Don’t read too much into genre. It’s a label, a brief tag all too quickly affixed in the hopes of giving a potential listener, wading through the haystack of web-hosted sound, a means to find a glimmer of the familiar. “Glitchstep” is the term Biting Eye (aka Ben Bridges, living in the Yau Tsim Mong district of Hong Kong) applied to his “BoYoDub,” a recently uploaded track to his soundcloud.com/biting-eye page. Not the specific “glitch” or the ubiquitous (to the point of meaningless) “dubstep” but an amalgam. The “glitch,” here a prefix, may relate to the switchy switchy percussion, the way beats, especially during the piece’s strong opening, have a tendency to decay, as if the mere responsibility of metronomic succession is too much for their hair-trigger, short-circuit constitution. The result is beats that push at momentum and then evaporate, appearing again, and again, each appearance more hesitant than the prior, to the extent that they serve a contrary purpose. Rather than imposing order they divulge its futility. As for “step,” it must correlate with the dank downtempo drone that comprises the majority of the tonal material. Don’t read too much into genre; that’s been taken care of.
The 17 tracks that comprise Compulse by Skiks are varied enough to come across, collectively, less like an album and more like an expression of the musician’s varied capabilities. These brief sonic items include retro synth heroism (“Emphatic Res”), ecstatic Fourth World shaman techno (“Chamong”), off-kilter MIDI-inflected tunesmithery (“Arnest”), and percussive post-rock (“Tenner Two”). Much of it, as the garbled syllables of various (though not all) titles suggest (“Veeks,” “Xypher”), smacks heavily of Autechre. One highlight is “Birovy,” whose complex piano phrasings bring to mind the proto-post-human endeavors of Conlon Nancarrow and whose spacious canvas suggests the spiritual yearnings of Morton Feldman (MP3).
Track originally posted at split-notes.com. Skiks is a pseudonym of composer/percussionist Bruce Hamilton, more on whom at alonetone.com/skiks and spectropol.com. It’s the ninth release on the Split-Notes netlabel, which focuses on legally free downloads of microtonal music. Compulse is the first Split-Notes release to be featured on Disquiet.com.
The Resting Bell netlabel’s four-part milestone marker, commemorating its 100th release, comes in the form of a pair of whorl-like compositions. Call them drones if you must, but the patterning is too recursive, too self-digesting, too senses-enveloping to adhere to the standard tenets of stasis suggested by “drone.” The beauty of the drone is that it is both melody and harmony at once, both a horizon-driving force, and a sea-to-sky expanse of haze. The whorl, in contrast, is constant motion disguised as stasis. The distinction is not either/or. Music can have aspects of both, and often does. In fact the most trenchant of the two pieces on the Resting Bell set, the opening track “GrimGrim,” becomes more drone-like as it comes to a close, moving from its shifting centrifugal main body to something sedate and remote (MP3). According to a brief liner note the work, attributed to Appalachian Falls, was performed live on “an array of distortion pedals and tape machines.” The combined effect has elements of the hypnotic pulsing and layers of classical minimalism, as if enacted by a shoegazer band.
Track originally posted at restingbell.net. Visit for additional information, including a second track, “Antonym.” The set is titled GrimGrimAntonym. (Information on the recording artist is scant. A brief bio on the label’s website reads as follows: “Appalachian Falls is the work of I, sometimes with the help of A and some other friends.” There is no forwarding link.)
Small software, small experiments, small files. Mike Rotondo recently tweeted a new recording, and it turned out to be 35 seconds of beat bliss. Arguably shorter than that, given its loop-based construction — and arguably longer, given its inherent temptation to be set on loop for an extended period of time.
Titled “Flip Throw In,” it has the feel of a hip-hop production waiting for vocalists, but one secretly more than happy to keep the pace all by itself. There’s a robot heartbeat of a pulse, and what appears to be a sample of piano. Not only does the looseness of the analog piano recording align at best roughly, and therefore rewardingly, with the tensile routine of the tiny beat — so, too, does the lush low fidelity of the recording, a kind of muslin filter, pair against the beat’s pixel precision. The result is promising: a little of J Dilla’s underkey metrics, a little of Kanye West’s alchemical ability to turn sloppy into louche, a little of DJ Premier’s fetish for imperfect ivories. “Flip Throw In” was recorded in an inexpensive iOS app called iMaschine that its developer describes as a “beat sketchpad,” pictured up top. From little things, lovely little things grow.
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
• February 5, 2020: The first session of the 15-week course I teach at the Academy of Art about the role of sound in the media landscape.
• April 15, 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. (Details at oup.com.)
• December 13, 2020: This day marks the 24th anniversary of Disquiet.com.
• January 7, 2021: This day marks the 9th 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.
• At least two live group concerts by Disquiet Junto members in the San Francisco Bay Area are in the works for 2020.
• I have liner notes for a musician's solo album and an essay in a book about an art event due out. I'll announce as the release dates come into focus.
• 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.
• 0456 / Line Up / The Assignment: Interpret a painting by Agnes Martin as if it were a graphic score.
• 0455 / Inner Invertebrate / The Assignment: What does a moment (or a day) in the life of a jellyfish sound like to a jellyfish?
• 0454 / Lsoo Vneg / The Assignment: Encode the name of someone you love into a piece of music.
• 0453 / Dial Up / The Assignment: Imagine the technologically mediated First Contact through sound.
• 0452 / Let's Scream / The Assignment: Get cathartic. Be resilient. Turn your scream into music.