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: saw2for33third

Zines Then and Now

An ongoing series cross-posted from instagram.com/dsqt

You do anything for long enough, you live through transitions. Generally these are revealed to you in hindsight, when a recollection is distinct enough from the current moment for the shifts, the fissures, to have come into focus. Sometimes, though, you experience these transitions in real time.

I have probably told this story before, but it’s a short one, so I’ll give it another go. Not long after I started, back in 1989, working for the Tower Records retail chain, we were visited at the company’s home office, in West Sacramento, by representatives of one of the country’s major music labels. Shifts were happening in the record industry, not just generic business pressures like consolidation, marked by mergers and acquisitions of record labels, but also key among the threats such familiar terms to us denizens of the 21st century as mobile, video, and technology.

However, those words didn’t mean in 1990, when the visit occurred, what they mean now. Mobile meant the prevalence of the Walkman and its ilk, and the perceived accompanying rise in home taping. Video meant MTV, and the oversize influence of a single network. Technology meant the compact disc, which was enticing music fans to buy their entire record collections all over again, to the point that even long sedate classical labels were becoming cash cows.

Wherever there are that many threats, there must be others, and it was these unknowns that were on the minds of our visitors that day.

As they toured our office and spoke with our senior staff — I was a junior editor on Tower’s music magazine, Pulse!, mostly handling its letters page and the Desert Island Discs lists from readers, when not imploring my coworkers to let me cover musicians in the orbit of the Knitting Factory — our visitors inquired about what we were listening to, and how we had come to discover it.

I wasn’t surprised, decades later, when researching my book on Aphex Twin’s album Selected Ambient Works Volume II, to learn from Clive Gabriel, who signed Aphex Twin to the publisher Chrysalis, that Gabriel himself had come to Chrysalis’ attention thanks to his writing for British music magazines. It may seem a catch-22 that a label would look to a music critic for hints at the future, since by definition much of the music being written about would already be on a label. But that isn’t always the case, and even when it is, the myopia of big labels can make them blind to the wide field of smaller ones.

In any case, I found the perspective of the visitors fascinating. I lingered in the open area of the Pulse! offices to listen in. And at some point I heard one of our visitors begin to put forward a question in a tentative tone. “Do you,” it was asked, “read … zines?” I put the ellipsis there because there was a definite pause, as if someone were testing out a newly learned term from a foreign language. What I can’t do except through comparison is note that the word was pronounced in a dramatic and sudden hush, much like the mother of Ally Sheedy’s character says “cancer” at the dinner table in the movie St. Elmo’s Fire. And what I can’t do except through description is to note that the word wasn’t pronounced “zines” as in the third syllable of “magazines,” from which the term emerged, but as “zines” with the “i” like “eye,” which is to say, a word so alien that its source and meaning were truly obscure to the person speaking it.

There’s far more to be said about zines at the start of the final decade of the 20th century, but not right now. I will note it was especially appropriate that day for the visitors to have asked this question because, unbeknownst to them, just one building away from ours was the Tower warehouse, where a vast zine distribution project was underway thanks to the vision of an employee named Doug Biggert.

I remember this visit as if it happened yesterday, even though it was three decades ago, and I am remembering it right now because just this weekend I received a package containing two zines: the first and second issues of Deft Esoterica, a project by Claude Aldous, of Canton, a city in upstate New York. I’ve been enjoying reading them, but I had to put down the stapled pieces of 8.5×11″ paper to get my memories typed out because they were distracting me from what was on the page.

Also tagged , / / Leave a comment ]

Retail Opportunism

Someone at this snack food company likes the work of Aphex Twin.

Tag: / Leave a comment ]

Shuttlecock/ver10

An ersatz AFX sighting

When your very cheap badminton racket looks like Aphex Twin merchandise.

And because the internet can be a confusingly small place, none other than Paul Nicholson, the graphic designer of Aphex Twin’s famed logo, joked on my Facebook post of this same photo: “When my wife hears me playing Aphex Twin, she always says, ‘What a racket!'”

Tag: / Leave a comment ]

Aphex Twin in Translation

The Japanese edition of my 33 1/3 book on Selected Ambient Works Volume II

I just today received copies of the brand new Japanese translation of my book on Aphex Twin’s landmark album Selected Ambient Works Volume II. My book was published in 2014 to coincide with the album’s 20th anniversary, and the Japanese translation arrived this year to coincide with its 25th.

This is especially a thrill because I spent many years working in manga, helping shepherd the translation into English Japanese comics. I was the editor-in-chief of the English-language edition of the major Japanese manga magazine, Shonen Jump, and of its sibling, Shojo Beat, and as a vice president of their publisher, Viz Media in San Francisco, had the opportunity to meet and interview many major manga creators, including Masashi Kishimoto (Naruto) and Akira Toriyama (Dragon Ball). It’s very nice to be now have sent my own book in the opposite direction.

The edition is absolutely beautiful, with a wraparound cover partially obscuring the classic Aphex Twin logo, and lovely details throughout — in particular, note how there is a little table of contents on the bottom of each left-hand page, with a tiny arrow showing you which chapter you’re in.

I look forward to learning how the quotes from Alvin Lucier, Daphne Oram, and Fernando Pessoa were translated, in particular the Pessoa and Lucier given how much their work engages with variations on source material, notably Pessoa’s numerous alternate heteronyms and the decay inherent in Lucier’s “I Am Sitting in a Room.”

The Japanese book is considerably larger than the original English book (top), and even than the recent Spanish edition (middle), which came out in late 2018. I’m not aware of any planned additional translations, but these sure make me happy.

Tag: / Leave a comment ]

Tokyo Sightings

And in good company

One of the students in my sound course was in Tokyo over spring break and took these photos for me at two separate bookstores: one of a sizable display of my (translated into Japanese) Aphex Twin Selected Ambient Works Volume II book (and in good company: the Yellow Magic Orchestra book), and the other of it nestled between Prince and Coldplay.

Tag: / Leave a comment ]