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.
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.
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.)
▰ Caminauta collaborates, on “ambient piano,” with cellist Federico Motta for the lilting “Distance Memories.”
▰ Chris Herbert reworked the non-musical moments from live performances into a pair of extended atmospheric tracks: “transformations of fragments of dead air, non-performance squeaks, hiss, hum, and stray organ notes.” (Available for free download, too.)
▰ Anwar HighSign (formerly known as Has-Lo) did listeners the favor of including the instrumentals on their recent hip-hop EP, Fleece, two of which were instant favorites, both downtempo tracks featuring beats from cut-up organ and drums (“Whole Lotta Trouble,” “When I Write”).
▰ Carl Stone renders two very different avant-pop tracks (“Ganci” and “Figli”) from the same set of samples, both heavily altering a pre-existing vocal line.
▰ A highlight of Olivia Block’s three untitled tracks of music for piano, organ, and unspecified objects is the first, its spare chords bringing to mind Morton Feldman. The album was made available as a digital download this past week, though it was first released back in 2017 (on the Another Timbre label).
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.