I’ve always taken this Lego figure to be a boombox, but I’ve come to recognize that the handle is a phone, and the screen interface on the front seems to be phone-like, as well. Perhaps the pieces were repurposed from other initial uses? Perhaps it’s a prototype for the boombox phone of what was then the future.
(In unrelated news, that is, indeed, ash from the NorCal fires on the window ledge.)
“Helena” is the center-most track of the 11 that comprise Übersee, a new album by Oberlin, the name under which Alexander Holtz records. The full album is on Bandcamp. This piece was uploaded to SoundCloud as an example. Its six minutes are like a premonition transformed into sound. It’s haunting stuff, all tunnel wind and interference hum, beats no louder than a pin prick, and no less sharp.
This is another great set from the Uganda-based synth musician Afrorack, aka Brian Bamanya. It has a more limited sonic palette and more intricately rhythmic intent that the live performance I mentioned earlier this month, and those two aspects serve each other well. The frequently crossing patterns sound like steel percussion, and the slight tweaks of pitch bring to mind hand drums. Those subtle contrasts set the stage for how the individual pieces rotate through the set. Check out the 9:30 mark as an off beat is introduced and then slowly takes over. I listened to all 30 minutes of this several times in a row this afternoon.
This is my weekly(ish) answer to the question “What have you been listening to lately?” It’s lightly annotated because I don’t like re-posting material without providing some context. In the interest of conversation, let me know what you’re listening to in the comments below. Just please don’t promote your own work (or that of your label/client). This isn’t the right venue. (Just use email.)
▰ Håkan Lidbo has ingeniously composed music intended to accompany long-standing public bells heard around Stockholm, Sweden, including two churches and a civic center.
▰ If you’re tired of me recommending Jon Hassell’s latest album, then please allow me to recommend a record by one of its featured contributing musicians, guitarist Eivind Aarset.Snow Catches on her Eyelashes, released back in March on the Jazzland label, teams Aarset and Jan Bang on what could be the film score to a slow-burn science-fiction noir, all otherworldly tonalities transmuted through digital processing. Nils Petter Molvær (trumpet), through whose band I first experienced Aarset many years ago, is among the guests.
▰ As the album’s title suggests, Harbors sounds like coastal atmosphere come to musical life. With roughly 50 strings between them, Theresa Wong (cello) and Ellen Fullman (Long String Instrument, accounting for the remaining lion’s share) make resonant music together. Released last week on the Room40 label.
▰ Maximalist ambient music — orchestral and soaring — created from, of all things, the sound of an air horn. Better yet, it’s a multi-track video (using the SP-404, usually associated with beats). Recorded by the UK-based musician Morn Valley.
Modules from the Eurorack format of modular synthesizers are measured, in terms of width, by what are called “HP.” The letters stand for “horizontal pitch,” which equals a fifth of an inch. Modules are placed alongside each other in cases, and some ingenuity and space-consciousness can be required when putting together a system. You can see such standard modules, out of focus, in the background of the above two photographs. Functional modules are generally between 4HP and 30HP, but start as low as 1HP and seem to get both wider and narrower with each new release, pushing both ends of the spectrum. On the low end, there’s a wide range of 2HP and 3HP devices.
However, the modules can get smaller still. There is a growing number of modules not intended to be in a rack at all, but instead to hover above the rack, held aloft by the very cables that are plugged into them. These are so-called 0HP modules (that is: zero HP). Pictured here are two such ones I recently obtained. On the bottom, from the small company Schenk.work, is the Gerridae, which is named for the water strider bugs. The one up top, from Error Instruments, is named the Flying Attenuator. There’s a company called Mystic Circuits that specializes in 0HP modules. Whether floating or soaring or on the spiritual plane altogether, these add handy functionality without taking up any precious room.
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
Upcoming • December 13, 2022: This day marks the 26th anniversary of the founding of Disquiet.com. • January 6, 2023: This day marked the 11th anniversary of the start of the Disquiet Junto music community.
Recent • April 16, 2022: I participated in an online "talk show" by The Big Conversation Space (Niki Korth and Clémence de Montgolfier). • March 11, 2022: I hosted a panel discussion between Mark Fell, Rian Treanor and James Bradbury in San Francisco as part of the Algorithmic Art Assembly (aaassembly.org) at Gray Area (grayarea.org). • December 28, 2021: This day marked the 10th (!) anniversary of the Instagr/am/bient compilation. • January 6, 2021: This day marked the 10th (!) anniversary of the start of the Disquiet Junto music community. • December 13, 2021: This day marked the 25th (!) anniversary of the start of the Disquiet Junto music community. • There are entries on the Disquiet Junto in the 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.)
Background 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.