New Disquietude podcast episode: music by Lesley Flanigan, Dave Seidel, KMRU, Celia Hollander, and John Hooper; interview with Flanigan; commentary; short essay on reading waveforms. • F.A.Q.Key Tags: #saw2for33third, #field-recording, #classical, #juntoElsewhere: Twitter, SoundCloud, Instagram

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

Monthly Archives: December 2020

Lofi Trombone Loops

Courtesy of Quiet Horn

The abundance of reverberating droning heard in this video is the result of layer upon layer of loops accumulating, all soured from live trombone playing, and then treated live in an iOS app that doesn’t merely simulate but also sensualizes the effect of old reel-to-reel tape. The result, especially when the octave leaps and glitches kick in, sounds inspired by Jon Hassell: futuristic atmospheres hinting at tribal ceremonies, high technology mined for its textures, its inaccuracies, its shortcomings. This is the music of Quiet Horn. The YouTube account only has 150 subscribers as of this writing, but that’s sure to increase soon, based on the beauty of this piece.

This is the latest video I’ve added to my ongoing YouTube playlist of fine live performance of ambient music. Video originally posted at Quiet Horn’s YouTube account.

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10 Favorite Ambient/Electronic Albums of 2020

Plus film/TV scores, and some additional albums, and some hesitations

This is a list of my 10 favorite ambient/electronic albums of 2020, plus some extras. These are the ones I returned to again and again as the terrible year persisted. As I’m not much of a list-maker, I need to note that the concept of a top 10 list becomes ever less meaningful to me as time progresses. The fact is, much of the music I enjoy takes other forms: one-offs on Bandcamp and SoundCloud, videos on YouTube and Instagram, live sessions on Twitch and elsewhere, not to mention in-context music as a part of television series, movies, and video games. Much as rock, which once upon a time largely defined popular music, is now just one small genre among others, the LP itself is just one format among myriad. Many years I don’t even make a list of favorite albums, but this year I did. There was too much music, and I recognize that whittling it to a list of favorites is of use to people trying to make sense of the embarrassment of riches (cultural if not economic) that is the post-Bandcamp recording industry. The first two records below are my favorites of the 2020, and the other eight appear in alphabetical order by artist, and then there’s a list of other albums that were highlights of the year, and then some scores (TV and film). And I may add a few additional favorites before the clock strikes midnight on December 31.

Snow Catches on her Eyelashes by Eivind Aarset and Jan Bang. What could be the film score to a slow-burn science-fiction noir, all otherworldly tonalities transmuted through digital processing. Nils Petter Molvær (trumpet) is among the guests.

Drift by Underworld and the Necks. Available as a standalone album, this deep, subtle groove of a set was a highlight of Underworld’s recent Drift box, and of the expansive YouTube video series from which it originated.

Cantus, Descant by Sarah Davachi. A collection of experimental, atmospheric music for organs, recorded on a variety of them in Amsterdam, Chicago, Vancouver, Copenhagen, and Los Angeles.

Third Album by Markus Floats. There is a propensity for joy on Floats’ Third Album that is absolutely intoxicating, notably on the the bubbly “Always.” What makes such moments all the more striking is the mass-like seriousness that comprises the majority of this rich, wide-ranging, deeply rewarding collection.

Harbors by Ellen Fullman and Theresa Wong. With roughly 50 strings between them, Wong (cello) and Fullman (Long String Instrument, accounting for the remaining lion’s share) make resonant music together.

Seeing Through Sound (Pentimento Volume Two) by Jon Hassell. The Fourth World master returned with his unique blend of sensuously digital set pieces, a sequel to 2018’s Listening to Pictures (Pentimento Volume One).

Silver Ladders by Mary Lattimore. At once lush and austere, fragile and full-bodied. Such are the wondrous contradictions in her hypermodern (improvisational and digitally enhanced) employment of the harp, an instrument generally associated with dusty antiquity.

Double Bind by Geneva Skeen. Rather than intimate drones for their own sake, this album uses them as the foundation for often orchestral-scale pieces that explore anxious minimalism, urban tension, and intergalactic exploration.

Stolen Car by Carl Stone. The master sampler rips source material to shreds and then reformats the ribbons of the originals into entirely new, ecstatic works.

We Have Amnesia Sometimes by Yo La Tengo. The long-running indie-rock band dug its way out of quarantine with a series of instrumental explorations.

Other favorite albums from 2020 included: Loraine JamesHmm. ▰ Ana Roxanne’s Because of a Flower. ▰ r beny’s Natural Fiction. ▰ Scanner’s Warp & Weft, made with sounds from Jogging House’s Reel Feels sound pack. ▰ Jeannine Schulz released a lot of ambient music this year, and it’s hard to single out one set in particular. There’s a bunch at, plus Ground . The Gentle, on the Stereoscenic Record label. ▰ Lloyd Cole’s Dunst. ▰ Thys and Amon Tobin’s Ithaca. ▰ Nils Frahm’s Empty.

And there were a lot great scores this year, key among them: Devs (credited to Ben Salisbury, Geoff Barrow, and the Insects, aka the duo of Bob Locke and Tim Norfolk, and benefiting from pre-existing tracks by Steve Reich, as well as Jan Garbarek in collaboration with the Hilliard Ensemble). ▰ Rutger HoedemaekersNo Man’s Land (he’s best known, perhaps, for his work with Jóhann Jóhannsson and Hildur Guðnadóttir on Trapped, and definitely check out The Last Berliner from 2019). ▰ Warren EllisThis Train I Ride (the rare film he’s scored solo, rather than in collaboration with Nick Cave). ▰ Ammonite by Dustin O’Halloran and Volker Bertelmann (they also collaborated on The Old Guard). ▰ ZeroZeroZero by Mogwai. ▰ Industry by Nathan Micay.

