbullradio.com.
• June 23, 2019: There's a Disquiet Junto concert this Sunday at 8pm at Cabaret Berlin in Montréal, Quebec.
• December 13, 2019: This day marks the 23rd anniversary of Disquiet.com.
• January 7, 2020: This day marks the 8th anniversary of the Disquiet Junto.
• March 2020: A chapter on the Disquiet Junto ("The Disquiet Junto as an Online Community of Practice," by Ethan Hein) appears in the forthcoming book The Oxford Handbook of Social Media and Music Learning (Oxford University Press), edited by Stephanie Horsley, Janice Waldron, and Kari Veblen.
• There are entries on the Disquiet Junto in the forthcoming book The Music Production Cookbook: Ready-made Recipes for the Classroom (Oxford University Press), edited by Adam Patrick Bell.
• 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.
Since January 2012, the Disquiet Junto has been an ongoing weekly collaborative music-making community that employs creative constraints as a springboard for creativity. Subscribe to the announcement list (each Thursday), listen to tracks by participants from around the world, read the FAQ, and join in.
• 0390 / Pace Quickens / The Assignment: Take an old song (or field recording), and make it faster, and then add something.
• 0389 / Long Then / The Assignment: Take an old song, and make it (much) slower, and add something.
• 0388 / Random Less / The Assignment: Make a single piece of music with very few tools, all selected at random.
• 0387 / Everything & More / The Assignment: Make a single piece of music using every single instrument that you have at your disposal.
• 0386 / New Colors / The Assignment: Out with the old white noise, in with the new.