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

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tag: this week in sound

This Week in Sound: Dementia Relief + Muted Violin +

oyster ears + mood music + the sonic weaponry that wasn't +

A lightly annotated clipping service

Sound Tonics: Up for debate in the scientific community is the extent to which listening to audio recordings (or watching videos) of loved ones might alleviate issues for individuals with dementia, per Dr. EO Ijaopo in the latest issue of Translational Psychiatry. … In health-related news, Dutch designer Marcel Wanders is creating a super-quiet (and quite beautiful) violin (shown below) for a friend whose hearing is threatened by her violin playing, per the current issue of Metropolis. I was wondering if it would help to use a MIDI violin, so the audio can be emitted from a speaker across the room, rather than directly into the player’s ear, or to perhaps have a violin where the sound comes out the bottom, so the audience hears it, but again the sound isn’t aimed at the player.

Clam Up: “Oysters can ‘hear’ the ocean even though they don’t have ears,” according to scientists at the University of Bordeaux in France, including Jean-Charles Massabuau, who used accelerometers to gauge the response of test subjects. Oysters appear to be sensitive primarily in the realm of 10 and 200 hertz (humans hear between 20 to 20,000 hertz). One result of this finding is the awareness of a broader range of sea creatures that are potentially impacted by noise pollution.

Music Moods: People’s minds wander less (if I’m reading this correctly) when listening to “happy” music than to “sad” music, according to researchers Liila Taruffi, Corinna Pehrs, Stavros Skouras, and Stefan Koelsch in a paper published this month in Scientific Reports. That’s a short summary for a long and detailed study that’s worth a read. The main takeaway: “In conclusion, we demonstrate that music modulates self-generated thought: During sad (vs. happy) music, listeners direct their attention inwards, engaging in spontaneous thoughts, which are related to the self and emotional aspects of life; during happy (vs. sad) music, listeners are more focused on the music itself and exhibit reduced mind-wandering levels.”

Sonic Weapon (Not): “The New Zealand Defence Force’s explosive ordnance disposal squad was flown to Dunedin by helicopter to carry out a controlled explosion of the cassette tape” — so goes the story of a noise musician named Dene Barnes, 44 whose recording set off a threat alert. More specifically, it was the poem accompanying the album, Street Noise, he released under the name LSD Fundraiser. He seems to be on Bandcamp (at lsdfunraiser.bandcamp.com), but that particular album doesn’t appear to be.

Kid Said, Her Said: Children are, appropriately, protected in the United States during our increasingly electronic age by various FCC regulations. Funny thing about regulations, such as those laid out in the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, is they aren’t always future proof. A case in point is how voice assistants function. A computer has to retain a spoken command, even briefly, in order to act on it, as Jon Fingas outlined in a brief Engadget.com story.

Footloose in NYC: “A nearly century-old law that turned New York bars into no-dancing zones, prevented singers like Billie Holiday and Ray Charles from performing and drew protest from Frank Sinatra, is finally set to be struck down,” writes Annie Correal in the New York Times, or as an uncredited Times headline author put it: “After 91 Years, New York Will Let Its People Boogie.” The longstanding law has made it difficult for generations of bar owners and bar-goers to manage the impulse to, you know, dance. (I grew up on Long Island, went to college in the Tri-State Area, and lived in New York City before moving to California, so I know of the hassle that this could be.) Check out this statistic before going on to read the full story: “In New York City, only 97 out of roughly 25,000 eating and drinking establishments have a cabaret license.”

Big Listener: Facebook continues to struggle to convince people it isn’t listening in on conversations, writes Adrianne Jeffries at theoutline.com, citing anecdotes by people who seem to only recall saying things aloud and yet still having them show up in ads served to them on the platform. The strangest related thing that’s ever happened to me was when I was seated, shall we say, in my home’s bathroom and the word “bathroom” briefly appeared — I swear — on my phone’s screen. I imagined the phone’s operating system was somehow mapping my home, and I wondered if the sound of the room might be assisting that effort. Of course, it could all just be a delusion brought on by tech-anxiety.

