Brief mentions each Sunday of my favorite listening from the week prior:
▰ Years of Ambiguity from keyboardist Kjetil Husebø teams the musician with electronically enhanced guitarist Eivind Aarset and equally post-human trumpeter Arve Henriksen. Seven tracks deep in the territory first homesteaded by Miles Davis and Jon Hassell.
▰ It’s sort of amazing when one of your favorite bands puts out a new album and it becomes of your favorites. Such is the gift that is the Necks‘ ambient jazz set Travel, which manages to be blissful and funky, soulful and ethereal, often all at the same time.
▰ I’ve been really digging Cheat Codes, the team-up of Danger Mouse and Black Thought, especially “Strangers,” the full version of which adds rappers A&AP Rocky and the duo Run the Jewels to the mix — and which, in its locked-groove minimalism, is also the source of one of the most intense instrumental tracks from the album.
The great beatcrafter Kev Brown teamed up with his regional neighbor J Scienide (Brown is in Maryland, Scienide in Washington, D.C.) for last month’s excellent Drum Machine Tape Cassette (Instrumentals). It’s a baker’s dozen of throwback hip-hop, dense with dusty samples (I hear Crosby, Stills, and Nash doing “Dark Star” at one point, and what seems to be James Brown’s “Give Me Some Skin” later on). It’s all atmospherically downtempo, beautiful hodgepodge 4/4 mood music, amalgams of disparate elements, like raspy cymbals against choral vocals on “Vibrations Good,” and the swaggery funk of “Buck Rogers,” the chopped up piano and horns of “Duck Dynasty.” The best moments use tiny snippets to build something large and imposing, like how “Steroids” begins with nearly granular locked groove psychedelia before crunching a hard bit of echoed piano against a rigorous little trap set motif.
I do this manually each Saturday, collating recent tweets I made at twitter.com/disquiet, my public notebook. Some tweets pop up (in expanded form or otherwise) on Disquiet.com sooner. It’s personally informative to revisit the previous week of thinking out loud.
▰ This weekend I watched a video about how AI can make games Grand Theft Auto more photorealistic, and I saw an ad for software that makes footage more artfully pixelated. The valley between them isn’t uncanny. It’s something else. I don’t know what but it’s apparently where I am.
▰ Current status:
▰ Yes, I enjoyed Chester Himes’ A Rage in Harlem:
▰ Diggle is coming back to the Arrowverse. Sinéad O’Connor is recording a record with David Holmes. Aside from Atlanta announcing the premiere date of a new TV season, my pop culture card feels full. I’ll go back to academia.edu PDFs on experimental recording techniques.
▰ Woke with the Sex Pistols’ “Anarchy in the U.K.” in my head. This surfacing could hold some deep psychological meaning. More than likely, though, the song was probably just playing at low volume in the background of some TV show I was watching last night.
▰ Ooh, got the Kindle Paperwhite update that shows the cover of your current read when the device is in sleep mode.
▰ There are days when all I need is the instrumental version of “It’s All About the Benjamins.” Today is, apparently, such a day.
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.
▰ There’s one track up thus far from the self-titled Sweepsculp, the remainder due out on the Nous’klaer Audio label May 7 (I’ve seen it listed as late April elsewhere; May 7 is the date on the Bandcamp page). Sweepsculp is a pseudonym for Dutch musician Thessa Torsing, best known as Upsammy. Apparently the EP is “using only an acoustic guitar besides drums.” The first track, “Plaudable,” is laudable for its tight groove, its punchy, low-key beats, and its playful exploration of slight variations amid minimalist repetition.
▰ On Bandcamp Day, Los Angeles producer Jansport J uploaded the instrumental tracks to rapper Quadry’s mid-2020 album Don’t You Weep. It’s seven soulful cuts, the tidy beats rich with backing vocals, old-school electric keyboard, dubby percussive effects, and occasional double-speed samples.
▰ Vancouver, B.C.-based musician Scott Morgan, aka Loscil, has a new record, Clara, due out on May 28. The production process is fascinating: “[It was] sourced from a single three-minute composition performed by a 22-piece string orchestra in Budapest. The subsequent recording was lathe-cut on to a 7-inch, then ‘scratched and abused to add texture and color,’ from which the entirety of Clara was sampled, shape-shifted, and sculpted.” The first track is all glimmering grainy heavens above a scratchy rhythm.
▰ If you dig Nils Frahms’ live setup, an indie-studio reimgaining of Rick Wakeman’s surround-keyboard mode, then this video of Hania Rani may appeal, especially when, at 7:15, she puts a stone on her Prophet sythesizer to hold a note.
▰ The dental drill wind tunnel noise of “Exhalation” and the lost, dubbed-out spaciousness of “Lost Race” were our first two tastes of the 13 tracks that will comprise End of Trilogy, before it was released this past Friday. Now out on the excellent Room40 label, it collects pummeling sounds from Yuko Araki. She’s a force to be reckoned with.
An instrumental hip-hop set from Philadelphia's Nex Millen
/ By Marc Weidenbaum
February, July, September, and December were my favorite months this year. Not this year meaning this year, but this year as memorialized in a dozen tracks, one for each month, on Philadelphia producer Nex Millen’s 2020 HindSight Millennium Beat EP. From tightly clasped hi-hats to loungey keys, jittery atmospheres to nearly subaural bass line melodies, refracted guitar samples to vocal playfulness, stereo hijinks to ratatatat percussion, those four tracks are among the album’s moodiest. Each, presumably, map’s Millen’s state of mind over the course of 2020’s countless horrors. Now his instrumental hip-hop is something to relax to, to recuperate to. There’s much more to 2020 HindSight than just those four tracks, but they’re the ones helping me make it through the last few weeks of the year.