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

The Vocal Layers of Sea Beau

One minute of feather-light strata from Toronto

This short burst of vocal simultaneity by the Toronto-based musician Sea Beau dates back a year, but I heard it for the first time this weekend while tracking various Canadian (and Detroit-based) performers and composers on SoundCloud. I go in and out of use of various streaming services. The past six months I’ve been much deeper in YouTube, in a way I never have before, for example, and Bandcamp has nudged up as well. One point of frustration with both YouTube and Bandcamp is they don’t foreground as well as SoundCloud does the musical connections of the posting account. Somehow these two services seem to think that we want to know what our fellow listeners listen to, but on YouTube we’re left to largely automated, algorithm-driven recommendations in terms of what the source audio might connect us to, and Bandcamp doesn’t even invest that many computing cycles.

On SoundCloud every account has a clearly marked list each of following and followers, which can make for a fluid series of forking discovery paths. (That’s “discovery” in the active sense of looking around, not the passive sense of “look what the music conveyor belt served up.”) With BandCamp, my “feed” tells me what the listeners I follow have purchased lately, and any individual album lists who it is “supported by,” but the service doesn’t allow, in the manner SoundCloud does, that the person who posted music might themselves listen to music. Some YouTube accounts show their subscriptions, but it isn’t consistent.

In any case, this piece by Sea Beau is an absolutely gorgeous, endlessly loopable polyphonic series of vocal intonations. It is all non-verbal, feather-light vowels produced as closely knit strata. The tones are alternately heavenly and nasal, in chordal harmony at one moment and set in deliciously sour contrast with each other the next.

Track originally posted at soundcloud.com/sea-beau. More from Sea Beau, who is based in Toronto, Canada, at twitter.com/seeseabeau.

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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