Text-to-Speechless: In a humorous instance of the unintended consequences of text-to-speech, a New York Times’ reader’s comment to a news story began “Zero optimism that the Democracts …” before wending quickly into peculiar gibberish: “hello hi oh you’re there are you outside,” etc., etc. The commenter eventually returned to the thread and explained, “I was composing a message using the autospeak, and a friend arrived early at my house. I had no idea all that drivel was being recorded.”

Internal Branding: You can soon get a cochlear implant designed specifically to work from its “surgically embedded sound process” in tandem with iOS devices, writes Juli Clover at macrumors.com. Give that my relatively recent generation iPod isn’t allowed to run the latest version of iOS, I wonder what assurance (or insurance) one has regarding upgrades.

Fade Out: I read the obituaries each morning over iced coffee. It’s a simple ritual. Perhaps much ritual is simple by definition? I’ve come to realize that I never copy/paste the names of these newly dead musicians when following up on the day’s obituaries. I always type out their names when searching for particularly informative write-ups, or for examples of their recordings. I use copy/paste all the time, of course, but something about this early-morning obituary ritual has me typing out their (often, to me, unfamiliar) names in full. Perhaps this ritual form of inscription is a gesture of respect. Perhaps it’s a superstition. Perhaps I have difficulty distinguishing between the two. … Deaths of Note: RIP, Hungrarian musician Lajos Som (b. 1947), of the bands Piramis and Neoton Família. … RIP, Daniel Viglietti (b. 1939), Uruguayan singer-songwriter. … RIP, funk musician [Keith Wilder] (68?), of Heatwave. … RIP, Raúl García Zárate (b. 1931); Andean guitarist popularized “Adiós pueblo de Ayacucho.” … RIP, Juliette Cavazzi (b. 1926), “wholesome” Canadian TV figure known simply as Juliette. … RIP, Mike Hudson (61) of the punk rock band the Pagans. … RIP, Fats Domino (b. 1928), a founding father of rock and roll. … RIP, Larry Ray (b. 1954) of the Detroit band Outrageous Cherry. … RIP, Robert Guillaume (b. 1927), TV and film actor, singer (The Lion King, Guys and Dolls). … RIP, Girija Devi (b. 1929), Indian classical singer, “Queen of Thumri.” … RIP, George Young (b. 1946), Easybeats member, “Friday on My Mind” co-writer, AC/DC producer. … RIP, guitarist Scott Putesky aka Daisy Berkowitz (b. 1968), of Marilyn Manson. … RIP, Al Hurricane (b. 1936), “Godfather of New Mexico music.”

This was first published in the October 31, 2017, issue of the free weekly email newsletter This Week in Sound.

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This Week in Sound: Plasma Waves + Cymatic Art +

+ listening posts + womb tunes +

A lightly annotated clipping service.

Ring Cycle: The second season of The Expanse, the Syfy channel’s excellent (stellar?) adaptation of the James S. A. Corey novels, may have come to a close last month, but NASA is here to fill the void. Not only has the Cassini spacecraft situated itself between Saturn and its rings, it has captured audio data of the particulates therein. As Rae Paoletta reports at gizmodo.com, the Radio and Plasma Wave Science (RPWS) instrument on Cassini (see recording above) picked up “the hits of hundreds of ring particles per second,” something of an apparent surprise to scientists back home on Earth.

Synaesthesia Loop: Over at nautil.us, Heather Sparks summarizes the cymatic art of Jeff Louviere and Vanessa Brown. They took pictures of what different notes look like (see above) when stimulating “ink-black water,” and then turned those images back into sound, using the software Photosounder.

Audiophile Update: The whole notion of what “home audio” means is experiencing a continuing shift of late, as listening becomes — for better and worse — as much a subject for gadgets as producing sound: Google Home, it’s listening-enabled tech hub, now supports multiple users, by recognizing their independent voices; Amazon, in a race with Google Home, has made its AI available to chatbot developers; and in case neither of those instances raise privacy concerns for you, a lawsuit alleges that Bose wireless headphones spy on their users.

