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tag: voice

Layers of Voice

From California-based Noise Jockey

Part of the beauty of using vocal sounds as the source for electronic music is simply just how far you can push the source tones and yet, to the human ear (which is so attuned through evolution to recognize the human voice), that vocal-ness remains self-evident. A case in point is “The Groan Machine” by Noise Jockey. It’s a layering of a dozen mouth utterances, each processed through a range of equipment listed in the accompanying note. The full breadth sounds are somehow both otherworldly (cast sweeps of white noise, thick stacks of elements, wide expanses of texture) and tellingly human.

Track originally posted at More from Noise Jockey, aka Nathan Moody of the San Francisco Bay Area, at and

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Lindsay Duncanson’s Looped Vocalese

Down by the river, iPad in hand

Much of Lindsay Duncanson’s work up on Soundcloud employs voice as its primary sound source. There are gurgles and drones, thick densities of tone and sudden, glottal explosions among the myriad examples Duncanson has posted. At one moment the voice is a calming presence, and at another it is a fierce, antagonist. In both such situations the lack of actual verbal language serves different purposes, either prelapsarian in its bliss, or suggesting a mental rupture that has short-circuited rational thought.

One standout track of Duncanson’s combines looped bits of mouth noise with that of a brook — accomplished, judging by the accompanying photo and tags, on the popular Loopy app. This is the rare track amid this SoundCloud collection that has no harshness to it, no veering from calm to tension or splutter. Titled “StreamSound,” it combines a sweet melody, the sort of thing one might find oneself having been humming unconsciously, with the delicate, percussive noise of the waterway. The vocal tones build slowly, a held note, like a warm sine wave, underneath childlike snippets. The closest it gets to the harshness of many of the other tracks is when brook’s burbles, toward the end, are emphasized for their thump-like qualities, and then when the voice impersonates a flying insect, darting this way and that.

Track originally posted at More from Duncanson, who is based in Newcastle Upon Tyne, United Kingdom, at (a partnership with Marek Gabrysch) and at

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The Voice as Sound Source

Brona Martin puts her mouth where her synthesizer is.

Electronic musicians searching for interesting sound sources need only look in the mirror. There they should easily find one of the most underutilized yet readily available tools: a mouth. Brona Martin explores the potentials for vocal processing made possible by digital audio software in her track “Lament.” Part of the processing here isn’t even electronic. It’s simply a matter of the tones that Martin elects to perform, from her soft breaths, to high choral o’s, to throaty gurgles, to occult moaning, just to give reference names to a few of the myriad sounds that make themselves heard in “Lament.”

Those sounds are, in turn, turned into other things entirely: a tender vowel stretched beyond its capacity, a breath set on mechanical loop, a warm utterance that dissipates into pure atmospherics — a hush, made soundscape. Some of the transformations, from severe insectoid noise to supple bell tones, leave behind entirely where it was that they originated. To Martin’s credit, this all comes together. “Lament” isn’t a parade of effects, or a survey of possibilities. Part of why the piece works is how it is all layered, lending congruences and a sense of verticality to the progression.

Track originally posted at More from Martin, a composer and sound artist based in Irleand, at

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The Self-Education of Synthesist Emily Sprague

A great podcast interview on Sound + Process

Emily Sprague patches her modular synthesizer, sets it running, and checks in on it hours, even days, later to figure out where the generative invention has meandered and matured, what strange familiar-yet-unfamiliar music it’s gotten up to. She initiated her relatively recent self-education by mainlining module manuals and studying the videos of a handful of people (notably Lightbath and r beny) whose aesthetic and approach appealed to her (i.e., largely ambient, if gently melodic, and lacking a fixed rhythm). She says she likes tap tempo, for the organic feel, and certain filters, for their ability to self-oscillate. She began to share videos of her own work in part to replenish the well from which she’d drawn, and also out of an awareness that modular synths are a male-dominated thing.

