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Listening to art. Playing with audio. Sounding out technology. Composing in code. Rewinding the soundscape.

tag: video

A Truly Ethereal Chorus

Robin (Scanner) Rimbaud on the radio as an instrument


Even as conventional broadcast radio is on the decline with the rise of streaming services, it is experiencing unprecedented utility as a tool for making music. That observation is central to the article I wrote for The Wire about musical instruments featuring radio reception as part of their design. The article covers a wide range, including dedicated synthesizer modules, like the ADDAC102 (from the Lisbon, Portugal, company ADDAC) and the 272e (from the storied San Francisco Bay Area firm Bucha), and other devices, such as the Polyend Tracker (out of Poland) and the KOMA Field Kit (from Berlin), that include radio amid a broader range of tools, with varying degrees of integration.

In the latter camp is the OP-1, from Stockholm-based Teenage Engineering, one of whose founders, Jens Rudberg, I interviewed for the article, along with representatives of all four other firms listed above. While the collective experience of these designers was important to the research, so too was the work of musicians who employ the tools. I spoke with numerous in the process of working on the story, and quoted three in the piece, including Thomas Dimuzio, King Britt, and Robin Rimbaud, who is best known as Scanner, for his early work with another sort of radio: police-band conversations snatched from the ether.

In the context of a wide-ranging back and forth via email on the topic of radio and synthesizers, Rimbaud shared the above video as an example of his work. He said the live set began with him “randomly skipping through the frequencies until I found something in real time that felt like it might work.” What he stumbled upon was the haunting group vocalizing heard at the start of the piece. “It was a choral work on a classical radio station,” explained Rimbaud. “I then looped it and began playing across it live too.”

He continued: “As with my earlier use of the radio scanner in my works I especially enjoy the unexpected and letting these sources take me in a direction I might never expect, using radio frequencies in the ether, these indiscriminate signals that I just pull down in real time and improvise around. It could simply be a voice or a harmony, but every opportunity can never be predicted and keeps an element at risk on the surface level which has always been important to me.”

There’s a lot more material in my conversation with Scanner, and with everyone else listed above, than made it into the article. I want to find time soon to get more of it posted here on Disquiet.com, to supplement the article in The Wire.

The video was recorded on March 23, 2019, at Iklectik London and originally posted at Scanner’s YouTube channel. More at scannerdot.com.

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A Rainy Night in Japan

Courtesy of Rambalac


You hear the cars before you see their lights. You hear the footsteps, a deep, constant pulse in contrast with the pointillist rain. You hear the pressurized air, when it comes into view to clean off the lens. You hear a small thudding, somewhere between footsteps and raindrops, this being the sound of the rain hitting, no doubt, an umbrella or a broad-brimmed hat. You look for a reflection, a shadow, to confirm this inference. This is the Rambalac video “Rainy backstreets of Japan at night 5.” Rambalac has nearly half a million viewers on YouTube, admirers of often hour-long, unedited footage of long, winding walks that are, like this one, generally set in Japan. Sound is a byproduct in these videos, a part of the document, but more frame than focus, more color than subject. Still, here the crackling — the sort that always, oddly, sounds more like fire than rain — is very much a centering component. One can be tempted to just watch, and sometimes I do have one of these running, perhaps at quarter speed, on a side monitor as eye candy, but the full audio-visual experience is where it’s at.

Video originally posted at youtube.com.

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A Swell Drone Day Swell

Happenings from May 29, 2021


Drone Day takes place each May, at the initiation of Marie Claire LeBlanc Flanagan, who came up with the idea in the first place (more at droneday.org). This year, Drone Day took place on the 29th of the month, this past Saturday. Material from that widely distributed event is now popping up on SoundCloud and other services. One favorite of mine is this video by Zachary Wilson, who combines deep, shining swells with rough textures.

This is the latest video I’ve added to my ongoing YouTube playlist of fine live performance of ambient music. Video originally posted at YouTube.

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Tape x Pedal

From Amulets

This video, all abrasive industrial doom, is a tape loop experiment from Amulets, an artist for whom the tape loop is central to his work. Heard here, the loop is a prerecorded sound, a drone, that is being treated through a guitar pedal, which lends it the sense of deep delay. In addition, Amulets (aka Randall Taylor) is performing drones from the pedal itself. Note that the extended loop is playfully rotating around the guitar pedal’s pair of foot switches.

Video originally posted to youtube.com. More from Amulets at amuletsmusic.com.

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FM Doom

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

Baby steps with scanning up and down the radio dial.

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