Womb Tune: An artificial womb, currently being tested on lamb fetuses, is being considered for gestating humans. As Jessica Hamzelou writes at newscientist.com, the parent-oriented item would allow “parents to communicate sounds to the baby and to see it with a camera.””

Sound Material: The miracle substance graphene, the world’s reported strongest material, has numerous gee-whiz applications, ranging from desalinating sea water to cleaning up radioactive waste. It also has sonic potential, according to a paper (at nature.com) by M. S. Heath & D. W. Horsell. Check it out for details on thermoacoustics.

Noise Central: Three of the noisiest cities on the planet are in one country, India, according to a report in indiatimes.com. This coincided with the attempts to institute an annual “No-Horn Day” (thehindu.com).

This first appeared, in slightly different form, in the May 2, 2017, edition of the free Disquiet “This Week in Sound”email newsletter: tinyletter.com/disquiet.

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This Week in Sound: Sonic Civil Rights +

+ universal natality + doorbell financing +

A lightly annotated clipping service.

Sonic Defense: There’s a lawsuit underway in New York City bringing to the fore the legality of sound weapons, in particular the Long Range Acoustical Device (see lradx.com) and whether it is a threat to civil rights. John Riley’s Newsday article appears at (policeone.com), reporting on bystander complaints and the city’s argument in favor of the technology.

Natal Communication: Further evidence appears in Nature’s Scientific Reports of universal commonality of non-verbal vocal sounds among human infants. This study is focused on the interpretations of infant sounds by adult parents and non-parents from varied geographic and cultural backgrounds. The research is by Verena Kersken, Klaus Zuberbühler, and Juan-Carlos Gomez.

Doorbell Bubble: Ring — formerly known as Doorbot — has raised over $100 million in new funding to further its next generation doorbell technology. In unrelated news, I’m typing this on a computer connected to the Internet via my cellphone because the ISP that provides Internet access to my home is currently experiencing an on and off DDoS attack. (Via Jared Smith.)

Home Front: Meanwhile, at reuters.com, Stephen Nellis reports on domestic fault lines in the competition between Amazon and Apple in particular for “smart home” technology dominance. The philosophical differences between the companies shouldn’t be much of a surprise: “Amazon is pursuing an open-systems approach that allows quick development of many features, while Apple is taking a slower route, asserting more control over the technology in order to assure security and ease-of-use.” According to Nellis, there are roughly 250 devices “certified to work” with Amazon’s Alexa, and less than half that for Apple.

To Surveil Man: David Beer at medium.com uses The Conversation to push discussion of prevailing forms of everyday surveillance, touching on familiar aspects like social-network snooping and always-listening consumer product devices, and reporting on this: worker badges that, in a story from Chris Weller last year in businessinsider.com, “watch and listen to their every move.” (Via George Kelly.)

What “HNOP” Means: As I’ve mentioned recently, no English-prevalent country seems to have more conspicuous concerns about noise pollution than does India. Someone at Uber took note of this, and is using noise activism to promote the company’s “ridesharing” service, reports dnaindia.com: “Uber India has tied up with the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII)’s youth wing, Yi, to promote anti-honking.” This is part of HNOP, which stands for “Horn Not OK Please.” January 25 was HNOP Day across India.

Tune Beyond: Forgive me if this is the “microdosing” straw post that breaks your newsfeed back, but Amy Maxmen reports on LSD studies at Nature, with an emphasis on how participants respond to music. Perhaps the best sentence: “Free jazz elicited substantial emotions only in those who had taken LSD without ketanserin.”

