In Hollywood, it would be called a reel, a sequential survey of one’s work. In music, it’s a mix — and in the case of Jeffery Melton, who goes by nofi, it’s nearly a dozen pieces of varying sonic properties, creative practice, and artistic intent. The mix bears the title “melton.drone.mixtape-2011.09.18,” the sort of name that makes the most sense scrawled on a piece of masking tape and applied to one of myriad narrow cardboard boxes shelved in a humidity-controlled basement. Perhaps that mental image is drawn in part from the music contained in the mix, much of which has an enticing emotional remoteness. It’s a kind of bunker aesthetic, in which voices are kept at a distance, field recordings of running water veer back and forth between stereo channels amid the constant hum of ambient anxiety, and the blurring of the line between real-world and synthesized sound is paramount. Melton writes in brief of the material, which he says is recent work, that it includes “electronic drones and noise, field recordings and granular textures,” with the contents divided up as follows, though no specific time codes are made available:
1. morning birdsong, grand marais, MI
2. testing old instruments
3. star sailing, excerpt
4. front porch, fort wayne, IN
5. sinister, excerpt
6. core breach, excerpt
7. lake superior waves on rock beach, grand marais, MI
8. granular cloud, flute
9. granular cloud, tabalas
10. water wheel, fort wayne, IN
11. granular stretch, orchestral
Perhaps we should feed the gremlins after midnight. That’s what Chris Herbert did, albeit inadvertently. He came back to his desk one morning to discover that he’d left some audio software going overnight. It picked up stray sounds and converted them into an alternately blissful and tension-riddled stretch of glitchy wonderment, which Herbert posted at his soundcloud.com/chrisherbert account under the title “untrammelled/overnight.” If you enjoy it, download it quickly, as Herbert reports, “I’ll likely delete this in short order.”
If you’d like to hear what this same software was intended to be used for, Herbert explains that over at youtu.be he posted a purposeful composition he’d made with it.
Kudos to Blue Hell not only for creating an immersive set of ambient music that mixes vapor trails of synthesizer and a constant sense of moistness, perhaps source from field recordings — but also for thinking of a broader audience than the work might seem to address. The piece is titled “Prayer Machine,” and in full form it is a nearly two-hour sprawl of sound. With its dank contours and dark tonal content, it comprises the audio equivalent of a very long bath after a very long day. But Blue Hell has also created a “radio edit” of the work, a five-minute excerpt, suitable for casual listening, and for easier passing around (MP3). The track is notable for its loose structure, and its ability to maintain its sense of lull for such an extended period of time. The format, the radio edit, should be a wake-up call in the ambient/netlabel community as a means to make difficult music — which is to say in this case, long-form music, music whose scope and breadth makes particular demands on the listener’s patience — more approachable.
First: act quickly, as this free offer is only good until 9:19pm this evening, Philadelphia time. The Philadelphia-based producer Y?Arcka is a frequent subject of Downstream entries here at Disquiet.com, thanks to his intensely focused hip-hop productions, which tend to take a tiny slip of an existing track and extrapolate from it a fully considered instrumental composition. Though his own works at times push him toward the avant-garde edge of the instrumental-hip-hop continuum, Y?Arcka (alternately Why?Arcka, which stands for Young Architect) in no way distances himself from basic algebra of hip-hop, in which a prepared track is passed to a vocalist, yielding a finished work that has, generally speaking, one author responsible for each of its constituent parts — not counting, of course, the musicians who were the source for the samples, or guest vocalists.
In a full album just out today, and available for free download only until 9:19pm (Philadelphia Time), Y?Arcka has teamed with over a dozen rappers/vocalists, including the noted rhythmic raconteur Zilla Rocca. According to a tweet Y?Arcka sent me earlier today, folks who download the album will also receive a set of the instrumental versions. Especially looking forward to hearing the instrumental of “Up My Sleeve,” its central riff something halfway between a talking drum and a flute, and of “Mr. Matic,” with its super tight mix of drums and guitar.
Over at weallmakemusic.com, I’ve channeled my antipathy for the vast amount of email PR that I receive each week into something vaguely constructive. It’s an article with the self-explanatory title “How to Use Email to Promote Your Music Without Alienating Your Audience.” It’s aimed at musicians who use email to promote their own music (“When It Feels Awkward, Quote Other People”), but there’s no reason the suggestions (“Links, Not Attachments,” “Garbage Out, Garbage In”) aren’t applicable more broadly.
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
• July 28, 2021: This day marks the start of the 500th consecutive weekly project in the Disquiet Junto music community.
• December 13, 2021: This day marks the 25th anniversary of the founding of Disquiet.com.
• January 6, 2021: This day marks the 10th anniversary of the start of the Disquiet Junto music community.
• 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. Ethan Hein wrote one, and I did, too.
• A chapter on the Disquiet Junto ("The Disquiet Junto as an Online Community of Practice," by Ethan Hein) appears in the book The Oxford Handbook of Social Media and Music Learning (Oxford University Press), edited by Stephanie Horsley, Janice Waldron, and Kari Veblen. (Details at oup.com.)
• 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.
• 0484 / A Movable Heart / The Assignment: Transplant the sounds of Chris Kallmyer's wind chimes to a new location.
• 0483 / Type Set / The Assignment: Use a recording of yourself typing something as the underlying rhythmic track for a piece of music.
• 0482 / Exactly That Gap / The Assignment: Make a musical haiku following instructions from Marcus Fischer.
• 0481 / Capsule Time / The Assignment: Record a time capsule for yourself in the future.
• 0480 / Ongsay Aftcray / The Assignment: Record a piece of music by employing Pig Latin as a technique.