Here’s an early such video, from May 2016:

And here’s a gentle, burbling track from about a year ago:

These are just some of the things we learn in the excellent eighth episode of the Sound + Process podcast hosted by Dan Derks. Interspersed in the podcast are demos of the music that will appear on her forthcoming solo modular synth album. Sprague, who also is part of the folk-pop band Florist, talks about gaining fluency with patching by buying and selling modules, seeing what works for her and what doesn’t, and how warm and welcoming the synth community, in particular on the (also known as Lines) message board, has proved to be.

And after listening to Sprague speak for an hour, you also can check out some of her band Florist’s music, and hear that same voice sing. This track is “What I Wanted to Hold,” off the forthcoming Florist album If Blue Could Be Happiness, which is to be released on September 29, 2017:

More from Emily Sprague at and, and her YouTube channel. Subscribe to the Sound + Process podcast via iTunes or RSS.

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Andrew Weathers’ Psychedelic Amalgams

And one particularly quiet track off the often ecstatic new Andrew Weathers Ensemble album, Build a Mountain Where Our Bodies Fall

With a guitar-driven album that at times echoes such minimalist composers as Terry Riley (in its tonal psychedelia) and Steve Reich (in its percussive patterning), the Texas-based musician Andrew Weathers continues to build a body of work that mixes rigor and wandering, exactitude and ease, ambition and intimacy, grandeur and isolation.

The album is Build a Mountain Where Our Bodies Fall, credited to the Andrew Weathers Ensemble and released on his Bandcamp page. Weathers has a composer’s desire for concerted expression and a seer’s hunger for wisdom. His homespun vocals reach full force amid evocative, densely orchestrated settings. Sometimes the music is rhythmically momentous, like “We Already Exist Forever (We Will Eat),” while at others it drones as an extrapolation of Indian raga, for example “The Light Pulse Earth Grid is a Channel.” The result is an amalgam, in the sense of a rich composite, the parts inseparably intertwined but still recognizable. It’s music that, and this is meant as a compliment, suggests signifiant effort, the effort of making something vital, something not just new but trenchant and meaningful.

The songs on Build a Mountain Where Our Bodies Fall, per Weathers’ description, took as their origin point material from The Industrial Workers of the World Little Red Songbook. That period mix of progressive fervor and community action finds an outlet here in the sheer ecstasy of a track like “Astral Swords (Seven – A Past That Folds Over),” in which his voice is just one rough-textured element among many.

And then for one brief ambient track, texture is given its momentary, quiet primacy. The piece is “The Dream Body Does Carve (Green Grave).” In it a dense sine wave of a guitar line undulates between threadbare piano playing and tiny little glitches of synthesizer whimsy. It brings to mind the gestural rural atmospherics of the great Scott Tuma. The association makes particular sense, in that at times Weathers’ voice suggest favorably the vocals of Scott Tuma’s former Souled American bandmates, Joe Adducci and Chris Grigoroff. If the idea of Souled American regrouping in order to record an album of Steve Reich covers sounds appealing, then Build a Mountain Where Our Bodies Fall is the album for you.

As for the Andrew Weathers Ensemble, it isn’t precisely a band, except perhaps in the Steely Dan sense of the word: nearly 20 musicians are listed in the credits, including Kyle Bruckmann on oboe, Brendan Landis on electric guitar, and Erik Schoster on Pippi computer (that’s Schoster’s music-making software coded in the language Python), just to name a few.

You know that joke in The Blues Brothers movie where Elwood asks the bartender, “What kind of music do you usually have hear?” and she replies, “Oh, we got both kinds. We got country and western”? Well, Weathers only has western — it’s a useful descriptor for how he draws from aspects of rock and folk, bypassing country almost entirely, as he heads out toward vast hypothetical expanses.

Get the full album at More on Weathers, who is from North Carolina and lived and was educated (at Mills College) in Oakland, California, before recently relocating to Littlefield, Texas, at

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