My 33 1/3 book, on Aphex Twin's Selected Ambient Works Volume II, was the 5th bestselling book in the series in 2014. It's available at Amazon (including Kindle) and via your local bookstore. • F.A.Q.Key Tags: #saw2for33third, #sound-art, #classical, #juntoElsewhere: Twitter, SoundCloud, Instagram

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

Monthly Archives: November 2020

Cross-Device Ambient

From the London-based musician who goes by Ambalek

Beautiful cross-device ambient, featuring a standard modular synthesizer setup controlling the more esoteric Plumbutter from the Ciat Lonbarde line of instruments (that’s wooden gadget in the foreground at the start of the video). It sounds like an orchestra tuning up from down the hall in advance of performing an evening impressionist program. It sounds like those orchestral musicians have found a happy degree of ensemble, of near-telepathic collaboration, and decided, spur of the moment, to just go with it, to see where the sinuous sense of collaboration takes them. Lovely lines hint at melody but pass more like wafts of cloud formations in a gentle breeze. The track is titled “Tethered.”

Video originally posted at youtube.com. More from Ambalek, who is based in London, at soundcloud.com/ambalek and instagram.com/_ambalek. This is the latest video I’ve added to my ongoing YouTube playlist of fine live performance of ambient music.

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Jason Richardson’s Lessons from the Disquiet Junto

At cyclicdefrost.com

Play: “I find it’s important when approaching any activity to switch off my inner critic and unleash a child-like sense of play.”

Action: “One of the best things about the Disquiet Junto is finding that creativity doesn’t need to wait for inspiration.”

Variety: “Sometimes the prompts are like cryptic crossword questions, and it’s fun to see the variety of interpretations that emerge from the community; other times they’re prescribed directions and it still seems as though everyone comes up with something radically different.”

Learning: “So I think that, while there are many lessons I’ve learned from being part of the Disquiet Junto community, a key one to reflect on here is that creative experiments can not fail. You just need to adopt an attitude that you’re still learning.”

Those four observations (with my labels) are just a few of the points brought up by Australian musician and artist Jason Richardson in a post he published this week, at cyclicdefrost.com, about his experience as a frequent participant in the Disquiet Junto music community. It’s a thoughtful, generous overview of the Disquiet Junto’s weekly compositional prompts, and it’s informed by his having accomplished roughly two thirds of the 464 projects to date. Jason has also contributed project ideas over the years, such as one using samples he made from “the biggest guitar in the southern hemisphere.” He also interviewed me back in 2017, during which he made an observation I think about quite frequently: “the Junto themes seem to have proportion to daily life, with a number about sleeping, waking, eating, walking, etc.”

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Ana Roxanne, Back in 2019

A live set in a railway terminal

There’s a great new album out from Ana Roxanne, Because of a Flower, which I’ve mentioned once or twice in the run up to its November 13 release. Definitely check it out for its layers of looped vocals and other forms of lush, often semi-verbal playfulness.

And while you’re at it, (re)visit this video of a half-hour set that she performed at Union Station in Los Angeles back in mid-May 2019. It’s a great show, benefiting especially from the way the vast hall expands upon her already well-documented penchant for echoing spaciousness. And note the facial expressions each time the train announcements threaten to disturb the fragility and serenity that the music has worked so hard to achieve. Ooo, and it closes with a cover of Smokey Robinson & the Miracles’ “Ooo Baby Baby” that would make Angelo Badalamenti cry for an encore.

Video originally posted at youtube.com. More from Roxanne, formerly of Los Angeles and currently of New York City, at instagram.com/frincess.

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Current Listens: London Beats, Robot Piano

Heavy rotation, lightly annotated

A 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. I hope to write more about some of these in the future, but didn’t want to delay sharing them.

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NEW: Recent(ish) arrivals and pre-releases

London-based Vigi Beats delivers five brief instrumental hip-hop tracks, the loops expertly balancing a downtempo pace with a frenzy of sped-up samples. The set is titled Just Some Chops.

Hard to imagine the new Thys / Amon Tobin collaboration wasn’t initially conceived as the score to an unidentified video game or film project, so thick is Ithaca with scene-setting, rhythmically amorphous sonic experimentation.

John Schaefer’s New Sounds hosts two piano performances by Icelandic musician Olafur Arnalds. Arnald’s new album, some kind of peace, involves his algorithmic Stratus software (“intelligent custom software that could trigger self-playing, semi-generative ‘ghost’ pianos — his ‘robot writing partners'” per the software company, Spitfire Audio, that released it). Listen to the interview at newsounds.org.

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Grace Notes: Used Sounds, De-Amplifying

From the past week

I do this manually each week, collating the tweets I made that I want to keep track of (and sometimes some stray thoughts that didn’t appear earlier). For the most part, this means ones I initiated, not ones in which I directly responded to someone. Long ago, as I mentioned two weeks ago, there was an automated way to collect a week’s tweets as a blog post. Bizarrely, after years and years of that plugin not functioning, this morning it suddenly worked, out of the blue. When I discovered that it had auto-posted a summary of the past week’s tweets, I deleted the entry, because it’s sort of an inelegant solution. I may fiddle with the plugin’s settings, but in the meanwhile, collating these manually is a good practice.

▰ A Go-Go’s song came on over the weekend, and I immediately started tapping my foot and paying attention with what I can only describe as military-grade attention and focus. I felt like I was suddenly becoming aware that I am, in fact, some sort of Gen X Cylon sleeper agent.

▰ Fun thing about buying used music equipment is occasionally hearing, due to SD cards and internal memory, whatever music the person you bought it from was making before they put it in the box and mailed it to you. Even generic looper pedals have stories to tell.

▰ tired: subtweeting
wired: de-amplifying

▰ Skynet alert: The AI spambots are getting smarter. Based on the past few days’ flurry, they’ve sorted out (17+ years after I left New Orleans) that despite my 504 area code I live in 415.

▰ Mistakenly thought Twitter had become a China Miéville book club.

▰ Fellow San Franciscans: if you have children unfamiliar with the concept of “rain” this is a good time to take them outside.

▰ “A lot of people could identify the roar as a Palmer roar or a Nicklaus roar or a Tiger roar” (nytimes.com. Despite the old saw about golf claps, competitive golf without a crowd present is quite a different thing. (I don’t golf, so I’ll take their word for it.)

▰ The “sound beaming” technology that puts music in your head. Cybernetic earmworm FTW: timesofisrael.com.

▰ Have a great weekend, folks. I usually take a long social media break at the end of the year starting right around now, but given the social restrictions of pandemic life, I may hang around online. We’ll see. Still taking weekends off, either way. Be well.

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