More Eno(ugh): This may devolve into he said, he said between the producer and his interviewer, but Eno has clarified his comments, mentioned here last week, in a Guardian interview. Less reported were statements Eno made to flaunt.com the week prior. Eno made his Guardian comment on his facebook.com page. … Reggie Ugqu at buzzfeed.com shined a spotlight on the music favored by young fascists — feel free to Google it if you want (found via Robin James). … And Josh King, who was the White House director of production for presidential events from 1993 to 1997, reports in detail at theverge.com on the sizable new microphone that employed by the newly sitting U.S. president: “On Inauguration Day, another transition was complete. The trusty, time-honored two-mic rig of Shure SM57s on the presidential lectern was out. The Long Neck Era had begun.” … Bandcamp is donating 100% of its share of sales on February 3 (“starting at 12:01am Pacific Time”) to the American Civil Liberties Union. It’s also highlighting music from countries at the center of current U.S. presidential action regarding travel and immigration, including Mexico, Somalia, and Yemen (bandcamp.com).

Download Lowdown: Keith Helt is doing research into the culture of netlabels, which are online labels that generally release their music for free download, with the permission and participation of the musicians they release. His Netlabel Interview Project is collecting the perspectives of the proprietors of various netlabels, including the superb Absence of Wax, Dusted Wax Kingdom, Impulsive Habitat, Vuzh Music, and Webbed Hand.

How the Turntable Turns: The vinyl revival means the revival of turntable technology. The most prominent recent addition to home consoles is the new Technics 1200. Now there is Yves Béhar’s “intelligent turntable,” which looks like the sort of thing your grandmother used to use to pull crumbs off the table after dinner, and connects your vinyl collection with your phone — via designboom.com. What this means, among other things, is that the object can deduce how many tracks are on an album and let you move between them. … In related news, a company called Viryl Technologies is introducing a new manner of vinyl pressing, reports Jon Fingas at engadget.com.

Listen to Many: Iain Emsley and David De Roure at jtei.revues.org describe how to apply sonification techniques to literature, using Hamlet as their focus — in particular to highlight variations between texts: “Playing a synchronized audio stream per text in each ear helps the listener’s brain to hear any subtle differences between two versions through use of binaural transmission.”

# Doorbell Tale: Ghost Button

Below is a lightly edited email I received about a home doorbell. I received this via email from an old friend, Daniel Miller, whom I’ve known since junior high school. His home on Long Island, outside New York City, was significantly upgraded over the past year. I posted a photo of his home’s side doorbell 27 weeks ago, according to Instagram, when it was still under construction. At the time, he told me he’d report back when the doorbell work was completed.

Marc,

You asked me to let you know what was happening with my doorbell. I thought I’d wait until this was resolved and give you a complete report. However that still hasn’t happened. I am sorry I have left you hanging for so long. I’ll start from the beginning. The doorbell wasn’t working. A doorbell consists of a button that is wired to a chime. We were told we had to buy a new chime as our old one was destroyed during demolition. We bought a lovely unit that can be hardwired or can work wirelessly. It still didn’t work. The contractor said we had bought a 120v unit and that a low-voltage unit was required. A little (very little) research was done and not only did we have a low-voltage unit, but there is no other kind. Basically what happened was they forgot to keep the doorbell wiring in the wall during construction, and now that everything is sealed up and insulation is in the walls, reinstalling it is out of the question. So by stealing a part from the doorbell button we bought for the side door, they were able to get our front doorbell working wirelessly. However it sometimes chimes for apparently no reason. It happened often enough that we noticed that there was a reason: The neighbor across the street opening the trunk of her car. The saga continues.

Daniel

If you have a doorbell story, or photo, to share with me, please do. I won’t share it further without your permission.

# Fade Out

Recent deaths of note.