Tags: , / Comment: 1 ] Caption Culture

From the past week

I do this manually each week, collating the tweets I made at that I want to keep track of. For the most part, this means ones I initiated, not ones in which I directly responded to someone. I sometimes tweak them a bit here.

▰ Backing up a track 10 seconds to see if that siren was part of it or if an emergency services vehicle had just passed by.

▰ The TV caption reads “[melancholy music plays]” but it’s clearly a main character playing Satie, which is clearly a cultural signal of the education, bearing, and mindset of the individual. Seems like “[melancholy music plays]” doesn’t quite cut it. Of course, if this tweet were itself a movie, the correct caption would, indeed, be “[melancholy music plays]”

▰ WW84 sure doesn’t have much going for it, but at least someone on the production crew thought to hang a Minor Threat concert poster on an exterior wall in Washington, D.C.

▰ [overly heartbreaking farewell music]
[everything is a bit buzzy right now]
[distant screaming]
[angry ant noises]
[holiday music]

Those are some of the hypothetical captions being explored for their sonic content in this week’s Disquiet Junto music community project.

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A Gnostic Winter Solstice

And a new album by Brian Crabtree

Tehn, aka Brian Crabtree, released a new album just as the year was coming to an end, right on the Winter Solstice. Titled Gnostics, it’s a collection of varied electronically mediated pieces, ranging from syrupy drones (“Sleep”) to introspective beats (“The Second Circle”) to a dense, and seemingly unmolested, field recording (“Silence as Antimatter,” the album’s closing track).

There’s a looseness to the set, in part due to the different approaches all heard in one setting, and also within them, like how the slow chords of “Wide Awake” are interspersed with joyous shouts, as if people were playing frisbee right outside Crabtree’s recording studio and he’d left the window open. Similarly, “The Second Circle” breaks midway through for an unexpected burst of unexpected white noise.

In a brief liner note, Crabtree explains that Gnostics, the title taken from a book by French writer Jacques Lacarrière, is drawn from “a body of unfinished recordings.” Fortunately, there’s additional information in a dedicated discussion thread at the boards, maintained in coordination with, the musical technology company he founded with Kelli Cain.

Album originally posted at Crabtree lives in Delhi, New York. More at

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Disquiet Junto Project 0469: [Missing in Caption]

The Assignment: Make music that pushes the constraints of descriptive television captions.

Each Thursday in the Disquiet Junto group, a new compositional challenge is set before the group’s members, who then have just over four days to upload a track in response to the assignment. Membership in the Junto is open: just join and participate. (A SoundCloud account is helpful but not required.) There’s no pressure to do every project. It’s weekly so that you know it’s there, every Thursday through Monday, when you have the time.

Deadline: This project’s deadline is the end of the day Monday, December 28, 2020, at 11:59pm (that is, just before midnight) wherever you are. It was posted on Thursday, December 24, 2020.

Tracks will be added to the playlist for the duration of the project.

These are the instructions that went out to the group’s email list (at

Disquiet Junto Project 0469: [Missing in Caption]
The Assignment: Make music that pushes the constraints of descriptive television captions.

Step 1: You’ve likely watched TV with the captions on and seen how the music is described: “[eerie synth music]” or “[romantic classical music]” or “[melancholy piano].” Reflect on that experience, in particular what the captions accomplish, as well as what, in their brevity, they fail to describe.

Step 2: Choose a caption of your own creation, or borrow from a show or film you’ve recently watched.

Step 3: Record music that is true to the caption selected in Step 2, and in the process also push past that caption to make sound that the caption falls short of encapsulating.

Seven More Important Steps When Your Track Is Done:

Step 1: Include “disquiet0469” (no spaces or quotation marks) in the name of your tracks.

Step 2: If your audio-hosting platform allows for tags, be sure to also include the project tag “disquiet0469” (no spaces or quotation marks). If you’re posting on SoundCloud in particular, this is essential to subsequent location of tracks for the creation of a project playlist.

Step 3: Upload your tracks. It is helpful but not essential that you use SoundCloud to host your tracks.

Step 4: Post your tracks in the following discussion thread at

Step 5: Annotate your tracks with a brief explanation of your approach and process.

Step 6: If posting on social media, please consider using the hashtag #disquietjunto so fellow participants are more likely to locate your communication.

Step 7: Then listen to and comment on tracks uploaded by your fellow Disquiet Junto participants.

Additional Details:

Deadline: This project’s deadline is the end of the day Monday, December 21, 2020, at 11:59pm (that is, just before midnight) wherever you are. It was posted on Thursday, December 17, 2020.

Length: The length is up to you. Is it a scene, an episode, or a feature film?

Title/Tag: When posting your tracks, please include “disquiet0469” in the title of the tracks, and where applicable (on SoundCloud, for example) as a tag.

Upload: When participating in this project, be sure to include a description of your process in planning, composing, and recording it. This description is an essential element of the communicative process inherent in the Disquiet Junto. Photos, video, and lists of equipment are always appreciated.

Download: It is always best to set your track as downloadable and allowing for attributed remixing (i.e., a Creative Commons license permitting non-commercial sharing with attribution, allowing for derivatives).

For context, when posting the track online, please be sure to include this following information:

More on this 469th weekly Disquiet Junto project, [Missing in Caption] (The Assignment: Make music that pushes the constraints of descriptive television captions), at:

More on the Disquiet Junto at:

Subscribe to project announcements here:

Project discussion takes place on

There’s also a Disquiet Junto Slack. Send your email address to for Slack inclusion.

Image associated with this project is by Rune Vallesether, and used thanks to Flickr and a Creative Commons license allowing editing (cropped with text added) for non-commercial purposes:

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