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Listening to art. Playing with audio. Sounding out technology. Composing in code. Rewinding the soundscape.

Ambient, Beats, or Both?

A pulsing work by Duns Scott

The invocation of categories immediately brings those very same categories into question. To build a wall is to question, to test, its solidity. Just this morning I turned on three categorized sets — “carousels,” I called them; fluid, iterative podcasts is how I think of them. The general concept of these carousels is that as I come across material of interest on SoundCloud, I can easily add a given track to one of the three distinct sets, each with its own theme: ambient, beats, and “other,” the latter a space for more concentration-demanding listening.

And then, just hours later, I stumbled upon a track, “The Digged Up Loop,” by a musician I’ve never heard work from before, Duns Scott. By Scott’s own self-definition, “The Digged Up Loop” goes into the ambient bucket; “ambient” is one of the tags he’s associated with the file. But as lush and hazy as the track is, it is rife with rhythmic material, rounds of pulsing tones that come and go in a series of gentle swells. On first listen, this was going into the ambient carousel, but then, on repeat listens, the beats came more and more into the foreground. In the end, of course, it doesn’t matter where the track goes. The filter for the carousels is less a matter of rigorous genre taxonomy than of context-through-collation: where does the droning Duns Scott track make natural, aesthetic sense? The beats may, with their light counterpoint, bring to mind the rhythmic experiments of Steve Reich, but in the end their collective effect simply adds texture and momentum to the overall droning sensibility. And so, I added it to the ambient carousel — thought quite likely down the road I will come upon tracks that make sense in two if not all three of these carousels.

Track originally posted for free download at soundcloud.com/kanada-3. More from Duns Scott, who’s based in France, at dunsscott.tumblr.com.

By Marc Weidenbaum

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  • about

  • 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

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