RIP, drummer Butch Trucks (b. 1947), founding member of the Allman Brothers Band

RIP, Black Sabbath keyboardist Geoff Nicholls (b. 1948)

RIP, Henry-Louis de La Grange (b. 1924), Mahler scholar

RIP, reggae singer Ronnie Davis (b. 1950), member of the Tennors and the Itals

RIP, Chuck Stewart (1927), prolific photographer for jazz album covers

RIP, Gil Ray (b. 1956), of Game Theory and the Loud Family

RIP, early electronic music composer Richard Allan (or is it Allen?) “Dick”Robinson (93)

RIP, composer Philip Cannon (b. 1929)

RIP, film sound figure Richard Portman (b. 1934), worked on Star Wars, Harold and Maude, Paper Moon

RIP, Kraken leader and Columbian rock musician Elkin Ramírez (54)

RIP, video artist and Miami Beach arts figure Charles Recher (66)

RIP, John Wetton (b. 1949), singer for Asia, King Crimson

RIP, Masaya Nakamura (b. 1925), founder of Namco (Pac Man, Galaxian, Tekken)

RIP, James Laurence (27), half of hip-hop production duo Friendzone

This first appeared, in slightly different form, in the February 1, 2017, edition of the free Disquiet “This Week in Sound”email newsletter: tinyletter.com/disquiet.

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Brackets Frame the Sound

What captions leave out

The brackets frame the sound. The brackets appear in subtitles to online videos. You select the subtitle option because you have no knowledge of Japanese or of Persian or of Polish, or because the actors’ British accents are simply too thick for your American ears, even in contemporary police dramas devoid of period linguistic idiosyncrasies, or because you’re keeping the volume down so as not to antagonize the neighbors.

Bracketed sounds can be diegetic or non-diegetic. That is to say, they can be on-screen sounds, like the squeak of a car’s break, or they can be apart from the scene’s physical activity, like the score’s musical theme associated with the entrance of a threatening anti-hero. Either way, bracketed sounds are not dialogue. Dialogue appears unadorned by brackets. Dialogue appears simply as text on the screen, occasionally preceded by a character’s name and a colon to provide narrative guidance. The only dialogue that gets bracketed is dialogue that serves a purely non-verbal purpose, dialogue that cannot be comprehended, dialogue that isn’t dialogue but is, instead, emotive sound: [mumbling], [whispers], [unintelligible sobbing].

Brackets tell you what the director is saying, not what the characters are saying. Brackets, however, are not decoder rings. They only go so far as to what they divulge. The brackets don’t explain the British class system to you. There’s no reference for an American viewer when the cut-glass enunciation is meant to signify a specific upbringing, or when regional utterances, from Cornwall to Glasgow, easily set the British viewer’s imagination while leaving unknown voids for those of us who haven’t lived in the culturally prolific island kingdom, or in one of its more longstanding colonies.

So much happens in a given moment of video, even a “silent” one, which is to say: a moment free of human speech but still intruded upon by sound. Only so much can be detailed between brackets. What’s left out is worth taking note of.

These two screenshots, by way of example, are from different episodes from the TV show Travelers, a solid time-travel series newly streaming on Netflix and created by Brad Wright. (If you are a fan of time travel stories, as I am, Travelers is at least as recommended as Continuum, with which it shares actors if not a timeline, and 12 Monkeys.) In both shots birds are, we’re told, chirping. It may or may not be meaningful that both shots focus on the same character, named Trevor, who, at the risk of giving too much plot away, is something of an old soul. Both shots are at the start of a new scene. In the first, Trevor is riding his bicycle home. In the second he is teaching meditation to its mostly unlikely novitiate, his mean-girl girlfriend. In the first, what’s missing from the bracket is the score’s drone, the sense of dread infused into the scene with just a few threatening sine waves. Perhaps the meditation scene, which appears later in the series, intends to reference the earlier one by presenting the birds free of their droning encumbrance. The hearing-impaired viewer will never know the difference, and the everyday viewer is left to wonder.

There is, true, only so much room on the bottom of the screen. More than a line of text is inelegant, and reading time might surpass a given sound’s appearance if the text’s overseer is inattentive to the chores at hand. Still, editorial decision-making only goes so far as an excuse for contextual excision.

