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.

tag: i-hop

Beats Fill the Void

Tracks from a new, anonymous SoundCloud rhythm crafter

The SoundCloud account of Ghost, the beat master — that’s the account name: “Ghost, the beat master” — is fairly new. There have been four tracks posted in the last few weeks since it opened for business. It follows one account itself, and it has four followers so far. (It would have five, but SoundCloud limits you to 2,000 follows, and I’ve maxed out. Somehow I’ve managed 2,002, but it won’t budge further. I need to delete an account from my feed for every one I add. It’s a hassle. But SoundCloud has bigger problems these days than my streaming appetite.)

The tracks by Ghost are all beats, not beats in the generic sense, but beats in the sense that they’re intended for re-use, perhaps most expectantly by vocalists, but also to serve some alternate commercial purpose, like backing an advertisement, or providing some drama to a short bit of filmmaking. The tracks are solid. They come with tags distinguishing the genres (two “trap,”” one “Electronic EDM,” one “Hip-hop &rap”), but they’re of a piece. The downbeat is hit hard. The tempo is attractively slow. All of them could be considered, to varying degrees, instrumental hip-hop. Vocal utterances, largely non-verbal but occasionally slurred statements, are part of the mix, more texture than text. “Trap, set & match” is dirge-like, with gunfire and suttering digital snares. “Sample secundo” adds an arcade flair. “Process” layers in sludgy horns — think early DJ Premier — and enough voices to suggest a street scene. And, with a touch of Kanye West’s (and others’) favor for sped-up shrill melismas, “Bad BPM” plays with anthemic keyboard horns and drum trills. More genre-dedicated listeners will catch references lost on me, no doubt.

The account is very much a calling card, with an email address for potential transactions. “Trap, set & match” may be the highlight. It has silences the others avoid, and drops in samples as much for atmosphere as for rhythmic accent:

Check out the full set at Found thanks to a repost by Ogi feel the Beat of Paracin, Serbia (whose account is nearly maxed out at 1,999 follows).

Also tagged / / Leave a comment ]

Vinyl Context and Purloined Notes

The classical remixes of Bstep

Classical Rmxs is as it sounds. The new Bstep collection, two dozen tracks total, is a beat-heavy selection of snippets of various classical-music pieces set to downtempo, hip-hop-informed metrics. Bstep is Ben Stepner, who previously took a favorite by proto-minimalist composer Morton Feldman, “Triadic Memories,” and rendered it into something loungey and soulful, and just a little bit funky. Often on Classical Rmxs, as in “Black Dragon,” the music’s vinyl context is as much a part of the end composition as is the music itself — the sway of the surface noise is on repeat, right along with the handful of purloined notes that serve as its core. “Strange Days” pulls from a full orchestra, a pixel bit of static serving as a percussive grace note. Not all the source audio is instrumental. On “Qigong” it appears to be choral sample, rendered spectral in its misty repetition. Nor are all the additions simply beats. On “Qigong” there’s a sudden, occasional, truly funky emphasis in the form of an r&b grunt. It’s quite a pleasure to get lost in the small segments that Stepner focuses on, tiny moments from long-form works turned, themselves, into voluminous chasms where beat machines run free.

Album, all 24 tracks, originally posted at More from Stepner, who is based in Newton Centre, Massachusetts, at,, and

Also tagged , , / / Leave a comment ]

Nostalgic Beats in Old Kyoto

Ally Mobbs live on a bridge

The video’s reveal comes 33 seconds in. Up until that point the camera has been slowly gazing around traditional Kyoto, Japan: the vaulted roofs, the red gateways, the concrete structures, the sculptured foliage, the constructed waterways. The wide-angle, perfect geometry of the shots, and the slow motion in which they appear, at first have the feel of a video-game cutscene, but for all the perfection, this is real. This is Kyoto, in all its preserved beauty. The stroll is accompanied by a beat, the heady semi-swagger of solid instrumental hip-hop, the way instrumental hip-hop can be tinged with nostalgia. The nostalgia of instrumental hip-hop may often be for the very early 1990s, and the nostalgia of Kyoto may be for several centuries earlier, but they pair well. Hip-hop and Japan have a longstanding relationship, a sense of mutual regard, so the matchup makes sense. And then at 33 seconds, into view comes British producer Ally Mobbs, propped up on the edge of low wall, pounding gently if insistently on an MPC 500, the portable beat machine, his head bobbing. He’s as lost in the music as we are. The difference is, he’s making the music. We get barely five seconds before he disappears from view, the camera wandering back on its own way. At 51 seconds he appears again, and remains in view, until the very end (the video is 1:34 long, but the music is over at about 1:28). There is no sound besides the music, no footsteps or birds. The headspace of the music is the headspace of Mobbs himself, who’s performing the track — recording the track — live while the camera is filming.

