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Playing with audio.
Sounding out technology.
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tag: video

Ambient Yule Log

An Unsilent Night you can let unspool at home

Just this past Saturday night I participated in the annual caroling event known as Unsilent Night. Created by composer Phil Kline for a downtown Manhattan performance back in 1992, the work now occurs in numerous cities all around the globe. More than 40 Unsilent Nights are scheduled this year, according to the list at unsilentnight.com. Here in San Francisco, it’s been running annually since 2002 (one year prior to my moving back after four years in New Orleans).

How Unsilent Night functions is as follows. Kline created four complementary ambient-chamber compositions, which collectively comprise the work. Everyone who showed up for Unsilent Night with a boombox used to be handed a cassette tape with a random one of the four parts. At the appointed moment, everyone would hit play, and the various tracks, all slightly out of sync, and resounding from devices of varying sound quality, would produce a kind of robot choir.

Now, in the age of ubiquitous audio equipment, people can use cassettes, but more likely they’ve download one of the tracks to their phones. The underlying concept of Unsilent Night remains the same. If anything has changed in the decades since Unsilent Night began it is (1) the fidelity of the recordings has increased and (2) the procession begins and ends with the ceremonious sound of Bluetooth speakers engaging and disengaging.

All of which came to mind when the excellent Burbank, California, music equipment shop Perfect Circuit posted a video yesterday of the seasonal audio installation currently running in its showroom. What it is is a bunch of boomboxes with droning, glistening loops of varying lengths. The video runs for 15 minutes, occasionally focusing in on a bit of motion, like a reel spinning slowly, or a counter ticking up one digit after another. If it weren’t for the company’s sonic logo at the video’s opening, it would be eminently loopable, an ambient Yule log.

This is the latest video I’ve added to my YouTube playlist of recommended live performances of ambient music. Video originally published at YouTube.

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Eivind Aarset and His Layers

A live solo performance from Istanbul, Turkey.

No music journalist covers the expanded guitar quite like Michael Ross, who writes regularly at his guitarmoderne.com website about performers currently pushing the six-string (and twelve- and eight- …) beyond its traditional territories. A mutual favorite of Ross’ and mine is the Norwegian guitarist Eivind Aarset, who is perhaps best known for his work alongside trumpeter Nils Petter Molvaer, though Aarset is long into his own deserved recognition for work as a leader, collaborator, and soloist.

About a month ago, Ross singled out video of a trio date Aarset had played in Prague, which led me, as usual, down a rabbit hole orchestrated by the guitarist’s penchant for highly reverberant spaciousness.

One highlight was a trio of live solo performances recorded in Istanbul, Turkey, back in February of 2015. Part one includes some discussion of his techniques, and part two is a song-like treat, packed with sharp contrasts, and rich with held tones reminiscent of Robert Fripp’s soloing. The highlight is part three (embedded up above), in which Aarset slowly layers a rhythm, and noise of his scraped and plucked strings, before venturing into deep explorations of various modes, his lush chords lingering like smoke.

This is the latest video I’ve added to my YouTube playlist of recommended live performances of ambient music. Video originally posted at YouTube. More from Aarset at eivindaarset.com.

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New Pedal at Dusk

A live ambient performance by half of the Japan-based duo Lullatone

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.

This is the latest video I’ve added to my YouTube playlist of recommended live performances of ambient music. Video originally posted at YouTube channel. More from Lullatone, the duo of Shawn James Seymour and Yoshimi Tomida, who are based in Japan, at lullatone.com and lullatone.bandcamp.com.

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Truly Experimental Music

In a live performance video from Scanner

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.

This is the latest video I’ve added to my YouTube playlist of recommended live performances of ambient music. Video originally posted at YouTube.com. More from Scanner, who is based in London, at scannerdot.com.

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444 (Yes, 444) New Autechre Videos (Updated)

The British electronic duo caps a busy year with a synesthesia-inducing, 13-hour haul on YouTube

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.

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