What both sets of chirping birds have in common is that they are almost certainly sonic elements added from a library of recordings to flesh out the given scene during post-production. In other words, one might surmise, the bracketed sounds in a film or TV show aren’t what are “in” the scene so much as what was added to the scene.

This first appeared, in slightly different form, in the January 31, 2017, edition of the free Disquiet “This Week in Sound”email newsletter: tinyletter.com/disquiet.

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IDM and Its Discontents

Participating in Pitchfork's "top 50 IDM" poll

Pitchfork has published a list of “The 50 Best IDM Albums of All Time.” I participated in the voting, and wrote up three of the albums: Mira Calix’s One on One, which came it at 47; Plaid’s Not for Threes, 36; and Aphex Twin’s … I Care Because You Do, 13. Aphex Twin also topped the list, with Selected Ambient Works 85-92 coming in at number 1. These are my first Pitchfork bylines, though I’ve been written about on the site twice: Mark Richardson generously interviewed me about my Aphex Twin Selected Ambient Works Volume II book, and my book was included in the site’s list of the 33 best books in the 33 1/3 series, as compiled by Stephen M. Deusner. I can’t link directly to the individual “IDM 50” reviews, but the Calix is on the first page, the Plaid on the second page, and the Aphex Twin on the penultimate page.

IDM is shorthand for “intelligent dance music,” and it played an influential role in my life. It’s on the IDM discussion boards that I made friends and participated during the early, proto-Internet 1990s in discussion of music that the music press often was unaware of, and I say that as someone who was at the time a full-time employee of the music press, working as an editor at Pulse! magazine, published by Tower Records. (It’s on an IDM discussion board that Aphex Twin’s Selected Ambient Works Volume II’s tracks got their titles, as I recount in my book.)

I was delighted to be asked by Pitchfork to participate, and I should also note that I was conflicted. For one thing, I don’t give much credence to genre. Genre was a somewhat useful tool in the age of brick and mortar record stores, back when someone had to decide where to put Nina Simone (pop, jazz, jazz vocals, oldies). In our hypertextual present, genre is at best a flavor, one among many. A recording today can and should be tagged: situated at the nexus of an associative Venn diagram, not stuck in a genre box. Boxhead Ensemble’s Dutch Harbor: Where the Sea Breaks Its Back is country and it is ambient; Mason Bates’ The B-Sides is classical and it is electronic. I can count on one hand the number of musicians outside of hip-hop I’ve interviewed who expressed firm alignment with any specific genre. We should follow the musicians’ lead. I’m also not a big list-maker. I know people who make lists of everything, favorite films and favorite books and so forth, but that’s just not how my brain works. All of which said, it’s not a coincidence that after several years of not feeling inclined to produce top 10 lists at the end of the year I suddenly this past December made several such lists. It was, indeed, my participation in the email discussion for the Pitchfork IDM list that convinced me that, in essence, if you don’t make lists, someone else will.

The way the Pitchfork process worked was that a bunch of invited critics were asked to help flesh out a sizable collection IDM albums for consideration. We discussed these via email. Then we filled out our own ballots, selecting a subset of the complete set (we were allowed to list up to 50 albums, and mine felt complete at 33). Math and the Pitchfork editors’ inclinations produced the final 50.

I think my ballot was probably among the more conservative submitted. One wise participant described IDM as more of a period than a genre. After I flirted with a far wider aesthetic net, certain constraints got me to 33 entries. I stuck in the end to a working definition I posted to the discussion list: IDM: A genre of electronic music that foregrounds beats in the exploration of the arrhythmic, abstract potential of hardware and software, often but not exclusively tools originally designed with dance music in mind. Touchstones include chaos, entropy, digital decay, and technological intentionality.

As I thought through the material, I kept coming back around to the distinction between “bebop” and “hard bop,” between music that was explicitly challenging to its audience, and music that built on the codified understanding of bebop and then layered in something more soulful, more r&b, more, for lack of a better word, “pop.” A “best bebop” list isn’t going to include hard bop, even hard bop by people who earlier on recorded bebop, and my “best IDM” list didn’t include whatever the equivalent of “IDM hard bop” is, or “IDM pop” for that matter. That explains in part the absence of more contemporary acts.