The video was posted two days ago on the YouTube channel of Nedavine (, More from Ally Mobbs, who lives in Kyoto, at,, and Track found via a post Mobbs made on the discussion boards.

Also tagged , , / / Leave a comment ]

It’s Unfortunate Bandcamp Lacks Playlist Functionality

It'd be nice to whittle Nature Program's excellent Dual Concetric to its ambient core

Update (April 4, 2016): My account was upgraded, so I was able to make the playlist discussed below embeddable:

The original post appears below.

This is the wonderfully textured yet ethereal track “Supine Anchor” off the album Dual Concentric by Brooklyn-based Nature Program. Nature Program appears to be the recording moniker of the individual who made the HC-TT, a device I wrote about yesterday. The HC-TT allows a musician to manipulate a standard tape cassette in real time, to edge the music forward and backward thanks to a large circular knob.

Screen Shot 2016-04-03 at 8.34.41 PM

The website for the HC-TT,, on its Letters page includes a link to the Bandcamp page of Nature Program, where there is currently one album: Dual Concentric. Elsewhere on the HC-TT site there’s a “Why” page — the sort of thing more makers might consider. (That is, if the why isn’t justifiable, maybe there’s a better problem out there for you to solve.) The Why for the HC-TT is compelling, even if you haven’t heard the super cool sound samples associated with it. The site makes a clear case for the cassette’s unique sonic properties and the HC-TT’s potential as part of an electronic musician’s kit. Also, it’s written from the perspective of a curious, exploratory musician:

This device was made for a fairly selfish reason: For years, I’ve wanted to have a compact, organized device that mirrors the compact, organized cassette medium. It’s an obsessive-compulsive dream to create your own library of tape loops which stay safely packaged and organized inside individual cassettes.

“Supine Anchor” is among the most relaxed of the tracks on Dual Concentric. It is a sequence of layered loops whose texture and warped quality suggest they originated on physical tape, perhaps even involved the HC-TT in their production. There’s a lush voice, a falsetto, that brings to mind Brian Eno’s, and it appears about midway through the piece, after the initial bout of fractured minimalist abstract beatcraft melts into something ever more echoing and lush. There’s a lot more to the record than “Supine Anchor” might suggest: techno, light gamecore, electro, instrumental proto-hip-hop. But within that expansive coverage, 20 tracks in all, are about a half dozen or so with a more ambient quality to them.

It’s unfortunate that Bandcamp doesn’t have a playlist function. Unlike services from Spotify to SoundCloud, Bandcamp lacks the ability for listeners to serve as collators. You can learn a lot from following and looking into the acquisitions of fellow Bandcamp users, but you can’t do much more than that. You speak through your wallet (and your wishlist) on Bandcamp. If you buy something, it’s associated with your account (mine is at, but you can’t, for example, create an ersatz hits collection for an artist with multiple albums, or, as I was drawn to do with Dual Concentric, whittle 20 tracks down to their background-music essentials.

Fortunately there are other services, such as, which do allow for collecting material found elsewhere on the web. I can’t embed it (note: my account was upgraded, so I now can embed playlists — see the top of this post), but I’ve made a playlist at that collects seven key tracks off of Dual Concentric, the ones that largely do away with rhythm in favor of something more murky and enticing. The tracks are, in order of appearance, “Sources Say,” “Nature Program – Breathers,” “Supine Anchor,” “Flourishings,” “Inclement,” “Fulfillment Center” and “Understand.”

The full album is available at More on the HC-TT at

Also tagged , / / Comments: 3 ]

Arckatron Breaks a Beat

A sample of the newly released Subtle Busyness

The full release of Subtle Busyness by Arckatron is now out, a cassette and download on the Twin Springs Tapes label. It’s streaming as well, over at Arcka, aka Shawn Kelly, formerly of Philadelphia and recently relocated to Los Angeles, traffics in abstract instrumental hip-hop. He’s long been a proponent of utilizing under-appreciated snippets of familiar music, often R&B, and on Subtle Busyness he’s expanded into off-kilter rhythmic excursions. The album was featured here twice in advance of its release, back in January when it was announced and in mid-February when additional tracks were uploaded for promotional purposes. On the occasion of its full arrival, all 21 tracks, do check out the glorious broken beat that is “Naverparse”:

More from Arcka at More from the Twin Springs label at and And here’s an interview I did with Arcka/Kelly back in 2009: “Young Communicator.”

Also tagged / / Leave a comment ]