The album Northern Gulfs by Yair Elazar Glotman comes and goes in rich swells. The music — entirely free of vocals, and essentially of melodies for that matter —Â is built less from notes than from images. These are sounds, of course, but each sound is so specific, so distinct from each other, that they individually have the quality of images. They’re memorable less for their sonic content than for their narrative content, the place they hold in memory, the stories they propose. On the track “High Tide,” for example, the constituent sounds include the sawing of wood, the creaking of a rope and a slat pier, some high-pitched ring tones, insectoid percussion that could be a cigarette lighter failing to make good on its sole responsibility, and an underlying bass tone with a somber cast. There are six Northern Gulfs tracks in all, each with its own collection of images. Some are more tonal, others more entranced with sourced field recordings, like the scatter of pebbles and echoed bell on “Low Tide” or the ratcheted gears in “Home Port.” Each of these elements, whether tonal or sourced, is entirely self-defined. Each may individually have been processed — stretched, given texture, looped mechanically, hushed — but they never seem to merge in any given track. They are like semi-opaque cards in a deck being constantly shuffled. “Khaypudyr Bay,” named for a spot in the brittle cold of northwest Russia, features a delicate counterpoint of clipped signals, buried deep in a warm, gray hum. Much of the record retains that muted malevolence, but it reaches an extreme on “Kara Sea,” named for the Siberian waters, which feels truly tortured, its elements including backward masked bits that suggest regret, as well as harsh winds and a haunting organ.
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.
• My book on Aphex Twin's landmark 1994 album, Selected Ambient Works Vol. II, was published as part of the 33 1/3 series, an imprint of Bloomsbury. It has been translated into Japanese (2019) and Spanish (2018).
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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.
• 0465 / You Thank / The Assignment: Make a piece of music for someone or something for which you feel thankful.
• 0464 / Blanket Song / The Assignment: Play over a song, and then remove the original.
• 0463 / Making the Gradient / The Assignment: Make a piece of music inspired by the concept of a gradient.
• 0462 / Vade in Pace / The Assignment: Write a short piece of music that gets slower and slower as it proceeds.
• 0461 / Goldilocks Zone / The Assignment: Navigate a sonic space between the hospitable and the inhospitable.
And there is a complete list of past projects, 465 consecutive weeks to date.
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