The long-running Radius broadcast/podcast series has reached episode 93. This current entry, which was released today, features a piece by Cecilia Tyrrell.
It overlays field recordings of the coastline with jittery spoken word, the latter like a public address system sent through the shredder. A brief description lends context:
“Sonic topography inspired and partly arranged from recordings made at a sound mirror on the South East coast of England (UK). The mirror itself stands dormant as it waits, facing out away from land. Sound markers and siren warnings, still it listens, quietly detecting.”
The sound mirror is pictured up top, a presence obscured by fog. Bells that bop around like buoys on a wave mix with appropriate burbling as the piece comes to a close, but up until then it’s a much more complex undertaking. The water sloshes like it’s underfoot, the sound taking on the semblance of a journey, either in search of or in avoidance of what remains unclear. The garbled voiceover sounds like a warning, but for whom? It’s an abstract audio drama, a thriller that replaces plot with pure sensation, as ambiguous as it is deliberate.
There’s a great new album out from Ana Roxanne, Because of a Flower, which I’ve mentioned once or twice in the run up to its November 13 release. Definitely check it out for its layers of looped vocals and other forms of lush, often semi-verbal playfulness.
And while you’re at it, (re)visit this video of a half-hour set that she performed at Union Station in Los Angeles back in mid-May 2019. It’s a great show, benefiting especially from the way the vast hall expands upon her already well-documented penchant for echoing spaciousness. And note the facial expressions each time the train announcements threaten to disturb the fragility and serenity that the music has worked so hard to achieve. Ooo, and it closes with a cover of Smokey Robinson & the Miracles’ “Ooo Baby Baby” that would make Angelo Badalamenti cry for an encore.
Toward the end of this coming January, the Fridman Gallery in Manhattan will be releasing Freedom by artist Yvette Janine Jackson. The record is up for pre-release right now, with two of its tracks streaming at fridmangallery.bandcamp.com. One cut, available as an excerpt, “Invisible People,” is all hellfire and brimstone, part excoriating exorcism, part calculated recitation of Jonathan Edwards sermonizing (heard here in usefully creepy text-to-speech), all playing out in an atmosphere of dissolute, slow-motion chamber music. Especially engaging is the album’s opening track, “Destination Freedom,” also an excerpt (each around three minutes in length), which is even more atmospheric: piano keys with near-oceanic depth, ghostly string sections, horns buried in the fog. The album is due out January 22, 2021.
The new Machine Woman album half-tells stories with bits of spoken conversation, slivers of memoir, fragments of verbiage, sometimes as if overheard, often as if directed at the listener, and then as if the listener were, in fact, a close confidant — and sometimes that conversation is buried deep in the album’s sounds themselves. A warped tape of what seems like voice mail opens “Telephone Calls From Milan to New York (Featuring The Nativist).” A garbled anecdote partially explains the subject of a track titled “Man at the Bus Stop.” These voices that permeate In the Basement of 83 Men seep into our heads, so much so that even on the tracks where they’re not as prevalent, the sounds of Machine Woman’s rhythms seem made from voices. A beat on “The End of Last Year Always Be Beautiful” feels like it was shaped from a breathy vowel. A synth on “Frankfurt Glitch Machine” that moves like a broken Slinky toy blurts as if someone were struggling to say something. And quite clearly (at least to my ears), aspects of “Petrol Sounds I Hear Outside My Window” were certainly clipped from spoken language and reworked into another sort of communication, one built on the common language of techno. Percussive ingenuity and a storyteller’s imagination guide this excellent collection.
This album isn’t due out until mid-November, but a pre-release track (“Suite pour l’invisible”) for the forthcoming Ana Roxanne full-length (Because of a Flower, on the esteemed Kranky label) promises something along the lines of Angelo Badalamenti art song basking in a Southern California glow. The slow, loping bass line and the pacifying caress of widely spaced synth tones take their sweet time before, a whole minute and a half in, her voice finally appears. And when it does, it’s like a leaf entering the room aloft on a light breeze. The quietness of the voice is a disguise. There’s a lot of power to that tone, a lot of control to those syllables, a lot of emotion in those held notes. Her singing locates an incredible simpatico with the quavering of synth wave forms. The track’s title, specifically the word “suite,” gets at Roxane’s ambition, how this extended piece, just over seven minutes long, moves from roomy segment to roomy segment, carrying the listener aloft throughout.
More from Ana Roxanne, who is based in Los Angeles, at instagram.com/frincess. The album is due out November 13, 2020.
Marc Weidenbaum founded the website Disquiet.com in 1996 at the intersection of sound, art, and technology, and since 2012 has moderated the Disquiet Junto, an active online community of weekly music/sonic projects. He has written for Nature, Boing Boing, The Wire, Pitchfork, and NewMusicBox, among other periodicals. He is the author of the 33 1⁄3 book on Aphex Twin’s classic album Selected Ambient Works Volume II. Read more about his sonic consultancy, teaching, sound art, and work in film, comics, and other media
• February 5, 2020: The first session of the 15-week course I teach at the Academy of Art about the role of sound in the media landscape.
• April 15, 2020: A chapter on the Disquiet Junto ("The Disquiet Junto as an Online Community of Practice," by Ethan Hein) appears in the forthcoming book The Oxford Handbook of Social Media and Music Learning (Oxford University Press), edited by Stephanie Horsley, Janice Waldron, and Kari Veblen. (Details at oup.com.)
• December 13, 2020: This day marks the 24th anniversary of Disquiet.com.
• January 7, 2021: This day marks the 9th anniversary of the start of the Disquiet Junto music community.
• There are entries on the Disquiet Junto in the forthcoming book The Music Production Cookbook: Ready-made Recipes for the Classroom (Oxford University Press), edited by Adam Patrick Bell. Ethan Hein wrote one, and I did, too.
• At least two live group concerts by Disquiet Junto members in the San Francisco Bay Area are in the works for 2020.
• I have liner notes for a musician's solo album and an essay in a book about an art event due out. I'll announce as the release dates come into focus.
• 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.
Since January 2012, the Disquiet Junto has been an ongoing weekly collaborative music-making community that employs creative constraints as a springboard for creativity. Subscribe to the announcement list (each Thursday), listen to tracks by participants from around the world, read the FAQ, and join in.
• 0465 / You Thank / The Assignment: Make a piece of music for someone or something for which you feel thankful.
• 0464 / Blanket Song / The Assignment: Play over a song, and then remove the original.
• 0463 / Making the Gradient / The Assignment: Make a piece of music inspired by the concept of a gradient.
• 0462 / Vade in Pace / The Assignment: Write a short piece of music that gets slower and slower as it proceeds.
• 0461 / Goldilocks Zone / The Assignment: Navigate a sonic space between the hospitable and the inhospitable.