This elegant, beautiful video tracks from various angles a test drive by one member of the act Lullatone on a newly acquired reverb pedal. As the sun sets, the pedal is put through its initial paces, segments played on a keyboard and then through the reverb, all set to layer as loops. Those individual layers are barely distinguishable from each other, so peacefully do they accrue as a singular, solitary spaciousness. At times the high notes bring to mind Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois’ production for U2. Throughout, both the video and the performance it documents are marvels of simplicity.
It’s called experimental music, so of course when the musician is truly just experimenting, some of their best sounds might come out — truly experimenting, in that they are fiddling about with newly acquired equipment: pairing devices, exploring signal flows, turning knobs and touching buttons to see what they might hear. That’s the case with Scanner, aka Robin Rimbaud, who today uploaded to his YouTube channel a case study of two gadgets employed in tandem. What those little things, each barely the size of a human hand, emit in concert with each other is dense clouds of atmospheric intensity.
The main device is a Tetrax from Ciat-Lonbarde, created by the ingenious instrument designer Peter Blasser. It’s being heard through an effects pedal called the Eventide H9. In the comments accompanying the video, Scanner engages with his listeners and talks about coming up to speed on the Tetrax, and mentions that he’s working on a soundtrack.
The British electronic duo Autechre appears to have uploaded some 444 videos to YouTube over the course of 2018, beginning in January. As such a sentence is often followed up: evidence surfaced to this effect on the Autechre board at Reddit in the past day. The full playing time is in excess of 13 hours. There are also discussions going on at watmm.com, a forum focusing in large part on artists from the Warp record label, home to both Autechre and Aphex Twin, among others.
The Autechre videos are linked to from the period at the end of the sentence “THIS STORE IS OPERATED BY BLEEP STORES ON BEHALF OF AUTECHRE.” on the About page at autechre.bleepstores.com. While the earliest of the videos date back to the start of the year, it is not clear when the link embedded in that period went live. (And, yes, there is a unique pleasure to typing the sentence “it is not clear when the link embedded in that period went live.”)
Each video displays an array of colors going through some sort of transformation, accompanied by a rush of fomenting drones. There appears to be a strong correlation between sound and image, suggesting there is a direct connection, perhaps the images and sounds sharing a single source, or one being the impetus for the other.
All the images seem to be reflectively bisected at the horizontal midpoint. The result brings to mind a neural network’s combination of Hiroshi Sugimoto’s horizon-view ocean photography and Brian Eno’s colorful light installations. As is the case with many an internet Easter Egg hunt, the communal scrambling to make sense of the ambiguous material is reminiscent of the mysterious Russian video footage at the heart of William Gibson’s 2003 novel, Pattern Recognition.
A substantial number of the 444 Autechre videos are brief, under a minute, though some are quite longer. Of the first ten, all but two are under a minute. However, continue deeper into the playlist mix and number 24, the longest in the set, is 7:10. One of the Reddit members posted a “Handy Dandy Sortable” Google spreadsheet, which among other things helps identify that of the 444 videos, 278 have a running time of a minute or longer.
The expansive playlist caps a busy year for Autechre, which consists of Rob Brown and Sean Booth. They released a massive box set, NTS Sessions 1-4, collecting an online residency they produced in April, and earlier this week shared production files of their own making for various pieces of widely used musical technology from the companies Elektron, Nord, and Akai (see: factmag.com).
Major thanks to Matt Nish-Lapidus for having drawn my attention to it. View the playlist at the hidden YouTube channel. Interestingly, if you back up from the playlist to the account, attributed not to Autechre but to XH HX, none of the material, neither the videos nor the playlist, are viewable.
Updates:(1) Additional thread at watmm.com, focusing on the visuals in the context of other “ae_store eastre egg” (ae being a common shorthand for Autechre). (2) A website, 444.frm.space/scans, of scans from the 444 videos.
Updates:(3) I am reminded that “444” was the title of the final track off Incunabula, the Autechre album released in November 1993, or 25 years ago this month.
