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Monthly Archives: June 2011

If It’s Broken Beats Don’t Fix It (Dustmotes MP3s)

If ever there were art music disguised as downtempo broken beats, it is Paul Crocker‘s Equilibria, recorded under his Dustmotes moniker and released for free download by the estimable netlabel. On “Inner Tuning,” a mix of plaintive violin, post-rock exotica percussion, and a soundbite recording of a crime report all collide into a dramatization that’s less about narrative and more about frozen time (MP3). Early on, a slowed-down siren makes its way from one ear to another. At first, it’s just an effect rendered for its sonorous musicality, but then it reveals itself to have been a premonition of ill deeds. It’s the siren you hear as an everyday soundmark of urban life, only to be confronted later by the specific stark reality of that siren’s meaning — noise revealed as signal — when you flip on TV after dinner.

On “Sickle,” the individual parts of a fusion ensemble — trap drum, fuzzed-out guitar, gut-rumbling bass, light electric piano — flutter by like clips that are ever so slightly out of sync with each other (MP3). The effect is mesmerizing, and like one of Conlon Nancarrow’s famed player-piano works, challenges the primacy of human-performed music by presenting something whose very mechanical nature is an essential aspect of its rough beauty. If that is the goal of broken beat music, then “Sickle” reaches it.

[audio:|titles=”Inner Tuning”|artists=Dustmotes] [audio:|titles=”Sickle”|artists=Dustmotes] [audio:|titles=”Train”|artists=Dustmotes] [audio:|titles=”Oil Face”|artists=Dustmotes]

And those aren’t even the finest tracks on Equilibria. That honor would arguably go to “Train” and “Oil Face,” both of which take brief snippets of existing recordings and transform them into the lead “voice” of fully considered compositions. In the case of “Train” it’s a snippet of a horn solo that appears on occasion above a bed of pizzicato plinking. It’s a dirge of a solo, each time around slowly pushing toward its conclusion. The repetition of the recorded — again: frozen — performance is in stark contrast with the emphasis in jazz on live playing, yet the affection inherent in the sampling — sampler as custodian — is undeniable (MP3).

On “Oil Face” it’s a tiny bit of a female folk vocal, heard as flittery wreckage, its verbal content unintelligible thanks to thick vinyl static and enough scratch-induced stuttering to suggest a turntable-induced stammer. When, about a minute and a quarter in, the track suddenly explodes with a pop exuberance, what’s heard is a song despite itself, a song that has managed to utterly dispense with the whole concept of lyric meaning, and still manages to combine voice and production into something elevating and intoxicating (MP3).

It’s only June as I type this, but if Equilibria isn’t on my best-of-2011 list it’s only because some seriously tremendous music arrives between now and the end of the year.

Get the full album, 11 tracks in all, for free download at More on Dustmotes/Crocker at

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Past Week at

  • Among the ironies of whole Jay Maisel / Kind of Bloop copyright fight is that few art forms before hip-hop were as appropriative as jazz. #
  • When I see positive reviews of Dave Hickey's The Invisble Dragon, I wonder if there are two books by that name and I read the wrong one. #
  • Man, I wanna get to Los Angeles this summer, now especially because I want to check out #
  • Morning sounds: shower, baby babble, broken beats. #
  • Peter Falk has died. Time to cue up Wings of Desire. #
  • RIP, composer Fred Steiner (b. 1923), who among other things wrote music for Star Trek and Twilight Zone. #
  • The great Squiggle make-your-own-string-instrument app has had a thorough UI overhaul. #
  • The Sound Cells app now syncs with midi, and has background sound support (i.e., listen while you read). #
  • RT @mmaddencomics Jarmusch is hoping to convince Eno to score one of his next films. #
  • If you play this library's HVAC system backwards, it sounds like Ronnie James Dio. #
  • Read more »
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Sketches of Sound 15: S.L. Gallant

Every month since April 2010, has hosted a project called “Sketches of Sound,” in which illustrators are invited to draw a sound-related object. I post the drawing as the background of my Twitter account,, and then share a bit of information about the illustrator back on Call it “curating Twitter.”

For the 15th entry, in time for the Fourth of July, S.L. Gallant volunteered for service. He writes of the piece:

My late father, Larrie Londin (aka Ralph Gallant), was a studio drummer who started out at Motown with a band called the Headliners, the first white band signed to the V.I.P. label. His r&b sound led him to Nashville, where he backed Dolly Parton, Chet Atkins, and Jerry Reed, and was one of the few to work with Elvis. Later, before his death, he played for Steve Perry, of Journey, and prog rocker Adrian Belew, and for all of them it was his unique drum sound that made him an ideal studio musician. My father loved to accumulate all types of percussion instruments, but snare drums were his favorite. That collection filled the house, and the one I remember most was a colonial-style marching snare that we used as an end table.

S.L. Gallant is a comic illustrator, born in Nashville, now living in Washington, D.C., with his wife, Melissa. It was during his time as an on-staff illustrator in advertising and public relations that he developed the ability to mimic various artistic styles and to meet impossible deadlines. These traits have allowed him to artistically jump between titles such as Titan’s magazine versions of Shrek and Monsters vs. Aliens, to BBC’s Torchwood. Currently, he is the regular artist on IDW’s G.I. Joe: Real American Hero, which continues the original storyline of the classic characters, and is written by the series’ creator, Larry Hama.

More of Gallant’s work can be seen at and his blog,

The previous “Sketches of Sound” contributors were, in alphabetical order, Brian Biggs, Leela Corman, Warren Craghead III, Owen Freeman, Brian Hagen, Dylan Horrocks, Megan Kelso, Minty Lewis, Natalia Ludmila, Darko Macan, Justin Orr, Hannes Pasqualini, Thorsten Sideb0ard, and Gustavo Alberto Garcia Vaca.

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Italian Guitar Machine (MP3)

The AlchEmista netlabel, at, appears to be two netlabels in one. There is the “alfd” line and the “al” line, both of which, as of this writing, have released five separate sets. While both sublabels, or imprints, focus on the guitar, the “alfd” line is varied in its output, including duos, while the “al” line is dedicated strictly to solo improvisations. One impressive recent “al” collection, as of this past February, is a pair of improvs by an aggressive player named Lucia D’Errico, who handles her instrument like a one-woman BBC Radiophonic Workshop. At times, it’s all fuzzed-out sonic weaponry, at others the sonar pings of a fantastic voyage. Rarely if ever does it sound like a guitar is generally thought to sound (which is to say, like other entries in the AlchEmista series), and in addition to various electronic devices, she employs such extended techniques as tapping, scraping the strings to magnify the impact of their texture, and banging on the guitar’s body. One track in particular, “Disco Machine” (MP3), makes evident how D’Errico’s mastery of the noisier aspects of guitar manipulation is in no way a mask for any lesser traditional ability on her part.

[audio:|titles=”Disco Machine”|artists=Lucia D Errico]

Track originally released at More on her at

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The Viola and the Oscillator (MP3)

Like Caroline Park’s piece noted here earlier this week, Catherine Lamb‘s recent “cross/collapse” is a noise-to-signal work. That is to say, it moves from abstraction to impression, from chaos to form. In comparison to Park’s lengthy opening, though, the noise here excuses itself far earlier on. Lamb’s slowly bowed instrument, a viola, emerges from sinuous waveforms less as a contrast than a comparison. The attenuated, sing-song bowing yields these extended held tones, which resemble electronically produced waveforms thanks to the patience and poise Lamb brings to her performance. According to the brief liner note accompanying the track upon its release, “This is from a series of pieces involving the viola coalescing with various forms of (spectral) oscillators.” That modus operandi becomes evident as the work progresses, and the viola is heard in tandem with various tones, some in contrast, some in comparison, all in sympathy.

Track available for streaming and free download (as a large Zip file) the netlabel

More on Lamb, pictured up top, at Piece recorded live in Los Angeles at the Wulf ( on November 20, 2010.

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