In addition, there were a lot of albums tossed around that sound like techno or dub (or dub techno, or minimal techno) or microsound to me. If it sounded prominently and consistently like those, all I could think was, “Well if there’s going to be a best techno or best dub or best microsound list someday, why include this here?” Same for trip-hop, and for (instrumental) hip-hop. I’d love to have included early Kit Clayton, but in the end it sounds like great dub techno to me, as does so much Monolake, and even a lot of Sun Electric for that matter. I love Prefuse 73, but he’s somewhere in the post-trip-hop/proto-EDM realm, like Flying Lotus, with a lot of instrumental hip-hop in there. Even Prefuse’s One Word Extinguisher doesn’t strike me as IDM. (Note that I was considerably outvoted: Both One Word Extinguisher and Flying Lotus’ Los Angeles made the final top 50.)

As the discussion proceeded, we all added records to the pool. Among others I added Mouse on Mars’ Iaora Tahiti, Bedouin Ascent’s Science, Art, and Ritual, Matmos’ Matmos, Blectum from Blechdom’s’ De Snaunted Haus, Bogdan Raczynski’s Boku Mo Wakaran, and Greg Davis’ Arbor. I’m disappointed in particular that Arbor didn’t make the final top 50.

There was a lot of music on the collective list — some of which made the final list — that I love, including records that effectively shaped the course of my life, in particular Wagon Christ’s Throbbing Pouch (truly a landmark recording), but that I didn’t include in my ballot because they lack the chaos and entropy that I see as inherent in IDM (the slurry quality of Throbbing Pouch has the entropy, but there’s zero chaos). I mean, if I included Throbbing Pouch, then why not Kid Koala, and Funki Porcini, and DJ Krush, and Pierre Bastien? They’re all of a piece, along with Prefuse 73 and Flying Lotus: politely swaggery, introspectively soulful, hip-hop-informed, cautiously dramatic. They’re funky wallflower music. But they’re not, to my narrow mind, IDM.

Instrumental hip-hop was a subject of discussion. Why not include the more experimental realms of that beatcraft, the logic went. I was thinking about the production of some earlier Destiny’s Child singles, the scattershot (in a good way) beats in particular of “Say My Name” and, syncopation heaven, “Bills Bills Bills.” I wasn’t sure how to fold into the IDM list-making the producers largely associated with hip-hop and r&b whom I’ve followed (er, collected) for their rhythmic invention (the 45 King, Just Blaze, Alchemist, Kev Brown, and of course Timbaland, Missy Elliott, Neptunes, DJ Muggs, and so forth). Various realms of more dance-oriented electronic music also popped up, and when someone mentioned Larry Heard’s Alien I responded that it feels more Tangerine Dreamy when it ventures out. I was also not enticed to include Björk’s Vespertine because of the remarkable scope of the album. There’s a lot of non-IDM on Vespertine, like “Undo” and “Sun in My Mouth,” among others. (And I declined as a guy who had an e.e. cummings quote in the high school yearbook.) I was disinclined to include Photek in the mix, as to me it’s simply great drum’n’bass — and in fact to think of it as IDM is to, in essence, accept drum’n’bass as being not particularly explorative. Likewise, I was utterly flummoxed on how to characterize Amon Tobin, very much to his credit, though tellingly he didn’t make the final 50.

While doing research for the project, I looked back on my recent employment of the term and recognized that I often say “IDM-ish,”seeing it as a flavor, not a constraint, or use it to characterize an earlier period in music production. In any case, the discussion ended, the ballots have been cast, and the full list is at pitchfork.com. The process was highly enjoyable, and I hope people enjoy the result.

This first appeared, in slightly different form (e.g., no streaming videos), in the January 24, 2017, edition of the free Disquiet “This Week in Sound”email newsletter: tinyletter.com/disquiet.

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