“Ghost Line” is a thoroughly compelling audio-video performance by Sideband (Lainie Fefferman, Jascha Narveson, Seth Cluett, and Mika Godbole) of music by Jeff Snyder, from Snyder’s forthcoming album, Concerning the Nature of Things. The album is due on November 9th on the Carrier Records label, with one preview track, the title cut, already up on Snyder’s Bandcamp page. But the real way to experience “Ghost Line” arguably isn’t the audio on its own; it’s the audio as a component of the video (on vimeo.com). In most music videos, the video part of the equation is either a complement (whether a narrative or just associative imagery) or a document (of the performance, whether simulated or live). In the case of “Ghost Line,” the 12-minute video is, quite literally, both performance and score. And while the images may tend toward abstraction, those abstractions directly inform the music we hear.
In Snyder’s creation, each of the members of Sideband creates sound by adjusting aspects of one of four parallel frames. Each individual is seen within their frame, sometimes rendered as through x-ray specs, sometimes as if colored in during one of Andy Warhol’s more flamboyant phases (say, circa his album covers for Billy Squier and the Rolling Stones). At times the figures disappear entirely, replaced by raster concoctions straight out of a Ryoji Ikeda installation. Throughout, the music is heard to draw directly from the consequences of those images: alternately strident and subtle, buzzy and tonal.
A brief liner note clarifies the goings-on:
Ghost Line … uses webcams as instruments, with the pixel data from the cameras interpreted as audio waveforms. The performers alter the sound by moving within the frame, or by processing the video stream (altering the x and y resolution, adjusting the focus, or changing the speed or direction of the image scan). Resonant just-tuned sonorities devolve into aggressive clusters of noise, producing a masterful mix of patient harmonic changes and dense, frenetic timbral shifts.
Snyder’s previous album was to Sunspots, performed by him on vintage Buchla synthesizers equipment. Concerning the Nature of Things is concert music, performed by a variety of ensembles. It’s available at jeffsnyder.bandcamp.com. Snyder is based in Princeton, New Jersey.
The experimental musician Michel Banabila worked with innovative kite filmmaker Gerco de Ruijter on collaborations in which Banabila composed scores for De Ruijter’s all-encompassing landscape videos. The pair asked me to write liner notes for the album release of Banabilia’s music, Stop Motion. The above video, an example of their work, premiered at ambientblog.net.
These are my liner notes:
“Listen to the Landscape”
The landscape does not stand in opposition to the abstract. The landscape is itself a form of abstraction. The landscape presents geometries and colors and textures. The landscape, as seen in Gerco de Ruijter’s kite footage, encompasses us. We can touch the land but the landscape is beyond our touch. We are alienated from the landscape because its scale is beyond our comprehension. The lens of De Ruijter’s camera must warp the landscape, must warp reality, in order to bend it to our attempts at comprehension. Our eyes scan the landscape, requiring memory to do much of their work, the work of imagining the whole. Our memories are patchwork semblances of the patchwork landscape.
Our ears, however, take in more than what is ahead of us. Our ears survey the landscape front, back, and side, above and below. Our ears know that the seeming correlations between sound and image are cursory, especially from such a distance. Our ears know that some of the sounds that Michel Banabila has mated to De Ruijter’s images are real in the sense that they were captured in the place. Our ears know that other of Banabila’s sounds are real in that they express the musician’s sense of that place. Our ears don’t care one way or the other.
There is a music to the moving image, even when there is no sound. There are patterns and rhythms. There are movements. There is development.
And when there is sound, when De Ruijter’s eye has met Banabila’s ear, the moving image becomes something else — not a recapitulation of the landscape, but something new, something comprehensive, something to be explored, something that rewards exploration.
• December 13, 2018: This day marks the 22nd anniversary of Disquiet.com.
• Ongoing: The Disquiet Junto series of weekly communal music projects explore constraints as a springboard for creativity and productivity. There is a new project each Thursday afternoon (California time), and it is due the following Monday at 11:59pm: disquiet.com/junto.
• My book on Aphex Twin's landmark 1994 album, Selected Ambient Works Vol. II, published as part of the 33 1/3 series, an imprint of Bloomsbury, is now in its second printing. It can be purchased at amazon.com, among other places.
The Disquiet Junto is an ongoing weekly collaborative music-making space in which restraints are used as a springboard for creativity. Subscribe to the announcement list at tinyletter.com/disquiet-junto. There is an FAQ. ... These are the 5 most recent weekly projects: